The last three weeks have been an exercise in distance, for the last year my life has existed at home. I shot very little in exchange for time with my family as we worked tirelessly to get my dog Teddy stabilized. There is a part of me that wonders if taking a year off in this career was a bad decision, retort says family above career and success. The latter spoke the loudest as shooting and marketing took the backseat to helping Ted. It was worth it.
Now, as I have re-entered the photography pool from the shallow end, the process of starting fresh begins. The fire that once burned strong has smoldered and the inspiration has changed. For many months I shot personal work that felt as though no one was behind the camera. While images like the SR-71 have captivated, I look back and wish I had worked harder and left the set more exhausted. However, in the midst of the stress with my dog, I didn’t have it in me.
Keeping the front of constant engagement in the art world lives at face value. In truth, I checked out between shoots with no interest in picking up the camera. It was as if my source of motivation was gone. No number of hours spent looking at photos would inspire me to press the shutter. The truth is, I do not derive much inspiration to create by looking at photos. While I enjoy the stories that documentary images tell, the images themselves fire the left side of my brain where knowledge and logic exist and rarely cross the plain into emotion.
To create, we must be moved… truly moved. Art as a whole can often inspire, but rarely captivates. Life has more depth in times of growth and loss. A life dedicated to a cause is greater than any art installation that has ever been installed.
A few weeks ago I travelled to Kennedy Space Center (behind the scenes: there are certain projects that made a trip out to Cape Canaveral very relevant). I intended to learn more about the programs that NASA conducts and hoped to stand before a Saturn V rocket. What I discovered had far more emotional depth.
At the end of a day that saw many tours of space facilities, countless selfies and even lunch with an astronaut, I was hit with a site that left me in tears. In a corner of the Space Center there was a hall dedicated to those that gave their lives in our pursuit of knowledge, the Challenger and Columbia crews. It was as if the personal artifacts told of the spirits that existed within the men and women that we lost. To look at the items and not reflect on the life we live is impossible.
They are the better angels that Lincoln, Dickens and Shakespeare spoke of in prose worthy only of those to which the title belongs. In Reagan’s eulogy, he captivated the time in history that existed when the Challenger exploded, and the sentiment has currently resurfaced. “We’ve grown used to wonders in this century. It’s hard to dazzle us.” As a culture we have reviewed the works of past greats in the eyes of modern society. Judging the images of Bresson to the likes of an Instagram account forgetting the soul that exists within those that came before.
While art will age in the eyes of its viewers, the life behind it will live on. The lives of the astronauts moved me. They inspired me to create again. They inspire us to work harder. We live more because they “slipped the surly bonds of Earth” to “touch the face of God.”