Reflections and Ramblings: Volume Twenty-One
Everyday as I read the news headlines I remain remarkably surprised by what is happening in our country. I don’t have the words anymore to respond coherently to all that is occurring. And I don’t even want to read other people’s opinions about what the Trump administration has done in the last twenty-four hours. If I spend too much time reading the articles and social media posts that are desperately trying to keep up with the day’s events, tweets, or executive orders, a deep sense of dread and despondency washes over me. I begin to feel hopeless. Oftentimes I feel enraged.
I understand I write all this from a privileged position – a white, thirty year old American man – and this sounds a bit melodramatic when there are millions of people who are significantly more affected by what is going on in Washington right now than I am. I could simply not turn on the news, not look at a newspaper, and ignore my social media feeds to escape it all if I wanted to. But these things are happening, and I think it’s important to know how to implement my privilege in ways that help amplify the voices of those who are minimized, ignored, or muted.
Now we are all busy people with busy lives, many with families and important responsibilities that require our immediate and constant attention. Sometimes we’re just trying to do what we can for ourselves to survive the day. But I’m a firm believer that we need to see the struggle of others as crucial to our own survival. If we don’t, or if we remain indifferent, we’re more than likely a part of the problem.
I’m a very busy person these days. My wife and I deal with both toddler and teenage temper tantrums on a daily basis. This is exhausting in every way – physically, emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually. At the end of each day I am amazed by how exhausted I am. But I am rejuvenated by the knowledge that what Sarah and I are doing here at Boys Town makes a difference in the lives of these girls and their families. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it, and not every girl is a success story. But Sarah and I go to bed each evening knowing we are giving all of ourselves to help break the destructive cycles these girls were born into. Helping them understand that they are indeed capable of great things, and that they are strong and brave for being able to push through whatever struggles they’ve had in the past to be successful both here at Boys Town and once they leave. If they recognize that and are receptive to being helped, it’s amazing how these girls mature and grow.
At the beginning of the year I started a photography project mostly for myself (as most of my creative endeavors are), in which I challenged myself to post two photos a day. I don’t get out of my apartment all that much, and I especially don’t get off of Boys Town’s campus very often unless it’s to buy groceries or take girls to appointments. I also cannot publicly post pictures of Boys Town youth due to privacy laws. So I am extremely limited in what I have to take pictures of. But these details simply add to my challenge.
I am an extreme lover of photography and of storytelling in general. I’ve been trying to gather my thoughts on photography to write a more formal essay/article/blog post about why I love photography. I’m not sure when I’ll find the time and energy to put it together in a cohesive post, but I’ve been taking notes in my journal over the last few weeks that I hope to be able to string together.
I was initially inspired by a photo project that I stumbled upon online by a guy named Jamie Livingston. He took a Polaroid picture nearly every day from March 31st, 1979 until October 25, 1997. His photography is of his everyday life. Filled with people and moments with no captions. But each photo represents an entire day in his life. More than 13,000 images. And when put together in one long timeline, they tell a story of a very interesting man.
I’ve spent everyday this year looking at his photos. They inspire me. They unshackle my curiosity, and I find myself lost in wonder over who this man was.
Jamie Livingston has helped show me how a picture doesn’t have to be perfectly composed to tell an incredible story. His pictures were filled with friends and family and daily life. Individually they tell a story, but when put together they tell an even greater story.
That’s what I’m attempting to do with my photo project. I am trying to tell stories using only two images each day. Each image tells a story, but the two photos together are also related in some way. And once I have a year’s worth of photos, I expect it to tell an even greater story.
I decided not to include captions with my photos because I want the viewers to find meaning for themselves in the images they see. Perhaps they will find connections in the images that I had not even intended. That’s the beauty of art and storytelling. It impacts us all differently.
A friend of mine reposted this on Facebook yesterday:
Although my photography is simply a hobby for me, I agree that “art is an integral part of the social, the political, and the economic world.” And that “Art is protest.”
In a way, I am using my photo project as a way for me to center myself and remember that even on the seemingly darkest days there are moments of peace, of light, and of laughter around us. There is meaning in those moments that surround us. When I take pictures of people that I encounter, it is an attempt to show that we are all connected and to capture a glimpse of the depth and dignity of each individual. My photography is a protest against the hopelessness, the rage, and cynicism that seem to creep into me so easily. I hope others see it that way as well.
When I get around to writing my post about photography, I’ll go much deeper into my thoughts on this subject.
Speaking of art, here is my friend’s band Fire Chief Charlie with their submission for NPR Music’s Tiny Desk contest:
And lastly, maybe you can join me in my everyday routine and mantra: