I have spent a lot of time purging things lately and one being my enormous collection of analog and digital images. For the most part, it became obvious that the commercial work that I had done for the money years ago, looked dated and wasn’t worth keeping. However, the images
that I shot for personal projects were timeless even though they had been shot decades ago.
I have grown weary in our youth obsessed culture that as an older creative female many times I am being dismissed – I have become invisible. I don’t say this to complain and I’m certainly not the first one to echo these sentiments, but I found that it was beginning to undermine my self-worth. As I looked through some work that I hadn’t seen in many years
I realized that I am reacting to people who are judgmental and ageist. There are two things that I can’t change – my height and my age – so I thought that it does me no good to care about others who define me and my value by my age. Rather than feel bad about the longevity of my career, I choose to tell myself that I must be doing something right to be in such a competitive business like photography all these years. The answer is that I love to create photographs and now videos – it’s something that I HAVE to do. It keeps me alive.
Regardless of where you are in your career, take the time to shoot what you care about. It’s the most important thing you can do, not only for your career but for your self-esteem.
- Assuming it’s an idea you are passionate about and not doing it to second guess the market – it will be a reminder of who you were then. It’s also great to put new eyes on it a second time around.
- When you’re paying for it yourself, you’ll work harder. Failure is not an option because there is no failure.
- There are no restrictions or mandates – the world is your oyster. If you dream it, you can probably make it happen.
- Working on a personal project is great for making new contacts. You learn to be tenacious in selling your idea in order to gain access to someone or a place. It’s much harder to sell yourself and an idea when you don’t have a letter of assignment from a major magazine.
- Most likely these will be the images that won’t get old even as you do.
How can I possibly sum up a 5 day trip to Cuba, a country that up until recently was the “forbidden fruit” for US citizens. That in and of itself is what made me want to go there. My childhood impressions of Cuba came from seeing Ricky Ricardo on the “I Love Lucy” show and watching the Cuban Missile Crisis play out in my living room on our
TV set. What I saw as a child, was enticing with its music and its passion, and threatening, all at the same time.
I had an opportunity to join a group of travel writers who were traveling to Cuba, on a “people to people” program. The purpose of the trip was to make cultural connections with the people of the country through various planned interactions. As a “people shooter” and a photographer who is drawn to capturing the spirit of a place” through my visuals, I knew I had to go to Cuba at a time when the country was on the brink of change.
We had a lot of interesting experiences as a group and I had many more on my own exploring the streets of old Havana and walking along the Malecon. The people were open to being photographed, – that was my experience. When I’m street shooting and I come upon people that I want to photograph, initially I approach the situation in a candid way. After I take a few shots, I will engage the person and proceed to shoot more. Our interaction is usually natural and seamless, even though we don’t speak the same language. We communicate in another way.
One day we met with a student at the University of Havana. He spoke about the day that President Obama met with President Raoul Castro in Panama. He said that all around the University, students and professors stopped what they were doing to watch the event on TV. As he told the story, his eyes filled with tears. He spoke of hope for his family, his people and his country and looked forward to the “embargo” being lifted so that Cuba can move forward. But he was also mindful of the potential downsides that come with rapid change.
Early on in our trip, we were driving through one of Havana’s neighborhoods that had been built during the “American years” and our guide said; “These are the good buildings built by the bad people”. As I look back at my interactions with the Cuban people, I hope that I had an impact on how they perceive Americans.
The Cuban people give true meaning to the word “resolve”. They’ve had over a half a century of practice. I will surely return to Cuba and see what’s yet to come in this country’s story.