In Pep Talks, The Italian Incident by David60 Comments

Winston Churchill, by Yousuf Karsh. I love his determination and defiance.

The Rehab Centre in Ottawa, in which I am currently imprisoned – I mean, ahem, a resident – has hanging on its walls an amazing collection of large prints by Yousuf Karsh. Karsh has long been one of my favourite photographers, and his influence was one of those that pushed me to do now what I do. I’ve now been here a full week, minus the weekend which I spent at the cottage on Haliburton Lake listening to loons. I’m up and down these halls several times daily surrounded by well-known portraits of people who’ve changed the world – Winston Churchill scowling down at me, the pensive – almost prayerful- look of Albert Schweitzer, and others. I eat breakfast with Pablo Picasso staring at me, the Spaniard’s gaze almost daring me to make art of my recovery and to do it boldly. On the wall of my room, which I share with 3 other men (all of whom are in bed before 9) there is a white board. “My Goals Today…” it says, and on which I’ve written, “Same as everyday: Conquer the world.” The nurses laugh, think I’m kidding.

Rehab’s going well. My discharge date is September 01 and my PT says I’m way ahead of the game already. Last week I walked over half a kilometer, crutches hanging somewhat loose at my side. This week I’m gunning for the same goal, but with my cane. I get beat up for almost 4 hours a day, reminded by friends, like my buddy Anita, that pain is temporary, but quitting lasts forever. Every day is one step forward.

So it is with all of us. Or it could be. Most everyone that reads this blog wants to move forward in their art of their career as artists. We often think big: In 5 years I want to…. But in the rush of day to day living whole weeks pass by without taking a single step towards that goal. In rehab they don’t just teach you to walk by making you walk. They break it down into steps. I’ve spent hours now doing heel raises and ankle rotations. Stepping forward, stepping back. Up one stair, down one stair. The question on my white board is more relevant than my seemingly sarcastic comment about conquering the world might imply. If you want to be a full-time artist in 5 years, what are you doing now – today – to get there. Don’t reply with “getting new gear.” If you aren’t learning to edit now, you won’t magically be able to edit later. If you aren’t taking time to shoot now, your portfolio won’t magically appear in one year or four. Whatever you’re burning to do – start now, break it down, and get on it. The days add up and the small steps become a half kilometer before you know it. But you can’t sit on your ass and just one day be able to walk that 500 meters. Start today.

I gotta run. My beating is about to start.


  1. Pingback: Best Of | Brooke Snow

  2. David, my body too had been wrecked. 15 years ago, a massive heart attack. Two years ago and last year, massive strokes. I lost all of my Memory, speech, and hearing. I struggle daily to form a sentence anyone could understand. I can’t spell anymore and carry my trusting dictionary daily, so please be kind if my spelling faulted. I had shot pictures more than 30 years but I really wasn’t that good. I met an old friend on facebook. He was very good, Photographically and a heart as big as Texas. He challenges me, and pulling me out of the rut I was into. He had turned on me to your Blog. I was amazed the way you write. You are such a wordsmith, that I dreamily gaze at your output. I am so glad to found you. You inspire me greatly. I know your mobility recovery will be tough. so will mine. Maybe…just maybe you and I could carry a conversation, strolling a beautiful park trail. My beatings are internal and I’m not scared..I enjoy enjoy yours. God speed to your recovery

  3. Inspiring post, David! I’m so glad to hear that you are making such great progress!! Here’s to determination! And how cool is that, that they have pictures of Yousuf Karsh there. I am sure seeing these images are giving you even more of a push to get going again.

  4. Hi David,
    Thanks as always for the inspiration you provide. Something you said, “pain is temporary but quitting lasts forever” REALLY struck a chord. Thanks for the kick in the pants:) Glad you are surrounded by great images as you conquer this latest challenge.

  5. Your sense of humor and practical outlook are still intact and you seem to be making great, if painful progress, keep up the good work!

    We’re all pulling for you to be back out in the big world,capturing more great images. With your attitude and fortitude, it will happen before you know it.

  6. David, thanks for your inspiring outlook on life! Your words touch so many folks. I really appreciate your attitude! Wishing you continued progress.

