This last week I headed down to Seattle for a book tour stop of a rather prominent photographers latest book. About ten years ago I met this photographer while doing the North America Snowkite Tour (he was just passing through) and then later came to realize that he was one of the most prolific and succesful adventure photographers of our time.
Corey Rich has been photographing climbing, and other adventure sports, for the past few decades, and whether you are an enthusiast or not, chances are you have seen his work. Some of his images have made their way into ad campaigns, others have graced the covers of mainstream magazines. Fans of the Discovery Channel would know his work as the iconic images and portraits of Bear Grylls.
The book he recently published Stories Behind the Images was just released by Mountaineering books, and it is a beautiful tome of what he admits are not his best photographs. That seems odd for a book about adventure photography, but it highlights what the book is about. He is telling the stories behind some of what he feels are his most iconic images, even if they are not great photographs; because ultimately a photographs job is to convey a story. When it comes to his best photographs, the ones that would go on to make him money, find him fame, and establish his reputation, he admits that those and the ones in the book have one thing in common, and that is embracing a little bit of discomfort.
"Many of the best things in life require a little bit of sacrifice"
This idea of embracing discomfort really resonates with me, especially at this point in my journey into the kite world. It has been taking a little bit to discover my own path, but I am really enjoying it. I feel that perhaps I have finally found some traction and this is the time to dig down, get a bit more uncomfortable and dig in and make this sharing of a passion for kites my focus. We shall see.
Later that week the idea of discomfort was still resonating with me as I headed to Tacoma to meet up with the folks from the Drachen Foundation and see an opening of a small art show involving kites at the MINKA art gallery. Tacoma is a 2 hour drive (on a good day) from where I live along the interstate through city traffic and moving choke points. It is a road I have traveled several times on the way to and from kite events, festivals, or other general trips. Not exactly my favorite road to drive, but easy enough to some what zone out on and get some blacktop therapy. A good time to think about the future, the past, and how I am living in the present. A good time to think about discomfort and the level of discomfort I am willing to embrace in order to pursue this passion.
There has been something weighing on me for the past year, something I have been trying to rectify within myself without doing harm to others. It is still a somewhat difficult and sore subject to talk about; why I chose to stop working with and for the American Kitefliers Association. Understandably, since I am not completely removed from the kite world, it means that it is something that I will have to answer for, and something that others will want to talk about when we run into each other. Attending this art show placed that front and center as several well known kite community members found their way to the gallery opening. I understand that people want to discuss the situation, the future, and their personal feelings about the organization or about my performance, but it is profoundly uncomfortable. I am still trying to sort out my own mixed emotions, and want to do so clearly and without malice or misplaced frustration.
But, thinking back on Corey and his comments about embracing discomfort, I am able to perhaps see things in a different light. The uneasiness I fell about discussing this topic is a representation of a great experience, or at least one that I learned a lot from. One that can continue to teach, and influence how I go forward. It may have not been my 'best shot', but it is a 'shot worth telling a story about'. It isn't something I should shy from, but maybe something that needs a bit more reflection to better understand. The main take away for me right now is that I put myself out there, I stepped up, I placed myself into a position that many choose to avoid, and by embracing that and moving forward I was able to discover some things. I embraced that discomfort, the struggle, and accepted it as a stepping stone to something greater. Now the next part of the journey is embracing the discomfort of emotions... and...forging the path ahead. So.... here I go. :)
By the way, the kites at the show were beautiful, as expected, and it was a wonderful chance to sit down with two men (Jose Sainz and Scott Skinner) that I consider mentors and friends. I did a short video of it here: