I was driving this morning, listening to music, and thinking about success and making a difference in this world we live in. I think about these types of things a lot. Whether it's walking, driving, sitting here at my computer, or laying in bed at night, I'm usually in deep thought about something. Typically, it's how can I do what I am doing even better, or how can I reach more people? Last night, after ten hours of editing and combining music and photos, I posted my video covering the first six months of the "Faces of Veterans" project (Click here to view video on YouTube).As I write this, with ninety-two views, I have to say it was a success.
You are probably thinking, "Really Steve? Ninety-two views and you're calling that a success?" Yes, and I will explain.
Since January 2019 when I stated the "Faces of Veterans" project would be Statewide across New York, a lot has been poured into it. If you watched the video I put out last night, you'll see just some of the numbers associated with the project thus far; 1000+ individuals photographed, over 100,000 images, more than 10,000 miles driven, and 150+ hours standing behind the camera taking the photos. These numbers don't include the amount of hours spent sending emails, making phone calls, or editing photos. So why, with only a small number of views on the very first video I made covering the first six months of this photographic journey, do I consider it a success? The success isn't determined by the number of people who sat and watched a thirty minute video. The success is in the content. The video was already successful before it was even made. Read that last sentence again.
I'm not a public figure, I have zero fame, and the video I made wasn't produced in Hollywood. Could it have been put together more professionally? Of course. If I had the funding to pay for a company to produce it, add some special effects and theatrics to it, could it have received more views within the first twenty-four hours? Absolutely! But even if this video receives a million hits, that really doesn't determine its overall success. The success is in the content.
Over one thousand individuals made the decision to step outside their homes and in front of my camera. In the past several months I have received phone calls and messages from many veterans and family members of veterans. Some of them weren't even photographed. They saw the impact the photos made on their loved one. They themselves were impacted by this journey.
The reality of life is that you and I will not live forever. Would it be a reasonable assumption to say some of the images I captured of veterans, could possibly be one of their last photos? If this is true, what will happen to that photo? What loved one will cling to it like buried treasure? What if a veteran showed up, expecting nothing more than just a photo, and left with more than they bargained for? What if they showed up, and in the process of waiting their turn, met and was able to help another veteran going through a difficult time? Imagine if you will, they woke up that morning, thought of ending their own life, walked in the door of some old American Legion or VFW, and met a brother or sister who gave them a renewed hope? What if a veteran who has carried baggage for years, found the right person that helped them unpack? Would any of these situations deem it successful? I'm not exaggerating when I say, that on more than half a dozen occasions, I've seen veterans both male and female, in tears at a photoshoot. They showed up carrying so much and left empty handed.
Over one thousand individuals, all with their own unique and individual stories, gave me the honor of photographing them. I had the easy part. All I had to do was use a camera. They had to make the conscious effort to come see me.
I don't have a whole lot. I don't live a lavish lifestyle, eat at fancy restaurants, or wear fancy clothes. I can't afford to go on vacation. I sometimes wonder how I will pay for the next tank of gas to get me to the next photoshoot. I'm just a disabled veteran with a camera and a vision. I work with what I have, fund this project with my own money and donations, and trust that life will somehow works itself out. I travel with the hope I'll be able to reach one more veteran and family member in the next county.
My success at this moment isn't measured by ninety-two people who looked at a screen to watch a video. My success is in the faces, stories, and lives of the one thousand others that made the first possible.
Thank you for reading. Comment below with your thoughts and share if you'd like.