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“Express rather than Impress”

Those very words have been in the forefront of my mind since I read them. A month after returning from NYC visiting the cast and crew of Burn the Floor I read an interview where Kevin Clifton was being interviewed by Broadway Buzz. When asked about the differences between competing and performing, he told the interviewer, “I made the decision to join Burn the Floor, where I get much more license to express rather than impress.” There have been very few times over the past 10 years when I have pondered words spoken by another for a significant amount of time. I’m sure that this is due to two primary reasons. The first is that I respect Kevin as an artist and as a friend. Getting to know him over the past year and watching him perform with an abandon only associated with pure passion is truly inspiring. The second factor that fuels my thoughts about his sage words is my own struggle to separate myself from the small successes I have had in the photographic world. “Playing to the crowd” is something I have never wanted to do, yet through competitions and juried eyes, I had found myself giving more credence to the opinion of others than to myself. And that is a very dangerous slope to begin sliding toward.

There are certainly the realities of impressing those who pay me to capture imagery. My clients have an expectation of my work and separating the commerce portion of my craft from the expressive part was highlighted only after reading Kevin’s words. In so many ways my recent work is a vast departure from the past. But allowing myself to express how I feel through imagery is the reason I began this journey. My son is currently enrolled in a college photography course and was given an assignment to capture 15 images of ‘Light, Shapes and Shadows.” So on the evening before the assignment was due (teenagers!) we ventured to San Francisco International Airport to photograph scenes which represented his assignment. During that time I found myself shooting as I had in the beginning; with reckless abandon. I was not concerned about the results, but simply the pure joy of shooting and sharing time with my son. When I returned home and put my evening’s images up on the monitor, Tracy looked over and chuckled. I knew what her laughing meant. Yet it was of little consequence since the pure joy of shooting trumped the results. My son on the other hand produced 15 images to which his professor exclaimed, “You are the very first sophomore to ever have all 15 images tagged as well done.” High praise indeed, but at some point I will also remind my son to “Express rather than Impress.” Kevin, thank you for something that has changed my approach to my work more than you will ever know.

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