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.

Reflecting

reflectionIts always interesting to think back in life to where you were at a given time and compare it to where you are now. Sometimes this comparison is good, others we would prefer to forget.

In 2000, I had the opportunity to visit London for the first time. I remember walking around the city, taking in the sites, dreaming what it must be like to live there. Now, 14 years later, I find myself walking around London, taking in the sites, and reminding myself that I do live here.

Photography is very similar. As photographers, I think there is value in reflecting back on the past (this really applies to any area of life). Think back for a second to your first foray into the craft of photography. What did your pictures look like? How was your composition? Exposure? Did you understand ISO? Aperture? Shutter Speed?

Maybe you like me thought putting your camera in “P” mode stood for professional.

But reality is that over time and energy invested, we grow. We move from one point to another. We develop our craft as we work through it. Then, one day, we find ourselves wandering through our image gallery reflecting back on the past.

It is healthy, just as in life, to look back over where you have come from photographically. It is encouraging to look back and see that you are making progress.

Not quite where you want to be? Great. None of us are. Rather, we are a community of people working through this craft together. There are a lot of great resources out there to teach you for free and I would venture to say that most of the photographers with dedicated blogs to teaching would love to help you learn in whatever way they can.

Here’s to the future! Here’s to the unknown! Where will you be in another 14 years?

A New Adventure

St. Paul's Cathedral

Where history meets modernity, St. Paul’s Cathedral with the Millennial Bridge

I like to think of life as a series of adventures, some are longer or more interesting than others, but adventures they all are none the less. I guess in some ways I’m an adventure junky or something.

4 years ago I moved back to the U.S. after living in Russia for a few years. After getting married and a Masters degree, my wife and I find ourselves on the biggest adventure we’ve ever been on. When we moved back to the states, we new it was not a long term move. We knew we’d be moving back and it was just a matter of time. We now find ourselves living and working in London, England as international photojournalist. Pretty exciting stuff.

I now find myself wanting to get back into the habit of writing out my thoughts and sharing them. This is quite a challenge as so often I feel like my mind is moving from one thing to the next rather quickly, but it is a challenge I am accepting and working to fulfill. So here’s to another adventure together!!!

What lies ahead…

Road(This post was originally written at the end of October and is just now being posted)

Life is full of transitions, they seem to come at us from all directions. As unavoidable as they are, we never seem to get used to them. It is as if we are driving on a road and there is a hill that prevents us from seeing what is ahead. My wife and I have been wondering what was just out of view for several years, but now are at the top of the hill, seeing what is there beyond and making the preparations to move forward.

I’m not much of an emotional person, so I find transitions interesting. Many times I process things by focusing on the adventure; other times just quietly reflecting on the changes.

As I’m writing this, I’m sitting on a pier, fishing. It’s 2am and today was my last day of work. My wife and I find ourselves in the middle of one of the biggest transitions of our lives. Two years ago we began on a path that is now coming to fruition. We are moving back overseas to work in international photojournalism.

We have loved our time in North Carolina. We have made friends here that will always be apart of our lives, but we knew from the beginning that this was not a permanent home. We are now seeing the end of this chapter.

As I mentioned, today was my last day of work as we are transitioning away from this area and I have to admit, it feels kinda weird. It feels weird to think that Monday morning I won’t have to get up and go to work, rather I will have to begin boxing up everything I own in preparation for moving. Boxing up your life is difficult. Memories are hard to pack. That is why I’m sitting on a pier in the middle if the night with this group of guys, one last opportunity to spend with them making memories. Despite having a fishing pole and a line in the water, I’m not here to fish, I’m here to talk and be with friends.

God has allowed us to be a part of a great church here and this group of guys has meant so much to me over the last few years and I can’t think of a better place to be right now.