Life Is Not A Dress Rehearsal
Some of you know that I been working on an ongoing book to photograph games in every stadium and arena in the United States. This is something that I have been working on since I first shot Lambeau Field in Green Bay. I think it was in 1995 which I have a pretty cool episode about coming up. So being I am not even really a professional photographer anymore, we’ve moved on from that about a year and half ago, I still want to keep shooting these games, these different stadiums and arenas. But for full disclosure, I’ve shot these less and less for the last year and 1/2 on these than ever before because I got so much other stuff going on business and family wise. It hasn’t been a top priority but it’s gonna come back. The book’s title is going to be called One Shot, I want to give you the inspiration behind the title, where it came from and why it was valuable for me and it can be valuable for you.
A friend of mine who I have not been in great touch with the last couple years is a pivotal part in my career growing as a photographer in the 90s. He’s a guy named Ed Betz. Now Ed and I met as friends and as competitors at the same time. See in 1996 or 1997, I was a struggling freelancer trying to get assignments from Newsday, New York, and I’ve interned there for about six months. I got hired as a freelancer but it was kind of a cutthroat dog-eat-dog world. You need to be available when they called and there was nothing guaranteed. The money wasn’t great but I was doing what I love to do and I would always be available when they needed me. Not long after I started, this guy Ed came in. Ed was very positive. He had a great personality and he is also a businessman. He ran a couple different businesses but he loved shooting sports. So, he had better gear than I did and he always made himself available when assignment came along. He became a competition but he actually became a better friend.
It’s kind of a weird combination when you’re competing with some before work and you’re trying to live and survive but at the same time it is one of your closest friends. So, I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been on an assignment or eating lunch together. I get a call and I get a job or he get a call and he get the job, there are always things were both competing for. Ed taught me so much about consistency, about being reliable, about having the right attitude, about how to think like this like a business and not just some artist taking pictures. I owe so much about early development in this career to what Ed taught me from his own business experiences and his life experience. Overtime, Ed opened me up to so many different experiences of the photography world that I never would’ve gotten if I look at him like a competitor and not as being my friend.
I told the story in my book about the patient and persistent story on how I got to the Associated Press in New York City and the challenge only came about because Ed got into the AP a couple months earlier and he started putting my name in to Jonathan Elmer and to the other guys in the AP’s and said “you should look at this guy as well.” That’s the only reason why the door was even open to begin with.
So, l lived at the Nassau County and Ed lived on Suffolk County on Long Island and I would always go out there and hang out with him. We would shoot assignments on our own, we would get lunch and talked business and photography, mostly photography because I knew nothing about business. But I remember clearly a conversation that we had. My memory is foggy so I have a feeling that he owned the restaurant or he was part owners of the restaurant. We just love this restaurant very much but it was an Italian place that we always went to it and he always picked up the tab. This is probably 1997 or it might have been 1998, I was considering if I was going back to school for journalism because I learned that Newsday was never going to hire me as a full-time photographer since I never finish my degree. I thought it was the silliest argument because I was a good enough shooter, I’m hard-working enough, why do I need a degree?
Chuck Bennett, who was my sports editor told me that I got to leave New York and do it somewhere else for them to take you seriously here. He highly recommends me to be going away getting my degree in communications and then think about coming back. Chuck recommended that I go to Ohio University in Athens because that’s the program was best suited for what I wanted to do but I was hedging a lot on leaving and going back to college. I remember being in this restaurant and we’re having lunch. I love Ed because he was opinionated, he didn’t hold back and he said exactly what he was thinking and I appreciated that. It was a time where I was really just kind of hedging my bets, taking my time, overthinking things and confusing things but what I really was doing was procrastinating because I was scared. He said, something that changed the way that I thought and I truly believe that from that moment on, my moments of hesitation on big things that I wanted to do had gone away. I can’t save every moment since then but the percentages on the chances that I wanted to take with things that I really want to do have gone up exponentially since this conversation. He looked at me and he said “you know life is not a dress rehearsal. People pretend like life is a dress rehearsal. I am just going through this life and take my time, I am not really gonna do what I want to do, other people tell me to do and maybe at some other time I’ll do what I want to do.” He looked at me and clear as day I can still remember sitting there and he goes “You’ve only got one shot. Are you gonna do what you want to do or not?” and I decided that afternoon, I was going to the drive to Athens, Ohio the following week, check out the campus and meet professors. I did just that and I loved it. It was a two-year experience which is one of the greatest in my life. I met Elizabeth, my wife there. I won The William Hearst National Championship as a top college photographer while I was there and it was a catapult to an incredible career.
I’m not sure that I would’ve done it if I didn’t talk to Ed that afternoon. Just a point about Ed’s intuition. Ed had seen me through a lot ,through my 20s, my roaring 20s were pretty crazy and he’d see me date a whole bunch of people, in a bunch of different relationships. Ed was married with kids. He had a lot more experience and he would caution me through a lot of my decisions. When I got the school and I still talk to Ed on the phone a bunch, I told him about when I’ve met Elizabeth. I didn’t mean to do it but he noticed that my phone call to him started going down un terms of frequency because she and I were pretty much inseparable from the day that we met. It was early in the relationship, he called me up and he said “you know something I’ve never met this girl but you’re gonna marry her.” I was like “what?” I did not even think about marriage, not even thought in terms of a serious relationship yet but he sensed something and he could tell something. That conversation was in February or March 1999, and 20 years later, here we are married, three kids in the wonderful incredible life that we have. His advice to me was so crucial in many ways but that one conversation at that Italian restaurant that I cannot remember the name, was essential the for life that I have. Not just the One Shot because from that conversation came the title of the book that I am gonna build which will be called One Shot because it’s gonna be one photograph, my best one from each of the stadiums with the message of the same thing, which is you have one shot to live the life you want. But at the same time, life is not a dress rehearsal. For all we know, we got one shot at this and don’t waste it by treating it like a dress rehearsal.
Thank you, Ed Betz, for everything you brought my life and I will talk to you tomorrow.