Writing a letter.

The lost art of communication.  We text, we tweet, we send the occasional short e-mail.  Who here remembers writing a letter?  Who remembers receiving a letter by mail?  Some will write a short bit in a thank you note… but that’s not what I’m talking about.  Who of you have actually written or received a full blown 1 or 2 page letter from a friend?  Can you remember when the last time you received one or sent one?

Challenge of February.  Write 3 letters to friends and mail them… one full page minimum.  Send them in the mail and then let me know how you felt, and then follow up to see if you get any feedback from who you sent it too… and even more so – if you receive a letter back.

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Helpers.

When I was a kid, I was instructed to run across a street to help an elderly women cross the street.  If I saw a neighbor hauling in groceries – told to go help them carry in their groceries.  When someone came home, I was to jump up and run out to the car to see if someone needed help bringing anything into the house.  You don’t just hold the door open for the person is directly behind you for them to follow you in, you actually hold the door and let the person behind you in first.  When you are in a grocery line, if someone only has a few items, you allow them to go in front of you.  When you are crossing the street and you see a car coming up or one waiting for you at a cross walk you pick up the pace and run/quick walk at minimum to get across the street faster so that they can continue on their way.  You drive in the slow lane and only go in to the middle or fast lane to pass others.

Does any of this ring a bell?  Last week I decided to take a week to observe, at my disappointment – people didn’t pick up the pace to cross the street, in face they didn’t even acknowledge I was a car waiting with even a glance… it was like I wasn’t even there.  When I bring home groceries, nobody runs out to help me carry anything in,  the young man at the gym didn’t even hold the first door (although my youngest did rush ahead of him and held the door for him – have to give him credit).

As adults I think many have become a bit lazy about concern for others ahead of ourselves.  I tell my children to always look for the Helpers.  There are always Helpers, but now more than ever I feel like I need to work on this with even my own children.  Being aware of our surroundings, and others in need is so important and even I have lost track of that at times.

2014 can be the year we bring more Helpers back.  Here is how you can help.

1. When you use a crosswalk and a car has stopped for you… pick up your pace & wave – they just may have somewhere important to go.

2. When you hear one of your family members come home, send your kids out or yourself to at least ask if they need any help.

3. Take an extra 20 minutes and shovel some of your neighbor’s sidewalk when you are doing yours.

4. Hold the door for another.

Seems simple right?

List some other really simple things that may make another’s life easier or show care for someone that you may not even know.  Not elaborate… SIMPLE… that any or all of us could do.

Photographer: Jeanine Thurston

Photographer: Jeanine Thurston

A message to new photographers.

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To any new photographers out there. Please do not WORRY about the competition. It is way more important to create what you love, not what someone else loves. You will rise to the top much faster by being true to yourself and only comparing yourself to what you were yesterday – with your eyes continuing to look at how you can improve yourself tomorrow.

~Jeanine Thurston

 

A letter on my door step: The follow-up

Ok – honestly, I had absolutely no idea what would happen over the last 24 hours.  Although I’ve been in professional photography for around 24 years – I did not set out to post something that would be passed along to so many people.  Today, my e-mail, blog & twitter were turned upside down with mass communication beyond comprehension.  95% of the voices I heard through Facebook, Twitter, E-mail as well as blog posts were a grouping of similar stories, people who could really relate, and thankful people that loved the reminder to give a little more love an attention to those that you love around you.  About 3% were questions about me, about the family, and about photography.  That left a very small 2% that found the blog post offensive and questioned my integrity in doing so.  Looking at the percentages – I will say that there will always be a few nay sayers and negative people, but the astonishing positive and thankful feedback actually has left me in tears over half the past day.  So I went to the studio with no make-up, hair in a mess and nice big puffy eyes – and am grateful for all of the stories shared from all corners of the globe.

Just because everyone isn’t rosy and positive doesn’t mean they don’t have a valid perspective, so I feel like I should address some questions in today’s post.  These are answers to only questions I’ve received up until now – and I apologize if I’ve missed something from any of you, and will try to go through and e-mail some people directly as well.

** Were you blocking a lot of negative comments so far?

Actually no. I have currently only “unapproved” 5 posts so far… all of which contained either foul language or I felt were bashing the feelings of sincere people that posted comments on my blog.  I e-mailed a response to each person that I “unapproved” explaining exactly why I had done so, as well as addressing their concerns or harsh words.

** Is Karen still alive? Can you post photos of her and her family?

Sorry to say that she has passed.  I do have images from past sessions and wedding; however I and the family do not feel it is the right place to put faces to her words – as her words speak for themselves.  They prefer not to be recognized, or contacted – especially with young children involved.  Morning and dealing with a sever loss is really a personal matter – and it is a very fragile situation.

** Was the post a marketing ploy or hoax?

No.  The only benefit I feel from this is that others can bond and feel some greater picture.  I have my own family, a full-time business and want to pass along how important loving relationships are or can be to my children.  Cancer has hit close to home in my family as well – and it was a very awakening experience for me.  A reminder of how quickly life passes, and how even I put off photos with my children.  As photographers, we are behind the camera – and the nudge that this letter provided me was to do more portraits with my husband and children…. and ME in the photograph.  It’s about setting aside the thought of a few extra wrinkles, or couple extra pound because you don’t feel like you look perfect and getting in front of the camera for sentiment sake.  Unfortunately I don’t think I could possibly convince some people of this – but I felt like I still needed to try to explain my actual intent.  I by no means believe this was her last “wish” as one so un-kindly put either.  I know her and I also know that she probably sat down and wrote a number of letters to people because that is the kind of person she was.  Loving.

