19 Jun The Sun Shines Again for Me
Growing up in Chapel Hill, I often came across a local magazine called “The Sun”. As a kid interested in punk rock I was vaguely repelled by its intense hippie vibe. As a young photographer I was excited by the possibility of having some of my photos published in its pages. “The Sun” featured interviews with thinkers and healers, fiction, and personal stories. My deeply cynical eyes arched as I read these pieces even as the ideas weaved their way into my thoughts. The photos that woke up the pages told their own stories. While a few vaguely saccharine images found their way in, for the most part the featured photos hinted at mystery and soulfulness. They didn’t have the hard perfection that so many “famous” photos did.
In 10th grade I took a high school photography class and began to make images voraciously. I spent many lunch hours in the dark room experimenting. I chose some of my most mysterious images and sent them to “The Sun”. To my great surprise and joy, they accepted a couple. A few months later I got my first check ($25) and a subscription to the Sun. I was a published photographer.
Over the next several years, as I devoured all of the Vonnegut and Irving I could find, I also tore through the writing in “The Sun” when it came each month. While my hard heart still took issue with some of the more mystical aspects of the writing, the ideas and the images helped create a new foundation for my intellectual curiosity. I found inspiration in the letters submitted to the “Readers Write” section, and I was especially inspired by the poet Sparrow. He wrote with a wry humor that balanced honest cynicism with boundless hope. Many years later I would end up making a series of short films about his run for the Republican nomination for President.
I got more images accepted by the magazine, so my subscriptions kept rolling. The Sun had a subtle, yet powerful influence on my life for a long time. However, at some point I stopped making black and white prints, and the Sun did not accept digital images, so my subscription eventually lapsed. For about 10 years I only saw the magazine sporadically.
Last year my family and I moved from Brooklyn to my childhood home in Chapel Hill. A Brooklyn friend suggested that I meet his Chapel Hill friend and she and her family came over for dinner. It turned out that she was an editor at the Sun and let me know that they now took digital submissions so I sent some in.
Last week, after a decade hiatus I got a package in the mail containing 4 copies of the magazine and a check. Once again I am back in the fold. Leafing through the magazine I was struck by how profoundly influential the magazine has been for me both as a thinker and a photographer.
On the most basic level, having my pictures accepted for publication while I was still in high school gave me a sense of confidence in my identity as a photographer, that helped me to find value in my work. It also prepared me for rejection as only 5 or 10 percent of my submissions were accepted for publication. I could see that my photographs that told stories were more likely to be accepted and this in turn helped me to think much more visually. The lack of pretension in the images they ran taught me a lot about subtlety.
As important as “The Sun” was to me as a photographer, I realize now that it was exponentially more influential to me for the ideas held between its pages. In my first semester of college my course decisions were all shaped by “The Sun”. In fact, by the time I had to declare a major I had already completed one in religious studies. My interest in exploring complex ideas related to culture, sociology, and eastern thought had paved the way for my early completion of college.
Since then, the open questioning of ideas that permeates “The Sun” has continued to soften my darker cynicism. My partners and I are making a film about Dr. John Sarno, and mind body medicine. I know that without nearly 30 years of “The Sun” the film would be a very different beast. I am so excited to have it back in my life.