Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Everywhere and Nowhere

Center of the Universe
Barefoot Beach, Florida
August 2008

"Nature is an infinite sphere of which the center is everywhere and the circumference nowhere."
--Pascal


It's summer, and I'm working on projects that have been sleeping for a time; dormant in the flurry of work's busy season. Sorting the past 10 month's photos is both exciting and tedious.

I tend to worry about all sorts of things with these projects: my eye sees differently from day to day, and yesterday's deleted trash may well be today's treasure; storage space nips at the heels of my shutter actuations and it tends to drive me to delete with wild abandon; I get distracted easily, making the cull and edit process sporadic at best; surely, Discipline is not my middle name. It sometimes seems easy to get into a project's trenches and start hauling out the "shoulda, coulda, woulda" arsenal.

I've been spending time with a young photographer this summer, helping him develop new photo products and create his own web site. I'm pretty much in awe of this kid. He has more gumption, drive and accomplishment at 14 than I have at...well...this age.

Matt was born with cerebral palsy. That he walks and writes and runs is testament to his own tenacity and his parent's loving patience. Yesterday, he told me about recently catching his first football while running. It sounds like nothing, really; just a kid catching a football his dad threw. And then you think about how many attempts it took, how much difficult groundwork it took to even be able walk let alone run, and it just humbles you.

A few years ago, Matt found a passion in photography, and decided he wanted to become a National Geographic photographer. In the short time I've known him, he's taken off running with precise focus toward that goal. The local papers picked up his story and displayed his photographs, and soon, started giving him assignments. He's sold his photographs at more outdoor venues already that many of us "seasoned" pros. And that's just the business end.

The act of taking a photo is not a small deal for Matt. Cerebal palsy makes him tremble, and it's been difficult for him to get crisp, sharp hand-held telephoto photos. But he does. I know it takes him many, many shots, but he never seems to get frustrated. Blurry photos don't seem to dampen his drive; they make him try harder. I've watched him work a subject (burrowing owls, for instance) and he reminds me that patience is essential to photographers. We tend to forget that, and in this day of instant, digital everything, you can often end up with nothing if you don't practice it and learn to see. And for all Matt's challenges, that young man can see. He reminds us all that the tool in your hands is never a replacement for the vision in your heart and eye.

As I edit and cull and work through photos I've long forgotten these past months, I'm reminded of the joyous shine in Matt's eyes when we talk about photography. I'm reminded that what could seem tedious - going through folder after folder of unedited photos - is really a process of discovery. I can clearly remember taking each photograph; how the air was charged with light particles (or not); the palette of outdoor sounds; the thrill of "seeing" something and wondering if you managed to capture what you saw. I'm reminded that this art, with all it's ups and downs and supposed tedium, can be a lot like double-dipping in the creative gift bowl.

Recycled joy.

There is no limit, or circumference, to what is possible. Matt reminds me of that. We are each, and all, creative beings; beauty and possibility are both everywhere, and nowhere. The choice is ours.

Nikon D2x, Nikkor 24-120mm VR


1 comment:

Mr. Z: Alias Ron Zandman-Zeman said...

Matt sounds like "My Kinda Guy".

He lives the motto "Anythings Possible." He couldn't have a better mentor...

I hope both of you keep shooting those photos that not only adds beauty to our world but brings the world closer together and gives us different prospectives and visions.