I’ve been driving up and down 280 in Silicon Valley the past few weeks working hard to launch my new book and documentary film project from my work here in the 80’s and 90’s. More on that soon. Although it’s going amazingly well, it’s still really, really, really, really, really hard to get sponsors and funding for these kinds of projects. At the same time I’ve been updating my portfolio (with my amazing new agents at Stockland Martel) and preparing a new web site with LiveBooks new custom service, writing this blog, and beginning a new blog for LiveBooks on the business of photography (coming soon). I’ve also completed a rough cut on a short film I directed about immigrants in NYC and giving talks around the country while also working on ad campaigns, production and other projects.
What am I doing? Basically I’m starting over. The economy just makes it all harder but I’m putting myself in the same boat with any other photographer starting or redirecting their career. This is the same crazy pace that ten years ago led me to burn out completely so I can’t help but think about the message I’m sending in my essays and public talks. Damn, I hate having to follow my own advice. Of course I’m in a good position and having fun with this new phase, but the same principles apply. I have to keep honing my vision and get my work out there. I have to hustle as much as any young photographer starting out. That’s the way it is.
We had drinks last night with a young woman considering a career in photography and the issue of “paying your dues” came up. I told the story about the time we hired “a famous photographer’s” assistant who one day threw the negs he was filing back down on the light table and announced “I’m too good for this shit! I paid my dues!” And so forth. Well, sweet Jesus I was so glad for him. I sure wish I could say the same. Please don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.
There is no such thing as being paid in full in the dues department. If you believe that, chances are you are on a plateau, comfortable and resisting the increasingly obvious problems related to stasis in a creative live. You might be heading for hack-ville if as I believe we must challenge ourselves periodically to grow. By challenging yourself you are automatically making your life more complicated, stressful and taking risks. This is the requirement of excellence, of fulfilling your potential. It just goes with the territory….
I think it’s so interesting and consistent with my point that Chase Jarvis is writing about how he is pushing himself creatively to take risks; he’s shooting landscapes, portraits, every day life with his iPhone and probably next with his hotel room converted into a pinhole camera — see Chase Jarvis Blog: Escaping Your Portfolio — this stuff lights up my brainstem like a strong snort of powdered jalapeños. He is absolutely right not to sit back on his accomplishments, and I’m inspired by what he’s doing. I hear that damn voice in my head: get busy, get busy you lazy bastard!
For those starting out, suffice to say that to reach your goals the amount of effort you need to put in will be SHOCKINGLY surprising to you; it will seem endless, unfair, irrational. And once you get to the first goal prepare to do all that all over again every five or ten years out if you want to stay relevant, fresh and ultimately, happy.
So yeah, I”m probably pushing things a bit more than I should, but this time around I am heeding my own words in that I have clearly chosen a path I want to follow that I think is my true path, and which I feel I was born to follow. This time I’m not compromising–as much. I’m actually content and in the most creative space I’ve been in for years. I remember how a large part of the insanity of my early days was not having a clear plan, not knowing the price for my dreams in terms of the amount of work I would have to put in. But once you go through the fire of life and actually survive there is not much that can stop you if you believe in something strongly enough.
It is definitely easier now because I know the amount of insane effort required. Because I’ve succeeded while taking risks in the past the fear is much diminished or mostly gone. What the fuck, just move ahead. Have faith. Now for some sleep.