Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lost Friend

Verrazano Narrows Bridge,
Brooklyn, NY

“The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you.
 You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.”
Bob Marley 

Twice in my life, I've learned that business colleagues are truly nothing more than just that. There's a difference between a friend and an acquaintance.  My wife reminds me of that fact. She tells me that while I want friendship there are many who can't give me back the same. She warns me of the disappointment that follows when I set my expectations too high.

These acquaintances vanish almost as soon as the door closes behind you on your way out of the corporate world. They cease to believe that you exist. Fearful that the same fait awaits them communication between you diminishes exponentially each month out. It's a painful lesson to witness. But some refuse to comprehend what they do. After a while they simply don't bother to return your call in hopes that you will fade away.

A friend of mine had this discussion once. He had the habit of antagonizing his friends. One day, I said to him, "Daman, you are a very big man. Are you planning to be cremated? If not, then you need to think about the fact that you will require quite a few pall bearers."

It was a fact that at the rate he was losing friends, I would be the only one left to attend his funeral. In fact, it would fall on me to be his only pall bearer. Given that scenario, I told him that I would have to put his casket on skates. My friend got my message and he and I have remained close friends ever since. In fact, he has made an effort to remain friends with those that he had parted company with.

Fears, egos, and at times jealousy stand in the way of friendship. The behavior of some truly offends me. They trash the value of friendship because of their own insecurity. As humans, we need each other to sustain ourselves. If each of us stops interacting with each other our complete economy fails. Whether we like it or not we are interdependent.

In fourth grade, a teacher and a parent collaborated so that my closest friend and I were never ever again in the same class together. When my friend told me this account he added that the teacher felt that I was a bad influence on him and had told his mother so. This remains a painful story to tell. It was my first lesson on this subject. The wound however has never fully healed.

We all seek friendship, but in the end we should realize that we are at risk that some friendship will cause hurt and suffering. Choose which ones are worth suffering for.

If You Can Dream

Princess in Waiting
Westlake, TX

This past Sunday was a fantastic productive day. The day finally arrived that my client had been waiting for, the day of her bridal portraits. One of my friends, Kelly Bradley, was gracious enough to provide her home as my studio backdrop. It was the perfect dreamy setting to cast my princess client. She belonged their like a damsel waiting for her prince.

Kelly & Scott Bradley's Home
Westlake, TX
It all started with a dream several weeks ago: a dream to tell a fairy tale starting with "once upon a time" and ending with "happily ever after".  Tell me doesn't every daddy's girl want to hear this story?

Sunday afforded me the vicarious opportunity behind the lens to be a romantic father. "Little girl you've grown into a woman and I am so proud of you. Even though it will break my heart to give you away, I know he will love you more than me; so please let me love you one last time and make you happy by painting for you this image for you to gaze at for the rest of your life. I want you to remember how beautiful your were and will always be to me."

On Sunday sublimated dreams came true. Rather than focus on a career that only provided me with money, I focussed on a career that enables dreaming out loud. Behind the lens and through the viewfinder, I found my voice as I rediscovered passion in my life. For me the joy of connecting with someone else, making them smile, makes me smile more.

Several years have passed since I hit a major fork in the road. My indecisiveness plagued me but I was challenged to follow my heart and listen to the voice of passion and happiness.

To all my friends out there, trust me, and I will showcase your princess as if she were my own. To my princesses, "if you can dream," together we can make them come true and record them for a lifetime for you to view.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Price of Quality: Trying to Earn a Living

On Assignment
Midtown Manhattan, NYC
Image by Zack DeZon

A photography business fine art or commercial is not for the feint of heart. It requires an inordinate amount of thick skin. The typical consumer has no idea of why someone trying to earn a living as photographer has to charge as much as he/she does.

In Front of the Camera
Image by Zack DeZon
For a moment, let's exclude the mastery of skills and the investment of time. Let's just talk business. Like other small business owners, we photographers pay self-employment tax. For 2011, that's a nifty 13.3%. In addition, we contribute to the state and local economy another 8.25% (local tax rate in Texas), which we collect from you. We do not enjoy the privilege of buying affordable insurance and depending on our age and family size, we pay another $450-$1,000 per month for medical insurance premiums with very high deductibles ranging from $2,500 to $5,000. On top of this, we worry about wedding guests stealing our equipment, so we pay additional insurance on our valuables and computer equipment.

