The Dialogs

LETTERS FROM SCOTT: Recently Scott Lewis and I exchanged letters primarily concerned with his transition from being a staff newspaper photojournalist to a freelancer doing editorial and commercial work. In response to Scott, ostensibly to give advice, I found myself learning from him and touching on themes that lit a fire for me later in my workshops and in my head. Besides being a talented shooter Scott is a thinker and expresses himself beautifully. We ramble through a lot of personal challenges that we all face at one time or another so I’m putting them up here to encourage others making a transition in their creative lives– for anyone sturdy enough and with enough time to actually read through it all!

From: scott@scottlewisphotography.com

Subject: Re: metaphors

Date: January 11

To: menuezpictures@mac.com

Doug,

To kick this conversation off a bit, I’ll give you an initial door into my head.

When I left the paper in April 05, I only knew one thing about my future – it’d be uncertain. I knew that I’d be tested as my entire identity as a photographer was wrapped up in working for a newspaper. It was all about using photography as a tool to explore the community in diverse ways for the paper. I proposed the kinds of stories that fed my personal interests as a photographer and person. I found a way to do “personal work” and conquer my weaknesses, do new things within the confines/structure of the paper. I enjoyed it all. Over the last couple year’s it’s been about managing the uncertainty that came from leaving that identity. The metaphor I’d use is that I’ve been simply sailing the seas of uncertainty. What am I uncertain about??? In a word, just about everything. Who am I as a photographer? All of a sudden I have doubt about my work and the soul I need to create it. Where’s money going to come from? If I don’t want to feed on the past what am I going to feed on in the future? Why am i even taking pictures any more? I never felt the need to shoot for myself as my work was always defined by it’s relationship to the paper – to a specific outlet that I was a part of – and now that’s really all I’m doing, in a sense. Shooting just for me but without the context/support/structure/identity of the paper.

I’ve never been a goal setter. I’ve always just lived in the moment. “Does this work for me now?” If so then I’d keep going, if not I’d make a change. I figured I’d have a full career in newspapers as I didn’t envision having the stomach, discipline or personality for a freelance life. It didn’t look like me or feel right. As I’ve said a number of times, women have a way of changing our lives and here I find myself in Jersey freelancing.

Back to that uncertainty. I knew when I left the paper that I had been given a real gift. At 36 to have the chance to bring everything to a halt, re-evaluate and move forward. I wanted to indulge in this chance to rethink what I’d been doing and would do. The first thing I figured out was that I didn’t want the next 10 years to look like the last 10 years in terms of the kind of work I did. Not that the past 10 years wasn’t great. Top honors in POY and World Press were huge accomplishments that meant a lot in my career development. But I’d realized over the last year or two in Raleigh that I needed a photographic life that offered a regular flow of new challenges. And once away from the paper,  in the midst of giving birth to this new stage of my photographic life, I had to figure out what that re-evaluated life would look like. Still working on that one. It’s one step to figure out what I don’t want, it’s a whole other thing to figure out what I do want.

So now the one metaphor of sailing a sea of uncertainty has grown a sibling metaphor – the sculpture is in the rock. I assume you know what I’m talking about but if not… it’s the idea that the sculpture is inside the rock and it’s the sculptor’s simple job to go get it by just removing the extra rock around the sculpture. I feel like I’ve removed a significant portion of the rock that’s not supposed to be there, and now I’ve gotten to the point where I actually have to make the sculpture. I’ve at a place, somewhat, where I’m pretty confident about what I don’t want as a photographer so the main challenge left is to start making the sculpture. Apparently so easy but actually quite tough.

Scott

On Jan 11, at 9:37 AM, Doug Menuez wrote:

Scott,

I love your metaphor of the rock- I have explained for years to anyone that asked how I photographed that it felt like I was chipping away at a huge rock within which was the sculpture, or picture, I would eventually get to.

