Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Excellence Runs Deep

The "Let's Win" Competition
It was a calm and slightly cool afternoon today as I took great pride in returning after 14 years to a school where I had coached varsity soccer to see one of my former players coach her team in the CIF Playoffs. While I can't claim responsibility for her great knowledge of the game, I was just simply happy to see her success and hoped maybe one thing I said or did contributed to her being able to be there for her girls. At half-time, I checked my phone for any news, and there was - that my first football coach had passed away.

It has been a very fortunate blessing that San Bernardino, California has been the home of some excellent coaches in many sports. Who I am - and similarly true for countless others - is a reflection of what these good people have bestowed out of little more than the love of the game and love of other people. Gary Porter taught me discipline and dedication. John Hague taught me sportsmanship and professionalism. Robin Goodman taught me courage and toughness. Rich Imbriani taught me intensity and determination. Chuck Pettersen taught me motivation and how to be a champion.

One of our weekly "team books" given each Monday
Coach Pettersen, or "Coach P", only coached me for one season - his last at Cajon High School - during 1990, and as a kicker, the majority of practice time was spent away from the rest of the team. However, he made an impact on me as an athlete (and later as a coach) like no other. I was fifteen years-old, and for the first time in nine years playing sports, I learned how passion and excellence were two things that were uniquely integral in winning at a high level. What he delivered to his teams was not just a road map for victory or intense physical training. Coach P taught us to care for what we were doing and whom we relied upon as teammates. He created an atmosphere in which we could thrive and an expectation not only that winning was possible, but it was a necessary part of life. We did win a league championship that year, but perhaps more important to me, he taught me how to win.

The strange thing about coaching is that you never really know the impact that you make. You can count the wins and the losses. You can count the playoff appearances and league championships. However, the little things you strive to impart to the integrity of another human may always remain a mystery; one can only be proud of what we all managed to achieve together. At least, among other things, our coach can rest in peace knowing that there are scores of men who grew up knowing that "Better is Best", one should always strive to "Be Somebody", and "Excellence Runs Deep."

Oh yeah... Let's Win.
After my last game of my first season coaching - at Cajon

Friday, February 14, 2014

Love Actually Is All Around

Love has many faces. The following is my attempt to exhibit some of what I have found in my travels and in my own neighborhood.

All photographs Copyright J. Mark Porter Photography 2014

Baby Niece - 2009
Love helps us to survive. A mother's touch is one of the first proofs of love that most of us recognize and perhaps the most powerful. My twin nieces Elizabeth and Katharine were born early during the winter of 2009 and needed to be held in the NICU until they were stable and strong enough to face the big bad world. I was immediately taken with (right after the beauty of the babies) the soft pink and blue lighting that surrounded the girls and took a number of shots - all without flash, due to the fragile nature of the environment - and I am grateful this is how I was able to capture one of the first moments of this girl's life.

Blue Mass Procession - 2012

Love is often exhibited in how we honor our fellow man. Every year at my church, St. Patrick's, in Washington, DC, a "Blue Mass" is held to honor the previous year's fallen American law enforcement officers. The church is always filled with representatives from many states and various arms of the law, including Border Patrol, Secret Service, Sheriffs, local police, etc. Love is showing appreciation for those who earn it and showing solidarity for a shared purpose.

Family Surf - 2013

Family love is a unique natural bond that has no equal. There is a lot of talk about what in fact a "family" is, but there is something special about the gift from God that is a team of blood ties. Oftentimes, family love is the most unbreakable. I love the beach. Pictured here is a family of surfers at Huntington Beach checking out the surf before heading out. Obviously, the dad is sharing his passion with his kids and it's something they all will be able to enjoy and have in common for a lifetime.

