I have tossed around writing this blog a lot over the last 24 hours. One part of me wants to hold true to the motto “if you have nothing good to say…..” The other side of me wants to show distaste over the subject in so many ways, but then I would be nothing but Shakespeare’s resounding gong. Enough standing at this hyperbolic fork in the road, it’s time to take it (yeah, a little Yogi Berra to start your day).
Over the last few days, I have received messages from no less than ten people about a photographer from Nebraska and his outlandish exploits. While I normally hear from many photographers gossiping about what another person in this industry did or didn’t do, this time was different, because most of the people that contacted me weren’t photographers. They were friends, from doctors to teachers, that had seen the same Reddit post and felt that I should say something about it.
So with that, let’s talk about Jake….
With as much as I try to stay away from reading endless internet articles, I will admit that this one captivated me. It became less about an bitter photographer, and more about the peek inside the psyche of someone that is truly disturbed. Sometimes the level of narcism was humorous, other times the attacks were downright disturbing. But one thing remained a constant, a subtle undertone of someone publicly fighting through a world load of insecurity. While I in no way condone the things Jake said, I actually grew to feel quite sorry for the guy.
We, the collective photographic community, are a lucky bunch of people. Yes, there are some that find this job more fulfilling in it’s serving of the super ego, but what we saw in this post was not that. We see someone that is trying so hard to be cool, only to push himself further away from his desired destination. The photographic equivalent of a photographer that screams at his assistants to try and impress his clients multiplied by a number that can’t even be displayed on my now ancient TI-83. The result of these two acts are proportionally equal in that the insecure party, while confident in their portrayal of “cool,” comes off as a complete and total ass.
There is a point in all our careers that we will eventually take a photo that we, both as the individual and the collective photographic community, deem “good.” It is at this point that we have two options. The first option is to celebrate making a good image with the community around. As a further extension, talk about it and how you did it. This option is one of humility and recognition that what we do is always a factor of practice, but also luck.
The second option for someone taking their first “good” photo is to internalize it. In this path, the photographer feels that they are the photographic community’s gift from God, and that only they could have created that image. The only thing that this does is serve the ego of the photographer that shot the image. In the process it alienates him or her from the photographic community that only moments before the shutter was pressed, supported them. The circumstances that have culminated in Jake’s public narcism no doubt began from the latter.
However, while the catalyst may have been the internalization of photo credit, the level to which the superego grew is not normal, nor healthy. What caught my attention more than the photography side of the story was the mental health, or lack there of. The more I read, the more concerned I became for this guy. It’s striking, but I genuinely thought less about how he is now hated by the general populous, and instead thought, “I hope he is seeing someone to help him through this dark time.” If the person from the Reddit story was a writer, creative director or painter, I would feel exactly the same way.
So here we are, the photographic community, the lucky, the gifted, the talented. As much as we would like to disown the obvious black sheep in the family, to be strong in our resolve, this is not an option. The fact of the matter is that the guy is hurting and hopes that talking about numbers and possessions will ease the pain. For us to team up and attack his outbursts, while it may be easy, it is not right. Our part, as family, in this matter is to support the individual. This doesn’t in any way equate to supporting or agreeing with his posts. What is does entail is talking about it with people outside the photography community, that want you to bash on him. Instead, identify the situation for what it is, a disturbed person that is fighting through some big identity issues, and has taken to the internet as a sort of refuge to try and aid his self view. While he has used his photography as a medium from which to pivot his insecurities, this it NOT a conversation about photography nor a statement on photographers.
This is not the first, and won’t be the last time this sort of thing happens. However, it is one that can teach us all how to react and view it. One thing that rests at its core is that we, the photographers, hope you get help Jake, and know that we are there for you.