A lot of people have asked me about my upcoming travel schedule. In addition, I often get questions such as “who sends you here?” and “do you make a lot of money from this?” and “will you come to our meet?” and “where are you based?” (I’m based in Philadelphia) and so on. I decided that it’s time to write a blog to explain how this works! I should also mention that I am flattered and honored that anyone cares about which weightlifting meets I photograph.
First of all, my current upcoming schedule currently has three confirmed meets on it. First, I will be at USA Senior Nationals in Ohio in late July. Second, I will be at the World Championships in Poland in October. Third, I will be at the American Open in Dallas in early December. I plan on skipping the Pan Am Masters in Chicago (in a few weeks) as well as the Pan Ams in Venezuela in a month. I also don’t plan on being at the Junior Pan Ams in Chile. Of course, I will likely be at more than three meets between now and early December but I simply don’t have them on the travel schedule right now.
So, the next thing I should talk about is funding. How do these trips happen? Who sends me places? The answer is that I send me places. I pay for the whole thing out of pocket. Thus far, I have received $0.00 from others to help with travel. And that’s fine, I do this because I like to do it. But going to a meet can range in cost from a few hundred (ie, like when I went to the Pittsburgh Open, which is about a five hour drive for me) to several thousand (ie, like the Olympics, which were my most expensive trip because of the event tickets). So when people ask me to come to their local meets or even to national or international meets, my first thought is usually the cost of the trip and whether it fits into my budget for hookgrip. For instance, I would love to go to the Pan Ams in Venezuela but, as it is, I am doing at least three major international trips this year (Europeans, Junior Worlds and Worlds) and I need to cut it off somewhere. So Pan Ams got cut because it would be another couple thousand dollars in expenditure and it didn’t rank ahead of those other three meets in my mind.
I get a lot of questions about whether I make good money from hookgrip. My internal reaction is to laugh. I lose money from hookgrip. Sure, I sell some t-shirts and posters here and there but I make very little from those because I get expensive t-shirts which I sell for a low price (much lower than others selling the same shirt) and printing one-off posters is not cheap so a large part of what I’m charging is my cost. The t-shirts and posters do not come close to covering the travel costs alone. And, just to be clear, I am not complaining about this at all. Like I said above, I do this because I like to do it. And I know that I could do more things to make money from hookgrip and maybe one day I will start doing some of those things. But hopefully this explains why I can’t go to every meet when each trip means somewhere between several hundred dollars or several thousand dollars in additional expenditure that is typically not recouped (the only exception is the 2013 Arnold — I actually made money on that trip because of the hookgrip booth).
Okay, so how do I decide where to go? I’m looking to get the best ratio of pictures of big lifts to cost that I can get. That’s why I went to the Europeans but I would skip something like an IWF Grand Prix (much fewer lifters). It’s also the reason why I went to the 2012 Canadians (bigger lifters in Olympic year, cheaper to get to) and skipped the 2013 Canadians (smaller lifts, Edmonton harder to get to). For US meets, big lifts are obviously relative but the big benefit to US meets are that people will actually buy their pictures (which helps to offset cost) and almost everyone is on facebook which helps to increase the publicity gained from photographing the meet. In addition to all of that, I am typically looking to get pictures of lifters who I haven’t gotten pictures of yet. In the case of something like Junior Pan Ams in Chile, there’s no reason for me to self-fund that trip simply because the best lifters going on that trip were, in almost all cases, in Peru at Junior Worlds. So I’d be going to take pictures of the same lifters or worse lifters. It’s the same reason that I didn’t attend Junior Nationals in California. I figure that all of the best USA Juniors will either be at the American Open, Arnold, Junior Worlds or Nationals — the other lifters at the meet simply were not worth the cost of flying across the country, staying in a hotel for several nights, etc. And that’s not a knock against them in any way as they are obviously decent lifters if they’re lifting at a national-level meet — it’s just an economic reality that I can better apply those dollars to another trip.
So now you hopefully have an idea of my mindset when it comes to which meets to attend. It all comes down to lifts, cost, uniqueness and so on. I skip at least 10 meets a year that I’d really like to attend. And I don’t want any of this to be construed as me complaining about anything. I knew exactly what I was getting myself into when I started doing this and I am really happy with how things are going. I don’t mind losing money on it because I enjoy it. I hope to be able to keep doing this for a long time and I’m glad that people enjoy the pictures. Looking forward to Nationals, Worlds, the 2013 AO and hopefully a bunch of other meets this year!