Friday, February 12, 2010

Promiscuity I Can Get Behind

Photographic Promiscuity, 2010

Terry Gross interviewed actor Colin Firth on her Fresh Air radio program the other day. After getting all the requisite plugs in for the movie he was promoting, Gross asked Firth about his upbringing and his decision some years ago to go spend time in a monastery.

Firth explained that although he hadn’t followed in the academic/medical footsteps of his father nor in the “spiritual searcher” footsteps of his mother, he was self-aware enough to recognize the need to take a break from his career for some quiet time.

He said it was important for him to do that because he’d realized that his personality lends itself to “creative promiscuity.”

Creative promiscuity. Now there’s another line I wished I’d come up with. Doesn’t it sound like fun?

Terry Gross couldn’t let that line go by without comment, either. When she asked Firth what he meant by it, it explained that creative promiscuity is the process of throwing yourself fully into whatever project you’re working on, to the exclusion of other aspects of your life. It might be for a day, a week, a month or several months. Whatever the duration, it’s a complete immersion.

But when the project—in Firth’s case, a movie or play—is over, it’s over. The obsession is ended. The team is disbanded. Interest in the project is kaput. Next!

An old ad agency boss of mine used to say that a good agency needed a mix of talents, but that what it needed most were good “agency people.” He wasn’t referring to glib account execs or furry creative types. He was referring to people who thrive on learning and playing with ideas and images. Such people tend to get bored on long-term projects. They value a dynamic workplace, energetic workmates and challenging assignments far more than the trappings of place and status.

He used to shake his head at some of the people in the agency. “Client person,” he’d mutter quietly, making it clear that the person being talked about had been a mistaken hire and would be better off moving to the client side. Saying that someone was better suited for the “client side,” was code for saying that the person probably wasn’t very bright and would place a higher priority on stability, consistency and the more predictable life of working for the same company on the same things all the time.

I was reminded of this recently when I was looking at all the sets of photographs on my Flickr page (above). Compared to some of my friends who have a very consistent visual style or consistent interest in a single photographic topic, my work has been all over the board. The progression over the years has been anything but linear. More like fits and starts. Jogs this way and then that.

I don’t know if this makes me photographically promiscuous or just probably a little attention deficient. But I’m proud to know that at least one point in my career I was considered promiscuous enough to have been a good “agency person.”


  1. That's a good post, Chris! I heard Firth on "Fresh Air" that day, too--I like him, and enjoyed that interview. Your photos and sets are all great--you must be very promiscuous, I think.

  2. ... i know a therapist who points out that how we do one thing in life we generally do in most all other aspects of our lives ... it's how we do life in a larger more global pattern ... just making an observation! ... ;o)

  3. Chris, You're the best kind of promiscuous. You don't rein in your imagination. I love it that your blog is all over the place, just like your pictures. Every time I come over here I start traipsing around behind you to places I would never get to myself -- & then I realize it's time to head for the subway! Thanks. I'll be back.