  7. David, I’ve just “discovered” you, and am really enjoying your posts. I, like many, am trying to transition my lifelong (I’m 46) love of photography into a bit of an income. You’ve been a welcome shot in the arm, as it were. Hope your therapy continues to go well and that you’re back in the outdoors where you belong soon.

  8. Happy to hear you’re progressing so well. Nice work. And tell Anita thanks for the quote; loved it. About the Karsh photo of Churchill: I heard the story behind it…

    Karsh was set up for the photo. Churchill wasn’t cooperating told him he didn’t have much time. Spontaneously, Karsh reached out and snatched Churchill’s cigar from him. Churchill scowled and Karsh got his shot. Great photo, great story,

    As for you, young David, press on with the pain. Quitting lasts forever.

  9. My very best wishes to you for a speedy and complete recovery. Your attitude speaks volumes, I know and affirm that you will come back even better than before.
    I am a recently retired web and graphic designer and a passionate amateur nature photographer and volunteer at our local national wildlife refuge.
    I am hunting and pecking this on my keyboard as one hand is in a cast after recent reconstructive surgery to repair the damage from severe arthritis. Once healed, in a few months the process will be repeated on my other hand. The doc says I can get up to 50% use back, I intend to get 100% of that and then some. It will make such a difference in my life and my photography!
    You are indeed making art of your recovery, thank you for having the courage to share your journey.

  10. Those lifts and “small” exercises are the equivalent of learning each part of your camera. The walks are the time spent shooting and the beatings are the editing and analysis process. We need each of these to progress.

    I’m on my way back to China after 4 weeks in Germany – with104Gs of photos later. ๐Ÿ™‚ I learned so much about my camera, light and photography! Now for the hard work of editing, keywording and article writing – in between my ‘real’ job. But it is one more step on my way to my goal.

    Thanks for the continuing motivation. Here’s hoping that the motivation you give others bounces back at you tripled!!

  11. Excellent post David! It’s good to hear your encouraging word’s, encouraging others {me}.
    You are making Art of your recovery! And boldly!

  12. David, another inspired, inspiring post from you, just like your images. Must be a reason for both. I find it hard to believe that I feel I know you so well, yet we’ve never met. I am sure there are others who feel the same. Can’t wait until you can make a trip to Australia. We’ll climb Uluru together.

  13. I stayed up past bedtime last night sorting and editting 1000 images i took over the last few weeks. today, went in to the eyedoctor — need new glasses for my computer work!! We got into a discussing of shooting — his hobby as well, and i got all ramped up about my new skills/excitement about Lightroom (thanks in part to your book on same). He said, yeah, but where will I get the time?? I am a doctor, with 2 kids, etc. by the time I left the office, I had a new Rx for glasses and he had made a commitment to trying the next step……we all help each other in this stuff. thanks for your contributions.

  14. Your perspective is so welcome as I struggle to figure out what I want to be when I grow up—and I am already 43. Gotta take advantage of the moments each day to make progress toward your goals….but sometimes the hardest part is to set the goals because you aren’t really sure where it is you want to end up!

  15. I just returned from the Augusta (Georgia) Burn Clinic after my one-month check up. I was burned two months and six days ago on June 10. My arm has been thickly bandaged, “thinly” bandaged, and “compressed.” Now I’m “gelled” and compressed at the same time! My physician’s assistant Eric told me that I can start doing anything, but mostly to start living life. I have been bound for months, and not only will living my life again aid in the healing of my badly burned arm, but also my “head” and my soul. David, thank you for your inspiration today to begin taking the steps I need to take to return to the world of the living.

  16. Yes, and Winston Churchill’s hard core never-quit encouragement with his words:

    “If you are going through hell, keep going.”

    So David, keep inspiring and keep going ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. I love that photo! I had read how it was made. The reason Churchill looks so “determined” is because Karsh snapped Churhill’s cigar out of his hand. LOL

    Also, you are correct about putting in time. I just finished a book, ‘Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. He dedicates a whole chapter to the 10,000 hour rule.

  18. Thanks for passing along the beating! You are absolutely right. You are making the most of your “setback” by sharing it with us among other things. What more can one ask for.

