Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Meaning of this Journey

If you watch what I do closely, you find that I hesitate a lot. Wanna know why? Because I'm not sure... not sure if it works, not sure if I want to do it, not sure if people will like it, not sure, not sure, not sure...

But that's the way I do things because it's a function of my personality.

As an example, I started snowboarding back when there were only two companies making snowboards; Sims and Burton. That was circa 1995. Several years later I was launching myself off of 20-30 foot tabletops. My thing has always been airtime. I find no solace in rails and funboxes or even just carving through fresh powder or dodging trees. I love being in the air.

But it took me ages to catch that much air. Chronologically it didn't take me much time but I learned one step at a time nonetheless.

I never do anything in leaps and bounds. It's more like one tepid foot in front of another.

That's just the way I am. This photography thing confirms this about me...

But in analyzing my photography journey I'm still somewhat surprised I am where I am. I'm surely not gifted. I'm not special. But there is something about this thing that compels me to move forward. Against a lot of grain too.

I'm going to try very hard to put into words what I'm thinking. I've been thinking about this for a while now and it's still half-baked. The thesis is essentially that this photography journey is the hardest overall challenge I have ever endured. What I've discovered is that it forces me to face a lot of my flaws, shortcomings, weaknesses, and other demons. Yet it seems as if I've been placed on this path so I can get to know myself... in a way that I would have never experienced in any other form/medium/venue/vehicle/etc.

And it scares the shit out of me.

It scares me because it forces me to step outside of my comfort zone. Yes, that's cliché. Want an example?

I'm an introvert. It's what I think and it's what my Meyers-Briggs test confirms. When you meet me you'll swear I'm an extrovert. But there's a reason I need nearly a day's rest after each shoot. Anyway, as a child when my parents would fight, I would go into my room or outside to hide from the screaming and yelling. Don't get me wrong, they weren't violent with each other or anything but my dad had a temper and my mom didn't much relent to being bossed around. Sometimes things get tossed around but for the most part it was just arguing. Lots of it. And I always felt threatened by it.

But going outside or into a room doesn't mean I can't hear them anymore. I can still hear plenty well. As a defense mechanism (or at least this is how I theorize it in my mind), I developed a place inside my head where I could retreat and not be "bothered". I found solace in the quiet of my mind. In there, I was safe. I didn't have to engage anyone of be threatened by the volume of actual voices.

Through the years, I've renovated and built that place inside my head. It's pretty big. Lots of long hallways and lots of gateways to other places that I can visit. Usually it's pretty quiet because I'm alone. The irony is that I fear being alone and yet I disengage real interaction with real people all the time. Fear of failure. Fear of rejection pushes me into my "quiet place" where I can escape the yelling.

20-some odd years later it still works.

But what I've realized is that I disengage from real human interaction almost automatically. It doesn't have to be my parents yelling even. If I'm at a party where I find myself not part of the main conversation, I "disappear" into my mind. If I'm tired, I prefer just to be quiet and suddenly I've "disengaged" myself from the discussion. I disengage so much and so often because it feels normal, comfortable and natural... but it ain't right.

Photography forces me to engage. Engage agents with whom I'd probably otherwise not know. With models with whom the age difference makes difficult for us to relate. With the true artists like designers with whom "the engineer/architect" in me can't understand. Photography forces me to come back to Earth. It reminds me that I can't run and hide forever in a place where I'm comfortable. And though it feels awkward, photography promises actual "human" growth and development... something I've neglected perhaps for many years.

Maybe it's not so much a photography journey but rather a journey where I face my demons, acknowledge my flaws/weaknesses, and free my mind from the mental confines that I've created to protect my fragile ego? :) Or maybe I'm just thinking too much again and getting all up in my head...


  1. Dude - it's like you've ripped the thoughts from my very head. I wonder how many of "us" are out there.

  2. If I had to guess... probably a lot :)

    Think about the typical photographer. Technically savvy, nerdy even, probably a bit introverted, definitely not captain of the football team, probably not good with girls, probably Asian :)

    Really only one-step above software engineer in terms of human interaction. LOL!

    In all seriousness, I think I've defined what it means to be an introvert though, not that it's good or bad... but rather these are the tendencies.

  3. What about if I'm also a software engineer... and not Asian. Oh, the mind boggles with statistics!