Why Travel Photography
|Cobblestone and Brick Street, Boston, MA. October 2016.|
Travel changes me. It's not just a trip, not just a vacation. I'm not just a tourist doing touristy things. Every time I travel, I am profoundly impacted and deeply changed. A part of me is never the same. I travel to learn, to grow, to be changed, and to change every place I visit. I love seeing new sights, exploring new places, learning about the history and culture of things once foreign to me. I people-watch. I try to blend in after observing cultural mannerisms. I want to understand what makes the people tick, and to hear the heart beat of the place I'm in.
Even traveling to different parts of the United States is very eye-opening. There are so many different cultures, value systems, and ways of living. Being from the Midwest, I hold a set of values and life lessons that are distinct from other parts of the country. I carry these values with me wherever I go, even when I don't realize it. In my perception, those from the Midwest tend to nod more, smile at strangers, and go out of our way to be socially acceptably nice. As fabulous as we hold these values to be, they do not always transfer meaning into other parts of the country, and world. Big city values can be different than big country values.
As well as values, life styles vary greatly across the map as well. Thinking about how some people experience things others will never experience expands my mind in ways I never thought possible. There are people who have never ridden the subway or used public transportation. Others have never driven or owned a vehicle. Some have never seen the stars, others have never heard the ocean roar. There are people who live their entire lives in one place, and others who never put down roots. People live in tiny apartments, stacked close together in rows and rows on city streets. People live in wide open spaces, where they can't see another building for miles, between rows and rows of crops.
There are so many differences in people and places, that it amazes and overwhelms me. I desire to learn, to take it all in. I want my world to be as vast as the ocean and as small as grain of sand. There are so many people. So very many people.
When I plan a trip, along with trying to blend in, I do also plan to do the touristy things. I take the bus/trolley tours, with the puny and knowledgeable tour guides. I see the sights, I walk around. I listen, I learn, I photograph. These activities also add value to my time exploring as a traveler. It isn't just a time of tourism; it is also a time of great learning. Learning about the history of a place teaches me about the people living there. What do they value? What do they hold dear? What are the great historic markers in the area? How was the town/city/village founded/settled/survive? What is the main form of transportation? How does the area make a living? These key components tell a story that is rich and complex and compelling. And I am a captive audience.
A ball park is just a place people play baseball. Unless it is where your grandfather and father grew up on Saturday afternoons. Then it becomes a part of your story. A college is just a place of higher learning, unless its leaders and graduates change the world. A harbor is just a body of water surrounded by land, unless it was a part of the history of building a new nation. Unless its shoreline whispered promises of hope and a better future for the immigrants seeking a new life. All these stories ruminate together, painting a picture of the landscape and heart of its people. This is why I travel. Once you feel the heartbeat of another time and place, you are forever changed. Forever impacted.
Yes, I have a heart for photography. But deeper still, I have a heart to capture the essence of an area. I want to capture the rich and vast history of our nation, specifically, but of every place I travel. Preserving history and telling the stories of our cities, towns, and countryside creates a better understanding and awareness of where we came from. The struggle, the fight, the triumphs, are all a part of us, a part of our country, and a part of who we are as a nation, and as individuals.
I don't want to take my life for granted, nor take my freedoms nor my country for granted. This life, these freedoms, weren't handed to me on a silver platter. They were fought for, battled over, and sacrificed beyond anything I can fathom. These struggles and sacrifices were made to create and maintain our great nation. I want to raise awareness of the vastness and richness of our history, and of the people who went before us, paving a way for future unknown generations to live out their destinies.
From the Irish potato farmer who traveled thousands of miles over sea, to the pioneer who left security and blazed a trail out west, people, individuals, built lives that form the foundation we stand upon today. Preserving that history for future generations is of the utmost importance. But more important, is capturing it in a way that those generations can appreciate and admire, gaining a better understanding of what has been given to them to guard, protect, cherish, and improve upon.
This is why I travel, and why I am drawn to photograph the places I visit. I was not meant to simply live in one place all my days. I was destined to see all I can see, listen intently, and retell the tales I learn along the way. My photographs tell the stories that can't be put into words. I am not simply a tourist out for a good time; I am a story teller, a historian, a traveler. I am a weaver of time and words and images, preserving what I see for others to partake. Not all are called to wander, but all are called to learn. May my travels, my collection of history, and my photographs connect time and people together, impacting and changing others forever.