I was interviewed by a local paper earlier this year about my work as a photographer, and I jokingly talked about how my occupation wouldn’t matter if, say, a zombie apocalypse happened. And while that may still be true, three events this summer have shaken me to the core of who I am yet have solidified how important I think my profession is. Those three events were funerals. One of them for a cousin, one for a close friend here in Colorado, and one (the most shattering to me) was my best friend from college. My best friend was also a full-time photographer and an inspiration/place of safety for me because she went full-time several years before me. (such a brave trailblazer she was)
With all of these tragedies – and I don’t say that lightly, as the oldest one of the three was 34-years-old and the youngest was 21– I realized how I (and probably many others) respond to loss. I pretty much became a hoarder, hunting and gathering every shred of them I could find. Letters, poems, mix CD’s, gifts from them, but most of all photographs. I frantically scanned in all the old ones I had, desperate to make sure I had it in digital format and saved in three different places. I wanted to hold on to every piece of them I could get my hands on and not let anything slip through the cracks. I wanted to remember everything. I wanted to see our joy and love and shenanigans and adventures. I knew that we had had them, but there was something about seeing it in a photograph–in something I could touch and feel with my hands– that made it more real, more comforting. Perhaps the way a Catholic person touches the beads of a rosary while praying certain prayers– to have a tangible reminder of what they’re saying and why it matters–I needed something solid to remind me of all the goodness and beauty that existed in these friendships. As my guy Cameron said, “I think there is something innately human about needing to assign the tangible to the seemingly intangible. To have something to point to in order to remind ourselves of our deep connection to it all.”
I’m so proud to be part of a profession that makes this possible, that allows people to carry their memories and the feelings associated with those memories around with them and prevent them from evaporating like rising smoke. A profession that helps people hang onto what’s good in the world and bring some tangible to the intangible, some order to the chaos (hopefully). So, as I shoot now, I think and feel differently than I did before this summer. I think about how people will look at these photos for years to come, for the way they’ll look at them differently after someone in a photo passes away, how they’ll hold that photo even more dear. This summer has been a watershed moment for me, and I hope I continue to see the world this way.
And having said that, I want to share some of the special photos I’m taking comfort in and also some I’ve taken that I hope others take comfort in someday. They aren’t award-winning shots necessarily, but some of the most important things in life aren’t the most breathtaking or beautiful. They’re the things that take you back to a time and place and fill your soul a little bit. They’re just moments, but isn’t that all life is? The sum of all our moments?