My name is Rob, and my clients are cooler than yours. In my line of work I meet a lot of people. Most of the time those people close the door on me as soon as they realize I'm trying to sell them something. But every once in a while I meet some truly amazing folks. This is the story of such an occasion.
A little while ago I was solicited by a company out of Chicago to create virtual tours for 5 retirement homes across north Alabama. They took all the selling out of the equation. All I had to do was show up and shoot the place.
Sounds simple, but there's a certain sense of uneasiness involved. All I was given was a name and an address. I'd never seen the place, and never met my contact there. I had absolutely no idea what to expect. What happened when I arrived at the location was even more unexpected that I thought.
The first person to greet me happened to be my point of contact there, the executive director, Amy. She had a beaming smile, and seemed really excited about the work we had to do that day.
Seeing as I had never seen the facility before, we started off with a tour. Amy told me all about the place, with brief interruptions to say hi to the staff and ask residents how they were doing. You could tell immediately that everybody was friends here. I was taken to all the standard areas you'd see on a tour - the dining room, activities area, the model room. She was particularly proud of the court yard in the center of the building.
After the tour I wasn't asked if I'd like something to drink, but what I wanted to drink. It seemed as though I wasn't playing contractor that day. I was already, somehow, part of a family.
It was then I started off to work. I began with still photos of the building - Amy with me the whole time offering to help in any way she could and providing feedback for exactly what they were looking for. She seemed to have a very clear picture in her head of what she wanted. This is a tremendous help to photographers who aren't doing strictly creative work.
The last still shot I took was of a plated meal. Amy asked me directly afterward if I had plans for lunch. Taken aback, I stammered for a second, only to have her all but force a menu upon me. Moments later I was seated in the private dining room, presented with lunch. It was easily an order of magnitude more delicious than anything I would have picked up for myself that day. During the course of my meal no less than three different people came by to greet me, ask how things were going, and if I needed anything.
I didn't. Hell, I would have been happy if someone had offered me a glass of water, much less a 5 star meal.
After stuffing my face, it was time get all the panoramas done. It went off without a hitch. Everything was perfectly placed. I managed to avoid photographing nearly every single soul in the place as well. This is usually a big problem when dealing with a populated area.
As I'm finishing up, I take another walk around the outside of the facility to see if there's anything interesting I may have missed. Just as I'm walking off, Amy calls my name and asks me back to the front entrance.
"This is Jean." She says. "She's a movie-star, and we're gonna need a picture."
I smile and oblige.
Jean, who had just returned from an outing with her sister, was grinning from ear to ear at the opportunity to have her picture taken by a "professional".
Jean has lived at the facility longer than any other resident, and is absolutely adored by the staff and everyone else there. I didn't have much of a chance to speak with her as I had a long drive back Huntsville, but you could tell right off the bat that she had an infectious personality and a wicked sense of humor.
Snapping that picture, with the promise that I'd email it to them was icing on the cake at the end of my work day there.
The following week, I received an a phone call from a number I didn't recognize. It was Amy, just calling to tell me that the shoot had posted already and that they were absolutely tickled with how it turned out. Once again, they had managed to make my day with a simple gesture.
It was a real pleasure having the opportunity to meet and work with all the staff at this particular establishment. It's experiences like these that make me love what I do even more.