“I’ve often wondered about mattering. It’s an odd verb. It doesn’t conjugate at all regularly. It translates awkwardly. Yet that fugitive meaning it conveys is absolutely key to a certain conception of art. Fiddle about, play at your art, and you miss the point. But make art in the conviction that it matters, and everything else follows.”
This is a fantastic quote taken from Francis Hodgson’s blog. It appears in a post discussing one of Cindy Sherman’s works, produced on a series of dinner ware, in which she is referencing 18th Century art patron (among other things) Madame de Pompadour. The thing I love about this quote is that its quality is that of a sovereign knight. It is currently in the service of this particular article, but it is by no means indentured to it. It might freely serve wherever its author sees fit, and the mere presence of this statement aggrandizes whomever, or whatever, surrounds it. I love harvesting little gems like this from people’s writing!
Beyond the faculty for autonomy, this quote possesses an idea that is very profound. What does it mean to matter? This can only be answered, I think, through introspection and discussion. The discussion need not be a public one, but it is important to be able to have one in which you are challenged against your initial feelings. This tends to be easier when other people are involved. Introspective conversations are necessary, too, because only you know what you really think and how you really feel.
Answer the question of what it means to matter, and what you should do with your life reveals itself like a star in the night. Yes, there are many stars, because there are many paths. But there will always be a certain star that sparkles more in your eyes, revealed by pushing aside the clouds of complacency. Once you’ve chosen that star, the system of opportunities that orbit around it begin to concede. Surrendering to your determination, they reveal themselves as having always been there, waiting for someone to get close enough to recognize them for what they are a part of.
Truly, when you do something that you believe matters, you become more dedicated to it. You care about it so much more, and you work harder to excel at it. You don’t think about who cares that you’re doing it, because you believe that it matters, and someone will care and care that it’s done well. All the questions about how to do what you want to do matter very little. When you’re convicted enough about doing something, you become much more attuned to the necessary, and often obscure, conduits to success. There’s no mandatory paradigm of success, though. Like defining what matters, finding success will be as personal as the journey there.
I’ll admit to being very occupied with the idea of “mattering”, maybe to a fault. For some people, mattering to friends and family is satisfactory enough. Their time is dedicated to showing these people how much they are loved and appreciated. For me, the answer goes beyond my immediate surroundings; it always has. I’ve long harbored a desire to matter to a greater number of people, in some way (though not at the expense of those closest to me). Art has always suggested the answer. But Art alone was too broad, too lofty. Fortunately, I found Photography within Art and saw its potential to communicate profound messages to diverse audiences. As a visual art, photography goes beyond the image’s ability to transcend the confines of written language. It not only communicates through imagery, but it communicates through the imagery of the actual world, often revealing the world as more than assumed, even more than imagined. There is magic to be found in the world, the kind that moves people to do profound things, and I think Photography is uniquely capable of capturing that magic.
Find fulfillment in what you hope to leave behind.
Make something that matters.
*** All images are © BJ Cary Photography except for the dual galaxies image which appears first on this page. The dual galaxies image was found at Astronomy Picture of the Day.