Sitting across from me at the table over a plate of Terroni’s delicious pizza, Bob was all smiles as he toyed with his little Canon point-and-shoot camera.
“I thank you for giving me this camera, Laurie,” he said. “Just as you forecast, it has changed the way I spend money. And not only that, it’s now helping me make money. For the first time in three years, my savings account has edged its way into five figures. And I’m debt free. In celebration of the occasion, I have a little something for you.”
My old friend turned in his chair and reached behind him, pulling a long, thin cardboard tube from a large athletic bag propped up in the corner by our table. Raising the tube, he removed a plastic cap from one end of it, and pulled from inside a roll of white matt paper measuring perhaps two feet long. He unrolled the paper before me on the table, and I was startled by what I saw – a large, gorgeous, full-colour photographic print of sea and sand at Malibu Beach, California, under a deep blue, dusk sky.
“Oh my,” I said. “This is lovely Bob. Thank you.”
“I shot that while visiting family in LA,” he said as I admired the colour, shading, and fine detail of the beachfront scene. “That’s acid-free, museum-quality paper that will last 100 years. It’s the least I can do for your help. Thanks to you, I have again fallen in love with photography, which has come a long way since I last took it seriously during my college days so many years ago. Nowadays, photography is just about the cheapest creative activity a man can pursue thanks to digital technology.
“I mean, aside from the initial outlay for a great but economical point-and-shooter, anyone can look forward to years of shooting then sharing photos online without spending hardly anything at all. Also, the process of taking photos day by day is wonderful. It has worked positively to change my whole outlook on life, making me constantly alert to my surroundings. I’d call it a form of therapy.”
As we set about eating our lunch, Bob raved on.
“It’s not like the old days for shutterbugs. I remember in college spending a small fortune to develop and print rolls of film offering only 36 shots. Now, with a $12 re-usable digital memory card, I can snap hundreds of photos in an afternoon, download them to iPhoto, and have my own full control editing them down to an album of a few dozen great images in a matter of hours.”
As we munched away on the thin-crust pizza, I was happy to see Bob in such high spirits, and I was particularly pleased to hear that his restored love of photography had diverted him from bad spending habits of the not-too-distant past. Where once he battled boredom by entertaining himself through frivolous and expensive diversions almost day by day, now he was spending nothing most of the time behind the lens of not only the little camera I had provided him as a gift, but also a newer camera he had purchased – what he called a “pro-level DSLR box” with interchangeable lenses.
I was in for more surprises as he spoke; very happy ones, too, since Bob remains in comeback mode. He’s a middle age fellow who’s obsessively creative and easily distracted. For several years now he’s been a recovering alcoholic. The sickness marked his more than 20 years as a high-flying, free-spending writer-creative director in advertising. He spent foolishly over time, and fell into terrible debt. With help, though, he’s managed to get clean and, as today’s lunch was showing, get his act back together.
“It’s been amazing, really,” Bob carried on. “After you gave me the point-and-shooter, I started posting photo albums to Facebook. In a matter of a few months, I had a following of Facebook friends specifically interested in my photography. Soon I was getting enquiries about photographic prints. Next thing you know, I’m selling large-format, fine art prints at $400 a pop to people right across North America. Then Toronto’s exclusive Spoke Club invites me to show my work. Then a Canadian ad agency calls and hires me to document a two-day film shoot. Heaven knows what’s next.”
Bob’s words reminded me of something the late, great scholar Joseph Campbell once said: “Follow your heart, and doors will open for you.”
To which I can only add: here’s to Bob, and to doors leading to places other than bar rooms.