A Temple of Hope: The Ghost Ship photographic journey

My family had a good laugh when the lunatic feminists in my home school district addicted to tax money accused me of being sexist.  The terminology clearly didn’t fit.   I raised two daughters and never gave them the indication of submission to anybody for any reason under any circumstances.  They are more technically liberated women than even the most rabid progressive feminist and it is quite a joy to watch them grow up and flower into everything that they feel inclined to develop about themselves.   However, it was very rewarding to see how one of them who is a professional photographer viewed a day we recently spent together.  She is pictured below on the bow of the Cincinnati Ghost Ship and can read her point of view at the following link.


She has been an adult for long enough now to display her skills many times over and I haven’t been disappointed.  She is first and foremost an artist that wishes to embody all the elements I introduced to her as a child and it is wonderful to see all those elements come together into the person she is.  As I was raising her I never directly tried to shape her personality into something I would approve of, but simply removed the social shackles that often prevent the development of a mind properly.  My interest has never been social roles as society defined them, but as an individual does—so my parenting style was always focused on allowing my children to be exactly who they uniquely are—even in spite of my wishes—which I always made sure to contain.  When someone decides to become an artist of some type they leave themselves vulnerable to interpretation as their efforts are impossible to disguise.  What an artist produces becomes the culmination of their internal philosophy, which in my daughter’s case can be seen in the video below.



The day was not intended to be so monumental.  She and I have done that kind of thing many times.  As a little girl she trudged through many denser places, caves, trees, lakes and even confronted sometimes hostile inhabitants.  The standard equipment has always been a part of our life, satchels, loose clothing for easy climbing, hats to keep spiders and small rodents out of our hair, and my whips for climbing and diverting away hostile encounters.  Oddly enough on this trip to the Cincinnati Ghost Ship as an artist her natural focus was on most of those things which I take for granted as just part of everyday life.  As a photographer she brought them to the surface in a way that told me much of how she sees me—which is more beneficial to me than her.

Videography is a new skill she is adding to her arsenal.  She has been to film festivals with me several times and has met professionals who make movies—and has seen many artistic efforts from behind a lens.  So she has seen all the tricks and knows that there isn’t any way to hide her soul.  The way a camera operator and video director lights their subject, the focal point, the movement of the camera, and the way a piece is edited together ultimately reveals everything that there is to know about the artist behind the effort.  So her shot selection and ability to tell a story with moving pictures was very revealing regarding the kind of young woman she has become, and was a real treasure.  I didn’t know that at the beginning of our little adventure that I would come away with more than she did.img_6972

As the video was shot, we typically did not stop and pose for pictures.  We just did our thing and turned on the camera to capture footage as we were doing it.  The adventure always comes first; the attempt to document it is second which makes the job of a filmmaker more difficult.  Some things that show up in the video that were actually not filmed was the nice lunch she and I had at McDonald’s just prior to visiting the Ghost Ship.  Usually when she and I get together the rest of the family is with us, so she has been deprived of craved personal time with me.  Upon hitting the exit that would take us to the Ghost Ship off the highway the fuel light came on indicating that we were about to run out of gas.  So I turned around and got some gas down in Lawrenceburg before getting back into the hills of Northern Kentucky on an empty tank.   We were in the right area so I felt confident that time was on our side.  Getting gas was a little bit of an adventure so we decided to go ahead and grab a bite to eat before getting back into the woods.  The two of us had a Sausage McMuffin with Egg each—which the last time she had breakfast at McDonald’s with me was during a trip back from Florida the previous year so that breakfast tasted much better on the cusp of such an adventure.

As we sat and ate, and caught up on all the things we typically talk about, we looked over topographical maps of the area and contemplated strategies for getting there.  It turned out to be much easier than I anticipated which was nice considering that we had some really expensive camera equipment.  We were dressed to wade into the water and board the vessel if need be.  I typically carry with me a 12’ bull whip for those types of occasions.  I also typically have my rope bag that has 150’ of rope along with climbing gear, but that wouldn’t be needed for this.  The whip will get a person up small climbs most effectively.  I always have on my hip a whip holster that my friend Gery Deer designed especially for me.  I use it each year in the bull whip fast draw competition and when I walk around the house practicing.  It is designed for smaller whips but the 12’ whip can fit in it.  So that is what appeared in the video.  I didn’t know my daughter focused some of her shots on things like my whip and satchel, but they were nice bits of context from the adventure that surprised me.

When she was old enough to sit still I raised her on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and each night when she went to sleep, she played the Raiders of the Lost Ark soundtrack and let it go on repeat throughout the night.  She had a healthy childhood filled with the yearning for adventure, likely due to the kind of material she had from her first conscious moments.  Our interest didn’t stop there; we actually expected to live that life to a certain degree and she has so far her entire life.  So our outing to the Ghost Ship was simply a reflection of who we were.  But watching her video of it, it was clear that there was some Indiana Jones in there—which makes sense.  Indiana Jones to me is one of the most wonderful characters ever created for film.  He can get dirty with the best of them then turn around and be among the most scholarly.  He reads, he’s smart, and he’s fearless—but better yet, he’s tenacious.  I knew what I wanted to be as a man when I saw Indiana Jones swing into the Temple of Doom and steal the Shankara Stones from the skull on the sacrificial altar.  To a large degree I do live that life as a man.  The film was a fun movie filled with comic book antics, but the substance of the story is something that both my daughter and I have carried with us every day of my life and hers.img_6977

After we explored the vessel, dripping with sweet, I was pulling bugs off my hat and we decided to go back to McDonald’s for lunch to cool off.  We looked at our footage and talked about what we saw and as we were sitting there I thought about the many times that I had shown her the Temple of Doom movie and realized that we were living that life.  One moment we were knee-deep in adventure, the next integrating the boon of our discoveries with the civilized world—sitting in the corner with my cut up cloths and sweat soaked shirt, with cobwebs still hanging from my hat.  More than a few people looked my way wondering what we had been doing.  Most of them had no idea that just across the river was a treasure that had been there for many years right under their noses yet they were blissfully ignorant.  The only trace of anything out of the ordinary was my daughter and I who had just stepped out of some story book adventure sitting in the corner eating ice cream.  But that was part of the fun for us.

It was those little moments from the adventure that filled her mind which ended up in her cut of the video and framed the way she photographed the day’s events.  It made me very happy and confirmed why I raised her the way I did—it was to nurture that spark of hopeful optimism that can always be present—even when the circumstances are quite scary.  There is a hope in the way my daughter photographs that is a liberating pleasure unmatched by anything else for me.  As an artist, the mind of the creator cannot hide so cynicism shows behind every attempt if it is present.  Adventure isn’t always about things “out there” but what’s really inside–the adventure of a Ghost Ship in our back yard, or a simple trip to McDonald’s, or running out of gas at a highway interchange with no stations in sight.  Adventure starts in the heart, not in the extraordinary and the best of those events happen  when a parent and their child get together for the fun of it—and joy, and lack of pretense just to live life and capture what comes as future memories.   A temple is a place of worship and our lives come together driven by mutual interest.  It is not the Temple of Doom that we share as a lifelong focus–but a Temple of Hope captured by photos for time to benefit.img_7024

Rich Hoffman   www.OVERMANWARRIOR.com