Seeing Everything


I love the range and depth of human experiences I get to either experience or observe. It really gives me faith in humanity, increase my wonder and amazement of humanity.

Other days, it’s just gross. Gross, I mean, gross. I like to see all kinds of things and events, sometimes I get to see too much though.

Let me give you a little context here. I have a weak stomach, a very weak stomach.

In high school, when we had to dissect the frog, I didn’t touch the frog. Not a once. Something like two or three weeks, and not a single cut by me. I had lab partners who really wanted to do the dissecting. I let them do the cutting, and the poking, and the prodding, happily.

To this day I still can’t handle raw meat. I can work fine with hamburger, hamburger ain’t meat anymore, hamburger is clay, tasty clay. Frozen chicken? Fine, it’s a block of ice. A chicken breast that ain’t frozen, nope. A side of steak? No way. Don’t get me wrong, if you ask me what I want to eat, it often includes a dead animal. Dead animals are tasty, but I don’t want to touch them or be around them between the point where they are living and the point where they are cooked.

So Tuesday was the second time I’ve had to photograph people working with cadavers. I didn’t lose my lunch the first time, I just came close, repeatedly. I didn’t lose my lunch this time, just to kill the suspense, but I certainly didn’t enjoy it much.

I was photographing a group of high school students who were taking a field trip to a local college that has cadavers for some of it’s human anatomy classes. The students ranged in their reactions, some were like me, no touching, learning what they need to learn, but not real into it.

Other students, well, they just loved it. They were having a good ole’ time. They weren’t grossed out, at all, they were totally fascinated. At one point the doctor/instructor told them that the male’s heart was detached and they could remove it. One girl didn’t hesitate, at all, she just reached right in, moved some other organs out of the way, and pulled the guy’s heart out. She found it a bit gross, but she seemed more amazed, fascinated, and awe-struck than anything else. Good for her, on my end, eeeeeewwwww.

I’m glad there are people like those students who were fascinated by the innards of the human body. I want those people as my doctor. But its not for me.

Now, being a guy who can come close to passing out when he sees his own blood (yeah, and if that ain’t just ridiculous) now I’m expected to watch a dissected body? One of the keys I’ve found over the years to being a photojournalist is that your own personal feelings, inhibitions, fears and emotions, just don’t really matter.

I hate heights. I get scared when I’m the roof of a one story building, I can’t walk within feet of ledge. I also can’t count the number of times I’ve been 30 to 300 feet up on the edge of a ledge taking photos. Doesn’t matter that I’m scared, I’ve got photos to make.

Same thing here. I can’t deal with blood. I’m guessing I can’t handle dead bodies. Doesn’t matter.

The camera, can be, in the hands of a photographer, also used as a shield. My introversion, gone when I’m shooting. My fear of heights, doesn’t matter. My personal hang-ups, of most all types and flavors, just don’t matter or exist when I’m shooting. The camera protects me from the danger.

I don’t understand quite how this works, or why it works, it just does. Maybe it provides the excuse to forget my own inhibitions. Maybe it just pushes me harder. Maybe it distracts me, provides me a focus, a focus that isn’t my hang-up. Whatever it is, it works, I’d like it to work all the time sometimes.

A cadaver becomes subject and shape, nothing else. If it was a chess match it would be the same thing in many ways.

Snack time anyone?

3 Responses to “Seeing Everything”

  1. Becky says:

    I dissected a human body when I was in college. It was amazingly rad.

    I also had a fetal pig to dissect earlier in my college career that my professor suggested that we “take home and work on.” Of course, I did, and left it in the fridge when I wasn’t working on it to terrify my mother.

    His name was Stu. I named him.

  2. Josh Hawkins says:

    I’m glad you had/have fun. You are never going to see my fridge, ever.


  3. Becky says:

    I am a freak of nature.

Leave a Reply