Friday, January 24, 2014

Looking at the big picture

I just sold a picture, of a cow, for more than I ever have sold a picture for before. For some reason, when I saw the price, contingent on how large the photo runs of course, what came to my mind first was my mom asking an 8-or-so-year-old me why I thought I needed to take so many pictures of cows. I had to chuckle at how life turns out.
She was likely looking through the latest order she had picked up from the local drug store, and was gazing upon four of those paper envelope's worth of pictures, 95 percent of them being of cows, all of which I had made sure to get duplicates of. We do all remember what ordering pictures was like in the 1990's, right?
Even back then I would almost always have my camera and extra roll of film on me, and would happily crawl up fences, lay in dusty corrals and get soaking wet while snapping away at cattle, other ranch animals and anything else I found interesting. The sheer volume of cow photos I turned out resulted in a lot of good natured teasing from my family, and the occasional exasperated question similar to the one above from my mom, usually when she got home from picking up photos.

I took them out of my joy for cattle, which hasn't lessoned over the years, and I needed duplicates because I might frame one, and need the second for my 4-H record book, or just to have.
As I grew up, this photographing of cows only intensified. I would proudly show off my latest angle, and be told it looked just like the last 10 I had also proudly showed. There is no tougher critic than a member of my family, which I'm grateful for because they made me strive to come up with something new, different, better.
Over time, the frequency with which I was told my latest image looked just like the last 10 diminished, and more of my photos were given the stamp of family approval. However even today, you can see boredom begin creeping in if I show more than three similar photos in a row.

I also learned with time that no two people look at picture the same way, and that within a single image you will find people who love it and people who dislike it.
After aging out of 4-H, I decided to try entering photos in the county and state fairs. They did surprisingly well. A friend who saw them recommended I apply for a job at the University of Wyoming as a freelance photographer. I did, they hired me, the next year I was the paper's photo editor, then a professor's daughter asked me to photograph her wedding.
I continued entering photos in fairs, and received a "Best of Show" award at the Wyoming State Fair my second year. As my mom congratulated me on the award, she noted how funny life is that I had worked within the 4-H program for 11 years, and never won such a big ribbon at the state fair.
Following college there was more freelance work for an increasing number of publications, both mainstream and agriculture based. Then, I was hired as the assistance editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, which introduced me to editorial writing in addition to photography.

A year and a half later  I left the paper, returned to my family's ranch and began my freelance career in earnest, broadening the list of publication's I wrote and took pictures for, and basically working like a madwoman because I was living my dream. Tucked away in the far reaches of rural Wyoming, surrounded by cattle and enough Internet service to send out an article most days, I was thrilled.

Then I fell in love, got married and moved to western South Dakota this summer. While I planned to just continue on with business as usual for the first few months, God had other plans. In the midst of the craziness that has surrounded us since our July wedding, I have been blessed with increased and new business within both my writing and photography careers.
Then this morning I sold a picture for more than I ever have before. And all this hit me, and I had to call and tell my mom, who was beyond excited for me. I also had to remind her of all those years ago, when she asked me about taking so many cow pictures. She just chuckled and asked me if I wanted them all back.

In moments like this I'm very grateful that God works in mysterious ways, and for my parents. My mom and dad probably wondered why in the world their daughter had such an insatiable urge to both be in the cattle business and document every day of it with photographs, but they were supportive.
As a result, twenty years after she asked, I am finally able to give my mom an answer as to why I need so many cow pictures, and pay her back for all those rolls of film!

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