The Why.

I was challenged this week to articulate the 'why'.  Why am I photographer?  Why am I sitting here on too few hours of sleep after a long day at a full-time job, knowing that I have a long night of processing ahead of me and a very full day at work tomorrow?  Why is it that I am not in bed, even though I've been looking forward to bedtime since I got up this morning?

Because I simply have to make this photography thing work.  It is me.  

I spent several years trying to figure out what to do with my life.  After more school and more degrees than most people really need, I discovered that what I thought I wanted to do was not the right path.  I wandered and waited patiently.  I knew IT would arrive.  I knew that when I found IT, I would recognize it and pour my whole self into making a career of it.  A few years ago, photography came along and here we are.

Since at least junior high, if not before, I wanted to be an archaeologist.  No, not a paleontologist (though that's pretty cool, too!), an archaeologist.  If you look at the yearbook from my senior year of high school, there is a little 'what do you want to be when you grow up?' section.  My entry reads: Archaeologist with PhD.  BAM.  17 years old and ready to embark on the long path to a PhD.  

In college, I started taking archaeology and anthropology classes right away and never doubted my path.  I was fortunate that my mediocre AP exam scores from high school allowed me to place out of most of the general education requirements, so my schedule was almost completely free for me to take whatever I wanted and explore a variety of fields.  I came out with an Honors BA in Anthropological Archaeology and a BA in Studio Art.  

Graduate school.  I spent three years working on a Master's in Anthropological Archaeology and a certificate in Museum Studies.  I came out of grad school positively knowing a couple things: 

1 - Although I LOVE archaeology, the baggage that comes with life in academia (i.e., the politics and publish or perish mentality) was just too much for me.

2 - Although I LOVE archaeology, it is detached from the world in a way because its existence is based on the past.  There is no interaction with people.  Yes, the fieldwork is fantastic, but when you get back, you spend night and day alone in a lab.  I stated to think that cultural anthropology would be a better fit because it would allow me to interact with people on a much deeper level.

3 - Although I LOVE archaeology, it's a luxury field (proven recently by The Powers That Be at FSU who are dismantling the department I got my MA from) and doesn't benefit most people.  I do think it is important and that there are situations when the archaeological record and proper decoding of it is hugely beneficial for a small group, but for most people it's a 'hey, that's cool' moment and nothing more.  I wanted to do something with my life that touched people.  That gave them something.

When I finished my master's degree, I left the field.  Bye bye PhD.  I spent a couple years teaching English in Czech Republic, I started a job here in Gainesville, Florida at a very cool startup tech company, and just patiently waited for 'IT' to show itself.

And now here we are.  I have found photography.  It is an art (one degree, check!).  It is an opportunity to meet the people in my community, to tell stories, and document moments in people's lives.  In this way it is anthropology.  It gives people the opportunity to appreciate each other and simply being together, and it gives them a permanent reminder of the moments they share.  It touches people.

It is amazing that something like this even exists, something that allows me to combine these different parts of myself.  So why am I doing this?  Because I have to.  It is me.  I am an anthropological artist.  I am a photographer.

Ethel Weaver.  Taken in her home in early 2009.  She was 96.

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