Tonight I had dinner with someone who asked me about having a backup plan if the whole photography thing didn’t work out. I thought for a while and responded that most of my career has been spent in the less-affluent side of things due to the fact that I never wanted to “sell out” and take a job I thought too distant from photography or videography. The closest I came to falling off the path was working for a website company as their videographer. I didn’t shoot more than a foot of tape for them but wasted two years rewriting HTML and eventually managing a team of lazy co-workers. I quit that job in the middle of a fight with my myopic boss.
Yesterday, someone asked me to give them some general photographic tips. So we spent about 90 minutes going over the three-point lighting system, general exposure decision-making, editing software and a few other things which seemed expert to her, but general knowledge to me. I didn’t feel like I had done much to enlighten her the way I wanted, but she seemed to have learned a few things that she didn’t know before.
Earlier today, I got a call from an old friend who wants me to take photos of her son, four years after the last time I took some studio shots. We talked for a while and she and I are excited to see how the photos will be different from when he was a small child to a much taller little boy now.
Almost before I knew it, I’ve become the go-to person for photography-knowledge and skills for many people. I’m a paid professional with a lot of responsibility to a large corporation’s advertising and junk mail campaign. This is a welcome, if unintended direction my life has taken. I only wanted to get paid to take pretty photos and a lot of the time, I wonder how I got here.
If I’ve learned anything from Hot Tub Time Machine, it’s that our lives are made up of a series of decisions, small and large, that generally affect the route of our careers and our overall timeline of our existence. This is obvious when looking backwards through time, but not obvious when looking forwards. I’ve had arguments with girls where I knew that if I said the next thing that came to mind, we would break up. It’s a strange singularity to be faced with if you recognize it. In the short-term, there’s the scorekeeping of the argument. In the long-term, you decide with your next sentence the future possibility of having kids with this person and sending them off to college. Kind of strange that the tempo and direction of our lives might zig instead of zag when we make the seemingly smallest of statements, actions or decisions. A Gulf War veteran Anthony Swofford wrote in his book Jarhead that in war, each step you take is either toward or away from the land of the living. The problem is, you never know which direction you are walking in until you get there.
I remember storming away from that one boss, biting my tongue when my girlfriend was mean, letting go of that door handle instead of leaving when I should have. All of these decisions are carved into the lead of my life. Funny how when the light changes, the shadows cross those decisions making them prettier or uglier. Scraping across time, I make new marks, some with effort, some abandoning all thought, all with a weight I’ll feel upon my shoulders or shrug off with the strengthening and weakening of time.