Baby has their first extortion under their belt. Should I make a t-shirt?
I’m sitting here at my desk, face still wet from sobbing. My heart is throbbing and aching, knowing I need to announce my slow—but for sure—departure from one of the greatest things I’ve ever done/experienced.
Yesterday, I received an email from a past client today that tilted my world. It was the most absolutely insane situation, where the client was extorting me, threatening a one-star review if I didn’t give them monetary compensation. The email was long, claiming I ruined their entire wedding day through a long, unparagraphed list filled with imagined, assumed, and contorted accusations/beliefs of how I did my job. Some ranged from being truly upset that I took *two* not-interesting-enough photos of their dogs…to hating that I took a photo of flowing hair filled with flowers in the wind—surely, that had been a mistake, yes? They hated so many beautiful photos, mainly because I think they didn’t know the kinds of faces they made when experiencing emotions. They accused me of ruining their wedding by trying to stick to the timeline they set out weeks before. It was inappropriate of me to try and stop people from catcalling and interrupting their first look—a moment that is meant to be private between the couple. The best one was where they tried to make excuses (and a literally imagined story) as to why I got berated for ten minutes at the end of the wedding by a teary and distraught client accusing me of wasting time setting up the night shot, the one I promised four times during the day and they were excited for.
I couldn’t do anything right that day. I was chastised for doing my job and when I took a step back and let the day run loose, I got comments about me not doing my job. I knew the moment the client was berating me in front of other people, clueless to the fact I wasn’t even on contract anymore—I was doing the night shot out of my own personal time—I knew I would hear from them again. I edited their photos in a couple of weeks and sent them off. Four months passed (with no comms) and I thought maybe I was wrong. After all, I was proud of them. Despite the multiple times I was chastised on the wedding day (approximately six times, from different people), I’m proud of those photos. The clients looked amazing and there were beautiful tears in the day. They had some sweet-ass outfits and were super photogenic. They had so many cute doggos, gluten-free donuts, a rad healthy food truck, and some very thoughtful details. Before their wedding, we had hung out 2.5 hours at a quaint coffee shop. We loved hanging out. I had them over for dinner, making them food and sharing stories over my worn wooden table. I thought they were friends and this was my mistake. It’s a mistake I’ve made often in my life—I’m sure many can relate—but I won’t stop. Call me a romantic or something like that. Anyway, clearly, I was wrong. It happens sometimes. They are now trying to extort money from me (four months later and suspiciously after the holidays when wallets run dry) and in turn, will supposedly not write me a nasty review. Definitely not friends, I guess.
It’s hard for everyone right now
My clients undoubtedly have other things going on. How they treat me has nothing to do with me. Normal life is hard—pandemic life is a dystopian horror movie come to life. We’re fucking exhausted, panicked about the future, and terrified of each other. Think about that for a second—we. are. terrified. of. each. other. A part of me is clawing against the deep-rooted belief that society is heading somewhere I haven’t had enough gun lessons for. For almost two years, we have grown more and more fearful/feral. People spent months stuck in home, stewing in their own un-therapied shit. Divorces happened. Jobs were lost. Illusions shattered. They exited the house and promptly forgot how to drive or strive for common decency. Then, when you throw weddings into the mix…Christ on a cheesy cracker, it’s insane now.
My above clients are merely an example of a symptom of the pandemic no one really wants to talk about: people have reached a level of horrific that makes my soul scream against my rib bones. I silently rage with my fellow Millenials, and I don’t know about you, but I ache for the younger generations. We’re not leaving an ideal legacy. But we trudge on. So we continue getting married, buying homes, chasing careers, exploring hobbies, making babies. After so much endured, people just want to party. Have the wedding they’ve wanted for way too long. They get these expectations that are higher than the clouds, high enough to crash and burn hard when they aren’t met exactly. Vendors are usually the landing pad now.
Now to why I’m crying
It wasn’t always like this. I’m not saying the world used to be the best but people were just easier to make happy. It’s what drew me in—people’s happiness. When I started Creatrix, it was a Divine Direction. It’s a great story—you can ask me about it sometime. When I started, I slaved away at learning and getting clients. I pushed myself to the limits, working 14-15 hour days, drilling into what I knew was meant to be. I fell in love with my clients. I like photography, but I love my clients. My photography is a way I show that love. You can ask me who Andrew and April are and I’ll tell you they were my first real wedding clients ever. Where I paid out of pocket to buy massive balloons for them because I wanted the photos. You can ask me about the 50+ elopements in 2013 and I can either name or envision them, if not both. Clients from years back will email and go, “you may not remember me…” and I’m always like, “Of course I do silly!”
My clients live inside me. Every amazing moment, it’s inside me. Their moments were and are mine, too. I have received one of the most ultimate gifts we can give each other: seeing one another. I see my clients. In turn, I let them see parts of me. I don’t care that they might forget my name—I don’t matter. What matters are the moments I collect, collate, and color-correct. That twitch in the middle of a bottom eyelid that means a tear might come and snapping that photo. The split-second before their mouths reach for each other and smile at their own happiness. When a parent holds their grown child gently, reverently, with gratitude and love. I live for that shit. I’ve been so fucking blessed, y’all. Creatrix is easily the greatest thing I’ve ever done or created in my life.
And I’m walking away. Moving into a new direction, slowly but surely. The fact that I’m closing such a glorious experience with a client trying to extort me is devastating on a level I can’t even articulate. I love Creatrix but I have to love my sanity more. This year, I’ve had so many clients act in a way that makes my head spin in confusion. Paired with the level of hustle required now to be a small (photography) business owner—over-taxed and over-worked—I just don’t have the passion for it. I’ve clung to it, because of my clients and ironically, some of them are what’s driven me away. It isn’t just my experience either. Ask any small business owner right now. They’re fucking drowning. My client story is far from unique, sadly. When I shared with friends this current situation, I received stories in return. Many, many, many stories. People are highly aware of just how vulnerable small business owners are right now. Grasping for some sort of control in their lives, people often lash out in person or in reviews, knowing it will hurt another person either way. Hurt people hurt people. It’s not okay but it’s a fact. And small business owners live in terror of one-star reviews. Some businesses can take a ding or two but the more boutique-style companies, a one-star review could be a death sentence. People know this and use it to get free shit, i.e., extortion.
I’m not giving up photography entirely, but I will not be booking my own clients anymore unless they work with specific wedding planners. referrals from specific people (or are these specific people), and people that email with unadulterated enthusiasm. I’m also second shooting for other peeps because I can still get the contact high of wedding emotions. But I will 100% not be booking full-day weddings past 2022.
This is a terrifying and heartbreaking thing to say. I’m taking a piece of my heart and tucking it safely inside a corner of my soul. Like a prized gem, brought into the sunlight for some sparkle time in the right conditions—but not like a Vampire. I’m grieving like I’m going through a break-up, something I didn’t expect but probably should have. And the pandemic caused the break-up. Covid is not just a virus, it’s a parasite, leaching out everything enjoyable. Patron and give good reviews for your neighborhood small business owner—they need it.
To the clients that approach life with gratitude and have treated me with nothing but kindness, thank you. It has been the ultimate honor. I’ve had clients give me plants (I have some sitting on my desk as I type this), I’ve had some clients make me gifts, and I’ve had some clients literally just text me randomly and tell me how much they love me. To these clients, I have no doubt you will continue to live inside me—but not in a creepy way. I assure you, dear reader, I have never eaten a client.
If you made it this far, thanks. Yes, I love emdashes. I must go now research things like libel, extortion, etc. You know, now-normal 2022 business owner shit.