But you ask “who am I as a photographer?” and I would suggest that you also ask “who am I?” as a person first. Eventually the two coalesce I think. But the lesson for me over the years has been to not ignore my own development as a human being because I found my development as a photographer documenting the human condition actually depended on being a more mature, rounded individual. Maybe this is just called growing up. I think as noble as photojournalism can be, it also makes us completely selfish, almost sociopaths. We ignore our own best interests and needs, and those of the people closest to us and learn to cut off our feelings in order to cope with what we are shooting. So we live in denial and it’s easier to go from shoot to shoot and live vicariously through our lens then deal with our own real issues.  And I think photographers are natural hustlers and talkers and can get away with murder, and we are also artists, and if we are any good we are dreamers and misfits. Lots of room for trouble in our tribe.

Living with uncertainty has been the single biggest challenge in my life as a freelancer. Never knowing where your next job will come from and if you will be able to pay the bills, combined with a creative person’s natural vulnerability to doubt and fear, In a country with 150,000+ photographers (per Kodak 1990!), and so many that are extremely talented, it’s a tough reality figuring out how to stand out and make your way. Some people are just not built for this kind of free fall leap of faith.

When I was waiting the long months between my internship at the Washington Post and the full-time job they had promised I took a job at a small paper in California, living in a one room cabin above a chicken coop on a quarter horse ranch and driving 65 miles each way to work each day at 4:30 a.m. Occasionally the quiet nights were broken by the human-like shrieks of helpless chickens being made into dinner by nasty raccoons. This was usually followed by the sound of a nearby shotgun blast as the rancher tried, always in vain, to kill the poultry terrorists. Usually though my day started by stepping into fresh cat shit in my shower, left as a surprise by my then-wife’s cat. This was symbolic of the relationship.  For five years I could never balance my check book, not that I really tried, but still, whenever I tried to get money from the ATM I was always flat broke. Turned out she’d been “borrowing” whatever I deposited to buy cocaine. Luckily crack had not been invented yet and the drug hotline I called still considered cocaine a “non-addictive” drug. Yeah, that was lucky, else we’d surely have noticed the road signs and warnings along the way and become a bit depressed with the situation. I’m happy to report once I was out of her life she was able to get off drugs and has built a life and family.  As it was, I was dirt poor, but truly did not care. I was certain i was going somewhere. I was becoming a photojournalist and I had a mission. This was nothing. Indeed, it was nothing compared to what tests were in store for me.

Before the job offer came from the Post, a call came from USA Today asking if I could shoot color and knew how to light. Of course I told them yes and was instantly rewarded for my lie with an assignment. It ran front page. The next week US News called with another gig. Then Time, Newsweek and so on.  I’ll never forget the face of my managing editor in 1982 at the small town newspaper where I’d been slogging away when I told him I was quitting to freelance for USA Today, Time and Newsweek. He asked how much they were paying and I told him $300 a day which stunned him. He was paying me $300 a week, no benefits, and his mouth dropped open. Then he predicted I’d never make it and that I’d be back begging him for a job. Ironically, all I ever wanted was a secure job on a major metro paper, but I would have been happy in a medium or small town paper. I loved being close to the community I was shooting, as you did.

At first I loved being a freelancer. Then I discovered I knew nothing about cash flow, bookkeeping, marketing, selling, portfolios or any of the basic business skills photographers need to survive. Luckily, I didn’t screw up, got the shots and kept on booking job after job and never looked back. Some friends taught me things about portfolios and others about keeping books and sending invoices and I learned, by experience, how to run a small business. Unless you are born a Medici, and no matter whether your goal is to be a fine art photographer, photojournalist or advertising photographer, you must create an underlying business structure to support the art. No commerce, no art. So I did that. And I succeeded as a photojournalist and had a great run. For a decade at least there wasn’t a day I wasn’t published somewhere in the world on some story. I flew 200,000 miles a year and saw the world. But I also saw a lot of horror and took risks and when my son was born and I got married a second time to a truly wonderful woman I began to question the wisdom of whatIwas doing. I was essentially abandoning my responsibility to my family to take pictures. I believed my pictures were important and could help improve the world, indeed, that was my motivation on dangerous stories, but were these pictures more important than my own family? I could not really answer that but my feeling was that I had to find a way to support my family, providing security and for the future in case I got killed, while at the same time allowing myself to shoot what I had to shoot. I had to do both.

