My daughter loves to say, “Mom, you’re famous!” whenever I win an award or get an image published or have a solo exhibition. It’s kind of a reoccurring family gag. Eddie presented me with a very legal looking certificate a few years ago that proclaimed me famous, and my son chimes in on occasion about the (elusive) fame issue, as well.
I guess I probably started the whole thing when, in my forties, I declared at dinner one night that I was going to be famous by fifty.
At any rate, as I have continued to plod along as a photographer (who, like so many others, does try to achieve a certain amount of recognition for my work) I have (fortunately) discovered that being in the moment of making the work and being filled up by the joy of making that work is really what it is all about.
I mean really, who needs fame? It’s totally overrated.
Why, then, did my heart start racing when two times this week fame was on the other end of the line when I answered my phone?
Let me explain.
Over the course of the past four years, various people have tried to let Oprah know about Change the Truth and its founder (me). Once her assistant and right hand woman, Libby, even made a personal contribution and said she’d pass our info along to the producers of the show. Lots of things kept happening that kept putting CTT back in front of Libby, and finally, well, she just picked up the phone and called me! Libby sort of speaks for Oprah, I guess.
I remained very calm and casual on my end of the line, congratulating her on the season finale and wishing her luck on her next chapter of Life With Oprah and asking about the weather in Chicago. We schmoozed for a few minutes. Then she got down to business and told me that I couldn’t be on the show because they already had all the final guests lined up and the show was ending anyway. She told me that they couldn’t give any money because all of O’s private funds were committed to her school in Africa. But, she did say that she was going to pass along all the information about CTT (which had been squeezed into an oversized manila envelope and handed directly to O by the cousin of one of CTT’s supporters) to the OWN network and to O magazine.
Famous by sixty? (Doesn’t have the same ring, but maybe I’ll take it.)
The next call was from the New York Times. I have been trying to get my foot in the door there as a freelance photographer. I’d been told they liked my work, but I’d have to wait until something big happened in my part of the country before they’d ever need to use me.
Something pretty big happened the other day. A rather large tornado.
A few calls back and forth. Maybe going to the area on assignment? Finally not… too far away. They’d send someone else. During the last conversation with the New York Times photography editor, I was hunkered down in an office building bathroom stall with four women I did not know as tornado sirens wailed outside. I told him this, and he said to call him back immediately if anything happens, and I would get the assignment. (I started taking pictures in the bathroom with my cell phone just in case.)
Luckily, Kansas City was spared a tornado.
And luckily, I received a contract from the NYT this morning. Once I sign it, I’ll be official and will be ready to go should there be something to cover in my part of the world.
Thanks, O and NYT for making me feel like a famous photographer this week.
Truthfully, though, as I get older and wiser, I realize how petty and silly that quest is.
Oh, wait. Gotta run. The phone’s ringing!