Blog Author Richard Newman
Today’s photo word is “endurance.” When I used to hear that word I would think “drudgery,” or some unpleasant task that I’ll have to endure, like waiting three minutes in the darkroom for a print to develop in the tray, or processing a batch of raw still photos. And then I read a story that changed my thinking . . .
In 1914, Sir Ernest Shackleton began an expedition to the South Pole with 28 crewmembers, no cell phones, no Patagonia fleece, no SD cards and no Starbucks in sight. He did have an over-built ship named the Endurance and a photographer, Frank Hurley, on the mission who used large-format, glass-plate negatives.
Over the course of the next two years, the ship became bound in ice and was crushed, the food dried up and the weather turned extremely bad—even by South Pole standards. The crew drifted on the ice for over a year. During that time, Sir Ernest kept the spirits of the crew focused, sometimes by elaborately planning the Christmas play several months in advance. Tea was regimented to once a day.
With the ship destroyed, the crew transported the life boats over the ice to open water, lashed them together and for 28 days survived in the frigid waters. Over 800 miles later, they found land on Elephant Island, where Shackleton and three of his men walked across a mountain range and slid down the far side into a whaling port.
All 28 men survived! Hurley transported his glass-plate negatives made during the time spent on the ice and in the lifeboats. Everyone stuck together, remained focused and never lost hope that they would be rescued. They believed in their leader. If you have not read this book, "Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage", you should!
Why is this my new favorite word in image making? Right now I am editing a film that I have been shooting for the past 23 months. I have over 100 hours of interviews, and countless hours of support or B roll. To bring this into a compelling 80 minutes of film is a challenge and, at times, overwhelming. I look to the crew of the Endurance and see that they went forward, believing in the end game. It’s easy to say, “it can’t be done" or "it’s just too much for one person". But that would simply be an excuse, and I won’t allow it.
When you tackle a project or a subject that appears to be too much, believe in yourself. I have been given a wonderful gift in the creation of this film. At the beginning I didn’t say, “Oh, that’s too much for one person.” I just went blindly into battle. The jewels that I have found along the way are riches beyond my wildest dreams. It’s also a boatload of work, but with a cup of tea, I think I’m ready for it. Go out, find your visual passion and embrace it; become rich in mind and soul.
Read and absorb the challenges that others have experienced and apply it to your own image making. When Robert Frank decided to take a car ride across America to see what it looked like, he changed the world of photography as we know it. Deep in your heart, what do you want to say with your camera? What’s stopping you, an iceberg? I would love to hear (firstname.lastname@example.org)!