31 Jul For the Fun of It
I am not good at vacations. I just don’t know how to turn off. I travel a fair bit, almost always for “work” (traveling to shoot or show films at festivals) but except for the occasional trip to the beach with my kids, or a trip to visit family, I don’t think I have ever taken a “vacation”- which is largely because I do the work I want to be doing so I don’t feel the need to escape from it- and it often gives me the opportunity to travel. When I travel I take a lot of pictures. I wouldn’t say I do it obsessively (though most other people would call it that), but I see pictures everywhere and I want to make them. I shot a lot on film when I travelled with my band and when we first started going to festivals. Now, even though I often drag a big DSLR along on my trips, I shoot almost everything with my iphone.
In October of 2012 I was dropping off my kids at school before heading off to show a film in San Francisco. In the hallway another parent, noticing my new iphone, asked if was on instagram and I told him that I was not. That parent, Ruddy Roye showed me his instagram feed and I recognized the images immediately as they had been all over the New Yorker website the previous week. He had been one of the first people on the scene in the rockaways after Hurricane Sandy and the images he made with his iphone were stunning. I signed up right then and I made about 250 images that weekend. Over the next few months Ruddy taught me a great deal about how to use the iphone to make strong images. 3 years later I have posted over 12,000 images to instagram. Most of these are made while I travel, or they are of my kids, or both.
This past week I have been on vacation in New Mexico with my wife and kids visiting her parents. Dr. Sarno points out that for many people back pain (or neck pain or migraines…) strikes as soon as they have a chance to slow down and relax. People often can’t imagine that their pain could be caused by stress while on vacation because it hits then right when their high stress lives have been given a pause. However, sometimes when we slow down our unconscious mind fears that without the distraction of work our “unthinkable thoughts” might rise to consciousness awareness. Cue the back spasm, or in my case- tightness in my left foot.
I have really tried to treat this as a vacation, and except for excessive picture taking I have done a good job of not doing work. However, given what I know about Dr. Sarno and vacations, it shouldn’t have surprised me when I began having a lot of foot tightness and pain on this trip. Consciously I feel relaxed, and I’m having a really good time. Still, I am aware that I have a lot of unconscious stress rising to the surface. Despite my efforts to pay attention to what I’m feeling, I’m still not sure exactly what stress my body is reacting too. I do have some ideas though.
I said that I haven’t been working, but on the second night of the trip, while staying with our friend Dave, we viewed the first hour of “All The Rage”. It’s always good to see the work through another set of eyes. It was clear that some of the film worked well, but also that there was too much information. Dave “got” all the themes and he was enraged by the film because to him all the issues that we are talking about, like the importance of emotions in relation to health, are so obvious. We talked intensely late into the night. When we went to bed I found that my foot had really flared up and I couldn’t sleep. I know that it had a little bit to do with watching the cut, and the pressure that I feel to get the film done and out in the world. However, as with my beach trip a couple of weeks earlier, I think it also had to do with my relationship to my Dad. On that trip we were staying just a few houses up from the hotel my family stayed at when I was a kid and I realized that I was thinking a lot about my childhood at the beach, and relating it to my own role as a father.
Just before I went to sleep after the movie I read a series of emails from my mother, my brother, and my sister about the fact that the next day would have been my father’s 81st birthday. While I felt like we had a good relationship when he died I am becoming increasingly aware of how much I still try to live up to the unreasonable expectations that he set for me.
On this trip, while I haven’t been working- I have been thinking a lot about my work. As a filmmaker I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about issues that are politically fraught. Along with my partners I spend most of my time working on projects that subtly challenge orthodoxy in ways that make people uncomfortable. I am passionate about this work but sometimes I just want to make work that feels alive, unencumbered by the largely divisive dialogue of politics, race, class, and culture.
For the last couple of years I have been making images in the meadow behind my house. This week I have been focusing on the beauty and energy of my kids and of New Mexico and posting a dozen or more each day. In some ways I doubt myself and the importance of this work. However, I also know that I need balance, and I need to follow my gut. I make these images because they make me feel alive, and they balance out all the heavy energy that runs through my other work. I also choose to shoot with the iphone instead of a higher quality camera because the work is more immediate. I find myself questioning my impulse to avoid the professional gear, but just as some guitar players are drawn towards beat up old instruments, and some filmmakers love light flares and choppy editing. Like them, I too prefer to make images that are imperfect.