In 2016 Jeff Beck, at 72, released the album “Loud Hailer”. For reasons beyond understanding I have, in the past, overlooked this album in my search for new music. I am fussy about what is playing when I am creating a new fine art piece; you see I steal inspiration from these people. They help me tap into my creativity, but they really have to be good. The music needs to be epic, cleverly written with that something that pushes my buttons. Now everybody’s buttons are different, which explains why Mariah Carey has a career in music, and lets not discuss Kanye West, lest this missive descends into a blood spitting vent.
Anyway, a few years ago I stumbled upon Beth Hart; actually I stumbled upon Joe Bonamassa who teamed up with Hart for a couple of albums and they really got under my skin, in a good way. I think Beth Hart might be responsible for my black and white architectural series. She takes on Etta James for God’s sake, and gives her a run for her money. If you don’t know her, go and find her doing “I’d rather go blind” and if it doesn’t leave you goosebumpy and breathless, then you are dead inside. Oh, and the guy on the guitar is no slouch either.
This is all going somewhere photographic. These artists that have been around forever have gotten past all the bullshit; they don’t need to look a certain way, they don’t care about critics or record company executives, they can be themselves in all their glorious individuality. They can just be. And in this being is where their greatness lies. All of us have our greatness but too many of us stifle it, not on purpose, we are just trying to get on in the world and we try too hard. Too much “out there” and not enough “me”. I think trying to make it in the creative world and trusting our individuality is one of the most difficult things we attempt. As an photographer I have spent thousands of hours looking at the work of other photographers, great photographers, and have not only used them for for inspiration but also as a reason to beat myself to a pulp. In an attempt to improve my craft I have researched extensively, and it hasn’t always been helpful. There are too many rules and “shoulds”, too many things you should never do and too many “always”. Every single one of those things is limiting and stands in the way of finding ourselves. As I get older I am learning all the stuff we pay so much attention to is just an opinion and if you look hard enough, you’ll find an opposing one. No-one is right and no-one is wrong; they just are and that is the point. Just are, just be.
When I turned fifty, a designer years younger than me said, “You are so lucky, you have got past the stage where you have to care about opinions, you can just do what you want.” Really? I certainly didn’t feel that way, but what she said has stayed with me and ever so slowly I am coming around to the idea that I can care less. With that understanding comes the knowing that as I am right now is good enough and the good “enoughness” is what leads to greatness. It has taken me fifty years to get here, and rather than castigate myself for taking so long, let me celebrate my arrival.
Jeff Beck at 72 is playing the best guitar of his life, and I don’t know if he “waited” or not but he certainly seems to be having the time of his life – there might be something in that too. A couple of years ago he celebrated fifty years of live performances with a concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Among his guest performers was Beth Hart and they blew people away with a rendition of “Purple Rain”. I just found it today and it prompted me to write this, so today I drew inspiration from a couple of masters and didn’t beat myself up. I could say that in a couple more years and I will have this licked, but celebrating where I am now is more appropriate.