Hello! Week 7 is a wrap!
Day 42 - Teri
This is Teri. She was walking her dog at Esther Short Park when we met. Teri quickly and happily agreed to let me take her picture and I should have realized then, it was because she's a photographer and she "gets it."
I learned that Teri has been a photographer since the age of 4! She's a highly sought-after, fine art photographer from New York, and her specialty was nudes. She recently moved to the Northwest to chase another dream of becoming a Park Ranger. I enjoyed hearing about the the contrasts in Teri's life. Teri moved from the east coast, big city, big art world, to pursue life on the laid-back left coast and to become a park ranger. She said that being closer to nature has filled her with new inspiration and she now has an opportunity to concentrate on landscape/nature photography.
Teri and I made for such a funny pair. You would think that we should have made for a great team, but I was busy being nervous about wanting to do justice to an accomplished artist, and Teri was busy being nervous about allowing herself to be in front of the camera instead of behind the viewfinder and in control of the process. I found it so ironic that Teri has been up close and personal with nude subjects, but she's totally camera-shy when she's the one in front of the lens. I can totally relate. Having my own picture taken is a miserable experience. We finally both just had to let go and have fun with it!
I asked Teri the happiest thing happening in her life right now and she said that she just returned from a vacation on Maui. The Maui trip was also the act of kindness Teri received, as it was a treat from a friend. As we were mid-interview, another woman approached us in the park and thanked Teri for the print she had just given her. The woman told Teri she had just hung it, and was remarking how much she loved it. I interjected that not only had Teri been on the receiving end of an act of kindness, but it sounded like she had also just given an act of kindness as well.
"To live life to the fullest," Teri answered, when I asked if she had a personal mission statement.
I asked Teri something about herself which she considers to be a success and she answered, "being nominated for the Louis Comfort Tiffany Award." Teri clarified that she didn't win, but still, having been nominated was still quite an honor.
Teri explained that her site isn't up-to-date, but you can check out her work here.
I feel fortunate to have met Teri and I enjoyed listening to her, and trying to learn from her. She even extended an offer for me to consider her as a resource as I get deeper into the process, and perhaps someday host a pop-up show to thank all of the subjects in this project. (Which is something I've been dreaming of, but I've just become overwhelmed at how to actually execute a showing or celebration party for subjects from the first 365 Day Project.)
Thank you, Teri.
Day 43 - Elliot
This is Elliot. He was near the Hollywood Theatre, waiting for his friend to arrive.
"School is starting, I'm very happy about that," Elliot answered, when I asked the happiest thing happening in his life right now.
I asked Elliot if he's been on the receiving end of an act of kindness and he said that his mom recently gave him a nice set of knives. I agreed this was an excellent gift because a good set of knives could possibly last his entire lifetime.
"Power to the people," Elliot said, is his personal mission statement.
When I asked Elliot something about himself which he would consider to be a success, he answered, "aside from the beard?" Haha! Such a great answer! He then circled back to his return to school and that he feels successful having finally figured out that he should be an English major.
Day 44 - Drew
This is Drew. I spotted him on the sidewalk.
"I got a new job," Drew said, is the happiest thing happening in his life right now.
Drew was just recently on the receiving end of an act of kindness, in that his friend gave him free tickets to a show.
Drew wasn't sure about a personal mission statement or a life's purpose, saying simply, "I'm just trying to get by."
I asked Drew something about himself which he considers to be a success and Drew answered, "graduating college."
Drew has a job in his field of study, so right now - it is a success when someone has a job and it's actually in the field for which they attended school!
Day 45 - Julie
This is Julie. She was waiting at the bus stop when we met.
I worked late on Wednesday and it was dark by time I left. I was concerned because I'm now out of practice when it comes to shooting in the dark. Especially considering, I'm trying to learn how to shoot without a flash in low light and when it's dark. It's NOT easy. Until Julie, I don't think I've ever managed to take a nighttime/dark photo that wasn't complete blurry or just horrible. Julie was great luck and she was patient with me as I tried both a flash and non-flash picture.
The happiest thing happening in Julie's life right now, is that she's working her dream job. Julie is the owner of the Julie Lawrence Yoga Center. Julie also feels this is something about herself which she would consider to be a success. Julie followed her dreams of becoming a professional dancer, which lead her to her now dream-come-true situation of running a yoga studio.
I asked Julie if she had a personal mission statement and she explained she actually has a 5-part mission statement:
1 - "Experience and share love."
2 - "Seek out learning opportunities."
3 - "Be physically active."
4 - "Remember to laugh and play."
