Twenty Five Years of Night Swimming

In late 1992, armed with my new (second hand) Minolta XG-1 camera, a mixture of color and black and white film, a Sony Walkman and my three favorite cassette tapes: Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch/Music for the people, Madonna/Erotica, and R.E.M./Automatic for the People, a newly found taste for travel, and a few thousand dollars I’d saved for about six months bartending, I rented a car and prepared to leave my small hometown in North Florida. I headed west for Los Angeles and beyond. 

Not sure where I was going, or why, I said a tearful goodbye to my parents trying to explain why I wanted to go by myself on a trip just to take some photos, “aren’t there things in Florida to photograph?”, my Mom asked.

It didn’t make sense to anyone, including me, but it certainly was fun. I saw Bourbon Street, Graceland, a “Welcome to Arkansas” sign, I picked up a hitchhiker on the way to the Grand Canyon,  made it to Amarillo by morning, and drove along Route 66 before making it to Venice Beach, CA to crash on a friend’s couch.

I was hooked; renewed in complete freedom and solitude, snapping away using a camera as my tool to meet people and photograph things that I thought were interesting.

After a short stint as a morning-shift manager at a beachside bakery in L.A., I got the courage to call my mom to tell her that I’d bought a one-way ticket to Amsterdam. As I was growing up, her advice to me was always to be and do whatever made me happy. The assurance that she’d still love no matter what I decided to do, with or without a plan, was enough ammunition for me to follow my gut back then, and to continue to make my life full of adventures today.

During that experience, I made it to The Netherlands, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Israel, and Egypt, meeting intriguing people and taking lots of bang-up photographs along the way. I made it past Abu Simbel to the Sudan Border before I ran out of money. Those final days of my trip floating down The Nile on a felucca with some fellow travelers I’d met in various places, experiencing rural life on the African continent, observing the brilliant dancing stars in the sky every night not wanting to sleep, laughing, living, and listening to the trusty songs I’d learned every word to; these were some of the best and most  memorable times of my life. They shaped me into the person I am today.

We complicate our lives with “things”. As we age and acquire more, it’s so easy to lose sight of what matters. I believe life is about feelings, memories, and split-second moments that will never be repeated. The things like money surely do help out when you get into a bind by forgetting to buy a round-trip ticket home. Otherwise, what fuels me is the knowledge of not knowing what is around the next corner, chasing light, and looking for something or someone to photograph.

This IS life for me; nothing makes me happier than being in an unfamiliar place with my tools, ready to get down to work. Documenting what I see, starting a day where everything is new. I do it mostly for myself, for my fuel. It’s icing on the cake if people enjoy my work and when I’m paid for it, and especially if I can help tell someone else’s story along my way.

I’ve seen many places since that life-defining trip 25 years ago, continually reviving myself by being able to share my feelings with complete strangers and laughing in many languages. 

I’m privileged to have acquired many stories a quarter century later, like my recent experience on Safari in South Africa, documenting non-profit organizations Guatemala, Chernobyl, Guyana, Botswana and India, traveling to places like Cuba, Peru, and Morocco. 

I still have those albums by Marky Mark, Madonna, and R.E.M. on my iPhone and I know I can seek inspiration from them whenever I need it. If ever I get cynical, my go-to song to get my mojo back is “Nightswimming” by R.E.M.  I am immediately transported to the banks of The Nile River and embraced by those star’s seducing dance.

By R.E.M.
Nightswimming deserves a quiet night
The photograph on the dashboard taken years ago
Turned around backwards so the windshield shows.
Every street light reveals a picture in reverse
Still it’s so much clearer
I forgot my shirt at the water’s edge
The moon is low tonight
Nightswimming deserves a quiet night
I’m not sure all these people understand
It’s not like years agoThe fear of getting caught
The recklessness in water
They cannot see me naked
These things they go away
Replaced by every day
Nightswimming, remembering that night
September’s coming soon
I’m pining for the moon
And what if there were two
Side by side in orbit around the fairest sun?
The bright tide forever drawn
Could not describe nightswimming
You, I thought I knew you
You, I cannot judge
You, I thought you knew me
This one laughing quietly
Underneath my breath

*****ABOUT RON*****

After spending the past 20 years founding and working with some of the best and busiest wedding photography studios in the U.S. and photographing over 500 weddings around the globe, Ron B. Wilson has reconnected with his true passions: travel and fine-art photography. So starting “Art, Style, Flow”, a travel inspiration blog and online magazine featuring his photography, was a natural process and has been a work in progress for the past 20 years.

New York City and Miami Photographer Ron B. Wilson specializes in an award winning fashion based documentary style of photography. Ron was recently featured in Professional Photographer Magazine with an article about the {revisited} sessions that he created, and over the past few years he has been honored with many awards at the WPPI and PPA’s Imaging USA Conferences.

Ron’s primary goal is to tell stories with images and to bring out the very best in every detail of each subject he photographs. He is available for fashion, advertising, travel and editorial assignments.

I couldn’t write this blog without WORDPRESS! It is the best blogging platform available.