Roses or Thorns?

Photography by Morgan Lieberman

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Like everyone else, when the statewide lockdown began, I had no idea how I would react and respond to the upcoming weeks in isolation. As a current freelancer, there is already a certain level of social and physical hibernation that exists when I am in between assignments for several days or focused on business housekeeping that requires me to hunker down on my computer.

Where we choose freelancing for the flexibility in our schedule and being able to be our own boss, often times professors in college and industry mentors do not warn you about the importance of balance and finding a way to maintain emotional health in a career path that can be anything but consistent and stable. There are many quiet moments that can often lead to a great amount of self doubt, especially in the beginning of post graduate life and the time period of building a business from the ground up.

For three years, I have had to unwire my brain to adapt away from the mainstream and to acknowledge that I have complete freedom to choose how to live my life, an opportunity to make a structure out of a very unstructured trajectory. Having a constant conversation with myself about how to spend my time, whether productive or not, has benefitted me during the quarantine in so many ways.

Knowing and acknowledging that so much is out of our control in terms of when our society will return to a state of normalcy is the first step I took towards avoiding a flood of anxiety and depression. By accepting the circumstances instead of focusing on what was going wrong and how this could alter life in detrimental ways, I decided to use my camera as a tool for enlightenment.

In times of first hand and second hand trauma, such as the week when I had to evacuate my home in 2018 due to the Woolsey Fire, or when a shooter walked into Borderline Bar just fifteen minutes from where I grew up and killed twelve innocent people, my first instinct was to document the response to these collective tragedies.

The urge to document reality often comes from an intrinsic feeling that history is being made in front of the camera. That life’s fleeting moments are of course made up of a million historic episodes, but it is how one chooses to capture that slice of life is how history ends up being remembered in a unique way. Having the privilege to be able to have access to people’s lives because of a bulky device I wear around my neck is one that I never take for granted. I know that the meaning of photography is rapidly changing due to the evolution of social media and “branded content,” but what stays intimately beautiful and timeless to me are the moments I can capture that show humanity in a silver linings light.

The images I have made so far represent a goodness, a positive energy that I have witnessed in a time of great difficulty and struggle for the world. The camera forces me to seek out this feeling that one can simply find just by looking up and looking around. We can all learn from each other just through simple actions and simple doings that attempt to make a minute of each day brighter. We have to assume we always have an audience and someone that needs this reminder could be watching and in that split second, it can create a chain reaction for the better.

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