The Bottom Line

Today marks two years since the big L. That’s “L” as in layoff.

That’s right. Here’s some paperwork and the door. You are done. Effective immediately.

Never mind the wedding at the courthouse in 30 minutes. It’s the one I’d waited more than a year to photograph for my weekly photo column in the paper.

Never mind the awards and accolades I won for the company over the past five plus years.

Never mind how hard I worked. I still remember the night I finished an eight-hour plus shift only to come home and receive a call from an editor about a possible train-pedestrian fatality. I was back on the street within minutes and filed photographs on deadline for the next day’s front page.

None of it matters. In fact, nothing matters except the bottom line – as in the company’s bottom line.

For the past few years we’ve all heard about this glorious place called Fargo, North Dakota. It’s a city where a couple of special bubbles exist. First, we heard about the housing bubble. More recently, talk and media reports have focused on the unemployment bubble. Boy, you sure are lucky to live and work in Fargo. I’ve heard that comment – or something like it – from a lot of folks who don’t reside in the upper Midwest.

You betcha I’m lucky to live here, but I’m not immune from unemployment. I’m not exempt from layoffs just because I live in a place where the economy isn’t as bad as another place. I too collected unemployment, filed weekly eligibility reviews and navigated a bureaucratic process that is both humiliating and humbling.

I am not alone. The numbers assure me there are lots of folks dealing with layoffs, cuts, reduced hours, reduced wages, furloughs and other economic-based unpleasantness. Yes, even in this ice box of an on-the-verge-of-another-record-breaking-flood place unemployment and underemployment exist.

That’s what this – not just my this – but lots of folks’ this is all about. Someone else’s bottom line.

How many people in our community received The Letter and The Talk. Perhaps, your letter said as mine did, “Due to economic reasons, we are doing a reduction in workforce. Effective today, you are being laid off from … .” Perhaps, not.

I know it isn’t personal or about my performance as a worker. It’s about money. It’s about being profitable. However, it is also about my life, my livelihood and – as I’ve come to learn during the past 24 months – my identity.

Effective today, my colleague Sarah McCurdy, who also experienced the reality of her employer’s bottom line in 2009, and I announce The Bottom Line.

This bottom line is a documentary project. It seeks to tell the stories of 29 individuals whose employment in Fargo has been or is being impacted, reduced or eliminated due to economic reasons. Our intent is to give a face and voice to people in our community who know all too well about the bottom line. We believe a community conversation about the recession, recovery and economic realities is valuable and worthwhile. We believe stories about real people are important.

We invite anyone interested in submitting their story for consideration to complete an informational questionnaire and submit it by May 10. Copies of the questionnaire are also available in the lobby of 417 Main Ave. in downtown Fargo.

We encourage everyone to join us on facebook and spread the word about The Bottom Line.

If you have questions or comments, post them on The Bottom Line facebook page or email us at thebottomlinefargo [at] gmail [dot] com.

We believe these stories matter and deserve sharing.

Thanks for reading. – Ann

Fargo Birth Photographer

It’s hard to believe an entire year has passed since the birth of Claire and Elise. I’ve had the pleasure of photographing the girls frequently over the past year and thought it would be fun to share a few photographs from their arrival.

I remember struggling to get to and into the hospital [there was a proper North Dakota blizzard going on]. I remember the warmth and calmness inside the hospital room. I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of joy and relief as first Claire and then Elise were born. I remember the exact moment parents Erin and Dean agreed on the girls’ names [photo upper left].

To Claire and Elise, I wish you both a happy birthday. To Erin and Dean, thank you for allowing me to photograph your family again and again.

Enjoy! Ann

P.S. If you are interested in learning more about birth photography, feel free to get in touch. Also, if you are interested in reading about how I got into birth photography [or if you just like photos of newborns and their happy parents], feel free to read this previous journal entry.

Fargo Birth Photographer

Flooding Red River

It looks like we’re headed for another record-breaking flood here in the Red River Valley. Today’s announcement from the National Weather Service only confirmed what just about everybody in town already knew – we have a lot of snow [with more on the way since it is only January] and the ground is super saturated. I thought it would be appropriate to include a few photographs from the 2010 spring flood as part of My [Partial] Year in Pictures entry. As an aside, I will be buying a new pair of boots in preparation for photographing flood fighters.

Now, back to 2010.

Last year marked my first year as a full-time freelancer [i.e. self-employed]. I got an office, a logo, business cards, this online journal and website, a second camera body, lights and lots of other stuff. More importantly, I found a sense of purpose and commitment to my creative self. The photographs included here represent just a few of the people and places I had the pleasure of photographing in 2010.

I have a great feeling about the coming year and am looking forward to all that is to come [except maybe for the flood]. Best, Ann

Red River Flood Preparations

Flooding Red River

Flower Girl At The Salon

Hard Times

Gymnastics Dynasty

Gymnastics + Clay County Fair

In The Heart Of America's Duck Factory

fargo wedding photographer

My last wedding of 2010 was extra special for at least three reasons: location, timing and size.

Alex and Mike were married on a chilly, but clear December evening at A Friend’s House in Kragnes, Minn., which is a few miles north of Moorhead. A tiny chapel located on the grounds of A Friend’s House – formerly The White House – is where my husband and I were married on a stormy June evening. Over the years I’ve photographed heaps of weddings in Fargo-Moorhead and the surrounding region. However, I hadn’t been back to the chapel in Kragnes since my own wedding day. Call me sentimential, but the moment I walked into the chapel a rush of good memories flooded back.

It’s probably no surprise that folks around here tend to marry during the warmer months. Winter weddings – especially those held in the evening like Alex and Mike’s celebration – can be more challenging to photograph because of the cold and darkness. I welcome a good challenge.

Lastly, it’s always a treat to be invited to document a couple’s special day. That’s even more the case when a couple’s plan and vision are a good match for me and my services. Last spring as I was shaping my business plan I made a decision to offer wedding photography services only to couples planning small and intimate weddings. There were [and are] a number of reasons for that decision, which I can elaborate on in a future journal entry. At the time, I wasn’t sure how that choice would play out. So, I was thrilled to work with several couples in 2010 – including Alex and Mike – whose weddings were a perfect fit.

Enough of my ramblings, let’s get to the photographs!

Warmest congratulations to the couple and their beautiful family. -Ann

fargo wedding photographer

fargo wedding photographer

fargo wedding photographer

fargo wedding photographer

fargo wedding photographer

fargo wedding photographer

fargo wedding photographer

fargo wedding photographer

fargo wedding photographer

fargo wedding photographer

fargo wedding photographer

fargo wedding photographer

fargo wedding photographer

Ann Arbor Miller's Goals for 2011

I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions. However, I have come to accept that anything I do to make myself more accountable – whether to others or myself – is a useful thing to do.

So, I’ve written down my creative goals for the year and am sharing them here. They are listed in no particular order. Thanks to photographer friends Britta Trygstad [you can read Britta’s creative goals here] and Rob Tannenbaum for inspiring this endeavor.

Here’s to a fabulous 2011. Best, Ann