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The business of change
This week’s piece is a little different. Today, I have put together three narratives from three icons so we can learn how they responded to big changes in their time. Hopefully this will give us a better perspective about our own crazy time.
The 1960s were a decade of revolution, war, feminism and social changes around the world. Susan Sontag is one of the activists and cultural voices who shaped that decade. Her acclaimed book, ''Against Interpretation'' is now considered to be one of the most important and widely-read critical documents of the '60s.
Here is part of an article she wrote on the 30th anniversary of the book. She explains how her ideas and reactions were a result of major social changes in the 1960s. It’s strangely beautiful that these words still feel so alive and relevant.
I’m aware that
is regarded as a quintessential text of that now mythical era known as The Sixties.
The radical change I’d made in my own life, a change embedded in my moving to New York, was that
I was not going to settle for being an academic:
I would pitch my tent outside the seductive, stony safety of the university world.
No doubt there were new permissions in the air
and old hierarchies had softened, had become ripe for toppling—but not that I was aware until after the time (1961 to 1965) that these essays were written. The freedoms I espoused, the ardors I was advocating, seemed to me—still seem to me—quite traditional. I saw myself as a newly minted warrior in a very old battle: against philistinism, against ethical and aesthetic shallowness and indifference.
This story is from the documentary “ZZ Top: That Little Ol' Band from Texas”, which I highly recommend watching. It’s better than any business master class for creatives.
ZZ Top is an iconic rock band that took an unusual path to success. How did reacting to change make them successful globally?
When MTV debuted, ZZ Top was one of the first bands to jump on the opportunity. Ironically, their record company and managers were against this move, as they believed that the medium did not fit ZZ Top’s style.
We really stood up for it. We wanted to do something different with new technology. If you don’t do that, you'll play ‘Shuffle in C’ [their first song] forever!
-Dusty, ZZ Top bassist
We had to maintain a willingness to continue this business of experimentation. This notion of what blues should, or shouldn’t be was thrown out the window.
- Billy, ZZ Top founder and singer
Since nobody was willing to help, Billy started to look for a talented director and had to produce the video.
The result was a hybrid mix of music, cinema, and a pop art aesthetic, which made the band international superstars. They became one of the first bands whose career was completely transformed by music video.
With the Eliminator album, they hit their commercial peak, selling 15 million copies.
Martin Parr is one of my favorite photographers. His dark humor is so unique that when you look at the world through his eyes, you think you can understand how humanity fails!
Here I have combined three interviews and content (from Canon website, It’s Nice That, and Parr’s personal website) to show you his reaction to the explosion of new technology, digital cameras, and social platforms.
I like photography because people think it’s easy, but it’s not. It appears to be very easy because all you have to do is pick up a camera and you don’t need any technical knowledge anymore; a camera does it all for you. That’s why all you see is lazy photography everywhere.
“Modern technology has taken the angst out of achieving the perfect shot.
For me, the only thing that counts is the idea behind the image: what you want to see and what you're trying to say. The idea is crucial.
“So although technically it's easier, and there are more platforms for photography than we ever had before, getting good photographs and having a personal vision is never going to be easy. Thank God, in a sense, because that's how you can distinguish the good photographers from the excellent ones.
To sum up
It doesn’t matter how you respond to the change. You can totally embrace it (like ZZ Top) or you can define yourself completely out of it (like Martin Parr). What is crucial is that you recognize and react to it.
That is what makes you uncomfortable; and that is what makes you grow.
Till next week,
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