Here we are in 2014 - we made it! Alloy made it. "Pole dance photography" still gets raised eyebrows from our friends - although, not for the same reasons as before. No longer surprised about the exotic subject, when we mention our growing business now, they still look at us like we've grown antlers. "You're making a living doing that? There's a market for it?" Actually, yes there is.
That fact doesn't make it feel any less magical when we get an email out of the blue from someone who found our website, loves our work, and wants to do a shoot. Not only have you guys, the pole community, completely adopted us and supported every project we've launched, but the aerial community has embraced us too. Joe and I were both the weird kids in school who never quite fit in in but always made friends. Sometimes it seemed like even our friends were looking at us out of the corner of their eyes, thinking, you're not quite right. But finally, it feels like we found our own kind. I told Joe the other day, I want to run into every school I can find, look for those strangelings, grab them by the shoulders and yell, "Run away and join the circus! Those are your people!"
You guys are definitely our people. This past year was a big one for us - financially, yes - we found some stability and paid our bills with Alloy money for the first time! - but also, talking about diving deeper into the community. In December I decided it was time to redesign our website. We needed to move onto a better platform and update our online presence. When we started putting together the wording for our About Us page, we sat down again to talk about why we do this. And we realized that it's always been the same - we want to serve you guys, the dancers. Not in some general "we sell you pictures" sense, either. Yes, we serve you when we host a student shoot, so you have new photos to send your friends. Or when we take pictures of your studio and instructors, so you have new images for your website. But this year we dug into projects that fill holes in the pole community. We confirmed our partnership with Pole Sport Organization, because their competition offers beginners a platform to be fairly judged by their peers, not just youtube watchers or Facebook friends, but dancers they look up to. It gives up-and-comers a place to compete, make progress, step up their game. Across the nation. No one else does that. We chose to continue working with them because we think that collaboration serves YOU guys. More than anything, we want to get involved in more projects that serve the pole and aerial community as a whole, in very tangible, direct ways.
From my perspective, one of the big changes in the pole world this year happened when pole really picked up steam as a mainstream form of fitness, and we stepped up to take over that transition. This was the year that all the poler businesspeople, graphic designers, managers, choreographers, and public relations people took note - we saw non-polers eyeballing our industry with dollar-sign eyes, and we decided that wouldn't happen. WE run this community. We will put on our own shows and comps, thanks very much. We will design our own studios and equipment. We will judge our own dancers. We will create our own products. We will control the outside media's conversation about pole. Suddenly, as a community, we woke up to the fact that we're all highly skilled outside the studio, so why not put those skills to use?
As far as Joe and I, we almost had the opposite revelation. We're photographers and businesspeople, but we are also dancers. So we asked ourselves, what do dancers really want from photography? Why should they work with us? Well, dancers want to make a statement with their pictures. We want to look strong. Expressive. Sensual. Dancers want to tell a story with their bodies. So Joe and I are designing shoots with a strong visual theme, encouraging more honest movement in front of the camera, taking our shoots outdoors, exploring some video. We're heading in a more "editorial" direction - think lush magazine imagery. Is anyone else tired of static poses on black or white backdrops? Great, you can say cheese for a split second in the studio. But we KNOW you can say a whole lot more. Let's talk.
The best part of going in this direction is that it becomes so much more collaborative. If we're shooting outdoors, we need a great space to shoot that doesn't require an expensive permit. Surely someone in pole has a gorgeous backyard. We'll call up a few friends - let's take a road trip to a secluded creek and play with rigging a lyra overhead! Or hey, we're bringing snow to our next studio shoot, so come with your best mysterious, evocative winter costumes. Dancers, we're trying something new, do you want in? And you guys are always willing to play. This community comes together to make great photos.
We also realize that you guys wanted more of what we captured, and faster delivery - and you didn't automatically want retouching. So we bumped up the number of photos you get from a shoot, and we're cutting our turnaround time even further, aiming for less than 30 days. Now we're retouching by request, making it an add-on service so that if you think you look perfect, you don't have to wait for your photos. On top of all that, our successful year has made it possible for us to spend more time working in photography and less time at our "day jobs". So things are only going to get more awesome as we go forward.
Here's a heartfelt thanks from Joe and I to you, polers and aerialists. Our year was a success because of you. We can pay our bills but we didn't have to sell out to do it. We're having fun. We're making pictures that don't bore us silly. We're experimenting, and you let us. We found our people.