I was born when these words first appeared in the song 'The Trial', by Pink Floyd. I only heard 'tear down the wall' 14 years later when my dad introduced me to 'The Wall' album and we would have conversation about the meaning of the songs, the film, the artwork. It would be years until I could really experience its meaning and even longer till I would see Roger Waters bring it to live in his massive show. Just last night this phrase hit me again, this time applied to my current artistic pursuits.
After months shooting The Orientalist series, with scenes in 6 countries over 3 continents, I got back to Toronto and started the process of editing, choosing photos and getting ready to show the work. I went deep into my cave, testing papers, photoshop techniques, order of photos, learning about the fine art photography world. I put out some character studies, individual portraits of the amazing dancers and musicians I worked with, to test the waters and the reception of the project.
What started as a learning process to get better at my craft and show my work became a wave of worry, second-guessing, and being very critical of my skills and concepts. At the same time I was ever more in love with the images we created, but I felt a bit afraid to share them with the world. I guess in the deep corners of my mind there was an echo of another Pink Floyd line, 'Mother do you think they'll like the song?'. Along with that surprisingly common feeling of self-doubt, other real world pressures started to kick in: commercial work, paying gigs, commitments, etc etc. I realized I had gone in a search for 'perfection' out of fear, trying to build an armour that can only come by facing one's fears head on. As author Tim Ferriss said: fear is an indicator, and it points to the thing you must do.
It is said that when you are ready, a mentor will appear. In this case, it came in the form of a book. I picked up The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield and reviewed the concept of resistance. Pressfield beautifully argues that you feel resistance when you are working on your true calling as an artist, and the most difficult thing is to ship, to finish, to deliver. I looked at my studio wall, where I put small test prints of my photos, and I saw it as a barrier between me and whoever would be interested in the project. While researching for this post, I came across another famous use of the phrase, though in a more historical context. A variation of it appears on Ronald Regan's 1987 speech in regards to the Cold War situation in East and West Berlin, when he said: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" Although The Orientalist is not political in nature, there is an interesting parallel between relations of the so called 'West' and the Middle East today, which my project inevitably deals with.
It's time to tear down the wall. Over the next 30 days I will be sharing all the photos of The Orientalist on my website and social media. It has been an incredible ride creating this project with the help of almost 100 people, and I am very curious to hear your thoughts. I believe photographs are objects to think and feel with. So... The Orientalist is coming. And I hope you will like the song.