Yesterday I updated my bio section on this blog. I alluded to a conversation I had in which “a wise man once told me ‘You can never take a picture, see? They have to give it to you.'” After rereading the paragraph I felt like maybe that sounded made up or found somewhere on the streets of Pinterest, and so I thought I’d introduce you to Fred himself. I met Fred at Cornerstone Music Festival in Bushnell, IL during the summer of 2011. I was making a point of taking portraits of strangers at the time and asked if I might chat with him for a while and maybe get a picture of him at the end. As it happens, Fred is an artist and lives in a commune in Chicago. He, too, is a photographer. I wrote our conversation down because I loved what he had to say and I think about it all the time in regards to the art I create and the connection it creates in me to the people I work with.
“Everyone asks me “did you take that picture?”. I always say “no, they gave it to me”. You never take a picture. Someone must give it to you. When I painted I started with a blank canvas and created from my mind. When I photograph my mind must be blank and the creation is already there before me. It’s the relationship you have with someone, even if it’s just for a second. Even if you don’t talk. Your eyes meet and there’s a relationship between you and who you’re photographing.”
Otherwise Retitled: A 365 Project Turned 30 Day Project, but a Lesson Nonetheless
Forty years ago, or so it seems (was it really only two months ago?), I started this project to push myself to get the camera out and practice every single day. You can read about the decision behind it here. I’ve been intending to write out an eloquent explanation on where that plan went wrong and ask for your forgiveness on behalf of my abandonment making promises for a more diligent future between us. However, I feel that the jist can be summed up in the words of Sweet Brown.
No, but really.
Right at the thirty day mark of my project I made a last minute decision to go on a trip to LaCrosse, WI for a weekend. The point of that trip was to help out at a weekly youth outreach and play music while passing out candy to kids during the local Halloween event and volunteer at the Salvation Army during dinner. I had to make a quick decision to bring my camera or leave it home, and being that we would be sleeping on floors and going with the flow of the weekend I left it behind because a.) sometimes carrying $2000 worth of equipment can hold you back and b.) sometimes worrying about taking pictures keeps you from being present in the moment. Besides point a. and b. I had been feeling a little guilty about the project from a learning standpoint. There were days that turned to nights before I had a chance to get out my camera and by that time I was exhausted and had very little time to set anything up and we ended up with this nonsense:
Which is alright I suppose. What is it though? A stump? An advertisement for the emerald ash borer from their housing department? Certainly nothing I worked for. Certainly nothing I put effort into. To be sure, there were days that I thought out ideas and put my heart into the shoot, but it didn’t end up being the norm and at that point it was wasting time. This was running through my mind as I left my gear behind for that weekend in LaCrosse and when I got back I decided it just wouldn’t be worthwhile to continue the project the same way.
I am pleased that I stuck it out, in whatever capacity, for one month. I am pleased with the perseverance there, that I haven’t been able to contrive before. I would like to try again, but that time is not now. I can say that my camera is out much more than it used to be and that is worth something. I can say that my eyes are seeing many more opportunities and ideas come more easily than they had been and that, too, is worth something. Worth very much to me, in fact.
I don’t think there I will ever be at a place when there really is “time fo’ that”, but I do hope to try another project sometime in the near future. I’ll keep you posted on personal and professional work in the meantime. Thank you to everyone who’s offered feedback and an especial thank you to anyone who’s actually read this entire post. You guys are the best.
Remember two posts ago when made you all jealous of that really awesome sister of mine? Yeah, well, this post is sort of about her too, or her offspring at least. I had the privilege to meet up with my sister, brother-in-law, and nephews last weekend in Mackinac City, MI, but was also surprised by being able to also see my mother. Although I had spoken to both of them about meeting up, I was lead to believe my mom wouldn’t be able to make it due to the upcoming elections- (she’s a county clerk… have you hugged your county clerk today?). After she dried my tears of shock and joy we were able to grab a few photos, eat lunch and hangout.
So much joy, so much joy.
There’s Jack Tyler
Crazy boy. Wildly unhindered imagination. You’re too loud and too silly. I don’t mind though, you know that. You were the first baby I ever really held and you’ve held my heart ever since. I love hearing the things you think of, your stories and your dreams. I know you’re different and I love you for it. Crazy boy, wild boy, you keep me dreaming.
Next is Archer Zander:
Sweet boy. Handsome boy. You’re going to get tired of hearing about your beautiful eyes someday, but boy they are beautiful. No picture could really do those eyelashes justice, but you know I’ll keep trying. Your humor is the best and I love your reenactment of “what does the fox say?”, “I don’t care, I love it”, and of course your “moves like Mick Jagger”. Of course that hardcore metal face up there ^ is pretty good too. Sweet boy, handsome boy, I don’t care- I love you.
And last, but not least: Hudson Korben
You goofy baby. Roly-poly one. I hope you always stay your size and let me cuddle you and kiss your chubby cheeks. Sigh. But I know you won’t. You’ll grow up to be some adventurous spirit and fill your lungs with raucous laughter and your feet with unbridled dancing. I know, because that’s already true about you. But for now I’ll happily enjoy your babyness. Your BIG BIG “ROOOOOAR!”‘s and your “PARROT! SKWAAAACK!”‘s. Your animal noises really are superb. You’re a supreme ham, a happy actor, and a lovable baby. Stay a baby until I can come see you again, ok?
They really are the sweetest little things.
When I was a child I was always unabashedly aware that I, without a doubt, had hit the jackpot as far as big sisters go. Although we have different mothers, my sister and I have never counted each other as anything short of fully kin- no half-sistering it for us. Being ten years apart in age, I’ve always considered her a grown up; after all, from the view of a five-year-old, fifteen-year-olds are obviously the latest word in the adult world of cool and hipness. I start at five because I really don’t have many memories before than, however there are plenty of home videos to vouch for her involvement in my pre-five life.
As a small youngin’ I held my sister in reverent awe- that one so cool as her would choose to play barbies with me, would choose to teach me the important things of life like how to sing camp songs and how to paint on my easel. She supplied the My Little Pony’s and the original scented Strawberry Shortcake dolls that she once played with. As I grew older she would take me to the zoo and make crafts for me. It later would be discovered that it was she who dressed up like the Easter Bunny to pay me an Easterly visit when the magic of childhood belief was waning. When I was newly a teen she introduced me to the terribly great movies of the ’80s, (like The Heather’s: the original Mean Girls).
Because of her I became an Aunt. Because of her I ran my first 5K. Because of her I flinch every time I hear The Little Drummer Boy, for fear someone will beat me in time with the “Puh-rum-pum-pum-pum”.
Now that I’m older I still look to with amazement. She’s a wife, a mama of three crazy boys, a gourmet cupcake connoisseur, a book of craft knowledge and girl-scout songs. She’s been my childhood friend and companion, she’s comforted me during the waves of my teen years and stood by my side during the first few steps of adulthood. And to her I am forever grateful to be a little sister.
Lisa Louise, you turd, I love you forever and always, miles and hours away each and everyday.