benjamin and a bad day

stick around me long enough and you will find that i end up with some really bad bad days…..since starting my little online diary, i have described trips to mexico, thailand and hanging out with my students and well known photographer buddies….you could imagine some kind of fantasy lifestyle where trips to exotic places and only seeing good light and going to gallery openings and running into koudelka by accident were the things that make up my life…wrong, wrong and wrong….truth is, like all of you, most of it is a struggle for some kind of emotional if not physical survival….most of this week has been one disaster after another…i will not bore you with the details, but will somebody please send me some good news???

when things go down down down, you have to look around for something uplifting….for me, it happened on the subway….late at night and dark and dreary…..a really unlikely place to see a smile or to meet a stranger who makes you think twice about anything….

but there was benjamin….playing his trumpet for money and for money sounding a lot like luis armstrong….well, i said it was late!!  i dropped a few bucks into benjamin’s trumpet case and he huffed and he puffed and he cranked out a pretty good rendition of…yes, you guessed it, "what a wonderful world"

where in the world are the trains late at night?  who knows, but benjamin norris scott put down his trumpet,  asked for a piece of paper,  and started writing feverishly…..politeness prevailed…i let a train go by…benjamin was writing his whole philosophy…the philosophy of a recovering alcoholic who is trying to do good….he is (as per written on the paper): "the chief organizer for the Institute for Saving Our Sons and Daughters"..day treatment for 12-21 year olds…mentoring objectives: to assist youth in moving forward through all eventualities: academic, economic, psychological" …there was more, but you get the idea..

another train was coming….we quickly exchanged phone numbers….i dropped in another five….benjamin called me at home last night ….he wondered where i was….he wished me a good day…..what a wonderful world….

_dsc0792_copy

12 Responses to “benjamin and a bad day”


  • DAH-

    sory to hear about the rough week. you said you wanted good news- I just returned from a quick, overnight trip with 25 writers/photographers- they are also high school students- on an assignment to document life in a small town full of artists. End goal ? produce a very well done, multimedia photo-j and narration piece in less than 10 hours. I had my doubts, but my students pulled it off spectacularly- better work, both photography and writing, then I could have imagined from a mess of 16 year olds. The pieces will be online in the next few weeks. Well, it was very good news for me…

    Sometimes hidden talent and perserveransce surprise you…

  • Hi David, love your site. Your work has always been an immense inspiration to me.

    I’ve just come back from interview with an 85 year old Catholic nun (Sister Loyola) for a story about her life.

    She’s a tiny wee thing and mad keen organic gardener. Everywhere she goes she scuttles off leaving you in her wake.

    I’ve known her for a while and everytime I talk to her I always come away inspired by her attitude and her openmindeness.

    When I have a difficult week and wonder whether the hard graft of freelance PJ is worth it I always think back to her & others I have met when pursuing story ideas etc.

    As an example; Sister Loyola broker her hip badly about two years ago. Instead of staying in hospital for the prescribed two weeks, she was back in her garden 3 days later, albeit in an electric wheelchair!

    Take care

    Ross

  • Something positive

    You wrote in some post that you had bad day and have been in “panic mode”

    I love this sentence! I’m in “panic mode” since three weeks…or maybe years…

    But! Maybe I’ll go to Portuguese in april!!

    Only for several days, and I have no many, but this is something positive.

    Well, I hope it will be…

    Martin

  • eric..

    yes, that is good news….and not such a surprise because teenage energy funneled in the right direction can be so powerful…

    i am one of those people who believe that our educational system is the KEY to saving our society, our culture, our country…you are obviously doing your positive best , but right now i think our (u.s.) grade overall would be about a “D” minus!!!

    young people swing their lives one way or another based on what may seem like “little things”….all of us remember some seemingly “insignificant” event or something somebody said or did which moved us in either a good or bad direction..

    young people who are allowed and encouraged to be creative early on and are rewarded for this will continue to learn about their world as they evolve and grow into citizens who make decisions for all of us…

    i would love to see the results of your project….be sure to send me the link

  • ross..

    yes, those are the experiences that make this work so worthwhile….you do not just make a picture, you get to know someone like Sister Loyola…

    i also just appreciate the education i get everytime i go out to do good work…my camera has led me down educational paths, that academia never did do, could do or maybe even should do….

    david

  • David

    Yes, the experiences make it all worthwhile (I’m not sure if my bank manager would always agree though!).

