This note, on the one hand, is long overdue but at the same time it is also very timely. It comes not only as we enter into the new year, but also at a time in my life when I have achieved a personal goal I set for myself so long ago.
It is a story I have told many times, but it is one worth repeating, at least here. I was about 13 years old out front mowing the lawn. A chore I did week in and week out during the summers. The next door neighbor came outside one weekend and asked if I might be interested in doing a job that was a bit more interesting than mowing the lawn. How could I turn down a job offer like that!?
He was a very kind man who also happened to be a wedding photographer. He needed some help in his studio sorting negatives, placing album orders, and doing general office work. It was a great job. I vividly recall him teaching me the way to write the number 7 differently than the number 1 so that no confusion was caused at the lab. Placing orders for clients was very important. And like every “t” needs to be crossed and every “i” needs to be dotted, every 7 needs to have a little cross mark designating it as a number that is different from the number 1. I made sure to do this every single time and I still do to this day.
What was remarkable to me at the time, being a kid, is I thought he just wanted to offer me a job. But over time, I quickly realized that he wanted to show me a way of life, a way of living, and a way of understanding the world. I became very fascinated by photography and the work he was doing. I asked if I were to purchase a camera (and of course which one to buy), might he be willing to do a trade with me for some lessons. His response is that he preferred to keep paying me AND teach me lessons. I was in heaven. I remember everything he taught me, the helpful critiques, and the challenges to make me see the world better.
I had the opportunity to transfer into a better high school my sophomore year where there was a lot of buzz about a rigorous photography program. It was Mr. Bouchal’s first year teaching. It was my first opportunity to really learn about seeing creatively. This was over 20 years ago and we still to this day speak frequently by phone. It was in his class that my love for photography truly blossomed. Hanging out in the darkroom, processing film, smelling like chemicals…I loved all of it.
Then, of course, I had to pursue it in college as well. For me, there was no other option other than to obtain a degree in photography. It was what I obsessed over for 4 years. I loved it.
Then I moved out to Portland from the east coast. Packed my car with as much as I could fit and hit the road. I remember the order of priorities. First pack the camera gear, then the portfolios, then the cds (yes they were cds back then), and then my clothes, and then any extras. It was tightly packed and all that I needed to set sail.
I arrived in Portland and within a couple of weeks landed a photo assisting job for John Rizzo a local photographer who happened to originally be from Boston (my home town). That connection was all that was needed. The original offer was just for some part time work, maybe a week or so’s worth. On the third day, he offered me a full time assisting position. I quickly learned a very different side to photography, the world of commercial photography, and the trials and tribulations of running and operating your own business. I had never experienced anything so intense in my entire life. It is incredibly demanding, all encompassing, and in the rare circumstances when done well, it is very fulfilling and rewarding. I gobbled this experience up and developed a dream and a desire to one day own my own photography studio. This was around 1998. The job was the perfect trifecta of my educational background, experience in the field, and loose knowledge of operating a business. I had the seedlings of what ultimately became Paul Rich Studio.
Just prior to 2005, I began slowly acquiring photography gear looking at the idea of trying to build a business. I launched the idea of myself as a wedding photographer through word-of-mouth and photographed a total of 6 weddings that year. I learned a lot that year and felt the potential for a lot more. The following year, spending a bit more in advertising and building some momentum, I photographed 12 weddings. The year after that 24. It literally doubled each time the first 3 years.
It was time to sever my ties with the day job world and really make this thing go. It was August 7, 2007. A day I celebrate each year.
Becoming self-employed felt like the realization of a dream come true. But I knew there was still one more step to be taken. I still wanted a place to call my own for my business.
Around 2010, my friend Amy Vining and I, who had been dreaming of a photography studio for years, finally took the plunge and shared a studio space. It was such an exciting time just going for it and trying to push my business in yet another direction. I reached out to my newlywed clients and began documenting their growing families. It was something I wanted to do to continue offering a service to my clients and it felt like a natural extension of what I was already basically doing. It started off photographing the families of my clients and progressed to their friends and then on to their friend’s friends. Now I get random calls and emails from people I don’t even know who have seen my portraits in 3 or 4 of their friends homes or have seen my name pop up and now they have to hire me too. This began happening in 2014. You know…last year!
So, toward the end of 2014, I decided to take the final leap of faith and am now currently transitioning the main floor of The Bridal Loft into a complete photography studio. I am still conceptualizing the space and collaborating with my peers at The Loft, but everything is coming along nicely and could be ready as early as Jan 7th. We will share some completed photos soon once everything is setup.
So, there is a little history right there. A progression from mowing the lawn in Massachusetts to a portrait studio in NE Portland. The list of people to thank is extensive — from my old neighbor, to my high school teacher, to my college professors, to all of my parents, family, friends, colleagues and clients. You have all helped me along in so many ways.
I want to say thank you.
Thank you for the life lessons. Thank you for the simple teachings. Thanks for instilling the courage. Thanks for offering your support. Thanks for cheering me on and offering sage advice. Thanks for sharing a tip here and there. Thanks for the opportunity to capture and document all sorts of wonderful moments in your lives. Thank you for continuing to spread the word about our services. Thank you for allowing me to achieve my goals and live out my dream. I simply cannot thank all of you enough.
I hope you have a wonderful New Year. May 2015 be a great year for everyone. I can’t wait for what’s in store.
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