Sometimes You Have To Let Go To Grow

I have a friend, fellow photographer, I’ve known for many years. His stock, commercial imagery has been pretty lucrative for him. On the side, his “personal” work, while not really “personal” as I would look at, is … interesting.

Recently he showed me a book he put together of his work to take around to magazines or whatever. Art directors, photo editors, etc.,  but he’s not sure.  I took a look at the book. About a third of the way in, I was through. Done. Finished. But as best as I know him, there was more. Too much of “more”. He is always telling me that less is not more. More is more.

I told him that there were immediately three to four images I would definitively leave out. Plus, I would edit out at least one third of the images right off the bat, if not more. The images were redundant. While he has a beautiful style, the images didn’t say as much as he thinks. They were of couples, some real, some just models put together to portray an interesting  “dichotomy”. His word. While I can detect some interesting things going on, and some avenues within the work to explore, he couldn’t talk about the work in any meaningful way. Not one word to describe what he was doing, except that he would love to get jobs to shoot portraits.


Any sense of deep understanding of image making is somewhat lost on him. No “art speak”. I can’t find fault in that. I don’t care for it either. I don’t say this as an insult, but his aim was always to be a commercial shooter, making money off his work. Personal, was never “personal”. That kind of work he describes and considers “cool”.

We talked at length about his book. He was very defensive. “So and so liked this image. So and so liked that image”. On and on. I explained my feelings and gave what I hoped were insightful observations. He grew quiet. He said in so many ways he was tired of chasing. “I think I just want to get jobs to shoot portraits.”

I didn’t believe him. I said, “Do you really want to deal with 20 and 30 somethings at this point in your life? Trying to convince them, that while you are more then qualified, you’re better than any up and coming millennial to shoot portraits? Why would they choose you? You should photograph people and things you know. Think about it.” No response.

I looked over at him and I got really sad. For the first time I saw an old man. Somewhat despondent. Trying to come to grips that he is not what he thought he was. Instead of growing to do truly personal meaningful work at this time of life, he was grasping to hang on to what he thinks he had. He, to this point, has never grown to be what he should be.

We sat there quietly for a minute. He wanted to change the conversation to politics to make a point and give me a dig. We are very different politically. I wouldn’t let him.

Since he was always running off to meet some models or a meeting somewhere, of course he had to go. I noticed he wasn’t carrying his camera. He gathered his book and put it in a shoulder bag. He never carries a shoulder bag. I knew he was going to show his book to others. I knew he felt empowered, hence no camera, was proud of it and I felt even sadder. He didn’t get it.

He once asked me what would I do if I didn’t have a job to go to? Easy I said. I’d grab my camera, take my son to school, and shoot until I needed to pick him up. I have so many things I want to do and to explore. I would want to leave all those avenues open.

I do love him though. He has helped me on many occasions when I needed equipment or such, been supportive when I’ve been down. I do know he will probably never see this. He doesn’t look at my blog. He sees my work only when I post on Facebook or Instagram.


Be who you are.

Published by Keith Goldstein

Photographer, husband, dad, and passionate cyclist. Lives and works in New York City.

5 thoughts on “Sometimes You Have To Let Go To Grow

  1. Sad tale but true. For some as they age they get stuck in their ways. I’ve heard it referred to as cognitive dissonance. They only hear what they want to hear and tune out everything else. Constructive criticism is viewed as a personal attack. As a real true friend and not a Yes man you did your best. I think that deep inside he knows that you are right but can’t bring himself to admit any failings or flaws which we all have. You tried to help.

  2. “He didn’t get it.” “I do know he will probably never see this.” Those two sentences just struck me, Keith. I do feel sorry for someone likes him who really ‘does not get it’ at all. And never will. He reminds me of those parents who try to dress like their kids because that would be so cool, wouldn’t it? Actually, no. You tried. Best thing is to just smile and nod.

    1. It is sad Lois. He is so close, but he never crosses that line. “Cool” for me describes temperature. When people use it to describe other things, it is always a turn-off for me. “Cool” then describes “distance”.

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