A couple years ago I took a trip out to Death Valley with my partner. After spending many long years in the grips of alcoholism, we were now about a month sober. This was not the first time we’d tried to quit, but something was different this time.
I have always been a lover of nature, but being newly sober, I was experiencing this place at this time with a heightened sense of awareness. It is often times referred to in AA as the “pink cloud.” Having been consumed with sickness both mental and physical for so long, you experience a sense of freedom and euphoria at the mere fact of thinking clearly and feeling normal.
I was present, truly present. My senses had taken over and my mind was quiet. I remember this trip vividly, though I do not remember many trips after with such clarity.
As time passed I fell into patterns both new and old. The fascination and newness of sobriety wore off as everyday life seeped in and my mind became preoccupied once again with the worries and complaints of living.
When people ask me why I chose photography or what photography means to me, I am always tempted to deliver some flippant remark like, “It’s a thing I can do that I don’t fucking hate.” This comes from the cynic in me who shuns authority, insists on bucking tradition, and never ever follows anyone else’s lead.
And while there is a part of me for whom the above statement is fully accurate, there is much more to my work. Photography came into my life long before sobriety, but it was sobriety that breathed new life into my photography.
What I seek in my work is to rekindle my engagement with the world around me. Photography is a meditation: an attempt to free myself from my monkey mind and rediscover curiosity, fascination, and mystery. It is a tool I use to regain that feeling of freedom and presence I felt in Death Valley.
Sometimes it works and magic happens and I feel connected to time and place in a way I rarely do otherwise, and other times it is a complete failure. Regardless of the outcome, I keep grasping for those moments of excitement and energy, without which I cannot imagine life would be worth living.
It’s not what you’re thinking.
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