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.


Posted on July 22, 2011, in Photography and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Glad to hear others choke in new situations- I thought it was just me. My personal obstacle is being self-conscious shooting photos with other people around. My worst nightmare would be shooting a wedding- never! I’m really enjoying your photos and reading about your journey.

    • Melinda,
      Oh – I suffer from photographer self-conciousness as well 🙂 That is one of the reasons that I don’t have a DSLR – I would just feel too silly shooting with a camera with a big lens and a strap and all that stuff. And I agree – shooting a wedding would be a nightmare!

      Really, when I consider all my photo phobias, it’s really rather amazing that I end up with any images at all. But that’s the thing about photography – it lets you find your own comfort zone and you can move outside it a little at a time as you are ready.

  2. I know exactly what you mean about the photography. I was so excited about our recent trip to Yellowstone but felt like my photography skills let me down. It was difficult to go from shooting far away to up close and from a moving vehicle. We had a great time, I just wish I’d been able to capture the magic of it better.

    • Kathryn,

      Perhaps we just put too much pressure on ourselves, have too many expectations, when we travel somewhere new. We only have a single chance to capture that magic – or at least it feels that way. I suppose we should let ourselves off the hook. After all, the bigger challenge is finding something new each day in our familiar home surroundings, where it is so easy to miss the magic.

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