My favorite form of acceptance is a check from an editor or publisher. It’s a business deal and means you met the terms of the assignment how ever daunting or simple. But those of us who take pictures or write stories probably are seeking some kind of approval. We’d really like someone to care.
So you show a picture first to someone in your life who is close, like a spouse or other family member. You can usually count on them to be approving. “Oh, that’s nice, honey.” The further out from your inner circle you show the picture, the more the approval curve trends down. “What the hell is that?”
The other day, however, I got a reaction I wasn’t expecting and left me both pleased and unsettled. My spouse had a small gathering of the people she went to high school with. There were perhaps six or seven of her classmates having a picnic on our deck.
One of them owns a small family homestead farm on the edge of town where I happen to snap a lot of pictures. It’s a classic location with old barns on a hill and large trees surrounded by well tended fields. It’s close so I see it in various weather, seasons and lighting situations. We’d recently enlarged and framed a picture taken there.
That’s what I mentioned to him. “Hey, there’s something on our wall in the house you might be interested in.” What I wasn’t ready for was his mouth to drop open and for tears to well up in his eyes. After a few seconds he managed to stammer out something like, “wow.” And then he stood there looking at it from different angles.
He returned to the picture a couple of more times that day, each time shaking and nodding his head. We managed to find a 4×6 print we’d used like a swatch to send home with him when the picnic broke up and told him we’d be pleased to make an enlargement if he ever wanted.