If you had minutes to flee a disaster and could take only one item…

If you had minutes to flee a disaster and could take only one item, what would you choose? Most people name a possession that can be impossible to replace: their photos. Photographer Allison  Kwesell traveled to Japan last November, armed with two cameras and donated Fuji instant film. Her goal: to help survivors of the earthquake and 20-foot tsunami build new photo albums by asking survivors if they’d like to pose and then giving them the instant prints. In an interview with The Rotarian, Allison recalls photographing a woman with her grandchildren in front of their temporary home. “She told me she was happy I chose to photograph her there, because it gave her the courage to move forward.”

Now hold those thoughts as you fly from Japan, across the Pacific Ocean, to Kodiak Island where I live. I’m in a grocery store, high-grading bananas, when a fellow shopper starts chatting about digital photography. “So, why do you take pictures, Marion? Are you going to sell them or something?”

bee, bumblebee, flower, yellow, Kodiak, Alaska, wildflower

A bumblebee dines on pollen grains alongside red velvet mites on a ragwort flower growing on Kodiak Island beach.

I stared at the bananas. Why do photographers take photos? Why do artists dab paint, write poems or knit hats? Is it to say something, call attention to ourselves, or prompt others to take the road less traveled? Of course, only you can answer why, but reading about Allison’s work gave me pause to dig deeper.

Later that day, while sampling an apple muffin, I pondered “photography” which, to me, is all about looking for great light and then finding something to put into it. So why do I take pictures? Two thoughts came to mind:

Thought No. 1: Practicing my art gives me an excuse to enjoy nature more intimately. Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods calls it Nature Therapy. Meanwhile, it forces me to slow down (even the finest tea spills out of a jostled cup) and concentrate (“What’s for dinner”? has no place behind the tripod). Grace and guidance flows continuously within and without us, whether or not we’re conscious of it. Sometimes it manages to filter through in quiet prods like, “Look over there, drive down that road, tilt your camera down a bit.”

And many times, nudging me like a bird tapping my shoulder, is a comment from Galen Rowell’s provocative book, Mountain Light:

“One of the shocking realizations of adult life is that most of us are not fulfilling the most closely held dreams of our youth. Instead of pursuing dreams that were once integral parts of our personalities, we end up in one way or another fulfilling someone else’s ideas about who and what we should be, usually at the expense of our creative urges.

Still with me? Here’s the kicker. Read this slowly. More than once:

Thought No. 2: All true religions tell us we are made in the image of God. Therefore, God is the very Essence of our being and “we cannot truly express ourselves until we learn to manifest His presence within us,” wrote Paramahansa Yogananda in Autobiography of a Yogi.

When I hear Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, my heart swells with hope. When I read about people like Allison Kwesell, I am inspired to create less from my head and more from my heart. Thanks, Allison.


Thanks for stopping by. Have a wonderful week. You can also find me on Facebook at Marion Owen Photography and see more of my images at my main photography website: www.MarionOwenPhotography.com.

This entry was posted in Essays and inspirations, Kodiak Island, Alaska, Photography and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to If you had minutes to flee a disaster and could take only one item…

  1. suzanne hancock says:

    I write for the same reasons and also daydream as I used to as a child–maybe my thoughts will go into a story or maybe just a fleet of fancy that doesn’t involve a screen or piece of paper in front of me. As you say–there is the moment when it is you and what you can create and no time for the day-to-day stuff of our lives.

  2. Deb Anderson says:

    I would, without a doubt, take my camera, too, but was robbed last week and the thieves took my Nikon. Not only did they get all my memory cards, but have stolen my opportunity to take some great photos of our beautiful sunsets here in Michigan. I plan on replacing the camera as soon as possible, but sure miss having it now, when spring is upon us and our waterfalls will be gushing forth.

  3. trishgreg says:

    Thanks, Marion, for your “little extra”. Your blogs always make me think – and wish I was back in Alaska. I wish I could be more “heart” creative rather than “mind” creative, and your words cause me to realize that I need to focus more on an objective instead of being so fractured, going in different directions.

    You are a very good writer, but then I’m sure you know that. Your resume is impressive.

    I love the picture of the bumblebee. Macro photography is so attractive to me and I’ve been experimenting, even though I don’t have a macro lens. I am using 3 filters and they seem to work o.k., though a good lens would be much better. Again, I just need to focus and practice. Thanks again for your inspiration.

  4. marionowen says:

    Hi Trish, Thanks for you comments and insights. I so enjoy learning how other photographers deal with their subjects, time, choices. As for macro, follow that inkling. Consider getting a copy of Bryan Peterson’s book, Understanding Close-Up Photography: Creative close encounters with or without a macro lens. I find Bryan’s books very helpful and fluff-free (tried-and-true methods) and use them in my classes and workshops. Start with that… practice… and let me know how it goes. Cheers!

    • trishgreg says:

      Thanks, Marion. I have considered buying that book, actually. I get his newsletters and he talked about it last week. I checked with Amazon and they had a good preview section. I probably will get it, as it would be a good reference along with his other books that I have. Even though I don’t have a macro lens I think it would still be helpful. TG

  5. j mellenthin says:

    Hello, Happy Thanksgiving Marion,
    I stumbled upon your blog while searching about Kodiak because my daughter will be visiting there next month. Thank you for posting such honest and beautiful thoughts and images. It does my heart good!

    • marionowen says:

      Hi Jill, I just returned from vacationing in Death Valley and Seattle. Thanks so much for your comments. Please give me a shout when you come to town. 907-486-5079. Cheers!

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