Hold Still by Sally Mann

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And here’s the important thing: it doesn’t even have to be a great negative. You get the same thrill with any negative; with art, as someone once said, most of what you have to do is show up. The hardest part is setting the camera on the tripod, or making the decision to bringing the camera out of the car, or just raising the camera to your face, believing, by those actions that whatever you find before you, whatever you find there, is going to be good. P 36-37

Another calendar page has turned, here we are in October. We’re gearing up steam for the months ahead. This is the rollercoaster climb to the top. Of course, it’s coming down that’s the thrill.

I love November, mostly for the holiday, and December of course. As dear Anne once said “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” September always feels like a beginning, but at this time of year certain rituals or routines have become somewhat tedious. I post a photo for every day, I write a few lines in an old calendar for each day and I write this blog. I take the pictures, I work the pen, I type. Every day, every week, every month. Until we get to the end. And then I will decide whether or not to continue these practices. I chose to do them mostly so that I would have a record—in pictures, of text—of my life this past year, especially since there have been so many milestones and changes as of late. And when I scroll or page through everything I’ve done, I see that it is an achievement. If nothing else, I was disciplined enough to accomplish what I set out to do. I hope that decades from now, lifetime from now some of my yet to be born relatives see it all as a glimpse into not only my life but the world in which we are living. I showed up for the work.

But right now it often feels like a slog, a chore. And when I look through it I see the flaws and the mistakes, the not-quite-perfect images that I would tweak if I could retake the photo. Too blurry, too bright, or something just doesn’t quite measure up. But I realize that these photos or this writing lack the patina that comes from years of existence, that shine something gets when we look back on it. Everything I have crated this year is still fresh and new and subject to scrutiny. And when I get in that mode or mood I tend to tear it all down. To second guess myself. My biggest wonder is why I even make time to put something in this space if I and a few of my very dear friends are the only ones even reading it.

I know deep down inside that I don’t do it for the readership, I do it to stretch and grow these writerly muscles. I do it for the thrill of having a place to put that perfect sentence. The one that I absolutely positively must share with everyone, whether I know you or not. So that you can be inspired to read that same book or discover how it touches you deep in your core as well. I do it for the challenge of finding the image that corresponds, one that I captured with my own camera from my own experience. I do it so that I can keep a record of these days, months and years. I think about how long A and I have been collaborating and I get a sense of joy from that. That our lives and friendship has been documented here in a way that wouldn’t have been possible if we didn’t get out of our own way and just do it.

I agree with Mann and a million other artists who have come to the realization that it doesn’t have to be good, or maybe it will never be good until you actually do it.

So here I am submitting yet another post hoping to make a connection. To maybe spark a conversation. We’re one week closer to the end of the year. Another week closer to something. This weekend I visited the sheep and wool festival and took so many pictures. Not because I felt I had too, but because I wanted to. All of those sheep, that yarn, those people filled me with this overwhelming desire to put that camera to my face and capture some of those moments. I walked around with a quiet thrill of possibility that I could finish knitting my projects and maybe move on to some others. I met someone new and said yes when she asked if I was a writer. It wasn’t easy, but I said yes. Yes.

Each day brings with it the chance to create something. Its a good one if I’ve seized that opportunity and made it my own. That is when I’m happiest.

Tell me, what will you do when that opportunity finds you?

One thought on “Hold Still by Sally Mann

  1. If it is any consolation, I’m reading from Connecticut. You are among a small group of strangers whose words or images I love to visit as part of my day, and I think you write the most lovely, poignant, heartfelt things in a rather poetic way. I’m a writer and YES, YES, for sure, you are a writer!

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