The Unlikely Path

Gallery Bistro, Port Moody, British Columbia, Patrick Jennings' show of photographs, poetry and stories is now on the walls.
Photography came early. In high school. Late ‘70s. With my father’s Nikkormat and Mr. Haust’s photography class. There was a year as a “Photographic Illustration” undergrad at Rochester Institute of Technology, one of the best photography schools in the Americas, at the end of which my professor said, “Patrick, I don’t think you’re going to be a photographer.” In the sense that he meant, at the time, he was right. I’m not much of a “Photographic Illustrator”; I don’t make my living from photography. But, then, here am I.

It’s tempting to write, “I learned new ways to see the world through a viewfinder,” but, really, I had always been finding new ways to see the world through my mind’s viewfinder. I think that view is unique for every one of us. What attracted me to photography was its capacity to record what I saw in my mind. More than that. Photography has the capacity to create a world that exists only in my mind’s viewfinder and then offer it up for others to see. So I love capturing the vividly lit landscapes rich with an atmosphere you can almost breathe, I love abstracting the forms of objects to create an appealing image, and I’m learning to enjoy the intimate discovery in the exquisite presence of people. But I love just as much extracting with Photoshop a vast field of vibrant oranges, reds and violets from a blurry, poorly-lit image of lichen on a granite rock shot with my Samsung S5. It’s been a long journey from a boy in a black-and-white darkroom loving every minute of the chemical-stained process to the current manipulator of 0’s and 1’s rendered in glorious swaths of colour, texture, form and meaning.

The words, they came through struggle. I liked to write, but hated the process. My mind works in a cut-and-paste kind of creativity. With a computer, that’s fine. But a pencil and paper means a cycle of messy drafts, rife with arrows directing where blocks of text are to be moved, notes winding through margins and any available white space, and large black blotches of scratched-out text. I can’t stop myself from editing, even in the midst of a sentence, even when penning or typing (remember: typewriter) a final draft for handing in, usually with a deadline looming. Hated that.

Then came computers. I suppose it’s an odd thing to say that I substantially owe any writing skills I have to first learning how to write computer software. Software design taught me how to find the order in large, complex problems and tell their story, as if it were a plot. A computer program has a beginning, a middle and an end, just like any story. It has landscapes and locations in the form of data, and any variable in a program, like a character in any story, changes through the arc of the program, but is always seeking resolution, a perfect ending.

Even better, a program either works or it doesn’t on a purely objective level. A story… well, a story is a much more personal and subjective effort. A writer can’t blame the failures of their words on a “compiler bug”. Best of all, when that deadline is on the verge of passing, just hit “PRINT”, and whatever the printer spits out at least looks like a final draft, even if it’s a miserable mess in my overly self-critical mind. No, even better than that, a word processor is the perfect cut-and-paste editing tool.

Computing gave me my next big creative break as well when Microsoft bought the company I worked for. A few years later, on April Fools Day, I left gainful employment and began several years of travel, photography and writing. During those years I hand-coded in HTML my first blog – before “blog” was a word – which I called “The eJournal.” One day I printed the full text of that blog, and used a full ream of 500 pages in the process. Despite having already written and produced a play, the realization struck me first in that moment: “I’m a writer.”

I’ve begun and abandoned several other blogs since, but really hit the ground running hard with the only current one, Pix to Words. For the most part, I keep a post-a-day habit with it, and while the photographs I post there span the last quarter century of my work, the words they’ve inspired have all been written since February, 2015. Currently, the count stands at 1535 posts, 1436 of them are poems.

Go figure. Turns out I’m a poet, too.

It’s Up!
At the end of a 9-our installation day.
Gallery Bistro
Port Moody
British Columbia, Canada, 2018

Photo by Kevin Miklossy

I post this on the eve of the Opening Reception for Harmony in Word and Form, the gallery show featuring selected posts from this blog. With the absolutely essential help and insight of a couple dear friends, we installed the show in an epic 9-hour long session. (My installation genius buddy, Kevin, snapped the featured photo above at the end of the night.) Even then, we didn’t fully complete the task. In the days since, I’ve been filling out creative holes, adding title cards and a few picture frames to the walls while generally tweaking the presentation. Four long days for me, following on the four weeks of long days which preceded them, but the show is in about as good shape as I can get it. So, I’m happy.

Now, there is just one task remaining: the artist bio.

I hadn’t really begun thinking about this until today, when all the other tasks on the todo list had been handled.

The bit you see here is the first idea, written while sitting down for a late breakfast/lunch. It’s not really appropriate for a gallery “Artist Biography”. However, the acrylic stand I’m putting the bio in is clear both front and back, so I’m thinking this will go on the back, and I’ll instruct bio readers on the front that there’s a bit of an Easter Egg if they flip it over.

For those of you looking forward to the return of Pic and a Word Challenge on Sunday, I already know what the theme will be: GRATITUDE. Without a lot of help, this “solo show” would never have justified my vision for it. That vision was much bigger than I, and I think that in addition to all the great people who stepped in to help, something much bigger than all of us had no small hand in seeing it completed.

Thank you.