Monday, August 22, 2011

Day Seven: Revelations {7 days, 7 photos, 7 stories}


If you've gotten anything from these last 7 days, it's maybe been more of a glimpse into my character and motivation towards my images than into the images themselves. But, as I suspected, the photos had a story to tell. And apparently it was a story about me. This is an incredibly insightful concept, though. Because this is the truth  -  the real story often lies under the surface, buried deeply, waiting for the right person with the right question to come along and ask. And then, listen.

Take the image above. You could have been there and spent a minute contemplating the boats on the water, the opaque backdrop of fog a pretty contrast and the only indication that this was not an "east coast" scene. You might have seen this. Admired it. Taken the photo and moved on.


Or.

Or you could linger for a moment. Sit a spell. Stop and watch and listen. Because what if the fog rolled away, as it clearly did, and revealed what was hidden on the horizon. What might you have missed if you'd assumed that what you saw was all that there was to see?


People are like that. A pretty, foggy scene that given enough patience, care and time, reveal something amazing underneath. What it takes it someone willing to spend enough energy reaching beyond the obvious to find the story waiting to be told. And as a photographer, that's what I try to do. To tell the story, the real story. Whatever that might be.

Whose story will you discover today?



Sunday, August 21, 2011

Day Six: Perspective {7 days, 7 photos, 7 stories}


You are unique. No one else in this world is like you are. And no one could ever replace you. You are you. Maybe you're not quite the person you want to be, yet. Maybe you are still on your journey  - trying to discover the real you. Maybe you have arrived. But you are who you are meant to be. And embracing that is perhaps the only way to ever fully become.

Because I am who I am, and my perspective is mine and mine alone, every image that I take, every word that I speak, every thought that I have, is mine. It may initially have been something I found, heard, was inspired by, thought to try on for size, but once it was run through the filter of the person that I am, it becomes changed. Altered. Something unlike anything else. It is influenced by my past, by my present, by my opinions and quirks and inner self. And it is, therefore, uniquely and wholly mine.

They say everything has been done before. Every idea has been had. Every thought has been thunk. But I think they (whoever they are) are wrong. Because there are as many new ideas and new perspectives as there are people on this earth. If you are true to yourself, if you do not copy ideas and regurgitate thoughts but instead take what you find and make it your own, then you are well on your way. And no one can stop you.

This photo above is about perspective. It's about seeing something that lots of other people saw but making it my own. Is it an eye? Is it a staircase? Is it both? What do you see through the filter of the person you are? And how might you have done it differently?

Find perspective today. Take an idea and make it your own. Share it with someone who matters.  

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Day Five: Every Moment {7 days, 7 photos, 7 stories}


Once I was chastised by a fellow photographer who told me, in no uncertain terms, to slow down. He thought perhaps that I was too quick to be the first one on the scene, that I moved too fast or too furiously to get where I was going. I heard what he said. I really did. But then I promptly decided to mostly disregard his advice. Because the thing is, I'm not moving quickly because I want to be the first one there. I'm moving quickly because I am that excited about getting where I'm going. I'm moving quickly because the undeniable urge to seize every moment is so tightly woven into the fabric of my being that I simply can't turn it off. I am a doer. I am a goer. And I cannot, don't want to, stop.

Within those parameters, though, I am not careless. I don't trample over others to get where I'm going. I don't risk the safety of anyone (other than myself occasionally) to achieve my end. And that, I think, is the difference.

This photo above is a result of the winning combination of being in the right place at the right time and of seizing the opportunity to move quickly into a situation that was perhaps a little dangerous. It was taken in Santa Barbara, CA at the old mission there during the Jesusita fires two years ago. I was aided by two lovely people who were willing to drive me into the fire, literally, when everyone else was driving away. And for this moment in time I felt very much like a war photojournalist might feel - completely abandoning any thought of personal safety to capture an epic moment.

So, yes, I tend to leap before I look. Yes, I sometimes head towards the fire when I should be walking away. And, yes, it has the potential to get me in trouble (ask me about the time I was almost arrested for trespassing and why I don't do it anymore) : ) But this character definition is clearly that - a definition. This is what makes me who I am. This drive to always move and see and do is what has helped me find my voice. My life is about seizing every moment - stepping up to it, assessing it, meeting the challenge and swallowing it whole. Living with intention. Walking to the edge. And taking a flying leap into the unknown, somehow trusting that I will fall gently.

