It took an artist in pain to teach me a new way to look at the world.

My friend is an accomplished photographer. A lifelong photojournalist, he’s captured both beautiful and sobering images through the lens of his personal perspective.

A painter manipulates strokes and colors to create an image from his mind. A writer carefully arranges words to best tell a story he hears in his head. A photographer, on the other hand, uses his mind’s eye to mechanically capture what we all can see — but in doing so, revealing a powerful or unique aspect invisible to an untrained eye.

Like I said, my friend is an artist.

Life, as it does, came along and interrupted his journey. If each of us selected a handful of crayons to accompany us through life, it would be easy to forget we need one named “good health.”

One day, this particular crayon began to disappear from my friend’s box — making his days a photojournalist come to a close.

But then again, artists are an odd lot. Just because they can no longer continue their day jobs, their urge to create continues to pulse like a newborn heart. For them, creating is not what they do — it is who they are.

Recently, my friend began publishing an interesting series of self-portraits. And, as I described earlier, an artist’s talent is often to be able to reveal something new from what is already staring us in the face. And so began a series self-described as “shadow man.”

Most of us are taught to discard an imperfect photo (or anything we create).

My friend, however, is creating the cardinal sin of intentionally including his shadow in each and every photo through the series.

For most of us, having our shadow peeking into a photo is almost like having our thumb over part of the lens. But my friend is again taking the obvious perception and turning it on its head.

A shadow hand reaching for an object begs us to ask why? Another dark shadow of a man against a colorful backdrop forces us to focus on two potential story lines at once. Again, the artist is showing us something new in the familiar — forcing us to look more deeply into ourselves.

There is a lesson here. Why are we all so easily convinced the imperfect needs to be deposited in the trash? Is conventional wisdom — the collective agreement of how thing are or should be — our enemy? If so, what else are we missing in life? Who knows what else is hidden from our view in plain sight?

His series of photos has changed me. Today it is not unusual for me to find myself looking at my shadow. Where once I considered it a useless image projected behind me, I now see it as its own entity and dimension — another color in the spectrum of images.

My friend, although in pain, continues to create.

His shadow, which was always his silent companion in life, is now awake.

His shadow is now his surrogate voice, helping us see the unseen.

But for me, my shadow is something more — a reminder of my friend, his difficult journey, and how the spirit of an artist can never be silenced.

Leonard Woolsey is the publisher of The Galveston County Daily News. You can reach him at

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