Alive By It

I have loved this quote since the day I read it:

"Photographers may or may not make a living by photography, but they are alive by it." - Robert Adams

Then, I came across these stories from Zack Arias' blog. Unbelievable. My fiance told me that my photography should not define me. That at one point in time, if God asked me to drop my camera and all of my photography -- I could do it. Can I? Could I pursue something else in life that keeps me up at night? That makes me anxious and excited to do?

If you aren't reading all of them, at least read this one:

I write this from the coffee shop where I was with Samantha the day she told me she quit her job. Her corporate job. Her well paying corporate job. She told me she couldn’t do it anymore or perhaps more accurately — she couldn’t not do photography anymore. Samantha had enjoyed her life behind a camera for decades. Arguably since the day she was born. Now, she told me, she was going to do it.

She was very clear about this.

I thought she had lost her freaking mind.

Before and since this day at the coffee shop I have watched friends and strangers alike admire Samantha’s work. But, since that day I have seen what so many of her admirers do not – the incomprehensible sacrifices she makes to do it.

I have seen her sell her furniture, her possessions, her car, her bed. I have watched her not go out. Not get another drink. I have watched her knowing that she knows, that corporate job, that stable paycheck – are all a phone call away. In the times where I feel she might just put everything on Craig’s List I have tried mentioning this to her. I mention the 401K, the health insurance, the stability, the stress free lifestyle, the SALARY.

But, Samantha – just puts more things on Craig’s List.

Recently, her house went up there.

This is Samantha.

Samantha is true. True to herself. True to others. True to her art. It is through the camera that Samantha shows the world her (and other’s) truth and I feel there is no better representation of this truth and this honesty with which she lives than with her — Project. A project that records the last moments of living. A project in which she takes photographs of those in hospice, those who have been diagnosed as terminally ill, and those who, at times, have only hours remaining in their lives.

When she told me about this project it seemed painful, morbid, desperately awkward. Then she told me the story of seeing her mother in the hospital. When her mother was in the hospital undergoing chemotherapy for lung cancer Samantha went home to see her. When she walked in the hospital, she saw her mother lying in bed. Her mother was bald. She had tubes sticking out of her. Samantha burst into tears. Her mother looked at her – and smiled. In this moment Samantha understood sickness and death are scariest for those who watch it. It was this moment that inspired the —- Project.
Samantha does the —- Project to bring social awareness to end of life care. She does it because she sees profound beauty and peace where most would only see death. She does it because she believes in living. Because she believes in life. She does it because she believes there is as much life in the first breath as there is in the last. She does it because she believes in each moment of life and because she wants more than anything to record the beauty of these moments.

Samantha will not accept money for this project and as such finances are tight. She is not able to be with her family in Italy for the holidays. I would love nothing more than to give Samantha something to open on Christmas that would not only support her as a photographer but would celebrate how Samantha lives her life and how she unabashedly celebrates, in all of its stages, the lives of so many others.

Her photography does not define her. Her passion for celebrating life, her challenges and victories, and finding beauty define her.

So I propose to you to figure out what defines you. Because if one day you are forced to put your camera away (or whatever it is that is with you always, any piece of technology), you will need that to keep you alive. I am alive by photography, but it does not keep me alive.