…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
David and I were once in Austin, eating dinner before photographing a Beard Competition, and we were discussing mutual friends’ art and how each of them were doing their best work from the outflow of their own worldview and experience. David asked me what I thought of his work in those terms.
I told him he was a master of his craft and was always looking to improve himself. Looking back at his early work, I could see over the years how he had continually developed what he could do with lighting and a camera. He also had that thing you can’t teach; the ability to give a representation of his subject that had a transcendence of his medium (photography), which I can see in his later work, but it is also present in his early work.
For a lot of his career, David worked as an advertisement photographer, shooting a lot of products, lifestyle shoots, and portraits for corporations, which he did all over the world. Between those gigs, he sought to photograph what he considered to be fantastic sub-cultures: mimes, Coney Island sideshowfreaks, roller derby girls, competition beardsman, etc,. He loved people living outside of cultural norms, who weren’t being paid much for what they were doing, but had passion for their niche pastime.
So when David asked me about my thoughts on his work I had a large range of photographs to consider, but at his artistic core, there was nothing more crucial to his narrative than his work for True Africa.
David was a man that suffered. I don’t want to get into the details, but his death from cancer at the age of 44, was just the final straw of life marked by hardships. Through his suffering, David was a man of character, never allowing himself the luxury of modern laziness, but also a man of joy and celebration. He was one of the hardest working people I ever met and he drank deeply from the Joys of the Lord.
When I look at David’s photographs of people destitute, stricken with poverty and pestilence, who live a life of extreme societal brokenness, I don’t see bitterness, nor pain, nor cries of injustice, but of endurance, character, hope, and a freedom from shame. David, while living in another financial stratosphere by being a moderately successful American, was able to identify with those people’s present suffering. Instead of shooting from a place that exploits their situation or looks down upon them, he was able to communicate their heart, and his heart, that is being regularly filled with God’s Love by his Holy Spirit. In my opinion, as an artist, there is no higher achievement.
Why should you own True Africa? The same reason I do, because it is a great artifact of a Godly man, who identified with the Man of Constant Sorrow and his fellow hurting man, and wanted to give to people by sharing his God given talent. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Editor's Note: Only two signed copies of True Afria left. Go to our store and choose the signed copy option.