May 24, 2017
Yesterday my photo professor tragically died in a car accident.
The past twenty four hours have been a blur, and I don't think I will ever have the words for what he meant to me. He pushed me to be a better artist and better person. He really believed in me even when I doubted myself. I truly wouldn't be the person I am today without him. He was the first person to ever buy my art, and he was always one of my biggest cheerleaders. I can't believe it's even real and my heart is so shattered right now.
This one is for you, John. Thank you for believing in my dreams and for teaching me so much over the years. All the car rides, late night photo runs, free film, and new hopes. Thank you for being my hero. Sorry I turned in some of those assignments late, and thank you with all of my heart for all you've done for me. All my words will truly never come close.
May 27, 2017
One of my biggest fears is reaching the end of my life and being disappointed in myself, and not being remembered after I die. This fear of being forgotten extends to all my friends, family, and acquaintances that I find really special to me. I think that's part of the reason why I'm so obsessed with documenting everything, because I don't want to forget and I don't want other people to forget. (I've actually been in the baby stages of a project about this for a while, but that's beside the point.) I'm very bad at showing it in person (which is why I document and write letters instead), but I am so beyond blessed to have the people in my life that I do. John really profoundly impacted the course of my life, and knowing that he won't get the chance to see what his impact has done and will do crushes me, and knowing that I don't get to keep on saying thank you in the years to come for what he's done for me.
Every person that I come in contact with, I know we come in contact for a very important reason. And I am so thankful for the teachers and friends I have in my life. You all influence me so greatly, you inspire me, you make me want to be a better person, you teach me more about the world and who I am. I really wouldn't be the person I am today without you, and for that I am eternally grateful.
Okay, sorry this is so long, I'm kind of just typing out my train of thought. But here are some photos of John from over the years. Some of them are pretty silly, but they make me smile. He was very much like a dad to me. I feel that way about a lot of my professors too, in different ways. I just hope I can live my life and use my gifts in a way that would make him (and all my teachers) proud.
July 27, 2017
Not a day goes by that I don't think about the light, and how the darker the shadows, the brighter it appears.
August 18, 2017
August 29, 2017
Happy first day of school.
September 30, 2017
From our trip to the coast for the Art Department’s Art Retreat. John would always take us to the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, so I took them this year and taught a quick self portrait lesson before letting them run around and make images. It's been strange navigating through the role that John had. I'm remembering memories that I had forgotten or that used to feel insignificant. I am now appreciating even more the things he taught me about life and photography--I don't think I fully grasped how important it all was at the time. I find myself recalling things that he used to teach in the moment that I'm teaching my own students, and I feel his spirit in the quiet of the darkroom long into the night after a class. I don't know if the pain will ever fully go away, but I'm thankful for what it's teaching me and for the new opportunities I am given from it. Teaching is such a new, weird, wonderful, and difficult experience, I love getting to talk about the things I'm most passionate about and see other people become passionate about them too, and I hope I get to continue doing it for a long time.
December 22, 2017
December 28, 2017
New Years is always my favorite holiday, and this year was particularly trying. I failed a lot, learned a lot, cried a lot, and really just started to understand what Grace and love and family truly mean. They say every seven years you come out with a completely different set of cells, and once again this seventh year has completely changed my life.
April 16, 2018
I think of life in terms
of the past, of counting
down and back then
did I know I and we
were and are always
Four years until he dies
now three until I’m married,
now two until I look up
at this place, now one
until I write it all down.
What am i counting
down to now?
April 20, 2018
Today is the Art & Desgin Department's art awards, which includes the Triple "S" Award. It was named after Alfred Steiglitz, Edward Steichen, and John Szarkouski, three men who advanced photography as an art form.
Last year I got to help John present this award. And this day was the last time I ever saw him.
One year later, I get to present it again to one of my students, and I'm so nervous and humbled and excited to do it (and yes, I'm going to cry).
