I am no stranger to excuses. It would dictate my life - force me to miss opportunities and experiences that I convinced myself I could predict. I would try to anticipate what each situation would bring and assume there is nothing else left to see. There have been weeks, even months where I chose to not shoot a single photograph. I let my camera gather dust in my bag until the next trip to brush it off. Unless I had a paid photo-shoot, I was never motivated to explore what I already know. My excuses always stemmed from my surroundings – too cold, too boring, too predictable. I was a landscape and travel photographer with no curiosity. There was no need to wander what is already familiar to me. What else could I possibly discover? It is the same mindset that makes people close out the world. Curiosity has always been the drive behind each of my photographs. In Fond du Lac, there have been days where I felt like a goldfish in a small tank, swimming laps around the same decorative spaces. The town is quiet and reserved, one that can easily be taken at face value.
One of my favorite challenges as a small-town photographer is documenting the familiar and convincing locals otherwise. Photographs of things that occur in our backyard: seen in passing, but never once stopped to appreciate. It is not an easy task and I am not claiming that my photographs make people feel this way. However, there have been instances in the past where my photographs made their idea of home feel foreign to them. In my last reflection article on minimalism, I explain how it's difficult to associate meaning to foreign lands that people wouldn't visit themselves. Once I reveal the familiar place through a different perspective, their eyes would begin analyzing every detail, trying to connect their previous experience with the one I experienced. My photograph was a contradiction to their version of reality. That spark of curiosity and bewilderment is motivating for me to share my experience with others. Photography continues to be a valuable tool for me to motivate myself that every day is different.
I never want to reach the point where I am content with what I know. No longer looking out the window during long drives. One of my biggest fears is becoming too comfortable, unable to find something new in my life. Photography was a reason to never take each day at face value and helped me appreciate the different aspects of my life such as the people I meet and the places I visit. Everything I do is circumstantial and by putting myself in the position to be surprised and spontaneous, you never know what will happen.
You and the world outside are so much more than they seem. Keep exploring, because nothing is what is seems. By recognizing that there is more to a place, it has been the inspiration of projects that try to dig deeper into what it means to be a community, adding significance and meaning to your work. With time, your mindset and perspective will change, and you will find something interesting you could never capture - but you notice anyways. And it’s beautiful moment you keep for yourself.
If you submit easily to excuses, find a medium that pushes you out the door. In many ways, I believe photography saved me from conformity and ignorance. When I look at old photographs of my hometown from 50 years ago, I wonder what the photographer at the time was thinking. Maybe they had the same thought at some point in their life - why am I taking these photographs of routine, everyday life? That photographer was thinking of the present, and today, we look back on those moments with nostalgia and wonder. As you shoot more and more, you become more observant in things that transcend photography. You become content with the unplanned, the spontaneity of life. You begin noticing details you were not aware of before. Be a tourist in your own city.
Thank you to the following patrons for your support:
Alice Schlotte, Ang Schaefer, Cailie Kafura, Casey Benish, Cindy Luttenberger, Dena Rose, Evelyn McLean-Cowan, Joe Truesdale, Joris Hermans, Julie Balson, Nicki Halopka, Sara Beggs, Tonya Geldbach.