Some days are harder than others. Some days just hit you so hard that when the sun finally sets, that your stuff is somewhat back in order and you head finally hits the pillow, your first and last thought before you fall asleep is just an unanswered question: why ?
This past week had a day like that for many of us in the photography world. News of the passing of David Laidler, at the young age of 48, just hit us that hard. David was a life loving photography passionate. Not only did he adore photography, he had a passion for everything and everyone involved with it. Be it photo editor, photographer, agent, festival curator, lab technician, if your head was in photography, he wanted to know you and befriend you. For him, you were part of what he loved and thus you had to be part of his life. Not only did have a passion for photography, he also had a love for people. David had created a temple for photography and would add each and every one of us in it. David left and without him we will all feel a little more homeless.
Photography’s a b*tch: The more you love it, the more your elevate it, the more you sacrifice your life ( and you eyes) to it, the more it ignores you. Only the photographs matter to it. People are just the servants of its tyranny. How many photographers have given up their lives for a photograph only to see their images survive, thrive, sometimes take legendary status and their memory vanish? How many others have worked so hard, from one battlefield to another, to capture the essence of Man, only to see their work questioned by bored office clerks desperately seeking a few minutes of internet fame? How many others have spent the best years of their lives traveling from sports events to press conferences, feeding the insatiable appetite of the news cycle, only to realize, at the dawn of their lives that while their images might survive, no one will ever remember their name? And how many others, who have never picked up a camera, have worked endlessly, sacrificing sleep, health, relationships just to get one picture from one part of the world to another, just so a bunch of tired commuters could glance at it on the benches of some dirty subway? How many others have carried heavy equipment, spent countless hours editing and captioning, learned new skills, sacrifices their savings in the promise of well deserved comfortable retirement, only to see their income reduced to ashes, blown away by a cynically ungrateful marketplace.
It is never, ever satisfied. One photograph after another, the vast majority forgotten minutes after seen, pushed aside by newer, fresher ones. An incessant flow of images taken by dark laborers working in the shadows, their eyes full of love and devotion for the beast that ignores them. Just to see some of them published and loved by others, they would even forego any type of retribution: for the love of photography. But here’s the deal: Photography’s a b*tch. It doesn’t care what you sacrifice. It takes what you offer and moves on to the next image, to the next photographer, to the next photo editor. It doesn’t return anything. It just leaves you behind. Or not.
You could be one of the lucky ones who is still alive while one of your photos makes it to the Pantheon of photography. In which case, photography as another trick for you. It will brand you so deeply with that image that nothing else that you do afterward will matter. You will become that photograph and forever have to live with it shadowing you everywhere you go. You become the guy that took that photo. Your life’s work before and after will be of no consequence, regardless how hard you work. Only that single frame will jail you. Forever.
Photography is a b*tch because it moves on, not even taking a pause for its fallen one’s. Another day, another billion images uploaded. Another set of great pictures in the latest issue of magazines, on the walls of galleries, in the photo album of newlyweds and on the cards aging pros. Not even a blip. It just doesn’t care for those that have given it so much.
Photography’s a b*tch, David, because it won’t even acknowledge what you have done for her. But we will. We will never forget your generosity and your sharing passion. We will continue to argue over the results of this or that photography award. We will continue to share our discoveries with each other, revel in the beauty of some and get upset by others. We will continue to wonder how and be disgusted by what we feel is undeserved success. We will never be satisfied and we will keep on looking for more. If the unexamined life is not worth living than a life without photography is pointless.
Photography is the music of the eye. If photographers are its musician, David was its musical director. He organized, picked the most talented ones, set them up so they could perform at their best. And with the help of photo editors worldwide, he would make the audience sing along.
Photography’s a b*tch but we don’t care. We will continue loving it with a relentless passion and obsessive determination. We will continue to make its fire burn with all its intensity because we know no other life. We will selflessly sacrifice our best years so that it can shine with all its splendor. We will continue to chase its charlatans and elevate its geniuses. We will relentlessly seek its talents and publicly denounce its abusers. And we will pass on our passion to everyone around us who are ready to listen. With their eyes. We will do it for Photography, and we will do it for you, David.