Photo © #1 Paprica Fotografia, #2, 3, 5 Candy Pilar Godoy, #4 Vinicius Matos, #6 Michelle Madden Smith
#1: subject from photo in book shows up for launch book signing in Rio, #2: magazines given away on soccer field in Cantagalo community in Rio, #3: young boy helps with a wall “pasting” of our book in Cantagalo, #4 and 5: neighborhood square in Tavares Bastos, #6: signing for Usain Bolt in Jamaica
My schedule has been a bit crazy lately. Or maybe it always is. I have a really hard time saying “no” to stuff. Especially if it involves wide eyed youngsters who I can see are just craving some words of “wisdom”.
Of course this seems often strange to me, since I am craving words of wisdom myself!!
The recent marathon to Rio to giveaway a magazine version of (based on a true story) and then straight to Jamaica to work with Usain Bolt and 25 young photographers leaves me feeling like I just ran the 100 meter sprint and the mile on top of it. I was a long distance runner in my youth, so that mentality does come in handy for almost everything I do. You can always “kick it” just a little bit more even if you just can’t. Works.
My team of Eva-Maria Kunz, Roberta Tavares, Candy Pilar Godoy, Michelle Madden Smith, and Mike Courvoisier made it all work. Ever since I started Burn it has been the collaborative effort that rules. None of us can do much alone. Finding great collaborators will change your life if you have not already figured that out. I always tell my students, “find ONE person you trust” to help you with your work . To be a second set of eyes. To be an advisor. To kick you in the butt. Works.
Now I only do this post for one reason. As a story about inspiration. And inspiration is THE fuel for doing any damned thing. If you are not inspired, you might as well stay in bed. You need fire in the belly. Forget exotic places, the right camera. Without the “fire”, pasa nada.
Readers here know by now I come up with a lot of crazy ideas. Including the evolution of Burn in so many ways. Some (most) of my ideas do not work. Yet some do. Again, if you can complete one out of ten ideas you have, you are in the upper percentile of people who can FINISH something.
One of my crazy ideas was to giveaway half of the print run of (based on a true story) the magazine version. It was a crazy idea, it still is a crazy idea, and I did it and I “lost” financially and yet for me this was maybe the very coolest most successful thing I ever did. For sure the most rewarding. Sure I always “give” when I am shooting. Bringing back prints to people I have always done. Buying my subjects a cold beer or dinner or whatever I have always done.
Yet I have never been in a position to really really show the people where I was shooting exactly what I did. Most often they never knew. Never saw NatGeo or whatever magazine I was shooting for on a story. Yet this time I brought it back. As a thank you for allowing me to work in the Carioca community. Sure only a gesture or symbolic at best. Yet I could feel the vibe, the look in their eyes, the feeling of doing the right thing. After all (based on a true story) was not just a collaboration of my team but a collaboration with the subjects I photographed.
Segued right behind the Rio giveaway was a few days in Kingston, Jamaica with 25 young photographers aged 13-17 who belong to photo clubs around the island. The Usain Bolt Foundation and Samsung made this happen. These kids were amazing. Smart, focused, ready to learn, shooting well. We pulled an “all nighter” to get the prints made (thanks Mike, Michelle, Candy) for an on the spot exhibition of their work which was then viewed by Jamaica super hero Usain Bolt who also walked away with a signed free copy of (based on a true story)!!
Anyway, life is all one big circle. Yup, what goes around, comes around and a whole bunch of other cliches about paying back paying forward yada yada yada. Well all I can say, and I think my team would say, it is worth it, worth it, and worth it.
We are selling on Burn, and at Magnum, and at PhotoEye and possibly other venues the other half of the (based on a true story) print run…At the lowest price possible. The collector edition, now gone, was what it was and expensive by nature. Yet while I do like appealing to collectors my heart can never be elitist. The success of the collector edition paid for at least part of the giveaway and the sales of the second part of the print run should get us at break even point. Good biz? Nope. Yet the right thing all around.
And besides, “breaking even” if you are leading the life you love, and may help a few others to do so, is a nice reward. What more to ask for?
So, I implore you to pick up your camera and do “your thing” and at the same time make it another person’s “thing” as well…Make it a two way street. Either with the pictures themselves. Or by passing on any knowledge you have to somebody else.
Give it away. Works.