To Go Or Not To Go?

There’s a message in here somewhere, so please indulge me for 2 minutes.

It’s been a very busy fourteen days.

On September 12th I finished a long term project in Seattle. That same day I rushed off to a couple meetings and the Photoshelter speaking gig in NYC. I returned to Seattle to sit at my desk in our new studio for 48 hours to get something done, then hopped on a plane again for back to back meetings in Phoenix and Los Angeles, and then on to a friends birthday party in Palm Springs. The morning after, I hurried to the airport and this time–via Washington DC, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Temuco– I landed in Pucon, Chile, for five days of scouting and casting for an upcoming commercial job.

Some real fun, sure, but plenty of hard work. Fun Scouting = flying around in rickety Vietnam-era Huey helicopters and communicating in broken Spanglish with Carlos the pilot, that I’d like to land over there on that active volcano rim, please. Less fun = riding in the back of a box van seven hours a day for the past three days looking for the other epic shot (ie NOT on the rim of the volcano). Think dusty. Think hard seats. Great people, but no sleep, long days and lots of kilometers on the dial. Tiring? You bet. I’m whooped. Not complaining at all, just totally whooped. Today especially was a lot of road time.

And now for my point:

We just wrapped for the night and I was just moments ago in the hotel bar having a glass of local wine and some peanuts. Winding down, melting really. I’m scheduled to head home tomorrow for 24 hours of respite, and in truth I was already there in my mind; in my back yard swinging in the hammock.

And then it happens: One last model and an agent roll into the bar. Damn. It’s a special, late casting call I had forgotten about entirely and she’s there to try on a swimsuit for our review. She joins our table, orders a Sprite, the agent has a beer, we all sip our wine, and we all make small talk. I’m totally spent and probably showing it, when our Producer and Art Director kindly (and out of the blue) offer to head to one of the rooms and nab her head and body test-shots on my behalf. It’s “no worries at all” they say and kindly encourage me to relax. Off they run, point and shoot in hand. I breathe deeply. I’m chilling for the first time in 14 days straight. As they walk out of the bar, I’m left sipping my wine with some remaining crew.

There is a pause. And I look at one of my table mates. He’s a long time friend and he knows what I know: I should really be photographing her right now. It doesn’t matter that it doesn’t matter; I should be photographing her right now.

Others are willing to cover for me, and this has no impact on the project whatsoever, and after all it’s just a casting snapshot really, it sounds good to sit and sip wine. But even considering the aforementioned, the right thing to do is to go.

I’ve never been accused of being lazy. Never to my recall. But still, the right thing to do is to go.

So I hurry upstairs. Three minutes later, I photograph a Chilean model in her green and white swimsuit in the hotel’s mixed, dimly lit, 2nd floor hallway, without a flash, a reflector, or an assistant. ISO 800, 2.8, a 20th of a second. I hold my breath to squeeze off the frames without moving the camera. Fifteen clicks. The model genuinely comes to life, as do I, and 30 seconds later–literally 30 seconds later–it’s the best art I’ve made in a long while. I’m unable to show you the images because that’s not been professionally agreed to. I don’t even need or want to, actually, because it’s not the point.

Despite the build-up, the point is short and the point is this: if ever given the chance to go or not to go, for the sake of making art, you should always go.

37 Responses to To Go Or Not To Go?

  1. Anonymous September 27, 2007 at 11:08 pm #

    My grandfather told me – (he was of the WWII Japanese generation that built Japan as it is today) – hard work is no guarantee of success, but not trying will guarantee failure.


  2. Jay McLaughlin September 28, 2007 at 1:41 am #

    Better to regret doing something than doing nothing!

    We’ve all been there. You’ve physically and mentally switched off, but you know you have to somehow get back in the zone.

  3. brian faini September 28, 2007 at 6:25 am #

    I pride myself in hard work ethic and passion for photography. I am hoping to find others to share it with.
    I appreciate you sharing with everyone.

    I am struggling, trying to find my way into the door of professional photography. Being geographically secluded leaves me with no contacts or outlets.

    At one point while I remember telling myself to never turn down a job or invite. I still find myself debating to go each time but I end up going. I just remember what I told myself.