Some photographers like myself do all of their own photo processing so that we can insure that we provide our customers with the artistic quality required for the images we render. We make investments of @ $4,000 on computer hardware that  we must replace every three years. We purchase many hard drives for the storage of large files and to insure against catastrophic failure. For our fine art work, we invest in sophisticated printers varying in price from $2,000 to $5,000. Oh and we have to buy software to insure that we print optimally on all kinds of paper of various color profiles. That's not cheap either and it costs us @ $1,000 and an additional $300 for each upgrade when the underlying operating system software changes.

Of course, I've left out the software and filters we use to create various moods and appealing tones. A basic investment in Photoshop CS5 costs $699 and initial upgrades run $199. Other software investments can include: a suite of NIK filters, $499; Lightroom, $149; various filters and actions at $35/piece.

There's something, I've left out, yes that's right, I don't know why I didn't think of it before, the camera equipment. Let's see camera body, $3,600. Oh I forgot we need a lenses too... Umm let's see my 85mm which was stolen, $2,200, 24-105mm $1,200, 70-200mm 2.8 $1,500, 100-400 mm (used) $1,200, extender $499, wide angle lens just in case, 12-24mm $949. Oh yes, there's more, got to have a tripod at times and a ball head and a bracket for your camera to mount on, let's see that another @$1,200.

Meeting Customer Expectations
Image by Zack DeZon
Oh you want to shoot weddings and do portraits??? Now you need off camera flashes at $600 each, probably 3 and or you need a strobe lighting system, used for @ $1,300.

Oh so you want to shoot some interesting images? You need to travel cause there ain't much to see in Texas. You better factor that into to your print prices too!!!

My point is simply this, we are trying to earn a living doing what we love and you enjoy by creating meaningful images and memories that inspire and move you. It costs us money and most good photographers are not trying to gouge you. We simply are trying to earn a living doing what we love. Please try to understand. You don't have to buy it but please don't flinch when we tell you the price. Just acknowledge that we are human and extend us the common courtesy of returning phone calls and emails. It's our time too. Most of us can't begin to tell you the amount of time we've invested to master our skills and the courses we've taken to improve our techniques. My high end jeweler friend does not discount his price. Why??? This is what he told me recently, "I sell luxury. If I discount it, I am acknowledging that it has less value. I sell value."

Given the economy, I try to provide reasonable prices for my clients by offering a range of products at different price points.  I keep my costs down and work from home so that I can compete with those that are hobbyists and do not pay taxes. I remain sensitive to my brethren who earn a living from this fine profession. Please don't hold my remarks or those of other photographers against us. We simply are trying to earn a living. Yes, I could go work for a mall photographer, earn a living, but I refuse to be simply point, shoot, and print. Why would I sell inferior quality to people that trust me? Rather than do that I could just as well flip hamburgers at McDonalds. By the way, I get it, I am an artist, but I choose not to be a starving artist. Just sayin'.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Spring & Summer Sale

"Joie de Vivre"

Some of you have commented that you would like to purchase my artwork but that it's not within your budget. So for a limited time, I am offering you an opportunity to purchase 6x9 prints on 8.5x11 watercolor stock for $75 plus shipping and tax (where applicable). These images make great house warming gifts for your friends and family.

For those of you practicing even more fiscal restraint, I am also selling box sets of five art cards with matching envelopes (all hand signed by me) for $25 plus shipping and tax (where applicable). Just pick any image you like that's been posted on my blog or here and contact me.

As a special bonus incentive, if you purchase four 6x9 prints or 4 box sets of cards, you will get a fifth one free. Please contact me for details; I accept all major credit cards and PayPal. This special bonus incentive ends July 30th.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dreaming About Creating Romance

Living Room of Dreams
Westlake, TX
"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."
 Eleanor Roosevelt
There's a constant battle within me; it's a personal war that rages between pragmatism and dreams. When pragmatism wins at the expense of dreams I sense the battle wounds of conflict.

