Freedom and Anxiety
There was one assignment from a company called N-REN that was the proverbial dream assignment. However, as some of you may know, complete freedom can be a scary thing.
They called me and said, “We love your work and we want you to go to six different countries in Africa and shoot anything you want.” Now that is scary to hear, because it’s what you’ve always wanted, and now you’ve got it, and what the hell do you do?
What if I do this and they really want that? There’s got to be some direction. I feel a sense of obligation to them. I don’t want to just be egoistic about it. Should I do this or that? Ah, f*¢% ’em, I’m going to shoot anything I want.
You may very well ask, why all the freedom? The reality was they had nothing in those six countries. They wanted to be there, but there were no existing facilities to shoot.
They were smart enough to realize that nobody wanted to look at pictures of their personnel, and pictures of the product wouldn’t work out because their product was fertilizer.
Ergo, do what you want. It was a wonderful adventure fraught with anxiety (“Am I doing the right thing?”) in countries that I knew would cause problems.
I told the client, “Look, I know what working in Africa is like, so here’s the deal: I’m not going unless you telex your people [it was long ago and telexes were the way to go] and get me signed telexes from your people that they know I’m coming, they know the job’s important, and they will help me in any way they can.”
I could just see walking into some guy’s office, and having him look at me and say, “Who the hell are you and what do you want?” Okay, agreed upon. When I left for the job, I had six signed telexes, one for each country.
When I got to Antananarivo (Tananarive) in Madagascar (the Malagasy Republic), I walked into this guy’s office and he says to me, “Who the hell are you and what do you want?”
Aha! I’ve prepared myself for this and I take the signed telex and show it to him. He looks at it and says, “We haven’t used that form of telex in five years. I guess they did send you, though, and I would like to help you in any way possible, but I’m going to the airport in 30 minutes. I’m on my way to Korea; won’t be back for a week.”
“Oh s#[†,” I replied.
“But I will give you my car and a chauffeur tomorrow.”
“Bless you, sir.”
The car and chauffer were fine, but you really have to be on foot to see anything, so I hoofed it from one place to another that looked interesting.
Why the two kids at the bakery?
The brown house with people?
The wonderful blue corrugated wall?
The pattern of people from my hotel room?
Why all these images?
Totally subjective, intuitive, unplanned, and personal! Sometimes it’s that simple.
Freedom and anxiety, they sometimes go hand in hand.