    On another note I was watching your video of the shoot in New Zealand (for like the 50th time) and thought how it would be great to sell to the New Zealand board of tourism. After seeing it all I want (other than to get some recognition and make it as a photographer) is to go to New Zealand.

  4. Jacob September 28, 2007 at 6:36 am #

    Do, or do not. There is not try! (In my best yoda voice. Perhaps I’ll speak that way all day long….)

  5. Mattpenning September 28, 2007 at 8:05 am #

    Outstanding anecdote. Inspirational. I connected with the point deeply, as I’ve seen my best stuff come out under the most unimaginable circumstances. I was moved to tears, thinking of the joy you must have felt, seeing the work you accomplished in that state of being. The art comes out of me, when I am most able to be present without fear, worries, or interior distractions. You seem stripped of that, and ready to function at a deep level of connectedness. Thanks for sharing this. =)

  6. lahire September 28, 2007 at 8:49 am #

    My best picture is my next one :)

  7. Finn McKenty September 28, 2007 at 8:51 am #

    Chase, this just might be your very best post yet.

    I’m not sure if this is what you had in mind when you wrote it, but I interpret this as a reminder that success as a creative is often dependent on a maniacal work ethic. Particularly when you’re starting out and building your name, you should always be asking yourself, “Why am I not shooting right now?”

    I like to think of the legendary wrestler Dan Gable when I’m feeling lazy or unmotivated. Thinking about his punishing, uncompromising work ethic almost always gets me going. A few of his best gems:

    Gold medals aren’t really made of gold. They’re made of sweat, determination, and a hard-to-find alloy called guts.

    I shoot, I score. He shoots, I score.

    The 1st period is won by the best technician. The 2nd period is won by the kid in the best shape. The 3rd period is won by the kid with the biggest heart.

  8. David Russell September 28, 2007 at 10:34 am #

    Excellent post, Chase! Thanks for sharing this story. May it be a lesson learned for all of us.

  9. Carson Blume September 28, 2007 at 12:41 pm #

    Just to it! and do it well.

  10. Jim Goldstein September 28, 2007 at 1:31 pm #

    Great post. Some of my best photos have come from similar moments. I think there is something about the relaxed mind that helps. Relaxed and lazy are two different things. Sometimes being too relaxed borders on feeling lazy. Congrats on the great shots, knowing your work I’m sure they’re great and seeing them is hardly necessary.


  11. Ziv September 28, 2007 at 2:11 pm #

    I know exactly what you mean. The last time I was sitting in a bar in South America I missed the opportunity to photograph a Chilean model in her green and white swimsuit in the hotel’s mixed, dimly lit, 2nd floor hallway, without a flash, a reflector, or an assistant.
    I hate it when that happens.

    Chase, I love your work, your blog and your attitude. Always great stuff.


  12. April Greer Photography September 28, 2007 at 11:14 pm #

    Chase, the man, the legend. Great post. Thanks for sharing- no chilean models, but I have had a few similar experiences this year. Without sleep and cultural barries, and food, all of the things that make it easy to be a good shooter, that the best artwork came to life. Wicked how that works. Keep inspiring and thanks again for sharing. Rock on-

  13. Chase Jarvis September 29, 2007 at 4:38 am #

    I’m glad so many people seem to agree. Why is it that we almost always seem happier when we GO? In anything, really. We debate on what makes us happy (btw, read the book Stumbling on Happiness? interesting read…), and at the end of the day we learn that we THINK we know, but in reality we don’t know until AFTER it happens. I thought I was much happier sitting there sipping wine…

    As artists, we should recognize this more often, perhaps even tattoo it on our foreheads (in reverse type so we can read it in the mirror ;).

    When give

  14. Anonymous September 29, 2007 at 4:41 am #

    First and foremost, art aside, I think it is advisable to shoot a chilean model in a swimsuit any f*ing time you possibly can! wtf? If I had recently had my hands chopped off, I would find a way to make it happen. But on all levels of seriousness now, I woke up and read this first thing in the morning. After ‘going’ last night. Until around 1:30. Shooting shooting shooting. This might be the most important bit of advice you can give people. Always go. It’s simple. You have to put yourself in the position. People forget this.

