How we do battle with the demons inside us and even the ones waiting to get in, determines how well we adjust and carry on with our work. I call this, “The Stance”. Why? Well, we are bogged down with baggage that we generate and we pick up from others. So we need to adjust our stance to make due with the battles ahead. It is battles because these things intrude on our process and have an effect on the print and there’s no way of preventing it. No way of preventing it from happening over and over again.
I remember way back when the sky was a real blue, I would bring prints to Ding and he would look carefully at them and most times say something like…. “Nice, keep going.”
I mean after all, the prints he had all over the place was very intimidating to me. In a short time I was reluctant to bring any to him.
Then he said something to me that I try to live by….”When you feel that you are present in the photo, enough to want to stand by it under any and all conditions, let me see it.” Easier said than done and time went buy and I didn’t bring him anything at all. In fact, I didn’t want to go to him anymore cause I was intimidated.
After a time, I made some prints I really cared about. It’s not that I didn’t care about the others, it’s that I felt I was in these new prints. I took them to Ding and he sat patiently and looked at them. I had 6. That’s right, 6 prints and it took me maybe 4 months to get them. Ding had this look on him that is like scrutinizing the very fiber of the paper. It’s like he was sniffing the Thiosulfate and Perma Wash. Then he looked at me and said, as he held up a print….”this is beautiful, you nailed it”….I looked at him with an innocence of a young boy looking at his father for approval.
The he held up the other 5 and said, ” Don, I don’t have words for these but I would love to have them in my personal collection.”
Now, I’m not really the one at a loss for words. I may not always have polite words but I have words I tell ya…..I just sat there and had a complete realization that I WAS a PHOTOGRAPHER, for real. What Ding did for me at that moment has never been equaled in any manner. I’ve had over 50 One Man shows, countless group shows, sold many prints, works in collections, museums, collectors and yet, I was born with those words Ding said to me.
I felt an energy come into me, not over me but into me. What was born back then was not just me as a photographer but a photographer with a stance. I mean it gave birth to a realization of my own self worth. I don’t mean ego cause I keep that away from me as much as possible.
I felt that I should trust my instincts on all manners and without wavering from outside input.I knew that I knew my craft and I was ready for a lifetime of doing it. I don’t practice photography, I live it. I don’t just make photos, my photos define me as well.
So the STANCE is a frame of mind that overcomes all forms of input and energy that tries to enter your SPIRIT. We will never rid ourselves of all the crap that attacks us but we can develop a STANCE that overpowers it all. It requires being strong enough to take cuts and abuse and lack of interest in your work. It requires a firm appreciation of the whole that we are and a total committed love of what we do and why we do it and how we do it.
We are shooters after all…. what could be better…..?