It’s the nature of time to go too quickly. Maybe that’s one of the reasons photography works so well for me: in making time one of our raw materials we pay more attention to it, honouring it down to thousandths of a second, more present, more perceptive. I wish paying more attention slowed it down somewhat, and while it can’t seem to do that, it sure does deepen it. Every year I write a couple pages in my notebook, a looking-back on the year and the new chapters I’ve added to my story. It’s an exercise that makes me smile, brings back memories and refreshes my gratitude.
I began this year with Cynthia in Tsavo, a needed break to see part of Kenya I haven’t seen yet. We spent the week drenched in sunlight and birdsong before flying to the coast to sit by the ocean in Diani, read some books, and make a few photographs, before I headed north with the BOMA Project to continue our work photographing the Samburu, Rendille, and Turkana people with whom BOMA does such great work. Corwin and I bumped through the Kaisut desert, ingested a lot of dust and sand, drank a few warm Tuskers, swam in Lake Turkana, and visited my village where we slaughtered a camel and celebrated with them. I sat in a circle of Rendille elders while they re-told my story and prayed for me. One of the most alive moments of my life.
After Kenya I had time to clean my gear and re-adjust a little to the time zones before flying to Tokyo to join Martin Bailey for a couple weeks photographing in the cold north of Japan, mostly in Hokkaido. Many early mornings fumbling for vending machine coffee, and much sushi and sake in the evenings. In between there were snow monkeys and red-crowned cranes, eagles and swans, and beautiful snow-bound landscapes. There might also have been karaoke.
After Hokkaido I came home to warm up, wash some clothes, and get a little office work done before flying to Italy to spend the month exploring Venice and Liguria, eat some magnificent food, enjoy the company of friends, and run my Fuji XE-1 through its paces, only to discover to my shock that I didn’t miss my DSLR at all. We also celebrated two years without falling off a wall.
From Venice it was home to Vancouver to dust off my long lenses and rain-covers and head up the British Columbia coast to Prince Rupert where a float plane took me to the Ocean Light 2, a 72 foot ketch-rigged sailboat, one of only two boats permitted to take people into the estuary of the beautiful Khutzeymateen, a protected sanctuary for the Grizzly Bear. I spent a week there in the most intimate company of some beautiful bears, new friends, and the kind of noisy silence I’ve only found in the Pacific Northwest when it rains without ceasing.
I came home from the Khutz to sign the first shipment of my new book, SEVEN, putting to bed the hard work of creating my first limited edition fine-art book, and wondering what possessed me to promise to hand-sign and number 1000 books. But what a thrill to hold something you’ve made and are so proud of and know that a thousand of them will be on coffee tables around the world. Humbling. SEVEN started shipping at the end of May just as I was heading off to the CAPA conference in New Brunswick to share the podium with Freeman Patterson, a man who has been my mentor, unknowingly, since almost the day I picked up a camera. To sit with him and share wine, stories, and laughter, will long be one of my most beautiful and surreal moments.
July took me back to coastal British Columbia, to camp near Tofino and then fly north again to join the Ocean Light 2 again for a week in the Haida Gwaii. I came home just in time to pick up a different bag and head to Bali, Indonesia to speak at the What If? Conference.
August was spent preparing for, and beginning, what was to be a nomadic month in the Jeep photographing the Yukon. We got two weeks into the trip, found our rhythm, experienced the Sour-Toe Cocktail in Dawson City, then headed up the Dempster Hwy just in time to catch the most astonishing colours flame out across the landscape, and for me to drive an axe into my leg, just above the ankle, cutting short our trip and putting me back into a cast. I spent most of September and October re-thinking my position on chopping my own wood.
The end of October brought a week in Oaxaca, Mexico for the Within The Frame Oaxaca Adventure, still in a cast but grateful to be out and about. Then it was a road trip from Arizona to Vancouver, up the west-coast, and settling in for the coming of the holidays and the making of plans for Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania, a trip I begin tomorrow, January 01.
I’m conscious as I write this that I’m the luckiest man in the world. Client work and the growth of Craft & Vision over the last few years has given me the gift of work I love, a woman whom I met in Italy nearly 3 years ago and has my heart so completely it takes my breath away, and chances to see this world in a way many never will. I’m deeply, deeply grateful. As I said, time moves quickly, and I want to take in as much as I can before the shutter closes. Thank you so much, to all of you, for your encouragement, for your kindness when adventures go awry, for joining me on some of my travels, for reading my books, and this blog. I’ve been told often that people live vicariously through me, and I hope that’s a good thing, though it scares me a little. May 2014 be the year we all renew our search for new adventures; the year to do something that scares you, thrills you. Go watch The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (the new one). At one point there’s a photograph of Sean Penn’s character on the wall. He’s a photographer, Leica in hand, in an IDP camp in Africa. And as Mitty looks at the image it comes alive, animated for only a moment, but it gestures to him to come, invites him to stop watching other people’s stories, and to live his own. Consider for a moment, whatever that adventure is, that our lives are of uncertain length, but with the capacity to be of nearly infinite depth. Make the most of it.
From the bottom of my heart, you have my gratitude and love.
David, Dec.31, 2013