Forget the others, they will either support your efforts or they will not. To insist is to do the thing. Make the photographs, write the words, develop a point of view, be forthright. Do the work.
Success is in the effort. Success is in the work. You can insist quietly to yourself. You can insist from atop the tallest mountain in a loud robust voice. But insist away. Insist everyday. Insist especially when you think that no one sees, or gets it. Insist when the work falls flat. Insist when that voice in your head says quit. Insist when your submissions are ignored. Insist when they say “Yeah but THIS GUY really does it the right way.” I promise you there is always some jackass who thinks they know better than you, or knows someone that is more talented than you, or is more authentic than you, or is more hip than you, more RIGHT NOW than you, or someone who uses the right gear in just the right way. Fuck them.
The challenge is to develop an aesthetic and proceed forward when no one is seeing but you.
I traveled to Mississippi by highway. I had business in Neshoba County on behalf of my family. My Aunt Louise owns property just south of the Winston County line and she asked me to see about tending to the pine trees that now cover the parcel. Her father bought the land in the 30’s. He farmed the land and at some point after he passed the land was repurposed to grow pine. Aunt Louise also owns a house and property in Laurel, Mississippi and I was to have a look there with an eye toward selling.
I spent the better part of a day in Neshoba County, going to the courthouse in Philadelphia to get a fix on the exact location of the property, and then traveling north to the county line. Evidence of Mississippi was all around me. I drove the red clay county roads. I stood on the ground as a light rain began, alone in the middle of the day, surrounded by towering pines, thoroughly isolated. I imagined the terror of a long ago June evening as murderous cowards furthered the legacy of horror that is uniquely Mississippi.
James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner.
We live in a big damn country. We can lose sight of this basic and obvious fact because generally the world we move around in is pretty small. The house we live in, the yard around the house, the neighborhood and then the wider, yet still easily managed world we see everyday. I like to think that driving long miles, and occasionally stopping, gives me insight into the people and the country, but that can’t be true. How much can you learn when you are just passing through? I am a tourist. If I could I would stop at every house and store and speak to everyone at least for a minute. As it is, I did manage to connect, albeit briefly, with a number of citizens from here to Mississippi and back. And as always I am reminded of the sheer stupendous size of America.
So southward as I go. And as always The Shenandoah Valley is the gateway to the Deep South. Make no mistake about it, Neshoba County Mississippi is the Deep South. A long journey, and I am always up for that. So here we are back in the valley, with the mystery of The South dead ahead.