Regeneration is before you.
But first, let’s rewind.
February 22nd 2011
It was violent and deadly, it took out our Christchurch studio in just 10 seconds. I thanked my lucky stars, for that day, my shoot had postponed, and it was the only day that week I wasn’t booked and was working at home. Liquid jumped from my teacup, just a splash, it wasn’t even enough for the cup to fall. I was home with my family, and as we live 45 minutes from the city our home was barely touched from the cities disaster. We never got back into that studio (our second studio), never retrieved anything, not even the sign we had proudly hung on the door.
September 4th 2010
We rollback 6 months, thrown out of bed and thrust into the walls as we ran for the kids. Disoriented and fearful, it was when the months’ of angst and uncertainty began. And when our very first studio; albeit a modest one we shared with another photographer; crumbled down in the quake that became the first of many.
But this is a message of regeneration, so I don’t wish to dwell on destruction. While it may not feel like it yet, renewal is before you.
In Australia, you are going through something different, I can’t pretend to relate to your specific circumstance. But I wholeheartedly believe that devastating events and the disquiet that surrounds them can help to inaugurate a new sense of community strength. And can also propel your business in ways you may be yet to even imagine.
When Christchurch was hammered with thousands of earthquakes over what ended up being years. The tighter natures grip squeezed the more humanity fought back.
After our second studio fell, a friend offered her studio on an ‘as needed’ basis. Real estate had become desperately scarce, and opportunist landlords tripled asking rent and insisted on minimum lease terms of 6 years. Purchasing became impossible, as engineers had a 1.5-year wait list for small fries like us. No engineers report meant no insurance.
Other Christchurch photographers were much worse off, they had lost their homes, and studios all in one go. We had it easy, really.
By June 2011 the heritage building our second studio sat within was demolished. In the media photos, we could see our white leather couch splayed in the rubble.
Eventually, our generous friend decided to leave her lease, an opportunity for us to take over was the obvious move, and where we would stay until September 2013. The studio was closer to home, but over 30 minutes from the city was far from ideal for our clients. I didn’t love the space, but it allowed us to function.
Winter had come, and so had the money. For something remarkable had happened, re-evaluation. People reevaluated their priorities, often dramatically. Suddenly, to our great surprise, people who hadn’t considered the importance of photography let it take precedence over the bling of the latest appliances, tech, cars and clothes. Existing clients increased their orders, 2K clients became 10K clients. And did so with heightened gratitude. While my ego begged for the perfect place to bring clients, this was superfluous at that time. The reality of what brought revenue over this period was listening and meeting our clients’ needs, and giving the very best service we could. Photography had its status elevated to being of utmost importance.
Many people had lost their homes or business premises or had significant damage. And many times a healthy insurance payout coupled with reprioritising values drove buying decisions to us. Not wanting to refill personal spaces with meaningless clutter, but to fill it with something of meaning. Openings were provided to establish a more profound connection with clients on why we do what we do for people, and people got it.
These were the times when the value of photography truly revealed itself.
It took 6 months for revenues to skyrocket, and then we had what was consistently strong revenue for the 2 years that followed. In the financial year ending 2012, we had the highest profits we have ever experienced. And although I have nothing to measure the data on customer satisfaction – I’d say that was also at an all-time high.
Of course, like all things in life. Not all are equal. Some people did exceptionally well financially out of the disaster, and some suffered great hardship. It’s a given that sensitivity to each different circumstance is required, but also know – it’s ok to prosper. Your earnings are, after all, a direct reflection of how well you are serving society. And in the months to come, you have never had such an opportune time to serve your community in a meaningful way.
Katherine Williams, Christchurch NZ
NZIPP NZ Professional Photographer of the Year 2019, 2016
Grand Master NZIPP | Master of Photography AIPP
Listen to Katherine’s interview with Andrew Hellmich from PhotobizXposed