The Lonely Word
“Honesty is such a lonely word. Everyone is so untrue. Honesty is hardly ever heard. And mostly what I need from you.” — Billy Joel
Was Mr. Joel talking to photographers? Probably not. He probably wrote the song to his wife or girlfriend or maybe his manager. But he might as well have been talking to us creative types.
Some people pretend they take photos or make films or write songs just for themselves. I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts they all—like myself—crave communication with others. We communicate, or at least attempt to do so through our art. We take the work and put it out there defenseless for the audience to see. Even if that audience doesn’t realize it, what they crave more than anything (except, perhaps, sexually explicit material) is honesty.
Why then is honesty so hard to find in art? You can’t quantify honesty. It’s intangible. You can’t teach how to be honest. There is no such thing as an honesty diagram or honesty “tips and tricks.” You can’t buy honesty. Honesty is not for sale. Yes, the search can lead down some dark alleys, past some sketchy characters. And if found it can be excruciatingly painful to produce. But I think more than anything honesty just isn’t thought about—at least not as a source for creating dynamic content. So… what do you do?
Start by thinking about it. Think about the times a movie or a song or a photograph deeply connected with you. Moved you. Think about what honesty might have been revealed. But you’ll have to do more than that. I think the secret is intimacy. Intimacy with your subject, intimacy with your idea, intimacy with yourself.
Look, you may have to go to some scary places to find honesty, but honesty doesn’t always have to be some heavy downer. You can find it in joy, too. I’m not trying to start a wave of photo/film maker suicides here. I’m not even suggesting that you dive deep for every shot you make. But if you’ve never thought about revealing something honest as a foundation for a project, give it a try.
If you can capture something truly honest and communicate it, it will resonate.