The times, they are a changing...
I think Bob Dylan wrote that or if not then someone similar did. I don't know and didn't enlist google to find out. The source is irrelevant, its the gist of the phrase that matters.
Its coming up on my one year operation of my studio. I signed my lease February 1st in 2014 and it comes up for renewal at the end of January in 2015. I love the space I currently rent. Its about as perfect a studio space as I could imagine. I have room to display work, room to shoot large groups, small groups, and products. Plenty of room to work on concepts, plenty of room to get together and discuss and even try new cool, techniques with others. Or learn old techniques more in-depth. Its a great business office and a place that establishes credibility as a photographer. Its a nice place to ponder, reflect and think. And I'm pretty sure my studio isn't going to make it past it's January 2015 renewal date.
For all the studio is, it's not really essential to my work. Its darned helpful but not essential. I have a great landlord and a very good relationship with him. My rent is at a good place and stable, my utilities manageable and I have a few photographers renting on a daily basis now plus one good, steady monthly renter all which helps pay the bills. There is more room too for more "shooters" since the calendar for the studio is still very open. I feel it could cover it's expenses as a business moving forward and that has been my intention for 2015. I have a couple of great ideas and backing to promote it more in 2015 and the studio is becoming more known, its taken a year but its showing on the radar. Faintly. But running the studio is a business, it's part of my overall photography business and a separate segment that does require time and expense to operate. So I have in essence two businesses, each with their own needs and pains that are associated with a business. You might ask, "If the studio can "stand on its own" and pay for itself, why would it not stay operational?" I can best sum it up as business climate in where I am located and have to operate, and resources (my time and admin) it takes plus the day to day frustration and problems that never go away. Too much pain for not enough gain.
I had hoped for the studio to be more of a spot for photographers to gather. A point of collaboration, a place to get together to discuss concepts, try new things - the sorts of things that require a studio. Lets face it, studio time is expensive to rent, and not many photographers can afford the luxury of renting (or owning) one. My hope was to offer a place, as cheap as possible for the local photographic community to use. But the area around here is not rife with collbaroration. It's more clique like, protected, and photographer's locally are very guarded about their work and in working with others. I have worked with a few more adventurous souls and it's been fun and I always learn something but not too many share this idea. Fine. So I decided to move to a model where the studio can be rented more, and that has held some promise. But the City of Aurora with it's parking ordnance has reared its ugly head. They only allow you to park outside my location for 90 minutes. Sessions in the studio rarely go less than 90 minutes. If you are teaching classes or a workshop or holding a business meeting, you have to stop, interrupt and go move your vehicle. Or suffer a $10 ticket. So a business model of renting the studio runs into a bit of a problem because as I successfully rent the time and space, my customers face the problem of tickets each time they come in. I should mention that my downtown, main venue street is vacant except for me, a local pub (with the same problem of customers and tickets), a sometimes chef with a custom cafe, and a small real estate broker. Otherwise the entire block is vacant on both sides and the numerous parking spaces out front of the buildings are empty. Aurora says they want to build up downtown but its never going to happen when a visitor has to pay a parking ticket for checking it out. Yes, within three blocks there is free public parking. And if I was some big name in the business and a captain of my industry then they might pay the price and walk to my studio for the privilege of using it and being there. But I'm not. I'm just trying to establish a business, promote the location (it does have the river, pubs nearby and other cool stuff) and make a buck. Customers relish convenience and being able to park for at least 2 hrs or even 2.5 hours at a time right in front of my building would certainly help. There used to be meters out there and they started at 2 hours but oddly, the city took the meters out and replaced it with the 90 minute ordnance and no one really understands why. It's a business killer.
I myself face and have paid up to $60 a month for tickets. I need to park out front to bring in up to 6 bags of equipment, props, furniture and other things for the studio. I can't just lug this stuff three blocks all the time. Aurora doesn't care. I can't keep absorbing $60 worth of tickets, or more, every month either but more importantly, its hard to book a customer in for a session and having to tell them they will most likely also receive a parking ticket. Sort of a buzz killer, you know?
So I'm talking to Aurora and have talked to them for months, they never run out of people to refer me to since none of them are empowered to do anything. But with only a bit over 30 days now to my go date, I'm not hopeful. so I need to make a decision. I'm looking at other locations but they are all very pricey. I actually like where I am. I love the building. I think Aurora has a lot to offer those that come visit, I like it when we finish a session at the studio and wander down to the pub for a bite to eat and something to drink. I like to do some shooting outside the studio along the river, the casino parking structure out back (a pay garage I can't technically use) offers some cool unique places to shoot. Its a very good place to work from. But the city just throws hurdles at you, and I'm tired of jumping them or stumbling over them. It's starting to take more time than I want to devote to it, I do have my other business, the photography thing to work on too.
So, regardless of the studio and what happens, I will still be working. I'm still able to book work and will have a makeshift studio set up in another location. I'm making plans because I am 90% sure I will need to be out of 46 West New York St. by January 31st and that makes me very sad. I'm pretty much at my wits end though and I need to make some changes. I guess its the times.