No Reply At All

I was listening to Genesis’ song, No Reply At All, and it reminded me of one of the toughest thing about being a photographer–when you reach out to someone with a special photograph and they never respond.

And there’s no reply at all.
There’s no reply at all.
There’s no reply at all.
No reply at all.
Is anybody listenin’? Oh, there’s no reply at all…

I saw a YouTube video of a street photographer doing a talk about his work at a B&H Camera program in New York, and he mentioned he makes portraits of people and their kids and has some wonderful photos, but 90% of the time, the person takes his card and never contacts him. He showed some photos of kids he made with the parents’ permission and still, no reply at all.

I’ve had it happen myself many times. This photo from my summer 4x4x5 project I think is wonderfully special, and their father was there with them when I made the photo and I gave him my card to contact me, but I’ve never heard from him.

Just recently I had a family portrait shoot scheduled and to test the location for fall leaves and color, and how people placed against it as a background would work for a photograph, I asked a woman with two kids walking by if I could do a test photo with them and get her the photograph. I gave her my card, and made a print of the photo and framed it.

The tree that I was planning on using for the family portrait.

At first I didn’t hear back from her, but then she emailed me a couple weeks later and asked for the photo. I was so glad she did!

I am guessing she expected a picture sent to her in an email, but I explained to her I had printed her photo and would meet her back at the location where we made the photo or I could drop it by and leave it on her porch or she could come by my studio. Either way, I made myself very available to delivering it however worked best for her.

No reply at all.

My partner said she thinks the woman thinks it’s a scam. So, after a few more days passed, I wrote her back and explained that there are no strings attached, it’s completely a gift that I wanted her to have. “There’s nothing to buy.”

More time passed. I tried again.

No reply at all.

It’s a really sweet photograph, made in the spontaneous moment of wanting to test the shot for the commissioned portrait, which as it turns out never happened because a storm came and blew many of the leaves off the tree.

The same tree later in that first day as I was checking it for late afternoon light.
The tree the next day after a wind storm blew many of the leaves off the tree and off the grass, too.
The tree when it was still in full bloom, this is the test photo, the photograph that I printed and framed that I would like her family to have, but haven’t heard back from them.

So, I wonder if it’s fear that keeps us from following up, or there’s just little value placed on a printed photograph from a photographer.

Or is a quantity thing? Maybe there are just too many photographs nowadays and one more doesn’t really matter? Photography has become cheap.

I would be really interested to hear why the overwhelming majority of people, over 90% by one photographer’s estimation, doesn’t follow up, doesn’t make contact to get the photograph.

What is the obstacle and has it always been like that, even in the film days of the past, or is it a new phenomenon?

I know I just want to gift the photo to the family so that it will be a part of their family history for generations to come. I consider it the most important kind of photograph I make.

And it can be frustrating when there’s no reply at all.

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