Sunday, January 15, 2017

Lesson Learned from a Public Meltdown

Black and white image of an abandoned school house in rural Norht Dakota near the town of Rugby.
Mariah Carey and Meryl Streep recently had public appearance that were, shall we say, very "public." One appearance tangled with equipment one with politics but they had something in common. They each had a very public vent of frustration culminating with a public response. 

For Mariah Carey, it was a New Year's Eve performance that caused all but a melt-down, to the point that people were joking about it. ("Did you hear they had to call out the Department of Homeland Security in New York on New Year's Eve? Mariah Carey dropped a bomb on Times Square.") While I haven't extensively studied exactly what happened, I believe it can be summed up by saying she ended up performing one song while the music was playing another. There was even talk of sabotage, as some in the Carey camp claimed she was setup to perform the wrong song.

I think the big takeaway for artists here is that we sometimes work with equipment and, yes, that equipment can sometimes be faulty. Accidents happen, mistakes are made, we are all human. Does anybody out there reading this really actually think that Mariah Carey cannot sing? Anybody? Bueller...Bueller? No, we all know she's one of the greatest singers of a generation and she's got a slew of hit records to back that up. She's written songs, she's recorded songs, she's a solid artist and you really can't take that away from her now, can you? OK, so her New Year's Eve performance was maybe not her best and things got messed up but does that make her any less of an artist? Heck, I'll go so far as to say I can only imagine what she must have felt after that performance. It must be the most frustrating thing in the world to have that happen to you. I honestly feel bad after watching what happened and I honestly feel that we owe it to her as an artist to remember her body of work. Maybe you've seen a good song that she's performed or one of her songs came on the radio and it reminded you of something nice or maybe she penned a catchy tune once that left you humming along. She's a talented artist, a great performer, and I intend to remember her that way. If nothing else, her New Year's Eve performance should serve as a reminder of how good her good performances were. To put it another way, she's made it this far without having that kind of faulty equipment hit her, shouldn't she get props for that? Personally, I choose to remember her good work and this incident might encourage me to download one of her songs in support of her so-called "meltdown."

For Meryl Streep, perhaps the most frustrating of all is the idea, real or perceived, that you cannot do what it is you do for political reasons. You may or may not agree with her political stance on issues but consider this: how many films or images are being crafted in North Korea? I've personally spoken to this before as well. As a photographer and an artist, I simply cannot do what it is I do without enjoying and exercising an aggregate of personal freedom.  Freedom is a prerequisite for art and, as an artist, she felt it her duty to speak out to defend her ability to exercise her craft. Some will say she alienated her audience, perhaps that is the case, but she felt it her right or perhaps her duty to speak out to what she viewed as an unacceptable condition. It was her award time allotment and she opted to speak as she saw fit, taking a stand against something she saw as unjust. As an artist, my takeaway here would be that I should be able to speak out if I really saw the need to say something. At times, society looks for artists to be leaders, trailblazers in their fields and, let's face it, our artistic platform offers us an opportunity for a bit of a public facade. We can lend that face to many causes and use our platform as a means to invoke change that we want to see in the world. Or, you know, we can make pretty pictures. As an artist, I feel it's a good thing the choice is ours to make.

I hope you have some interesting lessons from these recent public appearances. While I am not an artist of the caliber of a Mariah or a Meryl, I like to think that events such as these can help shape my view of the role artists play in society. And, yes, I still like to make some pretty pictures as well.

Until next time...

PS This is an abandoned school house in North Dakota shot with the Canon 5DS converted to black and white with the Nik silver efex filtering.

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