16 Aug Do What You DO (& Don’t Die).
OK. First Blog Post. No Pressure.
The obvious topic choice is to talk about myself, my experience, but that seemed a tad trite. Sharing the bullet-dodging work of Lyndsey Addario seemed WAY more fun. This lady’s passion is army-tank-sized, which is fitting because some of her best work required flak vests and humvees.
So what does this have to do with Design? We have enough living room makeovers, done much better than I ever could. I wanted a place to showcase the process behind the work, and all the untamed ideas, the undercurrents, research, and inspiration sources that often contribute indirectly to the work. I wanted a place to house all the W I L D people, places, projects, that inspire me to get to work.
So perhaps this is a random, but hopefully fitting, place to start – to share what’s been on my mind – and that’s easy: Lynsey Addario. The war correspondent and photographer. I just finished reading her book, It’s What I Do: A photographer’s Life of Love and War.
Every night I carried her stories into my dreams and would often wake thinking I was in the Korengal Valley or Sudan, her pictures and experiences filtered through my own, in a weird Wes Anderson storyline kinda way.
The book and her story is phenomenal, and not for the reasons you might expect: A female photographer, holding her own in a male dominated and flat out dangerous profession? She’s a badass for sure. Stunningly brilliant photographs that moved me to tears and inspire me to keep learning about the worlds that are so foreign to me? Hell Yes. Empathy & Curiosity, Check. The incredible drive to keep working after having children, even with the imminent risk of documenting war? Again, she’s a badass, and I completely get it.
All of these are note worthy, but none really spoke to my core. What kept the pages turning into the wee hours of the night, was her resilience after each set back, driven purely from a deep love and passion for her work. When I was teaching design, I often talked about grit. You have to have grit to get good. Grit is that dogged persistence to keep pushing yourself to get better, to fail better with every attempt. BTW if anyone is looking for ways to develop grit, go to architecture school (but that’s a whole other blog post). But don’t forget, you can’t develop grit without love. You gotta LOVE what you do soo much that it you don’t even notice the obstacles. Developing your craft shouldn’t hurt, it should drive you out of bed each day to Do What You Do.
Elizabeth Gilbert often asks, “What do you love doing so much that it wouldn’t matter if you failed?”
Addario consistently ignored setbacks. She kept working, kept honing, kept challenging her craft. The intense circumstances that she put herself in for the sake of journalism, for sake of sharing the world’s suffering, for the sake of showing the public the truth about war, would have pushed most people to give up. Journalists, I’m learning, are a rare breed. Addario kept working. She kept fighting even after coming home from an excruciatingly dangerous, physically and mentally draining embed in Afghanistan, where she almost died and others did die, and was notified that the publication decided to pull her photographs because of PR issues with the military. To almost lose your life in the process of documenting a story and not have it published would be absolutely infuriating and defeating.
She didn’t collapse, she kept working.
ALL PHOTOS TAKE BY ADDARIO
After reading about her embed in the Korengal Valley, the one that barely got published, I was up thinking about how foolish it was to feel crushed when I didn’t land a project, or even worse, when I landed a big project and spent months designing and producing drawings, and then at the last minute it doesn’t get built. The heartbreak of seeing those drawings sit lifeless in a folder, can feel like such a waste of time. There are obviously so many puzzle pieces that affect a project’s viability in this industry: financing, timelines, budgets, but that doesn’t always soothe the love and passion put into a project unfulfilled.
I’m not trying to compare design work with war correspondent journalism. Both are obviously important, both have impact. One does happen to be WAAAY more dangerous, than the other. What I am interested in gleaming from that profession, is the grit that is required to keep making work.
Lyndsey Addario experienced more than her fair share of giant setbacks, being kidnapped, surviving bone shattering car accidents, overcoming professional obstacles, proving her male counterparts of her capabilities, each of these individually would stop many in their tracks, but she kept working. Kept doing what she loved. Kept putting herself out there, worked smarter and safer, and in time she was awarded a Pulitzer and the MacArthur Genius Grant.
PHOTOS BY ADDARIO
So if you are out there, wondering if your work matters. Stop worrying. Just keep making.
Keep Working. Get Some Grit. Keep Loving.
Keep at it and perhaps a reward will come, perhaps you’ll get a Pulitzer 😉 perhaps you won’t. But if you are making what’s in your soul, it won’t matter it you fail, or succeed. The insatiable thirst inside to “do what you do” will propel you onward, and perhaps even help you dodge a bullet or two…
Keep Doing What You Do… & Don’t Die 🙂
It’s What I Do, A Photographer’s Life of Love and War, has officially been added to my all-time favorite books list and Lyndsey Addario is now an official #LassoHero #LassoHeroesProject #LassoHeroLyndseyAddario
Thank You Lyndsey for being WILD, for sharing your art, for sharing your work, for doing what you do.
Read her Book & Check out Lyndsey’s work at: http://www.lynseyaddario.com