A long December.
For me it’s a time of review. Not just for 2019, but for the decade since 2020 is the start of a decade. It’s also just not only about me. It’s about the state of the planet. The state of being. And, it’s about the people that I’ve lost. The people who are no longer on this planet. And, it’s about one more trip around the planet.
It started with sports. Not playing, but reading about sports. A lot of writers were doing best of the decade sporting stories. That gave me an idea. What if I did my best ten pictures of the decade?
On one hand, it was fairly easy to pick my ten best. They have been signature pictures since the day I made them. On the other hand, the exercise was miserable. I made a lot of pictures in the last ten years. My kind of pictures. The ones that were more like photojournalism than art or nature.
I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t been very productive over the last two years. Yes, sure, I’ve made a huge amount of my faux nature pictures. To me, they don’t count. That’s not what I do. I could write that off to being in pain, to being afraid of falling down in the middle of a second line, to being fairly depressed because of the pain and feeling like my career is winding down.
That’s not me.
I’ve always played through the pain. This pain is for the rest of my lifetime. So? I’ve always lived by Neil Young’s song, “Don’t be Denied.” I’ve got a fairly high threshold for pain. I’m not the guy who thinks that he’s dying when I catch a cold.
They say that it’s not how you start, but how you finish. I’m going to do my level best at finishing so strong, you’ll just think I took a few years off for some unknown reason. Besides, there is just too much to do. Too much that I don’t want to leave undone.
One more thing. This year was the year of learning. I didn’t learn that much externally. But, I did internally. I looked into my past. At my beginnings. How I got to this place. There are some bad memories. But, there were some awfully great times.
Here’s one of both.
You know that I spent six years in Hong Kong, more if you count China. I used to manufacture books. I would close the process by doing a press check. We’d work night and day. We’d look at color quality. I learned the subtle art of compromise. I learned that perfection is for angels. Especially when we were printing 8 or 16 pages at a time. The red you want on one page is the red you don’t want on another page. But, the pages are being printed together. I had to figure out the balance. The difference.
I was in Hong Kong for ten months without coming home at all. At the end of my time there, I went to Singapore to print one more book. This book was a co-production with an unreasonable partner. The book was very late coming off the press. The partner wanted to review every running sheet. I was in Singapore. They were in New York City. That meant a delay of two days for every one we were on press. The whole thing devolved into a long distance three way screaming match between me, them and my bosses who were on my side.
Finally, I just said screw it. I said I would send them the running pages. I printed the entire book and sent them a loosely gathered set of pages. They hit the roof. They wanted to make changes, not just in book quality, but in content. I replied the book is in the bindery. It’s done. Dead silence from the other end. I hung up and went about my business.
I was exhausted.
Up all night. Up early in the morning. Up during the day. That’ll exhaust you. But, I wasn’t done yet.
From Singapore I flew to Copenhagen via Zurich. I didn’t have to change planes. I slept through the stop. I slept until we were about an hour out of Denmark. The flight attendant fed me after saying that she tried to wake me but couldn’t. Exhausted.
When we landed I went straight to my little house. One room, with a sleeping area, a kitchen, sitting area and a world class bathroom. Like an Air BnB, but 20 years early. I took a shower and turned on the television. I found VH-1, mostly since I couldn’t understand the Danish stations.
The first thing I see is this guy singing and dancing. He’s wearing long beaded dreadlocks. He looks very happy. Adam Durwitz. Counting Crows. Playing and singing Mr. Jones. Remember that song? From the early 1990’s?
Oh, man. Did that ever make me sing and… dance.
Music saved me.
Oh, Copenhagen? I loved it. I could walk from my place to work in a design studio on a cobblestoned walking street. I could stop for a great breakfast and even better coffee along the way. It was early June. It fairly cold so I bought a jacket. I photographed constantly. Three weeks later, I left for home.