When you're elbow-deep in the clay of keeping a business going, you sometimes lose sight of what it was that made you want to start this adventure at all. I recently spent some time going through some old stuff, and came across some work I had done over 20 years ago. They were images I had taken in a high-school photography class. As I looked at each one, I realized there was a story behind every photograph. Some were of abstract textures, some were of friends, and some came from a homemade pinhole camera. Looking at them made me think of my art teacher, Mr. Harding, and his desire for me to look at life from a different perspective. He challenged me everyday to see things in a new way. From rolling my own film (in the dark, with my eyes closed) to photographing a rusty nail from every conceivable angle, he opened the door of creative thinking for me. He loved art and beauty, and in turn, made me love it too. He would let me spend hours after school in the darkroom, mixing chemical baths and poring over images I developed, with a quick high-five and a "Don't forget to lock up when you're done." He would critique me when my work sucked, and praise me when he knew I had given him everything I had. He loved pushing the boundaries, and would get excited when his students thought outside the box. During my reminiscing, I thought, "I'm going to find Mr. Harding, and thank him for challenging me to work harder." So I went online, and after a lot of digging, unfortunately found that he had passed away almost 10 years ago. He was 69 years old. My heart sank. My chance to tell him was gone. I wallowed in the sadness of it for a few days, but then I realized that he had spent more than half his life doing what he loved as a career. He taught art for 37 years, motivating so many people to see life differently. He had a gift, and he embraced it.
So here's to you, Mr. Harding. I'm forever indebted to you. Thank you for teaching me how to make a working camera out of paper. Thank you for letting me use countless rolls of film to capture that perfect image. Thank you for enouraging me to push my own limits, and embrace beauty in the common and unusual. Thank you for showing me how to see shadows, and, most importantly, how to find the light.