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Day something-or-other – What Goes Around…

“Thank you Stephanie, and officially welcome aboard!  If you are able to come in Monday we can discuss specifics of pay, scheduling, etc….”

So began a very short email I received today.

Let me back up a bit, to 8 December 2011 – just over eight months ago. I volunteered for a charity portrait shoot called Help-Portrait, an event that gave a free professional portrait sitting to those who could otherwise never have afforded one. It was a wonderful day. I had the honour to photograph some fascinating people and the opportunity to listen to some amazing stories.

Fast forward about six months. A local studio was looking to hire a couple of people: a photographer or two for their studio and school photography business and someone else for camera sales. They decided to advertise first to the Help-Portrait volunteers. I stuck my neck out, answered the call – and heard nothing. Hmm, says I; there must be a million applicants out there and I’m not even close to being on the short list. Oh well…

But wait – there’s more! Out of the blue, about three weeks ago, I received an email inviting me to an interview. Oh, my goodness – they must be desperate, I thought. No matter – I’ll go and tell them what I do and what people think of it. So I dressed up business-formal, dress pants, black top, looked my best and (deep breath) in I went.

I talked for at least an hour with one of the owners, Ron, and their lead photographer, Rhonda. I told them of my experience with making portraits in a convention setting, with studio equipment and all. I told them of my IT background. I told them of my incredibly rewarding experiences with photographing shy first-timers. And I told them that I used to edit yearbooks.

It wasn’t apparent at the time – I heard nothing for quite some time – but they must have been either impressed or desperate. But sure enough I was asked to come in for some training – rather like a hands-on interview and assessment. There would be another candidate there with me, I was told – but I would not be competing; they would be considering hiring both of us. Hmm, I thought; yes, desperate indeed.

It was a fast-paced, enjoyable, information-packed session. School photography is very different in pace, technology and style from the work I do at Esprit, and vastly different from the art and landscape work I love. Nevertheless I found myself quickly contributing ideas and suggestions while at the same time learning an amazing number of shortcuts, tips and techniques. It was very relaxing, rewarding and empowering to be able to share information and experience in such a setting.

Today we continued the process – photographing the studio staff’s own children, learning more techie stuff, troubleshooting and tweaking our setups so we all produced technically identical results, and much, much more. By the end of it all I figured that if they’d invested that much time with me and my co-applicant, they must have already made their decision. But I wasn’t going to hold my breath just yet.

On my way home I started thinking about what had just happened and all the people involved in the last two days.

Ron, the studio owner, who wanted to give the Help-Portrait volunteers first crack at the positions.

Rhonda, the head photographer and trainer/interviewer, with her forthright, knowledgeable style, her insistence on precision tempered with a refreshing “nice but not precise” attitude and her willingness to listen to new ideas.

Natasha, my co-candidate, as she shared her experiences shooting in a supermarket studio setting.

Justin, with his cute smile and infinite patience. We all asked him at least ten times, “And what’s your name?” and he always replied, “Justin” as if we’d only just met. We took his picture at least ten times and he always smiled and did exactly as we asked him to. He wore his Mr. Incredible t-shirt today, and believe me, it was a perfect choice.

Lidia, with her amazingly cute smile. “How old are you, Lidia?” “I’m theven,” she’d reply, and flashed the biggest grin – even though she had got up extra early to come in with her aunt and was still in pajamas carrying her breakfast in a bag.

Abigail, who like the others was patient far beyond her years. Her face always had a secret glow to it, but when she smiled the room would light up.

Michael, who was delighted to take off his retainer, yet didn’t want to smile – but did anyway.

Andrew, Michael’s little brother, who injected just enough mischief into the proceedings to remind us that not all schoolchildren are little angels and that we needed to be mindful of crowd control.

And the chain goes on. Matt and Brenda, the people behind Help-Portrait in Maple Ridge, who recruited and engaged volunteers. Robert and Maggie Prince, whose little paper, The Bugel, published the ad for Help-Portrait that started this whole ball rolling.

It’s amazing just how many people were involved in this simple email:

“Thank you Stephanie, and officially welcome aboard!  If you are able to come in Monday we can discuss specifics of pay, scheduling, etc….”

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