Looking back on the 2015 LOOK3 FESTIVAL lecture with Larry Fink in Charlottesville, Virginia, it is hard to put into words what I experienced. How does one put into words the culmination of one experience leading up to another that changes your life for the better, if even for a single moment, you change, and your life changes? It is true that a vast majority of artists come from an array of troubled backgrounds, yet find their way through the garble of every day society and living not by chance, but the choice of genre they/we decide to use as our filter. This filter acts as a sifter which smoothes out the rough edges of our history and helps them, not blend, but meld together into a life long culmination of experiences that make us whom we are.
I sat through the questionnaire interview with Mr. Fink speaking candidly, honestly, and openly about his life experiences. He reaches in “through the ass to the uterus" to pull out and create images through his perception of reality. In doing so the identities of both himself, and persons in his images become one. Sitting in the air conditioning of the Paramount Theatre, I pondered over and over again what am I doing, how am I going to accomplish it, and how I could create images through my eyes, just as Larry has done.
Being a Master of Fine Arts Photography student is difficult, rewarding yes, but I kept thinking to myself no degree could ever compare to a life of self taught experience of image making that this man has completed. Larry knew all along from a very young age, from his first memory at three years old; of being at a party with his parents looking up from a bassinet, with music blaring how he saw the world, and later he began to translate this through his imagery. I am only now fully committing to showing what is important to me in life since the beginning of this past year. Yes, I created art at the University of Michigan during undergrad, but it did not have the type of meaning that could encourage societal change for the betterment of the world. Now I want to say something, I want to preserve/conserve the trails, forests, and animals that inhabit our planet, and I am having to navigate the hills to find out how to conquer this within my imagery. I need an answer. When I approached Mr. Fink, well I am just going to continue to call him Larry, because he seems like the kind of person who would want me to do so. Anyways. I approached him after my husband motivated me to go and meet my idol, I was like a doe-eyed school girl, 12 again, and in pig tails. As I walked up to him my mind was completely blank, which is a rare occurrence, and I almost never have nothing to say. I found myself asking to speak with him, he turned around, and said my pants are going to come off as the stage hand was taking his mike off, with his amazing sarcastic sense of humor. I waited, then he walked over, and held out his hand. He asked my name, I said, “Daniella,” as it is my name, and seemed like the appropriate answer. In my head, I had a million things to ask and say, but all that came out was a thank you. I thanked him for speaking so openly and candidly. I explained I was an MFA student at AAU. I also informed him that I had studied his work during my Concept of Photography course with Shannon Ayres this past semester. I told him how much in awe I was of him, that I was just now trying to figure out which genre to work in. He asked me what that was, I responded without thinking, “statement pieces or pieces for environmental preservation.” He said, “well that is great, admirable, now you can go to places make pictures of forests cut down,” and I interjected, “but this has been done”….he said, “yes, well everything has been done, but you have to figure out why. You have to figure out why you want to create these images,” and then he reached out with his right hand, and rubbed my left cheek looking into my eyes. At this moment I became dumbfounded. Dumbfounded, not only of the kindness one human being who just met another could show, but the direction I so badly needed from not only an educator, but parents I had lost during childhood. With one reach of the hand, a few words he opened himself up to me, showed me this was what I had to do to answer these questions, and without saying anything for a few moments he then replied, “this is fucking hard I know...."I said, “shit I know.”
The why I have pinned down now, nature has become like the mother I lost at eighteen, and it guides me through my anxiety driven life in society. I want to break free constantly, I am free when I leave behind the mass produced affluenza that has lead to deforestation and the depletion of our planets natural resources. It is crucial that we undo the damage man has had on our planet over the past few hundred years. If we don’t continue to try to reduce our carbon foot steps on this planet, inform our children of the importance of preserving life, trails, forests, and not killing the creatures/resources in our world so “the man” can make more money, we will have no planet left one day and will cease to exist.
Now I don’t know if the best way to describe what I want is through the use of humor or seriousness, but I do know that the humor, candor, and precious moments I had with Larry Fink at age seventy four while being twenty nine were some of the most precious moments of my life. I thank him again. I thank you Larry. Your kindness made my shit baggage filled life seem somehow special, important, and your encouragement, with just one gesture of your hand made it seem as if everything would fall into place. With one touch I knew that just like you know, your voice is special, it is possible to find out how to make mine so too, and now I just have to figure out “the how.”