Friday, December 25, 2009

Decadence - 10-years of stealing moments

The forever changed skyline of New York City after 9-11. (Photo by Lon Horwedel)

Every year at this time, we look back and reflect on the events of the past 12-months. We pay tribute to the great accomplishments and mourn those who have left us. But this year is a little different. This year we’re also looking back on the past 10-years – the end of our first decade in the new millennium.

As a photojournalist, I’ve had the privilege of documenting the entire decade right here in Ann Arbor. From the panic of Y2K, to elated students celebrating Barack Obama’s victory in the last presidential election, I was there with camera in hand.

Through blizzards, heat waves, floods and droughts – I was there. When the world changed forever on a sunny Tuesday morning, September 11th, 2001, I was there to photograph the local reaction. I never went to Iraq or Afghanistan, but I covered the homecomings of many who did – some alive, some in caskets.

I was stranded in traffic in the middle of Ypsilanti when our world, once again, was thrown into chaos with a major blackout on a hot August afternoon in 2003. Making sure my family was safe was priority number one, but priority number two was documenting the event.

When the economy went sour, I covered local businesses as they began falling like dominoes. I took pictures of homeowners in the midst of foreclosure when the housing crisis spiraled out of control, and I cursed like a sailor right along with you while pumping four-dollar-a-gallon gas into our cars.

I felt the pain of watching the local automotive industry nosedive into bankruptcy from a front row seat with a Nikon stuck to my eye. From “Buy American” to “Bye-Bye America” it was hard to watch – like our state had terminal cancer or something.

As the landscape of the University of Michigan sports turned, I was on hand to photograph old coaches leaving, new coaches arriving, and all the drama in between. When Super Bowl XL landed in Detroit, I landed right there with it. When the Wolverines went to the Rose Bowl, I went as well. But high school athletes made up most of my diet of sports coverage - many celebrating “the thrill of victory” but even more reeling in “the agony of defeat.”

For me, as a photojournalist, the world never stands still, but at the same time it remains exactly the same. The 18-year-old kid I photographed playing high school football in the year 2000 has now graduated from college, gotten married, maybe had a kid already and probably moved out of state to start his career. But that same 18-year-old kid strapped on the pads this past fall in 2009, he just had a different name on the back of his jersey. It’s strange how every year I get one year older, but the high school kids and the college students remain the same.

The joys and pains of a 10-year stretch are hard to define, but this past decade had plenty of both for me. Mortality became something I never took for granted when I nearly died from a liver abscess in 2002, then lost my best friend to cancer three years later. I went from a guy in his mid 30’s at the beginning of the decade, to a middle-aged dude with three adolescents by the end. But through it all, I had my camera by my side to document the journey. It’s been the one constant in my life for the past quarter century.

This past year, that nearly came to an end when the 174-year-old Ann Arbor News went out of business in July. I thought it was over for me at that point. My career as a photojournalist was done. The thing that always happens to the "other guy" had finally happened to me. But I’ve been blessed, because today I continue to do what I love to do for a living, this time for

Who knows if I’ll be around at the end of the next decade? It’s a funny thing to look that far in advance. But if I am, I’m pretty sure I’ll be there with a camera in hand covering everything from the “end of global warming” to “Michigan’s amazing resurgence.”

Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?

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