Where is your work coming from? Why are you doing it? What is it you see? These are questions pioneering photographer Jerome Leibling, who died last week at the age of 87, continually asked his students, one of whom was documentary filmmaker Ken Burns.
In a 2006 NYT interview, Burns said about Leibling: “You wanted to be like him. You wanted to tell the truth. You’d go out to take pictures with him, and we all saw the same things he did, and then we’d come back, and he’d put up his prints, and you’d put up yours, and you were devastated.”
What does all this have to do with defying gravity? More than you might think. To overcome the weight of societal expectations of age and gender, to overcome the weight of family history, to overcome the weight of our ideas of ourselves—in other words, to be truly authentic—these are precisely the questions one needs to ask.