So now I was in deep, deep uncertainty and about to risk a very comfortable, successful career as a magazine photojournalist. Which I did. I began turning down news assignments and taking more and more commercial assignments. Starting with annual reports and eventually figuring out that advertising was an interesting opportunity. I found a way to combine where I’d began in art school studying documentary fine art photography with the skills I’d gained as a photojournalist to bring a specific vision to advertising. This was an experiment. With the help of my agent I went deeper as an artist, completely the opposite of what most people expect you should do in commercial work. I found that the more personal and fine art my work became the more valuable it became to exploit for clients. This was a paradox that blew my mind. The money was astounding and allowed me to achieve my twin goals of supporting my family and allowing me to pursue my own shoots.

I became extremely, wildly successful at advertising, beyond what anyone expected over the last ten or twelve years. The timing was right in the culture for authentic moments of real emotion. I rode the wave of “real people” and real life as a concept. But there was a trick-I had to find the time and energy to pursue and shoot my personal work, my documentary projects or else lose the interest and special qualities that attracted the art directors. There was also a trap – with success comes lots of work. It became very hard for me to turn down anything and I worked back to back assignments for years and years. My studio and overhead grew exponentially. I was shortchanging my personal work eventually, barely finding time for projects I knew I had to do to keep my soul, and to keep my value. There was a never enough time for anything, especially now as I found to my chagrin, there was barely time to spend with my family. The stress level rose to equal the success. So eventually I decided to take a breather and think about the challenges and how to find the balance.

In looking back, I think you really have to embrace the uncertainty and make the unknown your friend. It requires supreme self-confidence. Which reminds me of one of my favorite sayings: “fake it till you make it.” Yet you strike me as someone who never doubted your own abilities. In the past, you were always able to make easy progress, relying on your talent and hard work. Then as you said, things change, and now you are at sea. On the sea of uncertainty. I once made a t-shirt for my son that said “embrace uncertainty, ambiguity and doubt” which was related to a philosophy class he was taking in high school. But I really made it for myself, to remind myself that what we have to do to succeed, to move forward to the next level is to always understand that we will never, ever reach a state of complete certainty. And if we do we are probably descending to the lower level of a hack. It’s much, much easier to find a plateau of relative comfort in our work and life and stay there. Never disturbing the status quo. But I believe, and I think it’s fairly obvious, to achieve anything great and lasting in our work you have to jump off the cliff, take a risk, push yourself hard to try new things and grow.

Basically, we are professionals of uncertainty. We must make the fact that we don’t know what’s coming next the cornerstone of our plan for life. That does not mean you can’t make plans and goals. And although you say you were never a goal setter, there comes a time when articulating a vision of where you want to go with clear steps to take is a really critical thing to do. But you don’t have to set grand goals either, small steps lead to bigger ones. What I do think is important is something you have so clearly demonstrated in your work. That is, to identify what you are passionate about and love to shoot. To show us your vision of the world and what you see that no one else does. You do that. You are so far ahead of the game. Yet you face tremendous competition and wonder what exactly you should do to get where you want to go.

So just what is it that you want to do? If you don’t want the next ten years to look like the past then what should you be doing in ten years? Commercial? Photojournalism? A blend? Do you want to do commercial work just for the money? You ask if you should still be shooting? Is editing something that would give you more pleasure than shooting? I’m getting a mixed message from you on your goals. And maybe I’m missing something but I’m guessing you would like to make more money but still do your personal work.

I think it’s key to lay out a description of just how you see your life and work unfolding in order to see the next steps you must take to get there. Like a lot of things in life, it’s not brain surgery- I’m saying this for myself as I have a tendency to make things the most complicated they could possibly be. I’m guessing you are actually smarter than that…:)

Best
Doug

From: scott@scottlewisphotography.com

Subject: Re: metaphors

Date: January 11, 10:24:14 PM EST

To: menuezpictures@mac.com

Scott Lewis wrote:

Indeed!

You’re right. I’ve never doubted myself and that’s what’s been weird about the past couple years. It’s been nothing but doubt. I feel that I’ve always had a pretty good handle on how good or bad I am at something. But starting this freelance stuff plunged me into total doubt. A pit with a way out that’s covered by some slick crap. Not doubt about my skills as a photographer but about me. The person. I never lost myself to the lens, so to speak. I always knew that didn’t make sense. I was, actually, rather obsessed in terms of being too one dimensional earlier in my career but I took note of what I was losing and made some changes. Having gone through a divorce at 10, I valued my relationships and never wanted to be THAT guy when it came to valuing my work over my life. I remember reading or hearing an editor from one of the West Coast papers saying that if you don’t have a life of your own, you won’t be as good at covering someone else’s life. Or something like that.

