I hate to admit defeat. My energy and robust health shield me from age. But I’ve had to reconcile the numbers involved in birthdays stacked on top of each other. Contrary to the grumbling of my compatriots, my body doesn’t ache, my bones don’t grind, I recover from injuries quickly. I count each new day of good health with reverence and gratitude. But numbers stare me in the face and foreshorten time.
There are too many obituaries of people much younger than I. Think of all the things they didn’t have time to accomplish—the missed dreams and opportunities, the lost potential. Did she get to hold her grandchildren? Did he get to drive that car he lusted for all his life? What unexplored adventures lay in the path of this person’s aborted future?
There are so many things to do. It is time to get realistic and winnow out pie-in-the-sky dreams. I have pretty much abandoned my dream of kayaking down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River—Idaho’s premier Wild and Scenic River in the heart of the Frank Church Wilderness Area. Whitewater is unforgiving and my fear of H2O gets the best of me. Despite many efforts and much coaching, I can’t reliably stay in my boat through tame class III rapids. It would be reckless to throw myself at the mercy of a pack of boaters who would feel responsible for my safety in class V and VI rapids on the Middle Fork. There isn’t enough time left for me to fight my phobias and develop the skills necessary to kayak this magnificent river. That’s a goal that needs to go.
But I might yet be able to master my camera, to create the images that I see in my mind. Towards that goal, I enrolled in Otto von Münchow’s online photography workshop, Finding Your Photographic Voice. It is fascinating and well worth the reasonable price. My point-and-pray images already reflect improvement. Finding my voice requires deep mental mining—hard-rock mining, in my case. A theme is emerging. Much like white water, a phobia of being the subject of the lens gets in the way of portraiture that I admire—images that stare back without guile like those of Dorothea Lange, Diane Arbus, Paul Strand, and Steve McCurry. While I grapple with the idea of capturing someone’s soul through the lens, I will practice on inanimate objects, searching for beauty in the process of aging and decay. Of course it is pleasing to gaze upon smooth skin, skillfully enhanced eyes, and gorgeously clad bodies. But just as the lovely lines and textures of modern architecture lack character, so does the beauty of youth and haute couture. From creation forward, everything is slowly slipping toward decay. The process of aging is unique to each individual and endlessly fascinating. So I’m turning my camera towards the things which people have created, used, handled, and coveted.
Below are some of my efforts to find my photographic voice.