Creativity, Wanderlust, and the Frontier

Context: I started a new Instagram photo blog project @exploringthefrontier. This is my intro…

Art and identity are fundamentally linked. Turning 30 has been a constant reevaluation of my identity between finishing school, having a kid, and finding my home. It’s also a chance to be deliberate in what I nurture in myself, my son, and the world.

Creativity is first: whether making music, taking photos, designing a program, or fixing the house, creativity is a way to find life. In 1945, the physicist Erwin Schrodinger answered the question “What is life?” with the notion of “negative entropy” – life is literally that which fights the universe’s natural inclination to decay. Creativity makes sense of the world, making order, fighting destruction.

Wanderlust is second. It flows through my veins. My roots are in Kentucky, but at the same time both sides of my family have deep connections to living as expats. I was born half a world away, so wanderlust is not just a feeling, but a way of life – the eternal tension between roots and adventure.

With wanderlust comes the pioneer search for home. I’m drawn to the frontier. Two years ago, I found my home in New Mexico. My adopted city of Albuquerque predates the Declaration of Independence by 70 years. The state capital predates the Mayflower by a decade. People have been living in the Rio Grande Valley for thousands of years. Before humans even existed, dinosaurs roamed what are now the badlands. Millions of years are recorded in our exposed canyon walls. And yet, we’ve barely been a state for 100 years. There are only 17 people per square mile. I delight in the contrast: people have always been here and yet no one is here. That’s the frontier – timeless and new at the same time.

Artistically, there’s three components I’m exploring: subjects, equipment, and editing. I prefer landscape and astro-photography over human subjects. Taking shots of nature is just more … natural … to me and doesn’t seem as disruptive to “pause” the moment to ask people for a picture.

As for equipment, I’ve been doing everything with a cell phone camera – even astrophotography! Phones are always at hand and while “the revolution will not be televised”, it sure is being streamed. Rapid advances in image processing and sensor manufacturing make it even more democratized – a camera in every pocket. Pushing the medium to its limits is really exciting.

For editing, I’m learning Lightroom. From minimally invasive color rebalancing to editing out footprints with the healing brush, finding my personal style is going to be fun. Watching some NM photographers play with editing has been really inspiring and I’ve been thinking a lot about what is “real” – how many layers are there between collecting light on a sensor to what we finally see on the screen? How many of those are an “artistic” decision? Astro makes this even more poignant as we reveal what is hidden among the stars.

Finally, the name “Exploring the Frontier” captures what I’ll be doing as I learn and create.

I’d be delighted for comments and to meet new people! Thanks for reading!