As a High School Senior Photographer, I am often asked by my BFH Seniors if I knew I wanted to be a photographer when I graduated. Their question makes total sense when you remember many of them are planning to commit to a college and a potential career path that will shape the next chapter of their lives and they feel a sense of ease and comfort with me and honestly? I love that they are bold enough to ask.
I think my favorite question was when one of my Seniors, Jack, asked me about the name of my company, Blue Fire Hydrant Photography. His session was actually one of my favorites that season for a couple reasons. Jack had a shy, stand-offish nature at first, and his parents were so worried that his reluctance to have professional portraits taken would reflect in their finished artwork.
They had nothing to worry about. As Jack and his family moved through the planning steps and the questionnaires I sent out in the months leading up to his shoot, I saw him become a bit more confident around me, and start to ask me for advice. This is a crucial moment in our shoot planning! The absolute BEST part about working with my BFH Seniors is that they take full advantage of all my High School experience! I am by no means a professional College Counselor (though I am a certified Life Coach!) but I have seen MANY seniors step in front of my lens, and every single one of them shared a bit with me about their High School journey. Almost every single one of them felt like their experience was unique, and that they were different from their peers in some way, when in reality, they were connected by so much more than they were separated by. and High School has not changed THAT much since I was there, many moons (and three children) ago!
So back to Jack, during his shoot, we were walking among the streets of my city, Silver Spring, Maryland, and I had two more locations I wanted to incorporate into his session before the sun set, and while we hustled to these last spots, he asked me:
“Why Blue Fire Hydrant Photography? I mean aren’t fire hydrants basically just for dogs to…you know…pee on? It’s not like there are a bunch of fires around here (Jack was also a Silver Spring Local) so why would you want people to think that”
I burst out laughing. He was not the first person to be curious about my company name, but he was the first to phrase in THAT particular way. I made sure I cleared it up for him. Still laughing, I explained to him how my company name found me, and not the other way around.
“One day, about 10 years ago, I was driving around with my youngest daughter Noa in the backseat, and she was still young, only 5 years old or so. I had been thinking hard about a name for a company I had a half-dream of starting. Photography had been a hobby of mine in High School and College, but never anything more than that during my career in Engineering. Yet lately there had been a fire in me that told me to pick up my camera again, and I was talking through some name ideas to Noa as I drove. I told her how her mommy was looking for something that would ‘fill my cup’ and let me ‘fill the cups of others’ using my photography. and as I sat at a traffic light, she pointed out the window and said ‘what about that?’ and I looked and sure enough she was pointing to a blue fire hydrant.
I laughed but then I started to think about it. I knew from my engineering background that Blue topped Fire Hydrants are actually the most powerful, and as such were usually located near very large or important buildings. Your standard red fire hydrant can have a water pressure under 500 gallons of water per minute, whereas Blue Fire Hydrants have a water pressure of more than 1500 gallons per minute. certainly more than enough water to fill my cup, and the perfect answer to how to deal with the fire inside me for photography. The name was so out there, but so me. It combined all the elements of business I wanted my new company to embody. It kept my family at the center of it, since it was Noa who named it, it would be distinct enough to be remembered without being TOO weird, and much like blue fire hydrants, my photography would be focused on bringing a lot of impact to the few lucky clients who need it most, instead of trying to be a huge studio who shoot 300 clients a year and cannot even remember any of their names. So BFH Photography was born”
Jack smiled and said ‘Wow! I really like that’, and the rest of our session, he kept pointing out all the fire hydrants we passed on the city street, remarking that he ‘never noticed how many there were, but now I can’t help but see them everywhere’ and that is a great analogy for the BFH Seniors I photograph. They come from different schools, different backgrounds, have different life goals, but they are all alike in that each of them have a remarkable sense of civic duty, they are all leaders in their respective community, and I am so incredibly proud of all of them.
At the annual BFH Photo meet ups I organize, watching all of my BFH Seniors come together to do community service, forge friendships together, and lift each other up, I can’t help but think of Jack’s words. Fire Hydrants, like my seniors, are hard to notice one by one throughout the day, but if all of them were lined up on one street, you would be astounded at what they can accomplish together.
So to close out this weekly BFH Advice column, I would say always remember to ASK for what you want in life. I asked Noa for help with a name and I got so much more than that. Jack asked me for an explanation and he found an entire community.
Go out into the world. Be bold. be brave enough to ask for what you want, and open-minded enough to accept the answer you receive, even if it is nothing like what you expected.