I live in the pacific northwest of the US and one of my life’s passions is photography. You can see my work, read about my activities as a photographer, and pick up a tip or two at my professional site www.twinlakesimages.com.
I started seriously shooting photographs in 2009. By 2011 I was printing the best of my work and showing it regularly in regional art shows, first for judged prizes and soon offering them for commercial sale. I developed my presence on the internet and actively sought representation in galleries in the Pacific Northwest. Granted, in that time I’ve only earned slightly more than my expenses, but I don’t consider profitability the only measure of success. While I’m not paying a lot of bills with professional photography, I have transitioned beyond a mere hobby.
Unfortunately, my myeloma diagnosis in 2015 significantly cut into my ability to promote my photography. Between the time lost to appointments and the precautions necessary to avoid infections, particularly as I got further into treatment and closer to my transplant, I was unable to interact with the public in the way I need to promote my art. Sadly, I also allowed myeloma to interfere with the act of creating my art, and there is no excuse for that.
My portfolio primarily includes nature and landscape photography. There are many reasons for this, but the simplest may be that I enjoy getting out by myself, often before others are out of bed, to take in the beauty of nature. We regularly spend vacations and long weekends at the Twin Lakes in northeast Washington and that is where I draw much of my inspiration. When I’m out shooting alone I’m able to absorb nature, examine the light, and concentrate on interesting compositions. My full attention is on my environment and the photograph I’m going to create. I don’t think about work or other issues that may be vying for my attention in the real world. Simply put, photography is very therapeutic.
Understanding this makes it all the more ironic that following my diagnosis I found it incredibly difficult to get out and shoot photographs on a consistent basis. I explained in my first column that the shock of the diagnosis, the fear and anxiety that I felt, paralyzed me and separated me from doing the things I loved. Photography was one of those things. I knew intellectually this was happening, my doctors and family encouraged me to reengage with my work, but I didn’t.
Up until my stem cell transplant there was no physical disability preventing me from getting out as often as I had before my diagnosis but I just didn’t feel motivated. I really can’t explain why I let myeloma deprive me from enjoying a great passion. I can only speak for myself, but I’m guessing other patients have found it difficult to engage in activities they enjoyed before myeloma impacted their lives. I think it may be natural to let such a dramatic change in one’s life deprive you of otherwise joyful things.
Unfortunately, recovery from my recent stem cell transplant still prevents me from having the kind of close contact with the public that promotion of my art requires, but I can return to producing my art. In fact, I have all the incentives I need. It is important for me to get out and walk and get some light exercise. Fresh air (clean air) is good for me. Quiet contemplation of nature is, as I said, therapeutic and helps me be more mindful of the beauty of each day I’ve been given. Maintaining good mental health and staying happy is one of my best tools to fight this disease. I have every reason in the world to regain my passion.
It’s not enough for me to say it, I must do it.
This cancer has taken so much from us already, we can’t let it deprive us of everything that makes us happy. There is so much in life I no longer control, but I have not lost control of my photography. I am determined to recapture my passion.
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Photo Credit: © 2016 Mark Pouley.
I took this photo of the sunrise breaking through a tree in May 2016 during the break between my induction therapy and my stem cell transplant. It was one of the few early mornings that I got up early and out to shoot photos like I have in the past. The image is a great reminder to me why I love doing this and how rewarding it can be.