5 - ...
You know that feeling when your mind goes blank on you? Well, that happened when Julie attempted to give the 5th part of her 5-part mission statement. The bus was approaching us, we needed to hurry, so we just left it at 4. Four excellent little nuggets for us to remember!
Day 46 - Becki
This is my very dear, and very special friend, Rebecca. Yes, she may look familiar to you from last year's project. It was almost exactly a year ago when Becki was a subject in the first 365 Day People Picture Project. It's been fun to include my friends in the project and I try to take their picture when we get together for their birthday celebration.
"My family, my husband and my kids," Rebecca answered, when I asked the happiest thing happening in her life right now.
I asked Becki if she's been on the receiving end of an act of kindness and she replied, "Yes! Tonight...birthday gifts and an amazing dinner!" We got together for dinner and laughs with the family and our other friends, Debbie and Lou. When it came time to take Becki's picture, it was pitch dark outside and I couldn't even tell what these two were up to. The sneaky little photobomber is our friend, Debbie.
I asked Becki if she had a personal mission statement and she answered, "life's too short. Don't put off till tomorrow what you can do today because you might not be here." Becki would know. She barely survived what could have been a fatal car accident, shortly after we finished high school. The crash, and her rehabilitation, were both life-changing and life-affirming for Becki. Since then, she's become the most generous person I know when it comes to sharing love, laughter and happiness.
I asked Becki something about herself which she would consider to be a success. "My family, friends, and my volunteering," Rebecca answered. Rebecca is always donating her time and efforts to one cause or another. I'm completely awestruck with her life and how she makes time for work, family, volunteer work, and fun! She'll be the first to tell you - she makes time for fun and she makes sure that we all make time for fun too!
Becki, I'm so glad you were born. Happy Birthday, dear friend.
Day 47 - Sky
This is Sky. She was waiting at the bus stop when we met.
The bus would soon be approaching, so again, we had to keep things at a fast pace. I quickly shot three pictures of Sky and then asked the interview questions.
"I'm really excited to go back to school," Sky answered, when I asked the happiest thing happening in her life right now.
I asked if Sky has been on the receiving end of an act of kindness and she immediately replied, "yes, many times!" But she explained she couldn't think of a specific example at that moment. This is so common. Several people seem to have a general sense and feeling that the world is kind to them, but usually the pressure of me asking for an example, makes it difficult for them to think of something specific.
"I'm all about my family, and I like to make my family happy," Sky answered, when I asked if she had a personal mission statement or a life's purpose.
When I asked Sky something about herself which she would consider to be a success, she also circled back to starting school again. Sky is only 20, but she already has 4 years of college under her belt!
I'm glad I bumped into Sky...brains, beauty, and a such lovely person to visit with.
Day 48 - Brian
This is Brian. We met at Esther Short Park. When I approached Brian to take his picture, he agreed quickly, gave me a big smile, but then his expression changed and I couldn't get a read on what was happening. Not wanting to keep him from anything, I asked if he was in a hurry. He said that he had time. The area is somewhat tourist-y, so I asked if he lives around here. Brian then said that he's homeless.
Damit. Damn. Damit.
I've intentionally avoided asking people who are homeless if I could take their picture. The reasons are many, but basically, it is out of respect. It is out of respect for their situation, and in wanting to preserve dignity.
I had already asked Brian if I could take his picture. It would have been more disrespectful and painful to abort, than it would be to move forward with the picture and interview. And, from our very short interaction up until that point, I already got a good vibe from Brian. I was already in. I already cared.
Brian and I shared an intense and brutally-honest conversation. The kind of conversation that is so intense, it's probably not even one that he's been able to have with his friends or family.
I hate addiction. I hate that some people are born with different wiring. I hate that some people are fortunate to have been born with a dimmer, but other people are born with an on-off switch. For those people born with an on-off switch, there is no in-between. There is no, let's turn-up-the-lights-just-a-little-and-have-a-cocktail-with-dinner setting. There is only on, or off. Once the switch is flipped and the person is exposed to a mind-altering substance, it's on all the way. The hungry addiction receptors are fired up and begging to be stimulated and fed. Once the switch is flipped, it's so easy for a person to abandon and lose everything they are, everything they were, and everything they hoped to become. It's so easy to lose your footing when you're a person born with a switch instead of a dimmer. Once you lose your balance on the tightrope of addiction, the fall may not be swift, but it is certain. Once you've fallen off the tightrope completely, you don't even know, or care, that you're falling...as long as it feels good on the way down.
