As an airplane flies overhead in Wasilla, I launch my Logbook Photo Store - with a blessing and a coin from India
Murthy and Vasanthi took me to see a certain Hindu temple in Ahmedabad where we crawled through a narrow, man-made cave built to replicate another in a temple built into a rock in another part of India. After passing through the cave, we came to place where a priest stood behind a countertop overlain with flowers. Incense burned and so did an oil lamp. As people stopped in front of him, he would say a short prayer in his language and would place a red mark on their forehead.
I was a little worried, because I knew I would be in front of him soon and the usual protocal called for congregants passing by to drop a little money into a box as an offering - kind of like passing the offering box through the congregation in a church. When I visit a church, even though I am not a member, I always drop some money into the box when it is passed in front of me.
I had no money on me. I did not know what to do. I was surprised when, instead of expecting me to give money to him, the priest handed me the coin in the photo above. With a smile and a gentle expression on his face, he said a short prayer, reached out, touched my forehead and left a red mark on me.
In his way, which is not my way but which I honor and respect, he had blessed me, but I had no idea what he said. When we stepped out of the temple into the glare of the hot sun, I asked Murthy what the priest had said in his blessing to me.
"God bless you," Murthy interpreted, and then explained that priest had also blessed me that I might find financial success. To me, financial success means to obtain the resources that I need to do my work... to take my pictures, write my stories, to put together the books that I still must get done in whatever time I have left. I decided to keep the coin for the rest of my life - as a good omen that, somehow, as challenging as the near future appears to be, everything will come together and I will obtain those resources and I will get my work done.
As regular readers know, I have two big goals right now, but no financial backing to do either one. There are books I must complete. For the most part, I have the material. I have the photos, I have the information, I have the experiences, what I need is the time to do the work. Then there is this blog. I'm not totally satisfied with the format, but I love the basic idea, the way a blog allows me to play words off photos.
And now, as of this week, I have no money and no income and no promise of income, but lots of bills ahead of me. 2011 was actually a very good year for me but it has passed. Uiñiq magazine and the other sources of support I had been relying on are gone. Uiñiq is over. I do not believe it is coming back. My inquiries to the new powers that be as to whether we could keep it going have generated no response - but I think this is how it is supposed to be, because if I get too comfortable doing Uiñiq and I rely too heavily upon it, then I won't get my books done.
I won't push this blog to where it needs to go.
Uiñiq was good for me and I loved it and many Iñupiat people continually tell me they loved it, but everything has its season and the season has come for me to move beyond Uiñiq. I am afraid to say this for certain, because if the offer came, it is hard for me to imagine that I would not take it. But I do know that there is a certain, major, book I have been working on for decades and I must finish it, at least to electronic form, before the end of August.
How will I do that, if I am doing a Uiñiq?
So, somehow I must make this blog the foundation of my income, so I can be free to do what I need to do.
It feels impossible. Yet, I know it can be done. Somehow, it can be done - but not if I just spend hours working on this blog every day without any kind of mechanism at all to bring in some coins. So, finally, now that we are solidly broke, I start my store.
The store alone won't do it. I don't really think the store is the answer - but I will start with this store, see if anything happens, and see what else it will lead to. There is a link to the store near the top of the right hand column, but it doesn't stand out at all, so I must make a button that does - but the button can't stand out too much, or it will diminish the impact of the photographs.
This is also why I am trying to stay away from ads. Ads make a blog ugly, and they can be so damned annoying. So I am trying to stay away from them. David Alan Harvey has succeeded in doing so with Burn. David is truly famous and has a huge following and features scores and scores of superb and innovative photographers and so pulls in a level of support and contribution that I cannot hope to match.
He is not getting rich at it, but he is succeeding and he is doing good, creative, fulfilling work that he loves and no one else is doing. If he can, somehow, I can.
I don't know how, so I start with this store. The store alone is not going to do it, but it is a statement that I am serious and I am looking for the way.
I don't have much in the store - just a few prints for now, and two prototype covers of some very simple iPad books I hope to make in the near future. I believe one week's worth of work would be all that would be required to finish the first book - because I have already completed it. I just have to revise it and adapt it to the iPad. I have zero experience and know-how at this, but I undertand there are simple ways to do it.
The second book will take a little more work, but the material is all at my finger tips. I just need to keep it simple.
As to the prints, I have been at a loss as to what to charge. For now, I have chosen $50 for an 8.5 by 11, $150 for 11 x 14 and $300 for 13 x 19 on Velvet Fine Art Paper. I fear very few people will be willing to pay $300, but so far I have not been able to talk myself into going any lower. I have never sold prints except on the rarest of occasions. About 20 years ago, ASMP sponsored a show I wanted to participate in but all those who hung a print had to put a price tag on it.
I did not want anybody to buy my print, so I priced it at $300. It sold anyway. A few years back, I had a major museum exhibition. The museum also bought a large selection of 13 x 19 Velvet Fine Art prints for their permanent collection and paid me $500 each, as I recall. They apologized for this price, as they said it was not enough and the prints were worth more, but they didn't have the budget for it.
So, as hard as I have been trying to, I cannot make myself go below $300, because it feels like I would be insulting my own work. Yet, I think hardly anyone will pay that.
But anyone who wants to surprise me - please do.
I am certain that anybody who has been following this blog lately will recognize Sujitha. Those who read part 2 of my return to India series might also recognize Natarajan's little green boy bank. The other hands in this frame are those of her mother, Bhanu.
I don' think anybody can make a worthwhile picture every day, but just the same, I decided to devote one section of my store to "The Daily Take." On every day that I can manage the time, I will put one image I took that day in the store. I will leave it there for two weeks, then remove it. I don't think many of these Daily Take images will sell. Maybe none of them. But I like the idea so I am going to do it.
This the first image in the Daily Take section - a plane that flew over me on my walk this morning. Anyone familiar with my work and history will understand the significance, whether I sell a single print or not.
Regular readers are also familiar with my Young Writer studies, focused upon Shoshana Hausmann, barista at Metro cafe. You will find one section of my store devoted entirely to the Young Writer. These 11 x 14 prints will include a sampling of her writing along with one of my pictures of her. I am not certain how often I will add a new one - at least once a month. I am not satisfied with the design on it just yet, so I will tweak it a bit.
If anyone has any suggestions or questions, please contact me at:
Now I just hope the damn robots don't jump on my email address.