One thing I’ve never thought I was good at was the hustler aspect. Some former colleagues think I can sell a match to a man on fire but I’ve never seen it that way. Maybe it’s the work I can sell but what I can’t sell, or don’t feel comfortable selling, is me. In response to this I’ve retreated a bit and tried to learn about and focus on all that business stuff that I never learned or knew. It’s been good and in many ways I’m enjoying these aspects of building a business. Scott Lewis, Small Business Owner not just Scott Lewis, Photographer. And yes, the key question is what do I want to be over the next ten years. Oddly, I’m not entirely sure. That’s one reason I’ve stayed a bit reclusive and retreated. I don’t want to try to sell something I’m not certain of.

And no, I’m not smart enough to keep from over complicating. I do it all the time. 

(However, I would love to set up a time to sit down and go over my work with you if you’ve got some time in your schedule. I’ll bring the wine or beer or bourbon. I’m looking forward to getting another point of view on my work. A bit more critically then the ubiquitous, nice, ego-boosting, complimentary “wow, you’re really good” that I typically get these days. I think I need a thorough, excuse the analogy, an enema of the portfolio and psyche.)

More later….

Scott

 

 

On Jan 11, at 12:25 PM, Doug Menuez wrote:

Dude, I’d love to see your work and happy to critique. To be honest, I really love your stuff so not sure how helpful I can be unless we look at in context with where you want to go which you have to define for me… also perhaps to slice into it by editing out the absolutely top favorites of yours, the stuff you might think you should not show to get a certain kind of work….and also would be helpful if you could bring images you were afraid to show or include in your portfolio for whatever reason, but that you like.


As for DOUBT and FEAR these are the giant roadblocks to creative nirvana we can face. we go through phases in life and work. I never ever thought i would burn out or hit the wall. i was superhuman. didn’t work that way. unless you nurture what feeds your soul you do and will burn out. and i’m not ashamed to say as i’ve gotten older and lived longer with the constant uncertainty i’ve become more spiritual. and this is ironic for lots of reasons, not least of which is the many cults i covered for newsweek or time and the absolute fear i have of organized religion. but i do believe now that there is some energy out there that connects us and that we can tap into. call it the power of positive thinking, of just being lucky or learning to have faith in oneself- if you can believe in yourself in the face of all the fear and doubt brought on by just being alive in this world then it kinda leads to faith in some sort of higher or other power to my mind.

one of the things i’ve noticed is that when i’m really in the zone on a documentary shoot or walking around the city i feel i am the messenger. something grabs me by the neck and whips my head around and points me at the most amazing picture every once in a while- i feel possessed almost. my best images, the ones i’m most proud of all have this memory for me of being in an almost trance like state and having something alert me outside myself: “hey stupid- look! take the damn picture. it’s yours!!” so that’s one thing that makes me start to believe there is a god or gods- look at the picture i got- it’s a freakin miracle to me. of course that’s my opinion, others might not value the image as much as i do but to me the pictures i take in this zone are like religious experiences.

which leads me to the other theory i’ve been trying to articulate lately, and that is that there is a price for these kinds of meaningful images. you know how many cultures believe you are stealing their souls when you take their picture? The Hopi, the Masai, and others. Well I now believe that is true, completely and utterly. But there is a price. If I am to take a photograph that means something, to me or anyone else, that is a good and true image, I have to leave something behind. We all do. It could be the time we took getting the trust of the people we shot, the longterm emotional toll of shooting something difficult like war, or the physical hardship endured, or the risks we took, and some of us pay with our lives. But there will be a price. Only fair I guess.

the other thing, and this is kinda bad news, is that i can report that this sense of doubt and uncertainty can be mastered but it can come back in a heartbeat. i’m working out the ways in which i can protect myself from burnout and doubt coming back and will report back on that at some point. but this life is a series of ups and downs. i’ve been up and down and up is definitely better.

but just the other day, i had an interesting revelation. in the midst of a crucial, painful decision making process with my wife about a potential life changing event we were considering i was walking around in my front yard pondering, the sun was rising on a beautiful day and i was passing where my wife keeps a stone Buddha. i crouched down and looked into the Buddha’s serene face and in desperation I asked the Buddha what the hell I should do. Like a shot, these words came into my head: “All this is transitory, enjoy the moment.”

