Saturday, April 18, 2009

Dodging a Cruise Missile Attack

The View From the Bottom is GREAT!
So this guy calls me up around 8:30 this morning and informs me that I suck. I think he had lost sleep over the images on my Web site that he didn't like. This guy was very emphatic as he ripped and railed and launched his Cruise Missiles my way. He went on to tell me that the images on my blog were far superior and that if I was a commercial photographer, why in the hell do I have pictures of girls in bubbles on my site!!!!

Wow! It must have been a slow day in his small world (some people should consider switching to decaf).

It was early in the day and I was caught off guard. I tried to justify a few things but my advisor's gums were flapping so fast and hard that I don't think he heard a word I said.

I don't think I need to justify anything to another competing photographer. The truth is that few of us have all of the answers. A bigger truth is that my photography is about me and my vision. I'm the one (with the help of my beautiful wife) who has crafted and honed my skills over the past two decades. As a photojournalist I've seen things that would make some people weep and have nightmares. I've also taken award-winning pictures that have made a difference in my community. I've photographed seven US Presidents. Furthermore, because of my knowledge and experience, I've been able to secure a teaching job at the number one high school in Arizona. I think I've earned the right to put anything I want on my Web site. After all, it is my Web site.

A year ago my photography business was doing well. I was on track to break the previous year's receipts. I had enough cash to shop around for a consultant. Someone who would take me to the next level.

I was a photojournalist for twenty years. A year ago I didn't really know my market. My consultant has helped me to define it. She has grouped my images and chosen pictures that I wouldn't have necessarily picked myself — which is why I hired her. My portfolio not only portrays vision and technical abilities, it delivers a feeling as you look at it. My portfolio was not designed to entertain other frustrated photographers.

Two weeks after the portfolio edit, my book was called in by Vanity Fair, REMEDY Chicago and Maxim Magazine. Three weeks ago I met with someone in a giant corporate fortress who called in another art director to look at my work. They loved what they saw — and oddly enough LOVED the bubble pictures that I shot at the rave! There might just be a method to my madness after all.

I tell my students that I love taking pictures. They ask, "How much do you love taking pictures, Mr. Blei?" I tell them, "More than food." They tell me that's absurd to which I reply that I can get food by taking pictures. They laugh.

Art isn't art until someone sees it. If you are going to wait for the phone to ring before you create art, then, as an artist, you have no soul and you may not be creating art. You may only be documenting something.

If I can't show images, then what's the point in shooting them? And if I know there is going to be a visual opportunity, but I don't take it, I am a failure. I shoot crazy images of teenagers dancing in foam at a rave because it's an honest slice of life and that's what makes me happy. Oh! And I almost forgot! A consultant — one that I didn't hire — said I should consider doing a book with those images (if I didn't post them, I wonder how they could have been seen...hmmm).

A Cruise Missile attack was launched at me this morning but in all honesty, it was a dud that was way off target. Some people should learn to mind their own business and find what makes them happy.


  1. Good for you Mr. Blei, the rave pics were awesome despite what anyone said!

  2. I guess some guys just don't like ladies and bubbles - I for one am a big fan, being I don't have a winning sports team to cheer for - The Student work was spectacular - we need to embrace the opportunity to learn from their instincts - tell bubble boy to get off his soap box and do something productive. - Rick

  3. "My portfolio was not designed to entertain other frustrated photographers."

    I think the same guy left a land mine in my email box a few weeks ago. Some photographer by the name of ____________. Met him at Creative __________. Oh, wait. I've said too much. (evil snicker... :)

  4. You had me laughing the whole time Tony. I thought those pictures were amazing by the way........ Nick