There are thousands of images from our week in Boston, thousands more from NYC, from the parties, the whirls, the photoshoots, the Glitterganza, the calendars…and tens of thousands of words that might go with any one of them.
I winnow the images, I sort through the people in my life.
Bri Date, Kellner Brown, Kyle Cassidy, Ryan Anas and Kate McKinnon,
Eero Saarinen Chapel, MIT. Photo by Kyle Cassidy.
My Love Letters project is a book about my experience of life and my delight in extraordinary, driven people who love to work, but it seems that this is not enough of an answer to explain why I am in a pilot’s uniform in a decommed radar ball on a roof, or in a ball gown under a bridge; people ask, “What are the pictures for?”
Kate McKinnon and Kellner Brown, inside the disused radar ball on top of
the Green Building by I.M.Pei, MIT. photo by Kyle Cassidy.
After a decade of staging photoshoots, the question is becoming distracting. Does one need a reason? Alternately, must one identify professionally as a photographer or painter in order to justify spending professional resources (like time, money, or other people’s time) creating imagery?
After all, what is the point of a painting, or of the red of a roof, a glimpse of beauty?
W.K. Hartmann, painted from life, Bern, October 2008
What is the value of showing someone else that you find them unspeakably beautiful, or clever, or even (so simple and powerful) that you see them, that you are taking the time and spending the love and the risk to look directly at them with your open eyes?
What is the risk of feeling love but never announcing it, or of announcing love but never feeling it, compared to the risk of both feeling and speaking it? The math changes by human, by circumstance.
What new thoughts can we think, or insights can we find, when we express in different guises and examine the results? Are we different people when we are in different outfits?
I know that I am.
Michael Pope and Kate Stern, photo by Robin Douglas at the epic Ten Day Party,
Tucson, Feb 2015. Finery from the Costume Closet at the Ranch.
I don’t know exactly how I’ll be using each shot beyond absorbing its existence. We make a gift of the photographs to everyone we shoot, so that is one set of uses for the images. The many personal, commercial and informative applications of experience (and of photographs of experience) are also epic and various; album and book covers, calendars, author photos, character or architectural studies, frozen moments of theater… captured pieces of time to enjoy, study, show, hang, or use later to illustrate text, to paint from, to gather together a show.
They are proof of life.
Kate on the roof of the Green Building, I.M. Pei, MIT
photo by Kyle Cassidy, gown from a fun day in NYC with Ryan Anas.
I think about the shot below, a photo by Kyle of Trillian Stars wearing Robin Douglas at the Fashion Institute of Technology. When I see it, I remember writing the book and giving the talk and getting to know Robin and seeing her piece and I think about Trillian and Kyle and the train station and about Jennifer Goldsmith, who also came to model, and the amazement of it all.
I remember introducing Ryan and Pope to Carter Emmart over Indian food on that trip, I feel the air, I hear the sounds, I remember a kiss, a connection, the moments.
Trillian Stars wearing Robin Douglas, photo by Kyle Cassidy, FIT, NYC, summer 2014
I can use the photograph to advance the cause of the neckpiece, the next book, or the next lecture at the Fashion Institute. Kyle can use it as his own work, Trillian can use it in her modeling portfolio, the NY Bead Society can use it for whatever…heck, the FIT can use it, we don’t mind. The image is a placeholder, a memory palace, a beautiful thing, a tool for commerce, a gift to the participants. It’s a piece of art ready to be placed in service, or simply gazed at in wonder.
I coax magic, love, chances for visions into my schedule; my calendar is a living storyboard of my life; I view the boxes-and-months method of marking time with confusion, and reverence, and I paint and ornament it and I stud, salt and lard the compartments, I dream of how to make each one evince a distinct flavor: this moment, this person, that summer’s night.
mannequin, Torrent Engine 18, Boston, photo by Kate
I write my heart in a childish scrawl, I weep my disappointments, when I have them, into the moonlight, or into Bill’s hair. He never forsakes me, or asks me to be less full of wonder, or be more prudent with my dreams, or to limit my capacity for love.
Instead he says, “Hey! We’re in LA! Let’s go see the Watts Towers and visit the grave of Johnny Ramone!”
photo by Kate
What is the value of any experience?
