Embracing Youthful Turmoil

Yesterday, my young film maker friend come by for a visit. He is also a photographer and wanted me to help him look at some of his images objectively to begin to pull them together in some sort of show. He is a young man in his 20’s who lacks confidence, lives in a very introspective world filled with such emotion and feeling that he doesn’t quite yet know how to express. I look into his eyes and see myself in the mirror of his reflection some 30 years back. He has recently been taking photographs of an ex-girlfriend, who he was photographing, doing just ordinary things. There is a haunting quality to the images because they are filled with so much emotion and he could not separate the emotional involvement with the images to determine if they were actually worthy of showing. Hence the visit. I pulled several books from my bookshelves on the photographer Nan Goldin, a woman in the 60’s who photographed her own anxieties of an abusive relationship, creating a book called “THE BALLAD OF SEXUAL DEPENDANCE.” His images had an uncanny representation of Goldin’ s style of candidly shooting those around her in moments of desperation. To me this is what makes the art of photography truly interesting. Instead of fearing what he might be exposing, he should embrace it and dig deeper into recognizing his deep felt connection to the subject. His relationship eventually ended and now he looks back at those images that become a haunting refrain and explains to me that he sees her sadness and where the relationship was headed in her eyes, which is quite obvious now, that he could not recognize at the time. I was captivated by the sadness he felt for the loss of this relationship, and thought here is a man who going to go someplace because he is able to record, recognize, and capture the loss in his imagery. But instead of this becoming a point to move forward it was becoming a barrier that he could not overcome, and it threatens to destroy his creativity. My advice; embrace it, use it, allow the experience to move you into a newer state of existence. So many times we look at the sadness of our lives as a negative that we most stow away in a place that no one can touch. To me the stronger the emotions we feel the stronger the connection to finding out who we really are. It typically becomes the pivotal moment in our lives that leads up to an epiphany that will hurtle us into a stronger direction. I think good artists recognize and embrace this. It is the raw power of those emotions that allow us to truly connect to our art.

Perhaps this is part of the trappings of youth. I too look back at that stage in my own life and see all the barriers that I allowed to block my creativity. Coming from Montana seems to contain its own set of roadblocks. Because we are a poor culture that does not put much stock or appreciation toward the arts, it is typically a community outside of the norm; a perceived class of its own that exists alone. Perhaps we create our own isolation because we recognize those feelings that so much of the western mainstream so deeply wants to deny. I see the balance of my own life become a balance of riding both edges and my own insecurities taking a deeper hold that I cannot overcome. I see this in my young friend and I encourage him that this is his time. Do not waste it. Use it as a precious given to him in this moment. Don’t wait until you are an old man to look back and examine what has been lost.

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