Today marks the 4th of July in the United States which is a holiday for those of us here. (It’s a day also known as Independence Day for those of you not in the US.) An interesting thing about the US-we’re basically a freedom-loving lot. We love our freedom. It’s a hardcore part of who we are, what we think, and what we believe.
Being a photographer, doing what I do, it would not happen without a certain amount of freedom. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it *relies* upon some of those very freedoms we celebrate today. Part of our national Bill of Rights is the notion that we celebrate freedom of the press, we also have freedom of speech, which protects us in a lot of cases. It protects us from legal action and it allows us to do what it is we do. We can’t take pictures if they won’t let us take pictures and taking pictures is what we do, so we rely upon that very freedom to do it.
Now, I know you’re probably sick of hearing about “freedom” on this day of celebration, and you probably want to go off to the beach or just take a bank holiday and get a day away from work. That’s fine, we all need that, but think about how our lives would be if we didn’t enjoy this type of freedom. Do you really think you could jaunt off to faraway location shoots if you’re too busy worrying that the government is going to come in and takeover your studio? Do you really think that you can shoot with the models you want to shoot with if you’re too busy worrying that the government might censor you for not working “along party lines?” We can walk and talk and basically go where it is we want to go (and, man, photographers do get to go to a lot of places, let me tell you, we’re always on the go!) Not having to be stopped for “papers” (sometimes a thinly veiled excuse for just arresting people in some locations) is a big plus, let me tell you. It’s hard enough getting the shots we get. We work hard bringing you the things we do and we travel far and speak to a lot of people in order for work to get done. None of this, virtually none of this, would be available if we didn’t have the kind of freedom we celebrate today.
If you don’t believe me, try getting stopped in customs at some ungodly hour of the day. Try getting held for “questioning” in some foreign land, one where you don’t really speak the language. Try getting asked for “papers” again and again and again, just because some federal agent was quick to spot a tripod. It’s not fun. It’s not a fun part of what we get to do, and it makes our jobs all that much harder, sometimes even impossible, when you really stop and think about it. Now, I know many Americans tend to think of these sorts of things as just “pests” really-small nuisances they sometimes have to deal with in order to travel or get somewhere, but some folks live with these kind of restrictions each and every day. They are not free to travel, they are not free to go out without “papers” and they don’t enjoy things like Miranda rights or even freedom of speech. They can’t just open up their doors in the morning, go out and “say” what it is they want to “say” (even if their “speech” is really contained in a blog post or a photographic image.) If you don’t believe me, read the recent news. There are countries, locations even out there, where censorship is happening on a large scale basis and where governments are “cracking down” on “troublemakers.” (Of course, the “government” in question usually gets to define who is making the “trouble” and what “trouble” really means, right?)
There is a special place in my heart for photographers who come from lands where they do not enjoy these type of freedoms (the ones we take for granted.) Honestly, I don’t know that, had I been born into a society without the freedom we have here in the US, why I don’t know that I’d even be a photographer at all. I would probably spend most of my days, most of my time and artistic energy investing in getting out, trying to escape from that tyranny, rather than letting my inner voice soar. I’d search for that kind of freedom, and not spend time working on art projects. I don’t know if I’d be able to take pictures, to craft images, to make the work that I do if I had to worry about the government meddling in everything I did or if I was constantly harassed for “papers” the way they do in some places. Honestly, I don’t know how far I would go. Frankly, I would have probably given up years ago if I had to put up with it on a constant basis.
So, yes, today I hope you get to go to the beach. I hope you have a great barbeque. I hope you get to cook, and eat, and maybe sit out in the sun. But, I hope too you get to enjoy your freedom because, without that? We wouldn’t be able to do any of this. No Internet, no web, no blogs, no photos, no freedom. Spot the trend? Yeah, it’s not a pretty picture and, in case you cannot connect the dots, let me fill you in on this one…it doesn’t end well, at least not for the people in question. It’s no fun living like that and, yes, some people are forced into that sort of an existence. Today, maybe you should count your blessings that you are not one of them-that you can actually view these sorts of intrusions as “nuisances” rather than the everyday happening.
Freedom might sound like an overused word. You might even think you have plenty to spare. Heck, that’s great, I really hope you do. But, on this day of days, on this “Independence” day, I hope you’ll stop and think some about what it really means to be free. What that freedom allows you to do and how you can make the most of it.
Freedom to create art means the spirit can soar free. That’s a lot bigger than a barbeque, let me tell you, a whole lot bigger than any backyard barbeque, trip to the beach, or any “bank holiday,” that’s for sure. The freedom to express oneself is a great power, it’s one that I enjoy, and it’s not one I take lightly. On this Independence Day, I hope you get to enjoy it too, wherever in the world you might be.
(This shot taken in the Tarpon Inn of Port Aransas, Texas, thanks to the Hipstamatic app with the dream lens.)
Until next time…