Who is Randy? Is he still in the photography business?
These two questions pop in my mind as I enter a pizza restaurant in Los Angeles and see several photos of Randy’s work hanging on a dining room wall. The pictures are nice, but a bit worn with age. One framed print has noticeable ripples. Another print looks a hint yellow, like a newspaper starting to age. On each photo is Randy’s cursive signature at the bottom right corner–a warning for photographers like myself to stay away from his territory.
Rather than walk back out, I timidly approach two employees standing beside the register at the front counter.
“What would you like to eat?” Janice, as per her nametag, asks me.
“Um, well…” I start. Here it goes again. The speech. It’s time for me to explain that I’m not really a customer, what they expect, but a salesman. “I do landscape photography and I thought some of my metal prints might look great for your restaurant.”
Their eyes narrow. My status has instantly changed. I can hear alarm bells sounding in their heads, and I can feel the awkwardness between us like a thick invisible field. I reconsider leaving again. For some crazy reason, I stay and share a 4×6 promotional photo with my info on it, as well as a 16×20 sample metal print to show them my art.
“Are you Randy’s competition?” asks Ben, the employee standing next to Janice.
“No. I don’t want to remove his stuff,” I say, looking behind me. “He has some good shots.”
“That’s pretty cool,” Ben adds, now staring at the metal print in my hand. “How much are you selling that for?” I quote a price. Ben and Janice whistle as if on cue. “But what does it cost to make the photo? How much are you making?”
I want to ask them how much it costs for them to make a slice of pizza and how much of a slice they are taking from their customers, but I hold my tongue. Business 101: negotiate, don’t argue.
“Well, we can work something out,” I say.
“And take Randy’s stuff down?” Janice asks. “We’ve known him for years. We can’t do that to our friend.”
It’s at this point I make a beginner’s mistake. I accept what they’ve told me as rejection and start packing my metal print back in my bag.
“What do I do with this?” Janice asks, still holding my promotional 4×6 print.
“It’s no big deal,” I say, getting it, wishing I now had an invisible cloak. “I’ll take it back.”
“It’s a really nice photo,” Janice says, handing it to me.
“Thanks. I’m sure Randy can get one just like it.”
I wince a little at the unexpected catty remark that escapes my lips, but I’m also glad I said it. I’m a bit tired of hearing about Randy.
I finally exit the restaurant.
(by Vincent Lowry – author of Lucy’s Letter and American Vineyard; vincentlowry.zenfolio.com)