Canyon of Hope
33°15'17" N 108°18'47" W
This photograph was taken in the Gila National Forest on June 13, 2016. I was on my first expedition in the Warriors to Summits series and we were traveling along the West Fork Gila River. Walking through the canyons I couldn’t help but notice how bright the light was at the end of them. That light filled my spirit with hope! Hope that with work and determination I can begin a new and better chapter of my life; one filled with light and hope. I found myself obsessed with trying to capture this light through photography. I hoped for one amazing photograph depicting the awe inspiring light, so when I got home, no matter how dark it was, how difficult change would be, I could always remind myself of the light at the end of the canyon. Hanging in my office/studio, this picture is a source of inspiration, and even in the dark of night I can still see the light!
Dimensions are 24" wide by 32" height. It is a canvas print with a full image wrap. It is printed on a high quality giclee, artist canvas; stretched and mounted to a 1.25” Plantation Grown Radiate Pine wood frame that is kilned dry to prevent twisting and warping. Finished with a UV light protection to prevent fading and cracking. All images will come ready to hang and are guaranteed for life against fading and cracking.
I took my first photography class in 1996 as a freshman in college and fell in love with everything about it. During this time, I discovered through photography I had the ability to depict the world as I saw it. I was drawn to landscape photography and thrived in the challenge of trying to capture profound images that elicited powerful emotions. Sadly, after college I drifted from that passion and lost it for a number of years.
In 2009, my life became a never ending storm. I had been medically retired from the Army, and my thoughts and judgment were clouded from war and a brain injury. My wife and I learned that a lump in her right breast was an extremely rare form of cancer. As a result of these things, I found myself swirling like water going down the drain. My life was in chaos. I was not good with expressing emotions or dealing with them, and found myself in need of an outlet. One day, I watched a stranger take a picture in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, and remembered how meaningful photography was in college. I remembered the peace I experienced, as I immersed myself into capturing a photograph that represented the beauty I saw and the emotion I felt. I wanted to experience that again, and immediately went to Stuart’s Photography Shop in downtown Anchorage and bought myself a good entry level Canon DLSR.
As I discovered just what my new camera could do, I also began to find joy through photography again! I found a strong desire to create, rather than destroy. I found myself full of hope. I felt as though that is where I belonged behind the camera. Yet, there was a problem, I didn’t believe in myself. I didn't believe my work was good enough and so eventually I stopped photographing. Looking back, whenever I slid into an emotional dark hole I would give up photography, which ironically is what ultimately helped me out of that same hole.
In the years that followed I decided to pursue an education in Digital Photography at the Art Institute of Indianapolis, to gain the confidence I lacked. I learned a lot and the studies took my work to the next level, but I still slide back into my hole. In November 2015, I needed to make a choice, to either get on living or get on dying; and was leaning towards the latter. Then, on December 10, 2015, I learned a friend and somewhat a mentor, had taken his own life, he was the 13th friend of mine who had died by suicide. We had fallen out of touch and I had no idea he was in that place. I didn’t know how I should feel, but did realize one thing; I didn't want to take my own life. I didn’t want my wife and kids to feel the way I did. I knew I needed to get out that hole again, for good; I had a plan this time, after I climbed out, I would take the time to fill it in before I move forward. That way I can’t ever go back into it. I knew for this to last it would take hard work and a new way thinking about life. I needed help.
I reached out to No Barriers Warriors by applying for their Warriors to Summits expedition, and was lucky enough to get accepted into the program. It was what I had been missing all these years. They taught me how live with purpose. My camera once again accompanied me on this journey, and I was determined not to let this passion die again. I made a pledge to No Barriers Warriors that I would show my work in a gallery. I accomplished that goal in November 2016 just a few weeks before the first anniversary of my friend’s death. The show was titled “22” and was intended to bring awareness about Veteran suicide. I looked proudly at my work hung in the gallery because everyone else choose to focus on the darkness, while I chose photographic art that represented light and hope. It was then, I realized, I had finally turned the page.
I have confidence in my work and in my message. I am no longer talking about moving forward, but am actually doing it. I have become a real photographer, with a vision and purpose; constantly trying to inspire others through landscape imagery focused on bringing light and hope into others life. My story and recovery were highlighted as theVFW’s Magazine February 2017 cover story.
Coping through Art
The hardest part about coming home from war is actually allowing your mind to come as well. When you deploy to a war zone, life is quite different from the one back home. You are always practicing situational awareness, your head on a swivel, and you always need to be alert and ready to act. It is a matter of life and death. That is the normal you come to accept and live; witnessing the worst of humanity while it steals your innocence.
When you are“in country” you can’t wait for the day when you are back home driving down the highway not having to worry about getting blown up. Only to come home and find that you worry about it more. You analyze every situation trying to determine threat levels, ending up paralyzed by fear, and ultimately removing yourself from society. This fear clouds your judgment, making you blame others for your lack of courage. That was my life and I knew the only way to overcome that fear is by facing it.
Throughout the past year my passion for becoming a full time photographer has forced me to confront these fears one at time. I had to be willing to travel and to get out of my comfort zone to be successful. I knew that I had to let go of that fear; that need to try and control every detail about my life. I had to find my hope and faith in this world again. As I began to tackle these barriers I found that I was becoming addicted to that change. It was refreshing, like a cold glass of lemonade on a hot summer day.
I was no longer spending all my time worrying about things I couldn’t control. I was instead focused on all the things I could change. I wanted to become a better person, husband, father, and professional. As this new direction of my life continued to emerge, I realized the harder I work the more change I saw. It has not been easy and I have failed a whole lot, but it did eventually become clear that I could make a living as a photographer. I became confident in my work and I finally felt like I deserved the title of photographer. Photography has been a great love affair in my life, one that has seen me through all my ups and downs, only to teach the most important lesson of all; follow your passion and chase your dreams!
This piece is for sale directly from the artist Price $400.00