That line is from the new TOP GUN sequel and no doubt, one of my “friendly” followers saw the movie and for some reason decided I needed to know that it applied to me. I’m 68 and this is not news to me.
I am pretty sure he meant it as an insult, but I simply take it as matter of fact. And when my tired, old, body gets out of bed in the morning, I know he’s right.
I’ve talked about this before. With every year that passes, I am shocked to still be alive. And as I’ve aged, I’ve become well aware that my relevance to this time and space is waning.
I accept it. Tomorrow is promised to nobody and we all owe a death. Young people rule the world, and that is how it should be. That’s how we get new ideas and new inspiration. We need to change and evolve and the young people are all about that.
I’ve mentioned this before but Steve Jobs, in 2005, shortly after being diagnosed with cancer, gave a commencement speech. In that speech, he said many important things, but this one stuck with me.
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
So I have followed my heart and lived the best life I know how. I feel very lucky to have been able to make a living doing something I love. I have traveled the world and for the most part, have never let my desire to chase money guide my actions. I haven’t done anything (just for the money) in so long that I can’t remember when that was. I just do what I want to do because I am too stupid to know I can fail 🙂
I’ve been told so many times that I cannot possibly support myself doing “XYZ” that it has become a popular refrain. Again, it’s something to expect.
Circling back; I know the future is coming fast and that I am not part of it. AND THAT IS THE FRIGGING POINT! As a photographer, I have created art. You make like it or not, but I have created it and IT is my progeny. Yes – soon, I won’t be here any more. You won’t see any more tweets from me. You won’t hear me on any more new podcast episodes. I won’t be giving talks at photo conferences. I won’t be leading any photo workshops. I won’t be publishing any blog posts. I will simply – NOT BE. BUT – and this is a very big but – my photos will live on. I am nearing 300 publication credits after my nearly 50 years in the business. Add to that all the commercial licensing I’ve done and the very lucky fact that I have a couple hundred patrons who regularly buy prints from me and it’s clear that while I may be gone, my photos will live on.
Like I said – that is the point. I am not gonna be part of the future. Eventually you won’t be either. But our photos will live on. In my case, someone will look up at a print they bought of “Cranes in the Fire Mist” or someone will pick up my old book “Captivating Wildlife” or see one of my bird photos in a guide book and they’ll say something like, “Who was that photographer? Oh yeah, a guy named Scott Bourne made that image.”
I am repeating myself here (that’s what old people do you know) but I consider myself a high priest of memory protection. I protect memories of my life, memories (reminders) of the people, animals, birds and places I photographed and it’s all proof that once, we all existed. I have protected those memories and the memories of a life lived.
I have had all the photographic honors and accolades I could have ever hoped for. I have seen things and had experiences that frankly, amaze me. Why? Because do they amaze me? Here’s the answer… I am the least among you. I see people’s work (on a daily basis) that is so much better than mine it humbles me. That is why, after five decades of photography, I continue to practice and shoot and study. I know I have a long way to go before I become truly good at this. The problem is I don’t have a long time to accomplish that. But I don’t let that bother me. I approach it like Steve Jobs did. The troll was right. I am not part of the future, but I have the safety, the security, the happiness and the knowledge that while I won’t be here, my pictures will.
Why do I share this story with you? Because I want you to learn to let go of your fear, pride and even ambition. Just tell stories with your cameras. Don’t chase Instagram likes. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks of your work. That’s frankly, none of your business. Your job – your sacred job, is to go out there and protect memories and to leave behind YOUR progeny. If you do that, the money and fame will probably follow.
I have learned over the years that FEAR is what stops most people from accomplishing their goals and in many cases, folks just need some old coot like me – who’s been up the road and back to tell them it’s safe. It’s gonna be okay. And you know what, I am that old coot – and believe this – I am rooting for you.
Here’s why: If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right. Make it all count and ignore the nonsense. If you are able to do this, as I have, you may just end up as lucky as I have been. You’ll realize that you did what mattered. . . you protected some memories.
P.S. In case you are wondering: like in the movie “Top Gun: Maverick” my answer to the troll is a paraphrase of a statement by Tom Cruise’s character. When the guy says, “the future is coming fast and it’s coming for you.” My response is, “Yeah, but not today.”
Now get off the couch and go make some memories.