being liam neeson (or, pep talk)

If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. — Liam Neeson in Taken

I’ve never actually seen the movie Taken, but I’ve been thinking about this quote a lot today.

I feel like I’m working on the foundations of… something. I’m not entirely sure what, but in the wake of vending at the beginning of the month, I’ve felt such momentum to build on that positive experience that I’m starting to do things. I’ve got websites for both lines of cards coming together while a friend of mine who has built a successful business as a massage therapist has been giving me pointers on how to build an actual business and how to network. I’m contacting a couple more stores this week, including one up in Vancouver BC, I’ve got plans for a Patreon and…

And then I stumble over myself. I’ll have prodigious bursts of creativity and inspiration, knowing just how to do this and that and the other damn thing, scribbling like a demon in my notebook followed by the certainty that it’s ridiculous. Because I’m just doing this thing? Pictures of minifigs? Pictures of flow artists?

Pictures at all?

Doesn’t everyone have a camera these days?

This isn’t like wildlife photography or photography in war zones. This is… this silly thing I do, crouching down over rocks in someone’s front garden.

Why bother people with it any more than I already do? Why put myself out there?

I have really got to get my head out of the space of “anyone can do this” and into the space of “I have a very particular set of skills”.

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Yes everyone has a camera. Yes there are a shit ton people at Spinurn taking photos and yes there are a metric fuckton of people on Instagram who take photos of Lego minifigs.

But I’m the one who started selling cards. I’m the one putting together shows and comics and getting kink Lego pictures accepted into art festivals.

I may not be the only person to stage a birthday party around the most recent collectible minifigure leaping out of a cake

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But by God, I am the only one to make it kinky before making it “creepy”.

And maybe that’s what pisses me off about these glad-handing, backslapping communities with their “aren’t we all great/don’t rock the boat” mentalities where everyone gets along. If everyone’s great, nobody’s good. Or great. Or different. Or even worth pursuing unless it’s something someone else did. Another fucking milk bath. And in those spaces, doing anything different or better or weird or more barely gets a reaction. So you can start to doubt your own skills, your own drives.

“I took high speed photos of raindrops being sliced by swords.”
That’s great!
“I took pictures of a naked girl on a beach.”
That’s great too!

I had a friend who was a burlesque performer for a year or two before giving up. The thing that drove her away was how everything was great, which meant that nothing stood out to the performers and producers themselves. A tightly choreographed act was as great as someone who flailed around. Which is polite, but it leads to this weird Harrison Bergeron-esque baseline that Vonnegut would have screamed to see in action. Assuming he didn’t every time he attended a creative writer’s workshop.

I have skills. I have a particular set of skills that comes from years of weirdness, years of burlesque photography, years of playing with fire, years of fucking around in the studio and it all adds up to this weird mixture that is… me.

It’s not a lot. But it’s something unique to me. Not everyone does this. Not anyone does this. And that has value. Maybe not a lot, maybe not enough to be hanging on the walls at SFMOMA (yet?) but it’s gotten attention and an audience. Even and especially when I go beyond the limits of Flickr or Instagram. Tacoma was a good start. I didn’t make a million bucks (unlikely as fuck, right?) but I made contacts. I made people laugh. As an added bonus, I made my costs back and then some. Enough to go on to the next wave of cards and ideas that are already making waves.

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from New Math by Craig Damrauer

It’s a small thing, maybe. But it matters. And it has meaning. And it makes me happy in a time of great, ongoing frustration.

So I’ll end this with a quote I heard in a Martin Short interview this morning.

“If I give one bit of wisdom to my children, it’s ‘Just be your biggest fan and maybe that sensibility will catch on with others.'”

Stay tuned. I’m rolling out two websites this week. We’ll see what happens next.

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