The other day, as I was walking down my street, I noticed these canna lilies growing in my neighbour’s front garden. I haven’t been shooting much over the past few years, but the crazy colour of these flowers made me turn around and get my camera.

Years ago, when I was in the habit of shooting every day, I used to worry about going into a neighbour’s front yard to photograph their flowers. But this particular house has been abandoned since Hurricane Harvey — the owners evacuated, and never came back. Eventually, they sold the property, but the new owners left it abandoned. If you go near the front door, you notice that all the windows have been broken out. Inside are only studs, the sheetrock having been removed as soon as the floodwaters receded. And then there’s the smell — it’s the Hurricane Harvey smell, a mix of trash and mould. The entire neighbourhood smelled like that 5 years ago.

I grimaced and then took the shot.

As I walked away, I realized that in the past 5 years since the storm, I never really returned to routinely making images in my camera, a once-daily habit. I used to shoot every day, and just boring things, too: my neighbour’s flower, my afternoon cup of tea. The desire to shoot just went away after the hurricane, and the pandemic further reinforced my malaise. Why bother, I kept thinking. I’m just looking at the same things, day after day. Besides, in a world of natural disasters and pandemics and injustice against humanity, this photography thing is a bit trite.

It’s like my motivation to create beautiful images went the way of my neighbour’s house, funky Harvey smell and all.

But I’ve been traveling a bit over the last couple of weeks, and whenever I travel, I read. This time, I picked up Rainn Wilson’s new book, Soul Boom. (Remember Rainn Wilson? He played Dwight Schrute in The Office? Turns out he is a soulful, soulful guy.). The book is wonderful, but this passage, in which he quotes author Alexandra Rowland defining her made-up term, “hopepunk,” really struck me:

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