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Resolution One. Show Yourself.

Resolutions - Day 1 of 3

At every turn, our society tells me I’m not good enough. I don’t have the sexiest new sportscar. I don’t have a gigantic house with acres of property. I don’t have a country club membership. I can’t go to the movies every weekend to see the new Hollywood blockbuster. To me, an iPad is not a stocking stuffer. I can’t buy my wife a Lexus and wrap it up in a giant box for Christmas. That’s a lot of stuff I don’t have or can’t do. But that’s just the thing: it’s stuff. Stuff is not who we are. It’s what we hide behind. I’m just as guilty of that as any photographer, or any human being.

I often forget, as I think a lot of us do, that the most important thing is not the stuff you have or the tools with which you shoot. It’s the end result. As Vincent Versace reiterates time and time again, we are in the service of the print. The end result. No one cared how J.K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter stories. She could have typed them on a manual typewriter, put them into Microsoft Word, or written them out by hand in a spiral-bound notebook. The tools of the process make no difference…the result is still magical. If having the latest and greatest stuff was what made you good, then you could consider Shakespeare a hack. He wrote plays with a quill. Bach wrote hundreds of masterpieces the same way. Now anyone with a Mac and GarageBand can produce a studio-quality album of original music. But how many are Bach? Or Bernstein? Or Sondheim? Or Zimmer?

My stuff isn’t me. It’s what I hide behind. It gives me a way out. Something to blame it on when what I tried to do doesn’t succeed so I can to avoid feeling any shame or embarrassment. Here’s the thing: it doesn’t work.

As a society, we all work very hard to make sure we never feel the sharp sting of failure in any of our endeavors. Sometimes, though, failure, embarrassment and shame are necessary in order for us to learn and grow and become who we want to be. In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell noted that to become an expert in anything, you need about 10,000 hours worth of experience. It’s an astonishingly consistent number. Mozart, who we all think of as a child prodigy, still needed about 10,000 hours to become a master of his craft. Bill Gates already had about 10,000 hours worth of programming experience before launching any of the successes that have made him one of the richest people on the planet. There are no shortcuts. And the sooner we learn to embrace our failures, our shame, and our embarrassment and accept them as a necessary and even useful part of mastering the art and craft of photography (or any other profession), the sooner we will succeed.

The easiest way to do that? Show yourself. Be free of embarrassment about embarrassment. Use it. Learn from it. Show yourself and set yourself free to master your art, craft, and business.

Coming tomorrow: Resolution two has challenged me to rethink everything I hold sacred, just as it will challenge you.

Get ready. It’s go time.

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One more turn of the seasons

Thanksgiving

Turkeys have walked wild on this continent since the last ice age, whereas Old Europe was quite turkeyless.
Corn pudding may be the oldest New World comfort food; pumpkins and cranberries, too, are exclusively ours.

It’s all American, the right stuff at the right time.

To this tasty assembly add a cohort of female relatives sharing work and gossip in the kitchen, kids flopped on the
living room floor watching behemoth cartoon characters float down a New York thoroughfare on TV,
and men out in the yard pretending they still have the upper-body strength for lateral passes,
and this is a perfect American day. If we need a better excuse to focus a whole day on preparing one meal,
eating it, then groaning about it with smiles on our faces, just add a dash of humility and hallelujah. Praise the harvest.

We made it through one more turn of the seasons.

Barbara Kingsolver

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

All Hallows’ Eve

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Full in the passage of the vale, above,
A sable, silent, solemn forest stood;
Where nought but shadowy forms was seen to move,
As Idless fancied in her dreaming mood:
And up the hills, on either side, a wood
Of blackening pines, aye waving to and fro,
Sent forth a sleepy horror through the blood;
And where this valley winded cut, below,
The murmuring main was heard, and scarcely heard, to flow.

James Thomson (1700-1748)

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“All the stories of ghosts and goblins that he had heard in the afternoon, now came crowding upon his recollection.
The night grew darker and darker; the stars seemed to sink deeper in the sky, and driving clouds occasionally hid them from his sight.
In the centre of the road stood an enormous tulip-tree…
Its limbs were gnarled, and fantastic, large enough to form trunks for ordinary trees,
twisting down almost to the earth, and rising again into the air…”

Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow


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