Drawing the Line

Tyler Warren, Walking the Line

Tyler Warren, Walking the Line

Learning to say¬† “no” was one of Life’s hardest lessons for me. It came at great expense to those I love most in the world. No is not simply the absence of yes. It is the proverbial line in the sand of our life’s path. For a photographer and artist it is quite possibly the single most important thing that one can ever learn, because it is the no’s that will give you the space for the yeses that determine your subjects and future.

I have had several “aha moments” in a career association with my agency, Corbis Images. One of them was relatively early on when company VP Steve Davis spoke about choices. Steve stood in front of 200 of us, a collection of the best photographers in the world, and in five minutes explained how to create a career. I paraphrase below.

“We will help you to shoot virtually anything and anyone in the world. But choose wisely, because your choice determines everything about how your life will go”. Heavy statement. What this truly meant is that we had the weight, influence, and support of one of the most powerful imaging entities in the world holding the door open to a myriad amount of sets. The world of Music, Entertainment, Sports, you name it, this Bill Gates owned company had just said that they would commit to fulfill our desires as artists. We had been handed an e ticket really.

In the same meeting a creativity specialist spoke on the primary goals of an artist. Another “aha moment” occurred. She simply said: “Learn to image your emotions.” I will leave that statement alone. It needs no amplification or pollution by me.¬† It needs to be deciphered by you.

I chose my life to image, and the people and subjects that I love. I did this by uttering a complex word. I said “no” to everything else.

Today I say no selectively a lot. But this allows me to respond with yes,  frequently. It is why I am busy.

I get requests for me to give away my life every day, This is illustrated below in a funny tet a tet sent to me by Sean Davey. Saying no is more important than yes for a life and career. It all starts with no really. Remember being two? What was it you learned to say?¬† “NO!” Funny how we need to relearn that later in life.

From Sean:
Found this very funny add linked in a thread on Fred Miranda –¬†http://www.craigslist.org/about/best/aus/558260167.html

Seeking hardworking service providers…
Date: 2008-01-31, 9:28AM CST

I’m a fabulously wealthy photographer / artist making money hand over fist. Here’s what I need:

A mechanic to overhaul my custom ’57 Chevy.
A maid to clean my house on a regular basis
A doctor to perform some minor surgery on me.
A band to perform theme music for me where ever I go.
A carpenter and electrician to build an extra wing on my sweet house in East Austin.
A nanny to watch my spoiled kids.

Of course there will be no pay involved. In return for your services you will get FULL CREDIT on my website, AND you can add all of this work to your PORTFOLIO! If you ask me, this is an absolutely awesome deal!

I hope to have you work for me soon!

Seth Godin had this to say about NO.

Writer Harlan Ellison’s take is here

Click on any of the images below in the gallery for a back story. They exist because I said no.

Garrett MacNamara , Cortes Bank

Garrett MacNamara , Cortes Bank

Afternoon Wave



Keiki Explosion

Keiki Explosion

 Crucifixion, Adam Gray-Hayward

Crucifixion, Adam Gray-Hayward

Makaha Blue Afternoon

Makaha Blue Afternoon

Nias Morning

Nias Morning

Sean's Dawn

Sean's Dawn

Ventura Morning, Anyday

Ventura Morning, Anyday

California St Evening

California St Evening

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14 Responses to “Drawing the Line”

  1. Well, as I read your words PUUBECK, and subsequently scrolled down the increasing depth riddled images, I realized I was holding my breath. Not like a ‘hold down’, but a ‘hold up’. Those are the ones where interest is at peak level. The perfromance of holding one’s breath is a sure fire sign of ‘interest’. Words and images weabed together tell double stories.
    Once again, I write a little script of thankfulness.
    Thankful to be one of your friends.

  2. Schaf says:

    Grasshopppa… when you learn to say NO, you can leave the monastery…

    Thanks for that.

  3. Korina Kempf says:

    Just what I needed to hear. Saying “no” or ” yes” requires intention. It requires us to define and categorize where and what our priorities are. It reminds me of “tough love”. It’s hard to stay focused in the world we live in. We can have almost anything at our fingertips with enough money and time, but how bad do we really want it. What void do all these yes’s fullfill. It’s very empowering to say “no” and it requires focus, something I am learning to have. Thanks for the reminder.

    ps. I too felt that I was holding my breath, hanging onto every word…..something resonated alittle deeper. A little ripple in awareness of myself, that will hopefully build into the set wave of my life. : )Mahalo

  4. admin says:

    Schaf rocks!

  5. admin says:

    Wow, that is amazing Shawn. Thankyou!

  6. admin says:

    It just amazes me how someone will read something that I have written and bless me twice as much back. Thanks Korina!

  7. Sean Davey says:

    Your post about saying NO is awesome! Like you, I’ve found myself saying NO so much more often in recent times, although I will make exceptions for non profit endeavours and charity. If I’m being asked for something on a commercial concern though, they’d want to have some buckage. Certainly I sleep much better at night when I say NO and it frees me up for shooting the things that I want to shoot anyway. Like Dave, a lot of my folio is actually of what I love to shoot. At the end of the day, it’s important to feed your spirit and give it what it wants, not always cave into demands.


  8. admin says:

    Well Sean, you being the commensurate journeyman among us, we are fortunate that you do!

    Thanks as always for your finely honed contribution pal.

  9. amy jones says:

    amen. forward this to the city of ventura and all of its organizations. not sure if we’re the “new art city” anymore or the headquarters for turning the volunteer police force into a shakedown army for building code enforcement seeking to buffer the city coffers. but, when we were the “new art city” it certainly translated into shaking down creatives for free stuff to float marketing pieces and silent auctions to the extent that the local “patron” base expected to buy art and creative services at pennies on the dollar. the “exposure” often brought a flood gate of similar requests for freebies, sub-market discounts and donations. and, how many times has there been not enough room at the end to invite those same supportive artists to enjoy food and drink at the same table as those whose money was valued higher than an artistic donation worth so much more…sour grapes? no so much as crushed. – xoaj

  10. admin says:

    I did! Thanks Amy.

  11. gayle says:

    The irony here is that “NO!” is often a child’s first word, and it is used regularly and effectively.

  12. Erik Grundstrom says:


    nice work.

    beers anytime.

  13. admin says:

    Hahah! Let’s do it!

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