Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Shut down your computer and go live!

This is not a written piece that is supposed to make you sad or feel pity; it is a calling to you and myself. It is not a manifesto or a preach. It is what it is.
Yesterday I entered the living room of my girlfriend’s parents. My girlfriend and I have been together for ten years. She had gone with her parents and her brother to the hospital to hear what could be done about the recently found tumor in her mothers (62) pancreas. The result was devastating. It cannot be operated and there is no other cure possible. She hopes to live to see their 40th anniversary of marriage, her next birthday and that of her husband in January. I entered the room where the family was sitting at the dining table. They were all defeated. With tears in their eyes they greeted me one by one by receiving and giving a big hug. I had heard the news earlier in the afternoon by phone, but entering this room became a reality check. The mother would like to fight but that is impossible. Even though the news has not sunk in, she has already decided to make each day count. She also looked back at her life and was happy with the way she has lived it.

The described happening got thoughts running through my head and often they were intertwined with photography, my own life and people in general. Not all of these thoughts were completely sane but did lead to answers further down the road. Thoughts about how we spend our time. Recently I had read a post by photographer Jeremy Cowart on how he wished he had invested less time into e-mailing and his words stuck with me. It’s not only e-mail, it’s also facebook, twitter, the internet in general, TV and other procrastinating activities. Being completely honest, I am sometimes too good at procrastination and it can sometimes lead to a void. Of course I thought about 500 Photographers within this context, and to be 100% honest the thought crossed my mind that it is an irrelevant piece of internet in which I have invested thousands of hours of my life, sitting on a chair, staring at a screen. Luckily I can say that this is not true. The “archive” I’m building has value to me. I started it for myself in order to learn. A side-effect of this project is you, a large amount of visitors that come here for inspiration; that is something of value too and gives this project something extra. I’m proud of that.

What I’m trying to get at is that I truly believe that you should not be spending too much time on this website. The same counts for twitter, facebook and all the other activities that might give us instant gratification, yet does not give you much in return in the long run. Go do that which will give you fulfillment. I know that 90% of the visitors of this website are active in the creative field. When you finish reading this message, turn of your computer and go produce, plan a shoot, pick up a pen and write down ideas. Whatever gets you moving forward into creating something. While you do this, promise me one thing: make it something of value to yourself. Forget about what your clients might like, what your parents, neighbors or anyone else would like to see you do. Do what you need to do and make it count.

I’m going to finish 500 Photographers and I will probably continue in some way once the list is complete. However, I’m going to do my utmost best to create a photographic oeuvre of which I’m proud. Let’s all make the short time we have on this planet count, first and foremost for ourselves. Go live and enjoy it, I know I will!  


Bruno Oliveira said...

You're bigger than your project 500 photographers, thanks for the tip.

Paula Marina said...

Thanks for this. My thoughts are with you and your family.
I´m very grateful to spend my time on 500 Photographers, but I totally agree with you. Shutting down is very important thing to do.



Rob Philip said...

I would like to post a comment, but that means that I'm sitting behind my computer... Ah well, what the fuck: Pieter, I know you as a creative and passionate person and although this is a hard reality check, I know you will come out of it stronger. I cannot stress the importance of 500 Photographers strong enough; countless students and myself check it every week. But then again: be with the ones you love, do the thing that you must do on this planet in this lifetime and enjoy every moment of it!
Can I go offline now?
Big Hug!

Greg Miller said...

Pieter, if this single post isn't testament enough, 500 is not irrelevant. It's full relevance, indeed the relevance of anything we do, cannot be seen today, tomorrow or possibly ever since it will reach countless people–students, photographers, artists–that look at it and move on and grow from it. Most of what we do (especially making pictures) is an act of blind faith.

Sadly we are all going to know what it's like to move on from this world, but if there is a sliver lining to terminal cancer and there are hardly any, it is that we can say good-bye and really show a person how much we love them before they are gone.

Your advice is well taken. Love yourself and love what you have accomplished! Thank you for the honest post.

Clara said...

First, I'm so sorry about your girlfriend's mom... But I'm glad she has the strength to make the most of the time she has left.
I think your words are so true. I also think procrastinating occasionally is not a bad thing, but it shouldn't be a constant in our lives.
And I fully agree with what you said about making art that we enjoy, for ourselves, because that is what matters to me the most - if I take a photo that I love, even if it doesn't get a great response, I'm fine with it, as long as I think it's a good image and I feel something while looking at it.
Keep it up!

Julieta said...

Well said, most of all, because it sounds really honest, I've read a 1000 times that you have to live life, but little times it sounded so honest like this one here!
I'm glad you know this is not a waste of time, what you give us here is culture :)

Thank you for the advice, the blog, and the time you invest in it!

PS: Sorry about your girlfriend's mom.


Anonymous said...