    [I got this email from a friend just now – I thought it worthy to include, albeit advisable to post it anonymously – cj]

  15. Chase Jarvis September 29, 2007 at 4:43 am #

    Finn: Love your anecdotes. I have a distinct recollection of you saying other humorous (motivating and culturally relevant) things such as:

    “Puff Daddy and Madonna didn’t get to the top of their game by sitting on their asses”

    Brilliant and funny at the same time. That’s how you roll!

  16. Allen Konigsberg September 30, 2007 at 5:34 pm #

    Blake – The path of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.

    Dostoyevsky – The darker the night the brighter the stars.

    Sartre – Life begins on the other side of despair.

    Heraclitus – The way up is the way down, and the way down is the way up.

    Chase Jarvis – always go

  17. Benji Mast September 30, 2007 at 7:37 pm #

    Chase, thanks for the inspiring post I am barely eighteen and was asked to assist for a wedding. The previous two weddings, I was main shooter and it was somewhat difficult to swallow my pride and take the assistant’s role. The point of this all is that they said I could come Friday, the day before the ceremony, when they are doing the Bridal party shots, and help out, for free. I had decided not to until… :)

  18. Uncle Fester October 1, 2007 at 2:57 pm #

    Uhh… and I am stuck shooting “nice” pics of gutters. Buenos Aires? Chile? Yeah. Right… my bathroom :)

    Cheers & take care.

  19. Anonymous October 3, 2007 at 6:27 pm #

    Last winter I spent 12 straight 16 hr days riding, hiking and freezing my nuts off in Newfoundland to make more than 4000 photos only to return to a three day closed resort photo shoot and get sick. After more sick meds than I can recall I captured the one photo that defines all I’ve been working for the past three winters. 14 days later and its one photo, one 1000th of a bluebird, spring day second. I dig your story.

  20. Chase Jarvis October 4, 2007 at 3:56 am #

    Compadres! Thanks so much for your empassioned comments here on this post. I am inspired by the charged responses and personal stories of what it feels like to really GO.

    Let’s do more of this…shall we?

  21. October 8, 2007 at 8:33 am #

    I just endulged in this entire blog, totally inspired to do my very best and then some – with passion for pictures…. And this post sort of sums it all up. Always go. Always try. Even when you don´t feel like it couse you´ll never know what’ll come out of it. And you’ll feel a lot better too, keeping your promises… ;o)

    And isn´t like this in all parts of our lifes – always do or say whatever it is you aspire for, to try and reach that goal, find that love, get that job…. you get the point….! There are no guarantees for succes but hey….. you’ll know you made that effort!

  22. Ben October 10, 2007 at 12:55 pm #

    Years ago while waiting for my ride in front of the train station in portland with my little nikon 885 a strange girl offered to take me to a place to get some shots. Just then my ride arrived I went with the ride. I’ve been kicking my self ever since…

  23. George Bailey October 18, 2007 at 2:05 pm #

    Dittos. Thanks for the inspiring post Chase. You always have to be ready because as I have found out (sometimes the hard way) opportunities can arrive at the most unlikely places and times.

  24. Andy October 20, 2007 at 10:07 pm #

    Funny how some of the best shots are so minimalistic and out of the blue.

  25. David Farley December 5, 2007 at 8:05 pm #

    Chase, I really appreciate your openness toward other photographers. You are an inspiration really. I’m not here to build your ego, but credit should be given where due.

    Thanks for taking the time out of your crazy schedule to share from your experiences. I usually learn a thing or three from each offering, and don’t take your efforts for granted.

    And all of this from a guy who’s work is amazing. Go figure.

    A sincere thank you, and all the best!

    David Farley

  26. Jamie January 13, 2009 at 2:44 pm #

    I’m an amateur photographer who has just been given the chance to get a break by having some work published in a magazine. I was um’ing and ah’ing about whether I should do it or not, feeling slightly low on confidence with a minor fear of rejection.

    I then came upon this old post which was linked from the latest Chase Jarvis RAW video and I’ve come to realise, I was being a complete douche bag.

    I’d have to be the biggest idiot not to take this opportunity, even if I’m not good enough and my work is rejected (which is won’t be. positive thinking!) . So I’m going to suck it up and do it, thanks to you Chase.

    The fear is still there, but it will only make my try harder.


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