I swear, there was not even time for me to imagine the words or think the words. I don’t even practice zen or buddhism although i’m not unfamiliar with the precepts. but i gotta tell you, those words really really helped. in other words, we are all going to die someday, life is short and one of the keys to keeping sane is to figure out how to live in the present as they say. enjoy the coffee or whatever.  find what gives you pleasure and do some of that every day. so basically, i’m laughing at myself because i used to make fun of all the new age folks out west when we lived in magical marin county who were saying how you had to find the balance in life, smell the roses and all that.

So i guess as you are stressing out over your life and new directions take a glass of wine and chill for while and enjoy your wife. This may sound obvious but it was not to me. I almost have to sometimes force myself to consciously let go and relax and it feels like I’m pretending but then wow, life is good. did i mention the power of positive thinking??

let me know when you want to get together, i’m pretty flexible at the moment….d

It’s sorta funny to hear you describe, at a relatively young age, what I understand to be the classic burn out symptoms. I know exactly how you feel.

From: scott@scottlewisphotography.com

Subject: Re: metaphors

Date: January 11

To: menuezpictures@mac.com

Whoa…. heavy… and light…. good reminders to not worry so much and let the pressure off. It’s been lifting somewhat recently so this helps push it along.

 

I haven’t seen a picture in my day to day life in what seems like months. Maybe that’s a piece that’s been missing. I remember that moment when I became a photographer, emotionally. I was on the Mall, the public hang-out area, on campus when I was an undergrad at the University of Texas. The light wasn’t nice but it was one of those awesome Austin days (I don’t think I discovered “light” until I was at Missouri) and I saw a moment across the street and mentally snapped a picture, in my head I heard the noise and felt the shutter pop, and cranked the film advance. It seemed like a magical moment. Like I had discovered something and I had. i discovered something within myself.

I realized that I wasn’t entirely correct when I said I’ve never doubted myself before. I did go through a stretch when I was 27. I was finishing up an internship, I hit a deer with my car and had to spend the $500 I’d saved up on the repair and my girlfriend of three years dumped me on my birthday via phone three weeks after a visit. So there I was. Broke. Alone. Unemployed. The internship didn’t go that well but it finished up on a bang. I struggled the better part of the six months to make “my” pictures. I was struggling to live up to the expectations I had of myself as well as those I had for wanting to create an impression on those I worked with. Not to mention the regular critiques by the editor saying “you’re not making pictures that live up to your portfolio.” I lost sight of myself in the face of something else. The bullshit of it all. Too much thinking. After four months of this I just stopped trying. I “gave up” said fuck it and stopped thinking and got back to shooting from my gut. and like a switch it all changed and the last couple months went great. One photographer called the regional DOP and was nearly in tears when he implored them to find a job for me and not let me go. I ended up with a job about 6 months later to launch the experimental weekly outside of Chicago that I told you about. A year later I won the NPPA Regional Photographer of the Year, the Community Awareness Award and the Best Use of Pictures for small newspapers in POY. I’d been on a roll more or less up to the last year or so in Raleigh when I switched my workload to a heavy sports coverage and now all this stuff.

It’s ok. The uncertainty. The doubt. Ok in the sense that I know I just have to keep holding onto all that stuff that got me this far and wait to ride this out. I mean I accept it as what is now. It’s not forever.

I think one thing I need is a solid feel good shoot. The religion project I’ve been working on has been ok but I haven’t felt it in my gut for some reason. I think I know why but I’m not sure yet…

Let’s see about getting together sometime next week maybe. I’ve got an appt. that I need to set up and then we can go from there.

