Committing to my craft like a Trappist Monk

I took my first Photoshop class in the fall of 95.

 

I did it then because my dad was an engineer and I thought it cool to mix some computer classes into the ethereal quest of attending art school.
It was probably the best decision I made, part form studying photography in the first place…

As I learned the craft of image making, putting in most of my school hours in the traditional darkroom, I also learned Photoshop from the bottom up.

As my work matured so did the software and by the time I graduated Photoshop had it’s layers we today take for granted. With the adding of layers in Photoshop a completely new world opened up and I was truly happy to trade my chemical induced rashes caused by my time in the darkroom with time in front of the computer.

 

Erik Almas_Photoshop_Selfportrait

(selfportrait, 1997)

 

In the years following school I would assist during the days and spend my evenings and nights, only interrupted by the intermittent bout with some gin tonics, exploring how my pictures could come together in this new digital world.

 

With this exploration I became a part of the first generation of photographers who seamlessly used Photoshop as a true extension of the images captured, shooting for the idea and then allowing the captures to unfold within the software to a final image.

 

Genlux_Chris_Botti_FlyingMaching_Motion_Wip_3_FINAL_WIDE_Flat

Natalia in Water.Final

Amtrak_02Portfolio_09_P_

HS_Genentech_Cave

 

alm_cox_jockey_w4b_FINAL

 

 

Fast forward 15 some years I started to truly resist the retouching process. I felt chained to it.

I have always been drawn to the big landscape, wanting fresh air and open vistas and I no longer wanted to sit in front of the computer.

 

It became tougher and tougher to honker down, to absorb day after day and night after night for the fulfillment of a singular photograph. I wanted to be outside. I wanted to capture moments and emotions and deepen my visual rather than technical esthetic.

 

What had helped establish me as a photographer and made my career one extraordinary ride of amazing locations and beautiful encounters all over the world had become a battle ground. A barrier I had to push through to achieve the fulfillment of these moments I was hired to experience and photograph.

The battle has been ongoing. I would start avoiding the office and seeking distractions. What once put me in the zone, in complete flow, was now only happening right up against client and self-imposed deadlines.

 

Then there was a shift…

 

Instigated by a break up there was a search in me, or maybe a longing, to get back to where I started. To both reignite the old and to redefine and push forward creating new, meaningful work.

 

Maybe the biggest step in this quest to create anew was moving to the country side, finding a place of less distractions. Way smaller but more impactful was the suggestion to read the book Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks, by August Turak.

Reading Turak’s book completely changed my view of spending post production time with my images.
In short the premise is the human archetypal longing of a transformational experience. We all seek it…
Therefore the fascination of films, books, concerts, theatre, travel and adventure, who all gives us a brief glimpse of a what this human transformational experience can feel like.

 

Turak argues that there’s a void in us after these short experiences, leaving us feeling incomplete or unfulfilled. (As I write this Burning Man is just over and all I keep hearing from the ones participating is “decompressionâ€â€¦)

 

Turak then goes on to describe the traditions of the Trappist monks and their commitment to effort in all things and how labor is for them almost as important as prayer in their own seeking of a transformation.

Their experience however, spanning years of dedication to craft and prayer, is lasting…
It’s a fascinating read and I walked away with a completely renewed commitment to my time spent at the computer. Commitment to doing the work, joyful or not…

 

I learned, it is in this resistance one find oneself. It’s in the commitment to the process, working through this opposition, one learns, renews and see things from a slightly different perspective.

 

It’s in this resistance greatness and transformation lies and I’m again committed.

Committed to do my best work ever, letting all my adventures and captures on location manifest itself during evening and nights in solitary time spent with my images, my ideas and myself.

 

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