I started out as a photographer not with a camera in hand, but purely through observation. I studied photographs taken by my creative, artistic friends. How one captured the less-oft seen underside of a flower, as the sun caught the petals in a magical moment, bringing new glory to what I otherwise had already seen in a thousand predictable contexts. I pictured how my friend must have positioned himself on the ground to gain the perspective that he did. I began to see how he saw things. Really saw them. There was suddenly so much for me to discover, to create, with my own perspective. The photographer in me was born.
As a pediatric ICU nurse, I am surrounded by a great deal of darkness. There exists, in my patient’s room alone, enough heaviness to tip the scales for a lifetime. I walk down the hallway and as I pass one room after another, I remember that there are at least 23 more stories, lives, families, that have been severely disrupted with undescribable sadness in our unit. This is for just one point in time in just one shift. A patient may transfer or pass away; another patient, another story, eventually comes to take their spot. These are the stories that their families will tell with the unavoidable break of heartache in their voice. These are the stories that many of us try to avoid. These are the stories I am surrounded by, and often deeply involved in, every day when I go to work. My eyes have grown accustomed to the dimmed light, and I am afraid at times that my heart has as well.
The art of photography provides more than just an escape or a mere balance for my work as a nurse. My photography and my nursing shape, enrich, and inform one another. Photography pushes me as a nurse to look for the moments when the wind blows for just a second, in just the right way, to let the light in for my patients and their families. It trains my eye to look for those moments in the unexpected places. It trains my heart to believe that those moments exist, brief as they might be. To anticipate them, to hope for them, to even help create them when I can. When my heart aches from sadness and despair for my patients, I grab my camera and take a slow walk, searching. Sometimes I walk through the neighborhood I know. Sometimes I go to a new place. Searching for that picture that will tell the story for my patients when they have run out of words. Searching for that life, that light.
It’s there. And it is beautiful.