Ah, the question of so many first introductions; the question that fills awkward silence amongst strangers at social gatherings. And it always seems to have that inflection on “you”, as if a challenge is being issued. I was asked this recently by a friend of a friend…of a friend. I briefly explained what I work on, the current website and some of the pictures I take. She waited for what seemed an eternity, obviously processing my answer, before responding, “So you’re a photographer…of, like, things, not even people?!” It was a statement, not a question. Before I could get out a clarifying answer, she continued with, “…not exactly life changing is it?!”.
Wait, WHAT did she just say? I carefully removed my eyebrows from my hairline, unflared my nostrils, cleared my throat, pasted on a smile (maybe it was a smirk), and prepared to launch into a sarcastic spew that I felt would surely show her “life-changing”. Something stopped me…what on earth, I’m still not sure. In an uncharacteristically composed tone, I answered her. “I get to discover hidden beauty and details. Patterns, shapes, reflections and colors collide above, beneath, beside and on us. I get to dance with light and shadows. I get to sing with the wind on a hillside bursting with wildflowers. I get to hear my heartbeat as I hold my breath for that perfectly still shot. I think about all this, talk about all this, and write about all this. Even better, I get to capture this beauty in a way that words and memories can fall short. Life changing? In the last 6 months, I’ve cried more with gratefulness and a deeper sense of appreciation for my life and the beauty surrounding me than at any other point in my life.
In the last 6 months, I’ve shared this with my 1 -year old son, hopeful that he’ll glean just a microscopic love for life’s canvas. In the last 6 months, I’ve interacted with friends, family and strangers who have thanked me for opening their eyes and changing their perspective. That makes me blessed. That changes my life.”
I paused mostly out of shock that I had calmly yet passionately articulated this with complete eye contact and not in a mumble. Then I asked, “What is it YOU do?”
(Editor’s note: See the responses for the answer to what her job was…)