It seems whenever I attend one of John Cornicello’s conversations, something sticks with me and I need to think some more about that. This time somebody asked how people feel about their legacy. And then there was a lot of talk about donating work to universities and such, about the preservation of photographic work and some more ideas about what photographers thought about their legacy. Last night, during a conversation with my friends and fellow photographers Julie Corcoran, Joe Iano, and Toni Lovejoy, I brought the topic up again. Here is what I thought about it.
I don’t see myself becoming a globally important photographer anytime soon, so I don’t even think about how long my photographs will stand the test of time. With the paper and ink I use, they should be good for about 90 to 100 years. I can live with that and if anyone would feel the need to complain after those have passed, I’ll be gone 🙂
I also don’t ask myself the question of how I want to be remembered. I guess that has not only to do with what I do, but with every person’s individual perception. So I am not trying to behave in a way that might make people think about me a certain way. I want to be free in what I am doing and saying, free from the outside pressure to behave a certain way. And that in turn could lead to people having the impression that I’m authentic. That would do for me.
But there is one thing that could serve as something like a legacy and that has everything to do with my nephew Fiorillo Camesi, who took the above picture in the swiss Alps. I have edited it for him, but I am really proud of him for doing what he does. He does not know yet how good he really is, but hey, he’s 15.
Anyways, whenever we meet, he asks me tons of questions about photography and that alone is really rewarding. Teaching always means you have to think about why and how you are doing things. There is so much stuff he wants to know and often I really have to think hard about what it is he wants to know. I might be doing what he is asking about every day, but I have internalized it so much by now that it takes me a moment to be able to explain.
So I see him grow as a person and as a photographer and I am proud that I can help him do that. And I hope that someday maybe he has kids or a nephew or niece and he will tell them about his uncle, who was a photographer, and maybe they’ll start asking him questions, too. And that would be my legacy. That would be something I would be remembered for.
If that doesn’t happen, I’m good with not being remembered at all. I believe at some point we all go back to something bigger and all these thoughts we had, all the things we did, will seem to be lost. But I think nothing will ever be lost. Our photographs are manifestations of moments in our lives, which in the grand scheme of things are minuscule and not significant at all. And I think I can live with that and the fact that I might or might not have a legacy. If I can only bring something good into this world while I’m around, that’ll do just nicely.
I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain. Time to die.
Roy Batty (Blade Runner, 1982)