I like communicating like this - I like being open & honest
John 58. Freelance Photographer from America. He lives in London with his wife and three children.
How are you?
Physically I am still good - in 10 years time I wont have that. Right now at this age, I’m feeling pretty strong. I’m 58 going on 16 - seriously, I’ve learnt to have that attitude from life’s examples and quotes. What keeps you young and fresh is in your head. I’m trying to avoid mental sclerosis. Of course there’s an ageing process but you get more comfortable in your own skin as you get older. It’s taken me a long time to get to the point. I’ve accumulated a lot more experience.
Recently I went on a trip with an old buddy - we were looking back at our lives and laughing until we were sick. (I love this - 2 blokes up a mountain in their late 50s roaring with laughter - for no apparent reason, simply reflecting on what’s happened in their lives to date).
What do you like about yourself?
There is something very egotistical about this question and I am sure my wife would say I am very egotistical. You’ve found the one question that I find difficult to answer. I can tell you everything I don’t like. I don’t know why I find this question very hard to answer?
What do you think about children?
One of my favourite definitions of parenting is you find out about the best and the worst of yourself and it’s true. No one tells you how to raise kids. Who gives you life lessons in being a parent? Welcome to the show that never ends…
I have learnt two rules about children - don’t dance around the baby; make as much noise as possible and don’t ever let them sleep in your bed - you’ll never get them out. Nobody tells you this stuff.
One time we were having an argument; me and my wife can be quite childish with each other. My son was in the room, he said to my wife - “Give me your bracelet”. What? “Whoever has the bracelet can speak - after that, pass it on”.
My son was taking charge, I was so proud of him. This is a new technique, my son is teaching me something - he was setting the rules.
Where does all your energy go?
I like spending energy on things that matter. Music, getting out into the woods.
When everything is going shit - I have these headphones. I’m obsessed. The quality is unbelievable. When I play Joni Mitchell (she’s my favourite by the way) it’s not music anymore - it’s like being with a friend. She’s talking to me in that moment - it’s devastating. It’s communication that transcend time. That’s the artist - they can put it down in hard copy - it moves you, there’s a revelation. It makes you a better person.
I talk a lot about music, feeling something deep - it’s a good release for me. If I cry at a concert - I cry at a concert. If I feel the hair go up on the back of my neck, great. It’s so cool to share the experience, it brings tears to your eyes.
I listen to music on my sound system and the backing vocals are like angles. I don’t know how to react, I’m stunned. There’s some new system I’ve been shown and they are special. I need to learn how to listen to these speakers, they blow your mind. I’ve never heard anything like it - there’s all the listening I’ve ever done in the world and then there’s the few seconds I’ve listened to on these new ones. I didn’t know there was such sound. I cant afford them, they are £15,000 - they deliver music in a way where you can see the artist on the stage. Close your eyes - put on a Billy Holiday album and I’m there in a club watching her. I spend a lot of energy looking for those experiences. Those kinds of things are all that really matter.
I think it’s a really cool question - it’s taken me 15 minutes to answer it.
How do you think other people see you?
This questions forces the most confrontation so far. When I was younger I was worried about what people would think of me. Once a friend said, ‘You want everyone to love you, you gotta get over that!’ I was a people pleaser; parents, teachers etc. It took me a long time to realise I don’t have to please everyone.
What’s your most memorable experience?
When I was 10 I started going to summer camp, it was a great place. Through the years I ended up going into the North West Territories. We went on long trips, 40 days at a time. They had nothing to do with the rest of my year - a complete change and that makes you realise it’s a big wide world out there. There are things more important than me. There’s things way bigger than me. I was taught about being part of a team and leading. Although those trips were disorientating they were incredible experiences. All the egotistical stuff is dislodged in the face of BIG weather, big storms, big challenges, being hungry and cold all the time - you learn a lot. You definitely find out exactly who you are. My brother and I were made in those days. I realise how important those camps were. Throwing yourself into a situation and getting on with it. There was time to pause. Nature is physically and psychologically good for your mental health. Camp was more important than my college education.
Who or what inspires you?
People who make wooden boats are closer to God than anybody. If I could build a wooden boat - or any boat. Boats are special. I spent a lot of time sailing them in my childhood. I really admire wooden boats. I had an assistant once whose wife made boats. I was like ‘OMG she’s a goddess’. Boats are just beautiful. Working with your hands - making something.
What do you think about life?
It’s all a big cosmic joke. It’s all about sex and reproduction. People doing exactly what they want to do and are really quite selfish. Being closer to nature - that’s the thing.
How do you feel about death?
Death is an adviser, it’s gonna happen. We have no right to assume we have anytime at all. I used to make myself freak out about it when I was a kid. I’d say the word ‘death’ a lot.
I’ve heard ‘you don’t actually become and adult until you lose your parents.’ My dad has leukaemia so I am thinking about death a lot at the moment - my dads prognosis isn’t great. I think he finds it hard to talk about dying. I think it’s important to talk about things sooner rather than later. There’s very little of ‘later’ left - he clams up. I think he’s afraid. He can see himself getting weaker. That is how it’s going to end - my dad is about to die - there might be people in the room but he’s going to do it on his own.
What brings you down?
I get angry and frustrated because the world isn’t perfect and it could be more close to perfect than it is. When you see people flicking a cigarette butt on the ground - I’m like what the heck? It’s so unnecessary. There is so much unnecessary waste - we all consume too much. I get frustrated because it’s not the way it could be. Not everyone is thinking about this stuff. I spend a lot of time thinking about this.
What have you taken from doing this process?
I found today had been like a journey from one place to another - a whole network of answers. I found out more about myself today. That energy question - wow, all the stuff I like doing is in pursuit of something to make me feel, and find out who I am. I am answering the questions with same stories. I didn’t see that happening.
I like communicating like this - I like being open and honest. I don’t think anyone is ever going to ask me to be this open again. Conversations like this are rare enough and you are good at facilitating them. Time is becoming a valuable commodity and there is so little of it.