I submitted my first portfolio for the awards five years ago, when I was a freshman in college and had no idea what I was doing, with no confidence in my art. It's fun to look back and see the seeds of my current work and current interests. And it's nice to look back on that day five years ago and see John one last time (yes there's a video on it and yes I embarrass myself on stage). Anyways, I don't know where I'm going with this. Just really thankful for everything and so proud of myself and proud of all my students.
April 26, 2018
Today was my last day teaching photography. I feel so blessed. So honored. I'm so thankful for all my students (honestly, my friends) for giving me so much grace and love as we all navigated what it meant to, not really move on, but to continue forward with our lives forever changed by this experience; and to begin to figure out together what it means to still be alive in this world and to still look for the light, even in so much darkness. And I'm also thankful of course for their general grace in my very first experience of teaching.
I joke with them that for my last college final, which was a speech in front of the class, I had the distinct thought, "thank goodness this will be my last presentation I ever have to give." And I'm so thankful I was wrong.
In the beginning of this new experience, I prayed, "what does this mean for me?" Ever since I was little, I always felt a deep spiritual connection to my own past and future. Sometimes this feeling comes and goes, but I usually feel like I have a pretty good grasp on what I am meant to do in my life. So when teaching John's class suddenly fell into my lap (like I suspected it would), this sort of felt like new territory. Did this mean I was meant to be a professor? Should I try to get my masters degree? Is everything I predicted for my life actually wrong? The whole caveat of this teaching position for me was that it was going to end (the department needs it to be a full time position which I am educationally unqualified for at the moment), so there was a constant ticking time bomb of "oh I need to decide what this new experience means for me right now, because if I wait too long, it will be too late". Now that my time is up, I think I know what it all meant for me. And I think I know what it meant and will continue to mean for all of us.
For me, it's given me a second chance in a lot of ways. In the most selfish way, teaching at George Fox gave me a second chance to experience college. The college atmosphere is so beautiful and the post-college life can be scary and often isolating. I'm a very solitary person anyways, so being dropped back into college life was a breath of fresh air. I got to feel that community again and I am so thankful. In another way, it's given me a second chance at photography. It's one thing to take a photography course in college (not to discredit John in any sense). But in going through the classes and now teaching the classes, it's one thing to learn for an assignment or for a grade, and it's another thing to learn for the sake of learning. I got a second chance to sit down with these great photographers, learn from them again, and I started to feel my own photography change. I felt this because of my students too; their creativity and insightfulness is beautiful. I have learned so, so much from teaching itself, from the photographers we've studied, and from the conversations with my students.
And I think for all of us, it's allowed us this mourning period, this figuring out period, and this realization of just how important community is, especially in the face of tragedy. It's given us time to breathe. I think without this experience, I would be a lot worse off emotionally, and I don't think I would consciously be able to process and understand just what John did for us (and what all our teachers do for us). I cannot even imagine what my life would have been like without this experience. And again I say I am so thankful.
I think our community is even stronger now. I'm so excited to see what our next steps are and what we are going to do. In the beginning, I was so upset that the department would even think of hiring a random person. How could anyone replace John? How dare we even try? But I feel now is time. Again, moving on isn't quite the correct phrase, but I feel like we can forge onward. I've learned and am continuing to learn what it means to be human, and what it means to create. And what grace and peace really mean.
I don't think I have a really good closing statement. I feel a lot of different emotions right now. Happiness and sadness, deep gratefulness, and guilt for feeling that gratefulness. And a real sense that John is proud of me and of all of us.
It still doesn't really feel real, him being gone. It still feels like this past year was a dream, while simultaneously like he is just gone on a long trip and one day I'm going to walk into class and he will just be there again. Or like I'm going to wake up soon and this will all feel like a scratch in the back of my mind.
But he is do proud of us. And I think this whole experience is what he was teaching us for. Photography is about documenting life, about making sense of the world, about giving a language to the things we can't explain but still feel so deeply. It's about laughing and crying and discovering new perspectives. It's about changing our outlook on life, and about changing our life.