  19. “Daring me to make art of my recovery” I love that. It sounds like you’ve embraced that very well. I dare us all to make art of the less obvious, mundane, difficult, and uncomfortable moments. Keep up the good work

  20. I love that photo! I had read how it was made. The reason Churchill looks so “determined” is because Karsh snapped Churhill’s cigar out of his hand. LOL

  21. Just love that those photos were there for someone like you to tap in to.

    I am not fond of exercising but here I go.

    This one’s for you!

  22. Wonderful blog post – something that I needed to be reminded of today. I’ve also been a fan of Yousef Karsh, ever since I began my journey in photography 6 years ago when I was just a 12 year old girl with a point and shoot camera. (Now just an 18 year old girl with a larger camera and bigger vision than that 12 year old girl could have ever imagined having) One of the wonderful things about that particular photograph, as told by Mr. Karsh himself, is that he only had a few moments to photograph Winston Churchill and he ended up plucking the cigar straight from his mouth, which resulted in that iconic lion’s scowl we see above, but only moments after he burst out into a laughter and smile – a photo Mr. Karsh actually much preferred. I know that is probably the most random thing anyone has ever left here aside from the occasional spam comment about buying magical fairy pills to enhance your life, but I just thought I would share it (: Keep up the progress! You’ve got this!

  23. Lance Armstrong can be counted on for hardcore, Texas-style, never-quit encouragement, lol!

    The world will be a better place if you conquer it, David, ..and with Churchill staring at you, you can “never, never, never, never quit.” ๐Ÿ™‚

  24. “What are we going to do today, Brain?”
    “The same thing we do every day, Pinky. Try to take over the world!”
    It’s good to have lofty goals. Keep at it!

  25. It’s been a long journey for you David but the light at the end of the tunnel is approaching f/1.2. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    You’ll know you’ve cracked it when they ask to put your portrait on the wall. ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. Hahaha… thanks David. Great post! And thanks for passing on the ass-kicking. ;o) We all need a boot in the bum now and again to get us off the couch and moving forward.

    I recently went through _exactly_ what you described – the weeks go by and what have I accomplished toward my photography goals? Nada. Doah!

    So, a photographer friend of mine and I agreed to kick each other’s ass (in a constructive way). We send each other our goals for the month and then meet at the end of the month to eat good food, drink good wine, and discuss what goals we met and for those we didn’t meet, why. It’s the most fun ass-kicking, I’ve ever had. ;o) And I’m getting tons done!

    Wishing all the best with your rehab. Sounds like you’re going great guns! Keep up the good work. I hope the nurses in rehab keep kicking your butt and that you keep kicking ours. :o}

  27. When I start bemoaning what little progress I’m making personally with my own photography, you always manage to post something that corrects my perspective. Thanks Dave ๐Ÿ™‚ Best wishes!

  28. Thanks for the beating today David. You have really put into words the true nature of goal setting and then how to reach your goal. I think of us ever write down goals that we plan to hit. I have had different life goals for a long time and sometimes i hit them. I wonder what would happen if i set my goals and then took it one step further and set the mini goals to hit the big goals. Thanks for the boost today. I really needed it.

  29. I’ve been getting a beating working two jobs for the last 4 years. Finally decided to give my employer (and myself) a “12-month’s-notice” back around Easter ๐Ÿ™‚

    So next June, 2012, I’ll finally make the jump to full-time.

    I started my journey in photography in college in the year 2000. Long story ๐Ÿ™‚

    Hope you’re beatings are going swell, David! Pun intended.

  30. I’m from India and have been reading your blog for quite sometime but always hesitate to post a comment! But today, I just have to tell you, that you are an inspiration, not just as a photographer but as a human being! As a person who dares to bare his soul – about his pain, his struggles and the way he is overcoming them.. And the way you encourage others inspite of all your problems..You are a great photographer, but as a human being, you are par excellence.. God bless you with good health and many, many beautiful moments to photograph, in the days to come..

  31. It is amazing that through your misery, you can still write and be so uplifting to the rest of us. Those heel lifts will come in handy, stengthening your calf muscles and aiding in your ability to balance yourself-the first “step” in your full recovery. Continued good luck with everything, David!

