Noel's frustration about the Magnum photographers' advice to young photographers collected by Alec for the Magnum blog has gotten me thinking. First off, I should be packing, I have to be out of my apt at the end of the month, but I am a procrastinator, so fuck it. Second off, no disrespect, no beef, I have no intentions of offending anyone or starting some photo blog blah blah gossip. With that said, Alec is one of the most generous and caring real deal guys in the game today and he must receive a ton of emails from young photographers seeking advice. I know, because several years ago, I was one of those young photographers writing him for advice. To this day Alec's advice has stuck with me over the years and through the challenges. Now I get emails from young guns asking me for the same advice. To be perfectly honest, those feelings of anxiety and uncertainty that are the theme in these emails, never go away, they just evolve and over time you become used to them. Whether trying to find photographers to assist for so you can pay your rent or feeling unsure how the critics are going to respond to your next solo show or trying to find new clients so you can pay the office space, assistants, retouchers, printers, etc; it never really ends no matter what level you are at, over the years I have discovered that is the one true solid thing about the game. Perhaps that is why there were so many vague answers, we are all always trying to answer the same big question in one form or another and we never really know what is next. As you climb the ladder, challenges don't somehow magically sort themselves out, in fact, Biggie's words couldnt be more true: "More money, more problems." That is the gift and curse of this life we have chosen, there will always be details to figure out along the journey. And of course there is the fear we all have (my greatest fear)....what if one day I just can't hack it anymore, the talent dries up and no matter how hard I try all I can come up with is just crap. It happened to Papa Hem and he put a shotgun to his head because he couldn't take it anymore. And speaking of Hem, this gets me back to where I started. Advice for young photographers.
And so I ask, what happened to the tough guy artists? Guys like Mailer stabbing people in bars, Buk drinking 5 bottles of wine during a poetry reading, De Kooning sleeping in the gutters, crazy Hem stepping into the ring with a bull thinking he was a matador and Hunter's days with the Hell's Angels. These guys are my heros. In my eyes the most important thing about being an artist is living. I wish I could go back to school now and read all the books all over again, listen to the lectures again, take Intro to Photo with Phil Perkis again, having lived and experienced what I have in the last 5 years. It would all make sense. But maybe the Gods made it this way and this is what keeps things interesting. And so I say: live every fucking second to the absolute extreme. These guys were brave and fearless and their approach to life was so vulnerably evident in their work. I tell the photographers who write me to live their lives, do as many drugs as possible, drink as much as you can, fall in love, have your heart broken, get into a fight, go to the hospital, take that trip to where ever it is that curiosity is leading you, make it happen, sacrifice everything you have to do it, jump off that cliff, don't look back, if you don't take that leap and risk falling (failing) you will never know what could be. Somehow I have been lucky and something has always caught me, and something will catch you too as it has caught the ones before us and will catch the ones after us. When Scorsesse made Raging Bull, he said he filmed everyday as if it was his last day and he would never shoot again. Those are great words, allow that to happen. I am a fuck up and I could never hack a 9-5 job for the rest of my life, I just can't, I am not built that way. And so I drift, I live this life as an artist, I get stressed the fuck out and most days I am hustling nonstop working my ass off, but everyday is a true gift, everyday I get to jump off that cliff. I figure the details out on my way down, the greatest line Jay-Z ever had was, "Difficult takes a day, impossible takes a week." You must give yourself to this life. And really it is all the same thing, my life is my love is my art. All of the times I have had my heart broken by the woman I love, the fights and the beatings I have taken in the bars, somehow just making rent on the last day of the month, waking up last New Years Day in an alley on top of a steam vent in New Orleans and then barging into the wrong hotel and kicking down the door of the room I thought was mine, almost being murdered, losing countless women and friends because of this thing inside me that has taken over me, this burning addiction to create, to do my art, whatever it is, let it happen. So my friends, young and old, the rookies and the seasoned veterans, the nobodies and the stars, I will see you all on the way down, and I will look you in the eye and smile because we know what it feels like to fly through that air...it is the greatest feeling in the world.
above pic-me in the emergency room getting things stitched up after a recent bar fight