Dominicana and Child - 2009
Two major components of love are protection and dedication. "To love" could also mean "to care for." When we watch over another life and take responsibility for their welfare or success, we love. On a trip south, I was honored to learn about two countries on one island - Haiti and Dominican Republic. Without going into too much detail, there is much poverty on this island. While not far from the United States, it seems a world away in some ways. While I meandered through the city of Santo Domingo on a very hot summer day, I came upon this woman and child, both sleeping on the side of the road. In the US, we might expect see this scene with shoes on feet and a hat seeking spare change. Here in the Dominican Republic, I think they truly had nothing... except each other. Scenes like this always make me nervous as a photographer, because I hate to intrude, however I think it is in instances such as this that we see the the raw humanity of being human. With nothing else, there is still love.

First-Time Mom - 2006

I find it hard to think that the love between a mother and her child can be overstated. Here is a candid moment of a woman who is taking in the realization that her life is forever changed by this new life in her arms. As a first-time parent there must be a million things that pass through the mind, from thinking of simply how to keep her alive through the next few moments to what she might look like in her wedding dress. Pictured is my favorite sister-in-law Jennifer and my niece Alexandra in the summer of 2006. I remember holding my niece in that very same chair and thinking about things in this world that she would eventually have to face - such as a crazy dictator in North Korea launching missiles. While love comes with its own kind of heavenly peace, it certainly gives you a compass for what is truly important in this world.

Family Fourth - 2011

Far from the only species of animal to do this, but when we love, we want to impress. When we love, we give reasons for why we ought to be together. Basically, love is why we try. This photograph was taken from a patio of one of the US House office buildings on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on Fourth of July.

Grandma's Birthday - 2014

Love is in the moment. While we all hope that love lasts a lifetime, eventually we learn that all things change, and all things end. Love is not in a book or somewhere far away, but it is in the moments that can present themselves to us every day. Far from a grandparent's consciousness are the minute details of worry, and maybe even the frosting on the cake, but the simple joys of a life well lived during precious moments. Pictured is my godmother on her birthday with two of her grandchildren on her lap. Even with one child making a sour face and the other not even paying attention, in her eyes I see that everything is perfect.

Inaugural Pride - 2009
Speaking of moments, there are some that bind even strangers together. In love, you simply have to let down your guard and accept certain things. Some special moments allow us to come together in a way that we otherwise never would. Love is a powerful phenomenon, and when properly harnessed can do great things. While I had absolutely no desire to be a part of this crowd that day, because it was very cold and I did not feel like celebrating a symbolic and superficial election, the crowds that flooded the streets of Washington from before daylight to be a part of the first Inauguration of President Obama were a spectacle of joy, pride, and love of country. Love is about more than oneself.

Old Roses - 2013

Maverick and Goose -2010
It is hard to imagine much in this world that is perfect, but I do believe something that is is God's love for us. Why else would He allow us such beauty? I am by no means perfect, but I am often in awe of what I see before me. The philosophy that guides my art is not that I can create, but I only do my best to capture what has already been created. If you believe in a loving God, then you know that we only love because He has loved us. This image was captured in Miami on a simply gorgeous early morning. The sunrise was magical, and the providence that allowed me to be a witness was perfect.
"Dear friends, if God loved us that much, we also should love each other. No one has ever seen God, but if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is made perfect in us."                   - 1 John 4:11-12

Rest in Peace, Mr B - 2013

Love hurts. While love can never precisely be measured in units, it is felt in grief when we reach an end. While endings result in sadness, true love lasts beyond our earthly bodies... or why else would we have funerals and cemeteries? Yes, love hurts, but it also endures from man to man and memory to memory. This photo was the only one I took during the funeral and burial of the father of a friend I have known since first grade.

St Pancras Lovers - 2013

Last, but not least, love captures our hearts and gives us hope. You may be thinking that I have neglected romantic love, and you may be right. First of all, I didn't want to embarrass anyone by putting their romantic relationship on display for millions to see. Secondly, what I know about romantic love is that it must be sought and it must be cherished. It is its own piece of art that becomes a constant in a sea of variables. It is what we find when we dare to journey, and it takes on a life of its own. Love inspires us to dream of what could be and gives us the strength to get there. This photograph shows Paul Day's "The Meeting Place" statue at one end of London's St. Pancras International Rail Station which welcomes many a traveler whilst exuding the pride of many a Londoner.