Many years ago, I spent most of my online social time at Flickr. With the advent of Twitter and Instagram and Facebook and countless other social networking sites, my Flickr time plummeted drastically. I continue to maintain a "Pro" account with Flickr, because I want to maintain not only the thousands and thousands of photographs I've posted there, but the conversations—they often were more than just comments—as some sort of record of the relationships I developed there, many of which became real-life friendships (I've met well over a hundred of my Flickr contacts), most of which migrated to Facebook as a sort of central "meeting" place.
During this extended COVID-19 hiatus, in which I've gotten very little work due to conferences having gone almost entirely virtual, I've been putting time into creating galleries of my photographs which I think might be of interest to others for purchase. Currently, 2021 in Black and White is the only one that is complete, but I hope to finish the 2020 in Prisma gallery in the coming months. The problem with the latter is that I'm expecting to re-do many of the images in high definition (the thought of selling prints from them didn't occur to me at the time I started the project), as well as cropping them to original dimensions versus the square ratio that I adhere to with my Instagram photos. Yeah... I'm anal like that! I'll also be going through my archives to see what might be worthy of inclusion and editing those as well. Also with regard to the Prisma set, since there were often several versions of the photo-to-art conversions that I liked, I likely will include multiple versions.
This is a re-post—with minimal revision—of an essay I wrote for Medium in August of 2021.
It was a very, very slow go.
To help make ends meet, I was fortunate to get several months worth of relatively well-paid work with the Census Bureau for the 2010 Census. I also ran errands for people. I put IKEA furniture together. I answered Craigslist ads looking for photographers, and posted my own ads looking for work. As best as I can find, I didn’t do any photography work until October of that year, and even that was a freebie portrait session with a woman as a matter of building portfolio and possibly getting my name out there. I did another freebie session with a couple whose wedding I would photograph the following September. My first paid gig was of a "Cupcake Challenge" event in March of 2011. I had responded to a Craigslist ad for a beer festival in October of 2010, and while I didn’t get that job, the fellow who placed the ad had kept my name and email at hand. Foot-in-the-door type stuff, right? Except that it didn’t seem to lead to anything.
On 8 October 2011, I got a Facebook message from one of my long-time Flickr contacts, Liz West (Muffet), who was in town, and she asked me if I were available that night to photographer her brother’s 70th birthday party. Liz’s brother is actor/activist/author/Ken Burns documentary voice, Peter Coyote, something Liz had mentioned in her Flickr stream years earlier, but never had made a big splash about. About ten minutes after I responded to her message that indeed I was available, Peter himself called me to ask if I were available and how much I’d charge. My evening was set.
To be completely honest, when I ended the call with Peter, my mind was on getting everything ready. I probably washed clothes and charged batteries for both the cameras I’d be using, along with the flashes, just as I would do for any other job. I gave not one moment of thought about what to expect that night. Not for a second did I wonder about who might be in attendance. When I arrived at the venue, Bimbo’s 365 in North Beach, I was immediately greeted with the sight of Robin Williams cavorting with people in the vestibule. (Oh!) Once I got situated, I started taking photos of the growing crowd that was mingling, being sure to snap a couple of frames of Robin amongst them because… of course.
Once the evening’s program commenced, and once everyone filed into Bimbo’s ballroom, I went about doing what I do — documenting what was going on as well as many of those in attendance. I didn’t give much thought as to who they might be. (The only other person I recognized was poet Michael McClure.) A band performed; a gorgeous woman sang; there was dancing. As I meandered about the ballroom, taking photos at this table and that table, at no time did I happen to see (much less look for) Robin Williams.
The time came for the birthday candles to be lit and blown out, and for the next forty minutes or so, various people, including his children, gave tributes to Peter. His wife sang a song for him. The last to give tribute — in the form of a short stand-up routine, of course — was Robin. (I tried to record some video but because I wasn’t familiar with that feature of the camera I was using, failed miserably, getting only nine out-of-focus seconds worth.) I got a few photos of him from a couple angles, but nothing special, really. It was sort of odd that Robin had been one of the first people I’d seen that night, but until he’d gotten on stage, I had not crossed his path once in the duration, regardless the number of times I circled the ballroom.
Once the formalities had ended at around 11:00, I was pretty much off the clock, so I grabbed a little something to eat. I’m unsure exactly how it came to be, but I’m pretty sure I was on my way back from the bathroom when I found myself walking virtually side by side with Robin as we both headed in the direction of my table, which was near the buffet. Seeing Peter ahead of us dishing himself a dessert, I lightly put my hand on Robin’s leather-jacketed shoulder and asked him if he wouldn’t mind me taking a photo of him and Peter. He obliged. In the course of twenty-four seconds, I snapped off three photos — the second one, although slightly un-sharp, did the trick.
Hi! Welcome to my photography blog, wherein I will most likely write about my own photography, my thoughts about photography, specific photographs I've taken... I'm not sure as I write this on the 362nd day of 2021—the 24,134th day I've been on this planet—what I'll write about that is of value to anyone else. But as the coronavirus pandemic drags into its third year, and my primary source of income—conferences—has essentially dried up, I've got more time on my hands than usual. So... off I go!
All photos are copyright by Patrick T. Power. All rights reserved.