Most of my creative life has taken place in solitude, a solitude that has seemed necessary but at odds with my personality. It gets a little lonely sometimes. That loneliness has been more pronounced over the last year or two. The more creative I felt, the more I felt the loneliness. I knew I needed to start a new chapter.
One thing I've always known instinctively is that the first step to attaining your desires is articulating your desires. Out loud, to yourself, to other people. I had my aha! moment after a weekend spent with some passionate and talented girlfriends. I realized what I really needed was a partner of some sort. Not every day, but regularly. I needed hands-on collaboration. Lots of it.
Since that shout out to the Universe, members of my tribe have started filtering into my life, slowly but steadily, as if they've heard my call. Some are much younger, some older, and several don't live here at all, but show up often enough that it feels like they do. The energy they generate is palpable. I am filled up when they leave, satisfied to sit and work in solitude again. They are gifts to my spirit. They teach me, they make me more creative.
One of those people is my friend, Alison. She's a professional photographer and a New Orleanian who lives in Brooklyn. But she's been coming home pretty regularly, and after a few years of friendship, we've started getting together on a creative level, shooting interiors (she shoots the interiors, I tag along and socialize and photograph details for myself).
But this last visit she had something else in mind, a photo shoot in an empty French Quarter apartment that hadn't seen a renovation or a fresh coat of paint in 60 years. Just the two of us, my styling, her eye, no agenda other than to try to capture a moment in time before it became a renovation.I didn't need any convincing. Alison and I work for some of the same clients, so we share a common editorial language, but we share another language common to New Orleanians - we love decay, seeing nothing but beauty there.
We settled on natural elements, nature and decay a pairing intrinsic to New Orleans, and we lugged what felt like a million bits and pieces up and down stairs, sweating buckets in the heat and humidity of an unairconditioned apartment (but as Alison pointed out, with our own live jazz performance just outside). I had had a difficult night, with 4 hours of sleep and mountains of anxiety, but for those hours I felt zero fatigue. I felt alive.
That good feeling stayed with me for several weeks after Alison left, making me grateful that I'd been able to hone in on what was missing in my life. I need these collaborations and I look forward to more of them, with all kinds of creative people. It doesn't matter in what area their creative expertise lies, there is something wonderful and magical to learn and explore and share. They remind me of what's important, and more importantly, what is not.
All photographs by Alison Gootee.
**I heard an interesting story on NPR a few weeks ago that involved creative collaboration. Singer/songwriter Jim Bianco posted a questionnaire on his website with 69 questions for fans to answer. As a result, each of the 17 songs on his new album Cookie Cutter is inspired by a fan. It's a great story - you can find it here.