Anxious times

My pastor, Mark Winner, is one of the wisest persons I’ve ever met.

His sermon on Sunday, which was about peace, especially in the setting of family relationships, was incredibly insightful.

First, he pointed out that war and strife are not the opposite of peace; anxiety is. Having lived with anxienty for decades, I always sensed that absence of peace. But I never equated the two.

About 30 months ago, I began a long journey through the valley of deep anxiety and depression, a journey in which I ended up casting off most everything that I had worked for and held dear. This lack of peace in my life seemed incongruous with all the spritual teachings I knew, yet it was undeniable and required medication and therapy to bring under control. On good days, I begin to feel some peace, or at least imagine what it must feel like.

Pastor Winner also talked about how we can bury and disregard our feelings of resentment, anger and frustration, thus pretending that they were never there. And we can have a time of peace in our relationships by that doing that. But it’s false peace; we’re just resting in the eye of a hurricane. Eventually the the second half of the storm is going to cross over, and it will be ugly. All those suppressed emotions will come to the surface.

That’s difficult for me, because I hate strife. After all, Jesus said the peacemakers are blessed.

I’m not sure how to reconcile these points. I’ve always felt that, as a Christian, it was my duty to absorb all the strife and irritations, then pass them off on God and let him deal with those negative emotions.

But the peace never came. The anxiety just hung around.

I suspect that’s because peace is a product of joy, which is a product of love. And all my life I’ve had a lot easier time understanding the wrath and anger of God rather than the love.

Every Sunday, I go away from Cornerstone Friends Church feeling a little better about my faith, my relationship with God. I’m moving away from the wrath-and-anger model to the love-and-grace model of God. It’s a hard transition. What if the wrath-and-anger model that I’d grown up with in fundamental churches really is the right way to view God? What if all those who foolisly believe that God is loving Father rather than a ornery taskmasker are wrong and I will end up in hell, another unforgiven fool?

These are anxious times.

Memories of a dream past

I spent a few hours this past weekend sorting through equipment that I purchased several years ago for the freelance photography business I launched way back in 2000.

The art and retail photography markets were much more hopeful and inviting back then. Consumers had disposable income and seemed to appreciate good photography. I always enjoyed capturing the romance of weddings, the joy of children and the wisdom of the mature adult’s face on film. I needed a second income so I could give money to faith-based initiatives and put away something for retirement. So I started Feather Multimedia.

The first five years were fantastic, the business grew quickly and I was working most weekends and every night. I worked harder at that than I had at any job. I kept investing profits back into the business, but I never made enough so I could step away from the 9-9 job and do the thing I loved full time. Health insurance was one of the big issues back then … this was before Obamacare.

And then everthing went down the toilet. The recession hit. Digital cameras became commonplace and photographers with their aresenal of special lighting equipment, expensive lenses and large sensors were no longer needed, especially in an economy where discretionary income was drying up. Good enough was good enough.

I started losing some important clients, ones I had come to depend upon for paying the overhead. I started paring back, and spent the next five years divesting myself of equipment to keep pace with the overhead.

The backdrops will go out the door this week. As I packed them, I thought of the many couples, youngsters and families who had been photographed in front of them. Ditto for the light stands that held the heavy monolights and soft boxes, which delivered the smooth, face-enhancing lighting that gave my images an edge over the myriad on-the-camera flash photos.

I’m not bitter about all of this. I will soon turn 60 and, frankly, I just don’t feel like making photos of screaming kids and babies, or uncooperative, half-smashed couples. Those caveats aside, I did enjoy my  years behind the wedding and portrait lenses. I loved thoses Sunday and Monday afternoons after a wedding, when the images popped up in Lightroom and I made the final tweaks to the RAW files. And I loved posting them into a gallery that was ready just 48 hours after the event, and creating multimedia shows of the wedding or photo session. Hopefully, at some point down the road, a couple who is having strife in their marriage and considering calling it quits, will look at their DVD and recall what it was that attracted them to each other in the first place. Or that mother and father will be able to pull out the slide show of their three-month-old baby and enjoy those fleeting moments again.

Nothing lasts forever, especially in this crazy, fad-driven economy. That includes the value of the artist’s work. I recently came across this blogger’s post  and I could not agree more. Most consumers have no idea how much money goes into the photographer’s equipment, software, training, computers and insurances. It’s been a few years since I purchased any new photo equipment, but my guess is that Nikon is not giving away equipment; I wonder why consumers think that photos ought to be given away or no value be attached to the photographer’s time spent in getting to a location, setting up the lights, figuring out the best angles, shooting the job, loading and archiving it, processing it and burning CDs or uploading images? There are expenses every step of the way. And unfortunately photographers require food, their cars burn gasoline and they get sick and require medical tests and drugs.

I constantly see new photographers come onto the local market, and I feel sorry for them, especially when they price their work incredibly low. They are setting themselves up for failure, especially if they ever plan to grow beyond using a simple DSLR and kit zoom lens.

At least they will have some good memories when it’s time to pack up the gear and sell it to the next starry-eyed photographer.