How to start a project you're not entirely sure will work:
Even as we drank up sunshine in Moab, falling asleep to the sound of the Colorado flowing by us at night, it was not a vacation. We were hard at work filming each day—and figuring out how the heck this project was actually going to work.
We had talked about the idea in theory for months, each discussion leaving me intimidated about how we were actually going to approach people—asking strangers, “Can I take your picture?” comes with the probability of awkwardly being rejected.
Turns out, it was as simple as asking. Some groups had to be guided through their skepticism, while others were affable, enthusiastic, and curious about the adventure.
Our most dear encounter was with another photographer whom we met at the Negro Bill trailhead. Butch was also traveling in his Vanagon with the company of his canine amiga, Ella.
Butch’s PBR never left his hand as we filmed the process of photographing, printing, and interacting. He was conversational as we photographed him, willing to tell us about his work as a photographer and journeys he had taken in his van. Ella joined him and tried to give him hugs the best way a dog knows how.
When Butch saw his photograph, something changed. He looked for a long moment, and his voice softened as he held the photograph up and said, “Well, here’s the story about this…” Ella, his affectionate and beloved companion, had cancer. She was in remission then, and this trip was she and Butch’s celebration of good health.
No other interaction had touched us as much as Ella and Butch’s. The affirmation it gave us about what we were doing was eclipsed by the connection we had made, and each of us was thinking of it as we continued working over the weekend.
The desert resonated, the story resonated, and so did the sound of Joel (or Parker’s?) flatulence.
We would also like to address any rumors that you can’t sleep four people comfortably in the van: you can. It’s awesome. There were some not-as-awesome aspects, like the creative roadblocks that made us tense and frustrated, or being awoken by people sliding out in the middle of the night to pee (at least they didn’t try to do it out of the pop top). But vanlife is worlds beyond the couchlife I lived this winter in my friend’s metal smithing studio (even though I love you, Jen).
Give me the van, give me the road, give me my friends, give me stories—I wouldn’t give it up for anything.