Hello! Welcome to week 18! Thank you for following along.
I just finished reading "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore," by Robin Sloan. It's definitely worth checking out! One layer of the story is about a secret society of code-cracking book-readers and as part of the secret society, you will be expected to write a "Codex Vitae." Basically, the "Codex Vitae" is the book of your life or everything you've learned in your life.
I had the realization that through this project, we've compiled sort of a collective Codex Vitae. The answers given by all of the subjects in this project, reveals a common thread which sews us all together. When broken down to the most simple and basic elements, we all desire happiness. We all want to be good people. We all want to do good things. The pursuit of those three objectives is what fills the pages of our own individual Codex Vitaes.
What would be in your Codex Vitae?
Day 119 - Andrew
This is Andrew. "Good health and a great relationship with my girlfriend," Andrew answered, when I asked the happiest thing happening in his life right now.
Andrew was the recipient of an act of kindness the other day when his car wouldn't start. He didn't have jumper cables, but a cable-packing stranger stopped to help jump-start his car.
"Do the best you can to help those in need," Andrew answered, when I asked if he had a personal mission statement or if he could make one up on the spot.
I asked Andrew something about himself which he would consider to be a success and he answered, "my determination."
Day 120 - Nate
This is Nate.
"A consistent job," Nate answered, when I asked the happiest thing happening in his life right now. Nate just moved to Portland two months ago so he's happy to be working.
Nate's recent act of kindness is that he donated food to a food drive, and he bought dinner for some friends.
Nate's impromptu personal mission statement: "to be kind, honest, and loyal at all times."
Something Nate considers to be a success, is that he finished the Seattle to Portland bike ride!
Day 121 - The Teacher
This is "The Teacher." I spotted him as he was parking and locking up his bike.
I asked Teacher the happiest thing happening in his life right now and he answered, "work, girlfriend and that I'm employed."
Teacher has recently performed an act of kindness, but he's not able to share. (Simply being a teacher and shaping our future is an act of kindness.) I'm sure Teacher's act of kindness must remain confidential, but one interesting thing I've observed in this project is that so many people are hesitant to tell others about their acts of kindness - almost as though telling someone will devalue their good deed.
I understand people's reluctance but I think it's ok to spread love and positivity. When people performed that act of kindness, they did so altruistically and they didn't expect someone to come along and ask them if they've performed an act of kindness. They were genuine in their kindness. Telling people after the fact is ok, right? Our social media feeds can be flooded with so much negativity and bad news...I just want to spread the message that there are good people out there, really good people. Maybe by hearing of the kind acts of strangers, we'll start absorbing and spreading more positivity.
"To be happy, help others, and be a good person," Teacher answered, when I asked if he had a personal mission statement or his life's purpose.
I asked Teacher something about himself which he would consider to be a success and he answered, "being a teacher."
After we were finished with the picture and interview, Teacher said that he felt like he didn't give good answers because I surprised him and caught him off guard. He was certain he had better answers to give. I was laughing to myself, thinking that Teacher just got a very good reminder of what his students must feel like when he calls on them in class!
Day 122 - Jeff
This is Jeff and he was the second teacher in a row!
I actually know Jeff. We just happened to run into each other at Starbucks after work. Jeff has been a customer at my work for a few years. I know this picture looks like he's exhausted. That's part of the reason I liked it and chose it over the others I took. In real life, Jeff has always been enthusiastic, energetic, and so nice! We bumped into each other at Starubucks after work. Traffic was horrible that day. Jeff was sitting at a table and grading papers. He said he often stops there on his way from school to home. He's able to do some work and he also avoids wasting time sitting in traffic. The other pictures I had taken of Jeff were of his usual happy self. I liked Jeff's happy-faced pictures, but I liked this tired picture because it caused me to think about how hard our teachers work, even when they're not in class.
I asked Jeff the happiest thing happening in his life right now and he answered, "watching my kids play sports," and just spending time with them in general. Jeff's kids are at that age when their time is spread between activities and friends, and he's happy that his children still want to spend time with their Dad.
I asked Jeff if he's recently performed an act of kindness or if he's been on the receiving end of an act of kindness. We talked that his profession is an act of kindness. Jeff knows when a student could benefit most from either giving them a nudge or when they need to be given a break. Jeff feels like he experiences kindness every day and he remarked how sometimes even the smallest compliment from other teachers, parents, or strangers can have a positive impact.
