This one feels a little different to me, I guess this is a profile of sorts. I recently spent an afternoon with a blacksmith/knife maker named Jim Sowers. I asked him if he would be interested in trading a knife made specifically for me for the photographs that I took of him making it. After the usual awkwardness of talking a stranger into letting you come to their studio to photograph them, Jim agreed. Jim had expressed interest in a proper portrait, something for his kids. This is the portrait that I decided on, I enjoy the simplicity of it. A man in his forge, holding the hammer that his grandfather, JB Sowers made. The rough version of my knife in the vise next to him.
Not really knowing what to expect when I showed up at the little garage turned forge, I was excited for the challenge of making Jim and his work the focus of my shots. I used a super wide/fast 20mm f1.4 lens to draw the focus of my images to the foreground while keeping everything else out of sight.
There is something very primal about blacksmithing, taking something that we believe is unmovable and using nothing but fire and pure force to turn it into a tool. I find the process fascinating. Jim started with a steel bar and slowly over a couple of hours pounded it into the best knife I’ve ever had, made especially for me. I hope to hold on to it for the rest of my life.
We live in a disposable society. I feel like my generation was the first to get things of modern mass production, we got Walmart and walkmans. Instead of fixing things like my father did, we just buy new ones. Our culture of materialism, which I’ve spent almost my entire life immersed teaches us that our value is based on the things that we can afford… the more the merrier.
I can’t claim that I have been fully cured of this mindset. In fact, I may be as much a materialist as I’ve ever been. I have changed the direction of my thoughts though. I believe in use and craftsmanship. Tiny living has taught me that it’s alright to own things that make me happy, as long as they serve a purpose in my life.
In a lot of ways, the direction of my young life seemed almost to be trying to wipe myself and my siblings off the face of the earth. I know it’s not something that I’ve gone into the depths of here, but the people that know me, know about it. Deciding to leave the traditional path behind to see if I could find a more true version of myself is the product and reward of the life I’ve lived so far. I’m trying to build a future that will provide some sort of past for the people who cared for me once I’m gone. I guess a part of me wants to apply the metaphor of seeing this knife made to my life. Forged in fire, but (hopefully) made to last.
I think anyone that knows me could see that sometimes I don’t have the easiest time seeing in front of my face. I get easily lost in the universe I create for myself and often consumed by the things that mean everything to me and pay very little attention to anything else. I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to make my life work a little better. I feel like a lot of the last few years has been about learning to live with who I am not what I own. I’m trying to create something of value instead of buying valuable things. In so many ways, Jim is doing the same thing that we are all trying to do. Make something out of nothing.
And lastly, a couple of pictures of my sweet little house, looking beautiful. Onward and upward.
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Just wanted to note that every image I post on this blog is available for print under the same pricing guidelines as everything else in my store! Please just email me or leave a comment below if you have any questions!
All words and images © Adam Smith 2016.