The Art of Reinvention
My husband and I recently spent several days in Pittsburgh, a mini-vacation of sorts. An opportunity to check out “The Steel City” and see for ourselves how Pittsburgh has re-invented itself.
The city didn’t disappoint.
We filled our days with visits to wonderful museums – the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History, the Carnegie Science Center, the Heinz History Museum and the Phipps Conservatory. Big gamblers that we are, we lost $3 on the penny slots at the casino. We took an evening dinner cruise, sailing on all three of Pittsburgh’s rivers: the Allegheny and the Monongahela which join to form the headwaters of the Ohio.
In 1868, writer James Parton dubbed Pittsburgh as “hell with the lid off”. 143 years later, I can say with certainty that Pittsburgh’s Renaissance has been successful – it is now much closer to heaven.
What did disappoint was me – at least my photographer self.
As I discussed here, one of the gifts that photography has given me is the desire to explore new places; to seek out new opportunities to capture the world beyond my neighborhood, camera in hand. I had great expectations for this trip, imagining myself capturing tall skyscrapers and city life in unique ways. I was so excited to have different and unfamiliar sights to inspire me.
But, to borrow a sports analogy, I choked.
It’s true that this time away was not exclusively a photography retreat – spending quality time with my husband was certainly a high priority. And as I have confessed, photography is for me a solitary pursuit. Even knowing that my husband would patiently stand by while I snapped away, I found it difficult to concentrate; to get into photographer mode; to find the quiet internal place which allows me to see.
Instead of being intoxicated and energized, I was overwhelmed and overloaded with too much newness; too many things to see and filter. A jumble of images that I couldn’t resolve into a singular vision. My camera was a burden, instead of a gift.
Once home, I found myself with only a handful of worthy photographs. And sadness for a missed opportunity.
And yet, I know that the next time will be easier. That learning the art of re-invention is a moment by moment process. Building this new post-retirement life for myself is a work-in-progress. As am I.
Moment by moment. Image by image. Reinventing myself.