White Dog could sense Michael was getting frustrated. He decided that this year, now that he had a camera, he wanted to create his own Christmas card instead of "just being a name on yours." All week he had been out shooting photos, some which were quite nice like the one of the sun breaking through the clouds just after sunrise. But he was not happy with any of them as choices for a Christmas card.
He had a vision that he could not quite formulate and he felt in competition with me (so my advice was certainly not what was needed). "Talk to the White Dogs," I did offer as encouragement. "Tell them what you see and how the shot looks. They are good listeners and may help you work it out." Then I left the room.
The WDA gathered close and listened to Michael as he at first just complained about how he could not do it. Then, as they continued something changed. Michael began talking about what he liked about Christmas. The Army attentively wagged their approval.
White Dog came to me and confided that Michael had a good idea but that she feared it could not be done solo. His concept was to hold Oso in a Santa hat and photograph the two of them against a stark bare door. She feared in juggling the camera and Oso that he would not get anything worthwhile and would be mad.
I shared that I thought we ought to let him experiment with his idea, holding the camera out in front of himself, or shooting in the mirror, before we jumped in with alternatives. This was, after all, his project.
Oso did not look so sure as Michael dressed in a Christmas outfit, hoisted our Little Man into his arms and balanced the Santa hat on him. The hat slipped off; Oso would not look at the camera, Michael had trouble aiming with such a load. I kept quiet and stayed working in the office. One-by-one the WDA (with the exception of OAWD who was starting to look like a captive) slipped in next to me as Michael's tension increased.
I took my water glass and casually strolled out. "Tough project?" "I guess I am not going to have a card," he responded. "How come?" "I just cannot get it to work, it is too hard." "Well, you have a good concept but maybe you are trying to do too much yourself."
I shared with him the worries our professional photographer had expressed over next week's shoot of the entire White Dog Army and how she had asked us to bring a handler to hold leashes and help manage things. As a creative director, I had attended many photo shoots where the lens guy had an army of helpers to adjust lights, move things, turn chin angles, and draw attention of the subjects.
Maybe, I suggested that he should focus on setting up the shot and being the subject and ask for Steve's help in pushing the button...a minimal part of the project. I told him that he should post the photos he took that he did not consider "Christmas-y" on his blog because they are good and ask for Steve's help in getting a photo that his mom will keep hanging all year long for a card...and as a new year's project take photos of himself in all kinds of situations using all kinds of methods. I told him he will develop new skills and he wouldn't scare Oso as he tried to figure out how to juggle everything without dropping him.
WD sat on the couch with him as I returned to the office. When Steve came home, Michael did ask for help capturing his vision. Here is the result: