Jay backpacking in South America in 2010.
It wasn’t a pretty picture. My life’s purpose had gone from pursuing and realizing my dreams to living for the sake of getting through another day – dragging myself to the daily meeting at the New York City Welfare Office before all the donuts were gone. It seemed a cruel reality, so harsh and distant from the one I discovered while on a backpacking trip through Mexico when I was 18. But it was the memory of these travels, almost ten years later, that motivated my return south in 2004, and the inevitable introduction to photography that would inspire my awakening and forever change the way I saw the world.
I began the process of searching for beauty by keeping a camera with me at all times during the day, like a tool for awareness. Through this practice my eyes reopened, allowing me to be present enough to see and capture the world; my mind a blank slate for the universe to impress its will upon, my camera as my witness. Soon I wasn’t just finding beauty in laughter and sunsets, but in obscurity and hardship, too, as I examined the necessary balance between light and dark. By pairing alternating black & white and color photographs I was able to explore the disparity of two entirely different images, both of which mirrored the same quality of beauty. This diversity of moments is a testament to acceptance, not only capturing what is typically considered beautiful or what someone might want to hang on their living room wall, but what is simply a striking sign of life in all its “whateverness.”
It is the path of life, made up of difficult experiences and joyous ones, that is the journey of the through line. At times, it can be enough just to keep going and make it through to the next step. At its best, it can be a lifeline to our own bliss. We are most in harmony with the through line when we are living our dreams, moving with the universe in a way that is in accordance with our deepest truths – truths that are represented throughout this blog in quotes of inspiration, written by some of our greatest mentors who have lived and led by example. Their words act as reminders of “the big picture,” guiding us with the constant invitation to be who we are and celebrate what’s right with the world.
While I still have bad days and good days, I continue to photograph with the understanding that it’s not the pursuit of smiles that will lead to my happiness; it is the practice of celebrating the vulnerable existence of life’s beautiful, true nature…and that begins by seeing it.
– Jay Koppelman
Jay’s photos have appeared in numerous publications and have won international photography awards. He has been featured on the BBC, National Geographic and in photo books including: Endless Journeys, Delinquency in Society, La Familia, El Mexico de Los Mexicanos and the newly released The Through Line – A Journey from Darkness into Life – In Mexico.