I'm at a Crossroads. Whats next?

As I write this, its July 3rd and my whole photography world has changed. I don't have the studio I imagined or counted on, its mid year, and while I have work its not like it was with ol' 46 West, nor does it feel anything like it. I FEEL different about my work and it makes me think out of the bounds of these past few years. 

I've done a lot these past months. I switched out camera systems. I closed my studio. I switched out location lighting. I can "move" faster I think. I'm back to being more of a one light guy more for the look than necessity. We only have one light anyway - the sun. And it does a pretty good job. I'm lighting a much smaller area than the Earth. I loved a lot about the Profoto lights I have used since near forever. I spent a lot too. But Profoto really caters to those pros that have staff, and assistants because believe me one guy and a rock n roller cart is still humping to get setup and work. I will still do those assignments where I'm shooting large but those are more rare than norm so I decided I wanted something that covered ANY work I do and I wanted support for my camera system which Profoto is and was just dragging their feet on. I have the cameras I want now too. I feel so much more comfortable shooting Fuji, and its not a technical feel good, its a creative feel good. The Fujifilm cameras match what I want to shoot. They have all the pieces that fit my style and the way I work and give me the results I want more in camera than anything I have used. 

So I have all the pieces. I have a lot of experience and I'm at a crossroads looking at what I want to do, photographically, and I think its more camera and less business/studio. I have a lot of ideas. I don't want to explore them with you right now, because they aren't all defined. And I can only accomplish so much, so some of them are just not going to make the cut. I do plan to explore more themes, work my composition more. I do plan to still do as much portraiture as I can find work, and probably some for me too as projects. I want to incorporate other subjects into portrait types of things - there I go, sharing too much already! I'm going to put my mobile lighting kit to work but its not going to be just for people pictures. 

Its not about a direction, its about directions. I will need a studio from time to time but many people have opened up to offer me use of their space, so I have restaurants, and offices, and other places I can shoot. I also have lots and lots of outdoor locations. And who knows, if a suitable studio opens up someplace, then its a maybe but its not the priority it once was. I'm eager to get started. 

Studio? We don't need no stinking Studio!

Yes, its true. No studio for moi! At the very last minute the evening before the scheduled day to sign the lease and receive my keys, I was emailed the latest lease which was to only have the proper business name as a change. Instead there was a higher rental fee incorporated. All this after several past go arounds with "change the lease" tactics by this property manager. The rent and terms for this property had been agreed to since day one. Of course it was done as handshake with many people present as honest people will do. Over the course of the next three months, this property company tried numerous times to change that number. Each time, after some stern words and me telling them I would just look elsewhere, they once again agreed to the agreed upon number and terms. In hindsight, I should have walked. I think their plan all along was to wait until the place was finished and then slam the fee hike in at the last minute. I do not think these folks had any honorable intentions of fulfilling their agreement. Funny, other developers in the area cautioned me about working with them and this property manager in particular. 

As it turned out, the property manager had never done a commercial contract or build out before. His lack of experience and general ineptness turned into eight weeks of frustration. For eight weeks he blamed the city of Aurora, the office of Buildings and Permits, and even individual inspectors. He had no idea of the requirements for proper submission of permits - he did submit for them and they were quickly denied so there was no hold up other than this guy just refusing to comply with the process. I finally contacted people in the city myself and talked to the general contractor and learned all this. When I confronted the property manager, he did finally confess that it was his fault, he screwed up so now it's eight weeks of lost time. Meanwhile, I can't book certain jobs and neither can my associate members committed to monthly studio membership. We all lost some money. Even after admitting he messed up, he tried to slam in a rent increase and new terms, this time blaming it on his "investors" who were making these demands. Yeah, I have all the emails between us covering this. I'm not making this up! I did walk this time, due to frustration and knowing this was a shadier deal now but for some unexplained reason we agreed to the original terms and it was on again. Let me be clear that this property is an older building not compliant with code in several areas. Before the space can be rented commercially, it has to meet conditions, and these conditions are part of the process for receiving grant monies for development. The floor had to be fixed since it was of old asbestos tile. It had no restroom, no water, and the electricity was of older cloth insulation. Bare wires in many places. It was shut off. No heating or air conditioning. The walls had not been tended to in a while so they needed painting. My only request was for matte white paint and I would pay for it but was told it had to be done anyway. I had no other requests. I did ask politely if when they built the restroom, could they make it a little larger so it could be a changing room too. No problem. No charge. I went out of my way to not make any requests where it could be perceived that I was pushing for any upgrade or that they were providing more than necessary on their part to appease me. Everything done was required by the grant process and city codes. 

I'm not posting this to slam any one person or company, I did not mention who or any names. Whats done is done but for those looking to open an business, any business, you have to beware of who you are dealing with if there are processes involved. I used a company the city recommended, Invest Aurora, to steer me to these developers. In fairness they have steered me to many other very honest and reliable developers and investors too. Its not them per se, but as Aurora grows, more less honest types are going to be moving in, taking advantage of the choice real estate and locations. Invest Aurora and the city need to start thinking about how to "vet" these investors to ensure they are the real deal. That they truly want to work with the businesses sent their way. That they honor agreements. Otherwise, after a bad taste, and as word gets around, potential businesses will look elsewhere. As it stands, due to lack of other suitable space its probably not in the cards to stay in Aurora. My business for this year, is toast. Its halfway over and I have no studio to work from, and have lost a fair piece of other work. Its ok, I'll figure something out. My business is usually that of an investors dream tenant. I require nothing other than basic things usually present already. I'm not a retail operation making changes with foot traffic wearing on their property. A photography studio is a quiet, non intrusive operation. I now just have to continue to look for that "dream" investor that appreciates a dream tenant.