I have never published a post with accompanying images. But today is the day.
I sit at my desk, a copy of Foam magazine resting under my mouse, sipping an oversweetened coffee, and virtually thumb through facebook posts, excited about the prospect of thrifting in Brooklyn with my cousin today. I come across a post from a filmmaker whom I follow on facebook: Casey Neistat. He has shared an Upworthy link of one of his recent video creations.
For six minutes and forty five seconds, I sit hugging my knees at my desk, in my little brooklyn apartment, tears staining my cheeks, as I watch his latest video: What You Could Do With $25,000. I don’t know why acts of kindness by others in the world have always been able to make my tear ducts overproduce, but they do and my heart swells and my throat is choked, and I am unable to reign in my tears as they blur my vision and spill over, running hotly down my face.
My closest friends know this about me: how often I am bloated with emotion, questioning why I am so concerned with making photographs of pretty girls doing pretty things. How common it is for me to feel my ears burn with embarrassment when I think of all of the hours I have spent over the last few years, pouring over fashion magazines, memorizing the way the artist positioned the model, my fingers hungrily turning the pages and my eyes devouring the tasty morsels of color and texture, all while laying on my pillow-top mattress with a down comforter swirled around me, my belly full. While I do this, occasionally a thought of the less privileged, the disaster survivors, the third world countries, the human beings living in squalor, will dance across the periphery of my consciousness, and for a moment I will pause and question my path. But then it will be time to get ready for work or meet with a friend for cocktails and I will get up and agonize over the details of which outfit I should adorn myself with that will make me look like the polished fashionista I admire or the skater girl I am not or bohemian soul that I sort of am, with the perfect amount of dishevelment. At unpredictable times I will be hit with self reproach, disgust for what I put my energy towards.
I have always been obsessed with fashion. And for as long as that fascination has occurred, my guilt with the superficiality of it all has been its companion, whispering in my ear, preventing me from taking the step to fully embrace it. When I was 18 I considered attending the Fashion Institute of Technology, but was so wracked with guilt that I simultaneously entertained the idea of joining the Peace Corps. The conflict of my desire with my belief system were siamese twins that coexisted, pulling at each other with neither one having the ability to exist alone, and paralyzed me into doing neither. In more recent years, as my addiction to photography has gripped me, without any traces of its hold loosening, this polarity has translated to me questioning repeatedly my career path in photography.
And then, I find a video like Casey’s. Casey doesn’t know me, I am one of his millions of fans. He doesn’t know that videos like this inspire me to keep going, wash away the layer of guilty grime for wanting to pursue my passion. Because with success, comes power. Power that one would not ever possess had the success not preceded it. 25,000 american dollars worth of power. And power can be used to make change.
I am reminded when watching video’s like this one of the advice given to me by my dear friend Lila, while we were traveling in India. She and I sat on a balcony in Jaipur, talking over morning tea, and I expressed to her the disconnect I felt between craving success in photography and the shadow of guilt that follows that wish around. As I sat and shared this with her, she shook her head and disagreed with my sentiments. She told me that if I can achieve success with my work, I can use it to do something good for the world. Casey does just that.
Later I will be shopping and this heavy hearted moment will have disappeared into the rush of a great thrifted purchase, and laughter with friends, and admiration of the unique style that Brooklyn is awash in. But it will return. It always does. And when it does, Casey’s video will be another tiny link added to the armor that will help me keep going, keep inspiring me to do what I love and adore, and hope that someday, I will be successful enough to use my influence to do something to make the world a better place.
Thank you Casey, for being a rad human being.
HERE IS THE LINK TO HIS VIDEO: