The Art of Taking Breaks: Part 1

Long story short, I’ve taken an extended break from trying to make a career out of photography. But I’m back, making images and trying new things; which is what art is all about..

The backstory:

In early 2009, after nearly completing my Associate of the Arts in photography at Cypress College, and a tumultuous marriage in which I was way too young to enter into and had no idea what I was doing, my life was essentially upside down. I was struggling, and continued to struggle for the next 7 or 8 months. This period of time really precluded me from focussing on creating good art and building the self confidence necessary to put myself out there.

The back-backstory:

I enlisted in U.S. Coast Guard in the year 2000 at age 17. I was so young that my parents had to legally release me so I could take the oath. I spent four years in the Coast Guard, traveling from New Jersey to Northern California to Valdez, Alaska, and finally settling in San Diego on the USCGC CHASE over the course of 8 months. Moving to San Diego probably saved me from ending my enlistment early, and possibly saved my life. I spent a little more than 3 years on the ship. I was extremely fortunate to travel, during that time, to Ecuador, Costa Rica, and several of the resort cities in Mexico, as well as the cities of Kodiak, Dutch Harbor, and St. Paul, Alaska. This was such a great experience, but alas the sailor life was not for me (though, I still consider myself a sailor).

When I initially joined the Coast Guard, my goal was to qualify for the G.I Bill so I could receive money for college. And, that’s sort of how it happened. During my enlistment, I achieved the job rating of Machinery Technician 3rd Class. This led me to a career as a mechanic working in public transportation and fixing and maintaining buses. It was an interesting job. I was really lucky to be hired by someone who I am still in contact with today, even though each of us have been employed by several different companies over the last 10 years. I still consider him to be a mentor and he always has advice that is objective and often fills in the blanks about the transit industry, and even life in general. Everyone should have a person like this in their life other than their parents.

Photography:

I took my first photo class at Los Alamitos HighSchool with Mrs. Jeannine Ball. Mrs. Ball has been an inspiration to thousands of students, and her enthusiasm for the art has propelled many students to successful photography careers. I wouldn’t have the level of interest I have today without her. During the class, she offered 20 extra credit points to any student who entered the local Los Alamitos City Photography contest. I entered with a photo titled Point of View of an Ant. It was a black and white photo of the bottom of a friends shoe that was about to make contact with the ground. I don’t remember specifically what the assignment was, and looking at the photo today doesn’t give me any clues as to what it might have been. I do know that looking at the photo today, while the concept was there, the execution (in my estimation) was not.

Nonetheless, I spent a number of hours in the darkroom printing this photo, trying to achieve the proper contrast and exposure. The photo submitted for the contest never even made it into a frame. It was submitted at the last minute (literally 15 minutes before closing), and was mounted to 1/16 inch (not even remotely close to acid-free) art board. In the end, I was shocked to be awarded 1st prize in the “Creative/Technical” category for ages 16 and up. When I told Jeannine that I won, her reaction was priceless and one that I will never forget.

By this time, I had already signed the paperwork to join the Coast Guard, and my last summer truly as a kid was about to commence. Photography was now a thing of the past.

Commence break number 1.

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