Life, Love & Photography :: Success Factor

November 3, 2015

The Success Factor

Here is an old quote from Woody Allen that has entered the realm of Respected Axioms. It’s a reminder that progress requires action. Allen said that 80 percent of success is showing up and I couldn’t agree more.

In a recent interview with The Motley Fool investment advisors, Allen recalled that quote: “I made the statement years ago which is often quoted that 80 percent of life is showing up. People used to always say to me that they wanted to write a play, they wanted to write a movie, they wanted to write a novel, and the couple of people that did it were 80 percent of the way to having something happen.”

“All the other people struck out without ever getting to the plate. They couldn’t do it, that’s why they don’t accomplish a thing, they don’t do the thing. Once you do it, if you actually write your film script, or write your novel, you are more than half way towards something good happening. So that is the biggest life lesson that has worked. All others have failed me.”

If you want to do something, you have to start somewhere. Sometimes our dreams can seem so big and unachievable. For instance, twelve years ago I knew I wanted to become a professional photographer after taking a college class that changed my life. From that moment on, I started by taking the camera around with me everywhere I went and eventually created a portfolio to showcase my work.

I remember walking into a professional film studio for an interview and as I shared my portfolio tears began to stream down my face. I explained that I wanted to be a professional photographer but for me, it seemed next to impossible. My dream seemed too big for me at the time.

The person I was speaking with became a trusted mentor of mine and I am forever grateful for his encouragement. He taught me so much about photography. Essentially, he helped me create a foundation that supported my dreams to one day become a professional photographer. I am forever grateful for the time he invested in me.

Within that same year (2003) I had the opportunity to revisit a small town in Bahia, Brazil called Maragogipinho. As a teenager we spent a lot of time there and it was this very small town that shifted my perspective on life. Below is my artist statement and some images I took with my Canon A1 film camera back in 2003.




This work captures scenes of a small town on the outskirts of Bahia, called Maragogipinho  (pronounced Mada-goo-gee-peen-you). Maragogipinho, is considered to be the largest center for ceramic production in Latin America. Most of its residents make a living off of the ceramic trade, including young children who either help out in the “olarias” (ceramic centers) or spend a good part of their day “burnindo” (smoothing clay), exchanging hours of hard work for little pay. The idea of getting paid close to nothing for hard labor is not a new concept in Brazil, where the resources are plentiful and free-trade keeps the cost of labor down.

When I was thirteen, my mother and I returned to our home country of Bahia, Salvador, Brazil to live with her boyfriend and two children. While living in Bahia, Brazil, we began to make monthly trips to a small town in Bahia, called Maragogipinho. Having grown up most of my life in the United States, even the annual trips to Brazil (and time I lived there as a child) were not enough to prepare me for the culture shock I experienced when we visited Maragogipinho. We traveled by land and ferryboat, to what seemed to be the end of the world. Maragogipinho, was a place where everyone in the town stood outside their door watching as we drove past in our car. Our “Sitio” (house on a farm) where we stayed had no electricity or indoor plumbing and so, I quickly learned that my stereo, curling iron and blow dryer were of no use.

Maragogipinho, unlike the larger cities of Brazil, is practically free from Western influence. The lives of the people who live in small towns, are a raw version of what the now westernized cities of Brazil once were. These people live off of the land – Mama Earth, utilizing the earth’s natural resources and living without the latest technology. To me, Maragogipinho is beautiful because of its simplicity and deep sense of community.

At the age of fifteen, I moved back to the United States to live with my father and while I continued my visits to Brazil, I never made time to revisit Maragogipinho. It was during my first photography class in the U.S. that I began to daydream of all the faces I had once encountered in Maragogipinho. Thirteen years later, a desire to capture what I had seen years before landed me back in the small town where little has changed since. Coming from New York City, where things seem to transform in the blink of an eye, Maragogipinho is a gateway to what once was. Through photography, I was able to explore my Brazilian  heritage  and  express  the  passion I feel for Brazil, how much I have learned about the absolute importance of community and my feelings of love and pride for its people and its culture.