    Actually, your good friend & one of my greatest influences, Bill Allard provided me with an unforgettable moment early on in my career.

    He was kind enough to provide me with a quote for an article I was writing for Australian Photography magazine. I was writing a piece expounding the merits of the trusty old standard lens.

    I’ve always subscribed to the “less is more” strategy of gear & like Mr Allard use the 50mm often.

    He provided me with a wonderful quote. To me it was a fantastic gesture from someone who had no financial reason to help me.

    I have saved that email for about 3 years now & still draw incredible inspiration from it.

    I’m now pursuing a project about the little known problem of urbanisation in the Pacific Islands (Vanuatu etc).

    Even though it’s a self funded project with no guarantee of publication, the people I’ve met in the squatter settlements make it worthwhile.

    I think you need to work to fund your conscience & heart as well as your wallet!!

    Take care.

  • ross….

    i know it is difficult, but keep your philosophy intact….you will suffer, but you will be happier….be minimalist in all things…i do hope someday we will meet…

    david

  • David,

    I’m regularly amazed by how being a photographer surprises me. Life opens up and we get to experience some special moments. My two assignments Saturday gave me more than just three photos for today’s paper.

    The first job involved a guy moving an old, out-of-tune piano from a thrift shop to his apartment. My preconception had movers dumping the piano into a truck. I arrived to find Eamonn instead. He wore a seersucker suit and was going to push the piano himself down a busy street. Not earth-shattering, but different. He played a couple of notes waiting for the crosswalk. When we got to his place, he told me his girlfriend had just left him and he was going to learn to play piano to try to win her back.

    The next was of volunteers fixing up a house. I felt a little better after meeting Eamonn and his romantic idea, but still… another shot of a house being fixed up?

    I learn that homeowner Eric Brown Sr. and his wife were bilked of $20,000 by a crooked contractor they’d hired to make some changes to help their disabled son. The chief volunteer was so angered by this story he rallied tradesmen to work for free and spent days gathering donations of money and building supplies.

    What made the crooked contractor’s scam worse was that he also stole Eric’s sympathy by telling him his own son had spina bifida. When Eric tracked the guy down to try to get his money, he met the son, a healthy teenager.

    As I’m shooting, Eric Sr. shows up with his wife Renee and Eric Jr. to bring the crew lunch. Eric has to carry his son up six steps to his front yard where he and Renee put the 18-year-old into his wheelchair. To get inside he has to climb another stairway. Eric Jr. weighs 240 pounds and is over six feet tall. He has hydrocephaly and cerebral palsy. Eric Sr. is in his late 50s and gets up at 2:00 a.m. to go to one of his two jobs. He’d really like to be a photographer.

    They sat on the lawn as the crew re-built torn-out walls. Eric shared the joy of laughter with his son. He didn’t see his disability, he only saw his best friend.

    I thought my day turned out pretty well.

    Andrew

  • okay, after the uptown story on the other page.. this feels good… i wish there to be a feelgood story on uptown as well.. and there have been.. but this feels good.. and that’s the ups and downs of life.. and when you put yourself out there you’re guaranteed both.. but there’s no better way in the end..

  • Hi David

    Thanks for your kind words. Yes, I try to be a minimalist. I’d rather work with minimal gear (usually a 24mm & a 35mm). I think that’s why I’ve always loved your work and the work of Don McCullin, Bill Allard etc.

    Where I find the difficulty is balancing writing with photography. I class myself as a photographer who writes a bit, rather than vice versa, but often need to spend more time writing than making images!

    Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy writing, especially when it’s finished! But I do have to nail my feet to the floor and duct tape my hands to the keyboard to write! No such problem with photography…

    I sometimes find that when I’m away it’s hard to keep motivation levels up. My remedy is a printed out sheet of inspirational quotes from my favourite photographers (one of your’s is included!!) It works well.

    I then get off my butt, get out there & once again meet inspirational people & see sights that others never get to see.

    Take care & cheers for now;

    Ross

  • ross…combining writing and photography is , i think, really difficult….to be really good at one, maybe you have to sacrifice a bit of the other….and then, of course, sometimes nothing comes to your mind for either one!!!! this is when things get really scary….let’s not think about it too much!!! david

  • A great story David. So delightfully New York.

Comments are currently closed.