If there’s one places to learn the business practices of photography, it’s New York.
As you may have known, I’ve spent the last month living in New York City. The opportunity arose to assist Lindsay Adler for a month and without hesitation (of course) I took it. I had been home one day from Fotofest (which was another amazing experience, soon to be recorded in blog form) when I made the decision. A couple days later I found myself on a flight to the Big Apple.
First off, let’s state the obvious. New York is about as different as you could possibly get from Montana. Literally everything: the landscape, the people, the smells, the stores, the food, the entire way of life, is the complete opposite of what I’m used to. And while different can, at times, be very overwhelming (How the f*ck do you get out of Penn Station?!?!) it can also teach you a few valuable lessons in the process. And when it comes to New York, there are definitely a few things about I believe everyone could benefit from.
1.) Toughen Up
We all have our insecure moments, but New Yorkers don’t show it. Everyone in the city is trying to make it; whether they’re an artist, a musician or even a broker, literally everyone is gunning for success. And when you have that much competition floating around you, you either step up your game, or slowly wither away and move to Spokane (sorry for the cheap shot Spokane, but you’re still on my shitlist from last year).
New Yorkers have a gritty, self-assured kind of confidence, primarily because if you look like you can be taken advantage of, you will be taken advantage of. The people are just as nice as anywhere else I’ve been, but at some point you’re just in in the damn way. People will yell at you on the street and cars will honk at you because it’s Tuesday, but defend yourself a little bit and they back off. There is no convenient time to be a pushover.
2.) Make a Decision Already
Personally, I tend to stall on the decision-making process. I waste far too much time tossing around an idea when I could’ve moved on to much more important tasks weeks ago.
New Yorkers don’t seem to have this problem, and when you have shit to do and a very limited time to do it, it’s easy to understand why. Besides the commute sucking the time and energy out of your day (I had a good hour and a half commute from New Jersey to Lindsay’s studio everyday), you always have someone breathing down you neck – literally and figuratively. When met with a crossroad, don’t stand back and hope the right choice will just “come to you”, because while you float around in Lala Land, someone else is already assessing the situation and putting all the pieces together. Hard decisions are just as time-sensitive as easy decisions, so get on it.
3.) Be Genuine
I’ve always known this was an essential part of doing business (as well as living a good life in general) but I didn’t realize how much it’s truly appreciated until I came to New York. With the population being what it is – a little over 8.3 million – you’ll find yourself interacting with hundreds of people each day. In addition, so many interactions consist of people wanting something from you and you can see right through them. It’s easy to go into autopilot and tune out for a while…but don’t. The smallest genuine gesture can mean a world of difference to someone that has been seen as a virtual pocketbook all day long.
4.) Walk More
I’ve literally rediscovered walking. You should too. It’s awesome.
5.) Examine Your Risks
You all know how much I love taking risks (like when I built my own underwater camera housing). At this point it’s almost more of a not-so-adorable side hobby, but New York has made it into a fine art. A single well-calculated risk can make your entire career, but an brash decision can destroy it. It’s up to you to roll the dice, but you’ve got to stop being so damn scared all the time. Some chances are worth taking and others are not. Learn to tell the difference and make a move.
6.) Take A Break
In general, I tend to thrive best with my head just barely above water. Comfortable to me is synonymous with boring, and I just can’t grasp the idea of not having too much on my plate. That being said, everyone needs a break once in a while, and New York has a not-so-subtle way of reminding you that one of the best possible business practices is maybe, just maybe, you need to get away for a little bit before you go postal on the train to Jersey.
And if you ever need someone to talk to feel free to talk to me – I answer best through email or on my Facebook page, Jenna Martin Photography :).
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