Jumping Paths

Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on. — Robert Plant

Ten years ago I found myself in a small room, washed in red light, eyeing a sheet of cotton laced with tiny silver crystals soaking in a tray of caustic chemicals. As the print slowly came to life it felt as though I was witnessing something magical, like waking up on Christmas morning through the eyes of a child. From that moment, I was hooked. I knew that I’d finally found the medium I’d been searching for.

To understand, you have to go even farther back, back to the years of struggling to find an artistic medium in my youth. My mother, while not a house hold name, is an accomplished painter. She’s held shows in fancy galleries and even has a few pieces on display in small New England museums. My younger brother seemed to inherit her abilities with little effort but for whatever reason they skipped right over me. To say I’ve always felt overwhelmed and frustrated when it came to artistic expression is an understatement.

Yet, here was this medium I understood and even better had access to. Painting and music always felt so unattainable, full of expensive equipment (if only I knew what quality camera gear cost) and barriers to both skill and the ability to share your creations with others. Photography consisted of a roll of film, a cheap Yashica body, and 50mm lens–both gifted by a friend and kept close to this day. Sure I had to be enrolled to use the darkroom at the local community college, but that seemed like such a smaller hurdle than canvases, paints, and brushes, or worse, instruments, amps, and recording devices.

Of course, nothing is ever so easy, and the world still had a few lessons to share with me. While never shelved entirely, photography definitely took a bit of a back seat as I became an adult, and more importantly a father. As my responsibilities sidelined my photography goals, the pull was forever there, a bit like a ghost that would wash through me from time to time. I slowly kept at it best I could, developing my skills and more importantly narrowing my focus.

As time passed, my career path jumped from waiting tables, to building homes, and for the last five years building websites. I’m a driven person, and as much as I pushed myself to excel in each field, photography would always tug at the corner of my soul, begging to be given a shot. For a long time I ignored it, believing all the hype that the industry was dead or at least dying, and there was no way to make a living from your art.

I see now that photography was always the right path, that I let myself be convinced it wasn’t simply because it was the path unknown. Luckily there’s still plenty of time to change the road I’m on, and I’m already taking the first leap.