De tout coeur avec toi et ta famille.
Merci Pieter pour ce conseil avisé dans ce post.
Merci pour toutes ces sources d'inspirations et ce blog fantastique. merci merci merci

Anonymous said...

you have taught me more about the wider world of photography than any other website out there, you have spurred me into doing my own blog as a result, keep up the good work, keep your chin up, your head held high, what you are doing is educating, not time wasting and if one person changes their direction in life towards a more creative and self fulfilling path as a result of reading the blog then you have set out all that you wish to achieve.

Don't give up, you may think your mother in law has given up if that is a fair comment to say - no offense meant, but I believe it is only the beginning of a special journey we are all going to take, for some it is harrowing, others too soon, but the one legacy we can leave behind is our image, we will continue to exist in photographic form long after our body moves on.

By the end of your blog you will be the 5001st photographer.

Z said...

Thanks for the geat website! Wish you & your family good health & luck!

Kimberly June said...

Always a great reminder, thanks for passing it along and thanks for all the work you do here. It is inspiring and appreciated.

Mr. Five Zero Zero said...

I'd like to thank all of you for your kind words. It is truly appreciated.
Make the most of each and every day!
Hugs to all of you, Pieter

Hugo said...

Have to say your time saves me lots of time. I get inspiration and insight with everypost and don't waste my time meandering through the internet trying to find a daily fix.

Thanks for this post and the blog as a whole.

Shopping Malls List said...

I'd like to thank you

Andrew Rolfe said...

First, I'm truly sorry to hear about this terrible news, my condolences to you, your girlfriend and her family.

The 'Carpe Diem' attitude of life that you are commenting on is something I complete agree with, if not always follow. It is true living, and unfortunately it often takes tragedy to make us see that living everyday to it's fullest and being open to the experience of all things is a wonderful road to take.

There is an on-going argument over whether the 'on-line' lives that virtually everyone today lives to some degree vs. our 'off-line' lives is real living or even of any real value.

I for one can attest that this blog is anything but an irrelevant piece of internet.
I only discovered 500photographers about a month ago, but I have found it completely inspiring and refreshing. It has shaped my views as a photographer and an artist, and has vastly opened my horizons to the great work being created in photography today.

I fully agree that life away from the computer in the company of friends and family is what will matter to you at the end of your life the most, and I'm happy to hear that you have found a great lesson in the middle of great sadness.
Do not forget what I'm sure you already know: that this blog has touched and strongly benefited thousands.

Thank you so much for putting in the tremendous time and effort into creating this for me and everyone else who has ever seen it.

Andrew Rolfe

Anonymous said...

I was sorry to read this news and generally agree with the sentiment. I do wish your family strength at this time. I hadn't visited this site in awhile - I inadvertentally took your advice!
I also wanted to let you know that this project has proven invaluable to me. I am not formally trained and do not make my living as a photographer. As I work towards photography being my second career, your survey is my guide for masterful technique, style variety and career options. Thank you.

Ulyssee said...


pardon me for writing (besides in broken english and against your appeal) but I have to say that your archive is truly not a waste of time because it is great. And if it counts or not it has a value to me too because of so much inspiration.
While times running I have canceled my TV last year and, not to be proud of, but this year I will go on a trip with - my 74 year old mom. Maybe for the same reason.

Thank you an take care,

Anonymous said...


For now I can only answer with big silence.

Anonymous said...

hi, i knew this blog through a friend, though i only visit as and when... this blog's really awesome, more than just research for school work, the creativity and talents shown here by the post you shared is simply amazing! i'm truly inspired! this isn't just any other time wasted behind the pc/mac...

and on the note of procrastination, i'm pretty much guilty :( but thanks for the timely reminder on doing what i'd like to see... i think i might know what i want to do for my final year proj now.

may all things be well for your girlfriend's mother.

thanks once again for this awesome site, all the best to you! (:

Max Hirshfeld said...

Pieter I don't think you had any intent to say this is a waste of time. Acknowledging even some of the great work out there is a gift of the internet and one which I relish every day. In fact, seeing work often produces two reactions: first, why didn't I think of that and second, now incorporate that, forget that and go out and find my own shelf in the world. The best photography is frequently that which is achieved from a place combined of a questing intellect and with quiet response, gleaned from years of watching, seeing and opening your heart.

Anonymous said...

Point taken, but don't undermine your work on this blog. You've done an amazing job, and while I agree it would be procrastinating to spend too much time on it, it can also be a source of inspiration for those who don't have a clue what plan to shoot or what idea to write down. Something to think about whenever you feel like what you are doing here might be a waste of time.
Keep on the good work! (please)

Anonymous said...

I know the feeling, my Dad died 6 months after he was diagnosed with AML a particularly evil form of Leukemia..I thought I spent more time with him but honestly now that he is gone I wish I would have spent ever singel second with him, even then it wouldnt have been enough, when they are gone you miss them so much. Your work is important because your heart is in it, thats living. Good Luck and all the best to your girlfriends family be there for them.