40

Hot Sauce and Nugget at the Aspen Art Museum.

I am now 40 years old.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect. People tend to dramatize this stage of life -- as if one crests the uphill climb of youth, only to roll over the top and begin a scary descent into a deep, dark valley of old age and unknowns. 

For my birthday, I'd blocked off two weeks at our place in the mountains. My goal was to completely shut down work to spend time with my wife, my two daughters, and my bike. 

At least that was the plan. A few days before we were scheduled to leave, I received a call from ESPN to shoot a feature (including the cover) for an upcoming issue. It was a dream job -- traveling around the country to shoot conceptually driven environmental portraits of world class athletes. It was a job that I'd been practicing for since I started shooting, and I was seriously honored to receive the call.

Initially I really struggled with this decision. Agonized, even. What better way to ring in #40 than with a killer job for one of my favorite clients? It seemed like some sort of serendipitous validation that I'd "made it." And to do it before turning 40 was sweet icing on the old man birthday cake....but I have a wife and two kids that have been planning for me to be around....but it's a feature and a cover, it's a stepping stone....but what about my family....what about my career?

I didn't know what to do. The family and friends I talked to were divided as well. Assessing the pluses and minuses was not helpful. There was no clear answer.

Fortunately, I've been solidly busy since January, working for a wide range of editorial and advertising clients. The projects have been interesting, creative, challenging, and have paid well. Work has taken me to Canada, Mexico, and Europe (twice), and all over the US. The Photo Editors, Art Directors, and subjects, have all been smart and cool. I love working with my crew. 

So this year has been a welcome change from '09 + '10, which were two of my more challenging years to date. Professionally, this year has been a really nice way to approach #40. Many of the clients I'm working with now have been on my wish list since I began my career, over 15 years ago. There's not much I would change. 

So I turned down the dream job.

Who knows what would have come from it, but there will always be more jobs. Maybe not exactly like this one, but there will be more jobs. However, there won't be another 40th birthday to celebrate with my family. Not to mention if I took the job, my 40th would always be remembered as the one where I left my family behind to go work for two weeks. I didn't want to remember it that way.

I think it was the right decision, and I believe this even more after spending two beautiful weeks in the mountains with my girls. I spent many hours on my bike, and reflected on my first 40. I even got to take the girls to see Stephen Shore's new work from Abu Dhabi at the Aspen Art Muesum (above). Furthermore, shutting down shop for two weeks has recharged my creative batteries in a way that 3 or 4 days simply can't do.

I am happy, both personally and professionally.
I feel fortunate to be where I am right now.
I feel very fortunate to be able to take two weeks off.
I am optimistic. 
I truly love what I do.
and,
I am excited to get back to work.