Untwisting the Truth
Last week, the San Francisco Chronicle published an article, authored by CW Nevius, that begins with Mercy Housing’s acquisition of some of my early photography, recently installed at the Arlington Hotel. What follows is a moralistic retelling of my life story, refashioned with cherry-picked facts to fit Nevius’ doctrinaire point of view. In his eyes, prosperity is the brass ring on the carousel of hard work and industry, attainable by anyone with enough dogged perseverance, and self-redemption means picking oneself up and climbing back onto that wooden pony, the magic key to success and happiness.
The truth is that I often must choose between necessities to survive, and that any hard-earned recognition my work has received has made life no less difficult. Due to ongoing health problems, a lack of print sales and commissions has recently forced me to pawn all of my gear just to pay the bills. I simply cannot keep afloat on a baseline SSDI income of 935 dollars a month. For now, until I recover my cameras, I am no longer a photographer. I cannot say where my life goes from here. What I do know is that there are no easy answers. There never are.
For Nevius, ideology trumps factual narrative. In his hands, my personal history was compartmentalized and re-contextualized as a “success” story, using the template of an outdated and destructive ideology that interprets life as a rat race to the top and classifies people as winners or losers. Inasmuch as change is the one thing of which I can be absolutely certain (death is also change), life for me is a constant process of unfolding and transformation. As my journey through life is a reflection of my psyche, the highs and lows have been extreme, but this is not how I measure supposed failure or success. I am a perpetual student in the classroom of experience. Nothing makes me happier than learning something new, and thus true success for me is a lesson well-learned.
By the way, if you would like to read a really well-written article about me and my work, "Histories Intertwined" by Maria La Ganga of the Los Angeles Times is superb.
Photo: "New City for the Upper Class" (2012)