jack of all
As a photography student in the early 1970s, I was able to supplement my income by playing the bass on gigs around the Kitchener-Waterloo area. I accepted any genre of gig that came along, from lounges to weddings, from Oktoberfest gigs to Christmas parties, from concerts in the park to playing for the Ice Capades and the Lipizzaner Stallions at the arena, all for the almighty buck. I knew all along that, as soon as I was finished college, I would edit my gigs down to only those I felt strongly about, mainly jazz and other interesting challenges.
One day, while in my second year of the photography program, the director informed me that I would have to make a decision between my music and my photography. “Choose one or the other,” he told me, “you can’t serve two masters at the same time.”
After pondering his edict for a few minutes, I responded, “I have chosen to specialize in ‘documentary photography’ and in ‘jazz music.’ How can I possibly survive by choosing one over the other? Even the accumulated income from both of them won’t put food on the table, let alone pay the rent.”
Upon graduation I started to work at the University of Waterloo. I gradually narrowed my musical focus into jazz, and began working on personal documentary photography projects. Together, they shaped my life to come.
Over the next 40 years, there were times when music held my attention more than photography, and vice versa. There were also moments when they competed for my attention at the same time. It was the best of times and the worst of times, but it was the way it was.
In more recent years, especially since I retired from the college, I have focused more of my energy into jazz performance and composition. I can however, feel the claws of photography pulling me in its direction, with my thoughts gathering towards a new documentary project. There’ll be more on that in a future posting.
Recently, while discussing the design of this website with several of my friends, the subject of specialization once again arose. Should I have a specific web presence for my music, and another for my photography? One advocate for the music-specific version stated that it would be too confusing for the viewer if I displayed and promoted multiple interests. Another encouraged me to put all my passions together. “Let people see who you really are,” he said.
I opted for the latter, partly because it would be less expensive, but also so I could express my passions together. I firmly believe that each of us is the culmination of all our things. My energy is spent on music and photography; together they form who I am. To me, they are one, all contributing to the path I’ve created for myself.
While I was teaching photojournalism at Loyalist College, I constantly encouraged students to be passionate about more than one thing, and to determine for one’s self, the life ahead. Life isn’t about following; it’s about carving one’s own path through it. The old adages, “You only live once,” and “You only travel this road once in one direction,” are absolute truths.
This concept can be a huge struggle for younger people to comprehend, especially those with only 20 years behind them and 70 ahead, but it makes much more sense to people for whom the numbers are reversed.