By Mariah Ashley
**originally published February 11, 2015; Don't have your badge for this week's Imaging USA 2017 in San Antonio, TX? There's still time! Register here and we'll see you on Sunday!**
This is one of my all-time favorite quotes: "Such a pleasant thought, if you improve overall conditions everyone can sail happily into the sunset".
It's an idea I try to set my moral compass to and a philosophy I practice in my business. When I recognize this quality in others I want to latch onto them because lately it seems most people practice the "every man for himself" motto and would sooner see you walk the plank than steer your own ship.
...except at Imaging USA. There, everyone is raising the tide. Unfortunately, it's not possible to latch onto 11,000 people, not even if you're a Kraken (mythical sea beast with many arms). Still, I wish I could give every special person I talked to a big old slimy tentacle hug. I guess I'll have to settle for squeezing them with my words instead.
But before things get awkward, let's consider ships.
If your business were a ship what kind of vessel would it be?
A cruise ship, big and solid chugging along smoothly?
A classy vintage sailboat effortlessly shuttling beautiful people from one sundrenched Mediterranean island to the next?
A hardworking lobster boat, a little messy and a little stinky and filled with salty characters?
A leaky little rowboat adrift in a sea of questions looking for a safe harbor? (Me too).
I met people at Imaging who were sailing and bailing all of these kinds of ships. PPA is the
tide rising under us all. I'm so proud to know such a positive, cheery, and enthusiastic crew. Team PPA, easily identified by their bright orange shirts; registering, directing, tweeting, photographing, interviewing, organizing, and helping in a million other ways all the guests on the big festive Imaging USA party boat.
A particularly perceptive PPA team member asked me how my first Imaging differed from my current experience. It's funny thinking back to that convention just three years ago. I didn't know anyone at all. I felt like the new kid in school, the lame-o at the lunch table all alone. What a difference a few years can make.
Imaging feels like a family reunion now. It's not because I am so outgoing and that I easily made friends. I'm actually more like a nervous weirdo. But you'd have to be a Kraken (misunderstood mythical sea creature) not to make friends at Imaging. Team PPA is so open, so encouraging, so willing to go the extra mile, and so darn nice. Making friends with the crew that first year is what kept us on course. Plus, it's nice to know we have a place at the cool kids table. If you didn't get a chance to acquaint yourself with Team PPA this year make it your mission to do it at the next Imaging, join the reunion!
Another difference--the first time I went to Imaging I didn't speak to other photographers (nervous weirdo, remember?). Two years later I found myself chatting it up left and right. Talking with random attendees from all over the country renewed my faith in our industry. Photographers are good people, people! Not only are they creative and interesting but they are curious and kind as well. They want to know where you are from, what you shoot and how you are doing.
They are quick with encouragement and insight. They want to share how they got their photograph in the Loan Collection, where they found the perfect album, and where the shortest lines for coffee are in the morning. I'm so glad I came out of my shell and took the time to chat with fellow photographers. We photographers can be solitary creatures 360 days a year, why not be more social the other five? If it was your first Imaging and you felt a little hermit crab-ish, then shed that shell at Imaging USA 2016.
The first and second time I went to Imaging I sat in the audience of many lectures listening to the great advice of the speakers. This time I had the perspective of being behind the podium looking out at the crowd and you know what I discovered? Of all the people at Imaging the speakers are the most selfish! We get the most out of it. Knowing that your message is reaching and helping people is like crack (not Kraken, that's an ominous sea creature).
Honestly my sails have never felt quite so full. I felt I had a small part in the tide rising and was so proud to see it release some of my beached buddies. I've been in that leaky row boat too, though I've recently graduated to a semi stable canoe. I want to share my canoe with others now, but not so many that I tip (just kidding). I want to see all of the hard working passionate people I met succeed. You deserve it!
Lady I talked to next to the post-it note clad Imaging USA Idea Wall, tying for her CPP: I hope you passed and got your certification!
Girl that borrowed money for the convention pass and slept in her car because she couldn't afford a hotel but knew Imaging would give her the answers she needed: I hope you got them!
Tall dude who told me he felt he had been given permission to express his true personality: Be you! Be tall and let that big personality shine through in your business!
Lady who told me she had decided to quit photography on Friday but felt inspired now to keep trying: Don't give up! I know you can do it!
Isn't it comforting to know that we are all in the same leaky boat? We have the ability to throw each other a life line. Toss it when you can! Imaging USA has done that for us over and over again. If it did for you too, make it your pleasure and your addiction to return the favor.
I cannot imagine what Imaging USA 2016 in Atlanta will bring, but one thing's for sure, the tide is already a lot higher, let's keep it rising all year.
About the author:
Mariah Ashley is co-owner of Snap! Photography in Rhode Island. She is blonde, loves to bake fruit pies, wears flip flops way past the summer season, should have been born in the 50s, paints and writes when the mood strikes her, is mother to Jacques and Vianne, vacations on Block Island, is vegan, never has proper or stylish outerwear, fears frogs and toads but loves turtles, has really skinny legs, personal Style- Bohemian Chic, wants to own a VW van, grew up on a cranberry farm and is happiest when snorkeling is happiest when sipping a rum punch under a palm tree.