For me I often find that my thoughts are a culmination of several days of experiences. A few days ago we had a power failure where I live and it lasted almost three days. Living without power was fine for day one, difficult for day two and I found myself irritated on day three. Sleeping in 54 degree temperatures and using emergency equipment made me appreciate the things I often take for granted and also taught me how fragile life can be.
My own uncle battles every day for each day because of his very advanced cancer. A close friend recently lost his father and was lamenting on New Year’s Day how his dad had a new issue each day due to his loss of memory. The negative effects of poor leadership at work due to petty fear has weighed heavily on my mind and the realization that we each have difficult choices to make has added to that burden.
I have also discovered that photography is an immense outlet for my soul. I have not been out shooting for a very long time and without realizing that void, it had affected me in a very negative way. The events I mentioned before can take a toll on my subconscious and not having an outlet is not healthy for me.
Two days ago Tracy and I were invited to Diane and Bob Varner’s home for dinner. Diane is an accomplished photographer who we just met face to face back in November for Tracy’s birthday. We both had an immediate connection with them and have been grateful for their new friendship. During the evening we spoke of many things one of them being art and photography or more accurately the creative process. During one of many conversations, Diane mentioned that she has reached a place where she only produces art that meets her standards, pieces that she enjoys. We both agreed when one reaches that place, an artist has much personal freedom. Her words were very poignant as recently I have realized that my own participation in photo blogs has limited my own growth. A site where I participate on a regular basis has some remarkable work. But I’ve found that I have been taking and submitting only those images which I feel will be published and are not my best work. In essence, I had begun to play to the crowd and in my own mind begun that slippery slide toward artistic compromise. Much of my work is hard to view as it deals with a side of life that is not ‘pretty,’ but I feel are some of my best pieces.
I had taken the day off from work yesterday, so I told Tracy that we would go up to the City to take some shots. It’s been a very long time and I had a great need to express myself in a way that moves me. Several events happened during our excursion that I will not forget. We stopped at a coffee shop to take a break from our shooting. Tracy needed to use the rest room, but a homeless woman was using those facilities. When she emerged from the bathroom, she came outside where I was sitting waiting for Tracy. She noticed my camera gear and we began a conversation. She mentioned that she had some photos she would like me to view, and pulled an envelope of them out of her grocery cart to show me. They were photos of her cat and just like any pet owner, they were of the animal in various states of play. We spoke at length about the photos and her cat and at the end of our conversation, we said goodbye. As we left Tracy told me that people who were walking by when we were in conversation didn’t want to look at the homeless couple. She and I both agreed that everyone deserves the dignity of acknowledgement and it was a very good lesson for both of us.
Then as we began shooting on Market Street a homeless man approached me to compliment my camera. We began a conversation about photography and cameras. He knew volumes about camera gear and photography. We spoke of digital versus film, film versus video and the importance of dramatic light. I told him that I had photographed him before our conversation and the reason I noticed him was simply because of his kind face. He smiled and we said our goodbyes.
About 30 minutes later another homeless man who I have seen many times on Market Street approached me to start a conversation. I made mention that the crowd was sparse and it must affect his ability to panhandle. He laughed and said that the recent storms were the main reason for the thinning crowds, but was happy that Mac World was coming as “computer types give us money all the time, so next week will be very good.” I laughed at his comment and said that every job has cyclical sales periods. We both laughed and then said our goodbyes.
I didn’t get many shots today, but I got something much more valuable. I was reminded yet again that each of us is not defined by what we do, the type of car we drive, the brand or model of camera we choose to buy. No, we are each defined by who we are and for those who never consider the thin line that separates those who are fortunate against those who are not, think again. We are all lucky to interact with those around us and can benefit from all as long as we are open to that path.
I was reminded today in the most unusual way to be true to myself, to pursue what I know to be right whether it be in art, life or work. The integrity of who we are is not something that can be bought, only sold. So I will remind myself over and over again that if we allow ourselves – comfort can be exaggerated into something none of us want to utter, the sale of our own personal integrity.