I’m most fascinated by nature—the nature of people, and the nature of relationships we have with the landscape around us. I love to explore. I need to explore. It feeds my curiosity and desire to learn. For me exploring is about experiencing, where some element of risk is inextricably connected to the richness of discovery. I believe the most authentic experience reflects an element of vulnerability and the willingness to accept an uncertain outcome. All this means spending time in unfamiliar territory.
I enjoy hard-to-reach vantage points, exploring distant landscapes, connecting with people who live outside the mainstream of modern society. I rarely feel the pressure to capture a story so much as embracing the opportunity to see where the story leads.
HOW IT STARTED
I remember sitting on my grandfather’s lap as a boy, staring down at a faded National Geographic that he held in his grease-stained hands. As he read the pages out loud, there was often a faint smell of whiskey on his breath. The aroma punctuated exotic stories of distant cultures. His evening ritual included reading with a glass of his favorite spirit, and when I wasn’t sitting on his lap I was studying him… as he studied world literature. He had voluminous stacks of those famously yellow magazines decades before they became synonymous with the now fashionable concept of adventure.
Looking back almost fifty years, I realize now he was curious about the nature of people and places. He was a voracious reader and fluent in all-things-international. His only time abroad was in Europe during World War II. My grandfather was a deeply humble man who experienced an unimaginable war. I remember brief but powerful insights that he shared from the experience. He rarely ever expressed anger, but I know now that he carried many painful memories with him.
After the war he became a hard working mechanic who understood the inner workings of many things, extending beyond the walls of his work-shop. He remained a provincial dreamer because of an undying devotion to his first love, my grandmother, who was afraid of the unknown and content to stay close to home.
After fifty years I can still remember the intrigue of my grandfather’s stories and his unique perspective on the world. Often when I’m standing in the middle of some vast and wild place that I know would have captivated him, I’d swear I can hear his voice in the wind. I miss my grandfather very much.
I am forever curious, just as he was. This same curiosity inspires an obsession with wandering around wild places and seeking out interesting people. I love hearing people’s stories, and I’ve been lucky enough to meet some extraordinary people during my journey. Hearing people’s stories is how I examine the world, something I endeavor to do with an absence of judgement.
Words and pictures are mere tools that I use to encourage understanding, and to develop my own understanding.
Some of the most compelling stories I’ve ever heard were characterized by a strong connection to “place,” the environment around the individual. In many cases, I’ve observed a connection so strong that the individual seemed to embody attributes of the landscape around them.
Observing this—the place where the human element and landscape intersect—ignites my curiosity more than anything.
Someone once asked me, “Joe, where’s your place?” And without hesitation, I answered, “Behind the lens.”