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Touching Robes

I've been offline for several days now and I can't say I missed it given what I've been up to.

Men have egos and our egos prevent us from considering we might not know it all or better put in not knowing it all, we would prefer not to show our hand to this reality and struggle on in darkness...

Many of you know I've been taking photos for the past several months. But my first real photo was one I shot through a decimated gold smelting factory window in Aruba. The image was of a cloud, perfectly framed by this old, stone opening. I believe this picture was destroyed when my storage unit flooded a few years back. I remember getting the film from wherever I got it developed and thinking to myself, Wow, this is amazing. I wish I could do more with this...

The year was 1996 and my passing fancy passed.

I began to write and piled that photo onto the heap of talents genetically passed on to me by long gone relatives and my father. In this pile is acting, singing, piano, poetry, even directing. But none of that was real. A job was real. In order to survive I needed a job.

I've been limping through one job after the other since I first thought this ridiculous thought, dying slowly from 9 to 5.

And here we are in 2010 and I'm known in these blogging circles as E.Payne. After dispensing with my dream of being a published author I've been writing about family and man stuff and I snap some photos here and there. I get a lot of positive feedback on my blogs.

"You have a gift."

"You should write a book." (This one hurts the most. If you had any idea how hard I've tried).

"I love it. Your family is beautiful. You take great pictures."

The last one is the one I hear most often. Great is a word I don't like because I know and cross paths with people so much greater than me. Unbeknowst to most, I've struggled with the photos I take. I take forever to set up the shots. They never come out looking right to me. And the classes I've considered are either outrageously expensive, too in-depth for my needs, or because I'm self taught and am able absorb information like a sponge, I've been ahead of the curriculum and bored easily.

In short: I needed a challenge. Something like a KNIGHT Workshop.

For those of you who don't know, Ross Oscar Knight is the gentleman who photographed my wedding in Barbados. And if you've ever visited his site or blog, you'd know he's the real deal. I liken him to Neo from the Matrix because some of shots he has set up don't appear to follow the laws of physics, lighting or anything else tangible. From our first meeting he exuded an energy I recognized --- an energy I felt being sucked out of me --- maybe it was family life, maybe it was too many failed expectations, maybe it was just me. Recognizing the dearth of positive people in my life (thanks to my wedding) before the event was over I insisted that we become friends, something that as a man was a very weird exercise for me considering neither one of us are second graders and there was no alcohol involved when I approached him. It was business and I was prepared for him to dismiss me with a "Yeah," only to never hear from him again. But he didn't and we've hung out here and there between NYC and Atlanta for the past two years.

So you can imagine the hard gulp I had to swallow when I approached him about taking his workshop --- an intense two day experience that has the potential of exposing whether photography is something you should be doing or something you should be appreciating --- from afar.

Ross was more than happy to welcome me as his student. Last Thursday I flew down to Atlanta and on Friday and Saturday I was treated to a master at work. I was in the presence of hard work, discipline, talent and skill. Something most would quickly call genius and attribute directly to him. But I felt something else. I felt like I was in the presence of someone who God has chosen to do something --- in this case take photographs of people entering one of the most supposed sacred rites of passage known to man --- marriage. I heard His presence in many of the words Ross spoke, many he may not have been aware he was speaking. It was in his conviction to share his talents with others rather than be miserly with them.

Initially I was overwhelmed and slightly intimidated. I also felt like a slob as a guy with no job burning through my savings like an arsonist. There I was sitting in front of a dude who is successfully running his own business and seeing the world on his terms. But my time there wasn't about my present state, or the devil's whispers in my ears, it was about the place where I need to be. I got over myself quickly. And spent the rest of my time focused on the destination.

Ross is not Jesus, but I did go to the place where I knew he was going to be and I touched his robes. Now, I have a road map and an eye for things that I didn't have just a few days ago. Now I'm beginning to catch things with a camera that previously I was only able to paint with my words.

After my time in Atlanta I took a surprise trip home to my native Chicago and spent a couple days with my folks. Before Ross' workshop I can't say I would've been able to so quickly and accurately snap a pic of my father sitting in one of his favorite chairs in his favorite spot by the living room picture window, casually surveying the street outside. I'm not sure I would've captured a moment that happens so often no one in that house even notices anymore. It's not the best picture in the world (I desperately need a new camera). But I noticed the serenity and the power of it and I captured it. Now the moment is forever. Now it is timeless.

Stay tuned.

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