August / September 2015
It has been said that it's good to have goals. Exactly what kind of goals are never specified, just that a person needs something to reach for. For myself, a goal often becomes a bit of an obsession, pushing me to do things that most would find to be little more than a very big waste of time. Case in point, my map of Nebraska as it currently stands...
Each dot stands for a town, place, park, etc. in Nebraska where I have taken a photograph or attempted to do so. This obsession began with ninety-three back in June of 2007 and continues to this day. A vague idea to see the state became a project to visit all of its 93 counties and is now an attempt to pretty much say I've been everywhere. Driving for hours on end in south-central Nebraska is a bit monotonous and very tiring, yet I find myself compelled to keep at it for no other reason than to have done it.
This is not to say that I've grown tired of Nebraska and have to drag myself into my car to keep at it. I remain as fascinated with this state as I did on my first travels, if not more so. The apparent monotony leads to great surprises and the discovery of new details brings about an intense desire to revisit and explore further. At the moment, I find myself needing to visit the panhandle once again, to re-see what I've already found and to soak in the feeling of being there.
And that is harder to explain. It's the feeling that a person gets when they are in the midst of a place that has the ability to change who they are. The difficulty is always finding a way to take everything in all at once and not leave anything out.
Despite wandering all over Nebraska several times, there are still a few places that I have yet to visit. I think I've still got another two dozen or so towns to go until I can say I've been everywhere in the state. Today I crossed another handful off of my list, all south of Omaha: Humbolt, Table Rock, Elk Creek, Burr, Unadilla, Elmwood, and Murdock.
It's been seven years since I started the ninety-three project along Highway 30 to Grand Island, and I still find myself drawn to see more of this state and to revisit my favorite places. Now I just need to find the time (and money) to make a trek out to the panhandle once again. The wide open spaces are calling...
One of the many great aspects of my job at Fontenelle Forest is the ability to better explore forms of photography that I haven't spent enough time on. I've found these new approaches and subjects to be inspiring, from wildlife to the many events that the organization puts on. It forces a person who might otherwise become even more set in his visual vocabulary to branch out and look at the world with what amounts to a fresh set of eyes.
This photograph was taken last week at Fontenelle Forest's Raptor Recovery rehabilitation center near Elmwood, Nebraska. A Bald Eagle resides in what was described as an "intensive-care" room after suffering from lead poisoning. The organization's goal is to rehabilitate and release these tremendous birds back into the wild. It's incredible to see the lengths that their caregivers will go to help them, driving all over the entire state and selflessly spending many hours nursing them back to health.
This is all the more meaningful to me considering how I ended up here. A chance morning visit to the forest turned into an involved photography project, then an internship and now a permanent job. It can be amazing how this world works, and I couldn't be happier to have escape the day job I was suffering through before all of this. I look forward to seeing how all of this new imagery and awareness creeps into my work moving forward, both the obvious and the more subtle. To me, art is the result of a multitude of influences and experiences all thrown together, curated and developed into something coherent and unique to a person's experience. You just have to let it all in and see what happens, embracing the experience and letting it change you a little at a time.