However.

I have also been learning the art of slowing down. A little. God has a way of putting people in my life who have a strong enough presence and influence to urge me to pause, not because they think I am moving too fast, but because they recognize, as I am learning to, that the process of getting there is an enjoyable journey, and that arriving, while amazing, is maybe not what it's always about. And as I move towards finding balance, I can't say thank you enough to those willing to steady me along the way.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Day Four: Spirit {7 days, 7 photos, 7 stories}


I've had a lot of people say a lot of things to me about my photography; most of them complimentary, some of them constructively critical (which I definitely appreciate), but all of them thought-provoking. I've had strangers come up to me and tell me that they can clearly identify my work from other's images, whether my name is on it or not. The mother of a family of five that I photographed told me that my work felt the way the music of Lori McKenna sounded (American folk rock if you care to google her. I did. And wow, what a compliment. There is a certain quality to that music that is both calming and soulful, filled with more than just rhythm and words). And one comment that recently resounded with me came from the mother of two boys I'd photographed. She looked me right in the eye and said that she had spent a lot of time on my portrait blog and that it was evident to her that there was "spirit" in my work.

Spirit.

What a word. And what a moment of truth, perhaps, for me. For, you see, the point of this story isn't to pat myself on the back for my accomplishments, but to say instead that it often eludes me how to convincingly communicate that what I do isn't about me. It isn't about the money. It isn't about climbing to new heights and achieving new goals. These things are all critical to owning a successful business, for certain. But for me, it's about the spirit. Without it - without the driving force of something undefinable, trailing like a thread that connects me to my photographs and my photographs to the people or subjects in them - then what, really, is the point? If there is spirit in my work it is only because that which I photograph has spirit, and I can only hope to translate that intangible something into an authentically, completely, utterly tangible thing, transcribing the essence of who or what I'm photographing into a permanent record of a moment lived and a story told.

Do I flatter myself in thinking that there really is something about my work that defines me from others? Do I wax vain in believing that this is truly the thing that I am meant to be doing, that the enthusiasm with which I greet every day and every photo shoot can not only energize and infect my subjects but also draw them out of themselves, allowing them to reveal the real person inside? Maybe. But if it keeps me going, then what's the harm in believing.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Day Three - Horizons {7 days, 7 photos, 7 stories}


When I was a child I had these really cool books that I recall only as being titled "choose your own adventure."  In these stories you always started at the same place, but after reading a few pages you'd suddenly be faced with a decision, and you were in charge of choosing what happened next. One choice told you to turn to a particular page while another lead you in a different direction. And on it went until you arrived at the conclusion you had dictated. The problem  - I was never content with the ending. So I'd go back and read all the endings and then choose the perfect one.

There are days  - there are always days - when I wish that life was like this series of books. I sometimes want to read ahead and find out what the ending is based on the choices offered up. I think this is why horizon views are always so appealing to me. Whether it's the sunrise over the mountains or the sunset over the rocky sea-tossed coast, I love looking out and being able to see everything, from here to eternity.
Or thinking that I can.

Seeing all your choices, and your endings, laid out before you would certainly make a difference in how you choose. But, really, what fun would that be? Because, let's face it, I may wish at times that I knew the ending, but I kind of love that I don't. I love the mystery of what lies ahead, the joy of discovering what happens as a direct result of the turns I take on the path I'm walking, and the satisfaction I have knowing the courage required to arrive without knowing the end. In truth, if every decision and every ending were clear, where would the adventure be?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Day Two - Doors {7 days, 7 photos, 7 stories}


They say that the eyes are the gateway to the soul.

For me, doors are the gateway to mine.

Whenever I go, wherever I am, whoever I am meant to become, it will always be doors. Doors that are closed but are meant to be opened. Doors that are opened that cannot be closed. Doors that should maybe be closed but instead remain slightly ajar, waiting for the right time and place to be flung open wide to the deep blue sky and the story untold. The mystery lies in what quietly bides, just out of reach, for the decision to be made. The decision to open, to close, to look but not touch, or to walk resolutely by.

