On Marriage : Working Together

On Marriage : Working Together

Alexis had always been interested in photography. She took a class in college and her teacher thought she had an eye. She keeps the photos from her class trip to Italy on her desktop like a family heirloom she can reference as a reminder that she is good and she is talented. 

I had always taken photos. My black and white class in 9th grade was filled with me taking portraits of my girlfriend, Elizabeth, leaning over bridges in the woods and against brick walls in the city. I’ve always loved taking photos of the girls I was dating.

Alexis and I did a shoot in my apartment during the friend phase. I had just learned some new lighting techniques and needed someone to practice on. She obliged. It fit in with the relationship we were in but not really in. Movies, walks, dinner, and the occasional photoshoot. I didn’t know it at the time but she was taking us down the long and tedious path of gaining her trust. She did like me. She liked me a lot. And that is precisely why we weren’t together. 

The photos were monumental to me. They were a kind of proof that we had something. I could post them online and people would know that she did that for me. 

She helped me on a few shoots after that. Mostly yoga and fitness stuff as that was where I started my professional career in San Diego. She was quiet and mostly observant. She always had a slight chip on her shoulder from not knowing as much about shoots as she wanted to. I think I just wanted her there so she could see me work. I didn’t actually need her help. We would eat together after and she would start to get excited talking about projects and then she would slow herself down and return to her default state of thinking the world was bad and opening up would only result in her being let down. 

She cried when we got the first 300 sq ft studio office. We had just moved to South Park together from my tiny apartment in Sherman Heights. We were walking around the block and a few doors down we saw a building with great visibility and a For Rent sign. We called. We met the owner. I wrote a 14 page business plan in the car while she drove us to a shoot. We pitched him our idea and I shared with him my bank statements. Alexis was broke. I had $12,000 saved up from my freelance jobs. I thought I was the richest person in the world having just come from $150,000 in debt from the yoga studio days. 

Tom told us our financials were thin and it was unlikely our business would make it. We pleaded a little more and he gave in and leased the space to us. Two years with a two year option. Alexis in tears holding the keys. 

We started shooting weddings and family stuff in addition to the fitness gigs that were coming in. I was still shooting regularly with Greg and we built a little momentum behind us. 

Three years later we were shooting commercials for national brands in our 3800 sq ft loft downtown. We were a production company that people knew. I got emails every day from new clients and people who wanted to work for Hale. The team was as big as 7 people depending on the size of the shoot. We had a couple hundred thousand dollars in the bank. And every night we came home from a long day of shooting we could barely speak to each other. I fired her in my mind at least three times a week. I texted her during shoots that I was sick of her fucking attitude so I didn’t have to say it in front of our employees. My feedback style was direct and sometimes harsh on sets. She took it personally and made comments under her breath. I couldn’t separate it. It was hard to remind myself in the moment how much she was responsible for. How much of this she helped build with me. All of the small resentments built up between us became catastrophic in the face of 12 hour shoot days with demanding clients. I hated going to work and so did she. 

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