The synopsis of a short story – I have written hundreds of them!
Title ~ Traveling Light
Life is a ‘whole’ story it is the chapters which are of interest to us. And after a failed relationship I needed to run away. A long time ambition was a desire to travel, write and record images. This journey took me to destinations and situations I could never have anticipated. I learned some important lessons, one is that failure is often more interesting than success. Overcoming difficulties can be inspirational and how one falls into a disaster can be fascinating. Every facet of life is one moment a reality and in the next the ‘moment’ becomes a reflection or memory. When the writer has a story he or she will have a reader and if there are many readers he or she will have an income. I write because I love to. I wish I’d always been a writer, a journalist, a photographer. Fame and celebrity did not appeal, nor thought of. No, scratching a living and roaming the world, gypsy, nomad, care free, without commitment became my way. Cheap hotel or motel rooms, hired car or motorcycle, bus, camera, film, notebook, rucksack, jeans, tee shirts, heavy hiking boots in winter, light walking shoes in summer. The laundry with its strong commercial wash powder and the food market, small baker and occasional bar my comforts. Writing, photographing and living in a way I would eventually call ‘The Personal Statement’ evolved, there was no set plan and this way of life became my heaven. When a man asked “What are you doing?” The answer is always the same “Here to work today, I will be gone tomorrow.” Without friends, lover or commitment and with just two objectives the story and the picture, my life began. The paradox was the difficult and often materially unrewarding work paid a wage of sublime happiness and pleasure.
Safety was not a consideration. Could I encounter theft, injury, violence, accident, illness? It’s always possible although I cannot remember a serious problem which a few dollars and a big smile could not settle. And within each encounter there is always a possibility of a new story, a real story and factual stories hold the imagination. And after reading one of my stories the stranger may say to her friend “How could he live like that?” or “He must be crazy” and later the pictures and the stories became successful and the readers commented “Have you read Ian’s latest article?” Was this a progression which I desired? I had no idea of where I was going. I had every certainty I was doing what I wanted to do. This has never changed, when I am unhappy it is because someone or something is restricting the following of my purpose, which is to record what I see and make stories of fact become interesting fiction. Its reinterpretation, the manipulation of lives and images. I suspect is that for many people the writer or the entrepreneur is of more interest than the story or his success.
A man takes to the road, takes pictures and writes about the images and then becomes successful. Look at the social media sites which are all about the human condition and the situations, problems, winners, losers, birth, illness, death or marriage which strangers enter into. The demand for peoples stories is incredible. And those who write the stories can never fulfil the demand, because stories wether fact of fiction are like lessons in an exercise book in the class room of life. My initial sacrifices, poverties, voids, difficulties did not mean inevitable success, far from it. I am certain success is only tasted when the objective is gaining pleasure from what we do. Is this the real secret of success? Sacrifice, poverties, risk, failure, learning and then reward. Of course it is, this story, my story reveals the formula. Imagine being without the constraints of societies restrictions, no nine till five, credit card debt, oppressive employers. When in need of some extra cash I’d work in a kitchen, bar, clean toilets, labour for a few days or a few weeks and when the objective of money for travel and consumables is fulfilled, I’d buy twenty rolls of film and travel on to the next encounter. And every second I am happy, content to be on my journey.
I cannot remember when the magazine and newspaper gave me the monthly and then weekly column and along with the recognition the payments good enough to travel further, photograph and write about more interesting and diverse subjects and people. And the more interesting the images and stories, the more the following and demand for my work. One afternoon a woman finds me, she tells me that she wishes to become my agent. She sends me an air ticket for New York, a deal is signed, six months later a forty image ‘retrospective’ is held at the Strange Gallery in Manhattan, its a sell out and the limited editions of pictures and books earn me fifty-thousand dollars less Virginia’s thirty percent I pay the tax owed to the I.R.S and I’m left with nineteen thousand after paying the gallery, printer and framer. Foolishly a contract for three books was signed after a drunken business meeting so the pressure is on to fulfil the obligation. I wanted to get back to Mexico to write about the Tamara indians. Ginny tells me I’ve a contract to photograph and write about the drug abusers in downtown Dallas “It’s been done before Ginny” “So what no one will notice” I believe her, the book is a flop, critics slam my work. I manage to climb back up the ladder with the Tamara project, the book, the exhibition and film rights earn over a million from which my share is ninety-one thousand after tax and Virginia’s commission. I call her Virginia when its business and Ginny when emotion is evoked. I prefer the separation, the distinct line between work and friendship and I suspect this is a mistake. I feel uncomfortable with her positive and driven attitude.
The magazine sends me on assignment to India. ‘Photograph and write about whatever comes your way’ is the editors remit. Another woman who knows I will come back with something new and takes advantage of my weak personality. Many people fall in love with India, the mystical non sense, happy population even though poverty is rife and never ending hassling of the child street sellers. All I see is disease, blindness, child prostitution and corruption. A taxi driver rips me off on the journey from the airport to my hotel, I complain to a policeman who drags the driver out of his rusty wreck then beats him mercilessly with a two inch thick baton. The officer smiles as he say’s ‘That teaching him lesson sir, he no take wrong turning again.’ For good measure he hits the driver again and breaks his teeth. I realise until I walk away the beating will not stop.
The article and thirty images of tortured victims and the human hornets who have inflicted the suffering becomes a three week special. First week is the political agendas. Second week, the victims stories. Third week is the police and governments making their defence. No doubt about it, it is the best photojournalistic piece of the year and I win a Pulitzer for humanity.
