The downside of having your passion as your career is feeling like you're stuck in a cog machine. Answer request, book, shoot, edit, send off, repeat. I sometimes forget what led me to Photography in the first place.
In the beginning, I tried anything I could get my hands on as a creative outlet. Music, Painting/Sketching, Dance and writing. When I found photography, it became much easier for me to express all of my angsty teenage emotions. Even though I don't like to admit that dark, cheesy poetry exists in my high school journals, it does. So I guess you could say, Photography and Writing became the pinnacle of my emotional existence.
That's probably a good thing too, because I'm sure my family was really tired of hearing "smoke on the water" over and over again on guitar. I never learned anything else.
Anyway, a few weeks ago my cousin, Joe, flew into Missouri and stayed for a while. It was exciting to have another Photographer in the house. Joe has such a talent for crafting portraits out of nothing. I saw this guy use a colander to shape light. A C-O-L-A-N-D-E-R. It had been YEARS since I manipulated basic objects into useful, creative tools. All of a sudden, this light bulb went off in my head and I thought to myself, "Why did I stop doing this?"
Why did I stop creating for myself? Shooting for myself? Retouching for myself? Nothing but excuses came up. There is absolutely no reason why I couldn't still take photos, just to take photos. Some of the best portraits I have are when I had to use an Ikea desk lamp to illuminate my subject in the corner of my room. Or that time I glued flower petals to my friends forehead and eyelashes. Where did that Jessa go?
You get the gist. I finally allowed the inspiration of Joe's creativity to take root. It pulled the high school kid back out. The one who had no idea what the rule of thirds were or proper exposure or... exactly.
Here is a little something I did last night. Thank you Samantha for being my subject. I have always wanted to shoot at a carnival and last night, we did.
"A Sick, Twisted Ride"
"This is a joke, right?" I thought to myself, as he handed me a bunch of ticket stubs. The lady at the ticket booth had shooed us away in the beginning because they only accepted cash. Of course you do.
When we came back with our bills fresh from the ATM, the ticket lady acted like she didn't just see us. "Can I help you?" He hands her the $20 in exchange for 20 orange tickets.
The same 20 orange tickets that gave me a front row seat to my own sick, twisted ride.
You see, we've been at this Carnival for years. The same sticky cement, stale cotton candy and abrasive strangers staring at you through the window glass pressuring you to buy overpriced lemonade... They're all still here. Including the same human that drags me to this carnival month after month.
I really should be angry, but I'm numb. I don't understand why I continue to do this when I know the outcome... Me, doubled over behind someone's car... puking my brains out. He says each time will be different. It won't be the same as the last trip. This trip will be better.
It never is.
I tell myself that we won't go anymore... and here I am.
He hands an older gentleman our tickets. This guy is either really dedicated to his job or doesn't give a damn that we are here. He doesn't even blink when we walk past him. We climb up the rickety, collapsable stair case and find our seats. My palms start to sweat as they close the bar over our knees. "Does this really hold someone in?" I began to think to myself. I hear the gears shift and the base of this death trap begin to creak. The smell of the metal burns my nose, so I hold my breath. We are moving now.
My stomach plunges into my throat. I instantly feel sick because I know exactly what this is. We start spinning, faster and faster. The gears shift. Everyone around us is screaming. My eyes can't focus and my heart is pounding. This is chaos and we are stuck in the middle. The only thing I can make out is you smiling at me, but it doesn't bring me comfort.
In fact, It makes me angry.
You said we wouldn't come here anymore. You said we wouldn't do this again. Here you are staring at me with your smug face while the world is crashing around us and all I can think is, "You're a selfish bastard."
But then the ride comes to a slamming halt. I turn to scream at you for dragging me through this again and you're gone. Sheer panic rushes through my body. I quickly climb off the ride, trying to keep my balance. One foot stepping in front of the other while I brace the rusted, blue hand rails. Everything is spinning. People are talking and laughing and I just want it all to stop.
I stumble underneath one of those stupid games. The awning is covered in blue and green, blinking lights and I can feel everyone's eyes on me. I quickly find my way to a wall and slump to the floor. My forehead presses against the cool metal frame and everything goes silent.
I start to laugh.
You are gone. Your stories, your deceptions and every ounce of your sickening aroma, it's all gone. I can smell the wet concrete beneath me and all I can do is breathe it in deeper.
The dizziness wears off and I begin to walk around. The sun had set hours ago. Every inch of the horizon was filled with blurred, swirling lights and not once did I make eye contact with you. I stop in front of the largest ride they have... I see people laughing, smiling and seemingly worry free. I finally understood what that felt like,
And I never want to go back.
Thank you for inspiring me, challenging me and pushing me forward as an Artist Ho-Joe.