Several years ago, searching through the closet of a spare room in search of a humidifier, I stumbled upon an old box that would change my entire life’s course. As though I was in a movie, my elbow bumped a shoebox, sending it falling to the floor and spilling photographs across the room.
The photographs showed my father and his friends from years past, being wild and candid in the Rocky Mountain wilderness. My father, who rides motorcycles; who once installed a hot tub in his living room; whose skin is as tough as all the rocks he’s climbed; whose hair is as messy as the wilderness he’s loved. His photographs held such a startling immediacy, such a sense of fun and freedom and nature, that looking at them made my heart burn with nostalgia. I picked up his old Nikon, vowing to follow in his footsteps and capture the very essence of life.
As a child, my extended family and I retreated to the banks of Lake Powell to relax under the Sonoran sun. There was room to laugh, play, and run like the wind. Once I remember spontaneously sprinting from my uncle’s campground to the edge of the lake. With a little newfound freedom, I found myself quiet and still in such a serene setting. Reaching for a disposable camera I’d stashed inside my pocket, I snapped away at the tiniest details: rock formations, sand lines, tan lines, water ripples, ants marching along the brush. With a broken stick, I etched “Natalie was here” into the sand. A light breeze brushed my skin as I inhaled the desert air. My mind felt calm and clear. Everything felt right.
Through observing nature and capturing its glorious details, I’d discovered a burgeoning passion for independence, photography, and connection. Now, as a full-time photojournalist, my best photo and writing work comes from letting each moment remain wholly candid and authentic, inspired by the same life essence I saw in my father’s old photographs.