2.09.2021

Chasing relevance.


I had coffee with a friend who is slightly older and much wiser than I. We met at a local coffee shop and sat at a table outside. I told him that I was sorry not to have brought along the new SL2 camera but he told me he didn't need to see the camera...he was hoping I'd just bring one of the $275 camera batteries since he'd never seen one that expensive before...

I don't know exactly why but I started to explain why I bought the new camera and he more or less stopped me and suggested that the successive purchase of cameras, along with the dogged pursuit of the blog, and my interminable walks through an over documented downtown, might all have the same purpose. 

I asked him to explain and he did so with his usual economy of words. He said, "You have to stay relevant." 

My connection to photography, to the blog, even to a venue like Instagram is my attempt during the long running pandemic to maintain some feeling that I am still relevant in some form. 

I think he hit the nail right on the head. It certainly popped my eyes open. 

To my mind that's one thing that draws all freelance creative people together; our collective need, both emotionally and for many, commercially, to feel relevant to the world outside ourselves. We want to know that we are still acknowledged and our visions and opinions broadcast. But to what end?

To say we are here? To ask the universe to count us among the people who haven't metaphorically checked out yet? To always be under consideration for the next project? To be respected for our knowledge and experience by a contemporaneous audience? 

These are all interesting questions. The answers for many living in the United States of America swirl around the cultural roles for older men. Meaning anyone over 50 years old. We tend to be more isolated from, and less integrated into, our own national culture by this point in our lives and careers. For so many our identity is partially dependent on viewing ourselves by the reflections of our jobs and career pursuits. 

As we age out of different parts of our cultural matrix our friendships seem to become more diffuse and our connections less strong and resilient. We might find that people we counted as friends were only work acquaintances and when our employment changed the fabric of those relationships was laid bare. 

Photography is what I know how to do so I reflexively hang on tenaciously to every part of it that I can. The blog gives me a sense of connection to like minded photographers. New cameras give me a sense of adventure and purpose but mostly end up giving me something new to write about and share. 

While thinking about all of this I was reminded of a photograph I shot in Rome, many years ago. It shows a group of older men sitting at an outside table in an old, residential neighborhood. Some are engaged in a game of cards while others look on or talk amongst themselves. It's the middle of a weekday. These guys are hanging out together, sharing life together. Maintaining, at least in their own group, their relevance. 

One of my friends who, at the time, was a practicing psychologist in private practice saw the black and white image and asked if she could buy a print. I sold her one and she had it framed for her office. I asked her why. She said that a big part of her practice was spent helping older men who had long professional careers,  many spent in the top ranks of the C suites, find their footing after retirement. The biggest issue each faced, in their own way, was a self-aware sense of lost relevance, followed closely by the loneliness brought on by losing the bulk of their work driven social connections. The photo was a jumping off point which engendered conversations about the need to re-discover relevance and social connection. 

I get the point. 




 

Well, well, well. It's vaccine time! And no! I didn't skip the line.

In Texas everyone over 65 is now eligible to receive a Covid-19 vaccine. Yippee.

 I was talking to a friend in Calgary, Canada today and he brought me good luck. I've been trying to get a Covid-19 vaccine for several weeks now. Austin Public Health has an online sign up system that's torturous to navigate and fraught with issues. It crashes more regularly than it stays up. The system demands that you jump through many hoops for (literally) hours before sending you to a final page which lets you know that  your session has crashed and you need to re-load. Refresh. And start again. 

Today I spent an early morning hour trying to lock in an appointment for this week. I gave up and went to swim practice. When I was talking to Eric a bit later I was sitting in front of my computer and I would refresh the page of the APH site from time to time. We finished our call and I reached over to try my luck one last time. Almost like playing the slot machines in Las Vegas. And finally, I hit the jackpot. 

I have an appointment across town at 5 pm tomorrow and I'm excited to finally be moving forward on something. Anything. While I have an abject fear of needles and injections this is one instance in which the fear of NOT getting the shot is actually greater. 

The syringe above is not the one I think they will use. This is a special, lead lined syringe for injecting radioactive (medical) material. It sure looks sinister... Used only by radiologists. Yikes.

If everything goes according to plan I should get a second dose in early March and, if it's protective against some of the newer virus variants I'll be a happy camper. I have heard that the body's reaction to the second dose can be uncomfortable for 24 hours or so. It's got to be better than having a full blown infection. 

I was going to document my experience with a camera but my friendly, favorite doctor reminded me of the HIPA rules and suggested that the new Leica be put to a better use. I concur. I'll have my hands full trying to keep myself from fainting.

It's a good start. I hope we get to finish strong.