On Marketable Skills, Arts Education, And Why Photography Is Important

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Throughout my time training and being on the road as a truck driver, I tried to keep a blog, Turn All The Wheels.

As I transition to a new job, I am going to try to keep that one going, just as a more personal journal of what is going on in my life.  That said, I have just finished an entry that is very relevant for this photography blog.  If you want to read this post in situ, the link is here. It could be useful to read this within that context, but I feel this mostly can be a stand alone essay.  It starts here:

“In addition to all the reasons I gave in my last post about coming off the road, there are two more reasons that I didn’t mention. One is rooted in my personal life, and I’m not going to share that here. But the other is very public, and I wanted to talk about that for just a moment.

I realized how important my photography is to me. And it was killing me that I was not accomplishing as much as I would have liked while on the road.

A few people have asked me about CDL school; how did I feel about spending money on a school to only be in the job for five months? I tell them that I spent over 5 years getting a Bachelors Degree in Art that I’ve never really done anything with, so 1 month of training for 5 months of employment is the best ROI I’ve ever gotten from education.

I have two competing views regarding my choice to major in Art. On the one hand, yes, it was a bad decision. Obviously. My mother was a CPA and she always said that I should have been one as well. Said I would have been good at it. And I probably would have been. But, more importantly, it would have given me a marketable skill. My mother could say that she was an Accountant. I know people who identify themselves as a Nurse, or a Teacher, or a Welder, or even a Truck Driver. Being able to say, “This, this is what I do” is a solid place to be, especially when looking for a job. Which is what I’m doing right now. Again.

In times like these, yes, I regret making that decision.

However, then I think about this in other ways. I think about how maybe, just maybe, the purpose of education should not be solely for monetary gain. We should strive to educate ourselves not only to be good employees, but to be better people. The prevailing attitude that education should serve a utilitarian function that only makes kids into wage earners rather than well-rounded adults is extremely dangerous. Knowledge of the arts, of music and dance and theater and literature should not be looked at as folly that will never enrich our bank accounts, but as fundamental to our growth as better citizens within our society.

The fact that I can appreciate a painting by Caravaggio or Picasso has done zero for me financially over the years. But when I look at Caravaggio’s The Calling Of Saint Matthew, I see a dramatic struggle between light and dark, between being caught up in your mundane duties and being made aware that I am called, we are all being called, to something greater than just sitting inside at a desk counting money all our lives. Or, when I look at Picasso’s Guernica, I see the horror of war made with a visceral impact that simple realism could never match. And it makes me want to fight harder than ever to end violence and war, at least as much as possible, in this world.

Art, real art, great art, tears at our chest, touches our heart, confounds our brain, makes us sympathize with the lonely and desire to love with the lovers. Art celebrates beauty, and challenges everything. This all sounds pretentious and overblown, I get that. It doesn’t stop me believing that majoring in art, while never enriching my wallet, made me a better person.

I’ll never say my art is equal to Caravaggio or Picasso. Hell, I doubt I’m even a good a photographer as Ken Rockwell. But, being creative is a part of me, and has been from my earliest memories. And photography has become a true passion, one that I’m determined to pursue.

You’re probably saying, “Yeah, you said that about truck driving, too.” Fair point. Here’s my response.

I’ve told this story before, that after my mother past away in 2011, we divided up her belongings into two separate, distinct categories. There was the stuff, mostly junk, that we ended up either giving away or throwing away. And photographs. When my dad passed away in 2014, we repeated that process. My wife’s father passed away this year. Most of what he owned has been sold off or thrown away. What did my wife save, carefully pack and bring back home with her? Photographs. Stacks of photographs.

When I go, my memories of sunsets, and movies, and laughs with friends and family will be gone too. But, hopefully, my photographs will continue to be around. Hopefully someone will collect my work, the way Carole and I have collected our families photographs. And maybe, just maybe, my art will inspire others in ways similar to how other artists inspired me.”

 

 

 

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