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.

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