Monday, February 21, 2011

Scars of the Soul

Photo by Dan Denardo

This is a look at what goes on in the mind of a photog in the midst of fear.


Like shards of broken glass, the sharp sound of gun fire cuts through the silence of the night, echoes through the air, and into the abyss. I sat there on that ledge in Port Au Prince that night, surrounded by darkness, engulfed in fear unlike any I had ever felt. There's nothing more terrifying than the sound of ricochet, the possibility of being hit, the utter silence that follows and the heavy sigh that trembles out of your soul. It's a feeling you never forget.

As minutes passed and silence fell once more, I sat there on that ledge--alone, wondering what tomorrow may bring. On the eve of inevitable rioting and political unrest, for the first time in my life, I sat there in fear--not of dying or leaving the world behind, no, but fear of failure--failing in life and the person I've come to be. I had never set out to become anything in particular--only to live creatively and push the scope of my existence--for adventure, through passion. And along the way, either by fate or destiny--or maybe guilt or shame, I've managed to re-focus my lens on those less fortunate. There was a time in my life when I would stare down the barrel of my lens to capture the plight of those who suffer--without even realizing they were human. It's a guilt that is embedded in my soul.

I have seen so much of the world, yet I have felt so little. I have gone to places few can imagine, even parts of the world many never knew existed. I have seen war and death, destruction and despair. I have seen beauty when all was lost, darkness when many seemingly smiled. I've seen between the lines, the silent threats and invisible divides. I've seen, but never felt. I've captured, but never cherished.

And because of that, I am changed. I am not the man I once was. After every foreign assignment, I'd return home to an empty house, bare walls and unopened mail. When I am with my family, they no longer ask where I've been or what I've done. They no longer ask to see my work or hear my stories. It's as if I had never left. And for their own sanity, that's how they prefer it--because to them, I am that son that travels for a living, the one that goes to distant lands and daunting journeys, fending off sickness, disease and most times, danger. I am that son that parents wish they had but never want to know of--the son that parents fear would never return. And with that reality constantly in the back of my mind, I often regret living that kind of life.

As an eerie silence held a city of seven million in rapture, I sat there on that ledge contemplating about the choices I've made and the choices I should have made. The notion of fear and failure, regret and reverie lingered on my mind--making me want to scream.

Gun shots echoed in the distance.