Landscapes and Nipples

June 18, 2016

With some regularity, people that I run across will ask me about my potential retirement which is always an interesting thought. Civilians often ask, I think, because they envision me aging out of my current employ at a young age as though they believe that people can't be beautiful or desirable after twenty-five. Perhaps, instead, they give men too little credit for their diversity of tastes. To be certain, there are better markets for some things than others, but that isn't to say there are no markets for women in their thirties, forties, or beyond. It seems my paramours ask for a number of reasons, but I often get the feeling they are trying to encircle the idea of Addy-off-the-clock. Hopefully, they're ready for disappointment because my character is rather congruent from one environment to another; what you see is what you get. Coworkers, though? Coworkers don't really ask. For many of us, our life in the now is where we've been able to achieve more dreams than we ever thought possible. The idea of retirement, for me, anyway, almost feels a little stale. No longer will I be on several week long tours spanning the coasts. No longer will I be waking up in a new metropolitan city every other day. But who am I when the lights are down and the cameras are off? Who am I when I have fulfilled my basest dreams, and what do I do when I can or will no longer perform the labor I so cherish?

To be honest, there are a number of careers I am comfortable envisioning myself in. There always have been. I went to university for genetics, and I left a chef. I grew up a voracious reader, and now I consume film with abandon. I have always been the kid cursed at being good at most passions they picked up but so easily distracted that I could rarely develop discipline in much. A Jill-of-all-trades I suppose that makes me. I could go back into fine dining. I love food; I really do. I have done a number of personal chef and food-styling gigs, and I'm even contemplating weaving that into my providership. Kitchens, though, are no longer places I can romanticize thoroughly enough to turn a blind eye upon all the reasons I left. I have considered on a number of occasions taking up nannying. My maternal instinct is weak, but I think I'd make a pretty phenomenal aunt. Starting with my own potential nieces and nephews seems as good a career segue as any. A visit to the La Brea tar pits rekindled my love for paleontology in a way I never expected, and I about reenrolled in university on the spot. Sometimes I think I might write. After all, you're reading this now, so these strings of words mustn't be too deplorable.

Above all others, though, there has been one ultimate passion that has persisted this past decade. Sometimes it idles the background, and sometimes I have been so compelled to create that I have leapt out of a date's bed at two in the morning. My fervor in this age has been nested in my camera. People oft inquire just what I shoot, and this may be my least favorite question behind what my favorite dish to cook is. In the past year or so, I've been able to distill my answer to the pedestrian sounding "nice travel pictures" as though that's a legitimate thing. It's only recently that I've realized, though, that it is absolutely a legitimate thing. My captures certainly cover a smorgasbord of genres, but through all of it, the theme of the road trip is ever-present through my interiors, my exteriors, my portraits, my landscapes, and even my macros. The realization that my passion is indeed a viable genre has given me hope that I am not wasting my time honing this discipline. The dawning of the idea that this genre does not merely exist in scrapbooks but also in museums has given me more joy than I likely even realize. Very recently, I discovered the book The Open Road: Photography & the American Road Trip which really coalesced for me a lot of these ideas of worthwhile work within the genre.

One of the perks of being a member of your local museum is getting to go to a plethora of members-only events. To join the auxiliary groups is to offer yourself a remarkable vastness of experience and education. Yesterday the Friends of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs hosted their annual meeting which is always an interesting collection to hobnob about with. My exultation, however, came in that they were hosting a preview of an exhibition based on The Open Road with a conversation afterwards with one of the creators, an editor of Aperture who curated the show, and a curator for the museum. To simply have known that such a book existed was incredibly affirming of my creations, but to have the ability to see an entire exhibit on the subject in one of the nation's premier art institutes was enough to steal my breath upon discovery. To entertain the idea of a moment to talk with one of the creators had been beyond my imagining.

As the fates would have it, the entire panel would be composed of women and the photographer was Justine Kurland. While much of her portfolio on exhibit features her son and thus has very different focus than mine ever will, I see small philosophical touchstones that I can relate to in my own captures. To be absolutely certain, Kurland's product is spellbinding and so far removed from mine in regards to talent as to be laughable. The soul she captures, though, and the way she talks about finding, creating, and reminiscing her process feels intimately refreshing. With no formal education in photography and a poor research ethic, I had yet to find an artist whom I felt I could see myself in, but here in a woman's road tripping, I felt my soul twinge with familiarity. To listen to her quietly and tangentially illustrate her philosophy was to see that my dreams are realizable.

An acquaintance recently asked me which made me more nervous: interviews or dates, and my only real response was to chuckle as they're both pretty calm events for me. Perhaps it is because I already have done that career circuit, and maybe it's because I have already coursed through a ten-year relationship. Starting over just doesn't intimidate me especially now that every new companion is a rather fair amalgamation. Meeting an artist, though? Words tumbled over my lips unrestrained to any pre-planned script. Neurons fired in all the wrong orders leaving me mostly paralyzed. To conversate and navigate familiarity with the creator of such inspiring work and to see and hear her interest in my own projects instilled in me the feeling that romance and career shifts used to. That is to say: I immediately went into the bathroom expecting to be sick. 

I set aside some moments to recover my breath. Full of encouragement and vision, I set home to plot out my projects. So, Justine, if you somehow find yourself reading this: from the bottom of my heart, thank you. You've reinvigorated my desire and redirected my passion from passive hobby to active artwork. Hopefully, someday, I'll have an exhibit of all these empty chairs and crushing horizons to invite you to where I can show off a life unescorted.

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