Sometimes, particularly when I hit a quiet spell, I start to wonder about the value of much of the work we do in an agency, work which never sees the light of day. More especially, the wonder leads to the dilemma of worrying about our contributions going ‘unsung’. The old ‘if a tree falls in the forest, etc.’ type of dilemma. The ‘what is what I’m doing, actually doing, for me?’
As often happens (well, happens to me anyway. I can’t not try and make connections) two poignant stories popped up this morning that shine a little light on something that’s likely been a question we’ve all asked ourselves - what happens if no-one knows what we do, and if that really matters?
Firstly, was the rescue of a cache of works (well, just a small faction by the sounds) by the late George Westren who appears to have worked away in quiet isolation for the best part of two decades before he died during lockdown.
The remarkable scale and skill of the work only became apparent to the wider world when a neighbour (also an artist) saw the portfolios being thrown in a skip as Westren’s flat was cleared - and posted the rescue story online.
Straight afterward I then stumbled onto the story of Ken Patten. An ex-RAF engineer, Patten designed and built a state of the art recording studio - Studio Electrophonique - in his Sheffield semi-detached home.
Patten was happy to welcome and record any aspiring artists who answered the small ad he placed in the Sheffield Star newspaper and unintentionally (perhaps?) contributed towards the success of superstar bands who started life in the city. The “unlikely crucible of Yorkshire’s electro scene and Patten its thrifty resident genius.”
Labouring away in relative - but happy (content? resignedly?) - obscurity is really situation-normal for the vast majority of us. But what if, perhaps unwittingly, your work was be paving the way for the next global pop phenomenon? Or other breakthroughs, that benefit society, technology, other people you’ll never meet?
Well, maybe not, but the thing with work is you never know what or who it might be helping, so one answer to the dilemma posed at the beginning of this is - do the very best you can. Likely as not, no-one will ever know. But you will.
No-one wants to be instafamous for all the wrong reasons (well, not many people) in this life or the next, so always keep it positive and as best as you can be.