Our Lives as Inspiration

duane michaelsYesterday I entered WESA, the public radio studio in Pittsburgh and put my new favorite camera, the Leica Q up on the table. In the next studio, through the glass I could watch Wilco setting up for their “Live and Direct” performance. I settled the headphones over my ears, heard the intro music playing, then the host Paul Guggenheimer began…


My afternoon was spent with a genealogist Tammy Hepps from Harvard who had been studying my family’s history at the turn of the 20th century in Pittsburgh. She said, “I can tell you about your great grandfather, but I am so frustrated that I can’t really know him. I have so many questions I want to ask him directly.” Tammy has been scouring through newspaper articles, records from the synagogue, and meeting the few people in their 80’s and 90’s with their well polished stories.

100 years from now, there will be people wondering who we were. Trying to make sense of our lives, trying to figure out our story. They may have access to a lifetime of email. They will probably have gigs and gigs of pictures we took with our phones. They will have calendars tightly packed with meetings and appointments, offering no clue into what we were actually doing. They will certainly have archives stuffed with many points of view from blogs and media outlets of what was going on in the world on any given day. They will have our daily social feeds and Instagram accounts to wade into. But….will they really know anything about us?

We are creating our own personal histories everyday, but what are they really documenting? How do we share our own unique approach to the world? How are we loving? How are we disappointed? What are we really FEELING? We hear a lot about being “authentic” or stories being “organic”. What I think these terms point to is a longing to answer the question “Who are you?” There is a need to find that place where we all connect. Now it is easier than ever to tell our stories and share our humanity. And at the same time we are posting and sharing today, we are also creating our legacies for tomorrow and future generations.

During my radio interview, I repeated my call to anyone taking pictures these days: whether you’re a business, whether you’re a father or a mother, or whether you’re a giant corporation, show me the light in your life. Show me what makes you special, and what makes you different, and what gives you a reason for being. If you can do this, you will be creating a meaningful legacy of images and stories for those coming after you while connecting on a more intimate level today.

When Paul walked me out of the studio he said something I hear often, “Wow! It is always so inspiring seeing you.” I don’t share that to boast, just to acknowledge that this is an inspiring message. If in the course of sharing my own life and work, my stories of friends, family, colleagues and even strangers someone says “Wow! You are so inspiring!”, then I’m doing what I set out to do and I believe we could all be doing that — Inspiring one another. And if one day, a hundred years from now when some relative is trying to figure out where they came from, my greatest wish is that we also share with them some inspiration,

You can follow my inspiration on Instagram @george.lange