It's my belief that to create images you have to visualize and choreograph them. This exercise is not quantitative nor is it tangible. It has no immediate benefit. "It seldom provides income" pragmatism says out loud.

Steven Sielberg, a movie genius, said this: "I don't dream at night, I dream all day; I dream for a living." Most would argue that he has done quite well for himself, not bad for a professional dreamer. Imagine dreaming for a living!!!

This weekend, I have a bridal shoot pending. In preparation, the other day I looked over the location where I plan to shoot and tried to visualize the bride through out this fabulous house both indoors and outdoors. My mind was clicking away visualizing various frames and scenes in a 3x2 format. Not only did I choose to dream but I choreographed my dreams as well.

In a way, dreaming is equally as important as my love for the pragmatic. You have to have a dream, it becomes your map which guides you towards success, your final destination. We will see what happens this weekend; between now and then, I still have more dreaming to do. Pragmatism reaps the reward of the fruition of dreams.

Friday, April 13, 2012


A friend is one who knows you and loves you just the same.
Elbert Hubbard

From the moment, I shot this image I knew the capture was special. The look on the two cousins moved me to take the shot. Kindred spirits were picking up where they last left off.  

As I processed the image, I wondered how fun it would be to be able to photograph them every decade for the remainder of their lives on the same bench. It seems to me that they will have a bond that will last a lifetime. Their bond appears to extend beyond blood lines into friendship.

There's so much value in friendship. It's a talent that appears to be going by the wayside with the advent of FB. It's been going on for a while now probably since modern transportation could take us further away from our families. The construction of suburbs added to it, I am sure. The advent of email further diminished the skill of writing long letters to friends and family, too. Now social media and texting further diminishes our interaction as we rely on LOL's and emoticons to communicate. Our friendship becomes void of emotion and feeling like our communication. Interaction once filled with nuances and facial expressions over a cup of coffee appear now only at an occasional trip to Starbucks.

This morning I've given some thought to the experience of friendship. As tough and judgmental that my mother could be I really did notice that she was capable of loving us even though we could have broken her heart. My experience with my wife, my children, and a few close friends both near and far, and of course, my dog Buckley, is that friendship is also unconditional. If you want acceptance than give it too. Don't hold back free up your heart.

My family has done the same for me. They have seen me hit some bumps and potholes on my journey. They have watched me agonize and struggle and remained steadfast in their love. A few close friends have bothered to care and even some far away. This has left me profoundly grateful and taught me a valuable life lesson: the healing power of friendship.

Give this some thought today: "a friend is one who knows you and loves you just the same." You will find it will enrich your marriage, make you more successful, and enable you to make and keep friends. It's worth the effort. Keep learning and you will keep growing.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

La Vie de Bohème

La Vie de Bohème

Yes, this was posted several weeks ago by me. No, I've not gotten senile. Just need to share it again with you to enjoy. Last evening this image won first place at the Dallas Professional Photographers Association. It was a perfect ending to a stellar day!!!

By stellar I mean, I sold two fine art prints early in the morning. Got a great looking haircut thanks to Donna Graden. Had to choose between two matted prints that I had ready for competition and finally selected the one my heart was ready to show.

For years, my wife, Kim, my photographer friends (especially Dan Burkholder and Harry Sandler), and even my brother-in-law (Gary Palma) have exhorted me to enter competitions and show my work. Like my mother, I am quite stubborn and an obsessive perfectionist. To put my work out there required me to totally leave my comfort zone and put aside criticism fears. It was difficult to let go and just go with it.

Nevertheless, it was time to follow through despite my trepidations. My work was well received by my peers. All were equally impressed by the piece and by the fact that I also do my own printing. As a craftsman, I try to be in control of each step along the way. I know how it needs to feel and look.

One of my friends critiqued it early on in the competition. He coached me on what to anticipate and which criticisms I would more than likely face. It was very constructive but I knew that if I followed the judges advice the image would not look as good from afar. It would lose some of the three dimensional flavor and the luminosity in the clouds as well.

