Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Disillusioned Optimist


Anyone familiar with my contact information will recognize in the title of this post the name I use for my gmail account. I am not the first or only person to use this phrase as an identifier online and there are millions of us out there who were born or grew into this philosophy and continue to live it every day. My particular journey began in the blinding sunshine of optimism, took a quick detour in very bad weather into pessimism, and has finally taken me into this most misunderstood but to me so perfectly comfortable condition I chose to use it as the first impression prefacing most of my communications.

Place in the Sun

Optimism did not serve me well. Always looking on the bright side can be a frustrating and exhausting task. The bright side is an elusive creature that is so often chased away by the dark side, and in general finds itself suspected, mistrusted and mocked, and nearly suffocated in the desperate grip of its own defenders, it is no wonder that it becomes more and more reluctant to show its face. After a few challenging years as the champion of the bright side, I gave it up and left it to more dedicated advocates.

 Cover of Darkness

The obvious next move was to go over to the dark side completely. Pessimism was thrilling at first. Predicting that everything in life will eventually turn into crap means being right most of the time, and that can feel pretty good to a former optimist who hardly ever enjoyed that sensation. But after a while pointing a finger, laughing like a cartoon villain and declaring “I told you so!” lost its allure. It’s wonderful to predict accurately that something will happen in a certain way. It’s not so wonderful when the self-satisfied smile begins to fade as you realize that everything has indeed turned into crap and this is not a happy state of affairs. In such cases being wrong probably feels a lot better.

 Disillusioned Optimist

So I found a way to be half-right all the time (half wrong, for you dedicated wholehearted pessimists out there!) I looked inside and realized that I was indeed an optimist at heart. I believe that there is good in just about everyone, that miraculous things can happen if you open yourself to them, and that eventually even the negative things that happen can prove to be important stepping stones on the way to a very positive outcome. All evidence to the contrary, all will be well in the end. I am also painfully aware that bad things happen to good people, good people often do very bad things, and that sometimes you never do get an explanation or justification for some of the hurtful situations in your life, or the bad break that arrives with perfect timing, having caught up on the road with the good break you clearly deserved and was earnestly energetically making its way to you, then clubbed it over the head and left it in a ditch.

 Hot and Cold

Being a disillusioned optimist also means I can hang with the pessimists when things turn sour and join the chorus of “what did you expect? Life sucks!” But I can also hang with the optimists when a little magic dust descends and agree “I always knew things would be okay.” I am not sure which came first, my embrace of this philosophy or my life’s pattern of equal and opposite evidence of magic and of life sucking. Either way, life does indeed suck at times, and life can also be magic at times. I have had my share of both. I believe in and accept both. It’s all about the balance of light and shadow, and you rarely have one without the other. 

 "Qual de Nos" by Denise Scaramai

Last week was one of those times when reverting to pessimism seems entirely justified. But all the time I was struggling to stand my ground against some negative forces causing me to question myself, I was being encouraged by all the wonderful supportive comments left on last week’s post by you wonderful people out there. It was an especially welcome surprise to learn that my blogfriend Denise created another masterful illustration based on one of my photographs, which you can see above. 

 Artbeat 2011
The week culminated on Saturday at the Artbeat festival, which proved successful for both Brian, baking in the hot sun under a tent outdoors, and myself, in the cool indoor setting of the Burren, a local bar and restaurant.  Brian will be posting this week about how his day went and also making available for purchase a new t-shirt with a design based on one of his paintings. For my part, I made some good sales and received a lot of positive feedback on my work, some of which was being shown for the first time. A good day all around.

And saving the best news for last, my new book is now available on Blurb! This book represents my best work from the past ten years right up to images captured only a couple weeks ago, which proved to be the last necessary pieces to complete a work I envisioned many months ago and was having difficulty realizing. Clicking on the badge in my sidebar will take you directly to the Blurb bookstore which will be the exclusive distributor of my book. I have also added links in both the NEWS and STUDIES IN CONTRAST sections of my blog. Because it is currently under consideration in the Photography Book Now contest, my book is set to full preview and you can view it in its entirety here or on the Blurb site. Of course, there is nothing quite like the experience of an actual physical book, as I discovered today when I held my book in my hands for the first time, so please buy a copy for yourself, you will not be disappointed! All in all, this week I am happy to report that my optimism, although still entirely free of illusions, has once again emerged triumphant! Have a great week, and thanks for visiting.

