Posted on March 16, 2016
When you asked me to follow you on your first trip to Hawaii and document your experience, I knew I had to be there. You encountered so many new things…
The breathtaking beaches only Hawaii can boast of. Its smoldering sunsets that leave others pale in comparison. Pearl Harbor Memorial and the reverence that seeps into your bones as you stand, staring down at the sunken USS Arizona, with her oil still escaping to the surface. Sweat running down your back as you hiked Diamond Head. Digging your toes into the sand as the water washed over your feet. Driving through the clouds to reach the top of Haleakala Crater. Surf lessons and catching the wave on your first run. Reminiscing with an old friend, and meeting new ones. Wearing your Steelers jersey to watch the big game, and tossing playful jabs at the Broncos fans beside you. Going on a private whale-watching tour with the U.S. Coast Guard. Finally getting your “warrior” tribal tattoo (which turned out beautifully), and sharing your own warrior story with the artist. Meeting Mick Fleetwood and receiving a tribute at his restaurant. Taking selfies with nothing but expansive ocean behind you.
As indulgent as it all was, it wasn’t a vacation. It was a time for reflection. A few days away from the hustle and bustle of life. A getaway to clear your mind and rearrange priorities. An opportunity to evaluate your life. It was a chance to detox. It was a gift given to you…
Our host was beyond gracious. He provided you with anything you needed. And oh man, did he do a great job. From cereal and yogurt each morning, to transportation and stimulating conversation. Through it all, he became a friend. We’re so fortunate to have added him to our individual life spider webs–I know the overlap will serve as a thick strand.
I saw a few moments when you were able to let go. Just a handful. It was the look of being free. And so I grinned quietly. You didn’t see me looking, and that’s the point. When the world isn’t looking at you, is when you’re able to just be. I chose not to lift my camera in some of those instances…they deserved to remain untouched. But the others? I caught them. Sometimes it was a massive grin, sometimes it was a contemplative trance. Do you know why I loved these fleeting moments? It’s not because I knew you had it all figured out–it’s because I knew you didn’t. And you were recognizing it. That is why I was excited for Hawaii…the things you can’t anticipate.
But my favorite moment? It’s the second to last image in this gallery. We were sitting in the corner of that little coffee shop, Cafe @ La Plage, with only a couple hours left. There were many unspokens sitting on that table in the sunlight. But we talked about the book we plan to put together, and other creative visions. All I had with me was my phone…I remember contentedly snapping that photo. They were some of the most genuine seconds during your trip.
Posted on February 26, 2016
When I first met you, you shared an idea you’ve had for some time. You wanted to portray the internal battle you go through, and many others, while dealing with PTSD. I still remember how you said it. You told me sometimes you just want to rip your clothes off and be alone…to completely shed everything and unveil the underlying layer. What stuck with me most from that conversation over coffee, was the moment you said “sometimes I don’t even want to be in my own skin.” I want you to know something. In that moment, through your transparency, I watched you shed your skin. You let me see a side of you that no one else had. Thank you. I’ll never take that for granted. Helping you finally turn your vision into a very real image, after all this time, means more to me than I can put into words. You trusted me with this project, but what speaks louder is your trust in handing over these fragments of yourself. But don’t worry…they’re safe.
Have I told you lately I’m in awe? I sit back and look at you, and I’m in awe of your determination to survive. I’m in awe of the grace that surrounds you, that could only come from God. When your humvee was hit by an IED on April 7, 2007, you were the only one to survive. You rolled out that morning with your coffee, not knowing what was waiting for you. The four men sitting with you in that humvee took their last ride that day. But you made it. You are a survivor. Yet just as this image shows, you are a man. Flesh and blood. You’re enduring the fragility of life and human emotion. As a reminder? You kept your blood-stained belt from that day. And I’m so glad we included it. I think it tells a story by itself…with all those memories soaked into its fibers.
You once told me a certain song hits you pretty hard whenever you hear it. “I Drive Your Truck” by Lee Brice. So I want to tell you, that while I edited this portrait, I had it on repeat. Just playing on a loop for hours. The words became real and their weight fell on me as I sat there.
You rose from the ashes.
“Eighty-Nine Cents in the ash tray
Half empty bottle of Gatorade rolling in the floorboard
That dirty Braves cap on the dash
Dog tags hangin’ from the rear view…
People got their ways of coping
Oh, and I’ve got mine
I drive your truck
I roll every window down
And I burn up
Every back road in this town
I find a field, I tear it up
Til all the pain’s a cloud of dust
Yeah, sometimes I drive your truck
And momma asked me this morning
If I’d been by your grave
But that flag and stone ain’t where I feel you anyway
I drive your truck…”
Posted on February 26, 2016
Your eyes light up when you talk about music. But not just any music–your vision and dreams for the future. I’ve seen you get so excited and completely lost in your words, that you run out of breath. And that’s rare. I’ve heard you sing and play guitar for a few years now, so I was thrilled to shoot these images for your album. Helping you pull this off was a privilege, and it was seriously a blast. We worked against the clock…the Texas heat definitely came with a vengence that day. But thanks to our drinks and that fresh pineapple, we were able to keep things rolling. And how could I forget our last-minute shots by the field, with a few minutes left of Golden Hour. Those made for some of the best shots. (Funny how that happens!) But, if I had to choose a favorite moment from your session at the river, it was when you pulled the folded letter from your guitar case and let me read it. The fact that you carry this sweet letter from your younger sister said more to me about the heart and soul of your music, than anything else. After all, that’s what’s behind all of us–what we value at the core will naturally find its way out if we let it. And that’s exactly what you’re doing.
You’ve been working so hard on this project, and your dedication is paying off. I’m proud of you, Rick. Everyone in your life is cheering for you, and we all want to see you succeed. But above all, I want you to be happy! Keep chasing!
Thank you for your service, and for having heart to overcome and conquer. Many faces of you are captured in these images, Henline. Some are raw, precious moments. Others are fun and candid. Yet all are flawfless reflections of you.
Thank you for allowing me to witness all of it–all of you.
Posted on June 29, 2015
Thank you for your service, and for having heart to overcome and conquer. Many faces of you are captured in these images. Some are raw, precious moments. Others are fun and candid. Yet all are flawfless reflections of you.
Thank you for allowing me to witness all of it…all of you.