more than paper

a letter delivered on a photographer's doorstep. client's words. not mine this time.

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.

original post can be found here.

ETA:  i have to be honest.  i did wonder a bit if the above letter was real, but in the end, i decided that i didn't care (which is why i posted it).  and well, i was just hopeful that it was real. and left it at that.

i was just on my friend, meg's blog, and read this. love what she wrote and so wanted to share it here too.  love meg. love her work. xo.

I dont really care who wrote the letter. I dont really care if the letter was written at all. I dont care what the motives were. I think the message of said letter was interesting and a little heart wrenching, but ok, that’s not really important.

What is important to me is the mayhem that has ensued all around this wild west of the Internet regarding people’s emotions on not the topic of the letter but on the skepticism of whether the letter was real. I woke up this morning to messages pointing me in the direction of my own name in various discussions surrounding the “value” of photography.

Let me say this, and rest assured, I think many of my colleagues feel the same way, although I wont say “we”, just I. I do not care what a group of moms on various message forums think about the value of my art. The venom that I have seen put forward surrounding this letter is incredibly disheartening to me. It appears that women stayed up all night to argue about photography. I have yet to figure out why this topic is such a trigger point for so many mothers, but it seems to be.

What I also find sad, is how this industry has began to define an art. Being a mother, does not define one’s profession. Whether you make pictures, clothing, jewelry or a major advertising campaign, perform surgery or litigate in front of the Supreme Court , you do what you do because you have a talent, not because you are a mother. Talents big and talents small, they are all talents.

I do not care if you take a picture  yourself and spend .64 cents printing it at CVS. I do not care if you hire a photographer who gives you a disc for $100.00. I do not care if you spend $5000.00 on portraits. WHAT I DO CARE ABOUT, is respecting the work of photographers who charge a little and who charge a lot. There is a place for all of us. It is unfathomable to me that women can sit behind a computer screen and spew inarticulate, repulsive words about people who work hard and run their businesses honestly. If you choose not to use any certain photographer, FINE. I will not miss the people who hire someone else and I am sure many of us feel the same way.

So, I have a suggestion in the wake of this mess. Instead of carrying on about this letter and everything else you think about it, just find a picture of your kid(s). Remember how lucky you are to have them. Enjoy the photograph, enjoy the memory. And if you want, take some more. Or hire someone to do it. Find someone who suits your needs and dont worry about everyone else.