Sometimes the most marvelous journeys are the ones that take you to places you didn't expect to go.
364 days ago, I began a project that I thought would take me in a certain direction. I started a 365 day photo project -- one picture each day (at least) for the entire year. I imagined my photos getting better and better. I thought I would learn to look at life differently. I thought I would gain new perspectives.
I thought that, by the end of the year, I would have tapped into some cosmic vibe, and I would be taking pictures so stunning that the world would be beating a path to my door step (okay, I didn't REALLY think that...)
I missed two days, though the record will show that I missed three (I lost the pictures I took the Thursday after Thanksgiving), and mostly the pictures I took are of the mundane variety, but the real treat - the payoff -- is to look back now, at the year that was -- 2009, which was so brutal in some ways -- and realize, like George Bailey, that I have a wonderful life.
And it all began with a stack of pancakes, on January 1, 2009.
Pancakes are a staple at our house on Saturday mornings, and I make the best pancakes (from scratch) in the world. Trust me.
Day 23: The day I almost stopped. This is a picture of my shirt -- the blackest thing I could find.
This was the day that changed our year, our family and our lives.
This was the day that my wife's doctor said "Cancer."
Day 77: Coping. In a year of upheaval, I found solace and comfort on the basketball court, with my son. We didn't keep score, we just shot hoops, and talked. Turns out I really like that kid.
Day 100: Weeds. At the beginning of this kind of project you think your mind is really going to expand, and that you're going to find inspiration everywhere you look.
That ain't necessarily so.
About day 100, you start looking at the weeds in the cracks of the sidewalks, and the dandelions in the grass. 2009 is, by far, my greatest year for weed documentation.
Day 129: Disneyland. After the hellacious start to the year, by the time May rolled around, with the cancer surgery and recovery (mostly) behind us, we felt that we deserved a vacation. And we took one -- our first full blown, we're the grown ups here, paid for it ourselves and took the kids along for several days vacation.
It was a SMASHING success!
Day 171: I just love this shot -- it encapsulates the relationship between Emma and Matt perfectly: she, going anywhere he'll let her go, and he, putting his arm around her (so to speak), and taking her -- no complaints.
Day 211: Yeah, it was THAT kind of year.
Incidentally, I do have another daughter, and I did take plenty of pictures of her this year too...
Day 231: My wife's birthday. The only thing more beautiful than this surreal scene, was having Sharon there to see it with me.
Five months earlier, I didn't know if we would see this day.
Day 263: I caught a lightning strike, how could I NOT include that shot?
Day 291: Andrew and Michelle. This is my brother-in-law, and his, at the time, almost-officially-engaged-to girlfriend. At this point, I knew that I would soon be out of a job, and thought I had better get serious about this photography thing.
I love shooting couples -- especially couples who REALLY like each other.
Day 307: The day I had been waiting for/dreading for nearly ten years -- the day I was laid off/released from a job I hated. Just in time for the holidays. Just in time for the job market to hit it's lowest point. I gave this company ten years of faithful service (my need to support my family suppressed my dignity), and in the end, they decided I made too much money, and they'd try to make it with their minimum wage employees. I wish them luck, and I wash my hands of them.
Desperation is sometimes a blessing, and because of what happened above, my life heads down a new path:
Day 347: The wedding.
The first wedding I had shot in a couple of years, capped a month of photography-for-hire jobs. I know I'm supposed to do this now. It may not be something I can do full time at this point, but I know that what I have to offer this world, is in my head, and my eye, and my pen.
Which brings us to the end of this journey, which brought me, somewhat unexpectedly, back to where it all began:
Day 365: Pancakes.
And as I sit here, thinking of all the times I cursed myself over the last year for taking on this project, of how I longed for the end to come, of how I looked forward to the time that I could set my camera down for a day or two, without feeling guilty (or panicked), I find myself smiling. You see, tomorrow is January first...
And I'm going to do it again.
Happy New Year!
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
December 24: Christmas Eve. One last moment of peace, before the magic and the wonder -- and the chaos. The kids were in bed, the stockings were hung, and the glow of the Christmas lights bathed the entire room in warm and soft beauty.
