When I photographed my first major book project 15 years ago, I set out on a month-long, solo trip across the country. I had shoots scheduled in Oklahoma City, Santa Fe, Northern California and Denver. Beyond that, I was free to wander. Most of the trip was made on back roads rather than interstates. I stopped when I got hungry or tired, or saw something worth investigating. When I had seen enough wheat fields, I sought out a change of terrain. I detoured on side roads if they looked interesting (which once led to getting my car stuck in the sand more than a mile off of the Loneliest Highway in America in 100-plus-degree heat with no cell service). I took a circuitous route, visiting 10 national parks along the way. Sometimes I camped; other times I greeted hotel beds and warm showers with open arms.
Life is a lot like that. We have a few destinations in mind with key stops along the way, but it is often the unplanned ventures—the trips down those side roads—that are the most interesting, meaningful and memorable, whether they are joyous, curious or challenging. I find this especially true in my life and work as a visual artist (as compared to my days in the corporate world, where things were more structured and goal oriented). In particular, I am reminded of the quote:
“Not all who wander are lost.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien
On the one hand, I am very focused on refining my craft and my vision as a photographer. On the other, I am open to becoming a beginner again by trying my hand at other forms of art that might be integrated with photography. In the past few years, I have explored hand coloring, encaustic, book making and mixed-media collage. I especially love taking workshops, which allows me to get out of my usual physical space, to change my pace, to eliminate distractions, and to connect with other artists who willingly share ideas and techniques and make me wonder, “What if…?”
Does your work require more wandering or a clear direction? If you are a wanderer, do you feel as if you need more direction? If you have direction, do you wish you had more time to wander? Are you more comfortable with a routine or are you an adventurer? What can you do during your lunch break, evening or weekend to explore something new? I would love to hear your thoughts and stories!