Why Art Is More Than External Success

The following was taken from The One County Podcast. In episode 2, we talked with NYC-based photographer Sam Stone about finding meaning in photography. Here’s what he had to say:

Why am I doing the work, right?

Like am I doing it because I want to be famous and have money and power and all these things? Or am I doing it because I want to say something. Or even for myself, it’s even therapeutic in a way.

If all that never happens, if I never make a cent, if I never have any kind of recognition, if it doesn’t go anywhere…

I think the thing for me is it changes my life. It changes my perspective. It changes the way I think about people.

The empathy, the compassion, the understanding of people more than just a figure walking past you on the sidewalk, or somebody passed out on the ground, or some rich guy driving a Bentley.

It makes you think more about these people as people. Fallible, compassionate, caring, humble, evil even maybe. Antagonistic. All these different types of ideas and emotions. It summarizes all that when you look at photo or take a picture of someone, it makes you think a little differently.

I had seen videos online on Facebook and YouTube of this guy called “the pigeon man.” He’s this homeless guy, he loves to go there to feed the pigeons. And he loves them so much he lets them climb on them. And there’s all these videos of him, all his arms stretched out, thirty pigeons from arm to arm, pigeons on his head, on his feet... And I’m in Washington Square park and I happen to see him. So I walk up to him and he says “you wanna hold a pigeon?” And I think that’s kinda gross. I start taking photos of him, and I end up taking this picture of him. He’s got a pigeon on his head, a pigeon on his right arm, and In his hand he’s cradling another pigeon. And he’s looking down on it, almost kissing it, and I immediately knew that was the one. It’s really representative of why he does that.

You see a video of him online, you think he’s totally nuts and has no connection with real life. But really you look at him, and you can see in his face the love he has that transcends human-avian connection. And you see this true care he has for these animals, and his perspective on his life and all the stuff he’s been through. It really changed my perspective on him. He really loves these animals that I think are gross. Maybe it changed my perspective on what a pigeon is.

That makes it worthwhile, even if no one cares.