Peeps. It’s me, Otis here. I know we haven’t talked in a while. I used to write you all the time back in the days of ‘The Blog’ for those of you that remember that far back, and for those of you that don’t remember it was basically me rambling on for way too long when people just wanted to see pictures. But that’s a whole different story.
I’m coming at you now with a long-read and I’ve buried the lede in about paragraph 172 so you’re going to have to hunker down to a time pre-Snapchat where our attention spans were more than fifteen seconds. I have faith in you though. I know you can soldier through this.
Let’s hop in the Wayback Machine to a time before MySpace was even a thing (if you can imagine such a dark age)…all the way to 2002. There were these kids that worked at the mall. One at Ritz Camera and the other at Rainbow Photo Lab (conveniently located between the clock and the food court.) These two became friends and eventually they both worked at Rainbow. They loved taking pictures and hanging out and all sorts of other stuff. Both of them had also been asked to shoot weddings in that summer of ’02 for friends and family. They decided to help each other out and the pics turned out pretty good. Soon they realized (why am I writing this in the third person btw? I’m going to switch now) that there was something special when we worked together.
To give you an idea of how long ago this was, we were still shooting on film. Dark ages I tell you. To all you up & coming photogs out there, try shooting a wedding on film. I double dog dare you. No retakes baby. No preview and histogram on the back of camera display. It’s badass. And no we don’t miss it. Anyway, we was good and we kept getting better or more confident or something. So we decided to do more. More weddings. More seniors. More portraits.
lightning struck and we were just smart enough to not get in the way of it
We were still in college but eventually our little picture taking thing became a *thing*. So we did the irrational thing, dropped out of college and jumped into photography 100%. It’s all we did. We worked together, we lived together, we became Otis & James. And we did become better, maybe even really good. And we moved out of our small little office into a small little studio that was all ours. We got a website. We got a telephone number. We were doing this…we were in the damn phone book. And then something happened. God smiled on us and we became for one brief moment some sort of a force of nature. Lightning struck and we were just smart enough to not get in the way of it. We moved into another studio, and then an even bigger one, and then a really big studio.
In 2003 we added a Blog section to our website (the first photographer in the state to do so even though Jamie thought it was the dumbest idea ever…she was wrong.) We jumped into the world of social networking via MySpace (it’s still there, say hi to Tom for us.) Then in 2005 we connected to a social network called The Facebook, or just Facebook. We were in the Bismarck Network for any of you old enough to even know what that means. Again we were the first studio in the state to do so.
there’s enough mediocrity in the world, let’s try not to add to it
We didn’t advertise with any traditional media. No billboards. No television. No radio. We were talked to by other more established photographers that told us are were doing it all wrong or that we were cutting into their bottom line with our little business (true story.) Turns out they were wrong. We embraced all things digital. We didn’t use props (sorry, no giant 2006 made out of styrofoam, no fake bookcase to sit in front of to make you look like a scholar.) Our fundamental belief was and continues to be that it’s not about all the junk you put in the picture or how awesome your gear is; if you don’t know how to make someone be themselves in front of the camera just put the camera down. There’s enough mediocrity in the world, let’s try not to add to it.
And we shot and shot and shot and shot. And life came at us fast. We had fun. We worked hard. And we had more fun.
We’ve never been good business people. We’ve never had a business plan or a five-year strategy or marketing meetings or whatever it is that business people do (no disrespect, I just don’t know what they do.) We just did what seemed right. We tried to always be good. To give as much as we got. To help when we can. To bring sunshine, to bring love. To bring MuchLove. In retrospect, yeah…probably would have been good to understand this whole ‘business’ thing we hear people talk about. Oh well. Still wouldn’t change a thing.
when you look at a picture from your wedding, of your newborn or from your senior year, you are looking through our eyes
This has never been about the achievements or the bottom line. Jamie and I realized a long time ago that to us, what we do matters. We are there for such important milestones in your lives. When you look at a picture from your wedding, of your newborn or from your senior year, you are looking through our eyes. We are intrinsically tied together in these beautiful moments. It’s not about the filter or the location or your mad photoshop skillz. It’s about the love.
Which brings us to now, and another story of love.
A few years ago now, Jamie married a lovely man, and together they have two beautiful children. Her husband recently left the Air Force for a job in the private sector and his career has taken him to Utah. The past six months have been very hard as their family hasn’t been complete. Distance has kept all of them apart. The time has come for hard decisions, but right decisions. Their son will soon be starting the first grade and he will be in a new school in a new state. And the family needs to be made whole again. It’s about love.
sometimes love is walking into an unknown
We’ve been to a few weddings and often the scripture chosen is I Corinthians 13:4-7
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
Those words are true. But sometimes love is walking into an unknown. It’s scary. It’s the hard decision. It will make you cry so hard it hurts, but it’s still love. So in the name of love we’re putting this o&j thing away for a while. As long as there’s a Matthew and a Jamie there’ll always be an Otis & James, but like I said kid – life comes at you fast.
If you’re reading this and have something booked with us in the coming months or next summer…DON’T PANIC! We’re still going to be there. Jamie will be shooting and I will be doing whatever it is that I do (we’re not dying and we have frequent flier miles.) Matthew (that’s me!) will still be in Minot and we will be reaching out to you as well. Again, don’t panic – we’ve got you!
We’re still working through all the details but we are also going to have a week in October where the calendar will be opening up for booking portraits. You gotta start thinking about Christmas, you know?! We will let you know more about that later. This is still what we do, this is still who we are.
finally the conclusion
So there you go. I really did bury the lede on this thing, huh. Life may come at you fast but my writing sure as hell doesn’t.
We’re proud of what we’ve done. We were at the start of something that has evolved into a vibrant photographic community across the state. We feel such a kinship toward Jason, Mandi, Carly & Amos, Britta, Ashley & Aaron, Corey, Jack, McKenna, Blaine, and so many others in our area. Keep the love going. And for the love of God, no cheesy props please.
Matthew & Jamie
August 7th, 2017
WITHOUT THESE PEOPLE NONE OF THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN POSSIBLE
(The amount of talent in this bunch is astonishing, we couldn’t have dreamed for a better group of employees, but more than that – true friends.)
Tim & Bonnie Rennich
Graham & Audrey
Eric & Kylie Bieri
Brandon & Jenny Ladendorf
Chad & Rachel Schmidt/10 North Main
Wayne & Hesston Whitty/Ebeneezer’s
Bill Leonard/Rainbow Photo Lab
Reuby Reile/The Barley Pop
Ryan Hertz/Dacotah Bank
Steve Miller & Shawn Bakk/Ryan Honda
62 Doors Gallery & Studios
Tom Wentz Jr.
(aka ‘Old School IRET’)