You never know what the day will bring. Or, Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!

I’d been on the road, shooting events and green screen photo executions in rapid succession that would put a politician canvassing Iowa during a primary season to shame.

One week:  six cities in 7 days.  And these were major events, one after another, in rapid succession.  Stressful with travel, juggling client requests, and even weather.  Some indoors, many outdoors, some smaller events, others the largest you can imagine.  Weather ranging from light winds and bright sun to severe storms and gales.

Finally, I’d come home for Memorial Day weekend.  Finally I had time to sit and be by the pool (or by the Gulf) and nothing — I mean nothing — was going to interfere.  I call it “stare at the feet” time.  I clear my mind, and stare at my feet.  For hours.  Days if it’s really bad. I felt a week of feet staring on the horizon.  It was not to be.

I woke up on that summer day, and my nose was six times it’s normal size.

Now, I have a big nose anyway.  I know this.  Not an ugly big nose, but one like Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt — you know, manly.  I’m sure that’s the case.  Really.

But on this Thursday morning after Memorial Day, my nose wasn’t big — it was enormous.  It looked like Marsha from the Brady Bunch immediately after getting bashed by the base ball.

“Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!  What happened to your face?”

I really had no idea.

I thought I’d been bit my something during the night, and had an allergic reaction.  My one phobia in life is bugs.  Ask Matthew:  alive or dead, I’m getting no where near them.  To think one bit my face while sleeping?  Ewwwwww.

So, I did what most men would do.  Nothing.  I sat by the pool, put ice on my face, wondered why I was soooooo sleepy, and looked in the mirror every once in a while to see if the nose had deflated back to Tom size.

It just got worse.

Hmmmmmm.  I went to bed; sleep, I’m told, the great healer.  After a fevered night, I awoke.

Now Saturday morning, the entire cheek area and nose were blown up.  I mean big.  My forehead was normal.  From the neck down was normal.  My mouth seemed ok.  Just my nose and cheeks.  Huge.  Past looking like Marsha, I now looked like Harry Potter after a jinxing spell.

Hmmmmmmm.  Must be an allergic reaction. What else could it be?  I ate Sudafed.


Yeah, yeah.  One is good, two is better.  At lunch, after thinking I saw some improvement, I took another.  By bed time, things began to look a bit more normal.  I guessed my face had deflated by 50%.  Still weird, but — I thought — on the right track.  I was wrong.  My face hadn’t deflated, rather, things had spread.

I woke up at 5 in the morning to get more water, after the antihistamines I could barely swallow.  When I started back for the bed, the room spun, and I hit the floor.  Dehydration.  Sucks, don’t it.

“WHAT WAS THAT?” Asked a startled Matthew as Michael met cement.

“That was me.”  I said.  “I’m not feeling so well.”  I was covered in a cold sweat.

A couple of hours later, we were on our way to the Walk in Doctor, my equivalent of declaring an emergency and defeat.  It was now Sunday morning.

And that walk in doctor said words I haven’t been told since I was five:


WHAT?  What did he just say?

All I heard was DIE.

And Hospital.

And the two are related, aren’t they?

I have not been to the hospital, as a patient, since I was five.  To put that in perspective, it was the last time an openly racist candidate ran to be President of the United States.  I was at Holy Cross the day that candidate, George Wallace, was shot.  He was admitted just as I was discharged.

It seems I didn’t have a simple allergic reaction to some strange Florida super bug bite.  Rather, it was a bacterial infection raging just under the skin of my face; an infection that could spread at any moment directly to my brain and kill me.

Not to mention, my face was falling off.  Swollen to the point of not being able to swell any more, not to get too graphic, but skin was dying and peeling just like in Poltergeist and that ain’t good.

“Not to mention, my face was falling off.  Swollen to the point of not being able to swell any more, not to get too graphic, but skin was dying and peeling just like in Poltergeist and that ain’t good.”

How I came down with this infection is a complete mystery.  The result of a scratch gone unnoticed? A bug bite?  It may have been many, many things, but nothing I could put my finger on.  I just knew I woke up one day with a deadly infection — and didn’t even know it.


But business doesn’t stop just because I’m a few steps closer to the Pearly Gates.  Matthew had to go to Chicago for an Act Against AIDS shoot, Mom had an annual event for one of our oldest clients in Washington, DC; only my schedule was inadvertently cleared because a scheduled  HBO execution in Maui was cancelled due to the Verizon strike.  Melanie juggled a private event in Las Vegas.

And the team kicked in. 

Let me just say this:  I AM A HORRIBLE PATIENT.  Mainly because I’m not patient.  I literally expected this to be over as soon as they put one  antibiotic IV into my veins. Certainly after the second or third.   If not then, perhaps a few hours after returning home.  No?  Still going on?  Certainly by the next morning things would clear.

