“You’re the one… I just feel it” I just sat there kinda trying to get my bearings… Victor Monsour was talking to me about buying his photography business but this moment was so surreal. I said “Victor I would love to buy your business but you need to understand I have only been a photographer for a little over a year and there is no way I could possibly come close to doing the quality of work you do!” He just looked at me completely optimistically and stated.. “You’re the one… I just have a feeling… you will figure it out! you will be fine!” I just looked at him like he was crazy… He went on “You can talk… and you like people and you have a great personality” I had experienced this feeling before… it was that feeling you get just before you really do something really stupid; something like trying to ski around a corner of the Calcasieu river full of cypress knees and over estimate how tall your crotch is compared to the cypress knees. I imagined what it would be like to be a photographer for a living… up until that day my photography career provided at best extra cash that I could scrounge as side jobs. Then reality came into sharp focus as I remember thinking that if I messed this opportunity up that every single person in Lake Charles would know that I torpedoed the most successful photography business in the city.
I had heard of Victor and his amazing photography, I had seen his work since I was a little boy and my mother told stories about Victor bringing his film to be developed at Photo & Copy where she worked at the time. All I knew was that he was hands down the most expensive and most popular photographer in Southwest Louisiana. Just a few months before I met Victor for the first time his name had come up in a conversation with a colleague as we discussed how hard it was to break into commercial photography. He said “We need clients like Victor Monsour’s clients… if we can just get a few of his commercial clients we would do great.” I thought about what he said for a moment; I have never been someone that competes by trying to take from my competitors. I believe if you work on delivering the best product and service that people will talk about you and naturally migrate towards the best fit for them. So I simply said “We just need to work on being the best in the city… if we focus on being the best photographers to work with and we create amazing images then when Victor retires his clients will be looking for someone like us.”
As a serial entrepreneur and independent consultant I had struggled for the past 3 years learning not to have business partners, I lost my second vehicle and was pretty much at the end of my rope and looking for options… one of the problems with being an entrepreneur is that once you have tasted what its like to make money without punching a time clock you are ruined to work a regular job and you will do just about anything to avoid the grind of an hourly job, but I had pretty much exhausted all my options. I was at the point of taking whatever came along so I figured I would strike out on my own again and become a freelance photographer. I had resigned myself to working some meaningless grind of a job and doing photography gigs on the side to supplement my income.
It was literally the same week I decided that entrepreneurship was a pipe dream and decided to get a job at the Dollar Store as a stocker or maybe a shift manager as a sign of surrender. (I literally had picked up an application and had it on the dashboard of my minivan waiting to be filled out.) I was out wrapping up my last business endeavor and stopped to congratulate some graphic artist friends on a recent win. They asked me what my next step was and all I could say is “I have no idea, I guess I am gonna try to do some photography”, I congratulated them and went on my way.
A little over an hour later I received a call from Victor’s wife Tamara wanting to set up an appointment about a possible business opportunity…I was freaking out so much that I put her on hold for a second so I could pull myself together. I could not have even imagined what would transpire from that phone call.
So here I was trying to be as nonchalant as possible, eating my General Tso’s chicken in Jo Jo’s Bistro, and trying to wrap my head around the possibility of buying the most well known photography business in Lake Charles, while trying to keep up the conversation with Victor and Tamara, at the same time observing that just about everyone that entered the restaurant knew Victor and came over to say hi…This man knew literally everyone, and I was suddenly aware of how much of a nobody I was even in this small city of Lake Charles.
I still can’t believe it has only been two years… Little did any of us know that only 2 weeks after finalizing the paper work that Victor would take a turn for the worse and that Alzheimers would begin to take over his life. Alzheimers and I have a bad history already, I remember so many days visiting my grandmother for over 15 years watching the disease take everything from her… from us. It was no better watching the Monsour’s have so much taken from them.
Here 2 years later I find myself still wondering what he was thinking imagining that I would know how to do this… one of the things he told me… “you won’t be me, don’t even try to be…it took me over 35 years of photography to be me. You have to have your own look…some people will like your work, others won’t, you just have to do your best to figure out what works best for you. The thing I like about you is how you talk about things, you love people and you are really passionate about your work… that’s what makes me so sure that you will be a great photographer.”
So here’s to the Legendary Victor Monsour – may he rest in peace and may the images and the memories he captured be passed on for a thousand years.
A little about Victor – he opened Monsour’s Photography in 1980 in Lake Charles where he provided award-winning photographic service. His rare talent and gift of capturing moments that celebrate life live on through his artistry. Many of his photographs are so iconic that they have become familiar scenes to many in Southwest Louisiana. Victor retired in 2015 having provided 35 years of photographic service to the community. He continued his passion for photography in his retirement, particularly his love for the outdoors and his grandchildren. He was able to use his diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s as a platform to raise support and awareness for the disease. Victor passed on to the next life on December 3, 2017
Click Here To see Victor’s Full Obituary
Victor’s extensive film and digital archive spanning decades has been donated to the McNeese State University Archive for cataloging and safekeeping.