This is all a mystery and I don't live for solutions. There is this feeling I am always searching for. By now I should be able to create it everyday. I should be able to fashion it out of a drawing, some words, a history of images. I should be pretty locked into a style, my favorite lens, a medium. I should have a slew of shows behind me, a couple of coffee table books, a million bucks in the bank. I should have a team of "yes" people a little afraid of me, invitations to parties you didn't even know existed, a trunkful of "been there, done that."
Sometimes I wish I was a magician whose tricks always worked. I wish I had an assistant who would always disappear on cue and reappear as a rabbit. I wish I could tell you where this hot air balloon was taking us. I wish this GPS was always right.
My mother is teased all the time that she is way too enthusiastic. Maybe for you. It is the "best movie ever", the "most incredible dinner", the "most wonderful visit" we have ever had. When people tease her, they are teasing me, too. I am living for the best day ever...so far.
I am frustrated. I cannot show you the best pictures. From the moment I take them they are under embargo. Twice in the last week I took pictures that were like the first breath from a new baby. I took them for work. My clients insist on showing them to the world first. It is too easy to steal their thunder. If I post them on Facebook I share ownership instantly with all my virtual "friends" and a big corporate stranger. The only real control is burial. Any image a person can see they can store on their harddrive. Any song you can hear is yours. Any picture you can view can be ironed on a shirt. Shoot it with your phone, download it onto your cloud, print it out, spit on the iron.
I had mixed feeling photographing my old friend whose politics are so not mine, though we have never discussed politics in person. He came in the studio last night and gave me the biggest hug. He talked about his work as family and why he pushes so hard as to not let any of them down when jobs are so precious. He talked about his own family having to deal with new fame in the presence of police cars in front of the house. He is a talker for a living. On radio. On TV. We whispered at how well things were going for both of us, and what a gift that is in April of 2009. We talked about art - and how essential it is to push into that place we imagine everyday. EVERYDAY!
The set was a blank white cove with a single light. The subject was a man with no fear. The time was short and charged. This man, who would make most of you wince, opened his soul in the most generous and naked way you can imagine. You cannot imagine. I cannot imagine. He opened up because he trusted me. He opened up because that is the way he is wired. It all looks like an act, but trust me....it is the real thing.
This was the third time we have taken pictures together. When we are creating the pictures, I am totally outside of my body looking in, and completely lost in the moment. That is where you want to be. Out of body. Out of mind. Just in the purest moments when everything is happening. Having to focus the lens is your only connection with the real world. I climb up and down trying to find an angle to shoot from, but I could not tell you why I put the frame right there. I am not even sure if I am right. There really is no right. I only pray when he pulls his saliva from his mouth I am in focus. When he starts to fall out of the frame I catch him right on the edge. That my suggestion to mix the American Revolutionary and the Italian Fascist costumes makes sense. It did. If it didn't there were a dozen other ideas making the room spin.
Whenever you have a great shoot with someone, you wonder if you can ever repeat those moments of pure invention. You don't want to repeat anything. Yet you wonder, how did that happen? If you take pictures together again will you look in the hat and no rabbit? You cannot use the same hat, the same wand, the light is never exactly the same.
This is how the stars lined up yesterday. I spent the first hour of the day with Jackson. We shared fresh strawberries and blueberries and yogurt. We looked out at the day, faces pressed against the window watching the sunrise, checking out the forsythia in bloom. Jackson hands me his little shoes and says, "car...car". Stephie comes with me into the city and we do our work in the shadow of the Empire State Building. It is just us except for some interviews we are doing for a new studio manager. It is quiet in the city. We can think. Lunch with a friend. Being with Stephie is the missing piece, the great joy. I want to trail behind her watching the world through her eyes, listen to things the way she was hearing them...I wanted to throw my coat over any puddles of frustration in her day. It is amazing to look at the person you live with everyday, sleep with every night and wonder how you ever got this lucky. When Stephie is at her most beautiful she appears so soft. Not weak....soft. Yesterday was like that. I just felt her completely and it freed me.
That was how I walked into my shooting last night. A box of fruit sweet and ripe. A view north onto the trains emerging from tunnels under the water. Leonard Cohen singing from a recent concert in London.
This morning as I sit writing this, a couple of snowflakes float down, then the sun. Spring is knocking, almost here. Shortly we are going to finish up the video flipbook for College Board and put all that work onto the smallest little drive and send it out into the world. I need to kiss Jackson before his morning nap.