Photo Essay

The Hauntingly Unfinished


The mind is a wonderful thing.

I wish I could turn mine off.

At night when I lie awake in bed, my mind refuses to settle in under the covers and rest. It refuses to sleep, preferring to taunt me with the incomplete. The worst nights are the ones when my mind dwells on unmade images. Undocumented moments. Pieces of life that are over and done and already forgotten. They haunt me.

Maybe it's a project that I started with a magnificent image or two, and a premise that really spoke to me. So many projects that appeal to me on a deep level, that speak to a certain aspect of my soul. There's an intensely personal out-of-focus image designed to show the world through the eyes of someone who is nearly blind (myself). There are a few images of "stuff" left behind by people; tiny transient pieces of proof that their possessors existed. A fairly significant body of work created within a mile of my home which came to an abrupt halt for really no reason. Beauty in the mundane.

There are images of those around me whom I love and want to document right now, at this stage in their lives. And I want to document myself, as I am on the inside rather than snapshots of the outer me. I am too guarded an individual to express myself so intimately except in music.

Sleeping children who are still blissfully ignorant of the kinds of thoughts that keep me awake at night.

Looking at my list of unfinished projects makes me realize something unexpected: I am desperately driven to document things that make me emotional. I only want my view on the world to be seen and understood. I am not looking for attention; I'm looking for kindred spirits.

I want to believe that I will finish these projects. I really want to. It's the perpetual false feeling of guilt that drives me. The guilt is driven by my need to accomplish. The need to accomplish is driven by a need to validate myself, which is in turn driven by a need to be understood.

I have to wonder if this perpetual guilt is what drives my portrait work? My need to document the soul and not just the face. Maybe my discontent is the greatest strength of my portrait work. I only want people to be honest and understood as I have never been.

While I prize this continual sense of incompletion which drives me to press forward, I wish for the day when I can say, "This project is finished. Now onto the next."

In the meantime, I will have to content myself with the challenge of documenting the deepest side of everyone I photograph. That seems a fair trade.

I still can't sleep.

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9 responses

  • Jessica Hardin

    Jessica Hardin gave props (29 Sep 2008):

    Wonderful photo essay! The truth behind your words coupled with beautiful photos makes this great! A yeah vote from me

  • pandji alfi

    pandji alfi (Deleted) gave props (15 Nov 2009):

    the words got me.. a thorough self-analysis.. i had a draft about a similar waking nightmares too.. some of the bright photos reflects your hopes and yearnings for a kindred intimacy alright, but i'd liked it more if the mood is concentrated, like the last 3 photos.. that would make it beautifully dark.. nevertheless, this is a great essay.

  • Marco Martinez

    Marco Martinez gave props (9 Dec 2009):

    Very honest essay. You have beautiful portraits. I love your work

  • Chet Dailey

    Chet Dailey said (1 Jul 2010):

    I like this piece. Nice emotional tug to it and well complemented by your selection of photos. You "see" well. Just a note - Life is a journey that ends in a grave, so fill our lives with your ability to tap our emotions and get some sleep. ;-)

  • Ryan Watkins

    Ryan Watkins (Deleted) gave props (7 Jul 2010):

    Beautiful images and great story!

  • sasha ormond

    sasha ormond said (14 Dec 2010):

    the most beautiful portraits. truly.

  • John Linton

    John Linton gave props (15 Dec 2010):

    Hell YEAH! Rad!

  • Litz Go

    Litz Go gave props (2 Sep 2011):

    love your b&w portraits. This photo essay is great!

  • Scott Stalcup

    Scott Stalcup gave props (27 May 2012):


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