Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Reflecting on the past

In my room at home I have this box.  I've always had it, but I have never spent any time looking through it.  Its old, an old Ariat boot box, probably 16"x24".  Inside the box are photographs.  I started this box (not this actual one, but the idea) when I was about ten years old and have continued to add to it ever since.  Now almost eleven years later it is nearly full.  The idea that there will ever be a way to quantify a person's experiences, or immortalize them through the recordings of the experience is a daunting thought, but that seems to be what this box is.  Despite the more sophisticated ways to store photos like frames or photo albums, I clearly realized early on that these photographs were so much more than the click of a shutter, there were a snapshot of a moment in time, a moment of my life. A tangible way to look back and reflect on the past long after the experience becomes cloudy in the mind.  Photos are a way to remember the best times, but also a way to remind yourself of the way things once were.

Since the day I started riding I have encountered hundreds of horses.  Maybe more.  While I don't remember all of their names, I do have a fairly easy time recalling the experiences surrounding each photo. I went to different camps, rode horses in Honduras, Peru, Dominican Republic, England, Ireland.    Like humans, each horse is different.  Looks different, acts different, has a unique personality.  The more I learn about different horses the more I love thinking about the ones I knew in the past as well.  

The photos in my box are in no particular order.  Far from it.  I actually purposely shuffle them when I get bored.  There is chronology to time and experience but there doesn't need to be chronology to remembering it.  When there is it is too easy to simply only recall and reflect on the best memories.  If we never consider the negatives in our past then we are doomed to repeat our same mistakes.  Life is a constant battle to improve and be better than we were the day before and I think when it becomes easier and easier to be better, we feel the success we deserve.  

Since we are moving this spring, and I am forced to pack up my room that has collected the brunt of my life experiences over the past 15 years, and in turn I have been spending a lot of time reflecting on the past.  Its easier to just ignore the past, but hey, where is the fun in that?  

I picked a few photos out of my box at random, and interestingly enough I just picked up completely different experiences.  The first, surprisingly, is of me with Juan Carlos, one of the boys I developed the closest relationship with when I spent a month in Honduras last year.  We are hugging and both look at peace.  Anyone who knows me knows that my month in Honduras was unlike anything I had ever experienced despite many trips to other countries and many experiences that should have prepared me, and one day I will return.  

The next photo I picked out is of two polo players chasing the ball down the field at top speed in the first polo match I had ever watched.  This was out in Bridgehampton where money is anything but scarce, and each player has at least eight mounts in order to be successful in the six chukker match.  

The third photo is of my brother and the other guy he was captain of his Lawrenceville lacrosse team with, and their coach.  The photo was taken at the end of their 20-0-0 season, after my brother led his team to a perfect record and state championship.  This was the last game in his high school career, and also the day when he broke the school record for the number of goals and assists in a student's varsity lacrosse career.  Looking back its interesting to consider the relationship I had with him then and the relationship we have now.  Time grows relationships, and my brother makes me a better person everyday. 

Next is a photo of my old riding trainer, one who I still and hopefully always will maintain a friendship with.  The photo is simple and poorly composed, but was taken when I was about thirteen years old.  The look on Gloria's face tells me she was not looking to have her picture taken at all!  But on Friday, I have a photo shoot set up with Gloria and the mare she has owned for over ten years.  I will have the opportunity to immortalize their bond in a set of photographs, almost eight years after our first encounter. 

The Big Ben in London is a critical sight for any tourist in London, and the double decker red bus is an everyday sight.  However, this photo wasn't taken on my most recent excursion to London, but rather when I was twelve and spent three days there prior to heading to Ireland for a riding camp in Limerick.  I spent the time in London sightseeing with my best friend at the time, Kate, and we both spent the following week loving our lives, and riding some of the nicest horses we had ever sat on.  

The next photo is an 8x10 in black and white that marks the beginning of my photography education.  Printed in the darkroom, this image was taken during a rally for Darfur in New York City during my Junior year of high school.  The poster the man is holding says "Amnesty International"  "Protect the People"  "UN Peacekeepers for Darfur".  In the background is a huge poster on stage that says Save Darfur NOW.   Its amazing to reflect on this and think about the lack of publicity surrounding the genocide that is STILL going on.  While I don't believe its the job of the United States to step in every time another country has a conflict, especially with the multitude of issues within our own system, the UN said after the Holocaust that we would never let this happen again.  Does that just mean we won't let it ever happen again to a first world country?  Can you put a value on a human life? 

The more I reflect on my different experiences the more I realize the much of my life has been spent behind the camera, and I wouldn't trade that for anything, because despite that fact I do believe I have lived in the action as well.  I enjoy nothing more than composing the perfect image, or capturing the chaos behind disaster.  I love sending a message, but at the same time I also love capturing a moment that a person will cherish for the rest of their lives.  We never know when our circumstances will change in life, and without knowing that we can do nothing but live to the fullest every second of everyday.  

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