There are some things that happen quietly in my life that are really a big deal. Tonight is one of them. Billy Sheahan Photography is now official. It’s a registered business with the Federal government and the State of Illinois. I have tax numbers and federal identification numbers. Kind of boring stuff, but what it represents is pretty huge.
Way back in 1993 I went to Europe for the first time. I took a few hundred photographs. Much to my surprise, when I began showing them to people, they wanted to by them. One evening I moved all the furniture from my little apartment living room into my bedroom and created a space large enough to have a little gallery. I think I charged $40 a photo back then. But I sold enough of them to recoup half of my trip.
As the years passed, I continued to travel, making photographs wherever I went. I rented out spaces to have shows. Eventually I was invited to show at a few Chicago galleries and art shows. I never made enough money to quit my day job, but I kept at it. Sometimes I would make a few dozen sales a year, sometimes not much of anything.
During those early years I donated photographs or I offered portrait sessions to be auctioned off to support various theater companies or charities I believed in and wanted to support. It was at one of those auctions that I first heard the words, “Oh, and this is the photographer, Billy Sheahan.” It was an electric moment for me.
Up until that time I spent most of my professional career climbing the ladder of broadcast news journalism, both radio and television, and more recently I was beginning my career as a film editor. None of the titles that I had during that period meant as much to me as hearing those words, “This is the photographer.” I’m not sure why it meant so much to me, but it did. I was actually being introduced as an artist. A huge moment in my life.
This was the image that I offered up for the auction. It was the fist time I had displayed any of my work in public. The auction was to help support a theater group called The Cypress Group. One of the group’s actors, Shawn Simon would turn out to be one of my earliest models and she really helped me to evolve into the photographer I was to become. I’m not sure why I chose that photograph to auction off. I think the tree in the background might be a cypress tree and I guess it seemed appropriate, but it probably had some other meaning in my head as well.
It’s an image of a road from the lost city of Pompei, Italy which I had the extreme pleasure of exploring one rainy afternoon. I think you can see a point of view beginning to be expressed even in this early image. I do seem to make a lot of images of doors and stairs and paths. I think this image of a road was appropriate to where my head was in my beginning stages as a photographer. I’m sure the short distance down the road to what looks to be a reward of the remains of a building of some sort under the large shelter of a tree probably did represent how close I felt I would be to realizing my dream of being a photographer. I had no idea of the actual distances I would cover both physically and emotionally in the coming years to get to where I am now.
But here I am.
Billy Sheahan Photography.
After years of ignoring the necessities of organization and taking my art as seriously as others around me clearly were. Today, I have taken a major step toward the next chapter of my life. I guess in reality, it’s just forms and government numbers, but when I was speaking with the surprisingly kind and helpful woman at the IRS tonight, my dreams seemed a lot more real. I officially named my business. It’s a name I’ve been using for years, but now somehow it was as if I was suddenly taking myself more seriously.
I have a lot of work in front of me now. Big plans. Goals. The cataloging of negatives continues. Four thousand photographs down, only 31,000 more to go. And I seem to be taking another thousand or so a month, probably more, so I’m not getting any closer to being caught up. But that’s good. It feels like living. Creating.
There will be exhibitions of my work. Soon here in Chicago, then New York and Paris. I will publish several books in the coming years as well. I will continue my foray into fashion and art with my new muse. I will make photographs that will feed my being. I will be inspired by what is around me.
“Oh, and this is the photographer, Billy Sheahan.” Tonight I raise my glass…. to me!