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Photo by Christi Martin

I want to thank Brad and Scott for giving me the opportunity to express myself on a stage of this level.  I have to be honest, when Brad emailed me yesterday it caught me off guard.  What do I say?  What do people want to read?  Anything I want?  Wow.

But there is only one thing on my mind lately – my new career move.  I read, or heard once (who knows?) that the higher up you get in advertising, the younger you die.  Well, I guess I just signed my death certificate.  My name is Matt Lange, professional photographer, and now the Creative Director at The Fletcher Group Advertising.  The clock is ticking…

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Endure

…the clock is ticking… Literally.  I have less than 5 hours to put my thoughts down collectively for you all to see.  The clock is ticking to make a splash in my new world/career.  No pressure.

So where do I start?

I’ve come full circle.   I’m typing this blog entry from the exact same room I sat in 4 short years ago at The Fletcher Group.  TFG was owned by a friend of mine, Lee Fletcher, who was a great man with a tremendous heart. But anyone who knew him, knew how hard it was to get along with him. This was, ironically, the exact same room in which I picked up a camera again for the first time and started my path to being a professional photographer (I had always taken pictures as far as I could remember).

At the time I was a young, know-it-all designer just a year out of Louisiana Tech University.  Needless to say, this forced my boss and I to butt heads constantly, resulting in my desire to leave.  Now I’m a know it all photographer/designer, right?  Wrong.  In the past 4 years I have come to realize that there is so much to learn.  Something new every single day.  I’m more mature at this point.

I moved to Baton Rouge, LA a year later to work full-time and pursue my passion of being a photographer.  This would be the part when most people would say, ‘and everything was awesome,’ ‘everyone I met was amazing,’ and, ‘I make a living shooting amazing pictures.’

Well that’s partly true.  But why sugar coat it?  This is hard.  Being a photographer is hard hard work.  Getting to be a photographer full-time is even harder.

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If you were to ask me what my goal as a photographer was, or what my dreams would be, I would tell you, ‘I want to be a sports portrait photographer.’  That’s it.  I wanted to wake up everyday and be called on assignment to shoot either a) the standout quarterback for such and such cover, b) the national championship team for a piece by Sports Illustrated, c) the Heisman Trophy winner, d) well, you get the point.

But that’s not the case.  The average photographer knows what it is that we really shoot.  It’s weddings, babies, seniors, birthday parties so on and so forth.

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I did catch a break however, when I got a call from a small media agency called Southcreek Global Media.  I felt as if fate was knocking and it was time to answer.  Through my work with Southcreek, I found myself field side for the New Orleans Saints, LSU Football, LSU Baseball and courtside to the New Orleans Hornets and LSU Tigers Basketball.

Progress.

But, as any sports photographer can vouch, the money simply isn’t there.  So I saved my pennies, as did my wife.  I got to the point where my day job was doing nothing but making me miserable, day in and day out.  So I watched Consequences of Creativity by Chase Jarvis, listened to a lot of inspirational rap music, I talked to my wife and we agreed… It was time to take a chance.

Bye bye day job, hello fulltime photographer dream job.  Knock knock.  Who’s there?  Hello Mr. Recession! It’s never easy right?

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They say it’s not the destination, it’s the journey. For me I guess the journey will never end.  And when I think about it, I don’t want it to.

When I quit my job, things got exponentially harder, but I liked it.  I thrive off of challenge.  I began shooting like a man possessed.  I called all of my athlete friends and posed fake photo shoots.  Anytime I had something new, I sent my work to ad firms and businesses around town to try to improve the work for their sites. Anything I could to keep the lights on.

One day I got home and a friend told me about a blog post on someone named Scott Kelby’s site.  The post, in short, was about a contest Scott held for an amateur photographer to win a pass to shoot on the sideline of a Florida State game.  Well, the amazing world of sports photographers decided, for some reason, that this was a bad, no, horrible idea, and thus the person who won, Alex, had his pass revoked.  Awesome right?

So I emailed in and offered my services to have Alex shoot on the sideline with me at Louisiana Tech.  Needless to say, Alex landed a pass to shoot the Bears, and who could blame him?  However, I got a call from Scott himself.  He wanted to come to Ruston and shoot alongside me.  Wow.  What do you say to that?  Well, when one of the biggest names in the photo industry calls you, wants to meet you, and you can barely afford Ramen noodles, my friends, you say yes.

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So Scott came down, shot the game with me, then at dinner after the game, recommended (or insisted I should say) that I go to New York for PPE.  It was 4 days away.

So I flew to NYC, crashed in Scott’s room, and during the brief 24 hours I was there I had my mind transformed.  I was around the best of the best photographers in the industry, or at least a lot of them. I told Scott at one point that I couldn’t get home fast enough to simply create.

I will say that I wanted to meet Vincent LaForet, but alas, I did not.  His presentation blew my mind and I will always have that.  Perhaps one day I will meet him.  I made a good friend in Scott that day.  The entire time he was in Ruston he had nothing but great things to say about me and my work.  He says I’m entirely too modest about the work I create, but I like to think that I’m just driven for perfection.  But I stray…

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My friend Lee Fletcher was diagnosed with cancer over a year ago, and in September Lee lost his fight.  Lee was the first person to tell me I was on my way to great things, outside of my family.  When he passed, I felt a void that I hadn’t felt in a very long time, even though Lee and I hadn’t talked in over a year.  I felt at this point, it was very important for me to do something great.  I felt it was no longer about me and being successful, it was time for me to do great for Lee too.  Am I great?  Put up or shut up.

A few weeks later I got a call from Amanda McMullen, the new owner of The Fletcher Group, asking me if I would be interested in returning. Except this time to have full creative control.  Just when my photography was picking up steam.

I ask the photography public, what would you do?

Well, this guy packed up the car and drove to Monroe, LA and is now typing a blog entry from the TFG studio telling you my story.  My goal is to turn an ad firm located in Monroe, LA, into a nationally known agency doing work across the world.  Through some blood sweat and tears, and with the help of Scott Kelby, we will get there.

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I just wanted to tell how it’s not easy to be successful in this industry.  It’s definitely not the destination but the journey.  You can meet amazing people and do amazing things.  But a lot of stress and hard work has to go into it.  Chase Jarvis was absolutely correct when he said, ‘you can do it but you have to sustain.’

YOU HAVE TO SUSTAIN.

I think it’s easy to look at other people’s work and say that you want to do that.  But a lot of the time you don’t see the sacrifice that they put in behind the scenes.  I may not be able to continue my photography career at this point, due to The Fletcher Group.  But that is a sacrifice I have chosen to make.  I will pour every ounce of my creative energy into this company to see that it succeeds.  I will also use my photography skill to add to the services we offer here.  After all, my degree and training is as a graphic designer, video editor and director.  Photography was just something I was good at. I still want to shoot sports portraits for the cover of Sports Illustrated, but for now it’s back to work.  Back to the grind.

Thank you for reading my story and to Scott and Brad for allowing me to share.  Did I just talk in circles?

Also, thank you to Christi Martin for taking a picture of my ugly mug on such short notice.  You’re the best.  I owe you.

You can see more of Matt’s work at his website, mattlange.com.