Commitment is everything.  It’s what makes us get things done.  It’s what makes relationships work.

Gail in bamboo hut in hill tribe village, northern Thailand
Gail in bamboo hut in hill tribe village, northern Thailand

It’s what makes us not give up, no matter how bleak it may look at times. It’s what gets us to stay focused on “the story” and be true to ourselves.

To some people, commitment can be frightening.  Their heads are filled with negative “what if” thoughts of failure that hold them back.  So, they plod along through life letting things happen to them instead of going after what they want. Those are the people who let resistance win.

I’ve always been a determined and committed person – if I say I’m going to do something, you can count on me to do it.  It’s tough sometimes though, to stay committed to myself and to what my true purpose is – it’s far too easy to get caught up with the regular flow of work and life.  But every now and then I get an idea for a creative project that just won’t go away.   When I finally decide to stop ignoring the idea and do something, I have a mechanism I use to help me make the commitment – I tell someone about it.  I’m the type of person that feels, once I’ve told someone I’m going to do something, then I have to do it – just to save face.  I call it “forced accountability.”

Seth Godin writes today about commitment: “One way to play in the digital age is to appeal to those that browse, the window shoppers, the mass audience that can’t and won’t commit.  The alternative is to focus on impact, not numbers and impact comes from commitment. “ He says: “ price is more than an exchange of coins. Price is a story.” Essentially, Godin is saying that in our noisy digital world, where ideas and content are free – we’ve got to be better, to make an impact.  In order to connect with the buyers on an emotional level, we’ve got to be “better than free”.

Every commitment that I’ve ever made has come with tremendous personal growth.  When I traveled around the world a couple of years ago making a feature length documentary, Opening Our Eyes, I not only challenged myself physically and creatively, but spiritually as well and I feel that I became a better person because of it.  I would not have been able to endure the hardships of that journey, nor the intense workload of post production had I not been committed to the idea.

What are you willing to commit to?  Commitment may be frightening, but without it, you may be spending your later years wondering, “what if I had”



I was stunned yet not surprised yesterday when I heard the tragic news that Tim Hetherington had been killed in Libya.  I’m grateful that I had seen Hetherington speak and present his work at Photo Plus in 2009. I remember being awed by the intimacy of his photographs and motion.  The viewer felt that they were right there in the action because Hetherington had been – and relayed that story to us.

We know about Hetherington and his work mostly because his documentary Restrepo had been nominated for an Oscar last year.  But how many other men and women who document the wars and the natural disasters, putting themselves in harms way on a daily basis, do we ever even hear about? That’s because it is not about them, it’s about what they are photographing or filming or writing about.  It’s about making others aware.

I once thought that I wanted to be a hard news photojournalist because there is a big part of me that loves to be where the action is.  But I also know that living that kind of life takes its toll especially on ones personal life.  I didn’t know if I could achieve the kind of balance in my life that I felt was important, pursuing that type of photography.  So I went the way of shooting more editorial feature pieces with a focus on people. I also thought that I might be the type of person who would become overly emotionally invested when on site and perhaps not able to fulfill my journalistic responsibilities.

I will always have the utmost respect and admiration for all the working journalists, photojournalists and video journalists out there who give us these incredibly intimate stories, risking their own safety over and over again. They do it for precious little financial reward.  They do it because good journalism is necessary for a healthy society. I’m forever grateful.

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