Thursday, August 26, 2010

"You Complete Me"

I would imagine that most of you have seen the movie Jerry Maguire, or at least heard the over-quoted line, "You complete me". Despite how the movie ends, at this point in the film, Renee Zellweger's character believes that Jerry Maguire is the yin to her yang, the one thing that will make her life perfect. This is a lovely thought, isn't it? The idea that there's one person in this world who will make everything amazing and who will somehow, through their own perfectness, make all of our problems disappear would be a comforting thought. Maybe you've never fallen prey to this idea in relationships, but have you ever thought "If only...?" If only I had this or that thing, my life would be so much better!

Last night I had the opportunity to photograph Jon & Michele's 25th wedding anniversary celebration through the renewal of their vows. Twenty-five years! Wow! They are an amazing couple and I think part of the success in their marriage probably has to do with the fact that they don't look to each other for completeness. I don't want to put words in their mouths, or boil the success of their entire marriage down to one statement, but I would guess that both of them hold their hope to be complete elsewhere. And, that "elsewhere" cannot be found on this Earth, or in the form of another human or in the next best thing.

I'm also reading Don Miller's latest book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Towards the end of the book, Miller talks about how he believes that many of us are living life by just waiting for that big moment to happen...forever hoping that this thing or that, this person or that, will make us complete. In the meantime, we're wasting much of the time we're given TODAY. His take on the whole thing is to start living a better "story" right now, at this very moment. Don't wait until the planets align and everything is just so because honestly, that will probably never happen. I don't mean to be negative, but it's just a reminder (to myself mostly) that I need to stop wasting time waiting for something...for something to make things better. I need to make a difference now! I need to just take the steps, day-by-day, to live a better story. Life is not perfect for anyone. Why then, do I continue to look for wordly things to complete me and to make everything perfect?

What are you doing to live a better story?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Photographs As Memories

On my recent travels to visit my parents and my grandmother, I also visited a very cool state park in Missouri. At Elephant Rocks State Park, you can hike up and climb around on ginormous granite rocks. It's a very cool and unique place but it wasn't my ultimate destination. I actually wanted to visit the newly reopened Johnson Shut-Ins which is just a few minutes away from Elephant Rocks. I recently read somewhere that Johnson Shut-Ins was ranked as one of the top "natural swimming holes" in the U.S. Unfortunately, we had to walk nearly two miles to get to the swimming area from where we had to park. I don't have a point and shoot, so I decided not to lug my camera down to the water since I knew there wouldn't be a safe place to stash it. So, I don't have any pictures to post of the Shut-Ins.

The idea of photographs providing memories (think Blade Runner) intrigues me. I have memories for both of these places from childhood, but I wasn't sure if they're mostly because I've looked at the old photographs for so many years or if I truly remembered experiencing them in the first place. So, since my parents live pretty close, I was curious to see if each place would evoke any actual memories. It was oh so hot and humid the day we visited but the skies were beautiful and blue:

So, the first thing I realized is that there is a trail leading around through the woods and up to the top of the rocks that I definitely do not remember. Secondly, there are many trees now but I guess that can happen over the course of 25+ years. Once we reached the top of the rocks, I could not really recall any concrete memories of actually being there...I just kept picturing myself posing on top of and in front of the rocks, as a child, from the old photographs. It was actually a weird feeling to know I had been there around age 7 and that my memories where mostly from the photographs. It would've been cool to compare the old and new photographs but I forgot the grab the old ones of me in this place as a child.

In this photograph you can get an idea of how big the rocks are:

If you're ever in the area, you should definitely visit both Johnson Shut-Ins and Elephant Rocks State Park.

What memories do you have that only exist from photographs?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

This is the Start of Something New

Although I have wanted to make it a goal to post to my blog more frequently, at least once per week, I haven't lived up to this goal for the past couple of months. I could throw out a lot of excuses as to why this hasn't been the case, but the reality is that I just haven't made my blog a priority. Along with many well-intentioned blog writers, I plan to work on making this change. My blog will continue to be focused on my work as a photographer along with a few related (and maybe unrelated) posts along the way.

Even though the majority of my work has been in portraiture, I haven't really dealt with portraits since my suicide survivors series, The Last Best Place: Suicide in Montana, in the Fall of 2009. Sure, I've made some portraits here and there, but honestly, I wanted a break after the arduous task of photographing and interviewing those who have lost a loved one to suicide. So, during some of my travels this summer, I photographed my only remaining grandparent. I have actually been planning to do this for about a year. I ended up not getting as many portraits as I wanted, but I like to think of it as the start to a long-term project.

I don't see my grandmother very often for a variety of reasons. In
fact, it had been a year and a half since I last saw her when I made the following portraits of her a few weeks ago. The last time I saw her at this location, at her home in Kentucky, was when I visited for my only grandfather's funeral. Unfortunately, it had been seven years since I had seen him. That is something I have to live with for the rest of my life. I won't go into the reasons, but no matter what the reasons were, I should have visited.

So...moving on to a more positive note...I decided last year that I would make more of an effort to see my grandmother when I can. Living over 2000 miles away doesn't make this an easy task, but my parents live within three hours from her house so that will make it easier to visit her when I visit my mom & dad. That's exactly what I did on this rare summer trip "home" to spend some time with my parents.

My grandmother will be 89 at the end of this month and let me tell you, she is PROUD of that! There's nothing wrong with being proud of your age. Honestly, I think she feels like she looks mighty good for her age. I think so, too. When the weather is ok (not extremely hot or cold), she walks up to four miles per day. This is something she's done for as long as I can remember. She doesn't take any medication and from what I know, she is a very healthy woman. She lives by herself and still gets out in the yard to pull weeds or work in the flower beds (which sometimes causes her to get stung by bees - exactly what happened the day before I saw her). She probably pushes beyond her limits, but she is a strong woman. I know she must have passed on her love for keeping busy and staying active to my mom who in turn passed that very same trait to my sister and I.

So, this is my Mamaw:

I didn't ask her for outfit changes or variations in her location
. I didn't direct her very much but just photographed the look she was willing to give me. Even though I had already planned to photograph her, this "session" materialized very naturally after my mom and I were looking through old family photographs. I simply asked her to sit in the chair nearest the window because I loved the diffused light coming through the sheer curtains.

I also couldn't pass up the opportunity to make a quick photograph of three generations. This is me with my mom & Mamaw:

So this is a start of something new. A renewed commitment to my work and to sharing it here on my blog, and a commitment to initiate more contact with my only remaining grandparent. Since I never knew my father's parents, it seems all the more important to me, even at this late date, to make a better attempt to stay connected with my grandmother.

If you've read through this whole post...thank you for sticking with it! Would you become a follower of my blog, or at least check back often, and let me know what you think of my work and my words? Also, if you're lucky enough to still have grandparents, visit them as soon as you can.

And on a totally non-photographic end note...when was the last time you visited someone who really needed to see you?