Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The World In Your Living Room

It was a Saturday afternoon just like any other. Having just returned from a foreign assignment, I was devoid of civilization--and like many Saturday's in my home town, there wasn't much to do. So being the geek that I am, I ventured into the nearest electronic store to see what new gadgets I could find.

Walking aisle by aisle, I skimmed every product with a fine-toothed comb. Many things caught my eye, but looking at the price tag made me lose focus. Too many zero's, not enough decimals. So I kept walking.

Large screen TV's always catch my attention. The way moving images danced on it's glossy screens made everything so real--almost touchable. Standing in front of one--for a second, I thought I was some place else. The video played seamlessly smooth with music thumping to the psychedelic beat of an under ground night club I'd be afraid to be in. Surround sound speakers made me lost, confused--wondering where the hell all that sound was coming from. It was amazing--yet at the same time scary.

It didn't take long for a salesman to notice my disoriented look. He asked if I was "interested." To which I replied, "huh?"

And before I could even gather my thoughts, he started spewing out facts and figures I had never heard before. In one ear, out the other. So I just stood there and smiled.

Ten minutes later he starts selling me an extended warranty plan on something I never said I was going to buy. And just when I thought he was going to shut up, he says, "But THAT'S NOT ALL...if you buy this whole system today, I'll throw in a special edition Travel DVD that has all the countries covered! You'd never have to leave home...heck, it's like having the world in your living room!"

I laughed and walked out.

Driving home, I couldn't help but wonder how many people have fallen for this deal. For the price it cost to own that system I could probably trek through all of South East Asia, venture through the Himalaya's and through to Europe.

It's funny, I get people telling me all the time how lucky I am to travel and how they wouldn't be able to do it. But at the same time, they wouldn't have a second thought about spending $8000 (U.S) on an entertainment system so they can sit and have the world brought to them instead of going to it.

A waste of money, if you ask me.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Man Behind The Camera

Photo courtesy of John Narvalis
2010 CSC Awards, Toronto Canada

“I was born in a refugee camp along the Thailand and Cambodia border. Every morning, I’d awake to the image of a man behind a camera. Wiping my eyes, I’d see him clearly, in perfect focus as he focused his lens. They were filming the movie The Killing Fields outside my tent. And at that very moment, at the age of three, I wanted to be that man behind the camera. Twenty five years later, tonight, I can proudly say that I am that man.”
-an excerpt of my speech from the 2010 Canadian Society of Cinematographers Award.

Sometimes, it’s easy for me to forget the very reasons why I do what I do. Deadlines come and go, stories change, schedules fall through—and before I know it, the day is done. In my life, there are days when the world just seems untouchable—when no matter how hard I’ve worked or how far I’ve gone, it just isn’t enough. And at that very moment, professionally, I just want to give up, but personally, I know I can’t. So I work harder, push further. And with hope and a prayer, I tell myself that what I’m doing is not just benefiting me as a person, no, but also those who seek an understanding of the world through my images.

So because of that, what I do on a daily basis is not a job, but a journey. It’s my calling. My way of understanding myself--and at the same time helping those who want to understand others.

I began this journey at a very young age. Foolish and stubborn, I followed the path least traveled. Today, I am still that fool. I am still that stubborn-hard-ass that looks to defy those who say I can’t. God has blessed me with enough foolishness to believe that I can make a difference in the world—so that I can attempt to do what others claim cannot be done. So with his permission, through my images, I am going to do just that—no matter how long or desolate that road may be. I am determined.

Sometimes, amidst the chaos and calamity of my world, I trip and fall into the abyss. I lose sight of my vision—and so with prying hands, I try to quickly find my way back. And when I do, that vision becomes clear again—and like that three year old wiping his eyes in the morning, I can see that man behind the camera. Except this time, that man is me.