an Orlando green screen photo booth participant joins Queen Elizabeth in a parade.

The Secret of Our Success: Part 3 Be Queen.

The Secret of Our Success: Part 3 Be Queen.

In the first blog post in this series, I looked at how business has changed over the past decade – and how it hasn’t. Next, engagement was under the Michaelscope. (See how I made up that word? Just like Rudy decides which version of the truth “truth” is, I’ve decided it’s ok to make up my own words.) In this next part, I present Queen.

Not The Queen. Not “Mike you are a bit queenie”, but Queen. Or, more pointedly, Freddie Mercury, Queen’s infamous lead singer.

Freddie was born in Zanzibar and grew up in India. He was geeky, an awkward kid with a terrible overbite due to four extra teeth.

But man, he could sing. Even more important, he loved to sing. To write. To perform. Even before his band, which took immediate flack for being named “Queen”, broke through — his producers hint he was a handful. He knew what he wanted, they said. He did what he wanted, they said. He plowed forward when he thought he was right.

Bohemian Rhapsody, perhaps his most famous song, initially produced eye rolls from his record label. Now it’s described as one of the best rock songs. Ever. (LIKE, EVAH!)

When the singer died in 1991 at age 45, he was a mega superstar. Rolling Stone voted him the 18th top 100 singer of all time. A film about his life became the highest grossing musical biography in history.

Now. Think about this for a second.

Mercury died in 1991.

He died of AIDS.

He made no secret he liked sex, and that he had sex with as many men and as often as he could.

The clothes he performed in didn’t leave much to the imagination. Tight, crotch hugging jeans, tank tops, leather arm bands: symbols of masculine (gay) sexuality.

This during a time when homophobia was rampant. President Reagan suggested children with AIDS shouldn’t go to public school for fear of spreading the disease. It was 7 years after Mercury’s death that Matthew Shepard was beaten to death for being gay.

Yet, Mercury and his music thrived. He did what he wanted, when he wanted, how he wanted, and people sat and listened, transfixed.

They loved his music. They loved him. They bought his albums.

He wrote two of the greatest sports songs of all times: We Are the Champions and, according to Sports Illustrated, the greatest stadium anthem of all time: We Will Rock You.

This despite that Mercury was not a football fan. Not even a little bit.

When Queen performed at Live AID in 1985 – six years before his death – with a sore throat nobody knew he had – he stole the show. By all accounts, his performance was EPIC.

Queen performed with passion and range that belted out his songs and suspended the audience. He loved live performance; and that love bled into the hearts of those watching. You can’t watch him and not be hypnotized.

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Here’s my long-winded point. To be a successful artist, you must put it all out there. You can’t hold back. Like Mercury, every part of what you do is a performance. Everything. How you dress. How you engage with the audience. How you project your feelings. How you capture the moment.

This is a photography blog, and you’re probably thinking: what does performance have to do with photography? Everything. Every time we are in front of a participant, every time we engage with a client, every time we design a green screen photo booth, we are performance artists. We are creating a final image through our performance that lives or dies on how we are embraced. Everyone knows a Broadway show, a rock concert, a variety show is a production. But so is a photo shoot. And as a photographer, you are the performer. The director. The creator. The ARTEEST.

West World HBO by Mike Gatty

Mercury performed. He left nothing on the line. He was an artist, and a financial success (after a rocky start). Every artist is the same. Nothing changes based on your medium. Writer, photographer, painter, or poet, to be successful you must be genuine. Passionate. Dig deep and risk it all every performance. The odds are against you. People might not understand. Clients may wonder what you’re smoking (and if you have any for them).

But the dirty little secret: if you are passionate, genuine, and open the right client will find you. If you put it out there, and work to make it possible to find you, they’ll fill your stadium. If Mercury can do it, you can do it. People are mesmerized when they discover an artist who has stripped raw to their essence, right in front of them. They buy what that artist is selling. They must. Just like they must breathe. It’s primal.

Art thrives in naked, honest, passionate, wild performance. The same is true for business.

Plus, it’s fun.