Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Power of Yes

Good things usually happen when I say yes. It seems that a great deal of life's success can be traced to choosing between yes and no. Yes generally means more time and effort, so maybe that's why people say no so frequently. I hear no all the time - why people can't do something, rather than why they can. But I don't usually hear it from the very successful people I photograph. They tend to be fearless and up for anything.

This lesson couldn't have been more clear Tuesday. I was shooting Dancers Among Us with the beautiful ballerina Michelle Joy. We decided to meet on Stone Street in the Financial District to capture a little old world feel. The block has been preserved through the centuries, with outdoor cafes lining the street. It's a perfect place for a beer on a warm afternoon (and Tuesday was 80 degrees).

I asked three young guys to pose in the shot with Michelle. They had loosened their ties and were drinking beer, so I assumed they'd be up for the experience. Surprisingly, they were apprehensive.  They deferred and returned my business card as if they didn't want the product I was selling.

I was lost. I looked around. I wanted young men, and there were no more to be found. Then I heard a very New York accent, "You want us tuh pose wid her?" Three men - not young - acting tipsy and aggressive, wanting to grab a quick shot with their arms around a pretty blond dancer before heading back to the office. My first reaction was to ignore them, my second was to say no thanks, but I acted on my third. I said yes.

"Sure guys. But we need to set it up. Call the office and tell them you'll be late. Let's order some beers. Don't eat the fries - they're props. No you can't touch her - this is art!"

I borrowed an apron from a waitress and had Michelle wear it. Given the (how do I say this delicately?) slight difference in age, it made more sense for the photo that she'd be serving them beer rather than drinking it with them.

The beers arrived, and Michelle was practicing balancing the tray while standing en pointe. One of the men stood up to demonstrate. And then things started to unravel.

(bottom photo by Geoff Legg)

He dropped the beer. Mayhem ensued. His friends were laughing hysterically. Glass was everywhere. I had to corral them back to the table, get another beer and shoot quickly before they got bored or passed out. Michelle is a beautifully trained dancer, and she nailed it every time. The guys started improvising, taking the beer off the tray and thoroughly enjoying themselves. Their joy shows in the photo.

(click photo to enlarge)

It turns out these guys were not middle management hacks but big players on Wall Street (Beer Spilling Guy is huge - the seas parted as he walked past the tables, people falling all over themselves to say hi). We all bonded. They bought us beer. We were on an adrenalin high. I started complaining about the scared associates at the next table, how they said no to this amazing experience. And Beer Spilling Guy said, "That's why they'll never be us."

(photo by Geoff Legg)