I became a visual artist , not as a photographer, not as a filmmaker, but as a storyteller using images and later video to tell the tales of other cultures, lands and people through my eyes and my journeys. My camera was my tool – it was a means to an end. The end being the story that needed to be told.
I’ve spent the last 30 some years documenting the world through my lens, whether it be for magazines like the National Geographic Traveler, Smithsonian or Travel & Leisure or for major corporations. I’ve been blessed and have truly lived a charmed life. But there have been times when I’ve started to go off kilter – or stray from the essence of my being. It’s easy to do, especially in a culture that is obsessed with the drive to succeed – the definition of success being to make a lot of money and have a lot of “things”. Don’t get me wrong – I also enjoy the rewards that money brings – but for me that means having the resources that help me to live a full life.
A few years back I was shooting a documentary on the Delta Blues Musicians and I spent a memorable afternoon with blues drummer Sam Carr. As we were winding up our conversation under the shade of old tree he sat back and said “I’ve lived a rich man’s life in a poor man’s shoes”. That comment has stayed with me over time and when Sam died last year, I was told that his family was grateful for the interview that I captured that day and used his comment as his epitaph. I was humbled and honored, but mostly felt richly rewarded that my personal project had touched the lives of others.
As we wind up our first stop in Africa on our round-the-world trip, some of the fears and trepidations I had that came with taking a risk, and heading out to the unknown for 3 months, have vanished. In their place is the calming realization that this was what I needed to do at this point in my life and I was grateful I had the means to do it and the stamina to travel on a shoestring budget. Africa puts things into perspective – this vast continent is so wild, colorful, rich, poor, exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time. Africa has taken its hold on me and has sparked my true spirit.
My daughter and I decided to take some time to get out of the city and go to Murchison Falls National Park, after shooting the first part of our documentary about people making a positive difference in the world. We saw
antelope, cape buffalo, baboons,
slept in a tent and sat by a fire in the evenings under a canopy of stars that stretched from horizon to horizon. We chatted with people from countries all over the globe – all of us different yet with a common cause – the love of the journey.
Of course I shot still photos
as well as some VIDEO but more importantly I absorbed this rich experience and it energized my spirit and my soul. This is the “fire” that I need every now and then. I think we all need a spark every once in awhile and to get past the science of the photographic craft and back to the essence of the art and the story. That is what ultimately leads us to create the kind of visuals that will resonate with others. That spark is different for all of us but nevertheless an essential ingredient for the creative process. It’s not the tools, nor the techniques that define the message or create the images that strike a lasting chord with those who see them. I was fortunate that I learned that years ago and now I’m reminded of those lessons as I get back to my beginnings.
We leave Africa today and continue our journey – next stop Istanbul, Turkey and then on to Poland where our next subject awaits.