I think it’s cool that my husband and I can collaborate to create art. He’s a professional photographer and I’m a teacher. My passion is education and literacy. His is photography. We combined our talents to create a series of photographic children’s books called the Photographic Celebration Series. But, the reality is, it wasn’t always easy for us to collaborate.
When we got married twenty-eight years ago, I felt we were compatible in the creative sense. Back then I thought his dream of traveling the world shooting pictures and mine of writing feature articles would perfectly complement each other’s skills. I always knew that eventually Odell and I would work together on a creative project.
About three years ago, I got the idea for us to write a children’s book based on all the fabulous photographs Odell had taken of our children since they were born. These weren’t your normal posed pictures that people take of their children on their birthdays and family outings. I’m talking about candid shots of their everyday moments growing up—the kind of shots you get when you live with a professional photographer who always has his camera within reach.
Odell compiled his plethora of photos into beautifully bound photo albums and presented them to Aviva and Mickey as college graduation gifts. As we shared these albums with friends and family, people marveled at the array of captivating photographs Odell had taken. As a teacher and journalist, I began to see a story unfold.
To make a long story short, I presented my book idea to other children’s book authors and everyone gave us the green light. But to get from idea to actual product wasn’t easy or cheap. Odell and I struggled to collaborate on the project and our conversations were not always harmonious. He and I have opposite temperaments. I’m more of a go-getter and risk-taker. He’s more of a play-it-safe guy. I would do research and present it to him and say, “Hey, we can do this. Here’s what we need to do.” He would be more cautious and ask, “Well, how much is this going to cost us?” Whose perspective would prevail? Sometimes we had to acquiesce to each other’s perspective in order to achieve a balance.
Occasionally, things would get so difficult between us that I wanted to quit the project. At times I felt we needed to get therapy. I had to pray so hard, “Lord, please help us achieve this dream.” I didn’t want to defer the dream. What happens to a dream deferred? It gets put on the back burner. Then our destiny would not be fulfilled.
Anyway, we forged ahead. I plastered my living room walls with storyboards for the books and he designed the books using the Blurb templates. In spite of our artistic differences, the one thing neither of us wanted to sacrifice was quality. I respected his expertise about how to design the pages. He deferred to me when it came to the artistic vision, literary aspects, and the marketing of the books.
Finally, after several iterations, we produced two books with a third one in the making. Now we get to share our books with the world and hopefully inspire others as we put on photography exhibits and discuss the books with various audiences. My word of advice to married couples or groups who collaborate artistically: be patient with each other and figure out a way to make it work.
Here’s a selection of blogs and articles on creative collaboration that I’ve been able to quickly peruse.
The Secrets of Creative Collaboration
Collaboration as Symptom