What I learned from Jill Freedman

We recently celebrated Art Basel in Miami, an annual event that brings some of the most influential artists from around the world to the Magic City. You could say it’s our way of ringing in the high 70 degree temps and slightly reduced humidity we call Winter. Oh the weather outside is… perfect.

And in addition to the Art Basel events, there were countless art inspired exhibits and panels around town, one being the Miami Street Photography Festival at History Miami Museum, an international festival showcasing contemporary street and documentary photography. I visited the exhibit on Saturday, where I had the good fortune to see Jill Freedman, a legendary American photographer, speak about her work.

Photographer Jill Friedman at the Miami Street Photography Festival at History Miami Museum

The discussion began with the obligatory “what led you to photography?”
Fifteen minutes later, after describing going to college to please her mom, singing in a jazz band, learning seven guitar chords, which led her to spend six months singing in Parisian clubs, being moved by pictures in Life magazine, being called to action by the slaying of Dr. King, living in a tent in Resurrection City on the National Mall, and playing the spoons, Ms. Freedman ended her explanation by asking, “what was the question?” It was already clear what separated her from we mere shutterbugs.

Now in her 70’s, Ms. Freedman was bubbling with energy and personality. She would periodically stand to look at her photos projected on the wall behind her, and would name the police officers, firefighters, civil rights activists and circus performers in the photos she’d taken, some as long as 35 years ago. She railed against the injustices she see around us today. And she played the spoons… seriously.

What was so clear about Ms. Freedman is that she doesn’t love photography. She loves places and people and causes. She loves experiences, and she’s had more than a lifetime’s worth. And she happened to get some great shots along the way. I’d say she’s in love with life, and she’s had a long, steamy affair with photography. Do yourself a favor and check out her incredible work at www.jillfreedman.com.

Now, I don’t mean to get all lovey-dovey, but maybe it helps to get all lovey-dovey. It seems to be a trait consistent to the most successful, most influential artists and business people. They don’t love what they do, they love who they are and they do what they do. AND it looks like it feels pretty great.

So after hearing Ms. Freedman’s story, I left feeling inspired, not to work harder, but rather to make sure I’m having fun, having great experiences, and working. Seems simple, and obvious, until you see someone whose actually doing it, and you realize that you’re not.

I hope you are. And if you’re not, I wish some lovey-dovey for you this holiday season. Merry Basel to all, and to all a good night.

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