December 25: Me and my son.
December 26: Emma, playing Santa at Grandma's house.
December 27: We try to incorporate some of our family heritage in to our Christmas celebration each year. For many years we've had England and Sweden well represented, and this year we were finally able to add Germany, when we were given this German Pyramid/Nativity.
That blur around the Holy Family is the Three Wise Men. They were in a hurry.
December 28: Some good friends took Matt and I to an autograph party with members of the Utah Jazz, Monday night. I have pictures of Matt with all of his favorite players, but for my money this is the autograph to hold on to. Jerry Sloan, coach of the team, is the longest tenured coach in American professional sports - and second in the world, only to the coach of Manchester United -- and English soccer team.
I've always had enormous respect for Coach Sloan -- I love his attitude. He believes that since the guys he coaches are getting paid millions of dollars to play a game, they ought to shut up and do it.
December 29: When it gets to be 11:45 pm, and you're pretty much confined to the living rooom, your choices become rather limited.
December 30: Another day of shooting portraits. Generous neighbors and friends, and friends of friends and neighbors have been a Godsend to our little family this past month.
And one to go...
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Hosted by Cecily
The shopping is done. The food has been eaten. The goodies all delivered.
The snow has fallen, and the night sky is now bright with stars. Somewhere in that night sky flies a jolly man -- a saint, the embodiment of generosity -- and his small team of reindeer and a sleigh full of dreams.
Good will descends upon the world like a gentle dusting of pure, white snow.
Ralphie has his Red Ryder, two-hundred shot, range model air rifle. Clark Griswold has his Christmas bonus. It snowed in Vermont. Ebenezer Scrooge has been redeemed, and I have an appointment, later this evening, in Bedford Falls, with the George Bailey Family.
One by one, exhausted by the anticipation, the children fade away -- for a few brief hours, at least.
The wassail is simmering. The leg lamp is lit. Bing Crosby sings quietly in the background.
In a manger; in the churches; in the cities and the countries; in the fields and the hills; from ocean to ocean, and peak to peak; in the warmest of homes and the darkest of streets, shines an Everlasting Light.
Merry Christmas to all of you.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
December 17: Pepperoni, mushrooms and olives, from Domino's Pizza. This was my Dad's pizza. I'm going to see him tomorrow.
December 18: It's been eleven years, since the worst day of my life. I came to terms with the anger a long time ago, but the emptiness, especially at Christmas still lingers. I feel my dad most when I'm playing with my son. They never knew each other -- we were going to tell my dad of the pregnancy that Christmas, but we never got the chance.
December 19: Raspberry/Jalapeno Jelly. Or I should say, Raspberry/Jalapeno syrup -- as of this writing (December 23) it still hasn't set. Any jelly making tips out there?
By the way -- this is excellent on crackers, with a little cream cheese.
December 20: Emma's very own manger scene. She wants you to know that the scene is set at sunset -- which is why the sky is so colorful (at six, she already understands the beauty of afternoon light).
And that's a chicken on the roof.
December 21: Matthew the magnificent magician, practices his sleight of hand.
The picture turned out better than the magic tricks, but it was an entertaining show.
December 22: Gratitude.
Our family has been greatly (GREATLY) blessed by our neighbors this Christmas (more on this later). Tuesday night we took the kids around with a few home made goodies to try and express how very thankful we are for such wonderful friends.
December 23: I hadn't done a self portrait in a while.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Hosted by Cecily and Honey Mommy
I shot a wedding for the daughter of some friends last Saturday. It was a beautiful experience.
I've seen a lot of life and a lot of love, through the lens of my camera -- parents and children, brothers and sisters, smiles and kisses and embraces. My favorite though, are brides and grooms. There is so much light and energy that radiates from a newly married couple, they renew everything and everyone around them.
Happiness is beautiful.
As I focused on the faces of Nikell and Barry Saturday morning, I was touched to watch them interact. They had eyes only for each other -- if I didn't ask them to look my way, they were lost in each other's eyes. There was no snow. There was no cold. There were not several dozen people watching their every move.