Book in Hand


    Hello Gabi !
    being a optmistic... well....
    I am the most depressed negative optmistic of the History, I mean, I complain about everything , I am very grumpy, but how can anyone of this world be more optmistic than me ?
    I live a life with no warranty of nothing and believe that in a near future ( maybe tomorrow or in 1 hour ) everything is going to be fine and I am going to start to have a great life. hahahah!
    I believe that appocalipse is near and it is going to be really horrible at the same time I think that I will be fine living a cizy life while the rest of the world get drestroyed .
    So... I think I am very optmistic in a very negative way.... or very negative in a very optistic way. whatever.
    kiss. good luck with the book. I am going to visit it now and then I will post about .
    see you.

  2. Hey, this is a really good book.

  3. Caio, my dear friend, and the first to comment! I knew you would understand about being part-negative and part-positive! I complain all the time too, but if everything were really that hopeless I would not still be here trying, right? I am so glad you like the book. Thanks so much for the promotion! I was worried how good a job Blurb would do with it, but it turned out just as I wanted. Now, I hope the contest judges feel the same way!

  4. Hi, Gabriella

    Great news! Love the book. What a beautiful job. You just have to keep on traveling. The road doesn't ever stop no matter on what side of the sun you are.

  5. Whoo Hoo! Congratulations!

    "I always knew things would be okay" (sound familiar?)so now CELEBRATE!


  6. Many thanks, Luis, my fellow traveler! I am really pleased with the results, it is exactly what I envisioned, and that does not happen often!

  7. Steph, good to see you here! Thanks for the congrats, here and elsewehere. Would love to stick around and write a lengthy response, but I got me some celebrating to do!

  8. Dear Gabriella, my disillusioned, optimistic friend:

    Congratulations on your new book! I just ordered it from Blurb. Not only will I be proud to have it in my home, I appreciate the opportunity this gives me to thank you for the insight and pleasure I derive from the beautiful writing and photography you share here on your blog. How right you are: seeing it is one thing, holding it in our hands is another; and now, more than ever, that’s a connection we humans can’t afford to lose. Good luck with the contest. As far as I’m concerned, you’re already a winner hands down.

  9. ... I can join the club of the pessimists,
    with rare glimpses of optimism?? :))

    it's like Caio said ... I think life will get better tomorrow, but when I wake up, the reality weight and everything gets ugly again and again and so I live ...
    And now 'looking through' your book, I felt moments of joy, to see the magic that a photographer can, when observed, and fits a little bit of life.
    The photos are great! and stay quiet because the book 'talk' with us well as we turn the pages, it's amazing.

    I'm sure your feelings will emerge in the photos, and charm the jury of the contest!

    your expression in the last photo, is the best! :)

  10. Dear Gabriella,
    I am very happy to be cited and see my drawing here
    in the middle of your labors!
    It was very nice our partnership!
    Thanks again!
    I loved to contemplate, this sea!

    kisses and hugs!

  11. William, your words and continued kindness are such a gift, but to know my book will be in your hands and that the images will be seen and known and kept by you is a pleasure indeed! You are one of those rare souls who gives to any work just as much as you take away. You'll make my little book that much better for knowing YOU. Many thanks, my friend.

  12. Dear Denise - I am very happy that you liked my book! I wanted it to be the kind of book you sit with in a quiet place and just have a conversation with the images, so I am happy this is how you describe it! There is so much ugliness in life, as you say, that if I can bring some joy with my photographs, my purpose is fulfilled! Thank you for understanding! And yes, being the perfect "partner!"

  13. That is truly wonderful. Karma. And the good thing about being a disillusioned optimist is that you can't be disappointed - just pleasantly surprised. Off to view the book.

  14. EC - yes, yes! I have said this often before - so much better to be pleasantly surprised! I have to be careful though - too many of these positive vibes and I may be converted back to full optimism, and we don't want that, do we! Thank you for visiting, and for viewing. All the best to you!

  15. All I can say after looking at the book is WOW!. Beautiful and thought provoking. A wonderful combination.

  16. EC - this means so much coming from you! It is what I hoped to achieve with this book, something appealing to both the eye and the mind. William said above that I am already a winner, and with friends like you, I cannot disagree. Many thanks! Be well.

  17. TT (aka Miss G) - tricky thing the +ve versus the -ve thing - strangely enough life seems to be made up of both though we would all like a big dose of the +ve. F and I discuss now and then the reality of positive thinking - we tend to come down on the side of yes it is important to seek the positive but also recognise that the negative is also possible. You have done heaps to realise a dream over the last year. It sounds like you are considering a new chapter and hopefully that will offer you and B balance and joy. The book is a wonderful culmination of your recent journey - not a lot of cash but a lot of creative credit. Go well, travel safely and may the next horizon and chapter offer you joy amidst the challenges. B

  18. Hi G/TT - I'm a bit late to the party but that's because I was toasting you with you a deep Aussie red tonight! Congratulations- this is a beautiful book and we will be proud owners soon. The images are beautiful - and thought provoking, all with that added dimension. I enjoyed your traversing of the optimist-pessimist divide, and think I fall into optimist world - but maybe a realistic optimist? Best wishes for the contest; and enjoy your celebration. Life is good.