  32. As a former orthopedic nurse, I loved having patients with a determined and positive attitude like yours David. Their recup time was shorter and the desire to get back to their ‘normal’ life was a key factor in rehab. I bet with your fierce determination, you are quite popular with the nurses and therapists. I’m glad things are going well in rehab for you but remember not to overdo it! :
    When my son was in Brigham and Williams Hospital in Boston, the family waiting area had several Karsh portraits. Dark, foreboding, but the glimmers of light were masterful. Interesting his work is popular in hospital settings. His work is much richer up close and personal. I found myself mesmerized by his work.
    Thanks for the kick in the butt. You’re right, life gets away from us all. Then a new year arrives and the same goals get re-entered on the list. Keep on conquering!

  33. D’you know the story of how Karsh got that expression from Churchill? Karsh had only five minutes with the man, as he was visiting Ottawa on official business, so he had to shoot quickly. Karsh wasn’t happy with what he was getting until he walked over to Churchill and pulled the cigar from his mouth. That’s the look of a powerful man saying “what did you just do?”. Ballsy move on Karsh’s part, but look at the result.

    Slightly related, one of my teachers back in college told me of how he once met Karsh’s printer, and that *apparently* Karsh was lousy with exposure. His printer was one of the last few to develop by candlelight. Goes to show, you just need a masterful eye and the cojones to do the unexpected. Leave the rest to the printer.

    Best of luck David!

  34. Karsh on the walls and an unexpected opening there for you, how cool is that? Coincidence? I think not. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Love his portrait of Georgia O’Keeffe, the lighting is amazing! So glad to hear of your progress, you’ll be skipping down those halls before you know it!

  35. Love your take on things David. I walked a dark path for many years myself. There was a time where I never believed it COULD be any other way.

    However, I proved myself and my critics wrong, took great pleasure in it too. No outside help. True help can only come from within…without that, the external stuff is useless.

    Something tells me that you’ll do the same…

    Anyhow, I’ve got work to do! But, I will be back to see what you’re up to soon.

    I am a freelance web design/search marketing consultant and I recently finished a site for a Photographer. Chris Bevan Photography Doncaster What do you make of it? Once you’re out, let me know and I’ll give you an ex cons discount! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  36. Glad things are going well. Thanks for the pep talk ๐Ÿ™‚ Can’t wait till I see some new pictures from you ๐Ÿ™‚

  37. “Winning is about heart, not just legs. It’s got to be in the right place” – Yousef was also a big inspiration to me – had him sign one of his books for me. Great to hear you are on the road to recovery.

  38. Sounds like great fun at the Rehab Center – you will be running to your next assignment in no time!

  39. Words of wisdom & inspiration. Go gettum killer and I hope to meet you on the battle field full of artists looking out for each other, climbing out the trenches of mediocre mud and charging across no-mans land full of fear, determination and joy, knowing no matter what the enemy throws at them they will reach their Vimy Ridge and succeed. In that alone they’ll help their comrades reach their own goals and inspire more to follow them into battle & to victory.

    Not sure where that came from! Good fortune everyone.

  40. Author

    Jeff – Huge loving going out to you three! Welcome the little one to the world for me. So excited for you! Push, Mary! ๐Ÿ™‚

  41. Author

    Thanks Lee. I’ve never been shy about sharing either my victories or my defeats. To share one without the other doesn’t seem honest somehow. And if my own struggles can make the struggles of others a little easier, it seems only fair I share them. As for professional businessman, well, we come in all stripes and shades; I don’t wear that suit too comfortably most of the time ๐Ÿ™‚

  42. Thanks for this today. I needed to hear the line about pain is temporary but quitting is forever. Keep working on walking, becuase I can’t wait to see what your pictures look like after you get out of prison… ๐Ÿ™‚

  43. I was just thinking the rehab bouncers must have taped your fingers together because it had been almost a week since the last post… thanks for the update… and the conscience bump… been reading VisionMongers this week… needed my DD fix…

  44. David,

    I found this post via Twitter. At first I wasn’t sure that this post was real. In as much as I wasn’t sure that a professional business man would posts details about his current rehab stint on his website! But I am glad you did.

    Made me think on a few things and I feel compelled to wish you luck in your recovery and with all ‘steps’ you take in the future.

    Enjoy your beating….


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