my biggest decade yet // part eleven

Year Eleven: 2010 (The Final Chapter)As the year got started we were feeling pretty optimistic about the future. I had landed a gig shooting for the Clinton School of Public Service as an assistant photographer whenever the main photographer needed me, which ended up being a nice steady paycheck, and the construction job I was managing on the side was a nice supplement to our income. I started booking lots of weddings and we felt like we were rocketing towards the moon. Hope seems relative to your past, and in light of our past, finding a nickel on the sidewalk was pretty hopeful, so gaining some apparently significant success and credibility as a photographer felt like we were winning the lottery. Every time I slung my cameras around my neck and headed out to shoot something I felt like I was conquering the world.

Micaiah was growing more and more pregnant everyday, and we were starting to prepare for the birth of our son in July. By the time spring rolled around, we had all but given up on worrying about money. We were by no means rich, and we certainly had no savings or backup plan in place, but we were making it - and we had learned an important lesson: God will provide. God will provide. God will provide. When you believe that, what do you have to worry about? Nothing man, not a damn thing. And when you’ve got nothing to worry about, you are rich, right?

The year moved on quickly, but still in that glorious slow-mo like the giraffe. In the middle of July, while having lunch with a buddy of mine at Boulevard Bread, who worked for the Clinton School and who was busy offering me the job of head photographer (instead of assistant), I got a pretty cool phone call. It was a lady calling from the offices of the New York Times. I excused myself for a moment and stepped outside to speak with her in private. She was calling to see if I would be interested in shooting a story for them in south Arkansas. I told her yes while silently jumping up and down in the parking lot. She said they would need me for the entire day on July 23rd, I said awesome.

A few weeks later, on July 22nd, we were back at Baptist Hospital, rocking out another baby in style. Micaiah’s style being chill and cool, and my style being that of a guy that blacks out and sweats like fat kid during labor. Read the whole story here. I’m normally a pretty calm and collected guy, but that might be because my wife is the worrier and Ihave to be, so when she becomes the calm and collected one, I don’t know how to handle it and my brain freaks out on me. It all started the day we got married, which is another story all together, one involving staying up all night, Xanax, Adderall, and The Cracker Barrel. Regardless, Winn Bender was born shortly before 4:00am on the 22nd, and everything had gone off without a hitch. I was supposed to shoot for the New York Times the next day.

We spent that day in the Hospital together with our family and friends, resting and recuperating, and that evening Micaiah and I had a talk about what to do about the Times shoot. She assured me that her mom would be there soon and that she had everything she needed and felt completely fine with me heading out the next morning for the shoot. I believed her. Early on the morning of the 23rd, I woke up on that poor excuse of a bed they make the husbands sleep on in the Baptist Baby Ward, got dressed, grabbed my gear, and went to the Capitol Hotel to pick up my writer for the story (who, coincidentally, is now the Bureau Chief of the New York Times Atlanta offices). We spent the day running around south Arkansas and I told her that we had had a baby only twenty-four hours before. She called her boss on speaker phone and told him they needed to pay me more for the job because I was awesome and I had just left my family and new baby at the Hospital to honor my commitment and shoot for the Times. She also told him to make me their number one guy for Arkansas. When she got off the phone I gave her a fist bump and told her she was my hero.

In the fall, I started shooting for the Clinton School as their head photographer and was staying pretty busy with weddings and portrait sessions, not to mention the occasional commercial or architectural shoot. The construction job I had been managing was essentially done, and I was getting to spend a lot of time at home playing with my kids and enjoying life to fullest. In October, I got a call from my brother Hunter in New York, who said he might have a gig for me. He said it was a longshot but it was worth a try. His company was planning a huge weeklong event in Las Vegas in January and they needed a photographer. I told him I would do whatever I needed to do to get the job. I called a photographer buddy of mine and asked him how to write up a photography bid for a large job. He gave me a quick run-down of how it works and I wrote up the bid and sent it, including a line at the end that basically said - “I will do this job for whatever you want me to do it for, just give me a chance.” They called me a few days later and said the job was mine.

By the end of the year, I had shot three stories for the New York Times and one for Reuters. I had been published in a dozen countries internationally and had shot a cover story for a magazine in Pennsylvania. I had been paid to take pictures of Bill Clinton, Lisa Ling, Jesse Ventura, and the guy that wrote several seasons of HBO’s The Wire. My website had gotten thousands of hits from 43 different countries and all but three US states.

No matter how hard it may be to believe, God will provide.

From 18 to 29.

From a senior in high school to a husband and father of two.

From construction to photography.

From worry to trust.

This has been my biggest decade yet.