This is David. The ‘humans of new york’ style portraiture isn’t usually my style (though I, of course, love that series), but today was a day I HAD to ask a stranger if I could take his portrait. Maybe I should thank Brandon Stanton for helping give me the courage to ask more people if I could photograph them.
I ran into David just outside my studio today, in downtown Joplin. He was hunting for his cat. We talked for a second, and then he asked if I’d mind if he sat down. I overrode my ‘I have to get back to work’ urges and said sure.
Here’s the story I heard after David sat down.
Once upon a time, David was a network engineer. He made $120 an hour to troubleshoot network issues for huge companies. He could make thousands in a week, and was an extremely tech savvy guy.
He told me everything changed one day when he spied a 15 year old couple sitting on a park bench.
The couple weren’t interacting with each other… they were texting. ‘they were in love’ said David, ‘but they didn’t know it.’
It was right then that David suddenly made a decision that he was done with life the way he’d been living it.
‘I’d had enough.’
He did something that I think we’ve all joked about doing… after living in Louisiana for a time, he literally took his smartphone, drove to the murkiest swamp he could find in Mississippi, and threw it in.
He threw his smartphone. Into a swamp. Can you imagine actually doing that?
He told me that with a chuckle. What’s David been doing since then? Traveling the country in a van, with his cat, stopping from town to town to preach and to play music on a 12 string guitar.
What do you play? I asked him.
’70s lutheran camp songs. They make people nostalgic.’
You can’t make this stuff up.
David was full of thoughts, some of which might have seemed a little ‘out there’ to folks. But to balance the passion of his chosen topics was a peace that made his smile come all the way out through his eyes. Sure enough, he preached for a bit. But it wasn’t forced… it was just to say that Jesus was his answer, to not let yourself be caught in the trappings of money, to do to others what you’d want done to you…pretty basic stuff.
‘the simplicity of it!’ he said with a huge grin.
I asked if I could take his picture. He said sure, and asked if that was a bible I’d had sitting next to me. Yep, I said, I’d brought it to read on my lunch break. So he flipped through it while I ran to grab my camera, and was reading it when I came back.
I don’t know if he’s found his cat yet. ‘We’ve been to so many cities together,’ he said. ‘she knows that van. I guess I’ll just stay put til she comes back, even if I gotta stay another day or two. she’ll find it.’
He wasn’t worried.
I’ll be honest. I’m not going to throw my smartphone into a swamp. But I will say I’ll be thinking more about how to live simply this weekend.