Prior to the competition, one my friends purchased a 6x9 edition of this piece printed on 8.5x11 fine art heavy stock watercolor paper. As a token of my appreciation of their patronage, my customer had the honor of naming this piece. The title chosen by them is: La Vie de Bohème (The Bohemian Life).

It's a suitable name for a terrific piece given the fact that Czechoslovakia use to be called: La Bohême (Bohemia).  "La Vie de Bohème (The Bohemian Life) is a French expression describing the type of life led by artists of the XIX century". That's a life that I've yearned my entire life.

If you would like to purchase this award winning print I am offering the following opportunities all hand signed by me: 5x7 greeting cards on Crane Museo premium card stock (five individually wrapped cards with matching envelopes), 6x9 prints on 8.5x11 fine art watercolor paper, and 12x18 prints on watercolor paper matted on 22x28 archival white matte board. Please contact me via email and this blog for pricing. Thanks for your support of La Vie de Bohème (The Bohemian Life). 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Artist Seeks Work

Angles and Curves

If you're not interested in life,
then photography has no meaning.

Ruth Bernhard

Although for most of my career I've been in sales, I've never had to directly sell something that I had made. I sold money to corporations that needed financing. Later on I purchased scrap metal from major corporations doing business in Mexico. In both instances, my job was to convince people about the value of doing business with my company.

Things are different now. No longer am I selling for a company, now I am selling my services as a photographer and an artist. I'm not just another person with a camera that wants to sell an image. For twelve years, I've been practicing my craft painfully both with my cameras and later on processing them on my computer. Like the old days of the darkroom, I am involved in the photographic process from start to finish.

My work gravitates towards fine art by design. It's truly who I am. Regardless of the assignment somehow my voice will come out. My images need to have my own style (DNA) on them. Truly I don't want to simply imitate someone else. I am looking for something that will move my client for years to come.

Each day, I am excited about photography. I see how much my work continues to change. The sensitivity I feel but verbally can't express finds its way onto my images. Both my fine art and commercial work (wedding, family, and newborn) have this stamp.

The greatest compliment you could pay me is a referral. Thanks to you and others, my business is beginning to grow. I won't let either myself or you down. Please let others know. By the way, for my friends in the northeast, I will be back there during the month of October. If you would like a special portrait with either you, your family and or your friends please contact me.

Monday, April 9, 2012


Primavera Puesta del Sol
Keller, TX

“Great art picks up where nature ends.”
 ~Marc Chagall
We enjoyed a pretty remarkable day as we celebrated my wife and father-in-law's birthday. Yes they share the same birthday. The house was full of people and pets all gathered in the living room watching "The Help" and "Sweet Home Alabama", a couple of family favorites.

About noon, the heavens parted and shed massive tears as the skies sobbed for hours. Around dusk the celestial crying abated and the freshness of the air soothed us. I chose to take a walk but with the intention of taking some time to just be.

The ponds near our home were full to the brim infused by the new rain, another two inches or so. Along their shore late Easter revelers surfaced to enjoy family time, ducks, fish, and turtles. A few came to choreograph their own family photos while still dressed in their Easter best.

Took the time to take it all in. Had to give my mind a rest. Been thinking too much of what lies ahead and still trying to forget what has already happened. Trying to change my focus is not easy. I was trained to plan for the future and to forecast financial events. Now I am having to learn to enjoy today and just make things happen.

The thoughts were deep and the undulation of worry wanted to move me further from my creativity, the place where I thrive. As I walked past the cypress trees and looked to the west, I found my creative voice. The scene to me look like a painting. I took out my iPhone and shot two exposures. The rest of the evening I spent finding and listening to my creative voice again.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

In Someone's Shoes

In Her Shoes
In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.

It's pretty easy to say to someone "I understand". We hear it all the time and it even becomes part of our standard conversation. We say it as if it lends credulity. Months after a loss, albeit job or personal familial loss, the empathetic friendship falls by the way. The "friend" tends to gloss over the facts of your loss. After all, they acknowledged empathy by their words.

