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Finding Value in What I Do

Last year, I was in the middle of a photographic project for a dear friend when he died unexpectedly from pancreatic cancer. I completely shut down creatively at that point and decided there was no point in pursuing the project any further as he would no longer be there to appreciate the results. Since then, I have been taking lots of “pretty” pictures but have not felt particularly engaged with my subject-matter.

Excellence

Excellence

Recently, I decided I needed a new photographic challenge. I needed something to sink my teeth into, which would force me to think and push myself further than I had over the past few months. Recently, the company where I work, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), started on the long road of implementing corporate core values. I have been extensively involved in the roll out and I began to latch onto the idea of pursuing my personal reflections on those same core values through my photography.

As I thought further about those values (stewardship, unity, trust, excellence and accountability), I decided to push myself intellectually. In my view, it would be too easy to portray the notion of trust, for example, by photographing the loving eyes of my dogs or the notion of excellence by capturing a home run at the local baseball field. That would just be too literal, almost too easy. So, I decided to restrict myself to nature and then push myself even further to take all the photos in one location, Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Va. Nature is my favorite photographic subject therefore why not stick to an area I enjoyed?

Accountability

Accountability

Some subjects were immediately more accessible than others, so I started out with the less challenging ideas. The easiest for me was the notion of excellence. When I think of excellence, I think of the pursuit of perfection. While acknowledging that none of us is perfect, I thought long and hard about perfection in the botanical world. The first example that sprang to mind was the bloom of an orchid. When I envision an orchid of any variety, I always think of the perfection of the blooms, their delicate appearance yet resilience to life in their surroundings. While wandering through the Conservatory, I stumbled upon the most amazing examples of Phalaenopsis. I needed to look no further.

Unity

Unity

In thinking about accountability, it struck me that inherent in accountability is a notion of reliability. If I am accountable, I can be relied on to admit when I make mistakes or do what I say I will do. In the same way, nature can be relied on to follow patterns and habits. We can rely on nature to have seasons and hence, we anticipate the same cycles from one year to the next. In the spring, the bulbs and trees bloom, essentially fulfilling a pre-arranged commitment. Therefore, a tree blooming in the early spring became my choice for accountability.

Unity in nature was by no means a stretch. It obviously implies, as with any other realm, the coming together of individual or disparate elements to function as a whole. My immediate thought on unity was the petals of a flower forming a single bloom on a stem. As I wandered through the gardens, one flower in particular struck me as I walked by. The stem appeared topped off by hundreds of petals both shaggy and smooth, forming one massive unified bloom. Each petal had a function yet the whole was greater than the sum of its parts, the whole more beautiful than each individual petal.

Stewardship

Stewardship

Trust

Trust

The value that kept me thinking the most was that of stewardship. As I thought about stewardship in my life, I thought about managing resources and looking upon those resources as things of great importance. Resources could be tangible or less so. Creativity is a resource I attempt to manage wisely, for example. But, in nature, where could I turn to find those examples of stewardship? And then, there it was right in front of me. I saw a butterfly carefully going about its business, whether gathering nectar or moving pollen. As the butterfly moved from one plant to another, it was carefully managing those resources entrusted to it.

As I thought about the notion of trust, I realized that those whom I trust in life are those upon whom I can depend. I can lean on the them in the tough times and they are there to support me at any point when I need to be buoyed up. So, in nature, stalks, stems and trunks fulfill that function. I could find no better example of that support than in the vast array of spring tulips standing rigid on their stems swaying in the breeze. I too am up or down, depending upon the breezes of my life, but I’m constantly held up by the trust I have in those around me.

And so, my musings on values be they personal or corporate, evolved into this project. It’s been good to stretch my creative wings again as I wait for the next “big” idea.

A word about the tints. Each photograph has been tinted a particular color for a reason. The corporate values have been associated with a particular color so I decided to tint the photos in a fashion that was reminiscent of those colors. It was intended to be a gentle reference rather than a literal translation.

Important:The ideas expressed above are my personal ideas and reflections and are in no way linked to or the opinions of UNOS or anyone associated with the organization.