Matthew Frey Photographer

The Start of Something New: Part 2

The laptop was a brick.  No LED’s blinked.  There was no whirl of a fan, nor the sound of Window’s welcome music.  It was as dead as the parrot in Monty Python.  But maybe it was just sleeping.

I wiggled the cord.  I unplugged it and plugged it back in.  I tried another extension cord.  I plugged it into another outlet.  I tried everything I could think of.


Monty Python Meme

It was dead.  Worse, the Asus laptop wasn’t that old.  Perhaps a few months.  And the thing was HUGE, much larger than my old laptop, it barely fit into my camera bag.

Which is why my backup laptop was tiny.  A new concept at that time: a netbook.  A very small footprint that could run all the software as a regular computer — just not as fast.  At least, that was the theory.

I plugged it in, and waited for the netbook to boot up.

But I was nervous.  I’m always nervous.  I’d never used the netbook for a shoot.  It was always in my equipment bag, just in case.  I kept it updated, the software current.  I had an intranet set up special for the backup — which I’d tested — but I’d never actually used it.  It was backup.  Like my backup camera.  I never used it, either.

That made me nervous.

But, what choice did I have?  I suddenly questioned my decision to go with a netbook as a backup.  Shouldn’t my backup be as comfortable to use as my primary computer?  Hmmm.  Worth considering.  After I got through this.

In the end, the netbook worked fine.  it looked a little sad sitting there — especially compared to my Asus behemoth.  But the first test photo went through.   And the second.  And a third.

Slowly, my blood pressure returned to normal.  I looked up as Ashley, my client, walked in.

“How’s it going?” She asked, “Did you have a good night?”

“Everything is good,” I said, hoping she didn’t see my shaking hands.  “I’m all set and ready.”

The rest of the shoot is a blur.  It all went perfectly, the little netbook humming along and keeping up.  In the middle of the shoot, a well dressed man climbed into the front seat of the car — something I was told to avoid.  As I was about to ask him to move to the back seat, Ashley swooped in.

It became apparent he was the CEO of Honda, North America.  As I looked at the CEO, I thought about the tiny netbook.   I thought about the brick of an Asus tucked away in my camera bag.  New sweat popped out on my forehead.  With effort, I shoved the worry from my mind.  I continued with the shoot, a smile plastered onto my face.

I swear sometimes my face hurts when worry churns at the back of my brain but I force my lips to look happy and relaxed.  My mom says I’m not very good at it.  She says she can take one look at me and know what I’m thinking.  Whatever.  I’m cool, mom.  Real cool.

“Got a rocket, in your pocket, stay cooly-cool man.  Go man go, but not like a yo-yo cool man!  Just play it cool man, real cool…” Snap. Snap. Snap.  That’s me in West Side Story.  Snapping my fingers and singing.  “Real C O O L.”  I’m wearing my tight faded blue jeans and white muscle shirt.  I look good.  Tough.  Cool.  Untouchable.  Slide with feet, slide with feet, spin.  YEAH!  Jazz fingers.  Wiggle.  Wiggle.

After the shoot wrapped, Ashley looked at me.  “I was nervous,” she said, “but that went like clockwork.  I have some upcoming projects I’d like to talk to you about.  Something new.”

Later I’d find out what she wanted to talk to me about  would become our single largest contract (up to that point) in our business.  She wanted us to provide the Indycar two-seat Honda photo experience at every race in the US.  Each race was scheduled for multiple days.  The Indy 500 was an entire week.  That single contract would earn more revenue than all our other work, combined.  It would also introduce me to a world of Experiential Photo Marketing, which would develop into a cornerstone of our business.  Experiential photo marketing would land us clients like NBC and HBO.  Starz and Progressive Insurance.  Even the Travel and Adventure Show.

Also, the Honda Indycar contract would be repeated for the next several years.  In fact, it continued until Ashley left Honda.  And, because of our work with Indycar, HondaJet began hiring us at Airventure, the world’s largest air show.  Each Airventure lasted a week — we still shoot it every few years. Even Honda Marine hired us for a few events, including a Nascar race.  Our relationship with Honda and their subsidiaries remains today.

But here’s the thing I always wonder: what if I didn’t have the netbook backup computer?  What if I couldn’t pull it together during that initial shoot?  There would have been no Indycar contract.  No Airventure and no HondaJet.  No Nascar with Honda Marine.  Even our current work for Yamaha, it could be argued, happened as a result of our photo marketing experience for Honda.  Would we ever have ventured into Photomarketing, or remained exclusively a green screen photo booth company?

If I hadn’t had that backup computer 9 years ago, would we still be in business today?

And when I walked through Mandalay Bay thinking of waffles on that initial setup day, should I have known this was the start of something new?  Were there signs I missed?  Little hints of what the future would hold, the amount of business that would spring from this one, single shoot?  A sea-change in how I thought of photography and marketing?

There’s been other inflection points in my life.  Times when I found myself staring at a crossroads: knowing if I continued straight, things would remain the same.  But if I chose another path, one that spun off right or left, things would fundamentally change.

When I met Matthew, the first time we ever talked on the phone, I hung up and thought, “Oh, shit.”

When I hung up the phone,  I could see the cross roads suddenly in front of me.  I knew my path wouldn’t continue straight.  I knew it would veer sharply in a new direction.   I don’t know how I knew.  I don’t know why I felt the bolt of energy go straight through me.  I don’t know how I could stand there, cell phone clutched in my hand, realizing I’d never be the same.

But I did know.  15 years have passed since that day.  And that was THE day — that was THE hour, THE minute, THE second —  when it all changed.  Changed in every way possible.

…To be continued.

Matthew Frey Photographer
Photographer Matthew Frey shortly after we first met