Over the years, I had developed a very thick skin as a result of just plain self-preservation and had learned from a very early age that the unkind people of the world are the loudest. Hateful people will shout their envy, jealousy, spite, ignorance, and whatever else is brewing in their cauldron at the top of their lungs from the highest mountain for all the world to hear with no regard for honesty or common human decency. But the level of resentment directed towards me and my first entry selected to the High & Dry by total strangers took me by complete surprise.
"Spun Sugar" was taken in a buffalo wallow on the sloping edge of the incline. I had laid down to take an upward shot of some Maximilian sunflowers when I noticed a tiny anthill. The slope of the anthill mimicked the slope of the buffalo wallow. The colors of the anthill were the colors of autumn. I took several shots at different perspectives. Then later in post-editing, I found the colors and shapes in "Spun Sugar" very compelling. Now I admit it is not a perfect image, there is a section in the foreground that is distracting, but also I was taught there has not perfection on the face of this earth for 2000 years.
So I enter the High & Dry, "Spun Sugar" was one of the entries. I was still a young photographer, still developing a signature style. I never once imagined that any photograph I had made would be chosen in an international exhibit, but you have to start somewhere. I was elated at the notification that I was part of the High & Dry. And I never imagined that a little anthill would cause so much back-biting bitterness from people who really should have been indifferent.
At The End of The Long Walk
One of the most unreal experiences of my photography career followed posting "Spun Sugar" on the BetterPhoto community forum. I rarely participated in these forums but occasionally asked questions. I wasn't part of the cliques that were prevalent at that time, I was so naive to believe that adults did not waste time with cliques once they left high school. I certainly had no time for such nonsense. So in my simple-mindedness, I posted the news that I had been selected for the exhibit. Oh my goodness, the viciousness started immediately.
One woman took an instant irrational dislike to it. She stated it would be better if it had a dancing ant. What a stupid thing to say when critiquing (criticizing). Within minutes, all her buddies piled on, completely demolishing me. There were nasty remarks made about my dog, Jeb, who had died a few months before; again relevant how in a critique? (Jeb was in my gallery with comments of him passing.) One of the "critiquers" told me to get a thicker skin. What? He didn't know me from a hole in the head but said "Spun Sugar" would have been better if the ants covered my dog's dead body, and for that I need a thicker skin. Jeb was just a mutt, nothing fancy, but I had spent half my life with him. Call me what you want, insult my photography to your heart's contention, but never say anything about an innocent animal. They not only ripped apart my photograph, the personal insults made against me, my dogs and my family were unconscionable. But I also learned that such hate-filled people have no conscience and it's just sport to them. I don't dwell on them, but I remember. However, I've also preserved and endured.
smile once in awhile
After the on-line attack, I was quite deflated, thinking maybe I really didn't belong in the High & Dry. But you know what John W. Smith, the 2006 juror and the assistant director for Collections, Exhibitions and Research at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh thought I did, so who cares what a bunch of keyboard bullies said. But my excitement had turned to willful defiance over the fact that once again my accomplishments were being belittled and not by usual cast of miscreants but by a spoiled housewife, and her cronies, who never had to work a day in her life. So I lifted my head up and invited my friends and family to the December opening reception. And what was waiting for me there but the public humiliation. The chick whose photograph was hung next to mine was completely indignant over the fact that her masterpiece had to be next to my - well I won't use the words she used but you get the idea - and she stood directly in front of my photograph all night long. Are you kidding me?!?
And after all that, I literally did put my camera away. I hadn't closed my Better Photo gallery because at that time I had the basic free package, but I did take all my photographs off and never visited it. I just went about my days, writing about and hanging other people's artwork. Until a year later, I received an e-mail from a lovely lady named Jane Bell, the curator of the show, who told me how much she loved "Spun Sugar" and that she hoped I entered again that year. So I did and 10 years, 12 entries and two honorable mentions later, still am.
watching the traffic go by
Those who belittled me? One of the curses of a photographic memory is I remember everything and I haven't seen their names or photographs anywhere. Not in my travels, not in my reading, not on-line. Nowhere are they to be found. How about that?
I may not be the best photographer, nor have I ever claimed to be, but I do try to be the best person I can be and do know that my words can leave a lasting imprint. I want that imprint to be a positive one. There is no purpose besides an evil intent to say, or type, hateful words. Fortunately, I do have that willful defiance and did dust my camera off and preserved to improve my photographic skills and hopefully encouraged other photographers, young and old, to continue capturing their vision of the world around us.