Apr 28, 2009

Find your passion

by Alex Towers

It’s hard to believe that the next event on my usually full calendar is graduation. I am always busy and rushing around. Things were not always this way. Freshman year I was searching for something to be passionate about.

I had always been active in the church, being a “techie” as my dad called it. When I left for college I experienced a radical change. There was no church to get involved in at first, there was no real place to serve, at least not with anything I knew about. I spent my first semester really just searching for something to do, and I really felt lost. Were it not for my two transplanted friends, I don’t think I would have stayed here. I found myself with no real understanding of what I was meant to do.

Things changed my second semester when I joined the Champion staff.

Having never picked up a professional-grade camera, I stepped into a photography position. The job came naturally — and it became my passion. I had found something meaningful to occupy my time.

Passion is a strange thing. It can take on an all-consuming power. Like a toddler, it needs to be nourished and fed, but controlled. If it is let go on its own, it can take over like a wildfire, leaving you destitute. Speaking from experience, photography is my passion, but there have been times when I have looked at my camera with incredible hatred. I let it consume me. Day after day, I would photograph different events. The fun had worn off, and I was just going through the motions. I went through almost a year of repeating my actions.

April 16, 2007 — Probably the most memorable day for me, hearing about the shootings at Virginia Tech and producing that week’s issue of the Champion. It took almost no convincing to get me to drive to Blacksburg to photograph the events and do some on-site reporting. Already worn out from working on the Champion, I have no idea where I found the energy. Once my staff mates and I were there, the adrenaline kicked in, and I vividly remember the passion returning — bringing a renewed sense as to why I do what I do. Even though I had friends at my side, it was a very personal learning experience.

Habakkuk 1:5 speaks to the wonder of the work of God, calling us to view his design in utter amazement. Looking around at the mourning at Virginia Tech, I found it hard to reconcile photographing the mourning of family and friends in the loss of loved ones. This was probably one of the hardest days of my career, having to disconnect my emotions in order to effectively portray the devastation of a community. Had I become like every other journalist? Had I sunk to their level? Maybe. I am not entirely sure.

That day changed me, making me who I am today. That day changed my passion.

Just four weeks later, I was forced to shove my emotions aside to photograph an event that hit a little more close to home and heart. I remember hearing that Dr. Falwell had died. It took a couple hours for the truth to set in. Doc really had passed away and again, I had to be out in the trenches photographing the mourning of a community. This time, I was photographing people I knew. People I had respect for.

Once again I looked at my camera with disdain, and an unsettling fear. I knew I had a job to do. However, I remember walking with my camera while people I knew were looking at me with this look of disgust. There were photographers there who were exploiting the emotions of those in mourning. I remember asking myself if I was devolving into one of them.

Those few days were rough, and somehow they forced me to become someone I am normally not. Even though I had to cast my emotions aside, I found a satisfaction in bringing a compassionate eye in telling the story of those mourning — after all, I was mourning with them.

An assignment like that requires a benign schizophrenia. A disconnect is needed, but, the passion for the subject must be present for a certain, harsh truth to come out. I think every passion in life needs that disconnect. It brings you down to earth for a few minutes and forces you to make an evaluation. You may not like what you see, but you will always come away with more.

There have definitely been ups and downs to working as a photojournalist. James 1 says us that the things that bring us the most headache and adversity bring us the most reward. Most times the light at the end of the tunnel may be dim, but it is still there.

Every person needs to find something they are passionate about. Life has no purpose without a passion. These four or so years you are spending pulling all-nighters and working on projects are a great time to find the thing that motivates you. Don’t rely on your friends to determine what you like. You need to find your own niche. Sometimes this process is lonely, and sometimes it is scary. But in the end, it is always worth it.


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