And Matthew, who I’ve been partners with for more than 10 years, is incredible.  Not only did he nurse me hand and foot, but prepared for the Chicago shoot,  something I normally can help him with, went and executed the event and is returning home later today.  While he was gone, his sister stopped by with dinner.  Mom quietly did her event on Capitol Hill, checking in with her son each morning to make sure he hadn’t crossed the threshold, and Melanie completed a rather complicated private event in Las Vegas.  The only thing Melanie said to me:  “Get rest, that was easy.”

Which brings me in a very long, round about and personal way, to another rant on team.

For all those professional photographers who think all you need to be is a great photographer, think again.  For all of those who believe deep in their hearts — as I used to — no one can do their job but you, think again.  For all of you who don’t want help, strike out solo, guided only by your own creative juices and dismiss the opinions and advice of anyone else:  you are heading for disaster.

If I didn’t have a great team in place this past week, Marsha could have died from the baseball nose.

I’m not sure I would have gone to the doctor without Matthew and mother pushing me.  I tend to ignore these things, even when — literally — they are staring me in the face.

At the very least, I would have HAD to cancel the Chicago shoot.  What then?  You don’t survive long in this profession cancelling shoots, even if your face is falling off.

What if Melanie wasn’t 100% comfortable shooting events on her own and handling every detail independent of me?  Or, for that matter, the other owner of the business, my mom?  What if I didn’t have these people?  What if  US Event Photos was really Michael Gatty Photos?

And what about my life partner, Matthew?  Matthew who simultaneously nursed me and juggled the intricacies of all those moving pieces of one of our photo executions?  Something difficult to do even when everything is smooth as glass sailing?  By the way, not only did Matthew have me to nurse, Fate decided to throw one more curve ball:  a freak tropical storm directly hit our area during this entire adventure.  Not only causing power outage at our home, but threatening to interfere with the careful travel plans in place to get Matt to Chicago.

“By the way, not only did Matthew have me to nurse, Fate decided to throw one more curve ball:  a freak tropical storm directly hit our area during this entire adventure.  Not only causing power outage at our home, but threatening to interfere with the careful travel plans in place to get Matt to Chicago.”

As an entrepreneur, you can’t rely on just yourself.  At some point — quickly in your business plan — you have to develop others that can replace you.  Partners who, when you assign a project, can work seamlessly with a client and ensure everything is executed as if you personally were on site.  Because you are.  Or at least, those you carefully trained are — and that’s the same thing.  You need to reproduce yourself.  It’s not only possible, it’s imperative.

If you don’t have those people, if you don’t develop that team, you will never be successful.

You never know when you’ll wake up, look in the mirror, and wonder what happened the night before that has suddenly taken you out of the game.  You’ll just realize you have no safety net and you are all alone.  Those ideas and skills you think only you possess?  Since you’ve taught them to no one, trusted no one, you are now stuck.  I don’t know what you do then.

Thankfully for me, that was not the case.  Thankfully for me, I had Matthew, mom and Melanie — and friends beyond.  The result?  I wasn’t worried at all about the business.  I was able to flick on Netflix, watch 10 hours of Spartacus in a row (for days!),  and patiently wait for my face to return to normal while the business churned on.

I was able to heal.  The business didn’t suffer a scratch.

That is the definition of a great team.

Chicago Green Screen Photographers
Matthew at the Bilingual Chicago Shoot
Matthew at his Chicago shoot — a bilingual event — meeting a new friend.  Imagine this for a moment:  his partner at home with a weird, life threatening bacterial infection.  He fought a tropical storm to get to Chicago.  It’s a bilingual event, he speaks “Hola” and “Uno” for Spanish.  But look at this photo.  Does he look stressed?  Sad?  Worried?  No.  He is delivering our brand:  Great photos in a swirl of fun.  No one knew except him what was going on.  As far as they knew, life was great.

Every detail is right.
Convention Photography Events
My event travel map
My travel map of flights from the past year.  Not all are shown.
US Event Photos Hurricane Week
Harry Potter, after a jinxing spell
I am too private to show a photo of me with my “affliction”.  I could barely write this blog, I don’t like people knowing I was sick.  But I thought it important.  Suffice it to say this is a really good representation of what I looked like upon going to the hospital.  Harry Potter, after a jinxing spell.  Except for hair color, it’s a self portrait.  Oh, and my nose was way, way bigger.

One of mom’s photos at the US House of Representatives, in a member’s private office.  Again, every detail right, these photos are released to the client live, as they are captured.