I have what usually feels like a curse of both an artistic and engineering mentality. Like my left brain fights my right brain for control. Though I have always been deeply involved in the arts (mainly graphite drawings and acrylic landscape/wildlife paintings), my passions shifted strongly to photography nearly 10 years ago. It hit suddenly and unexplainably. Something I had been missing, but finally found in my life, and filling a void left by my previous artistic pursuits. I reached a point in 2007-2008 where I had began to more clearly define my passions within the broad field of photography. While nature and wildlife photography speaks to me on one level, I found myself gravitating to portrait work. Something I NEVER expected. Pictures of people were boring! Well it turns out, it depends on what pictures you are looking at . By pure accident, I stumbled upon work from some masters of the portrait world and I’ve never been the same. The pure emotion and artistry at which these professionals captured their images was inspiring. The lighting, the composition, and bringing everything together to tell the subjects story in a single image.
After joining organizations such as the Professional Photographers of America and the Kentucky Professional Photographers Association, I instantly found that I was not alone in this pursuit of artistic photography. Not simply taking a camera and recording what was in front of me, but CREATING something. At the same time, both the lecture circuit and the newer software and hardware technologies were hitting their stride. I loved it. New passions were kindled and my work was suddenly being noticed by those who I admired in the industry. Although my goals in photography are not related to winning awards, suprisingly, those came as well.
Then life happens. Personal struggles happen that you weren’t expecting. I suddenly found myself with a very different outlook and it showed in my art, both positively and negatively. Ironically, through those struggles, I feel as though I grew as an artist and produced some of my favorite images to that point. It was more about my emotions showing through into my portraits of others. Despite that, I needed a break. I was feeling overwhelmed, and needed something else to help recharge me.
Life has it’s ways sometimes of giving you what you need. What started as an offer to donate my services to our local Humane Society quickly led to an offer to join their board of directors in 2010. This was unexpected, but played directly into another lifelong passion of mine, which was helping animals. It gave me a spark I desperately needed and required more of my business and technical skills. The Humane Society was going through a rough time with high turnover rates and poor morale. The animals were loved, but resources and space were scarce. I was soon elected President of the board, and began my personal mission to rebuild and stabilize the organization. I remain President to this day, though my 3 year term is coming to an end this summer. It has been an emotional roller coaster and a high stress position, especially while still maintaining my full time employment position in engineering. However, I have taken great pride that I have been a part of the amazing turn around of the organization in only 3 years.
Of course, this emotional and time requirement came with a cost. I simply did not have the energy and motivation to handle 80+ hrs / week of engineering and my public service, while also continuing my artistic pursuits. So, the photography took a back seat just at a time when I was quickly increasing my skill sets and building a successful small business in portrait photography. There was also one major unexpected benefit. I met the lady I would later ask to be my wife. In the past two years together, she has been my partner and friend helping me navigate this crazy course.
I realized through all of the stress, heartbreak, disappointment, successes and failures, and wonderful moments and achievments that your best work, and your happiness, lies with where your heart is. That is something everyone hears all the time, but I lived it and saw for myself. I would consider the last 4 years to be the best and worst 4 years I’ve had, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
As my term as President comes to an end and we have amazing people in place to handle the daily aspects of our organization, I have found a sliver of extra time I haven’t had in a long time. Possibly by fate, a good friend of mine asked me last fall if I could help her dance studio by photographing her students. She knew what photography meant to me, and thought maybe I needed to be reminded of that. She was right, of course. I begrudgingly agreed to the multiple photo sessions with her various classes. The setup was very basic and repetitive. But something clicked (pun intended). I was suddenly capturing images of these kids excited about what they were doing. Smiling and full of emotion. I took one look through the viewfinder and felt something I had been missing.
I slowly started looking back through my previous works. Remembering the things I loved, and the things that I wasn’t satisfied with. I agreed to do Christmas sessions for friends and headshots for a dental office staff. I was rusty and it showed. But my style had also changed. It had evolved with my life experiences, representing who I was now. My friend who pushed me to do the dance team pictures then offered me a great deal on rent to use a large room at her studio for my photography. Wow. A studio space of my own. Something I had never had.
I feel it has been a long journey in only a few years, but I now have a much clearer perspective on my passions and how I hope to share them with those around me. I had another close friend recently tell me that as she hung some new portraits I did of her children, she realized that nearly all of the images she has hanging throughout her house are memories that I created for her over the years. I hit me hard. It showed me how my passions can positively affect the lives of others.
Two weeks ago, my fiancé and I traveled to the PhotoProExpo near Cincinatti to see the trade show, and also meet up with some friends I had made in the photography field over the years. It was an emotional trip for me, even just walking through the trade show floor and seeing the print competition images on display. It was something I was very much a part of 2-3 years ago, and now here it was again. Calling me back. Seeing mentors like Tim and Bev Walden and David Ziser still exuding love for the art of photography. Leaving that conference that day was difficult, but was inspiring as well.
It seems like recently, the creativity and emotion of my art has just kept building. New challenges and new skills I am learning to create the types of art pieces I have dreamed of, and hopefully getting to share that with my fiancé and others who trust in me and allow my vision and passion to create art that is personal and unique to them. I feel like there is so much inside me that I need to find a way to get out. I don’t know what the future holds or how quickly things may or may not happen, but my belief is that dreams can come true if you work hard for them. Goals can be reached if you give it your all. Heart, passion, and love trumps all. Have a great day everyone.