Intellectually I grasp that some people are bored with life; perhaps they are traveling in the same ruts, not loving their work or their jobs, not going up mountains, not having sex with their partners, not asking questions, not reading books, but I don’t know why they accept these living deaths.
I don’t want a life with those people; it’s easier for me (and even easier for them) if I leave them alone, and look instead for people who want to feel and see and taste and do and make and think, who are flexible, adaptable, people who take pride in having the minimum amount of gear, in doing things intelligently, asking questions, probing the physical world.
People who have positive feelings about the idea of work.
a beautiful photo of Rob van der Hilst, department head of MIT Earth & Planetary Science,
keeper of the keys to the roof of the Green Building, photo by Kyle Cassidy 2015
I like finding the people who aren’t about the money, the title, the credit, the power or the glory. I look for the ones who know how to give things away, but also to spin gold from straw; people who take the raw materials of life and make something of them, who want to live lives of service, who are not afraid of work.
Opportunity is a living force; as Picasso said about inspiration, it’s best if it finds us busy.
Kirk hanging out at Torrent Engine 18 with Edgar Stephen Curo,
Katrina Galore, Ryan Anas, Kate and Bri. Photo by Bri
I think people who are trying to do their best are unspeakably beautiful, and one of the reasons I love staging events and photoshoots is because people come to them with the intention to be at their best; they don’t come to be bitter or to complain about bullshit.
At events, people do not perp the cold shoulders, the oversights and proprieties of everyday life. They let you touch them, arrange their hats, their globes of Venus, tell them that they are magnificent, they let you tell them why and how much you love them.
Jack Wisdom, MIT, crop of a larger photo by Kyle Cassidy
When people are at an event, they are aware and attempting to present as the selves they aspire to be. They want to be loved, to be seen.
My tendencies, my predilection to love and to see, my desire for physical closeness, my foolish love, these are suddenly not seen as threatening during an event, but as in situational character. The rules of society briefly suspend; we unite against the dull moment, the unspoken tenderness, against mediocrity.
Kellner Brown with Kirk, photo by Bri Date at Torrent Engine 18, Boston, 2015
Photographers, cellists, pianists, crane operators, department heads, physicists, painters, poets, historians; I work with them all, but I must do what I can do, and I cannot do everything or own all of the equipment, the access, the expertise. I find the people I think are the best of the best, and I try to get them to work or to play with me, or to talk to me, or to have an adventure.
under the Longfellow Bridge, checking out the Trophy Wall, photo by Kyle Cassidy
I try to be brave; I put myself out on the quivering limb, and I offer my heart, my pen, my joy, my attention; I beg moments of time, and if my timing is right, they blossom into lifetimes of love and friendship.
under the Longfellow Bridge, handstand in the muck, photo by Ryan Anas
below, Kyle offering a wet-wipe, photo by Kate
Sometimes people find my love ridiculous, or fear that I have hidden agendas, or that I must want something, or that I am lonely. Sometimes people make fun of me when I am lucky enough to find someone who lets me love them to my heart’s content; admittedly this hurts.
A flinty female French planetary scientist said, in 1992, “Who is that woman hanging all over Bill McKinnon“; in 2015, a friend who loves me says “Kate fawns over Michael Pope.” Maybe I did, maybe I do.
If the people I extend my love to do not return it fully, it doesn’t matter. Every output is returned by the universe as a matter of physics. The whole of creation thrums and throbs, it is always available; it is a perfect mirror of my own attention, behavior, and of my expenditure of love and forward motion.
If my love is real, energy comes back to me, doors open, blessings follow.
The physics of love is enough; it has to be, because people frankly are not; I find that their attention to love wanders, but the quivering, living everything is ever everywhere, responding, and my heart is ever (as Billy Collins says) on a tripod in a field, awaiting the next arrow.
Kate by Kyle Cassidy, on the roof at MIT
I was telling Bill the other night (when we were together in Boston) that his love and his acceptance of me allows me a certain freedom in the world that I would not enjoy if he did not love me as he did; there is something about the steadiness of his love that says that my solitude is chosen; that I am not cast out nor have I cast myself out; I am human, I have a home in his arms and his heart.