So as much as I dislike it it’s been brought to my attention that I need to talk about myself. I’m honestly not very great at it because I care more about sharing my work and how I’m pushing it then anything else. So let’s start from the beginning of my photography journey.
Back in 2016 I was working on a Netflix movie called “Our Souls at Night” we had an early morning shoot with the B-Roll team and I was working Locations so had to be on site to manage. As B-Roll team was driving up the hill at Cottonwood Pass I happened to see people taking pictures of the mountains during sunrise and decided to take a couple snaps myself. It was really the first time I thought I might actually have a knack for doing photography. It was my original inspiration. See the picture below.
After that movie I bought my first decent camera a Sony a6300. I played around trying to do portraits and understand photography for around 6 months after the movie was over. It wasn’t until I was trying to shoot fire performers (as I have several friends who do circus work) that I stumbled across the work of Eric Pare with his light paintings and basically became obsessed from that moment on. This is one of my first attempts at a light painting with my dear friend Hannah. This was in the summer of 2017.
Coincidentally at the same time I came into light painting I also had my first symptoms of cancer. I certainly didn’t know it at the time but the slight pain in my leg that I would get when I was active would grow to become something entirely worse. With what started out as a minor nuisance grew to be a big problem. Becoming lower back pain, GI pressure, and nerve damage to my leg from the tumor pressing down on my internal organs. During this time I was only focused on tube light painting as I wanted to try and master a specific style before I moved onto other light painting tools.
In September of that same year I had a trip planned to New York City to visit my friend Rachel and learn from my favorite dance photographer Jordan Matter. The amount of agony I endured on the plane is kind of ridiculous. I had a layover and was lying down using a heating pad in outlet just to try and ease the pain, and I thought I had like pulled something. While I was there I made some custom tubes that I bought from Home Depot as all my tubes were custom and I learned how to make my own light painting tubes from Eric Pare Youtube videos. I did some light painting with friends while I was there and it was truly a great first time experience. It was also during that time that I noticed my stomach couldn’t hold as much food as I was used to and it was very confusing. Here is a light painting picture that I did while I was there.
After my trip to New York City I came back home and was still just as miserable and after trying the chiropractor, acupuncture, and every other non traditional medicine I decided I would actually start seeing a doctor. I remember the moment when they weighed me that instead of the 133 pounds that I normally weighed I was 112. That was a big shock to me and I think I remember mentioning to one of the nurses there but she didn’t react so I didn’t think it was a big deal. The doctors took some blood draws and such and I went on my way and was supposed to check back in, in two weeks.
Honestly, I didn’t have time for that. I would go to work as usual be miserable and then go home and lay in bed trying to just survive. I was living at home at the time and my parents would come in and were so worried. Rightly so. They convinced me to go to the emergency room (which honestly is such a misnomer because I thought it was only for emergencies but ok) and once I was checked in they took me for a CT scan and admitted me basically immediately. I remember the moment the doctor and a nurse were looking at the CT scan and the nurse couldn’t find the tumor because she was looking for something small and not something that was MASSIVE. Here is a picture of that scan. That thing circled in red is the tumor. You basically can’t see my stomach. It’s been smushed. You can see a tiny bit of it in the yellow circle.
At the time however we didn’t know it was cancer and I has to wait over the weekend in the hospital for a weekday because they didn’t do biopsy’s over the weekend. Finally on Monday I had a biopsy and by I believe Wednesday I had the beautiful and literal rude awakening at six in the morning that I had cancer.
It was a tough next three months as I didn’t have much energy and I could barely walk most of the time but when chemo was finally over I started to feel pretty normal again. It wasn’t soon after that I started to light painting again as I had been starved the past 3 months. I got a couple of shoots in and then had to go to surgery to finally remove what was left of the cancer. After the 9 hour surgery I had to recover in the hospital for a week which was miserable. The tumor was the size of a banana (around 7 inches long) it had shrunk due to the chemo. I have a picture but it’s pretty gross. A couple months later I was hiking in Arches National Park and created one of my favorite images to this day.
After something like cancer you can imagine that you want to do all the things. And I did, but not really. It honed my focus more on what I want to do and how I can push light painting. People told me that my hyper focus would fall over time and it waxes and wanes sure but I’m still looking towards the goal on how I can get to where I want to be. And nothing is stopping me.