S

On Jan 15, at 12:06 PM, Scott Lewis wrote:

Oh, and I think I’ve figured out some, if not all, of my general problem. I think I’ve become a cynic. In a profound way, I think cynicism has creeped in and spoiled my once true-believer, absolutist, impassioned practicianer of the medium. I went through this period a while ago, and a good portion of it lingers, that I hated all things photography. I hated most work I saw and felt it all fell flat on me. A big, “so-the-fuck what” about it all. I knew this insidious feeling was strong and could win but I was willing to just let it ride and see where I went by continuing on my path despite it’s presence. I think this is how young, poor liberals become old, wealthy conservatives. I think a healthy dose of the cynicism is still there so the next part may be all about slaying it so I can get back to the true-believer in me.

Scott

On Jan 15, at 3:32 PM, Doug Menuez wrote:

Very interesting about cynicism- I’ve definitely been under that rock. To me this is just a symptom of either depression or burn out or the general frustration of things adding up over time. This is also part of the culture of New York and the media world- we’ve seen it all, done it all, whatever. It is hard to break through that. It’s cool to be negative. But those ultra cool tastemakers who are so bitter are still human. They all want to be happy, they just don’t know how. They all want to be loved, find love and meaning in their lives. That’s what all the craze in memoirs is probably all about; explaining the personal epiphany and how you found meaning in life. This gets a bit too much too, and I get very cynical about these memoirs as they pile on the sappy true saga bon fire of fucked up pop culture. But they are the search for meaning via bestseller lists.

And as you hated most work you saw, it could be that the work all sucked or that you were just in a very negative state of mind, or both. I think you have to carefully determine if you are rejecting an image because of legitimate reasons based on your values, or because you are in a down phase.

Cynicism can be a useful tool, and a good defense against the incredible unfairness and absurdity of life. It’s never this simple but it does seem to be a choice you can make, whether to be positive, stay positive in the face of chaos, or get harsh and negative. I’ve been both. Positive definitely is better. I also think getting to a positive frame of mind takes a lot of work and there are basic steps to creating this kind of mindset. When I’m positive I can do anything, nothing can stop me. So clearly, that’s the better way to be in my opinion.

The other thing about being positive is that to stay positive one of the steps to follow is you can’t worry about the small stuff so much, you have to let go of most things that normally would trigger crisis mode, and when you can attain this mindset the positive stuff begets more positive stuff. I’ve proved this to myself over and over through the years.

Clearly there are cycles in the life of a photographer. One of the tasks it then seems to me for us as creative individuals is to stay aware constantly of our mindset and as we start slipping into a negative phase take action right away to stop that. What actions? Different for each individual but I think it’s fair to say doing something that feeds your soul, taking a break and getting away, spending time with family are all key.

The biggest single factor for me and the key to happiness was learning to say NO. No to the bullshit, destructive clients, bad jobs, any interaction that I would not have entered into when viewed through the prism of the concept that this might be the last day, the last minute of your life. How do you want to spend that time?

See ya

doug

On Jan 22, at 1:38 PM, Scott Lewis wrote:

Doug,

Thanks for taking the time to chat last week. The business plan’s a great idea, I think. Caroline downloaded a “how to” from Harvard’s business school website for me. I’m thinking of myself in new ways, and that’s good. Oddly, it’s getting scarier but somehow easier. Maybe it’s scary cause I’m getting to some notion of truth? whatever that is. Is it a truth I’ve been denying about myself that’s become to realize itself in light of whatever the last 15 years have been about. I’m REALLY glad you reminded me to be patient with this anxiety and not force it. Moving from the casual pace of my newspaper world to the constant churn of NY is a bit overwhelming and that’s been a big surprise for me. I always envisioned NY as such a natural place for me but I feel like I’m trying to hop onto a merry go round that’s going just a bit too fast and I’m not sure if I should jump or not. I know it’s all in my head but that’s the killer ain’t it. It’s also in my head that I can’t run a 6 minute mile but tell my legs, lungs and stomach that….

Can you explain your thinking on the idea of taking 100k, putting 50k in the bank and then getting a line of credit? I have to say, I really don’t know what a line of credit is or how this idea works as opposed to just using the 100k for whatever I need it for.

scott

On Jan 22, at 2:59 PM, Doug Menuez wrote:

Scott,

All sounds like progress. No pain, no glorious paradise. New York does make us all raise our game. I remember after first moving back and one night getting up to get a glass of water at 3 a.m. I saw strobes going off out my window across the neighborhood- not just one or two, but like three or four strobes from different studio windows in various buildings. Shit, I have to get busy I thought. These people are crazed!! Everyone is working at the highest level of creativity. It is daunting, and inspiring. You just have to keep moving forward and ignore the voices of doubt.

