Oh boy, this should get me in real trouble. I’ve always had a way of “stirring the pot” and seeing what rises to the surface, but what I am about to tell you will probably really curdle your milk.
You see it’s my belief that the classical notion of being noble and distinguished, represents one’s moral character. And that a fall from grace requires first that you have reached a significant level of moral courage and fortitude (this is not an easy task).
Somehow along the way with the help of capitalism, a few robber barons, and a touch of Calvinism, America (and the rest of the western world) began to worship or should I say confuse monetary success with nobility and wisdom.
My parents were perfect paradigms of this belief. How could anyone of great wealth, power, elicit anything but great admiration. Most conventional religions have joined the party. The more money you make, the more money for them. Never mind that one’s soul is empty, one’s brain befit of ideas, one’s being second rate as long as one has financially succeeded. Monetary success is to be envied and applauded.
The soul who labors honestly with integrity and a true sense of service to their job can only be valuable up to a point. True success comes from a self made man of means or notoriety.
Now I realize this is ridiculously simplistic, and you might ask what this has to do with photography, so I am trying really hard to quickly get to my point, and skip all the research that is necessary to back up anything I say.
About 25 years ago I gave a lecture. A woman came up to me at the end of the lecture and said to me, “You are so clear. I have never met anyone who knows who they are as well as you. I am so confused. How do I become clear?”
Well this is the problem as I see it, and there is definitely no easy answer. I have been struggling with this for 45 years.
America, as personified by Dale Carnegie and others have placed this enormous premium on success, which I assume is monetary success. They have preached along with various churches that it is more important to influence others, to smile, to be positive, to be engaged and to influence others so that you may reap your reward, more success. Somehow, misleading others telling them things they want to hear is supposed to make us more civilized. Well this is the fork in the road I suggest you may not want to take.
Take it all right to win friends, to be happy, to influence others, to sell them on things they didn’t want, to tell them it is for their own good when it is really for your own benefit, to endear yourself to others at the cost of loosing who you are.
I have tried (and for some who know me well have seen me get physically sick) when I feel I have been lying to others.
I have tried for over 45 years, to my own self be true. I have tried to be clear and precise, to say what I feel, to understand my feelings and thoughts, and express them clearly and concisely even if there are dire consequences.
So if you ask me a question and you are truly serious about the answer, I will tell you how I see it. It is hard enough to know one’s self, to speak honestly from your heart and let the conversation begin. Two people lying to each other get’s one nowhere.
Now to the photograph. If you are honest with yourself, something magical is so below all this stupid stuff. It’s your soul speaking honestly. It is below making friends and influencing people. It is below money and prestige. A great portrait is a picture of the very core of your honest soul, if you can find it and let it out.