Family Over Photography

A black and white family portrait taken while exploring Wyoming in summer of 2017

As artists, we often find ourselves getting caught up in the moment, disregarding what is around us and focusing solely on our subject, on our work. We find that even in important family events, business meetings, school lectures we are constantly thinking about our art. What are we going to create next? How am I going to convince my audience to buy this next piece of artwork? Am I overpricing myself? Or am I selling myself short? These thoughts run rampant in our minds daily and it often distracts us from the moments in life we should be cherishing the most. For me, that would be my family. If it was not for my mom and dad, I would not be able to sit outside on my college campus and write this for you all to read. I would not exist. The same goes for you, save for the fact that my parents did not create you. Your parents did. And if it was not for your grandparents, your parents would not exist either. If it was not for my sister – whom has managed to find a way to consistently irritate me the past 17 years of her life – I would not have learned patience and control, nor would I have been as entertained as I tend to be by her.

As a society, we have a problem

This problem that we face does not only pertain to the creatives of the world. We as a population have far too much on our minds with far too little time to do what we must. This dilemma leads us to forgetting about spending time with family and instead focusing most – if not all – of our energy on providing for our loved ones. Instead of thinking about the time spent with one another, we prioritize money. Rather than spend a week or so exploring Hawaii, forming new connections and bonds with each other, we think first of the fact that it would cost over three thousand dollars a person. For a four-person family, yes, that is a lot of money. But in my opinion, no amount of money can ever replace the time spent with my family.

In July of this year, we traveled out west

My parents, sister, girlfriend and I had to meet my grandparents, uncle and cousin by 3 o’clock on Monday, July 17th. I had gotten absolutely no sleep as I was anticipating this grand voyage to the unknown terrain of the west. Feeling like the original citizens of the east preparing for their journey on the Oregon Trail, I was excited to say the least. Yet I was also very apprehensive. Not too long before the trip I had purchased an old Mamiyaflex medium-format film camera from a camera shop an hour away. Along with that, I had my 35mm Pentax and my Nikon D7200 which had been giving me issues. My biggest worry was that I would screw something up, that I would miss a vital shot that could skyrocket me to fame overnight. Yes, I understand it would not happen, but a boy can dream, can he not?

A black and white self-portrait of my girlfriend and I as we explored Wyoming over the summer of 2017 with my family.

So as the sandman continued to evade me, I contemplated what cameras I should bring along. My confidence in shooting film was faint as I had only begun the practice in May and I had no working meter in my Pentax and I had never shot with the Mamiyaflex. Regardless of the troubles it was giving me (it is currently being serviced by Nikon, so fingers are crossed it does not take much to fix), I knew I needed to bring along my D7200. If I were to really mess up a shot with film, I at least had my digital files to back me up. In hindsight, this was such a wise choice for I have very few film strips that turned out due to my poor home development skills.

I made the right choices

I knew that my family expected me to be taking a lot of images on this trip, for it could potentially be the only time we go out west together. But I also knew that the memories shared with my family will last my entire life. It would not matter if I got an awarding winning shot on this trip, nor did it matter if I chose to not capture a single photograph. For me, it was the time spent with my family that meant the most to me. With that in mind, I chose to bring along my D7200 and my Pentax with just enough film to last me the trip. I did not plan on spending all my time setting up shots or making sure everything was perfect. And while this was tough for me – as it is for many artists and perfectionists alike – I was set on spending the time with my family.

A 3 generational self-portrait of my grandfather, myself, and my father as we explored Wyoming.

Of everything I learned out west, this was by far the most important lesson for me. I can always travel back out to Yellowstone and the Grand Teton Mountains – I plan to do so this summer with my girlfriend. But I may never get to travel out west with my family again in my life. Every day, every hour, every minute we are growing older. As a society, we must cherish these moments.