I’m a loyal dude, if you have my back.

 

 

 

Earlier this month, it was my 12th Anniversary writing for this website.

My wife and I have been together nearly 25 years, (married for 18,) and I’ve kept up this weekly column since September 2011.

(I also wrote for the New York Times for 6 years, until they shut our blog.)

If you turn on me though, or treat me badly these days, I’m out the door.

It’s a new development, and I’ve been trying it on for size.

Stress chemicals prematurely age us, make us sick, and can kill us in various ways.

So I’m currently trying to limit my exposure to toxic people.

But I’m only here, at this new point in mid-life, because I made so many mistakes, over and over again.

Failure is the best teacher, if you’re willing to listen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My son was 2 years old when I began writing for A Photo Editor.

I was 36.

(A youngish, new father to a toddler.)

 

36 years old, covering a portfolio review for APE

 

Now it’s 2022, and I’m the 48-year-old Dad to a teenager, and a soon-to-be tween daughter.

All along, I’ve been sharing my thoughts, and this blog has become interwoven with my life.

That’s quite the run here, and I think it’s because Rob and I share common values and beliefs.

One core tenet: Respect the Hustle.

It’s a hard world out there, and very few of us are ever given anything at all.

(If we are, let’s hope we’re humble and appreciative.)

To become successful in any field takes intelligence, planning, social skills, hard work, grit and determination.

Battling rejection.

Handling the almost moments, when it didn’t happen.

I mean, I once got accepted into a big NYC gallery, less than a year out of graduate school, only to have it fall apart when they didn’t like the color of my picture frames.

(Now that’s a kick in the nuts.)

Perseverance is a valuable trait; one that’s only learned through suffering.

 

 

 

 

 

As always, there’s a point to my musings.

We’re going to talk about a book today; one that waited quite a while for review.

It arrived in May 2021, and sat patiently in its red plastic pouch.

When it’s been that long, I never have any idea what’s inside, and this one was a self-published book by Alex Palombo called “The 20 2020 Project: The Pursuit of a Dream.”

There are two ways to talk about this book, and I aim to investigate both.

 

 

 

 

 

 

First off, I respect the hustle this book entails.

The photographer shares, in the opening statement, how tricky it was going to be, to photograph and interview 20 athletes training for the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.

It was a budget stretch, and Alex meant to stick to the Northeast corridor of the US, from DC to the South to Montreal in the North.

(He lives in New York.)

There is an anecdote about a highway mishap in Upstate NY, which lead to driving 5 hours in the wrong direction towards Buffalo.

Ouch.

(Can’t not share here that my Mom and Dad inadvertently headed West from Vail not-too-long-ago, instead of East towards Denver, and only realized it when they were well into Utah. Must have been some strong-ass reefer.)

 

Image courtesy of Turn the Page

 

Sorry.

Back on topic.

There was a lot of effort funneled into this book, as a passion project, BEFORE Covid hit, and then it became nearly impossible.

But somehow, here it is.

Hard-cover, serious business.

We have athletes, and their stories, which are themselves inspiring.

Each had to sacrifice.

To suffer.

To chase a dream.

In the world of sports, no cliché is ever too big.

All the meta-narratives have been told, (certainly since the US Hockey team won Gold in 1980,) yet they get us every time, such is their power.

{ED note: Just last night, Stephen Curry and his buddies proved the “aging vets who still have one more in the tank” narrative never gets old.}

 

Courtesy of NBC Sports

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m the first person to admit I’ve become more cynical since 2016, and try to push back against those instincts.

Sports help me do that.

Not only do I admire the Grit’N’Grind that saw this book through to creation, self-published, but also how it amplifies that positive message with the powerful stories within.

These moments motivate us to do more.
Be better.
Dig deep.

That is the context through which I prefer to view this book, and one for which I have much admiration.

However…

 

 

 

 

 

The other context.

Do I think the photographs are special?

Is the pacing spot on?

Can I groove with the graphic design?

What about the fonts, image placement, and the balance of text and image?

Weekly, I judge books on those merits, and in many ways this one comes up short.

So I don’t want to wimp out, and not say what I’m thinking.

It’s not a “great” book.

But I don’t want to over-invest in that narrative, as the kids say these days.

The truth is, I review books of all types, intentions, and levels of craftsmanship.

Context matters.

I hope some, or even most of these fencers, wrestlers, sprinters, judokas, boxers, and synchronized swimmers made it to Tokyo in 2021.

And I hope you dig this fun, positive book on a warm summer day.

Wherever you are.

See you next week.

 

To purchase “The 20 2020 Project: The Pursuit of a Dream” click here 

 

 

 

If you’d like to submit a book for potential review, please email me at jonathanblaustein@gmail.com. We are particularly interested in books by artists of color, and female photographers, so we may maintain a balanced program. And please be advised, we currently have a significant backlog of books for review. 

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