BEAUTY & DECAY Stories from the Road Part I “The Conception”

IN SEARCH OF

 

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road’ll take you there” 

George Harrison

“Life isn’t about finding yourself, It’s about creating yourself”  

George Bernard Shaw

 

About eight months ago in the winter of 2013 while sitting at work attempting to figure out why I had become so bitter,  jaded,  lost,  lonely and just plain unhappy with the way the past year had been and why I thought, in retrospect, about  certain choices I had made that I thought were initially good ones,  but were in fact contributing to my dying spirit, poor health and negative attitude. I had the same thought that probably everyone reading this post has had from one time or another; ” I just need to get away from everything.” I would sit at work in the wee hours of my non-creative and rather dull, uninspiring night shift job that I initially thought was a good move for me after twenty two years as a mental health therapist and think about literally going out for a coffee break and just continuing to drive and drive and drive. I wondered if anyone except for my kids would even stir up any fuss If I simply did not return. But, alas, I have a sense of committment, maturity and responsiblity that kept me grounded in my pit of self pity. I made the move to this new night shift job after a twenty two year career as a mental health therapist out of a need for change. A change I thought best for financial reasons, job stability, less stress and finally to just chill a bit and focus on my creativity and my photography as well as my goal of opening a studio and making a living at what I really felt I was meant to do.  Man, as I sat at work each night thinking of ways to escape I began to take stock in what I did have that was sitting right under my nose. Number one, my amazing and supportive family whom I too often take for granted, my kids who are so wonderful and creative as well and realizing I have so much to teach them. Number two, my creativity and love for the arts, culture and deep thinking and desire to inspire others (even though this can be a double edged sword for me and a great source of inner turmoil..I haven’t lobbed my ear off yet). Lastly, the fact that I have a job with decent health care and benefits that provide me with the bland and basic opportunity to provide for those I care about when so many are out of work and struggling,  even though it is at this point quite non-fullfilling in the rewards department.

I was and have been for some time on a quest to find myself, re-invent myself or maybe simply, to just start over. I had become jaded and cynical with photography. I was not able to schedule sessions like I had wanted due to my night shift schedule. I had a significant lack of energy or drive to force myself to shoot anything or even get out of bed.  I was angry at people around me for no good reason other than a misguided perception that “I should be doing this, I paid LOTS of dues and have been in this game a long time, ” LOL…yeah right”. I wasn’t  sure if it was plain old fashioned jealousy, envy or what but often found myself wondering why so many had jumped on the same bandwagon as me in an attempt to make a living doing what I loved while I could not, or just wanted to share the limelight and recognition. Who know’s ? I had stopped caring about myself, my health, my interests and felt as if I were just going through the motions. I did not even want to create. I wanted to sleep, or escape or something or nothing.  

 

“No one can make you feel inferior unless you give consent” Eleanor Roosevelt

This was the begining of my 6500 mile “escape” down old Route 66 and through the American southwest that took me and my friend Andy Wheeler through 16 states in thirteen days. Andy has been one of my greatest mentors and reality checkers for me along with my other great long lost pal Gary Lougher. They both tell it how it is but do it in a way that kicks my ass and I can understand. They are both supportive, creative, critical, thinkers, listeners, and have been where I am. They can be harsh at times and say things I don’t want to hear but the advice I recieve from them along with my mother and my wife, continue to help me keep things in perspective and focus on me and not anybody else.

One long night several months ago while I was chatting with Andy and spilling my unplanned secrets of escaping and just getting in my car and driving across the country with nothing but my camera, a wad of cash and maybe some clean underwear, he again reigned me back in to partial reality with plans to “just do it.” with the emphasis on “PLANS”. We began talking about diferent places to visit. Routes, scenic locations and destinations and really make an epic project out of this “escape”. After several weeks of talking and changing plans we compromised on a planned trip to drive the abandoned Route 66 and visit the National Parks of the southwest.  As Andy and I are both into the abandoned and decaying, as well as landscape photography, this seemed to fit the bill. Andy and I unfortunately had a phototrip last fall through Gettysburg and the Shenendoah Mountains cut short so we made sure this trip would become a reality. Andy busted his ass on the planning end of this trip, having been to the southwest prior on two separate occasions, he knew the places he wanted to re-visit and wanted to show me. He asked me for ideas along Route 66 and we began mapping out our trip. The Stuck on Earth app was a great tool for my iPad in aiding  with finding hidden gems and locations along our trip including spots in Oklahoma and Shamrock, Texas.

After starting a Kickstarter campaign, both Andy and I began hitting the web and media hard promoting this trip to gain sponsors and backers for this photo project. Our fund goal was $5,500 to make this project a reality as well as fullfill our print obligations to our generous backers and supporters. We ended up with a final total of about $6,200 to aid in this photo-adventure project that would capture and share the beauty and decay of America while traveling old Route 66 as well as visiting the natural decay and beauty of the southwest that has been naturally occuring since the begining of time. The Grand Canyon and Arches National Parks remain stunning examples of natures combination of simultaneous beauty and decay.

In my next segment, Part II ~ The Journey Begins, I will go into more detail of each specific location and photoshoots along our 6500 mile trip through 16 states including New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa. I will share adventures we shared in the National Parks such as Zion, The Grand Canyon and Arches and how this project was  almost a near miss as we came two days close to not being able to visit the national parks due to the government shutdown. Fortunately, we recieved news while driving through Texas that the state of Utah had agreed to pay for their national parks to open for one week while the government remained on hiatus. As luck, or fate would have it, the parks opened the week we were scheduled to arrive.   I will also offer photos from our project for both viewing and purchase and give a glimpse into where I am today on my personal journey.

Stayed tuned for more Beauty and Decay, Stories From the Road.

https://www.louisqphotography.com