When I asked Jeff if he had a personal mission statement, he told me a story about why he named his son Peter. Jeff is a Spiderman fan and his son is named after Peter Parker. Jeff loves the quote, "with great power comes great responsibility." His dream for his son is that he'll grow and become a good citizen. Jeff's personal mission statement, and also his dream for his son is, "to somehow make a difference." I know Jeff is already making a difference in this world.
When I asked Jeff something about himself which he would consider to be a success, he answered, "I'm not the best teacher, but I'm a good teacher." Jeff added he thinks he's a good dad too!
We continued to talk a while after we were finished with the picture and interview. I told Jeff that I've wondered what kids/students could do with a project like this. Obviously, I wouldn't want students to approach strangers, but Jeff thought it would still be interesting to see what kids/students would do and learn by interviewing their friends and family. I would love to see something like that!
Thank you, Jeff!
Day 123 - Doug
This is Doug. We met just walking down the street. It was during the onset of a crazy windstorm and very few people were out. I was lucky to find Doug and that he agreed to let me take his picture.
I asked Doug the happiest thing happening in his life right now and he let out a laugh, then answered, "anticipation."
Doug wasn't mean or unfriendly, but when I asked him the second question, he then said, "I'm going to leave now." Doug was done. He just wanted to go read. At first I was disappointed and my feeler was hurt, but then I reminded myself that I was really lucky that anyone was willing to even stop long enough to let me take their picture.
Day 124 - Blake
This is Blake. Blake. Blake. Blake. Could he be a model, or what?
I had just left my hair stylist and had just been complaining to her how surprisingly challenging it is to find a subject in that area, considering it's such a dense and popular part of Portland. I always end up finding someone great, but I've been surprised at how hard I've had to work at it. As soon as I left her salon and walked around the corner, I spotted Blake. He was the first person I saw, and I decided to just go for it.
Blake agreed to let me take his picture and as soon as he was in front of the camera and as I was looking at him through the viewfinder, I was like - WOW! Who is this guy? I felt so cheesy as the words fell out of my mouth and I asked, "are you a model?" Blake laughed and said that he wasn't a model. He should be!
I'm always extremely critical of myself. In attempt to learn more about photography, I follow dozens of photographers and view thousands of images a week. Although I know it's what I need to do to improve, the downside of this is that I'm constantly comparing my pictures to the work of others. It can be, at times, demoralizing, defeating and discouraging.
If I were to confess these feelings of inadequacy to one of my friends, I know they would tell me that it's unrealistic to compare anything I've ever done to the work of a professional photographer who has years of experience and/or formal education, proper lighting and equipment, and a team of hair and make-up artists and assistants.
I have only 490 days of experience, no lighting, no training or education, an entry-level DSLR and until recently, only the two kit lenses that came with the camera, and usually only a few seconds or minutes to shoot a stranger I just met on the street. (and all the awkwardness that comes with it.)
To offset the utter feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy I get when I see so many amazing and talented artists, I try to balance the images I consume in a week and take in both styled/studio images, and raw street photography and documentary photography. Somewhere in the middle of all of that, I think is where I'll find my "style."
I know there's still several things I did wrong with this picture, but seeing Blake's picture gives me hope. I like Blake's picture. It's still really very easy for me to take a bad picture of a beautiful person but I'm able to look at Blake's picture and say, "that's a good picture." I know a pro, or anyone with 491 days of photography experience, would point out 14 errors or ways in which the image could have been improved, but for now - I feel a major sense of accomplishment in that I've gotten to a point where I can say, "that's a good picture," about a picture I've taken. I've liked and even loved several of the pictures I've taken, but there are very few about which I've been able to say, "that's a good picture." As I'm typing this, I'm thinking - am I really sure about this? Is it a good picture, or am I confusing a good picture with the fact that I think that Blake is just a beautiful person? I'm not so sure now. I just wish I could meet Blake again and take 1,247 more pictures so I could figure it out!
I asked Blake the happiest thing happening in his life right now and he answered, "opportunities to play music." Blake is a singer/song-writer.
Blake's recent act of kindness is that he found someone's wallet and returned it with everything still intact.
Blake's impromptu personal mission statement: "keep working at it."
