Learning that you just have to let go and FEEL the shot
I’m going to go ahead and admit it: I was very sad about Michael Jackson’s early departure from this realm. No, I didn’t own any of his albums nor did I go to any of his concerts. I lean more towards rock n’ roll, baby. But I grew up with Michael, in a sense. We are roughly the same age and I grew up listening to the Jackson 5. And I witnessed the Motown 25 year Anniversary special on TV the night Michael did his legendary moonwalk and the music industry changed, over night! I remember that night clearly, in 1983. Michael took the world by storm! He became a legend!
I have had friendships torn up over his death, literally. Some of my friends just couldn’t stand him and thus really weren’t too sympathetic about his early passing. They just couldn’t see past some of the things Michael was accused of doing. I, on the other hand, was moved by his music, his passion, his abilities and his contribution to the world. He was a master at his craft. I overlooked his personal life and tastes because I was only interested in his creative process.
This post isn’t going to be about Michael Jackson, per se. But a few nights after they announced his death, my husband downloaded an interview they did with Michael about 5 years ago. There was one part in it that really struck a nerve, and I thought: THIS is what I’m going to blog about next! It was one of those tacky documentaries where they are truly more exploitative than informative, and I knew eventually I was going to become outraged by the interviewer’s intrusive and disrespectful brow beating on Michael to get him to open up to some pretty heavy subjects.
In the beginning, though, when they first met at Michael’s infamous Neverland house, they were in his music studio and the interviewer was asking Michael just how he goes about writing a song. Michael answered, “Look, if I HAD to sit down at the piano and tell myself I HAVE to write the best song I’ve EVER written, nothing happens. Something from the heavens has to say, look, this is the time that we’re going to lay this song on you and this is when you can have it. I remember when I wrote Billie Jean, I was in my car driving down Ventura Blvd. All I had in my head was, I want to write a song with a great bass hook. And then I just let it go, really. Several days later the music came to me.” The interviewer stopped him and asked, “Yes, but WHERE did the music come from?” Michael pointed to the ceiling and said, “From above. The thing is, artists seem to get in the way of the music. You have to get OUT of the way. Don’t write the music, let the music write itself”.
“What’s going through your mind when you’re dancing?” the interviewer asked. Michael said, “I’m not thinking. Thinking is one of the biggest mistakes a dancer can make. You don’t think, you have to FEEL. You become the bass. You become the clarinet and the strings. You become the physical embodiment of music“. He went on to try to teach the interviewer how to moonwalk. Towards the end of the interview Michael became frustrated with the interviewer and at one point said, “You know, the process is really hard to explain“.
It IS hard to explain, I have to give him that. Look, photography is such a technical medium that sometimes we get too caught up in all the technical aspects of shooting. I agree that we have to have a good understanding of how to use the equipment we need, in order to create the images we want. But I think a lot of the time, photographers get too caught up in the gear and they don’t realize that, honestly, it’s not the gear you’re using, it’s the photographer behind all that gear. Too many times, I think, photographers HIDE behind their cameras, behind their gear because they are afraid to let go and become one with the camera. Look, NO camera in the world is going to get that shot for you or tell you when that moment is, YOU’VE got to find the shot and the moment and get it. You can go out and buy all the equipment you can afford and try to copy a photographer’s work that you admire but that doesn’t guarantee that you can create the same photographs. After all, a camera is just a housing unit. You need an eye with that thing in order to take phenomenal pictures. It’s hard to articulate how to get the creative impulse to create something that makes a statement or create phenomenal art. You DO have to learn the discipline and the craft, but ultimately you have to let it go, and let the impulse to capture the moment come and not have a barrier. If you’re too wrapped up in the technicality of photography, you won’t be able to feel the moment and get the shot.
There’s an old saying. There are two different types of photographers: Image Takers and Image Makers. Image Takers have a lot of technical know-how, and that’s about it. Image Makers create memorable art and photographs, they leave behind a legacy. Personally, I’d rather be an image maker but I guess to each their own.
I’ll end with this, you can say what you want about Michael Jackson, and I’m not going to get into an argument about him however you cannot dispute the fact that he was a legendary artist and has left behind a legacy and that’s because he knew that he had to let it all go and let the music write itself. Oh and this kid could fuckin’ dance!