In all the world, there were only the two of them.
I thought of all that they don't yet know.
They don't know the daily difficulties of making a marriage work -- even a great one.
They don't know the awkwardness of their first argument -- or the relief of resolving that first disagreement.
They don't know the depth of love and emotion that comes from bringing children into the world.
They don't know that the love they feel on their wedding day will pale in comparison to the love they feel in fifteen -- or fifty -- years.
But they do know that they have each other. They know that the love each sees in the eyes of the other is real, and lasting. They know that the path they are on is the right one. They know that what they don't know, they will learn together.
And, for now, that's all they need to know.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
December 10: Bridals with Michelle, my soon to be sister-in-law, at the State Capitol Building.
Michelle, it's about time someone made an honest man out of Andrew.
December 11: The very first Christmas ornament I ever bought for my wife. Like us, it's a little beaten up (it used to have a perch with two little lovebirds on it), but still worth celebrating.
December 12: Nikell and Barry.
Saturday I shot the wedding for this couple. Nikell is the daughter of some of our friends from our old neighborhood, and she was our baby sitter for several years. We have watched her grow into a beautiful young woman - and she's as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. If I could choose a model for my own daughters to emulate, I would be hard pressed to find a better example than Nikell.
It was my great privilege to photograph this wedding.
December 13: Santa Lucia's Day.
In the far, dark, northern lands of Scandinavia, December 13 is St. Lucia's Day. The story is too long to write here, but suffice it to say that the return of Lucia -- whose name means "light" -- is a big event each year in Sweden.
Here's the story.
December 14: This picture sucks, but there's a story behind it. This -- whatever it is -- is in a field near my house. For several very cold days last week, we could see water erupting out of the top of it, and freezing as it flowed down the side. I assumed it was some kind of ruptured water pipe, but it was there, day after day.
Then, Monday, the spotlight appeared. Whatever this was, the owner wanted it to be seen. I could only see it from the back, but I thought it sort of looked like it had wings -- like a giant angel (it's about fifteen feet tall).
So, I trespassed.
Which wasn't easy to do across a wide open, well lit, snowy white field, next to an annoyingly busy (for a Monday night) frontage road. But I did it, I crossed two barbed wire fences (in the dark), hid in the bushes when cars drove by, and ran like hell across a giant white canvas, to get a shot of the "angel."
I have no idea what this thing is.
December 15: Heading home from seeing "Scrooge" at the Rodgers Memorial Theater, realized, yet again, that I had not taken a picture yet today, stuck camera out the sunroof (or is that moonroof -- what's the difference?) and shot lights in the Centerville park.
December 16: They promised me they'd stop making noise, if I would just take their picture.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Hosted by Cecily and Rachael
On our first Christmas, back in 1994, Sharon and I gave each other a Christmas ornament. We were living in a small studio apartment in Cedar City, and trying to establish our own Christmas traditions. The next year we did it again -- and then every year since.
When Jordan was born we decided we would continue the tradition -- a new Christmas ornament each year.
They are more than just Christmas ornaments, each one is symbolic of our lives in the preceding year.
As I lay underneath the soft lights of the Christmas tree the other night, I did the math: fifteen years of marriage, and three kids equals sixty-three ornaments (which is assuming that we've only done one ornament each and every year. Which we have not). On a seven foot tree that doesn't leave much room for anything else. I realized this year that we no longer have any generic ornaments on our tree.
Every ornament was a gift.
Each one is a story.
Our Christmas tree has become the storybook of our lives.
As I walked around the tree, I was lost in the memories.
There were our Disneyland ornaments, from our trip this year.
There was the little angel that I bought for our second Christmas, because I thought it looked like Sharon.
There was the somber silver ball, with the date we would never forget.
There was the star engraved with the date of our tenth anniversary.
There was Indiana Jones, Darth Maul, Batman, Dora, Bear in the Big Blue House, Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, Wizard of Oz characters, nutcrackers, Santas -- trust me, it all comes together.
The story that our tree tells is one of love and adventure, of heartbreak and redemption, of joy and innocence and heritage. It's the story of our family.