Feeding the Beast
I catch myself musing at times, what created this drive inside me? The one that must be fed with a regular diet of imagery? As I sit here at the airport, I find myself reflecting on this creature inside me, and recognize its always been there, in one form or another.
A Brief History of (My) Time
The diet has changed over time, but it demands a fairly constant ingestion of new material. When I was young, it was simply imagination; playing, pretending, ( I was the Green Hornet, my brother was Kato, and my dad’s pool table was the Black Beauty).
Then it grew into an interest in model trains, and building my own worlds for this railway out of chicken wire and paper mache. I even toyed with magic and ventriloquism when I was younger.
I loved Theatre Arts in high school, at least as much as I loved to write. I contemplated becoming an actor as a possible career - but that was one time when doubt stepped in and questioned the wisdom of such a move. Would I be able to make a living? And so, acting became a passionate interest, but not a goal. I still wonder, to this day if I would have “made it."
And always, there was the reading. I had a voracious appetite as a child and youth. I still do - although I tend to listen to my books more now. I was constantly caught by my mother, reading late at night by flashlight (or aquarium light). Many of those books stick with me; Watership Down, Have Space Suit, Will Travel, Runaway Robot, Little Fuzzies, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Beautiful Joe, Mrs Frisbee and the Rats of NIMH, The Incredible Journey, Dahlgren, Dune, The Stand… the list goes on.
I think reading was the spark, and the initial fuel for this beast within, the one always insisting on fresh, ideas and ways of thinking.
For the longest time, I imagined myself a writer, creating great works of science fiction. And I wrote many, many stories. I still have most of them, hammered out on an old typewriter on cheap yellow bond. I can’t bear to part with them. And little did I know at that time, that in many ways, that dream would come true as I matured.
I did not discover photography until my graduating year of High School, and it was almost by accident. I had decided to go to J-school. I liked to write and Journalism (back then) seemed like a practical application of that interest. My dad gave me one of his 35mm cameras as a graduation gift, knowing I needed one for college. That summer, I fell in love with the camera, and the images it helped me create. I could share what I saw. Me and my Praktica camera went everywhere together.
For nearly 3 decades, photography was a big part of my personal life and professional career. Now, while it still has its uses in my current career at Adobe, it’s not my primary focus (yes, I did just say that). That change in careers has not dulled the interest, though; it’s once again become my passion and my main creative outlet.
Hey ... Teacher!
There; I’m back on track after that short personal history lesson! Back to the drive. While I’m reflecting on this in my own personal experience, I know I'm not alone, or unique or special in this regard. This drive is in everyone. I see it in people every day, and not just those from the traditional creative fields. The need to create, to imagine, to make, is part of everyone’s psyche. We are all creative in some way; often we either just don’t realize it, or it was bludgeoned out of us for the sake of “education”.
I know, when I was in school, creativity was encouraged, so long as it remembered its "place" - only in certain areas; art, drama, music, sometimes English. But not so apparent in math, geography, history.
Looking back, I’m amazed at how little it was taught or encouraged through school…I admit, to my own concern, that I was as guilty of this in my early years of teaching at the college level; there was a focus on “getting through the material” that I fell victim to. I struggled with the change from “teacher (expert)” to "facilitator (partner)". I think, later in my time at the college, I moved in the right direction. I know many of my students were happy with what they learned to do, and found it valuable once they got out into the job market.
I see these changes in my teaching colleagues too. The desire and passion to introduce (and more often, in their cases, maintain) creativity in the classroom is strong. Their enthusiasm creates waves, bumping up against and helping to reflow the education process in their peers as well.
There I go, digressing again. But sometimes the words have to come out. The story insists on being told, even if it’s back-story.
I Feel the Need....
This introspection of mine is not new; I’ve pondered often, why I feel this need to make pictures. Where ever I am. Even if it’s only a few images on my smartphone during a business trip, I am compelled to scratch that itch. Take this week for example; I’m basically stuck in a hotel for two days of training. The weather is miserable and there’s not much in terms of spare time during the day to “escape” even if the weather was good. But I still manage to find scenes to photograph, in this case, photos of the hotel itself.
This self analysis came back to me again a couple days ago, when after posting a fun image to Facebook, of my first time sitting (I don’t dare call it riding, but the horse did move, guided by a young girl), a friend asked me, point blank, “Do you ever stop?” It made me smile and I quipped, “nope, but I do take breaks.”
But it also got me wondering again. If anything, my interest in photography, in both the capture and the processing of my photos, has grown, almost exponentially. I’ve tried my hand at video, time lapse, astro photography, I seem very centred around the single still image, though. Perhaps it’s because the ability to capture images these days is so ubiquitous, but I find myself “seeing” possible images far more often than ever before I love it, frankly. I am almost never without a camera, be it a true one or my smartphone or even my tablet. There is always a way for me to take some time (or a lot of time, if I’m lucky) to make pictures and to share them.
I’ve said before that photography is therapy for me. It can wash away a bad mood, a headache, or a crappy day. It can reduce my stress level significantly. It is my primary creative outlet, followed closely by writing.
After mulling it over many times, I really can’t pinpoint the exact time that creativity became so critical to who I am. I am very happy though, that it stayed part of my being and - I think - flourished, over time. It is a welcome companion, that always keeps me thinking, seeing, loving life, wanting to do more.