It was a day in late July. Humidity hung thick and tired like the low necklines that clung to sweaty teenage collarbones. Heavy tangled hair flowed in messy rivers over red, peeling shoulders. Fields sprawled out for miles, hugging Ohio, loving their elderly tenders, forsaken by youth with better things to do. Rural teenage wasteland. The car rolled slowly out of the driveway, tires sinking in the melting tar, rolling, moving forward, nowhere to go but going. Late afternoon, the day’s last stifling, clammy sigh… I drove to where my mother had told me to go, just a few miles down the road, with my new camera in hand; it had been a birthday present for my 18th birthday and besides pushing the button I hadn’t a clue how it worked. Tires roll onto the flattened dirty grass on the side of the road. And there it was… acres of sunflowers, glowing brightly in the golden sunlight. I remember standing on the hood of my purple car, looking out over the land. The flowers were golden, the sunlight was golden, my heart was golden… I remember feeling like I could die right there and then, and I would die happy. For the perpetually anxious and fearful teenager that I was, it was one moment where I was quiet enough and open enough to feel the soul of the universe come rushing in, and be one with it all. I pushed the button a few times, hoping that I could remember that moment with a photograph.
Since then, I’ve pushed the button thousands of times. Maybe hundreds of thousands of times. And, to me, this is one of the most meaningful photographs that I’ve ever taken. It’s by no means a “good” photograph… No composition, no technique, the light is not utilized well… but it was a moment in my life that filled my heart so completely, that to look at the photograph and remember that is amazing. The picture has followed me everywhere that I’ve moved around to in the last few years- it’s a reminder of home, of love, of warmth, of youth, of that golden moment, and most of all why I keep pushing the button- for the love of life, to try to capture in some small way the beauty of that moment, the bittersweet tragic beauty of being human and being aware and being alive and being one moment closer to death, and what a miracle to be able to hold onto a moment visually, and if the universe happens to explode with enough life and connection at that moment and you can actually FEEL something while looking at the visual record of that moment… my god. Looking at this photograph makes me want to keep trying, hoping that eventually I will be able to tell a story of life, and of the beauty of being human, and make other people feel when they look at my photographs. Also, it always amazes me what we bring into a photograph- how the beauty we felt at that moment in time changes the way we see, and will continue to see that photograph… And it can be such a mystery how someone else will feel when they see that very same picture. It’s just amazing what our experiences bring into our perspectives.
Oh sweet memory.
Oh sweet sight.
Oh sweet desire to share beauty and human connection.
There’s an old saying; One man’s shitty picture of a sunflower field is another man’s golden treasure.