It’s been an enlightening week. Not sure if it’s due to the fact I’ve recently picked up my yoga practice once again, the seasons are oh-so-slowly beginning to change (the Vernal Equinox finally comes tomorrow; it’s snowing today) or that I’m contemplating an upcoming trip back to my home country of Montana in ten days (and packing more camera gear than clothing.) There’s something in the air, something edgy and itchy and begging for an out-of-the-box approach.
One of the things I am most thankful to the world of photojournalism for is the people it has brought into my life. Friends and comrades who I would trust with my life; some of whom have helped me out in tight spots, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to do the same for them. Relationships progress so much further under pressing circumstances, and after a long day in the field we hash out topics I would never broach with someone who didn’t “get it.” And, at the end of the day, that’s an extremely select group.
They’re outside the box thinkers – many of them live their lives outside the lines – and they aren’t hampered by small thinking. You’ve heard the old adage about small minds discussing people, average minds discussing events and great minds, ideas? While I’m by no means any great mind, I’ve been lucky enough to meet with and work with a few who are, and I can tell you Eleanor Roosevelt was right on the money.
A lot of those late night talks (I remember a notable one in a US Army barracks, another in a Murmansk bar) move from logistics and travel chatter to conceptual, serious discussion rather quickly. Talk about ideas, objectives, thoughts. And there’s an overall, pressing theme: how can we do it better? How can we press the limits? How can we break down barriers?
And no matter how many writing jobs pile onto my plate at Orvis, or how many freelance grants and fellowships come onto my radar, each requiring days of work, or how many nights I lay awake thinking I really should be pitching new stories instead of sleeping, the question is always there. What else can I be doing to grow my business? What stories should I be chasing? Where is my next photo essay coming from; where do I need to hunt for it? What, what, what, how, how, how?
I’d love to say it’s a pleasant sensation. It isn’t. Maybe, in those very rare moments when there’s clarity and direction and things are getting done, maybe then it’s pleasant. I know it’s addicting. The rest of the time it’s damned annoying and exhausting and makes my head spin.
It’s like an itch that can’t be scratched, a scar that never quite fades. I’d like to think all creatives deal with some version of this; I know a few who do. And, at the end of an assignment, it’s all we can do to grin quietly at each other, sip a glass of wine (in person or over Skype) and know that maybe, for a brief moment, that itch has been scratched.
And it will be back tomorrow.