Like most artists I struggle with many facets of my own work. Perhaps the most difficult personal questions have been “Just where is my work going? What does it mean? What do I plan to do with my photography?” In the beginning, just producing an acceptable photograph was enough. Then it was rediscovering so many of the venues around me that I had taken for granted, but was able to look anew at the wondrous world around me. That morphed into a personal need for artistic recognition. My goals then metastasized into the pursuit of name recognition in my own small world. But as with all things that encase a quest for recognition, a hollow feeling ensues as quickly as those fleeting moments of recognition.
So about six months ago I decided to STOP. Not a halt in my pursuit of storytelling through my lens, but of the unhealthy and unproductive need to ‘get my name out there’ in hopes of getting an assignment of substance. Something funny happened during this self reflective and realistic time; I began to formulate moments of clarity for my work and it had little to do with what I produced through my lens.
Recently Tracy alerted me to an event here in the Bay Area we both felt would make good subject matter, The International Taiko Festival. So I wrote to them to offer our photographic services. I had mentioned a young woman’s name who I had met during a local Taiko performance and felt the need to write her to alert her to the fact that I had utilized her name when contacting the organization. When she responded I noticed that her vocation is affiliated with a local elementary school organization. For the past two years I have had an idea for a project where I would augment a school’s art program by giving kids disposable cameras to use in order to tell a story about their families. My goal was to offer young kids a creative conduit to tell their stories, one of paramount importance, their family. The concept is simple. The kids take their cameras home for one week and photograph their family life. Not what their members look like, but a bit about who they are in the eyes of the children. I would have their images developed and they would then place the images on a presentation board in preparation to tell their stories. During the final week, each child will present their photos and tell their stories to the rest of the class.
I was thrilled when she wrote back stating her interest in the project and we are in the midst of planning to implement this project for her non profit organization. And during my excitement of the prospect of planning and completing this project I had a profound moment of clarity in my pursuit of this art form. It had nothing to do with my own work of human story telling, but encouraging others to do so. If just one of these children finds their voice in this little project I will be thrilled.
In the most unexpected and profound ways this form of self expression I pursue continues to enrich my life in the most poignant and surprising ways. I never expected to share the rest of my life with a woman I met through photography, nor would I ever expect to find clarity in an equally unexpected way.
And dont forget those of us you have inspired to look through a digital lens (me included)and even if our work is not a patch on yours, our enjoyment is huge. Thank you Mark.
Thanks so much Bernie!