"I'm not a complete asshole," Blake answered, when I asked him something about himself which he considers to be a success. I laughed at Blake's answer and something tells me that he's far from being even just a partial asshole.
Day 125 - Linda Bea
This is Linda Bea. She's an awesome girl! I was fortunate enough to meet Linda Bea a couple years ago. When you hear Linda's laugh, you can't help but feel happy and you find yourself laughing harder than normal because Linda's laugh is so contagious.
Linda and I, along with several other women, modeled for a photoshoot for Sweet Spot Skirts yesterday. Sweet Spot Skirts are so awesome and they fit everyone from a size 0 to size 26. Linda and I are models for the size NOT-zero.
Linda and I met a few years ago, also at a photoshoot and it was the first time I had modeled. Linda was a pro by then. I can't even begin to tell you how stressed I was. I wasn't feeling so great about myself because of the weight I had gained. I'm so uncomfortable having my picture taken by even my very best friends, but I agreed to model because the skirts are one of the greatest things you can put on your body and they help you to feel confident when you're working out. I also adore and admire the owner/designer and if my not-little body helps other women discover a Sweet Spot Skirt, any temporary discomfort I felt while having my picture taken is worth it because I know that women will love these skirts! I know it's hard to believe that something like a skirt can be life-changing, but seriously - it is!)
When I met Linda for the first time, she was as cool as a cucumber. She acted like it was no big deal that we were about to be photographed with a bunch of very young, beautiful, fit, thin, and amazing ladies! I tried my best to absorb Linda's coolness, but when that wasn't working - Linda totally killed me with laughter. I ended up having the best time ever! Linda is a sweetheart and so dang funny! Since meeting Linda, there have been a few times when I've thought of her laugh to help me chill out during a stressful moment.
We had already been shooting for a few hours yesterday when I asked Linda if I could take her picture for the project. Believe me, this modeling business is hard work and I know taking one more picture was probably not on the top of Linda's to-do list, but she agreed. We did the interview after we were finished with the real shoot. When went outside for me to take the picture, I couldn't figure out what was wrong with my camera. Then it dawned on me. I had taken the battery out to charge before heading to the real photoshoot and I was so nervous about being in front of the camera for once, that I totally forgot to put the battery back in. I was so bummed I didn't have my good camera. I wanted the opportunity to take portrait of the beautiful Miss Linda Bea. I was stressed and upset with myself for forgetting, but Linda was so cool. She just let me take her picture with my iPhone. Once again, Linda taught me - just be cool. It's ok...just roll with what life gives you.
I asked Linda the happiest thing happening in her life right now and she said that she's happy she's going to spend New Year's Eve with her Sister. They have a tradition to always celebrate New Year's Eve together.
I asked Linda if she's recently performed an act of kindness or if she's been on the receiving end of an act of kindness. Linda is a nurse, so she performs acts of kindness daily. I'm certain Linda must be one amazing nurse! She's just a fabulous person! Linda explained that recently, an anonymous co-worker gifted her with three weeks of paid leave because Linda had been taking off a lot of time in order to be with her ill father. Linda's Father isn't doing well and she said that he's near end-of-life. Linda said her Father has had a great life and he's a great man. Being the recipient of someone's act of kindness has inspired Linda to dedicate 2015 to paying it forward. (See, I told you she was amazing.)
I asked Linda if she has a personal mission statement or life's purpose. Linda's impromptu mission statement: "Find happiness, the glass is half full, and laugh often & hard." These are more than just words for Linda. She lives it, and just being around her helps you to live it too.
"That I'm comfortable where I am at age 51. I'm happy being me," Linda answered, when I asked something about herself which she would consider to be a success. This is one of my favorite answers.
Linda Bea, you are awesome! Thank you!
Here's the summary of the personal mission statements and life's purposes of the subjects from this week:
- Do the best you can to help those in need.
- To be kind, honest and loyal at all times.
- To be happy, help others, and be a good person.
- To somehow make a difference
- Keep working at it.
- Find happiness, the glass is half full, and laugh often & hard.
- Thank you to every subject in this project! I appreciate you and your kindness and willingness to share yourself with us.
Thank you to each and every subject in this project! Thank you for sharing yourself with us and please don't hesitate to e-mail me if you would like a copy of your picture.