I saw Jiro Dreams of Sushi the other night, on a recommendation from a friend / designer.
Jiro has been making sushi since he was 10. Jiro is now 85.
Needless to say, he is very good at what he does, and I found myself immediately drawn to him, as I have been a photographer for most of my working life. We share a lifelong commitment to a single craft, as well as the desire to continue pushing and improving that craft. However, this sort of commitment raises some interesting questions.
First, how focused is the commitment? Jiro does not serve appetizers or sake in his restaurant -- only sushi. The food is basic and simple, but the flavors it produces are (apparently) mind blowing. But if you want to have Miso and a few drinks before a long, lazy meal -- look elsewhere.
Is the satisfaction gained from this intensely narrow focus worth the alienation of many customers? In photography we are known primarily by the images we prepare and serve. Some photographers serve meticulously prepared meals with unique, hard to find flavors. Others offer something closer to the all-you-can-eat buffet at Ponderosa.
Furthermore, how do you balance this kind of intense commitment with having a family? Early in his career, when he would work from early in the morning until late at night, his kids never saw him. They would ask their mother about the strange guy that would come and go in the wee hours. How does this affect the relationship between a father and his children?
For whatever reason, Jiro's sons have chosen to follow in his footsteps, and continue his business. Are they happy, and do they feel connected to their father? Does Jiro feel connected to and proud of his sons? It's hard to say, as they give very little away about their emotions.
I want to stay focused like Jiro. I also want to spend time with my family and ride my bike every once in a while.
Is it possible to have both? Who knows. Maybe between now and my 85th birthday, I'll find out.