The Brevity of Life

*I’m taking a short moment to write on something different than my usual creativity and photography*

We take so many things for granted. It is almost as if we wake up each morning and go about our daily routine without ever thinking that something might change and drastically disrupt our lives. But what about when it does?

Today we went to wish a friend Happy Birthday, he was turning 28. We were really looking forward to it as we hadn’t gotten to connect with him since he returned from a recent trip to see family in Uganda. We went by the office where he worked and when we asked to see him we were ushered into a conference room where we found out that our friend had been murdered while he was with family.

It almost seems too surreal to even begin to process. A news article posted online states of how our friend was heading over to his brother’s house when the attack happened. He had no idea about the finality of that moment.

Things like this really make you think about how you are living your life and what you are living your life for. I vividly remember my last conversation with my friend–where we were, what we talked about–it is the last conversation I will ever have with him. Neither of us knew how when we said goodbye that night it was the last time we would.

Life has no guarantees, yet we live like it does. Maybe it is time we stepped back from the things we have placed our hopes and dreams in and truly assessed what is really important.

I Dream in Color

London reflectionI’ll be honest, I don’t dream much while I sleep, but I do dream a lot while I am awake. I’d like to think it is more vision casting for my life than daydreaming. I keep a notebook on Evernote dedicated just to these dreams and thoughts. Some of them see the light of day, while others sit and collect dust.

I often think about those dreams and ideas and sometimes it feels as if I’m not seeing an idea clearly but rather a broken reflection of what I’m really aiming for. Those dreams require a bit of wrestling to clear up. They must be worked out in order for them to come to fruition.

I have followed David duChemin for several years now and he has written volumes on the idea of working out your vision (specifically in the realm of creativity and photography). He states, “Our vision is a reflection of who we are, and since who we are is always growing and changing, our vision is a little bit of a moving target.” He further states, “Art, whatever else it also is, is about questions. It’s about exploration.” (from Exploration & Expression)

duChemin gets it right in so many ways and it shouldn’t come as a surprise as he has devoted so much of his time to working these things out in his own life.

So as I work through these dreams in my own life, I look forward to the adventure that awaits. The beauty of the unknown.

Imagine for a second what might be around the corner. For me, the challenge of growing as a photographer and ever flexing my creative muscles is leading me into new and uncharted territory as a photojournalist. I find my skills and my profession ever developing in an ever changing world.

Having dreams is important and it is even more important to work through them, even to see some of them come to fulfillment.

What are you dreaming about?

(another great read on this topic would be Why Your Life Needs a Mission Statement from fastcompany)

A Good Read

IMG_3714Sometimes all you need is a blanket, a beautiful day, and a good book. I love to sit outside and take in the beauty of God’s creation, although my wife and I tend to disagree as to what might qualify as a beautiful day (the cooler weather is my favorite).

There are magnificent places all around us to go enjoy, we just have to take the time to slow down and set the time aside. Life is too short to be busy all the time, go grab a book, a great cup of coffee and read for the next few hours!

Good Storytelling

Secret Life of Walter Mitty

©classic_film

I am a big fan of movies, especially movies with a great story. One of those movies is the recent version of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. In case you aren’t familiar with the story it stems from a short story published in The New Yorker magazine. James Thurber’s 1939 story introduces the daydreaming adventurer Walter Mitty and follows him as he drifts between reality and fantasy. It’s a great read!

First made into a movie in 1947, it featured the talented Danny Kaye and followed somewhat close to Thurber’s original short story. The latest iteration though takes a little bit more license with the story and creates a beautiful movie that draws the watcher in with its remarkable layers and depth.

There are so many parts to this movie that have drawn me in and enthralled me that I don’t know which ones to even write about here. The principle idea, that a major news/media outlet has to undergo the switch from print to digital and the effect that it will have on the staff, is something that so many journalists across the world can easily identify with. There is quite a shift to go from designing for print vs. the web and to see if played out in a film allows the viewer to ironically (it seems to me) to get lost in a day dream–as Walter Mitty regularly does–where the action seems to be happening without ever really materializing.

