Tuesday, March 9, 2010

It's 4:35 in the Morning....

I looked at the clock at 2 am, after waking from a very strange dream. Gussie raised her head (she sleeps next to mine), giving me a quizzical look...I rearranged the pillows, and accidentally knocked Raisenette off the bed...Figured I'd read for awhile-couldn't concentrate...I kept thinking about the "lecture" I gave to a group of high school students earlier in the day, at the request of their art teacher. The subject, "Why I became a photographer"...She and I were in my favorite bookstore (The Dog-Eared Bookstore), in the Art and Photography Section....It's a used bookstore..which I love. We struck up a conversation, and I shared that for twenty years, I was a photographer....anyway, I ended up speaking to seven students (it's a small, Christian Academy). I lay there for an hour or so, thinking about how it went, and decided I may as well get up and write about it....(now, it's 4:42 am).

I took samples of my work..some of my very early work, along with my hand-colored, black-and-white Civil War Reinactment photos (long story), some of my portraits of children (also hand-colored), and some of my more recent, digital work...My digital
camera is dying, and I have a new one..(that's another story)...So there I was, all ready with my "Do what you love" lecture..but, what came out was this:

"During the Viet Nam War, I worked as a volunteer in the amputee ward of an army hospital in Denver. I was a single mom, with a two-year-old little boy, and I lived with my grandparents. I tended bar at nights, went to school part time, and I was at the Veteran's hospital because the only person I knew in Denver was a fellow I had known in high school in Kansas...he had lost both his legs when he stepped on a land mine. In the bed next to him was a young man (I was only in my early twenties, as well), who had lost his legs, and the use of one of his arms. On his bedside table was a Nikon 35mm camera that he had bought on R&R in the Phillipines..not long after that, he was so badly injured. We talked, and he said that I should try shooting some film, as in his condition, it was useless to him.

I bought some film, took my son to the park, and took some photos of him (I still have them). After I put him down for his nap back at my grandparents, I just started wandering about the city, shooting things that caught my attention...All the worries of the world fell away, and I was in my world; a world seen through a lens...There was no more war, no more worries about how I was going to support my son, no pain from a painful divorce..just me and this camera....and so my journey and love affair with photography began.....

I had other "careers" - visual merchandising for twelve years, and then, I started the Civil War photography, then, portraits of mostly children.
I eventually went into interior design, but have always loved photography, and now, with my shiny-new digital camera, and hopefully, a new computer, my love affair continues.

After a time, I bought my own camera and returned his to the young man.......
I found myself in tears today, these fresh faces looking at me as if I were a thousand years old. I told them to find a dream and follow it, and that I was crying because I don't even remember that young man's name...and I wonder what his life has been like. I owe him such a debt of gratitude....


  1. Hi Jess,
    I love the way you connected a beautiful story with your start in photography. I bet those students will always remember you speaking, the way you remember taking your first photographs. You do have a artistic vision when it comes to taking pictures.
    I never told you, my father taught "Fundamentals of Photography" at a community college for 20 years. It was a "black and white",beginner,photography class. He retired about 10 years ago. He traveled the world taking pictures.
    xoxo Kelly

  2. Good Morning, My Friend,
    Thankyou...as always, you are my great cheerleader...
    Wow, about your father...I can see his influence in your photographs...you have an eye, as well...Did you do much black-and-white.

  3. You are such an interesting person...and such a great story teller. Those kids will always remember you coming in to talk to them.

  4. Your photography is beautiful and your story was very moving. As Angie said, 'those kids will always remember you' and in all probablility the young man you spoke of, probably does too.

    As one ages they are quick to discover, it is truly amazing how the path and lives of strangers continuously cross and entertwine.

  5. Thank you, Brenda,
    It's funny, how one forgets the moments in life that truly set one upon a course....
    At the time, I had no idea, now, I do wish I could find that fellow and thank him.
    XOX Jessica