I’ve been working my way through the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert over the last week or so. Today I read a section on the paradox of art. As I sit here editing photos this morning, I am realizing how true that paradox really is.

Elizabeth say’s the paradox of art is that “…in the grand scheme of things art is absolutely meaningless. While at the same time it can be deeply meaningful.”

Many of the photography and filmmaking projects I take on have little meaning on a large, world wide scale. They don’t affect countries, cities or realistically even large groups of people. My projects often focus on a few people: mainly orphans, humanitarian organizations, adoptive families and startup social-enterprises.

Often these projects mean very little to even my closest friends and family. They are seen and absorbed for sure, but the true meaning of them is lost on most people because they haven’t shared the experience with me or with the people the project is produced for.

Ted and his mother on the day he was adopted

At the same time these projects do have a deep meaning. Each one that I produce carries a little piece of me with it.  Each these projects becomes a part of me in a small way and changes my perspective on the world.

A working on a coffee farm in Yunnan, China

If my art can help an orphan find a home, a humanitarian cause find partners, or a social enterprise grow their business and provide opportunities for their community, it carries a deep lasting value.

Elizabeth Gilbert talks about creating art as a lifestyle. Choosing to create regardless of the impact, regardless if it is recognized or successful in the context of money or fame. While I agree with this concept, I think that it is important to remember that there are other forms of success that are much more valuable than money and fame.

In my case the most important of these is this – does it show human value and build up people? Does it help give them access to opportunities that allow them to live better, safer, happier lives? The last consideration involves perspective – does my art help me or someone else see the value of people in a new and encouraging way?