  19. Barry, thanks so much for the positive comment! You're right about the lack of cash to accompany this venture into self-publishing. As you probably know, Blurb makes it difficult to turn a profit. I crunched the numbers, and whether I buy up a bunch and have them shipped to me to sell them myself, or let the Blurb Bookstore do the work, I really won't see much $$$ from the sales unless I price the book even higher than its current figure, which is a bit high even by art book standards. It is worth it though, to have a showpiece, and the creation of it was a real triumph for me! All the best to you!

  20. Fiona, no worries about being late to the party - I am still recovering this morning from the first of probably many little celebrations in honor of my little book - so the party goes on! Thanks for toasting me with my favorite libation, Aussie red! And thank you for buying the book. It really is a lovely creation, even though, as I said to Barry, I wish I could have kept the price down a little so more of my friends can own a copy. Some day perhaps, on the strength of this first collection, I will get an actual book contract from a traditional photo book publisher! Talk about positive thinking! One step at a time. All the best to you and B - you are a great example to me of why my B and I are in this for the long haul, and the eventual rewards. Be well.

  21. Congrats! It's good to see that things are looking up for you. I love the top photo. It really has personality. :)

    I've found that it's easier to appreciate the ups after I've been down but I'm content to stay in the middle. :)

  22. Hi James - thanks for the comment! That top one just happened to be by the side of the street as I was walking in Provincetown a couple weeks ago, don't know if it was some spontaneous public artwork or just pure whimsy - couldn't resist getting a shot! As for ups and downs, I may embrace them and accept them, but sometimes I do wish they were fewer, further between and not quite so dramatic. Middle ground is so much nicer! All the best to you.

  23. First off, I just love how you link your photos with your words and they flow so nicely together. It's all about the yin and the yang right? Thank God there is no black and white, but instead a lot of gray, I don't think I'd want to resign myself to one or the other! Congratulations on your book, how wonderful!

  24. Hey TB - the way the text and photos work together is one of my favorite parts of the posting process! Sometimes the images add a whole new feeling to the words that even I had not fully recognized or understood, and vice versa - plus it's just plain fun! Many thanks for your comment. You must be roasting where you are - try to stay cool!

  25. I've been smiling reading this post, yes that's life, a bit of both and to me, just that is an inspiration, it is what puts interest in an artists' work. I think it would be rather boring to look either at the work of someone who is constantly pessimistic or optimistic, it is the changing, the duality , the alternation what is fascinating, the wealth of emotions.
    And i believe it is possible to make changes when those changes are made and accepted by the mind.

    Wishing you succes with your book, it looks beautiful and it is you, xx

  26. Dear Renilde, I'm glad to make you smile, and I completely agree with you about duality! Sameness or uniformity of any kind can be so dull. Your work is full of such wonderful contrasts and I can see that the creative spirit behind it embraces change. Thank you for the kind words about my book, I do believe you are right, it is not just a collection of images, it is myself, placed between the covers of a book.

  27. A BOOK....A BOOK!!! What a great thing to celebrate! Amid all the tumult of life....your work, your dedication and your passion....it's all there in that book. Best wishes for your continued success in the journey!!

  28. Thanks, P. It's pretty exciting isn't it? I'm so glad to be able to share this good news. And it is indeed only one part of the journey - onward and upward!

  29. I have to say that as I was getting ready to comment I read Caio's post and laughed my butt off!!! I'm the eternal optimist....lol....and it is completely exhausting.....LOL!!!!
    Congrats on your new book!!! I will check it out for sure!!! xoxoxo

  30. Oh, you! Optimism is indeed exhausting, but necessary too. I commend you for holding out on the front lines! I am not that far behind you! Thanks for the comment.

  31. Congratulations.
    This book must come out as a hit.
    Coming from an optimist/pessimist 
    We all have seen your work as a writer and photographer,
    there is nothing to worry about, you have the support from all your friends!!
    And from the other hand BECAUSE you are an opt/pess., that’s why
    you will never stop looking for a change in your life…(and the life of others)..
    Sending my love!!!!!!!!!!!

  32. Monika, so good to see you here! Thank you for your comment. I am so grateful for the support and sympathy of friends like you, you really keep me going! It is true, I will always be a seeker. It is a restless life, but there are so many things I would not have found if I just decided to give up and stay in the same place doing the same thing! Hugs.

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