How to see beyond the image

I write this post, as I pack for a shoot, near a beautiful beach in the sun. Sounds fun right? As if we photographers scamper around in light, with beautiful models and drinking champagne long into the night. "It's not a real job, all you do is take pictures" a man once said to me, after I told him my career. At first I was offended, as if he was attacking the notion of the stress and difficulty of selling the invisible. But after some reflection, I realized he was right. I do what you love and i'll never work a day in my life. This comes off as brutish and insensitive, considering the suffering going on around the world, the joblessness, the day to day struggle to survive. Don't get me wrong, I don't save lives. When you need a triple heart bypass, i'm not the person to go to. I'm not enriching the minds of young kids, teaching them and shaping their futures. But if you think all we do is take pictures, then you need to hear something.

I don't like to be referred to as an artist. It seems too cliche, egotistical, and snooty. What I do is see ordinary things, feel the pulse of the life and earth around me. Then I translate it into one still moment, a remarkable and sometimes unremarkable millisecond. When I look back after a few years, the memories come rushing back. My intuition floods my mind with how I felt that day, who was with me. What the freezing ice felt like against my skin, as I lay prone on the ground, dangerously near the edge, trying to get the lake centered with the blue sky. I'm not a genius, i'm not god's gift to the world, but i'm more passionate about what I do than anyone I know.

Now to the important part. Often we do things from our intuition, never getting the chance to re-explore how we felt at that exact moment. These days, with all the moving images bombarding our senses on websites, tv, ipads, etc, it's a relief to see something still, unchanging. Here is how I feel looking back at this photograph.

Some will see just a lake and a sky, nothing more, nothing less. A pretty picture, click-click and onto the next on. Never taking the time to explore how it makes us feel.

Nature reflects our lives. How many of us have felt a sense of emptiness. Even if for a moment, we feel like there's something missing in our lives. We look into the distance and we see nothing but an endless bleak plane, leading into the blackness of space on the horizon. In front of us lay cracks in the ice, one wrong step and we plunge forever into the deep cold darkness, never to be seen again. We want to reach that horizon, hoping by the time we get there, things will be different. The sun will rise and shine a golden warm light upon us, banishing the dark and cold. But the fear of failure, that fear of falling into the water and losing everything, keeps us from taking that risk. Meanwhile above us, an endless blue sky more surreal and beautiful than any man or woman could create, oversees our struggle. It's color and majesty, so divine it feels like it doesn't belong on this earth. No matter how high we reach, we will never touch it. We can only admire it from the ground and alternatively see the grim path ahead. The contrast is ironic and tempting. I took this picture without a single thought of why or how it would effect me. Now when I see it, I realize something made me take that photo, if only to record a rare moment.

Seeing beyond the image, is channeling your emotions into real reflection. It's transcending the obvious and seeing with your heart thru your eyes. If your reading this and thinking "wow! this guy is deep, but isn't he taking it a little far?" The answer is yes. It is deep and I am taking it a little far. But as I observe and record the life and nature around me, sometimes the parallels are too real to ignore.

See beyond the image.