How might your life be altered if you choose one door over another? Could you bypass the right door? Or could that have been the best thing you never had? Will you ever actually know the answer? Not likely. And so, as we do, we press ever onward; choosing, closing, opening, and walking in the only direction that seems to work - forward and through.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

7 days, 7 photos, 7 stories: Day One - Magic

I am fortunate enough to be preparing for a photography show at the Turner Center for the Arts in Valdosta, GA that begins on Monday September 26th (opening is from 5-7PM). This show is a little different than others I've done because, as I review the thousands of images I've captured in the last 5 years, I'm not looking for the ones that I know are technically accurate. Instead I am listening for the ones that have stories to tell. And I am going to tell them, right alongside the photos.

So for the next 7 days I am going to be writing a blog a day - a teaser of some of the images you'll see if you come to the show. Some are images you've seen before, maybe here. Some are new even to me (first time round for edits). But all offer a glimpse into the journey - heavy with travel, poignant with memory, and fueled by a fire that just wants to burn brighter.

Day One: Magic






Many children make their first journey to Disney Land or Disney World at a young age. Hand in hand with their parents, they take the first steps towards what will become life-long vacation traditions that they'll then share with their children, soaring into imagination, dreams and magic with just a hint of pixie dust.

I, on the other, hand, didn't set foot in the world of Walt Disney until I was the ripe old age of 21. As a result, I went in with the mind of an adult with just a brief nod to my child's heart that still apparently hoped to be swept away to a time when eating ice cream for breakfast was perfectly acceptable and there was a beautiful fairy godmother waiting only to grant my every wish.

Despite being older than most, it turns out I was not, am not, immune to the magic of this place. I have, in the years between that one and this, been to both Disney World and Disney Land probably more than 20 times. Which isn't saying much when comparing it to those who go every year, or every weekend. But it's not a bad start. I don't, however, feel as though I am putting on rose colored glasses or living the life of an adult who only wants to be a child again (well, ok, maybe a little) upon entering through those arched gateways. Instead, as an adult, what I see is a world that has come to life beyond the planning and expectations of any who worked on it. I am, quite simply, in awe. I am in awe of this - one man's dream. I am in awe of  everything that has come forward from that dream. I am in awe that it was one man with a vision and a willingness to defy anything that had been done before and do it anyway, despite what others thought, that made all of this possible. And then he didn't just do it. He out did it.

Walt Disney, for all that I can perceive, was one of the most forward-thinking individuals that ever walked this earth. No, he didn't invent the cure for cancer. No, he didn't achieve world peace. But what he did was create a place where people could go and leave behind their troubles. A place where the adult could become the child, and not be laughed at for wearing Mickey Mouse ears. A place where the culture of the creation infuses magic into both the people who visit and the people who work there. I am amazed at how we embrace - maybe need - this concept, at the way that adults and children alike spend money well-earned and long-saved to once a year or once in a lifetime make the trip to this empire - this world of imagination beyond any boundaries.

I have a friend who works for Disney Land, and through him I have been able to learn not just about the place, but a little about the man who created it, and a lot about the reasons and care and thought and detail that went into this world without end. And more than anything, I look at each excursion to Disney Land or Disney World as a reminder that all it takes is one person with the determination, against all odds, to make a dream happen. And I am refreshed in believing that this too could be, is, me.

Disney said it best: "Somehow I can't believe there are any heights that can't be scaled by a man who knows the secret of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four C's. They are Curiosity, Confidence, Courage, and Constancy and the greatest of these is Confidence. When you believe a thing, believe it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably."

Well said. Now go out and live your dream. With a little bit of bibbity bobbity boo, anything is possible.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Santa Monica


Sweet Southern California - why am I so drawn to you? Every chance I get, for business or pleasure, I find myself walking the Pacific coastline, lured in by the color and ridiculously temperate weather - blue skies, sunshine and low humidity. From the mountains, to the coast, to the beaches of LA and the charm and grit of the city - it really is the stuff of movies. Extremes around every corner, people watching like you cannot even imagine, and simply amazing hair days. Really, what's not to love?




















Wednesday, August 3, 2011

On Maryland's Western Shore


In a rare 20 minutes of down time on my last portrait road trip I took advantage of the early morning light to photograph a little piece of Rock Hall, MD. Nothing says MD like boats, crabs, and shore birds in flight over still water (not necessarily in that order). Enjoy!