About ten years ago, as I entered graduate school and was still in the process of finding my voice as a writer and person, my thesis advisor and good friend, Robert Pope, told me some of the best advice in writing which ended up being some of the best advice in life.
Having traveled quite a bit with a military father, Bob has lived in many places including Germany and, even crazier, California. With shaggy salt and pepper hair and wild blue eyes, he is eccentric: a misplaced hipster akin to Kerouac and Ginsberg. When I first met him, he had long hair pulled back into a neat ponytail. He was a great influence on me, and is still a good friend to this day.
Bob Pope at a recent reading for John Bullock, fellow graduate school partner in crime
Gesturing passionately with his big hands, his intense blue eyes fixed on mine as he guided me in my 20-something search to find my voice.
“You must develop your tic,” he said.
I was confused – as most 20-somethings are. Did I have some unknown twitch or facial spasm I wasn’t aware of??
When I asked for clarification, he said simply, “Be who you are. Embrace who you are.”
This is difficult for some, I suppose. We are so dictated by societal norms and pressures. I welcomed his advice and have never forgotten it.
Enter Raul Umana and his six year old macaw, Bebe.
Many know I walk downtown with my camera bag about once a week scouting for interesting photo opportunities. And meeting Raul today as I walked downtown with my Canon reminded me of my friend Bob's advice to me long ago. Embrace who you are, however eccentric. Be true to yourself.
Bebe is an amazing bird. He knows how to "high five," how to spread his wings like an eagle, how to call like a Canadian goose, and how to hang from the pocket of a person's pants to imitate a purse.
I try to be true to myself, and always remember who I am and where I came from. And I value those who "develop their tic," and are true to themselves - just like Raul.
Therefore, to celebrate those characters who are true to themselves, I am beginning what I will call the Akron Character Project. Please submit photos to me for posting publicly on this blog. Photos should be portraits of characters who are true to themselves. Contact me, via this blog's comments section, to upload submissions.
Thanks and happy shooting!