It was a hot summer day in Salt Lake City. I sat at the end of the bench hoping I wouldn’t get asked to play. What if they hit a ball at me? Could I hit it if I were asked to go up to bat? As an 8-year-old boy, the pressure was more than I could face. I was shy and I lacked confidence. My second-grade teacher expressed concern to my mother that my struggles may impact my ability to progress enough to graduate from high school. I had three incredible brothers who were good at everything, and I was the odd one out. I felt far from what Christopher Robin told my dear friend Winnie the Pooh, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think”.
As a teenager, I was handed a Hasselblad, a camera with potential. Through the lens and under the tutelage of the renowned Tillman Crane I began to see things differently. I traversed the American southwest as his assistant learning to see the world through a romantic lens. I began to see things that, like me, lacked potential, had been discarded, or that others had forgotten and made something beautiful out of them. It was a memorable day when I completed my time with Tillman. He asked me for one of the prints from one of our outings to the Pueblo ruins at Hovenweep. He told me my image was better than any he had taken there. Perhaps that lens through which I saw old ruins could help me believe in myself.
Building on that budding belief I applied hard work and determination. I was able to romanticize my potential. Not only did I graduate from high school, but I also secured an art scholarship to college and graduated at the top of the program. I learned of another strength I possessed, that of helping people. To focus on that strength, I earned degrees from elite master's and PhD programs in family therapy. I have since been awarded for my entrepreneurial acumen, built three successful businesses, run for the United States Senate as a statewide primary finalist, and have been able to help thousands of people fight to see their own potential as a family therapist.
Through the lens of my life, art has been a constant companion. It is about much more than a composition. Rather, it represents how I see the world, others, and myself. I now see who all of us can become, even if we come broken, forgotten, or nervous at the end of the bench. I will keep creating my art in the hope others can see that they are braver than they believe, stronger than they seem, and smarter than they think.
Jonathan Swinton, PhD, MedFT, MS, BFA