This is a bit of a rant, and maybe over the top (again), but I gotta say something. It's just too damn important to me. I’ve been holding onto this post by Arthur Meyerson for a while now waiting for a moment to say something. I've never met the man, but it was just yesterday, and it was somewhere around 1980. A little prior to that I had decided I somehow someway was going to be some kind of a commercial shooter. I knew I wanted to do corporate industrial work, and at that point, I was just a sponge consuming images and ideas and approaches. Arthur Myerson was a rock star in the commercial world of corporate work. Annual reports, advertising and such. I followed him in his published work.
I was flipping through some magazine. Maybe Photo District News or Communication Arts. I turned onto this image of a guy coming down a ladder on the side of maybe a refinery tank, and I swear I dropped the magazine. I still remember the second I saw it, and the impact has lasted almost forty years. I don’t think I’d ever seen a boring simple subject seen as clean and pure in my whole life. A guy on a refinery ladder? His arm positions? That hard hat? That space between his legs? That foot starting down to the next step? Not all of those things happening at the same time. Not possible. I loved looking at icons like Jay Maisel, Annie Lebovitz, Burke Uzzle, James Natchway, Bob Krist and Ernst Hass, but this guy was simply ruthless. A normal person just could not do something like this. Every inch of this image was singular. And he did it on transparency film, so he had no way of knowing what he got until the film got back from the lab, and he could not retouch it. Good lord and the shits of it is the guy has continued to do this kind of stuff his whole fricking life. Countless images that can’t happen. Beats the hell out of me how. I include another shot I just saw posted recently by Mr Meyerson, which I actually had never seen for some reason. I don’t care what anyone says. That horse has to be stuffed. It’s a mounted horse. You can’t do this with a real horse :-)
You know, it’s easy to assume he just happened to be there when these insane moments of pure clarity happen, and to a point, that’s true I guess (the horse), but it’s also not necessarily true. You put yourself in the position to be lucky (the horse). True that. But sometimes a ton of it depends on anticipation and being able to imagine what something will look like at another time, coming back and setting it up at the proper moment in the proper way in order to tell a properly truthful story. I really don’t care how this shot of the guy on the ladder came together. At the end of the day, the only thing left for your client is the image and the truthful message of the image. For a long time, I’ve felt that every photographer on earth is a liar doing their best to tell the truth as they see it, within the limits of the story, their talent, the technology and their ability to empathize with the truth as they see it. I know there are some serious liars out there, and with digital manipulations, that should make us all cautious, but the shooters who matter, they are out there right now, and these people are telling the truth no matter how they get there, and that’s the truth.
Advice for new shooters? Look at guys like Arthur Myerson and the others. Less is more. Get rid of things. Keep getting rid of things until you get down to the ruthless truth of the matter, and then use your tools, your empathy, and your ability to speak clearly, so no one confuses you with anyone else on this earth, and no one doubts the specific story you choose to tell.
Arthur Meyerson isn’t the only great shooter out there (there are many), but in 1980, when I needed a direction, he showed me a guy climbing down a ladder, and I was never the same. For me, almost forty-odd years and a crap load of photos later, sitting here in an old leather chair in Mexico, that’s a little something. Damn straight.