I believe totally that nothing in the world comes for free. Being a spiritual counsellor and healer for last 8 years, I have helped many people accross the globe with their relationship problems, health problems, spiritual insights, confusion about life, guilt, sins, and whatever they could imagine. They came to me for healing but ended up questioning me about god or life in general a lot of times. And in all the advices or thoughts I have shared, there has been one thing common which starts from my own - MYSELF!
I am not a famous artist yet or a hotshot photographer in microstock. I am struggling with the harshness of life like everyone else, ended up in loans due to the medical expenses of my near and dear ones. And hence in debt like almost everyone else. Never in my life I have charged for my healing or counseling sessions from anyone. Earlier I did it as a social service.
Eventually with time I started realizing that we all live in a concept told in one of the famous songs "The Circle of Life". If you give, regardless of what it is, it will come back to you in some form. In the same way if you take something, you will have to pay for it in someway. I started realizing this after people whom I had counselled or healed for free started sending me expensive gifts as a devotional offering or a gift with love. Someway through which they could express their gratitude. So overwhelming was the response or rather I should say, the gifts were so expensive that I started feeling guilty for accepting them. I couldn't really feel good even if I was having things that I would have after 5 years in my life being financially progressed.
I started a new system of charging these people. First, I started telling them fees like I want love from you eternally, or I want us to be friends forever. Things like this are good for a spiritual person to give and take, but not for those who are not spiritual. So those who were not spiritual were still stuck with a guilt of not giving me enough or as much as they could. So I started to ask them for a DARK CHOCOLATE. Which I love a lot! Its non-expensive and a sweet (Should i say bitter!) gift. In someway they were giving me back what I gave them in some form.
When I started shooting for DT, which is my first microstock site, I came across a big hurdle - MODEL RELEASES. It was very very hard for me as I am from a country where most of photogenic people are poor and illiterate. Forget about having a house, they don't even have good clothes to wear. How do I get model releases signed by them? Their signatures are the only thing they can write (rarely) THEIR NAMES!! Thankfully the cellphone industry in India is so cheap lately that a person gets a cellphone for as low as $15 and a lifetime connection for $10 incoming calls.
My photography suddenly started getting restricted to people who could write as well as had a contact number, in no way in the world I can imagine them having an email ID for next 10 years, forget about a model website. (P.S. I am not talking of all models in my portfolio, but if you see 80% are poor people). These people don't have permanent telephone connections at their home as they are always moving around except for the elders in their house who don't need a phone, so they have cellphone which is a lot cheaper, almost free in comparison to a permanent line.
I always do one huge concert in a year for charity where I donate either clothes, food or books to poor children or sometimes even computers to a poor school. My photography hadn't been involved in charity until model releases came up. I suddenly realized that though these poor innocent people were happy signing model releases just because they felt great that someone was clicking them. They hardly might have 10 photos of them clicked in entire life. They never had any issues in giving their numbers, address or signing the model releases not minding whether i sell the pictures to an agency or a newspaper. They felt they were important.
I somewhat felt that earning less or more money on the expense of these poor people was somewhat bad. In my heart I was feeling very sad after I signed my first poor model for MR. I couldn't sleep well that night. The next day I woke up and went to the same place which is 50kms from my house, and I paid them money for the amount signed. I told them that the photograph I had clicked had been accepted by a newspaper and those were the fees. The people did ask me about the newspapers name and all, but I told them I was not allowed to tell that by the editor. I had to lie or come up with some reason but for their good. I was not worrying whether the picture I click of theirs sells or not.
Eventually over the time I did earn from that pictures at the same time I started making this a practice to pay the model an substantial amount. which they would normally earn after 2 long days of hard work. And I mean really hard. None of you will believe if I tell you that they work from morning 6 to night 8 on the side of the road without a roof in harsh sunlight just to earn $1 or $2 which is around 50 to 100 Indian Rupees. I started making this a habit of paying them. Lately in one village I saw a boy, who turned out to be a relative of my friend in the same village. In his case, instead of paying him a full amount that I have decided now, I paid him half the amount and from the rest of the amount I brought him chocolates that he had never dreamt of having so many together.
My story of the "Circle of Life" started with a dark chocolates and is progressing with many chocolates in the hands of this boy here so cute. I wish all of you think in the same way not just for the models we click but anywhere, where you feel that you are getting something for free. This is true spirituality.
Photo credits: , Nikhil Gangavane.