I guarantee if you write a plan, something excellent will come out of it. Not necessarily what the plan says but the plan forms a catalyst for clear thinking and action- a roadmap. The idea is with the plan, if it’s good, you should be able to get an SBA loan of at least 100K. Then take that to a “relationship” banker in your town and bank it as security for a line of credit. You would like to get an unsecured loan but that’s unrealistic without a business track record so this is the security. Your credit line should be at least 100K to match the funds you deposit, but ask for more. The credit line is ideally enough for your cash flow over a month or better yet two or three months. As you grow you increase the line. There is also a whole science to using and paying the line and what banks look at on your P&L to determine if you are legit or skimming funds- loan to shareholder or draw and stuff like that. But the thing I recommend doing even on top of that is to take every check you get in and slice 1/3 into another self capitalization account. So you’ll have this checking account that is growing and from which you pay bills. If you have to, you borrow from the credit line and put into this bill paying account. After a year, you should be able to get the bank to release your 100K SBA funds which have been earning interest and can be a huge help at that point, but ideally you keep them in a reserve account. You put your equipment up for collateral, don’t let them put the LOC against the house. But the idea is that small businesses die from cash flow problems and debt. I am suggesting building layers of back up for monthly operations. Part psycological and part practical. Once you prove your worthiness to the bank you should be able to build the relationship by taking out short term loans for equip and paying them back instantly. Have and use only 2 credit cards: AMEX is critical as it forces you to pay every month in full. Visa is critical for travel where they won’t take Amex. Then you can increase your credit line hopefully as you grow and keep socking away captital, from which you will pay into your retirement plan and pay out your taxes. You need to get a serious profit sharing defined distribution retirement plan right afuckin way too dude…more later…d

From: scott@scottlewisphotography.com

Subject: Re: Time change?

Date: January 24, 5:30:00 PM EST

To: menuezpictures@mac.com

 

Ok. Maybe this is why business school never seemed like a good fit. One step at a time I guess.

A quote that’s been hanging over my desk for the past year has really reflected my state of being.

“With everywhere to choose from, where does one go? Sometimes nowhere.”

-Sam Abell.

Maybe it’s time to take that quote down.

Scott

 

On Feb 9, at 2:28 PM, Scott Lewis wrote:

Funny. After I read this and it sat for a couple days suddenly I felt better. I guess hearing you dissect what seemed to be the chaos of what I’ve thrown out and see it as classic burn out made it all ok. It made what’s going on in my head seem legitimate and not just persoanl anxiety. It felt like a release. Burnout is what it is and happens when it happens on it’s terms, not mine. So for now, I have a sense of optimism and I’m seeing the connections form again. Not immediately but I feel like it’s a good corner to being in the midst of turning.

Hopefully it all works before I’m homeless or dead!

Scott

On Feb 9, at 8:37 PM, Doug Menuez wrote:

Nice, love to hear that in some small way i could provide some perspective. i do really think you have all the tools to make life what you want it to be and isn’t it great that you are such a fucking brilliant photographer? so chill and enjoy something, anything and give yourself a break!

d

From: Scott Lewis <scott@scottlewisphotography.com>

Date: February 9, 10:06:59 PM EST

To: Doug Menuez menuezpictures@mac.com

Subject: Re: an empty soul?

nice new quote for the wall!

this realization that it’s burnout has helped me chill a bit. i’ve been pretty hard, mentally, and it’s kind of paralyzed me. i forgot to have fun in all this. a couple nights ago i was in Flushing walking over to a Spanish church i hadn’t been to before. it was cold as all fuck but the walk, which i’ve made, more or less, many times, seemed shorter than it ever had. it was then that i realized things were getting better. then i had a shoot last night for Fashion Week and found myself smiling as i was exploring the situation photographically… cool.

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One Response to The Dialogs

  1. murat says:

    thank you for sharing this so honestly and openly, enjoyed it immensely. a real opportunity to have a glimpse into the life of a creative person that i am trying to become.

    now on to some planning! :)

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