As I have watched this movie countless times, I constantly find myself thinking about my own work in visual storytelling. I think about how I might identify with the characters in the movie, the depth of the character development allows you almost to get lost in them and to come out on the other side challenged by them.

I think that is one aspect of a great story, to be drawn in to a depth that you begin to incorporate aspects of the story into your own reality, where they fit. I’m not talking about trying to live someone else’s story, but being challenged to expand your own story deeper to realms you may not have thought were possible.

 

The Stories We Live

IMG_4426“Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.” -Moby Dick

This is quite possibly one of the most recognizable opening lines in classic literature. But what makes this story and so many others so recognizable? What makes an interesting story?

To begin with, it would be helpful to discuss the idea of story itself. Generally, a great story will cover five basic (leaving all complexity aside) elements: Introduction/Beginning; Rising Action/Conflict; Climax; Falling Action; and finally Resolution/End. This is a general rule and has much flexibility to it, but if you pay attention to a good story, on some level, it will follow this template.

We each have our own story, as well as being part of a larger story involving others, but some people feel their story is not as exciting/interesting/creative as those around them. Those individuals therefore try to live vicariously through someone else’s story.

Maybe we fail to see our own story as interesting because we so often neglect to ask why. Why am I doing this? What is the point?

If story is revolving around an axis with some sort of climax, there must be an answer to the why question. Failing to know why we are living the story we are results in feeling like our lives are mundane and boring.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

I have chosen to work in a field where I get to tell people’s stories; stories that make each of us unique and interesting (even if we don’t think our own story is that interesting).  I have found that when we think about the ‘why’ question and can answer it, we usually find our story is not as boring and mundane as we might have thought. I get the privilege, like so many others, to challenge people to ask that question and see their story as interesting and dynamic.

Your story is as interesting as you want to make it. I don’t mean live someone else’s story as your own; rather, embrace the story you are in. See the creativity staring right at you, embrace the opportunities that are there and live an adventurous life wherever you are. I love the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and I think they have done a great job of capturing this idea of embracing the adventure that is right in front of you. It isn’t that you must travel to some exotic location in the world or do some amazing thing that no one else has ever done. It is that you live each moment to its fullest and live the story God has given you to live.

So I ask you, what story are you living out?

Father’s Day

2005_0203Image0076Being that this past Sunday was Father’s Day, I wanted to take a moment and tell you about one of the most influential men in my life.

My dad was raised in what you might call the back country of western Colorado. He grew up with five siblings and had quite an adventurous childhood from what I have been told. After high school he joined the U.S. Army and was quickly sent to Vietnam during the War.

I have been reading through letters my dad wrote while he was serving his country, letters he wrote back to his family. Somehow, these letters have made it all the way to England with me where I am reading back through them. I don’t know exactly why I’m fascinated with these handwritten notes other than I am a big fan of history and they provide a glimpse into this part of his life.

My dad was one of the most sacrificial men I have ever known. His desire to love and serve his family were a blessing beyond anything describable. The investment he made into my life and my brother’s is immeasurable. Not a day goes by that I do not reflect on some memory of my life and see how he has influenced me. Often I recognize some of the crazy things I must have put my parents through growing up, and yet he was always there with love (even in discipline).

He was a wonderful example of Christ to me and our family and for that I am eternally grateful.

He was one of my biggest heroes. Through his life and death I witnessed a man who served God with all his heart, loved his wife more than himself, and sacrificed so much for his family. He was a man of integrity and by his life I am continually challenged.

Last October marked the 8th anniversary of his battle with cancer, a battle he did not win. I have learned a lot over the last 8 years. I have seen God’s faithfulness through all of the challenges I have faced and I know that as I continue on this journey, his faithfulness will abound.

I remember the first time I realized my wife will never meet this man who has influence me in so many ways; my future children will never know their grandfather. These thoughts do make me sad because of the man who my father was. I am so proud to be his son and I dream of one day being half the man he was.

Picture 396It is kinda crazy to think that I am a photojournalist living in the UK. I studied Molecular Biology in university and didn’t even get a real camera until my dad passed away. That first camera–the source of one of my dad’s hobbies–opened up a world of creativity to my soul and I have never looked back or thought I should be doing something different.

In more ways than I could ever imagine, I am the man I am today because of my dad.