Laughter and Tears: Giving Thanks

This has been on my mind for a while and I have been mulling it over and thinking of when and how to write this. Someone has passed that had a great influence on me and it made me sad that I had not followed up with her to tell her how much she meant to my professional life and sanity.

As I thought about the loss of Lizbeth Guerrina who was one of the most talented and graceful portrait photographers I ever met, it occurred to me that I never followed up with her about how she came to me at the right time with the right message. I don’t remember what year it was, but I was deep in my portrait business in Miami in my large 2600 sq. foot studio with employees and I should have been supremely happy. But I wasn’t. It was also ironic to me and shocking that we lost her to colon cancer. I fought and beat colon cancer in 2009 so it sort of took my breath away in one of those “there goes I” moments in life.

I was lost. In the pressures to keep things organized, be a single mother, pay the mortgage and the studio bills, I lost my balance. I lost my passion and my creativity. I sat and pondered this. After much soul searching and questions I asked myself, I decided to change my entire direction of my portraits and close the big studio. But, I wasn’t sure. I knew I wanted to pursue more creative venues and stretch my creative muscles by working solely on location. But, I wasn’t sure.

The photography industry had not yet changed as profoundly as it has now. It was still the private world of truly talented and professional photographers who sought strength as a family of creatives who always were looking to learn “more” or something new and to always be inspired. We knew our equipment and how bend our lights to what we needed, but for staying inspired we usually reached out to others in the industry.

Feeling lost, I went to the convention and the one speaker I wanted to see was Lizbeth. Good Choice Girlfriend! She inspired me and gave me confidence in my decisions and she gave me inspiration in her totally controlled yet beautiful portraits of my favorite subject: children and families. I was lit up from within. My mind was racing. I CAN do this!

The new perspective moved me forward in my work. I did speak to her after the program and being who I am (those that know me, know this is true) I could barely speak without tears and choking up. She looked at me in my teary speechless eyes and reached out and hugged me. She said “I know.” Two simple words that connected me to her.

So it got me thinking about so many people who have totally influenced my life and profession in so many ways. I want to share a few with you and I am sure I am leaving out so many who I will think of later and who are just as important.

(I’ve decided to use Facebook links to these people and groups unless there is something else to link to)

Florida Professional Photographers (FPP) Before there was Facebook you actually had to go out and meet people face to face and interact and get to know them. I am grateful for my entire career to Bobby Becker who had a studio in Dadeland in Miami. I took my first photography class with him. After the six week course he continued to mentor me and made me join the FPP and PPA. He made me join the Miami Professional Photographers Guild and triggered the full chain of events that started me down the road.

I am grateful to have met, laughed with, worked with and create with so many amazing people I met during that time. Bobby told me I had to get “involved” to get the most out of it. It was pretty scary going to conventions and meetings not knowing anyone but him. If he wasn’t there it was fantastic the way others stepped up to talk to the “new member”.

Thank you Luis Melendi for teaching me to Never Take a Vote Unless you Know the Outcome and never ask a question you don’t know the answer to. We had so much laughter and love between us those years. Later we had many tears together over the terrible loss of his daughter Shannon and from that I learned, Never Give Up even if It Hurts. Thank you Luis.

Ted and Theresa Saylor words cannot express my feelings for teaching me that it’s okay to speak out and Theresa for many things she took me aside to say to me that moved my world. She was someone I knew never judged and always supported. She also could make me laugh til I peed telling stories about when she and Ted met.

Bruce Evensen low talking, always teaching, always making me laugh with his stories (especially fishing stories) and making me a better person. If not for Bruce I would not be a Master Craftsman CPP photographer recognized by PPA. How did that happen you say? Well, I’m not much of a competitor. I did compete in PPA and Southeastern and FPP competition for years and then, I stopped. I just stopped. It was during that time that I needed inspiration. At the FPP convention Bruce asked me if I had entered. I said “No”. He asked me when I had competed last…”two years ago”. Then he said “How many merits do you need to get your degree?” (gulp) “Three”. He shook his head. “Marilyn, you are leaving this as unfinished business. You will always regret not finishing this. Do it.”. Thank you Bruce. Following year I got my three merits and degrees. It was after that I finished my Florida Degree of Photographic Excellence. No one was prouder of me than Bruce. I love you Man! Most in Florida know him as “Poppa Bruce” cause he brought up so many photographers. He taught me so many lessons starting with you never make a bourbon and coke with diet coke.

Two women that totally changed my professional life and gave it meaning are Seraphina Landgrebe and Joyce Wilson. Each of these women at different times gave convention programs that had me nodding my head “yes” the entire three hours and tears of joy that I was once again inspired that I was on the right track. They both came to me at times I truly needed to be lifted up and see that a sister had gone before me to do and it was okay.

Skip Cohen Starting with AOL in the Kodak chat room I made a friend for life that also saved my professional life when I needed it. I’m not sure he even knows he did this. From calling me “Sparkle” in front of a packed room in Fort Lauderdale at a Hasselblad sponsored event to literally sitting on the floor with me years later at WPPI and asking me to give a platform program the following year to the Rangefinder article that came from that and the cover of the magazine and this all led to the launch of my new artistic life.

There are so many more people who have helped me down the road….Tim Kelly who I could never beat in FPP competition. I always took 2nd or 3rd to his first place (well deserved). So one year I kidded him and said “How much would it take to get you to not compete in Childrens category next year?”.  His answer was memorable and brilliant, “Not that much Marilyn. But, would you really felt you won if I wasn’t competing?”. DUH! Brilliance from a true photographic artist.

Chuck Neubauer 18 years of twice a year meetings with love and laughter and serious business. I would never have survived without our Electrolux club. Terry Harris, Bruce Evenson and Skip Weigel plus others that came to meetings. I could never do it without you. During my times of divorce, being a single mom, owning a business trying to build it, you guys were my rocks I knew I could count on to get me through it all.

Paula Herman I forgive you now for cleaning my desk into boxes every time I left town on business. I wish you were here now to do it. 14 years of working together like sisters and bringing our kids up. Remember the time we closed for Chicken Pox? OMG…did we laugh so much it hurt or what? And you are the queen of swaffeling a corned beef sandwich from Corkys! (our own vocabulary).

I just wanted to remember and thank people that helped me through life. But as I read this I realize that all my success as a photographer and artist has always been on a track of personal relationships and education in the industry. I hope that I did something good for others when I have spoken at their events. It’s all good. It’s all “pass it on”.

Forgive me for those I have not mentioned (Like Maria Claridge and Tanya Cunningham and Robyn Tauber and Paul Slutsky you know our connection is forever). More recently Paul Wingler for warmly bringing me into the PPNC family and more. I could keep writing forever but this post has end in a perfect way: In Laughter and Tears

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