“You might as well fall flat on your face as lean over too far backwards” J. Thurber
I love that the beginning of something always feels more like a question. It bends around and then down, and then wouldn’t you know it, there at the bottom you have to make a giant leap!
Well, It feels that way because that is exactly what it is. In essence you are asking yourself whether you accept the challenge of starting, which inevitably means moving forward. It is not a question of can you? But, will you? Certainly you can choose to dig your heels in and stay put, or….You can leap. Therein creating something new, something out of nothing, which is different from, say…telling about it later. (Although good writers have, for years, taken the act of retelling and made something out of nothing. Heh.)
For me the two acts ended up running smack into each other. My desire to share is strong. Stronger sometimes than my delicacy
With school 400 days passed me, I have to say I have been delighted; so much freedom to choose where my camera falls!
While within the institution, my work changed drastically, either due to serious focus or an obsessive need to explain why.
“…And why, Ms. Beisenherz, did you chose to photograph a wine glass full of old spoons?”
You have no idea the looks you will get when you respond with…” um, well…,” palms sweating as I realized how I was about to sound…
“because I thought it was beautiful…” And I really did.
But I could never explain it beyond that. I started to think of it as ethereal, but I think my teachers saw it more as impetuous. What I should have said was, “I love the way it makes me feel.” But it took me awhile to get there.
As my work took shape (just like life) I wound up shooting subject matter that I had spent most days fighting against. I couldn’t really see myself spending summer months shooting the wedding circuit, or imagine that I would talk in soft and slow whispers to new parents in the hospitals of two major cities. Admittedly though, when I did, I would leave the hospital always smiling with this warm light of accomplishment beaming from inside. The truth is, children are so fun to photograph. They are small and new, yes. The socks are adorable, but no matter what strange and unique quality that I saw that day, those new parents could see 10. And I watched love multiply.
I really enjoyed being apart of that. I loved the fact that my time was spent doing exactly what I wanted to do, take pictures. Better yet, it would end up being just as special to whoever loved that child. It would continue to multiply. I might not be saving the world, but I am capturing it and, almost literally, holding on to it forever. On those particular mornings that I was tired or cranky, (or sometimes too broke to even get to the hospital to shoot that day) those bad feelings would eventually wash out leaving this realization behind.
Despite everything, life is beautiful.
I am learning that there are rules to shooting delicate moments. Recipes that can be handled any number of ways, some with supplemental ingredients; but there are those few that cannot change. Passion, of course, is one of them. But another is that unnamable feeling that I used to create my images of antique spoons, or crab shells in the sand, or cut up fruit from a Saturday morning breakfast. Over the past year I realized that I wanted to grow up with these people, to shoot with them each year, and grow along side them. Not just the babies, but the families that I have watched begin in matrimony.
The trouble is that when you make the choice to do anything that you really love, you have to work much harder to keep it alive. That is something that people (mostly optimists) always over-look in the hour that they make that crucial decision to leap. To become an artist, or a soldier, or even a mother…It is hard work to keep your inspiration alive. (And the pay can be lousy.) More importantly however, the self-discipline is excruciating. How do you take something you love and make money at it, without turning it into a job?
With this question I sat. I sat for days….But you can’t just look at the big picture all of the time. If you do you can lose focus and things get fuzzy. I needed a few small details to guide me, like the color of the fish underneath a big ocean, or the reflection in the water.
Part of the problem was that I felt stinted, like I was falling behind this ever-growing profession. I had left Denver and no longer had my teachers and peers there pushing me. (I have to give a very sincere shout out to Michelle, Lindsey, Megan, Jake, and Todd right here.) For those of you still in school, take it from me, find your ’round table’. By that I mean, there are always at least three people, colleagues, that will help you keep your eyes open and looking forward. Those special few have the quality to challenge you with positivity and genuine interest and intelligent criticism. They will help you feel it when you have a really good growth spurt, and they know all the vocabulary.
And then my life lessons intersected. During the month of September, we took time and traveled around visiting family & friends that Drew had gone nearly a year without seeing because of the deployment. It was amazing.
My dad had a birthday, I played golf and went surfing for the first time ever, albeit very clumsily. But the best part was the amount of love in any one room. It was literally audible. So much laughter…
I started thinking while on that trip that our gypsy lifestyle was making the same point as my passion to grow as a photographer. I loved the adventure, and I was getting so much out of it. But each new place meant leaving something else, not necessarily ‘moving on’, but still letting go in a way. It was making me stronger, but also it was making me work a lot harder at my relationships; to try and stay connected even when I was busy with other things and other realizations. Growth feels funny sometimes. It can be uncomfortable, but then suddenly, you can reach a little higher.
“So…” I thought, “that is what I have to do. Reach higher.”
When we returned home it was work and routine; A complete alternative to the past few weeks. I gave myself a few guidelines and wrote them down. Hoping that the visibility of my scrawled out mission would be a motivator. Even if it was just a post-it note.
I would get up when Drew did everyday (usually before sunrise) and force myself to sit down at the computer. Working from a home office is not an easy task, especially for someone like me. What an amazing use of my self-discipline it has been. Even if I do chose to spend the sleepy hours of the early morning puttering, I can have the dishes done and the laundry spinning in the dryer before nine thirty rolls around. On those days, with my third cup of coffee, I am forced to sit down in the small bay window of our living room and edit or write, or explore new software & equipment. My best days contain all three, but I admit the writing everyday has been my biggest challenge.
I have seen during this time though that when we open up the doors of ourselves for experience to come in, it rushes.