“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” -Ernest Hemingway
When I first made the goal to write I was mainly interested in describing my photographic process. I wanted to shoot and write a little about the people and a lot about the photography. Now after writing consecutively for almost 8 weeks, I have discovered that it’s the people I’m most interested in. Everyone has a story and there are lessons in even the shortest conversations. We have so much to learn from each other, if we’re willing to take the time and truly listen.
Jake is a guy who, for a year now, has been in the same friend circle as me. We attended the same church and met with occasional small talk or hand shakes, never really getting to know each other. It wasn’t until recently that we were able to talk at length, ironically the same week he was relocating for a new job. Jake was at a pivotal moment in his life, making a choice that many would find daunting. He was leaving the comfort of friends and familiarity to pursue his dream job. I had asked Jake a couple weeks prior if he would be willing to pose for a few photos with his bass guitar. He agreed.
“Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.” -Aristotle
We met in front of his house, “for sale” sign freshly planted. I noticed a swampy wooded area on the outskirts of the cul-de-sac. I imagined this would pair nicely with his custom made wood finish bass. We began to chat about pizza toppings and books. All the while me, fumbling with my camera as the light stand slowly sunk into the mud. Jake plucked away at the guitar his friend had built for him. He had been playing on worship teams for some 7 years now. “I play bass but I don’t consider myself a bassist”, he told me a few weeks prior at practice. He was walking me through my first time playing with the band. I recalled what the other members had told me about Jake, “he’s leaving a great void, Jake helps out with everything, he’s the go-to-guy, we’re all going to miss Jake from State Farm.”
We finished up the shoot and headed inside to talk over pizza. Great things happen over pizza. “You brew beer don’t you?” he asked me. Yes. He started digging through a closet, “here you go”, he said, handing me a brewing kit. Thank you. He was getting rid of things before the move, clutter and memories. I wondered for a minute what it would be like to leave. The fear and excitement that hits you all at once; glowing white new beginnings.
“Have you ever done this before”, I asked. “Yeah, I’m originally from Ohio”, he told me. I then asked, “what made you move to Indiana?” “Funny story, some friends asked me if I wanted to come to Indiana with them to stay in a hotel. My first response was an instant no.” He said no wincing, shoulders shruged. “Then they told me they were going to have a new Playstation with them, turns out my friend’s mom bought it just to get me to go. I said heck yeah.” That seemingly insignificant choice to play video games with friends created a snowball effect. Eventually leading Jake to move to Indiana for college and a career soon after. “I was just blessed to meet all the right people”, he told me smiling.
“Sometimes it’s the smallest decisions that can change your life forever.” —Keri Russell
“We are the creative force of our life, and through our own decisions rather than our conditions, if we carefully learn to do certain things, we can accomplish those goals” —Stephen Covey
I sat there in Jake’s kitchen among belongings that were waiting to be packed. It was in that moment I realized how important this lesson was. I thought about the huge choice Jake was making to move away. I thought about the small, insignificant choice that just seemed funny now. I thought about the choices I had made to get to this point. I thought about what choices I was making now and where they would lead me? The big choices, the small choices, I thought about how powerful a choice can be.
“Life is a matter of choices, and every choice you make makes you.” —John C. Maxwell
I learned a lot from Jake. In just a few short conversations.
Camera Notes: All photos shot using a Fujifilm X100T with a 35mm equivalent lens. Jake was lit using a LumoPro LP180 speed light and a 60″ convertible umbrella.