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I was born in northern California, but spent most of my life in western North Dakota. Photography became my passion in 1981, when I took a basic photography course as part of a Graphic Arts major. In my twenties, I bought a Nikon 35mm film camera and began to explore the scenic areas of North Dakota and Montana. Prior to raising my family, I worked for a photo studio for several years.
Then I took on the rewarding but demanding jobs of fatherhood and managing the family print shop, and I let my Nikon gather dust for 15 years. It seemed my soul gradually began gathering dust as well. But like many of us, I failed to notice, for the process was subtle.
At first—by keeping myself busy repairing the office computers, printing equipment, and our neighbors’ broken pipes—I could drown out the occasional “gut feeling” that nothing I was doing was making me happy. And when anyone asked when I was going to start doing the things that I loved again, I would answer with a regretful smile: “Maybe when I retire...”
Then, in 2005, I received a wake-up call. My health, which I’d taken for granted, suddenly deteriorated. For I while, I feared I’d become become unable to do my work—the work I’d allowed to define my life for the past 15 years—and that freaked me out! I had made the all-too-common mistake of identifying myself by my roles as office manager, husband, and father... because I was ignorant of who Jerry Blank really is.
My healing process, therefore, included a crash course on the facts of Life. I earn my living by fixing things, but I’m not my job description. I’m a living person, but I’m not my body. I have a body and a brain, in used but good condition. But our bodies are are on temporary loan from the Librarian, so to speak, and we must eventually let them go—along with everything we’ve created or made. It’s an ongoing cycle, like the seasons; it’s part of the flow of Life. Our fellow creatures go with the flow, and Life is easier when we do the same.
I’ve gradually begun to understand that my inner spirit—the one thing I can’t see in a mirror—is what “makes me tick”.
The more I share of it, simply for the love of sharing, the more it grows and flourishes.
So, as the winter of 2006 approached its end, I blew the dust of my old camera, sold it to a fellow photographer, and bought my first digital camera. By lucky coincidence, the capabilities of digital media were beginning to expand everyone’s imagination in a way film couldn’t—just as the Internet has made it possible for everyone to share what they imagine, in ways undreamt-of until this century!
When spring finally arrived in North Dakota (mid-June, for those of you not familiar with the Great White North), I began exploring the back roads of the Little Missouri National Grasslands every weekend. After 15 years, I was once again capturing images of the beauty of our land...and it’s my pleasure to share them with you on these pages.
With each day, I learn a little bit more of who I really am—mostly from interacting with my fellow students of Life, the people I meet daily.
We’re all in the process of learning. As long as we’re breathing, we’re learning! This teaches me a bit of humility. Most of us have definite ideas of how to fix the world when we’re young... I sure did, at least. Eventually, we all come around to learn what Smokey the Bear and Mohandas Gandhi knew about “fixing” the world: “Only you can prevent forest fires.” “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Currently, my base of operations is central Florida, where the majority of my family lives. For fun, I travel to scenic places as often as I can, to discover and to share the beauty of this great country of ours.
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