We live in a self-absorbed society that systematically sugar coats the plight of others. If someone can't get a job, it's their fault, they aren't trying hard enough, they are doing the wrong things. If they are homeless there must be some other reason for it: laziness, mental illness, skills etc. If they continue to grieve over the loss of a parent or spouse beyond a year, they should get over it. The victims shoulder the responsibility.

As humans we cannot survive alone for lengthy periods of time. We are meant to interact with each other. Our lives and our wellbeing depend on how well we cooperate. In fact we buy goods and services from each other. Our greatest challenge is not merely our own personal survival but rather the survival of our neighbors too. We stand to benefit from our mutual success.

Henry Ford was one of America's great industrial geniuses. Even though profit was a significant motivator, he knew that it was in his best interest to pay good wages and produce an affordable product. The reason was quite simple, he could sell more. It was truly in his best interest.

In tough times such as the ones we are in, it's in our mutual best interest to check on each other. Our prosparity is contingent upon the well being of all not just a few. Our economy, in fact, is global. What happens in Europe and China impacts all. 

This writer has many acquaintences. Some of whom he has personally helped in the past obtain/retain jobs or helped finance business. A few have stood by but most have forgotten. Some say they are Christians and thump their chest and encourage the writer to join their flock. They insinuate that perhaps this writer is at odds with God.  This sounds odd to me since they also believe that God helps athletes win games but that baffles me since both sides knelt down before the game. 

Strangely enough the most compassion that this writer has received comes from non neighbors agnostic and atheist. The religious folks sent prayers while heathens sent their business. Baffling as it seems now the writer understands the religious concept of neighbor.

It's been nearly thirty-eight years, since I left my home in Connecticut and graduated from high school. There were many friends I left behind. Amazingly, while I had forgotten them, they never forgot me. For the past two years, they have reached out to me and encouraged me. Most are equally as strapped as me. Yet they have deep compassion and plenty of friendship equity to share. Yet my "friend" down the street in his million dollar house and a proud member of a mega church can't seem to find my phone number. The same holds true for the lawyer who had been down on his luck and wanted a loan from me. Rather than judge them, I accept the blame for mistaking their identities as friends. That's my fault.

Friday, April 6, 2012


Getting Along
Fort Worth, Tx
Courage (also braveryboldnessfearlessnessmettlefortitude, or intrepidity) is the ability to confront fear,paindangeruncertainty, or intimidation. Courage is acting in spite of fear. "Physical courage" is courage in the face of physical pain, hardship, death, or threat of death, while "moral courage" is the ability to act rightlyin the face of popular opposition, shamescandal, or discouragement.

Face your fears and do it any way. It can be done.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Je Ne Sais Quoi

Dark Clown
Fort Worth (Stockyards), TX

It's been nearly a week since I've posted something. Each day that I've missed a post, I've felt somewhat incomplete. Something has been missing: "je ne sais quoi".  There's a daily battle within me between the pragmatic and artistic. Too often the pragmatic wins. Sustaining a living overrules making fine art. That's not how I want it but I am also realistic. Who is opposed to eating?

The truth is that whether I am conducting a major financial transaction , working on the logistics of an international scrap deal, or taking a family portrait, my predisposition always lies on the side of creating something. This is who I am. Please don't fret, I will not abandon my passion. 

Art is my communication vehicle. It transcends my nature and my worries. Art is the catalyst to my own metamorphosis. Some of you witness it as you see me behind the viewfinder. This is my personal mystery. To me the creative process and subsequent euphoria is as spiritual as the immaculate conception itself.

For those of you who enjoy my art but feel that you can't afford it; I am offering "Dark Clown" in two sizes: 8x10 and 16x20. The 8x10 will be a limited edition hand signed print on watercolor paper. Only 50 will be printed. It's very affordable and is priced at $75 plus sales tax (if applicable) and shipping. The second version is a 16x20 gallery canvas wrap print (1.5 inches thick) which does not require framing and is wall ready. This print normally lists for $375, but I will sell it for $275 to the first five customers only. 

This is a very powerful image: the clown within masks underlying sadness. It speaks volumes of how many of us feel and describes the faces we put on each day. It's a juxtaposition conversation piece for sure. Place your order now by contacting me via my blog or on FaceBook. I accept all major credit cards and PayPal.