I knew going in this journey it wouldn't be easy. I knew that I would never be a millionaire, own the newest car, or even be able to afford a home as early as many of my peers, but after doing this for four years now I ask myself if I could have this any other way and I find myself still saying, "No." Through my travels and interactions with like-minded individuals I have found a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Even if I am not an overly wealthy man as far as actual finances, I feel such riches beyond measure in terms of what I have been able to do and the people I've met. Even when I was serious in my running career, another one of my life's great undertakings, did I ever feel such a sens of community; I tended to feel moreso like I was on the outside looking in. With my journey as a photographer I have made genuine connections with people from across the world, and in this community I never have to worry about feeling isolated. There are always new memories to be made in this particular creative field.
As I am writing this, I realize in compared to a lot of my peers undertaking the same journey I have had an excellent first few years. This is not an inaccurate statement, though in terms of what I define as success may surprise you. You could say in a nutshell it is the story of the American dream. I started off in this field using only a smartphone for photography, & while doing so I worked hard, saved money, & then bought the equipment I deemed necessary in order to tell my story. But this, though, is merely all that I want to do; tell a story. I want people who view my work to get a sense and an understanding of what it felt like to be alive in those individual moments. Whether it be the vibrance of a particular color or the contrasting parts of light and shadow, I want the observer to feel as if they took a step into one of my memories. This is a large basis in how I grade my work, not simply out of pure skill but in how well each moment that I capture tells a story, my own story, and as long as my health stays maintained along with my vision I believe I will continue my affair with photography for the majority of my life.
"I want people to get a sense and an understanding of what it felt like to be alive in those moments."
Accepting this fact, I now find myself in Chicago, poetically fitting that I would end up here: a city where so many talented Southern people have migrated to in their own journeys. My choice to move here was a mixture of both personal and creative. My father lives in the area and in the past few months was diagnosed with a demoralizing neurological illness the doctors are labeling as "transverse myselitis," and simultaneously has also had the unfortunate news in finding out he also has prostate cancer. In being here, I am doing everything within my capabilities to help him during this difficult time, but fortunately even on the days when I feel down as I take in the entirety of the situation I still have my camera and photography to help me through the hard times. It has been one thing I can count on through it all because it is always a new challenge, and in being that it takes my mind and emotions to a place which strictly exists within a present moment. I have found that being in a new place and trying to find my way around has been very disorientating, but this one thing has kept me staying positive through it all. It satisfies me in a way I am not sure many people ever achieve within their respective professions. Simply put, for myself, it feels like the right thing to do under any circumstance, and for me to do anything else just causes me to have a sense of being unbalanced, off, and empty. Despite these trying circumstances, photography has given me a means to keep moving forward even when I feel like some days there are anchors tied around my waist, trying to take me under.
My ultimate goal has always been, and will continue to be to mold myself into a better photographer in a way that not only promotes the growth of my skills, but also helps me thrive in a personal way along this journey. I firmly believe that in order to grow, we must first make ourselves uncomfortable, and this is exactly what I did when I left Jackson. It was good for the time I was there in order to mature, and I did a lot of while I lived in the city, but towards the end I could feel deep down I was becoming stagnant. Days began blending into one another and instead of being challenged I had become all too comfortable with simply maintaining my skills.
This fresh perspective of being in new surroundings, coupled with pressured & uncertain times has helped me gain much greater insight into my own journey. I find myself now considering not just my own legacy, but that of my father's and in doing so find myself becoming more motivated to experiment and to try chasing new opportunities to see where I might land. I hope all of you reading this have that one thing which makes you happy, even when things aren't set in stone, and that even on the hardest days it is still possible to keep moving forward despite feeling like you've been knocked back. Photography is what does that for me, and in this journey I am very fortunate I have found such a phenomenal undertaking of which I am very passionate. My wish is that each of you finds whatever that may be in your own perspective, and hold onto it very tight.