A Baby Seller, an Overlooked Photographer, and an Invisible City

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This is the true story of a Baby Seller, an Overlooked Photographer, and an Invisible City…

These are their stories…

 

“DUN DUN”

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“If this was the US border, your numbers would be considered a success in keeping people OUT” - a hired tourism expert about my hometown of Butte, Montana.

 

But just 55 miles down mostly one-lane highways,

A town population more-horses-than-people thrives in tourism.

 

“Why are we invisible?

We are at the intersection of two major highways…

Why aren’t our billboards working?

They just drive right by and bring their tourism elsewhere…

What do they have we don’t?”

 

…………………………………………………………………………………….

 

The claw-foot tub Gerty The Baby Seller once likely bathed in is shoved in a corner in my studio’s storage room, next to the bin marked boys 2-3T winter clothes.

 

The alley I walk through to take the trash out was where she would pass newborn babies still wet from birth through the window of a car to the “new parents” arms.

 

The birth certificates were forged.

This was selling babies on the black market.

Many people believe they were illegitimate children of politicians and prostitutes.

Some have found half siblings via DNA blood tests.

 

This is my town.

 

My hometown of Butte, Montana is in my (very biased) opinion one of the most interesting places in the US.

 

Maybe it’s because I’m in love with layers of history, and past lives…

Walking the streets and imagining what it was like in the 1890’s.

Feeling the intricate details on an original door - and thinking about the mothers, brothers, children, from a century ago, seeing and feeling the exact same door.

Breathing in the haunting and moist always-50-degree-air deep in the belly of the underground mine tour.

 

Butte has all of these mind-tingling experiences.

But then why are we overlooked?

 

No Wait.

Being overlooked is an understatement…



 

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10 years ago as a budding photographer just one or so years into it, I remember thinking...

 

“Why are they just passing me by and booking everyone else?

What does my competition have that I don’t have?

Can’t they see I have so many cool things to offer if they’d just give me the chance?”

 

Eventually I would get more bookings…

...but once I raised my prices a handful of years ago, I would once again be left feeling like I was fighting a never-ending battle.

 

“Why are they just passing me by and booking everyone else?

What does my competition have that I don’t have?

Can’t they see I have so many cool things to offer if they’d just give me the chance?”

 

As you can see, being overlooked isn’t reserved for photographers.

Cities like mine are overlooked and passed right over.

The small hidden Chinese restaurant.

A child with 2 siblings.

The soft spoken girl in class.

 

Being overlooked isn’t reserved for any person, profession or place.

 

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So what does the competition have that we don’t?

 

Most likely, nothing.

As photographers, you and your competitors both likely have solid work...work that most people won’t know the difference between solid, good and great (but photographers will notice).

 

For my hometown, the simple answer is neither city really has anything the other doesn’t have.

That of course could be argued, as both cities have different assets.

 

But in general both cities are very historical and have many stories like the”Gertie” story.

Many similar experiences.

 

So than what gives?

 

I think this next chunk will explain a lot.

 

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Why does nobody stop in Good-Ol-Butte?

 

You take a stab at it.

Here are the billboards you’d see if traveling by our town.

***(Of course there are other tourism activities going on in other media, but this will give you an idea)

 

Billboard #1: “Stop in Butte and stay with us, we have free hot breakfast!”

Billboard #2: “Montana’s Premier Convenience Store!”

Billboard #3: “Visit Butte! Recreation! Berkeley Pit! Living History! Historic Homes and Buildings! Museums and Tours!”

 

Would you stop on your way through?

 

Would you make it your destination based off that?

 

Didn’t think so….

 

Why not?

 

Well, very simply put, there is no compelling reason to stop.

 

While the billboards...or “marketing” are true…

 

It’s that the “compelling” part is missing.

 

It isn’t communicated at ALL.

 

Everything communicated is something you can get

Every.

Single.

Place.

On.

Earth.

 

But it’s not my towns fault - it’s not for lack of trying.

 

We’re a small town without a big tourism marketing budget, and those hired likely aren’t marketing experts..

 

...Just like little old me those past years - in a small town with a small marketing budget, doing what I can.

 

I mean, how would they (and I) ever know how to market like the big-wig companies?

 

Are you seeing how this relates to your photo business?

 

Before I sign off -

 

I want to let you know that tomorrow I’m going to take this a step further on Facebook Live and share why a mediocre (but clean) motor lodge has become a destination for my husband and I…

 

I’ll share the high-level concept of making your photo business a “destination” instead of a “pass-through” starting tomorrow and throughout the next week.

 

Including marketing strategies the big-wigs use but are pretty much invisible to the rest of us.

 

But first - will you do me a favor?

Will you comment below, “when you’re driving on the highway, what makes YOU stop at an unplanned location (town, rest stop, little historical sign, whatever) and WHY?”

 

Cheers!

Lisa Edwards

 

P.S. Go ahead and click “like” on the fan page so you don’t miss the Facebook Live tomorrow (Wednesday) at 3 pm Mountain time (5 pm Eastern)