I realized a curious little thing and abruptly stopped in my tracks. When it comes to curious little things, I must say, I gain pleasure tossing them around in my head. On many an occasion, the end result may be entirely irrelevant except to add electrical congestion to my brain. Which incidentally, could be accurately described as a forever-curious current of stubborn rusty wires and dying cells, rarely satisfied with a "what" without the "why". So there I was once again, alone with my thoughts and strolling in the moonlight down a sandy shore of Lake Tanganyika, loosely contemplating the path behind and ahead of me.
The camera has been a serious pain in the ass, truth be told. I'll also offer that it has equally been my greatest source of inspiration and guide: a reliable compass and compelling reason to explore around the next bend. A camera in hand sharpens my senses and narrows my focus. It's been a powerful tool for reflection, expression, education: a privilege and blessing in my life. I have often thought of photography (at least my ability to pursue it) as a rough-cut stone wedged deep in my pocket. A magical stone — one I could polish and rub for luck.
I've had several setbacks along the way, mind you. The time I was robbed of an $18K camera kit in Costa Rica was particularly tough. In Argentina I was nearly beaten to death on a dimly-lit street for my back-up Nikon and Nikkor lens. Both experiences, despite the unfathomable terror I was forced to taste, may have sweetened over time and prove to be good blog entries or content for my book; experiences that one day may read like sugar and drip from the tongue like honey from a hive. Predictably however, one might find themselves exactly where I did after enduring such an experience: sifting through the sands of meaning and purpose, frozen mid-step once again.
Why do I do what I do despite all the fear and self-doubt, challenges, inherent risk, set backs, heart breaks, rejections, unknowns, missed or delayed paychecks and consequential sacrifices? Am I good enough? Can I really do this? Let me say that pursuing dreams can be a fuckin' hard realization to see to fruition. I believe that far more often we watch our dreams and passion from a safe and secure distance; keep them close for company; allow them to remain mirage-like and elusive, like a notion rarely realized. The answer is simple for me: I have no other choice. Taking pics is what I was born to do and I can't in good conscience submit to fear of failure or a subtle form of quiet desperation. Nor will I sit quietly and watch from the sidelines. Instead, I will run in head first, trip, fall, pick myself up. My images will be what remain when my ship leaves for sea...of this I'm certain.
A very gifted song writer and good friend of mine has a similar responsibility, I wager. A song, not unlike an image, is an accumulation of notes learned over a lifetime of experience that are unique to the artist. Much like a Picasso brilliantly brushed onto a heart of canvas, he'll play his 6-string while his head and his heart offer a perspective that is perfectly phrased within a 4 minute time slot. I think it goes without saying that the brush strokes we discover, nurture, develop, may take a lifetime to create, find, or even see.
That's when it dawned on me like a timely smack upside the head. I realized, rather melodramatically, that I've spent my adult life pursuing a career defining fractions of time. Moments so fleeting they almost entirely go unnoticed to everyone including me, and, sometimes, only me. 250th of a second here, 1000th of a second there, it doesn't add up to much time at all. Oddly enough, if I were to add up the body of my life's work in measures of time, it's probably a safe bet to say I've captured mere minutes over 20 years of shooting.
I'm not sure what the hell to make of all this quite honestly. Perhaps I'll chalk it up to another traffic jam of loose wires and restless neurons. Whatever it is however, it's curious indeed.