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Thank You : An instance or means of expressing thanks
Gratitude : The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
When I first picked up a camera I felt like I finally discovered my way to express my feelings. I didn’t know why, but the world looked cooler through a viewfinder, and the camera turned into my shield. Everywhere I went, my camera was in hand.
35mm film was like gold. I loved everything about it: Loading it into the camera, exposing it to light, the magic of going into a room void of light to transfer the film to a developing reel and then dreaming about the magic happening to the millions of sliver halide crystals while I gently agitated the tank filled with chemistry, and finally taking off the lid to see if my film had anything on it!!
Early on I spent most of my time photographing my family. Thankfully, they tolerated my enthusiasm as I fumbled with my camera and asked them to hold still for a minute (or ten).
It didn’t take long for me to find my favorite film: Kodak Tri-X. The film was versatile; I could push and pull it through exposure and processing, and the grain was gorgeous. I LOVED the grain.
Not long after I started to feel confident with Tri-X, one of my instructors said something that still echoes in my head. He told me, “Don’t get too comfortable with film; digital is taking over.” I didn’t want to hear this, and I kept buying bricks of film. Then I left school and I didn’t have a darkroom at my fingertips. I was still shooting all the time, and rolls of exposed film began to fill up my refrigerator...often times there was more film than food.
Right around this time is when the idea of getting into digital photography started sounding better. I bought a digital camera and to my surprise, I loved it! No more waiting to develop film and no more worrying about having color film in my camera when I saw something in black and white. I quickly forgot about film and I didn't miss being in the dark room.
It wasn’t long after switching to digital that I sold all of my film cameras (except my very first one). Without the concern of the cost of film and processing I was becoming less disciplined. I was shooting a lot, but with little direction. Instead of carefully measuring the light and figuring out my exposure, I was shooting and looking, shooting and looking. Often times I was shooting just to make photographs.
Years passed and I’ve been fortunate to make a living as a photographer. Near the end of 2015 I started putting together my year in review. The first thing I noticed as I combed through my catalog was that I made way too many photographs. I could have deleted more than half of the year's work with no concern that I’d miss anything. The thing that bothered me the most was the absence of my heart in so many of the photographs.
I thought back to when I started making photographs, and that so much of my film was spent on my family. I realized why I made so many photographs of them: It wasn’t only because they let me, it was also because they were the most important part of my life. Now, nearly 15 years later, my life is different. Both of my parents passed in 2014, and recognizing my own mortality has birthed a healthy sense of urgency to make photographs, to share my feelings, and most important of all, to be in each moment. My priorities are changing and I find myself asking, “What matters, how do I want to use my energy, and how do I want to spend my time?”
My new project, “Fifty-Two Thank Yous,” was born from these thoughts. Fifty-Two Thank Yous is about gratitude. It is about giving thanks and slowing down to recognize the little things that give my life great meaning, little things that are happening all around me each and every day.
For the year of 2016 I will shoot one roll of Kodak Tri-X film a week. I will develop the film in my apartment, and at the end of the year the project will deliver one photograph from each week - Fifty-Two Thank Yous.