On Friday I met a couple of friends at the International Center for Photography in Manhattan to see the exhibit about the Loving family. On the way to the Loving exhibit, we passed through a few other installations that were exceptional, but of all of them the thing that struck me the most wasn’t an image, but a quote by photographer Leonard Freed. I took a picture of it. (Sorry museum guys!)
“The London Sunday Times asked me to do a story on violence. I photographed what I thought violence meant to me… They sent me a telegram from London, saying ‘Great! Loved the story, but needed more blood and gore.’ I then went out and photographed over fifty homicides. They just loved it. …
“Contact sheets are mostly a waste of money, I find. 99.9 per cent of the frames on the contact sheet are mistakes one makes while photographing. Because it’s a waste of money, I love them. There are things in life we must do just because we find them unprofitable. Also, contact sheets are private: they belong to me, whereas photographs, once they are out of my hands, take on a life of their own.”
It’s an interesting concept to do something not-for-profit. Just for the sake of doing it. Because it makes you happy, or scared, or you think it’s interesting in a way that you imagine only provokes you. All artistic expression is about communication, and mostly, we want to communicate with the world, but sometimes, you have to just do something because you want to communicate with the person inside of yourself. As a writer, we spend a lot of time creating stories that we hope will sell, but have you ever written something that was entirely for yourself? I did once. It’s a children’s book that I illustrated myself, back when I was painting regularly. My mother has been trying to get me to submit it somewhere for years. Even my husband wonders why I keep it to myself. The idea that it’s for me alone seems foreign. Or maybe my feeling that it only communicates with me is false, and it actually has a broad appeal. But when I came across this quote, I knew exactly what Freed was talking about.
Do you ever do that? Create something that’s entirely for you?