As anyone that makes a living, or even part of a living, pursuing something creative can tell you, failure is inevitable and frequent. We become familiar with failure, usually quite intimately. Truth be told, most of us have probably elevated it to an art form, our old friend Failure.
If you're really lucky as an artist, you get the opportunity once in a while to fail on a grand level. I consider myself one of the lucky ones to have had an opportunity for magnificent failure.
In the early fall of last year I was contacted by a friend of mine, George Counes of Spartan Frameworks, to photograph a motorcycle he had created and built for a mutual friend, Heath Hartzell. Let me tell you, this motorcycle, The Peacemaker, is anything but a failure. It is art on two wheels, a gorgeous amalgamation of paint and steel.
Now, not only was I taking on the task of photographing something for two people I consider to be my friends but, it was to be for publication in a global magazine, Easy Rider. My husband was incredibly excited for me, I was simultaneously elated and terrified and spent two weeks trying not to puke when I thought about it too much.
I spent the two weeks before the shoot prepping as much as I could, reading Easy Rider, studying tutorials for lighting motorcycles, double checking my lights and gear, and constantly freaking myself out. When it came time for the actual shoot, I packed everything I owned and headed off to The Independent Distillery in Tucson. I walked around the place, checked it out, set up my lights and went to work. Internally, I was panicking and as the shot progressed, I really began sweating bullets. It felt off, like I wasn't getting the shots that were needed and I wasn't creating anything usable. Thank goodness my husband was there and he knelt with me next to the motorcycle and talked me through some of the stuff and reassured me that I was doing okay.
But, in the end, I didn't produce what was needed for the magazine. I failed. It felt like a spectacular failure, monumental in proportions. I poured so much of myself into doing it that I hurt over failing myself and my friends. I set the pictures aside and didn't really look through them much more. Ultimately, George and Heath are my friends and even though I really felt like I had failed them, I was thrilled for them when another photographer got their photos of the The Peacemaker into Easy Rider. It is a huge accomplishment for George and he deserves it, truly. You should check out the article in the magazine.
In looking back over the shoot now, I can see that it wasn't the failure I thought it was initially. From a technical perspective, I achieved everything I set out to do. One of my biggest concerns going in was lighting up a shiny motorcycle in a dark bar, doing it well, and controlling the speculars, I'm happy to say that I hit every one of those technical marks and, I think I did it well.
In the end, failure is only failure if you allow it to be. If you can really look at whatever it is you may have failed, or think you failed, and learn from it, bend it, shape it, make it into something new, then you haven't really failed.
I'd like to say thank you to Georges Counes of Spartan Frameworks and Heath Hartzell for giving me the opportunity. I'd also like to thank Selena Renteria for modeling and The Independent Distillery for allowing us the use of the bar before opening.