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Published: February 1st 2005
When I look back at it, my career path seems rather serendipitious. 9 years ago I was walking down a dripping wet pier in a blustery February thunderstorm, surrounded by the cold grimness of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. I endeavored then to take pictures that mattered, as opposed to the pictures that I was forced to take of award ceremonies and commissionings. I never imagined that I would find myself working for a Fortune 500 company as a photographic consultant.
Last summer I went to see “What The Bleep Is It All About” at the Naro, our local arthouse cinema. At one point in the film a neurochemist discussed at length how thought patterns altered the brain’s neural network. Based upon his research this neurochemist resolved to alter his own brain’s neural network by thinking good thoughts,visualizing the life that he desired, and thus creating his own reality.
“Sounds like a good idea to me,” I thought from the balcony, munching on my organic, vegan oatmeal raisin cookie, “I want to be a successful freelance photographer!”
Not thirty minutes later I answered my cell phone in the lobby, surprised to hear from a local art director who needed
me to provide photographs for a magazine article as soon as possible, and I found myself caught up in my own New Age inspirational moment.
What happens when you get what you wish for? For me it’s been a surprise to realized that I had achieved my goals. Like bicycling up a river valley, slowing gaining elevation, I seemed to have become accustomed to the extra exertion of the climb and found myself wondering upon reaching my destination, “So soon? But I only just got started!”
How fitting then that last month I found myself driving across the Mississippi River and answering my cell phone to say, “Nope, I can’t shoot tonight, I’m already on assignment. But how does your schedule look for next week?” And this weekend I found myself walking off the plane from my first travelling freelance assignment.
So it was with joy and numb toes that I set out last night on commission to photograph a nocturnal bike ride. What I had been doing out of passion for the past six months had become profit. As I shot I found myself thinking, “How cool is this?!?”
Pretty darn cool.
I don’t attribute my success to myself, and far from it. I consider myself profoundly blessed to not only be given the gift of observation, but also the opportunity to employ my gifts.
Now that’s pretty darn cool...
Which brings me to my Fortune 500 predecessor “Rob.” His untimely skateboarding accident coincided with his planned departure from the company and left me with both his job and his cubicle, both filled with Rob mementos. Two Post-It Notes scratched in black Sharpie marker hung above his/mine computer monitor from a graduate school application brainstorming session: “IM AN ARTIST BECSE I MAKE ART,” and “I MAKE ART BECSE IM AN ARTIST.”
Rob’s words came back to me this morning in the shower. I’m a photographer because I photograph. Not because I have a camera. There are millions of cameras stashed in the closets of would be photographers. Not because I can take photographs. There are millions of people who took and passed a photography class and are capable of taking a photograph. No, it is that act of photographing that defines me as a photographer. In philosophical terms it is the phenomena of existing in the moment as an engaged observer that defines who I am. (And there are those who think that a philosophy degree is useless...) Photography is an act of being towards the world, being towards death, care for the world, an ecstatic leap into the unknown.
Photographers don’t like surprises, and yet they live by them. Lighting must be controlled, and yet fortuitous accidents in the decisive moment create radiant events. What a surprise then to realize that I have actually achieved some of my goals. And yet it is no surprise that I have set for myself even higher goals...
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