** Do I expect people to spend thousands on photography?

That is quite a personal decision and really – with my own family and trying to support them on a photographer’s budget I have to tighten my belt too.   I am all to familiar with paycheck to paycheck.  So in short… NO… that isn’t something I would demand or expect – or force anyone into.  Many seem to be un-aware that photographers are small business owners – we are no different than anyone else with a job (except we rarely get a steady paycheck).  We have lots of bills, many of us have families, we pay our own insurance –  if we are pros and we also have increasingly large over head expenses with continually upgrading equipment & computers.  We work all hours day and night too.  It is as far from a 9-5 job as most will ever understand.  Many photographers (myself included) have actually lowered our rates or offer payment options or packages to make it easier if a client chooses to hire us for their memories.

I want to make it abundantly clear that at least 90% off all my photographs of my family and children are “candid” on the fly and “in the moment.”  And yes – these are prized by me just as much as the professional looking images.

** Guilt trip?

Well – I guess you can call it what you would like.  Some people have called it a real awakening, some have said thank you for the reminder, and some have said I was a awful person too.

Here is my opinion.. or view I guess you can say:

“Call it whatever you want!  I LOVE MY FAMILY.  I know now more than ever that there are hundreds of thousands of people that feel love for their families and friends.  If yesterday’s post made just ONE of you pick up your camera and take a family photo or a few extra shots of your children or parents/grandparents then that 2% that are disgusted with me, don’t matter – my love and concern is with those that the post touched in a positive way.  I would love to photograph as many people as possible in my lifetime, but it makes me happy just to know that others out there do see value in what a photograph IS.  It is beautiful memories of past lives, the building blocks of who you are today and who you will be tomorrow, and it is stories for  children and generations to come.”

I am very proud to be a professional photographer

I am proud to be in a profession that touches so many people in an amazing – astounding way for generations behind and ahead of me.

I am proud that I can see beauty in everyone…. EVERYONE.

For all photographers out there – professional or not – be proud that you record our history, love and our lives.  For clients or potential clients… we photograph people because we love the spirit and uniqueness of every person.

I wish everyone a beautiful and heart-felt 2012!!!!  My many thanks to everyone that has and will post about their experiences.  I enjoy reading and hearing about all of the amazing connections out there and have had many e-mails and posts stating how much they appreciate everyone posting and seeing all of the love and kindness!

Here is the link to the post that this follow-up refers to as well:

https://fototails.wordpress.com/2012/01/02/a-letter-on-my-doorstep-portraits-are-more-than-paper/

A letter on my door step. portraits are more than paper.

There will be no portrait photos in this post.  This letter wasn’t mailed – it was at my doorstep when I got home a couple months ago.  I read it, I cried, and read it again – probably a hundred times by now.  It wasn’t easy to read – and honestly, as much as it validates what I do for a living – I wasn’t sure I was going to share it either.  If you choose to read through the letter, you will know why I’ve finally chosen to share it.

July 2nd, 2011

Jeanine – 

Today I am writing for a couple of reasons.  I have some quiet time at the moment and need to get a couple of things off my mind.  I will leave this for my husband to deliver to you when he is ready.

You photographed my wedding, you photographed my first pregnancy and my first baby.  I contacted you awhile back to photograph my 2nd child and family.  After getting prices and realizing I would want all of the pictures as we love your work – I decided against spending $500+ – which is what I normally spend for portraits and prints with you..  Please know it is not because I don’t value your amazing eye, or how much we love the experience.

That week that I decided to NOT do a session with you, this is how I spent some money.

On Sunday I called and cancelled our session.  Monday I went out and got my hair cut ($39+tip), and colored ($65), Thursday I had my nails done ($24), my family went out to dinner at a somewhat expensive restaurant for no particular reason costing us $79 + tip.  This was just 4 days since canceling our session, already totaling over $200 for un necessary things.  My nails only lasted about 2 weeks, my hair is gone, and seven weeks passed when I got the phone call from our doctor.  It was not something I expected and the cancer has spread very quickly.  I will be leaving my husband, my 6 year old girl and my now 2 year old – not by choice.  It is very hard for me to talk about it which is why I need to write you.

I watch your Facebook page and your posts about the value of a photo and if I could give back all of those things that I purchased this few weeks after I cancelled my session with you, knowing what I know now, and have that session, well… I would do it in a heartbeat. 

Now my time is done and there are no more chances for me.  The next time someone cancels a session – my wish is that you forward this letter to them.  Time is fragile, it is gone before you know you had it.  If you charged $200 for one print it wouldn’t be enough for what it is actually worth.  I cringe to think that my priorities were a manicure over a memory to pass onto my babies and husband.

My love and thanks for what you have given us from past photos.  I am so sorry that I did not see it as more than paper until now.

Karen L.