He articulated what I had been trying to intuit. He taught me how to read light. He taught me the power of the sun at a low angle in the sky just after sunrise or before sunset to illuminate the world in that golden, magical way with long, dancing shadows. He talked of how a shaft of light fell onto a street corner in between buildings. He explained how to enter a room and look for the light by a window, or from a door slightly ajar. He taught me about composition. He showed contextual information - something that lent the image a sense of place.
More than anything, he taught me the art of patience. Cameras introduce tension. People are aware of the pwer of a camer, and this instinctively makes most subjects uncomfortable and stiff. But Bebeto taught me to linger in a place long enough, without photographing, so that people grew comfortable with me and the camera's presence. A perfect photograph is almost impossible; a good one is hard enough. Sometimes the light is there, but the subjects is in the wrong place, and the composition doesn't work. Sometimes the light is perfect, but the subject isuncomfortable, and his awkwardness shows. I learned how difficult it is to put all the elements in place.
But I have faith, as I've always had, that if I work hard enough, care enough, and love enough in all areas of my life, I can create and enjoy a full life. PHotography has haped the way I look at the world; it has taught me to look beyond myself and capture the world outside. It's also taught me to cherish the life I return to when I put the camera down.
Journalists can sound grandiose when they talk about their profession. Some of us are adrenaline junkies; some of us are escapists; some of us do wreck our personal lives and hurt those who love us most. This work can destroy people. I have seen so many friends and colleagues become unrecognizable from trauma: short-tempered, sleepless, and alienated from friends. But after years of witnessing so much suffering in the world, we find it hard to acknowledge that lucky, free, prsperous people like us might be suffering, too. We feel more comfortable in the darkest places than we do back home, where life seems too simple and too easy. We don't listen to that inner voice that says it is time to take a break from documenting other people's lives and start building our own.
Under it all, however, are the things that sustain us and bring us together: the privilege of witnessing things that others do not; an idealistic belief that a photograph might affect people's souls; the thrill of creating art and contributing to the world's database of knowledge. When I return home and rationally consider the risks, the choices are difficult. But when I am doing my work, I am alive and I am me. It's what I do. I am sure there are other versions of happiness, but this one is mine.