Surprise Answers

I believe that people often ask us the questions we most want to avoid. We may not realize that we are avoiding the questions, and we certainly may not understand our reasons for doing so, because the reasons reveal insecurities. Sometimes, the difficult questions appear easy, such as, “How long have you been a photographer.” That is my difficult question.


Last night, my nine year old daughter visited my room knowing that I was sick. She said, “Daddy, I have a surprise.” I do not like surprises. I do not find them funny or charming. I especially do not like them on December 7. I am old enough to remember when I was nine and my grandparents would tell me about how their lives were changed forever by a big surprise in Hawaii. After she said surprise, I kept creating unhappy scenarios until I saw the glass of orange juice and handmade “Get Well” card. My daughter is the reason that I started taking photographs again almost nine years ago.

Even if I do not know the answer about photography, I know that I am a dad.

I have taken photographs most of my life. When I went to college in Santa Barbara, I woke up early and photographed the sunrise often. I practiced. I learned how to use my camera. I learned about aperture, shutter speed and film speed. I became good at shooting backgrounds, color and light. When my family visited Hawaii in late 1989, I knew how to capture The Spouting Horn when most people contemplated snapshots from the safe viewing station. My poorly scanned copy still looks good almost 24 years later.

Now for the hard part… there was this woman I knew in college. I loved her; she loved me. Then, our relationship did not end well. Afterwards, I dropped by her new place to discuss old bills or something, and I saw my Sprouting Horn photograph that I had given her several months earlier. I was surprised. Somehow, seeing my photograph in her new place hurt enough that I stopped being a photographer.

I still took pictures between 1990 something and whenever, but I never really felt like a photographer again. Until recently, and then only for a few moments. I will always feel like a dad.

2 Responses to “Surprise Answers”

  1. Karen Clark says:

    You’ll always be a photographer and artist (to me) whether you feel like one or not.

  2. bryan farley says:


    Thank you for the support. You know, when we walked around our old school and the neighborhood, I felt like an artist. When I talked to you about how I saw the world as I took pictures, I felt like a photographer.

    I recently noticed my reasons for being uncomfortable about the question when I prepared for a presentation. I searched through old photographs and I found the Spouting Horn photos. I wondered why I had stopped shooting and then I remembered seeing the photo on the ledge in my ex-girlfriend’s apartment. I can still see it there and I am still confused. How could she display it so openly when we clearly disliked each other? 🙂

    Why did that hurt for so long?