The Forest In Spite of the Trees

Photography and I are in a fight.

I love her, but she isn’t giving me what I want, what I thought I would be getting. Photography is a bitch and I hate her… But also, I never want her to leave.

Let me explain…

Leave it to Jerusalem Greer to instil big-sisterly advice without even knowing it. Geese, being the youngest sibling isn’t really something you can just un-shelf at family functions. Damn. 

Couple of weeks ago, amid shoots and client meetings, I managed to get my hands on a real life, physical, omgIwillholditsotightitsmellssogood, copy of the book. The Book, y’all! It’s flippin’ real! (If you have no idea what I am talking about go HERE).

by Jerusalem Jackson Greer

A Homemade Year

Anyway, I went out of town and didn’t get a chance to sit down and really pour through it until Saturday afternoon. Of course in the process of my dear sister writing it, I had read bits and pieces as I composed the images and such, but for obvious reasons I hadn’t gotten to really focus on the text as carefully as the imagery. So I was proud, but not at all surprised, to find that not only did the woman mastermind a visual feast of creative inspiration and communion, but amid the recipes and crafting instructions (which she knows are so NOT my thing lol)  my sister had written a fantastic narrative of familiar prose – vulnerable and frank stories of her real, messy, and wonderific journey through faith and practice and just adulthood, really. I love my sister, and I definitely think what she has to say about life comes from a very valid place; reading her words or talking to her often leads to “ah ha” moments, and darn it if she didn’t get me again. Over a year after the words were written, I read them exactly when I needed to. It was the chapter about Shrove Tuesday and the importance of confession. I wasn’t struck in particular by that chapter though I liked it, so when it gave me that truthy tingle (the precursor to the ah-ha moments usually) I was kind of like “Hmm, that’s odd.” and went about my merry way. But of course, as I laid in bed last night trying to sleep it came to me. How it’s connected. Why I can’t get that word out of my head. Shrove. Shrive. Confess.

Confession is about community. It’s not about getting rid of anything, it’s about getting help for what you can’t get rid of even if that help is just a nodding head or a hand to hold.


Last night I said awful things. Last night I confessed how I have been feeling about my photography work. The work I fought so hard to train for, the work I have been doing for 4 years now, the work I have poured myself into for what feels like ages.

My roommate, Jason, bless him, listened to me patiently and let me say things out loud that I have been so afraid to say. For me, confessing a fear or a weakness or a doubt is the most terrifying idea in the universe, so maybe it was a couple too many sips of wine (ok, it was gin) or maybe it was just my sister’s words in my head, but I confessed. And now I’ll share it with you, because you may need a nodding head too.

Photography is exhausting right now. And I feel so guilty, because I don’t do enough actual photography to be able to even claim real exhaustive effort. It’s just emotionally draining. For absolutely no reason. Isn’t that the stupidest most frustrating thing you have ever heard of?

I have been hiding out from my work out of laziness, or is it lack of direction? Motivation? Inspiration. I don’t know… Or maybe I’m just not capable of making good work? Whatever it is, it has been poisoning me against my camera for quite some time now.

There I said it.

I want to break up with photography.

But I won’t.

I won’t because, like in any relationship, you don’t just call it quits when things get complicated, messy, inconvenient and draining. Anyone who works as a creative professional (and I suspect maybe even more so for those of us who are single and working in creative professions) knows that art is not really a choice.

The need to create, express, explain, challenge, communicate and connect through our work, that is instinct and deeply innate as being able to swallow food or blink an eye.

It’s not a job, it’s a force that moves you. For me, in this phase, I really do feel married to my work. I don’t have a husband or kids (yet?) but I do have my work, and I put a lot of pressure on myself and my creative self to make it great.

So I confessed.

Then the weirdest thing happened.

My anger and resentment, my dissatisfaction with the fact that things are not going my way all the time, all of that sort of just started to soften. It’s not gone. But it is definitely melting.


I knew it could be cathartic after the fact, but I never realized how much I am missing by not sharing the nitty gritty parts of my daily grind with the people I live my life beside. I hoard my angst and my frustration, I wrap it around me like a warped and jagged blanket of rough and scratchy fabric.

Like heartache of my own choosing  under my own control is somehow less potent than the reality that I can’t control everything, or even most of anything. 

But I turned 28 in December and it changed me. I don’t know how one day could make such a deep and profound impact on my psyche but it did, unlike any birthday before. All of a sudden, I was 28 and I knew who I am and who I am is for the most part, a grown-up and when you become a grown up you find yourself less worried about the days and more appreciative of the years…and the story your life is telling.

At 28 I learned to look for the big picture, to look for the forrest in-spite of the trees.


And here is the thing: The forrest is freaking vast and scary and yes, full of adventure, but terrifying none-the-less.

But the more I confess the real stuff, the gross stuff, the uncomfortable stuff, the not-so-pretty stuff, the easier it is to hold on to what is real and let go of what I can’t see yet.

So sometimes you have to get a little tipsy and a little raw and confess to your roommate that though the journey through the woods is epic and beautiful, the particular patch of trees you are looking at seem so ugly and spiny that they make you want to stay frozen forever.

Sometimes you have to admit that you are standing in an ugly place and that the only choice you have is weather or not to walk forward now or walk forward later but eventually you are going to have to move.

I will have to take that step, I will have to choose to stay, to photograph, to adapt and to walk and walk and walk to the denser, more dangerous, and more lush center of the forrest.

Photography and I are fighting.


So I confessed it.

And somehow naming those nasty trees, and acknowledging how unfriendly they seem and how long the journey seems, and sharing that fear with my community makes them just ever so slightly less scary because though I walk this particular path in the woods alone, my friend Jason Beene and many others are in the forrest too because I brought them in.

I confess and they listen and we all have each other’s backs in the scary parts of the forrest and have each others smiles in the dappled patches of light that make up the forrest in-spite of the trees.   

3 thoughts on “The Forest In Spite of the Trees

  1. Pingback: Holy Saturday crack up | Jerusalem Greer

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