In November 2004 we had what might prove to be the strangest random instant message conversation that we’ll ever have. It started with something along the lines of “you don’t know me” and ended with “sure, you can come stay at our home and studio for a week.”
John was 18 at the time and just out of high school in Ontario. We were living in Alberta then and while I was 6 years older, I knew where he was coming from. While most messages from strangers online end up in the trash, John knew how to get my attention – it was about a girl. And a love story. And he didn’t know how it would turn out, but he needed to try and if that meant flying across the country to give it a shot, that’s what he was going to do.
I asked him why he didn’t want to just stay in a hostel, and he told me that hostels scared him. I asked him how hostels could possibly be any more scary than staying with random strangers he found online, and he replied that he wouldn’t be staying with strangers, he would be staying with photographers whose work he appreciated. And so, we gave him that chance.
We enjoyed spending the week with John and having him shoot with us and play around in the studio while he was here. We’ve kept in touch since then and this week I got the best message from him ever.
Along with his grad photos (he’s completed his diploma in photography from Georgian College!), he simply said “BE PROUD. You did this to me.”
Which, of course, made me cry instantly.
Life works in mysterious ways. The thing with the girl never did work out, but John says spending those days with us and watching us shoot and work together inspired him to go into photography as a career. I’m thrilled that he found inspiration in what we do, but I know how much work he put into getting that piece of paper and it was most definitely all him.
I love watching him grow as a photographer and I look forward to the new stuff he sends me every week as we talk about what he’s doing and what he’s going to try next. I can’t wait to see where it all leads.
CONGRATULATIONS, John! We are so very proud of everything you’ve accomplished!