I am reading a fabulous book at the moment, City of Thieves by David Benioff, it is about the lives of two young Russian men during the German blockade of Lennigrad (St. Petersburg) in the Second World War. I thought it timely to mention this book and in particular a short passage from it since today is Rememberance Day, I think Americans call it Veterans Day, and the passage I want to share describes talent, something us photographers and all artists a like for that matter seek to harness and develop. Benioff personifies talent as a woman, saying:
“Talent must be a fanatical mistress. She’s beautiful; when you’re with her, people watch you, they notice. But she bangs on your door at odd hours, and she disappears for long stretches, and she has no patience for the rest of your existence: your wife, your children, your friends. She is the most thrilling evening of your week, but some day she will leave you for good. One night, after she’s been gone for years, you will see her on the arm of a younger man, and she will pretend not to recognise you.”
I feel like there is so much for us to take away from this little passage. Does our talent really slip away? Here one minute and gone the next? Or can we remain in a constant state of evolution, harnessing our talent as it shifts and turns with our personal growth, our journey through life? Perhaps it is good to have a sense of fear, that our talent could leave us at some point in the future, so that we seize every moment to create exceptional work. In the same moment this passage is both terrifying and exciting, motivating and depressing. But for some reason I feel empowered by it. I can’t quite believe that talent simply slips away and instead have to believe that some how we can always keep it close to us, forging a new relationship with our talent as we age and evolve as artists. And therein I think lies some sort of truth. Our relationship with our talent is mysterious and difficult. Every person in the world has talent, everyone. But finding it, tuning in to it and having a healthy relationship with it is perhaps one of the hardest and most challenging relationships of all. Talent then can slip away, but it is up to us to maintain our relationship with it, to continue to learn, and remain open minded. The moment we stagnate, she’ll find a better lover.
So while we take a moment to remember, perhaps we should also take a moment to listen to ourselves, tune in to that which we do best and do something exceptional. We owe it to those who died for us and we owe it to our mistresses.