I just finished off what was, hands down, the most exhausting and most rewarding stretch of the last three years to date, where I’ve worked and worked and made art and cried and thrown things and worked more and made more art, all in the name of being able to make it, eventually, as a professional photographer.
I shot 9 shows in 14 days, wedged dinner with some old friends, time with the Cowboy and time with the girls, and four baseball games in between them. I shot for myself — Dax Riggs — and for my friends — MagCo, Bull City Undercover, my beloved Two Cow Garage — and for Speakers in Code — Dawes, Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr. I processed photos instead of napping after a full day at the day job. I re-calibrated my shooting brain between every show, for Dax Riggs’ garage rock, for Two Cow’s cowpunk, for Dawes’ sweet Los Angeles jam-folk, for the Cradle’s pro rig and the 506’s muddy and sunburnt red lights. I shot bands on a whim and on my own bravado — Onward Soliders and the Black Lillies.
So much has changed in a year. Two weeks ago, four days before the show, I decided I wanted to shoot that Black Lillies show, with Onward Soliders opening. Last year, I would have agonized over the email to Onward Soliders’ publicist, waffled for four days, missed my chance. This year, I decided I wanted to go, wrote the email to Kippy, and blasted it off in half an hour. She said yes. I trust myself now. I’m good, good enough that people want my work. And if someone says no, it’s not the end of the world. I just move on.
I am exhausted; I’ve barely slept in the last two weeks; my back and shoulders and neck are a huge mess of knots from hauling my camera bag, and my right knee is complaining loudly about four straight days on concrete floors in flip-flops. I have a series of bruises on my shins and thighs whose origin is a mystery to me. But also: I had a couple of huge revelations — a boring for you but exciting for me revelation involving my taxes, and a second the night I rolled into a job in a dirty t-shirt, covered in cat hair, with bedhead and a huge zit on my lip, because that was seriously all I had the emotional energy to cope with, if I wanted to also do the job well. (I also wore pants. God, Ben.) I am not cool. I am not hip. I’m neurotic and anxious and frequently bad with people. Sometimes I drink too much, and I can be incredibly selfish, and I think skinny jeans are ridiculously stupid. But I’m really fucking good at what I do, and if you’re good at what you do, nobody gives a shit if you have bedhead.
And I fucked up, too, these last two weeks. A few weeks ago I managed to put a job on my calendar on the wrong night, and I didn’t catch it until it was far too late and I was double-booked for the actual date of that show. I had to cancel on a publicist I’m terrifically fond of, and I felt like a complete idiot. But in three years of working at this professionally, that’s the first time I’d managed to do that. Everybody fucks up sometimes. You learn from it. You can bet your ass I’m going to be triple checking every single date on my calendar against pitch emails from now on.
I had huge ideas, when I was awake enough that I could form them. I outlined my big series for 2012. I investigated Blurb because I want to make a photobook of my shots of rock star shoes on stage. I sent pitch emails and drank coffee and wrote smartass two sentence album reviews and updated my GCal every day with new shows and compared a band to salad dressing. I collected 88 of 90 stars on the first world of Angry Birds Rio during set breaks (someone come over and get three stars on 2-09 and 2-14 for me). I defaulted to listening to podcasts and my Bloodshot Records playlist on shuffle because most of the time I was too exhausted at work to figure out what I really wanted to hear. Mostly, it turned out, I really did want to hear Bloodshot artists. I even managed to keep kicking the day job’s ass — even on days when I just wanted to sleep under my desk.
And because I’m stupid, or a glutton for punishment, or because I want this to work and the only way it will work is if I keep busting my ass to get better and get out there, to let people know that I’m here and I care, well, for any of those reasons: tonight kicks off a run of 9 shows in 10 days; old favorite locals instead of my 2011 new discovery locals, old favorite non-locals I haven’t seen in literally years. Psychobilly bands that Pam sends me to see. Non-locals whose music I dig but who I’ve never seen live.
I’ll sleep when I’m dead. Until then, it’s just my bedhead and my camera and my own courage, asking for the scary things and keeping my chin up and working, not waiting, for the break I need.
Work is what you do for others, liebchen. Art is what you do for yourself. — Stephen Sondheim
Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again — this time more intelligently. — Henry Ford