Life frequently sucks but that should never stop us from dancing.
More than ever, I am inclined these days to keep the identity of our models anonymous. We did such two weeks ago, are doing so today, and will continue next week. Increasingly, it is rare for us to be able to use any portion of a model’s name with a sense of safety. The vitriol spewed, the doxing, and the outright harassments we’ve seen this year is a sad reflection of a society that has lost any sense of artistic appreciation. Where we once enjoyed a widely-accepting audience, I find myself now looking for ways to limit viewing to a handful of people I know approach the material in an appropriate manner.
Everywhere I look recently, the phrase “it’s been a rough year” is batted about as though everything is going to get better come January 1, or January 20. What I’m more aware of this morning, sitting here in the dark with Smashed-Face Wheezer Kitty blocking a substantial portion of my desk, is that for far too many people, this hasn’t been a “rough year,” it’s been a continuation of a rough life. There are still children separated from their parents being kept in cages, sleeping on concrete floors, in the name of national security. There are still young black men who know every time they step out the door of their homes, they may not come back; victims of trying to live in a racist America that refuses to acknowledge that their lives matter. There are still millions of people addicted to opioids who have had trouble finding help as hospitals don’t have room for them now. There are still families tormented by continued patterns of abuse.
What has happened this year isn’t as much an anomaly as it is a culmination of not caring for anyone other than ourselves. The global pandemic has not only made us vulnerable to a deadly disease, but it has ignited our long-standing selfish, ignorant, and hateful attitudes toward anything that looks like compassion. We are not merely afraid to care about other people, we openly despise those who do. There are too many people who still look at the simple task of wearing a mask in public as a political statement rather than the reality of caring for the people around them. Nurses report instances of people still claiming the virus is a hoax as they lie dying from that virus. Millions rushed through airports this week because they simply couldn’t stand the idea of spending a holiday at home, where everyone would be safe.
How we should respond, what action is most appropriate, is a matter with which I continue to struggle. Over the past couple of months, I’ve vacillated across the spectrum but at the moment I’m taking my cue from Smashed-Face Wheezer Kitty. This little guy developed a life-threatening problem when he was still too young to wean. It took a lot of care to keep him alive and we still have to watch to make sure his sinus passages don’t become clogged. We always know where he is because his breathing is noisy. So what does he choose to do? Act like every other cat in the house. He chases pieces of fluff. He plays with his brother. He sits in my lap and nips at my hand. The status of his life always is, and to some degree always will be a bit precarious, but he goes right on living his best life.
And that’s where I’m at this morning: with all the challenges we face, we can, and should, live good lives. We can still dance. Maybe not in public, and definitely not all up on someone else, and if you’re like me, not well, but we can still dance even if we have to turn the lights off and wait until no one is looking so we don’t embarrass ourselves.
Our pictures this week are of a young woman who had never taken professional pictures. She was nervous. She didn’t know what to do and even with direction, she was still tense. Life does that to us, makes it impossible to relax. Then, we turned on the music and gave her permission to dance. That’s all it took. Fear and tension slipped out the door and we were able to get some images that didn’t look like I was holding a gun to her head. All she had to do was dance.
Take the metaphor and run with it. The pandemic isn’t going to suddenly end when the calendar switches to 2021. Life doesn’t magically get better for everyone when the occupancy of the White House changes. People, by the millions, still hurt, still need, still struggle to stay alive. I’m not sure what happens next but I do know that when things are at their worst, it’s okay to dance. For yourself. In your own way. With no criticism or condemnation from anyone, anywhere, at any time. Dance the night away.
My thanks to Greg Fleckenstein and Matt Corsaro for their assistance with this shoot, as well as to the model for being brave enough to step way outside her comfort zone and try something new.
As always, click on any of the thumbnails below to view the images full screen.