I honestly could go on and on and on, I keep thinking of so many tangents and ways photography continues to transform me. But I'll just say these last three things. 1. I seriously cannot wait to see what we do next as a little photo community. I've got a couple tricks up my sleeve and I also can't wait to see what our new professor brings to the story and what the students will continue to create. 2. I am forever changed and will never be able to say thank you enough to the department and the students for giving me this chance. It has been so terrifying and exciting and one of the best experiences of my life. And 3. I am always thankful for John. For what he taught me, for what he continues to teach me, and for all the things he's given me--not the least of which being the chance to teach in his place. I feel so humbled to walk where he has walked.
Oh yeah, and as always,
It's all about the Light.
May 23, 2018
I didn't get the news until tomorrow, so it still feels like you're alive right now. I saw you just a month ago, and I presented the photography award with you. I feel like I'm right back where I started this time last year, that this year was just a giant pause; it almost feels like nothing even happened. But now the undertones have changed. "What is the one thing you're afraid of but so want to do with your life?" I've learned so much this year, still learning a lot, feeling especially sad and also thankful today.
August 16, 2018
Can't believe it was a year ago that I was frantically prepping to teach photography. The whole thing had been an absolute whirlwind, I was considering applying for the job and had my resume all ready to go and was just kind of waiting for a sign if it was the right thing to do, when Jillian just messaged me and asked if I had been considering it. The next day we met, and then a month later school started. I still can hardly believe I had been given this. I felt hugely unqualified and unprepared. And it was the most terrifying, saddening, exhilarating, wonderful, life-giving thing I've ever done. I would 100% not be the photographer I am today without my students, without getting to learn alongside them and teach them the small portion of what I know. I thought about John a lot and teaching was so healing for me, getting to really see the world as he saw it: through the Light. I still think about John every day. And every time I pick up a camera, I think about how proud he is, and of how unbelievably thankful I am for him.
December 31, 2018
I’m always thinking about The Decisive Moment, and these past two years especially it’s about our personal decisive moments, not just the one in photography. Or maybe all of life is a decisive moment, just one slow-tumbling one, unfolding like a flower in the infinite cosmos until the end of it all. It’s fascinating to look back on my life so far and see all the seemingly unrelated things (however happy or tragic they were) have brought me to where I am today.
February 26, 2019
“The people you love become ghosts inside of you and like this you keep them alive.” - Robert Montgomery
May 23, 2019
“What do you think happens when we die?”
“I know that the ones who love us will miss us.”
It’s been two years now since my photo professor, John, passed away. It feels so much longer than that, practically a lifetime ago. In my mind, on this day he is still alive, I won’t get the news until tomorrow night, and it won’t be until two weeks later when my mom tells me she has cancer (she is cancer-free now!). I don’t know, I thought I would try to be poignant with this but sometimes it’s okay to just cry and blabber. I wish John was still alive. I am so grateful for all the things I learned, and the opportunities and mistakes I made from his death. I felt like I had no right to be sad because he was ‘just’ my professor. And I felt like I couldn’t make art or talk about it because of that reason, and because I didn’t want to profit by getting to make art from it. I felt like a failure because I am not good at being emotionally available for people and I closed myself off. Even now maybe part of me wants to post this because I will get validation, and part of me doesn’t because then I have to respond to the sadness.
I also learned that I could be really brave and do things I never thought possible. I like to think that John taught me how to face my fears. I’ve always felt like a late bloomer in life but I’m starting to try to work towards all the things I dreamed of doing. Today I did something really scary and really exciting (Lol I guess if it doesn’t work out you’ll never know—I’m trying to also be better at not oversharing). Two years ago today John died and it changed my life. Life is strange and deeply sad and so so wonderful and I feel lucky to be able to experience it all.
It’s all about the light.