We don’t know what we want until it enters our lives. That’s why want is the source of greed and jealousy. We see something, hear something, taste something, touch something, and in the aftermath of the encounter we find our desire kindled, and those flames scorch reason on the pyre of covet.
But need is different. We need air, food, water, warm clothes in winter, tears when the pain becomes too much. Needs are inherent like the color of our eyes. And yet we don’t always recognize our own needs until something comes along to fulfill them.
Many years ago I met a family—they probably don’t remember that meeting, but I certainly do. Visiting the family farm, I stood at the end of the driveway leading to the private road and watched a mother and her two kids approach. My parents introduced us, told me this family lived in the new community being built along the bayou just down the road, and we stood and talked for a bit.
The mother, a woman named Denise, talked of the male alligator in the swamp near her home, listening to him rumble and grumble in his search for a mate, spoke of seeing him through a heavy downpour. And her children, a daughter named Kenzie and a son named Keigan, shuffled their feet nervously in the presence of someone they didn’t know, but they burgeoned with life and vitality whilst dealing with my parents, whom they knew quite well.
I didn’t see that family again except in passing during a few of my visits in the intervening years. They seemed like nice people, sure, but they were separate from me and my life in Dallas. Whatever value they held, it hinged entirely on my parents.
Then I moved to the family farm in February 2012. Once again I was confronted by this family, albeit under different circumstances. And in that newfound contact I discovered a need I hadn’t recognized before, one now fulfilled, one now meaningful, one now central to me like the air I breathe and the food I eat, one like a warm blanket on a chill winter day.
I’m kicking off a new series of posts to celebrate a member of that family. He’s my brother, though at first I thought of him as a punk, then as an intelligent and interesting young man, then as an acquaintance who became a friend who became so much more.
Keigan becomes a senior in the next few weeks after his junior year ends. For my first people-only photo project, I’ve agreed, with his sister Kenzie’s help, to photographically document his last year of high school, to help capture those memories for his family—but mostly for him.
Although, honestly, it’s as much for me as it is anyone else. We spend a great deal of time together, we talk, we go out, we laugh, we have fun, we care for each other in good times and bad. Yet I know at the end of his high school years he will move on, venture out into the big bad world, take his life in the directions he wants and needs. And in so doing, he will leave this place we call home, he will leave the world we live in, he will no longer be a daily part of my life.
So I want to capture those memories for his family, but I also want to capture them for me. In just a year he has become essential to me and has made my life better and brighter.
He’s the little brother I never had, the little brother I never knew I needed, the little brother who now represents so much joy and love and kinship. He’s the little brother I gained in a year and he’s the little brother I will say goodbye to in another year. Give or take.
Distance and absence will not change what we have. I believe that sincerely, without question, sans hesitation. But things will change; they always do.
So for the next year I will share here some of the memories worth sharing, albeit I will keep the best for him and his family. The photos and thoughts I share will be selected carefully while Denise, Kurt, Kenzie, Austin and Keigan hold the dearest closely for themselves.
This series is about a need fulfilled, a need I never knew I had, a need Keigan brought to light simply by being himself. This series is about his last year in high school.
This series is about a boy becoming a man. This series is about someone facing the future.
This series is about family.
This series is about my brother.
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Yes, I’m talking about Keigan from A boy and his cow (intro, part 1, part 2 & part 3), a series I need to finish. Especially because I’ve photographed several shows since that first one, and most notably because he will continue showing with Bella throughout his senior year. I promise I’ll bring that series up to date as quickly as I can so I can include their continuing adventures in this new series of posts.
No, this doesn’t mean I’ve given up on nature photos. Trust me when I say I have so many images to share in that category that I don’t have to take another nature picture for years to come in order to keep the posts coming. Though I promise to keep taking and sharing nature photos just as I’ve always done. However, this series about Keigan and his family through his senior year will be as central as nature has always been.
Yes, I do have biological brothers—two older and one younger half-brother. One has been lost to his own prejudices, one lives his life and visits when he can with his wife and kids, and the other has been gone for decades for reasons too complicated to explain. It’s not that I never had a brother, but instead it’s because Keigan endeared himself to me for many reasons and became the little brother I wish I’d grown up with.
Yes, his family likewise became my extended family, each of whom I love dearly. They’ve graciously welcomed me into their lives, trusted me with their home and themselves, allowed me to play a bit part on the stage of their world.
No, I don’t consider A boy and his cow my first foray into people photography. It was a small step in that direction, but it centered on a person and an animal, not to mention the process of training, caring for, showing, and all the other verbs that come with participating in livestock competitions. This senior year project is my first time ever focusing entirely on people. I’ll be winging it, true, but I hope I learn from it and can make of it a permanent addition to my photography repertoire.