A while back I wrote a mini memoir about my first photojournalism assignment in the Soviet Union in 1989. It came out “fine.” Michael, the agent who launched my photography career, an effusive man with an angry disposition toward mediocrity, used to say “fine” is a four letter word. He insisted my work be flawless or nonexistent. It was harsh and demanding but pushed me to produce beyond what I thought my capabilities were.

Occasionally I’ll go back and read parts of the Russia piece. Each time I do I think, it’s not’s fine.


This morning I read a letter from music producer Steve Albini to Nirvana entitled “I would like to be paid like a plumber.” In it the following caught my attention:

If the record takes a long time, and everyone gets bummed and scrutinizes every step, then the recordings bear little resemblance to the live band, and the end result is seldom flattering.

There is the truth I’ve been seeking.

The memoir took way longer than it should’ve. I started and stopped it at least a dozen times owing to the chaos of my life that year. The result was a lot of second guessing and indecision. I got it done in the end, but it could of been better than “fine.”