Authenticity – see also trustworthiness, reliability, genuine.
I had the distinct privilege of guest teaching a high school photography class today. I was nervous, and sweating, and out of breath, so I really impressed this group of students. I even started to cry at one point in my lecture, so I know they left extremely inspired, and not weirded out.
You know you’ve hit a certain age milestone when everyone under the age of 22 is simply precious. When the flip did that happen? I want to hug their necks. Tell them how precious they are. Tell them life gets better after high school.
But, my job today was to talk about lighting, and how that impacts photography.
Which is a lot. In case you were wondering.
So, I took canvases of my children, taken 10 years apart, to show them the difference between good light and bad light. That is not when I cried.
I showed them my images that had won awards, even though I broke some photography rules creating the portrait. That is not when I cried.
I showed them the style of photography that I love. Faces, connection, warm creamy light. That is not when I cried.
I showed them a very dark and grainy picture of my Dad just about to tear up, listening to his girls sing hymns around the Thanksgiving table. That is not when I cried. But almost.
I showed them a picture of a husband and wife hugging in golden beach light. They didn’t know the wife had an aggressive form of cancer and passed away a month later. This. This is when I cried.
Because capturing pain and love and heartbreak and joy and beauty and life and death is authenticity. It is what I do. I may not get to do it as much as I used to be able to, but I will never stop photographing all of those things.
I told these precious high schoolers, some of whom were yawning through my talk, that from the very first picture I started to take, authenticity was my heartbeat. And I tried to convey that authenticity was a good thing to strive for. And that seeking a peer’s approval over their own authenticity was, is, and always will be soul killing.
I hope you know that too, my friend. Authenticity is where it’s at, man.