Not every person born with a switch instead of a dimmer, falls to the point of homelessness. Some are fighting the battle from the comfort of a warm and cozy home, but the battle is still life-destroying nonetheless.
Brian had a good life. He was married. He had a great job. He's soft-spoken and personable, and his intelligence is apparent in his articulate speech. Brian has just finished his time squaring-up with the law, and has intentions to go back to school. He had intentions, that is, until he sabotaged himself. Again. Brian is feeling frustrated and disappointed with himself and he can't understand why he keeps repeating the cycle no matter how much he's ready to make the change for good. He's so close. I know he can flip the switch to off.
My canned interview questions seemed so ridiculous, given the circumstances. I apologized to Brian. I told him I was still going to ask the questions I normally ask, even though his situation is a difficult one. I explained the questions have been stealthily designed as an exercise in gratitude. (and inspiration and motivation as well.) I hoped he would feel better and more optimistic when we were finished, but I knew there was a huge risk that the questions could result in him feeling more helpless and hopeless.
I asked Brian, if he could think of anything happy, in spite of his situation. He shook his head, "no, nothing," Brian answered, as he appeared to hold back tears. "Nothing?" I asked. "No, this is pretty much the highlight of my day," Brian said. "Well, we have that in common, because this is the highlight of my day too," I shared. I pleaded with Brian to consider that every day he wakes up, every day that he's alive, is a reason to be happy. "If you're alive, there's hope," I added. Brian agreed, reluctantly at first, and then said "yes, I'm alive."
I asked Brian if he's been on the receiving end of an act of kindness and he said that a woman at a church gave him a really nice sweater/jacket, and then he turned to show me the jacket on his backpack.
I asked Brian if he had a life's purpose, or a personal mission statement. Brian answered, "to not to fall back into drug addiction." I wanted Brian to walk away from our interaction feeling filled with hope and having a plan. I wanted to hear the words from Brian about his next step in life. No matter who we are, or what our circumstances, the more we share our plans or intentions, the closer we become to making them a reality. I wanted to hear Brian tell me that he was going to get back on the waiting list for treatment. I wanted to hear Brian tell me his plans to get financial aid to return back to school. I wanted to hear Brian say the words that he will find a living situation and get off the street. It was important to hear Brain say all of those words and lay out all of those plans, because I wanted Brian to hear the words, and believe them. I want Brian to be one step closer to making his plans become reality. He's got them. He's got the plans and a foundation is built. I pray Brian can be freed from a life of addiction and reclaim his life, or a new and better one.
I apologized to Brian for "mom-ing" him, and told him I believed he could do it. I believed he could get himself together. Brian needed to hear that another person believes in him, so that maybe he'll believe in himself. Brian knows where to get help, and how to get help. I dream for the day in our country that when a person is ready to get clean, the resources are there for them to do so. The free program here in the area often has a waiting list to get into the residential treatment facility, and by time a person gets to the top of the list, they may be back out using again.
After we finished, I asked Brian if he had food for the day. He answered, "not really." I told him I had some in my car, if he wanted to walk with me. We talked while we walked. Brian openly and honestly shared the Cliff's notes version of his life story with me, and now it was his turn to ask questions about mine. He mainly wanted to know about the project, and why I was doing it. "What's the objective?" Brian asked. I, also giving the Cliff's notes version, explained that I just wanted to see if I could do something every day for a year. I pointed out the similarity between doing a 365 day photography challenge, and being clean and sober. I took one picture a day, and before I knew it, I had strung together an entire year's worth of pictures without any gaps. Brian understood and confirmed..."just like being clean and sober...one day at a time, and before you know it, you've got a year."
We reached my car and I unlocked the trunk and gave him all I had. He asked, "do you always drive around with sack lunches in your car?" "Yes, I try to," I answered. "They're for the people I may meet...who may be hungry." We talked just a few moments longer, we both thanked one another, and I told him once more that I believed in him...hoping he'd feel it enough to believe in himself.
If you're the praying kind, could you say a prayer for Brian and anyone you know who struggles with addiction. May they be free.
Here's the summary of the mission statements and life's purposes of the subjects from this week:
- To live life to the fullest.
- Power to the people.
- I'm just trying to get by.
- Experience and share love.
- Seek out learning opportunities.
- Be physically active.
- Remember to laugh and play.
- Life's too short. Don't put off till tomorrow what you can do today because you might not be here.
- I'm all about my family, and I like to make my family happy.
- To not fall back into drug addiction.
Thank you to each and every subject from this week, and in the entire project.
Thank you again for following along.
Have a great week!