San Diego — As I noted before, any trip worth having taken should have provided an educational experience. Otherwise you might as well save the money and sat home letting your brain atrophy watching the mental pabulum on the TV. As an old friend of mine once said to an incredibly obtuse person, “I wouldn’t be so rude as to say you were stupid, but you seem singularly unable to profit from an educational experience.” So the point of this last entry in the Thanksgiving Day Trip saga is to review that educational experience and see if I was able to profit from it or have to fess up to simply being stupid.
Not that I’ve avoided doing far more than my share of stupid things in my life, much as I would dearly like to claim the contrary. But my friends are the type that if I had the temerity to do so, and they read this, would immnediately be on the phone to me questioning my memory. But hopefully a string of stupid things does not, in and of itself, mean that person is themselves stupid unless they failed to profit from and learn from those unfortunate incidences.
The trip was certainly frought with opportunities for learning, probably more than I can quickly recall as I type this. But a few stand out and to help me recall them and cement them in my own mind, referencing them here might help.
- My home is here. No, this is not just a “Duh!” revelation. I’ve always considered the Rockies as my “home.” They are unique among mountain chains and their quiet power has helped me through some very rough times and put me in my place during others. My spirit is somehow tied to those mountains. But they are more than just a place, they are a concept and I can take that with me no matter where I am. But I no longer reside, physically, emotionally, or spiritually in Denver. Admittedly nearly every day I suffer some cultural shock here in southern California — and hope that never goes away because if it did it would mean my values, ethics, and morals would also be going away. But this is now my home and there will be no more looking back over my shoulder or wondering what might have been had I not left to come here to teach. That loose end has at last been tied up.
- When I came here I felt in my heart that I was coming here to do something important and yet, up to the day I left on this trip I would have said I still had no idea what that was or would be. I was blind. I came here to teach and what could be more important than to be able to pass on to others the knowledge and lessons I had learned over the years? And along the way, with my teaching partner, Dave Eichinger, have helped to put together a world class photo education program in a facilities like none other in the country. Sometimes you ahve to get out of the forest to be able to see the trees. We have created a legacy anyone should be proud of.
- And I reaffirmed to myself that much as I love teaching and hope to continue doing it in various forms such as in the classroom, on workshops, perhaps in books, I am at heart an image maker. I cannot live without spending time making images whether it is in my now normal medium of photography or in some of my old traditional approaches, or continuing my exploration of the possibilities provided by the digital arean where I can combine visions and “looks” from traditional and modern technologies.
- And finally I finally accepted my rebellion from the unfortunately typical photo-scholastic thinking that a photographic image has to look a certain way or be assembled a certain way or be displayed a certain way. Art, no, ART, is far bigger than such intellectual and aesthetic nihilism. It is OK to do a tack sharp 40×90 image and then turn around and produce a very painterly 16×20 if, IF, each corresponds to your vision for the final piece and you remain true to that. Narrowly constrained views of what is acceptable as an artistic piece belong to the mentally constrained and I wish to be no part of it.
So those are the primary results, for me, of this trip. There are a few other smaller ones involving cutting some ties and perhaps establishing some new ones or rekindling old lost ones. Who knows? The fun is in the journey. And this journey of just short of 2,500 miles has been a very, very good one.
I can hardly wait to start planning the next one. Meantime, let me leave this trip with a finished image. Earlier you saw this in its “raw” form but here it is after I worked on it to recreate my sense of how the scene really “felt” emotionally to me when I stopped to make the photograph. In their finished form I believe a good photograph should convey how the photographer “felt” about the subject, not just what it looked like as if it were a passport shot if a scene. Here, unlike the incredibly sharp mosaic of the Grand Canyon I’m working on, this one has a looser more painterly touch. I started as a painter so that is not a bad word to me even if the core of this image was capture optically.