My editor asks me to go back to follow up on the story. I could have jumped over the moon when the visa application is rejected. I run away and go to Cuba and the Cuban story is another winner although a turnaround in subject matter from the Indian nightmare. I write of the Latin Jazz scene and its connection to prostitution, bars, rum and cigars. What a fantastic country, the people are incredible and strong in their enforced poverty. Their happiness and love of live genuine and addictive. For the first time in my life I am in love, not with a woman, a whole population. I also become addicted to rum, Havana tobacco and a dark eyed beauty. Two of the habits stay with me, the one I should have kept I leave behind. It is the first time working with colour film and in March of the following year I’m back at the Strange Gallery in Manhattan with a forty image exhibition called ‘No Crisis Cuba’. Virginia talks me into buying a small apartment, it costs two hundred and fifty-thousand, amazing to think when I began the journey I’d work to buy film, now my work has bought the five roomed prison outright. I earn three hundred thousand from the one and a half million turned over in books, the film and limited edition printed from ‘No Crisis Cuba’.
By now Virginia had offices in New York, Paris and Tokyo. I think it was at this time we had the decisive argument. Throughout my career I’d used Pentax cameras, indeed I have a suspicion the Takumar lenses were the reason my work had a differing look to it, setting it aside from most other photographers who used Nikon or Leica. Virginia had negotiated a three year deal with a camera maker and I refused to change from Pentax. ‘It will not effect the way you work’ ‘The way I work has nothing to do with you’ ‘Without me you’d be nothing.’ This was the end. When the agency contract came up for renewal the following year I decided not to continue with Virginia. I discovered she’s made millions from of my work during the court battle. Sadly she attempts to sue me for not giving her an option to re-new, the judge rules in my favour. There is no resentment on my part. Her Paris and Tokyo offices closed and with her reputation damaged due to the legal dispute the New York office closed in 1988.
The Berlin Wall falls, everyone wanted my pictures. Philip Woolf takes over my affairs and buys back on my behalf the rights to all of my previous work from the accountants who were dealing with Virginia’s estate. I decide to take a year off and return to Cuba and the dark eyed beauty. When we return to New York Phil has made me half a million richer. I’m now a million dollars and a million miles away from my original plan which was to be a nomad photojournalist. The whole point is I followed my art and became compromised by money, much of which I did not receive. Is fame or fortune worth the price? Only those who taste the bitter sweet non-sense of this illusion have the answer.
The Cuban has long gone. And yes there is resentment toward the woman once loved, who betrayed me and more bitterness that I had to pay for those moments of another type of illusion which became another failure. I am artist and the art is the reason for my life, the creative output sometimes becomes the living wage. There are many who think money is the goal, it is not, money is a by product of success and can be mistaken as evidence of brilliance or ability. The world is full of brilliance which will never be seen, listened to or discovered. Is it better to be poor and happy than rich and without emotional security? No, poverty is hard work, full of insecurity and my photographic essays prove this. I know this much there is no social statement within any photograph. The viewer will think for a moment that a particular image is full of horror and soon becomes accustomed to violence, murder, degradation, poverty, injustice. Do the images of the acid destroyed eyes changed the methodology of the torturers? No, they will not, and never will do so, because the truth becomes forgotten and the perpetrator more careful to hide his evil. And because the evil is hidden the campaigner believes they have scored a point toward freedom, they have not, they have scored an ‘own goal’. The shame of the mind is the more we see evil, the less its impact upon the conscience and psyche.
I’m a loner that is my true personality and loners do not need security, excess or future. The loner or nomad should abhor possessions because possessions are the links in the chains which connect to the anchors of stagnation. Where will I go to, what will I record? Who knows what is happening on the other side of the world which will become my next project and then gestate into the inevitable exhibitions and books?
Synopsis ~ Ends.
A story begins and if it is powerful enough will have a character worth reading about and within the story the character will be subject to difficulties to be overcome. Is it possible that within this short story there is a novel? Is it worth expanding upon? I doubt it as at this moment in time I cannot build upon the character. What is interesting is the part about the blinding of the criminal during interrogation with the use of acid. This is factual and is the reason I wrote the synopsis of the story. Most readers do not remember the whole of a book or film it is the scenes with hard hitting impact which make a book or even film memorable. Make the principle character one the reader can empathise with or detest and the story comes alive. And finally let a moral statement infiltrate through the spirit of the story and maybe the writer will produce a masterpiece. One’s methodology of writing and artistic creativity is in truth a experimental and accumulative learning curve. If a creative believes he has produced a work of some magnitude and it fails to inspire his reader he may become disheartened. An author or creative who is wise is constantly producing work which he considers as exercises in their chosen discipline. Discipline is the correct word as nothing worthwhile is produced without a methodical approach in the initial years or even decades of learning.
Indeed I find the writing of short essays and blogs the most powerful of learnings. If I see a few fellow bloggers or visitors ‘like’ a particular essay then I will print it out, re-read it and review the contents and style. I feel the ‘blog’ is an superb school room where I can experiment and test my writing’s effect upon other writers and bloggers. The story above is written as a synopsis for a short story of ten to fifteen thousand words and each paragraph could have become a chapter and it would be easy to infiltrate each episode with certain anecdotes, risqué, dangerous, thoughts on poverty and living without money. If I write a synopsis I like then maybe I will spend two weeks writing the expanded work and another two weeks honing the story. I write for personal enjoyment and at this moment a nomadic carefree photographer does not appeal to me. Although my imagination may return to this character in another story at a later date.
‘Write often and without censorship or restriction’ Has become a motto which I write on my notebooks. And this concludes the first blog of 2016.