"Rebirth" - Foreword


Last year, after a brief hiatus, I headed back into the wild with a grieving soul, searching for solace, balance, and hope. I had spent the first six months of 2022 close to home, visiting my father as much as I could, knowing his time would run out at some point, but unaware of just how quickly. I was afraid that if I left town, I might miss out on our last possible moments together.

     While he was still able to respond, I would ask him about his childhood, his family, and raising me and my siblings, hoping to retrieve as many stories from his memory as I could before it would shut off forever. Nearing the end, his answers became shorter, rougher, and less elaborate, until finally he could no longer respond at all, getting lost while searching for words within a failing mind. His only communication then was through his loving gaze, his blue eyes more vibrant than ever. At this point, we would just sit together, as I enjoyed the company of his quiet soul, the soft warmth from the little bit of light that was still flickering within him.

     I can’t think of any time I have ever cried harder than while on those long drives back home from the cancer institute, alone. Once I came to the realization that my dad was going to die, I was scared that I would somehow die as well. It was impossible to picture being able to continue on without him. This went on for a couple of months until he eventually faded away completely, leaving a hole inside of me that I never could have imagined.

     After he was gone, there was still at least some part of me that had survived. But I knew that the only place I could ever hope to become whole again would be in the ungoverned, untamed arena of the wilderness. Deep in the Rocky Mountains where I have gone to process the biggest events of my life over the last seven years; getting married, becoming a father, becoming a father again, and now, losing my father. How far would I have to hike for the pain in my legs to be enough to distract me from my heartache? Maybe it was impossible, but I was willing to try.


     I lost count of how many miles I hiked that season, climbing over high passes, navigating precarious boulder fields, scrambling to the top of craggy summits. I spent many of those long summer days alone, lying naked under the sun on the shore of glacial lakes. Sipping on warm coffee while watching families of bighorn sheep playfully chase each other around on the snowfields, several hundred feet above, unaware of my presence. Crying as I hiked along the trails, when I no longer had enough strength to hold back the tears.

     I'm sure that to the average viewer, the images I made during this time are unlikely to seem remarkable, meaningful, or artistic. I doubt they will linger in your mind for very long, or that I will be remembered for them. But that is not their purpose. I simply photographed things that made me smile, that brought some comfort to my troubled mind, that gifted me a brief moment of light while I was surrounded by darkness. I made these photographs so that they might help me to smile again at some other time.

     Admittedly, not all of the images of this gallery may end up in my portfolio. Many of these scenes would not have spoken to me on the same level at other times of my life, or even now–not even a year later. But as always, I was photographing what I needed to, for myself, for my well being.


      I have heard some artists say that no great art is ever made while in a good mood. But I have never been able to relate to this idea. When I am anxious, troubled, or confused, I find myself distracted by intrusive thoughts, unable to solely focus on the act of making art. Instead of being immersed in the creative process, it becomes diluted by my worrying mind, inhibiting me from being fully present. While in theory, practicing something like art during difficult times could very well be therapeutic, I don’t feel particularly artistic while I’m going through them.

     But this is why, as a photographer, I have chosen nature as my sole subject. I love nature. It is in natural places, enjoying their space, stillness, and silence, that I am able to find solace and regain equanimity. It is in nature that I am able to calm my mind, gain a broader perspective, and sometimes, even laugh at the tragedies of life. It is only then, after I have freed myself from burdening emotions, that I am able to create any kind of art with my camera.

     For many reasons, it is only in the solitude of raw wilderness that I find an environment conducive for me to make art. The images I made in these mountains later on, in the late summer and fall last year (which I will share at another time), were much more unique, thoughtful, and artistic, as they were made after I was able to find some peace of mind by admiring colorful fields of wildflowers, flowing streams, and gentle cascades, as cliche as they may be. Sometimes it is wise to focus on the basics.


     Even if you do not find these images particularly impactful, I hope that this simple thought I had many years ago–during another troubling time in my life–may stick with you: No matter what happens, you will always have this. Granted we continue to preserve them, there will always be mountains to climb, flowers to smell, colors to enjoy, and all the other wondrous marvels of nature to reflect upon. For this, I will forever love the wild.

Click Here to See the Gallery: "Rebirth"

Coda: Death is an intrinsic part of life. As old beings die, they create room for new beings to be born. Just a couple of days before my dad passed away, my wife became pregnant with our fourth child, and I whispered the news into his unconscious ear. It may have only been my imagination, but I could have sworn that just for a brief instant, he faintly smiled.

     Anytime now, we will be welcoming our daughter, Erin Skye Bennett, into this world, just before the arrival of spring; the season of rebirth. While she will never get to meet her amazing grandfather, she will forever hear our many stories of him.

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Feel Free To Share Any Thoughts Below

  • Barbara Livieri

    4 weeks ago

    I can't tell if you're a better photographer or writer! You have the great ability to express your feelings so well that others can feel them too. Death is part of life as you said, and there's no escaping it. We'll all have loved ones to pass and leave holes inside of us, just as we too will pass and leave holes for others. I guess the best we can hope for is for that hole to be a reminder more of great beautiful memories than of bad ones.

    Thank you for all of your contributions to life Eric. Looking forward to seeing that precious baby Erin! ❤️

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