21 Nov The Power of Sharing
I have not had the time or bandwidth to work on “Story of Pain” recently because I have been dealing with another project that has been demanding all of my energy. In fact it’s been demanding so much of my attention that the stress has led to a bout of severe pain, cramping, and numbness in my foot. As such, I have been making a major effort to slow down. It’s hard to break the patterns that bind us though, and while we often understand what’s wrong we can also feel powerless to change our situation, even as we know that we must.
While I have been focusing on making films for the last two decades I am also a photographer. Nearly 25 years ago I drove across the country and shot photos in malls. I knew at the time they were important, but I had no way of really doing anything with them because I was young, and an outsider in regards to the art world. I am still an outsider to that world, but due to the radical people power of the internet, the images have gone viral several times. I used kickstarter to fund the printing of a book, but in the end I was able to get them published by one of the most important photo book publishers.
Despite my efforts to inform them, the publisher did not understand how much the images connected with people. They were woefully unprepared for the viral storm that took place when they put out the book last month. I have had great support from their publicist, but she also did not fully get it when I explained that the images were likely to explode onto the internet once we started the fire. Having experienced the viral excitement several times I was able to spark the process by giving some images to the web site buzzfeed.com. This started a two-week social media binge. People responded to the work with a great deal of passion. Half a million people went to a single article to view the photos and many of them shared it as well.
Due to the way that people responded to them in the past I knew that average people connected with them on an emotional level. It took 25 years for me to be able to get them in front of people because I had no way to get them past the gate-keepers. I was thinking about this reality as my partner and I discussed our efforts to dive in and start shaping our film about Dr. Sarno. I realized there was a similar thread at play in terms of the way in which his books reached the world. His theories weren’t embraced by the mainstream medical community, so he took to the printing press to disseminate his ideas. One of the reasons that my images went so viral is that people felt compelled to share them. The same is true of Dr. Sarno’s book, “Healing Back Pain”. My father bought several copies so he could give them to people who might benefit from it. I have heard several stories of people buying boxes of the book so that they could give it out. Dr. Sarno was viral before the internet existed.
It’s been very interesting to watch my google alert for the term “chronic pain” over the last few years. At first it was almost all PR releases for pain treatments or stories about drug problems. Increasingly they have been about stress reduction therapies, and stories that acknowledge mind body connections. The change is coming very rapidly now and that is a good thing. The viral power of the internet can dangerous but it can also be powerfully productive.