On Writing

Over the past year, I’ve done a lot of writing just for the sake of writing. I’ve blogged, I’ve journaled, I’ve crafted ads. I’ve written my wife and kids cards for big events, mini events, and non-events. When I write a note by hand, I rarely use cursive. When I write a note, I print, mainly to make it legible for the reader. I save cursive for my own private journals. In the past, writing felt like work; now I write for enjoyment, for creativity, for reflection, and much more.

And the title of this post is a nod to my favorite author.

“K.I.S.S., Ryan”: How a Crusty War Photographer Taught Me the Power of Simplicity

“K.I.S.S.” It’s a philosophy that I’ve lived by for a long time, especially in the advertising world. Well, this might date me a bit, but back in college I took a photography class. Digital cameras weren’t quite a thing yet, so we were shooting on film and developing in a darkroom. I absolutely loved the class and learned so much about framing, creating a shot, and developing unique images that would jump off the photo page.

My teacher was a crusty old Vietnam vet, a former war photographer. He showed us his incredible, moving work from the Vietnam War. Above his desk, he had a sign he’d made out of old photographs that said “K.I.S.S.” I was really struggling with an assignment, so I went up to him and rambled on about all the things I was trying to do. He raised his hand in a stop motion, then pointed at the K.I.S.S. sign. At that point, I had no idea what it meant.

He asked to see my proofs for the assignment. He flipped through them in seconds, pulled one out, and grunted with a big, arthritic finger, “Ryan, that’s your shot. Look at that kid on the tricycle, giving you that cute smile… you know the moment you turn your back, he’s going to go flying down a hill, looking for a ramp to jump. The one you’re focused on is too much; you’re overthinking it. K.I.S.S., Ryan.”

I looked at the two pictures, and he was absolutely right. The simpler one was better – a night-and-day difference. I looked at him and asked, “Okay, but I still don’t know what K.I.S.S. means?”

He grinned out of the corner of his mouth. “Keep It Simple” – then took a sip of his coffee. “What’s the other ‘S’?” I asked. He just laughed and walked away.

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