3am

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Several months ago I wrote:

“I have moments of extreme and utter clarity and others of profound confusion and melancholy. The tempest of my sanity is that discord, that unbearable chasm, between my ideals and reality…that dark furrow between the world as I see it, as I feel it in my heart, and the world as it truly is.

And in that space I feel alone.”

—-

I have been called a hopeless romantic. An idealist.

And somewhere in that chasm, in that furrow of youthful naivete, I found photography.

—–

The semester has ended. Not with a bang but a whimper. And I am terribly reflective. Mixed feelings. Oscillation between supreme conviction and melancholic self-doubt. Lines of Prufrock on the kitchen table at 5am. Things did not proceed as I had expected. But what the $#%@ does. No, things tend to tear at the seams, tragically and beautifully, interspersed with moments of silence.

Father was hit by a car.

Mother’s house was burnt on Thanksgiving day.

And halfway through, when the photos never came (he said be patient, be patient, the photos will come in time) I was prepared to walk away and say #$%@ it all. Not from photography, but from New York, back to that long stretch of country road amidst strawberry fields bathed in sunlight.

So it is only fitting that I post on here what I wrote in my moleskin a week prior to starting at ICP.

—–

There are certain pivotal moments in your life, junctures, where

Two roads diverged on a yellow wood

and a decision was made. And the colors of your existence, the contours of your life, have been singularly defined by it, leading to an infinite amount of contingent events that will make up the rest of your life.

In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse

I am here in New York, sitting alone in a quiet kitchen in Bushwick. Kate messages me “There is a tornado watch. Close the windows if you’re home.” The windows are closed and all I can hear is the hum hum from the old refrigerator and the occasional rattling of the JMZ train across the street. In less than a week, I officially start at ICP…the parties will end, the revelry, the excitement of being in New York, all of that will soon be replaced by pure photography.

I am here, sitting alone in this kitchen in Brooklyn, accompanied by the hum of my refrigerator, endowed with an incredible sense of optimism, uncertainty, and excitement, because a year ago, turning and turning in the widening gyre, I read an interview by Joseph Rodriguez in the New York Times Lens Blog that deeply and profoundly moved me.

I listened to that interview repeatedly and felt a deep affinity for his story and the purity of his ideas regarding the purpose of photography. We share, in a superficial way, similar life stories: inner-city, poverty, troubled youth, juvenile record, High School drop out…Joe went to ICP after his release from prison; I had never heard of ICP but decided shortly after that, I would attend the program myself in a year’s time. It was the only program I applied to.

Of course, I would learn, in the months following, that ICP is a major center of photography and one the largest center dedicated exclusively to the medium. Joe will also be my instructor in the months to come.

So here I am, committed to stay alive and snap some photos and maybe, perhaps, in a years time, I can piece it all together somehow into something meaningful. This is a #$%@en Hail Mary, a shotgun blast into the shadows of uncertainty, a prayer for Lucia at the end of the journey.

I have placed the entirety of my resources behind this endeavor and will have absolutely nothing left when the dust settles but my name, my work and my beloved friends and family. And a lot of debt.

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3 thoughts on “3am”

  1. Pete,

    Photography is a marathon, but it is not one you run alone. We’re here to help you, here to cheer you on and tell you what you need to hear.

    You can make something beautiful.

    Jackson

    p.s. this was the only program I applied to too. It was this, or, well, I don’t know what. It was just this, and that’s it. It was a choice, a choice to commit to a wholly unrealistic long-shot of a profession. That choice was a privilege. Having made that choice, we have the responsibility to make good on our promise. We have to keep going. More than many, you and I know what having the privilege to make that choice is worth.

  2. pete,
    thank you so much for sharing this. in a sense you have shared what perhaps many of us feel. the excitement, the gut wrenching anxiety, the longing to go back to the familiar.
    this is the only program i applied to as well and just like you i have had nights and nights of self doubt and a sense of free falling into an unknown abyss.
    but the great thing is, we’re all in it together.
    and we’re all here for a reason.
    by the end of our year here, i know we will all see clearly, like on a bright sunny day, the road we will choose to walk on.

    alka

  3. ryanfield says:

    Thanks for sharing that Pete. Your writing is money. I’ve always felt that the most challenging way to tell a story was with words. I look forward to future offerings!

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