The tragedy and the whirlwind that led to here – or how a fall inspired my leap to keep that “spark” alive!
Part 1: The First Threads of My Youth
Where to begin? Well since this is my introductory newsletter I suppose I should start at the beginning. Are you ready for an origin story? If you are then read on!
I think my life is a story best explained as a metaphor of threads that have woven, over time, into the complex tapestry that is now me. So lets start with a brief little story about the first origin threads of my youth and see where it goes, shall we?
Lets begin with the first thread that I think started in the womb – I’ll call it the “spark”:
In the beginning I believe I must been born with an “artistic spark” or “muse” in the womb. I think it came from my mother who has an eye for painting and drawing and a natural inclination toward interior design. But she didn’t really cultivate her art beyond anything more then an amateur’s flirting with a muse. She was raised on a farm in Virginia and escaped to the city where she met my father, a Texas flyboy from WW-2, and soon was too busy being a homemaker raising a family of six to give much attention to art. But I do believe she passed that spark on to me at birth and as the saying goes “you can take the boy out of the country but not the country out of the boy” I feel art and creativity are just a part of me as much as my eyes are blue.
This thread led to an early blossoming of my artistic talents – The artful blossom of youth and the discovery of my creative muse. We’ll call this one the (artful) “muse”:
And as it were, early on I found I had a natural affinity to drawing, painting and making small sculptures out of clay and would spend hours doing so. Once I started elementary school I naturally gravitated toward art classes where I would excel without much effort. And it was thus that in my early years I naturally cultivated that initial spark into a small youthful fire. During this period (5-15 years) I accumulated many small artistic achievements along the way from multiple sketch books to various art projects from linoleum cutouts to sculpting and pottery, etc. But I think I also discovered that my gravitation to art was not all fun and games. At times there was a solitary lonely boy there too who found solace and escape from the difficulties of my family, school and the world in creation and art. It was a dance with my muse, at times ugly, dark and foreboding and, at other times, beautiful, light and liberating. The muse embodied both shadow and light – like night and day both were important and one could not exist without the other. From the depth of this soulful dance with my muse both my art and creativity did blossom. At the time I didn’t know what to call it but now I call it the “Tao of Light”. It is the soul source of all things.
Then the second thread started to weave itself with the first – A fascination with numbers (and later math): We’ll call this one the “mathematician”:
Around this same time I also realized I had an natural affinity for numbers. But “realization” is probably not the right word as much as maybe I just enjoyed playing with numbers like multiplying and dividing and then there was algebra, geometry and trigonometry that enthralled me! Numbers for me were like art. They both came naturally and I didn’t really know why but I could spent lots of time immersed in both happy as a clam at high tide! My fascination with numbers and later, math entertained my mind and feed my curiosity and would one day lead me to becoming a mechanical engineer.
And then a third thread found it’s way into the weave – A natural desire to document the world. Let’s call this one the “documentarian”:
Also during this period I discovered I was a bit of a documentarian. Of course I didn’t call myself that at the time but I had a real obsession to document happenings around me. It started out with a tape recorder which I used to record the happenings of my family at big events like Birthday parties and Christmas, etc. I literally spent hours and hours interviewing and recording them! Later on, after I purchased my first camera, this impulse would find its way into my photography where I naturally gravitated toward documenting the world around me. To this day I call my photography a mix of artistic intention and an impulse to document.
And now the fourth thread wove itself in – A fascination with the mystery of light (and a nascent interest in science). We’ll call this one the “scientist”
My first introduction to cameras happened when I got my hands on an old Rolleiflex hand-me down from my Grandmother probably around the age of 11 or 12. My initial fascination with it was with the optics of the viewfinder where you could look down into this transformed reflected view of the exterior world. I knew nothing about cameras and didn’t have film for this old camera but it endlessly fascinated me in a similar way as prisms ability to refract light into individual colors. I spent hours and hours marveling at the magic of the optical phenomena contained in this old camera as well as with prisms and magnifying lenses. Light was cool, fascinating and mysterious! But more then that I wanted to understand it and how it worked. What made the white light from the sun splinter into colors? Why was it possible to project through a hand held magnifying lens the reverse image of a scene onto a white page? I think beyond my adolescent fascination with light a young scientist was finding his voice and wanted to understand why behind the mystery?
And finally, the fifth thread made the weave – The discovery of “The Church of The Mountains”. This one I think we will call the “priest” (of the mountains)
At the age of 16 my family moved to Salt Lake City, Utah where during my first week in July 1977 I hiked Ensign peak (in the Wasatch mountains just north of Salt Lake City, Utah). From there I got the most amazing vista of my young life. It was of the Salt Lake valley stretching as far as the eye could see – 10 to 50 miles in some directions. To the west the Great Salt Lake, to the south Mt Timpangous and to the east, the mountains at the heart of the Wasatch range. In all my short life, I had never seen mountains of such grandness and beauty with open vistas sweeping as far has the eye could see into the mysterious distances. The view enthralled me and spoke to my heart in ways it had never been spoken to before. A deep love affair was born that day though I would not have called it that at the time. I just knew I was inspired by this extraordinary and sublime vista and was deeply touched by all the beauty, awe and adventure it offered my youthful heart. During that life altering moment a love affair started with the mountains and nature and it is as strong now as it was on that day so long ago. My feelings for the natural world, especially as it is manifest in the mountains, has only grown and runs deep with love, gratitude and reverence. My connection with the mountains, in particular, has always been deeply spiritual and some of my most sacred moments in life have been by inspired by divine revelations received during. for instance, the glory of a sunset or a breaking winter’s storm. Over the course of time, I’ve come to realize that I had discovered my spiritual home and it is called “The Church of the Mountains”.
These 5 first threads began to weave themselves into a tapestry that led me, in the spring of 1978, to use the meager earnings from my first ever job to purchase my first ever “real” camera, a Minolta film SLR! But, of course, there is more threads yet to be woven into the tapestry of this story, so, if you are curious, stay tuned!
Part 2: The Weaving of The Tapestry (To be continued in the next newsletter)
With warmest regards,
TAO of Light Photography
Newsletter Issue No 1
“Celebrating the Extraordinary and Sublime Moment”