Not 10 minutes ago I was meandering my way down the East bank of the Gallatin River in Bozeman Montana. Camera in hand, two glasses of wine in my system, and fresh autumn air that permeated my senses like Halloween night or a Friday night High School football game, I was seduced into a total stage of nostalgia. Funny that I say nostalgia, though because there is something so virginal about my senses when I escape and explore. Everything comes to life–everything feels new and fresh. Why is it that I have to get away from home and work to feel like I do right now? Alive. Present. Peaceful. I’m without internet service here, although I should throw my phone in the river because I’m still checking my email every hour. I’m also without TV, (and believe me, when presented with a good movie or TV series, I will toss a nature walk to the wind and veg out.). But right now, at 5:45pm on Tuesday, September 21st Bozeman time, I’m completely present and tuned in. I’m clear for the first time in what feels like months. And these words that are flowing out of me, like the river in front of me, are streaming consciousness and I’m experiencing a little bit of heaven. I am with pen and paper in hand, ready to freeze time and write about the most amazing hour of photographing, meditating and reminiscing that I just experienced, my first day in Bozeman…
Two “practices” came to mind while I was out drinking in this zen state–Macro photography and Haiku. Random and perhaps esoteric, these two art forms have been significant exercises that have grounded me throughout the years–both artistically and personally. When I was a junior in high school, I was already sure I would be a photographer when I “grew up”. Maybe not a photographer of weddings, but a National Geographic staff photographer, perhaps. I remember taking my first photography class very seriously. When Russel Croup, my instructor told me to find images that inspired me, I think I spent two months allowance on magazines and journals at Tattered Cover and cut out 100 images and them into an inspiration journal. I still have those. I also wrote a 10 page paper on Eugene Smith and soaked every moment of research up (which at the time was certainly out of character). But there is one thing that Mr. Croup said that has changed my life forever: “Within every two square feet, there is an image to be found”. Ahhh Haaaa…! For somebody as ADD as I am, this simple idea of macro photography has given me a tool to slow down and breathe — to stop, look around and be present in every moment—In every step that I take, there is virtually something worth noticing–worth capturing, in fact! Is this not the most freeing way to photograph? I took that statement to heart the first time I heard it and when given my first assignment, I photographed and experienced things that I would have never noticed. There were colors I’d never seen in my backyard. I saw shapes and textures that didn’t exist to me before, and I felt for the first time in my life that I had the “eyes of an artist”. Life came to life in my first roll of Kodachrome. So now—15 years later when I am feeling overwhelmed and overworked, as I often do this time of year, going out and making photographs and experiences on a “macro level”, is like an oasis. And the beautiful thing about it, is that I don’t feel like I have to make beautiful images. What is that word anyhow? Beauty is subjective (although maybe not in the wedding photography industry, but don’t even get me started on that—another blog post) To me, beauty is experience—it’s something, that for some reason, makes me feel something. Beauty is a little piece of eternity that I didn’t know was there. It has always existed, but I have never touched it, never smelled it, never seen it or never experienced it. But it almost always makes me feel as though sometime, in a dream or in a past existence, I have experienced “it” before.
Fast forward from junior year in high school to Freshman year in college at CSU. I was taking a class called “Knowing This Place”. It was a class designed to help us become comfortable with our new surroundings. We had a weekly assignment of going off campus somewhere to sit for an hour–it could be anywhere. After that hour, we were to make a drawing and write a haiku about our experience with that particular place. What an incredible exercise this turned out to be for me. To simply get off campus and go to a park, or a field of pumpkins, or sit on a rock at Horse Tooth Reservoir— It was incredibly grounding. The haikus and drawings for me were usually less about the place, as they were about the experience that I had in the place. And that is what Haiku often is. It’s a Japanese poem that is 17 simple “sounds” in three phrases of 5,7,5. which should sum up an experience–however esoteric. In Japanese, Haiku means “playful verse”. It should contain two juxtaposing parts in three lines—and should avoid subjective commentary. Without going into a lecture on Japanese poetry, you might see how the study and practice of Haiku has influenced my work. Especially when I’m photographing on a macro or very personal level. Haiku—I’ve missed you.
Without further ado, and without further explanation, here are some images from my first day in Bozeman, Montana. Namaste.