Among other things, I am a photographer. Willow and I eventually made a business out of it (weddings), but like all of my favorite business stories – it began as a passion.
Version One –
The Summer after I graduated high school, I took a trip to Northern California with my family, a friend, and a camera. We explored rugged coastline and pristine forest – bought souvenirs from a gas station – got lost on a bumpy backroad and enjoyed hot pizza on a cold beach. We made memories.
I was a little worried that bringing a camera would distract me from experiencing the moments as they happened, but in many ways, it had the opposite effect. Instead of waiting for moments to happen, I set out to create those moments worth experiencing.
That’s the thing about photography – it gives you a reason to go places you otherwise wouldn’t go and to do do things you otherwise wouldn’t do.
We stopped at an abandoned phone booth in a field – sat beside a pond to watch dragonflies – hiked to the top of a cliff overlooking a windswept beach – paused in a parking lot to check out a real-life yellow submarine – hiked into the middle of an old-growth redwood forrest and felt small under those towering organic giants.
The photographs don’t just help me remember those good times once had – they pushed me to seek out those good times in the first place.
Version Two –
I decided to take a book down to the beach after finishing up work. The sun was going down, but slowly – still giving off a warmth that made megrateful inside.
There was this weathered log resting on the sand. The type that’s been stripped of its bark and all that is left is beautiful blonde wood. It was past the high water mark, so it was there to stay.
As soon as I leaned back against it, I felt that all was right in the world. If just for this one moment in my own small world.
The sun was warm on my face and the breeze was cool. This driftwood backrest had better ergonomics than any actual chair that I’d ever sat in and I had a good story in my hands thanks to Wright Thompson.
Then, due to the incredible combination of pleasant sensations, I had the urge to take a picture.
But I only thought to take a picture to prove to someone else that I had really done this (Done what exactly? It was all given to me anyways.) or that it had all actually happened this way.
I love taking photos. They make me happy. I would like to take more photos. But not this way.
I want a photo to be something I can use as a reminder for myself or a way to give the gift of
a fresh perspective to someone else. Using a photo as a sort of bragging right or a “see, I told you so,” takes the gift part of it away.
So I didn’t take a photo – not this time. But someday I will, and I will keep it to remind myself of the gratitude I felt in the moment or I will share it with you as an opportunity to see something in a different way.
I rose to leave my little piece of paradise and left behind what looked like an ad for Levi’s – a perfect mould of my back pockets in the sand. I walked up the hill alone, quiet, and content.
I can’t prove that anything I just wrote actually happened – I don’t have a picture to show for it. I’m not sure that it makes any difference to me though and I hope you find the same freedom.
So, which version is right?
They both are, because a picture is just a tool. It has the opportunity to be everything or nothing – helpful or hurtful – inspirational or just more noise in a world caught in the middle of a screaming match.
I’ve taken photos that haven’t done much for me, but that others have found beauty in. I’ve also taken photos that stir my deepest emotions, but haven’t ever had a similar effect on anyone besides me.
Photography is a tool to use for yourself and for others.
Taking care of yourself and taking care of others. It is such a simple, difficult task. One that requires a variety of angles. Maybe photography can be one of those angles for you.