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  • Writer's pictureJustin Key

Behind the Title - I Got A Name

Updated: Jun 6, 2020

"I Got A Name" - by Jim Croce

A panoramic landscape of lush Oregon forest in spring.

In the spring of 2016, I embarked on my first photography expedition. Shortly after convincing myself to pursue a career as a landscape photographer, I booked a trip to Oregon for my first photography expedition. The trip was something of a reward for finally making the leap to chase this crazy dream of traveling and taking pictures for a living. Even though I had done nothing to ensure a promising future when the wheels touched down in Portland I felt proud.

"Moving ahead so life won't pass me by"

Every day of the trip was spent driving through lush green landscapes to trailhead after trailhead. I had easily overbooked my stay but still didn't feel guilty for making spontaneous stops between hikes when my eye called for it. It was during a spontaneous pull off that "I Got A Name" was captured.

The lyrics of the song repeat a reassuring phrase like "I got a name" or "I got a dream" as if the protagonist is relying on the "Little Engine That Could" cadence to help achieve their goals. That sentiment occurred endlessly as I continued to be inspired by the mossy wilderness. At the end of each day I went to bed confident there was a new image or two that would make the website. I knew I was doing some of my best work and could feel the creativity flowing and confidence growing.

"If it gets me nowhere, I'll go there proud"

There was never a concern in Oregon about my odds of success. Every day was spent surrounded by nature with a camera in my hand. I wasn't worried about failing nor was I worried about succeeding, there was no pressure. I was just wandering through my happy place and never wanted to leave.

The guitar in the song is perfect for telling the story of a wanderer. It starts slow as the length of the journey hangs heavy and then picks up to begin the second verse as the wanderer gains some momentum. After the lyric "and I'm gonna go there free" there is a short point of conflict that is overcome creating more determination that carries the wanderer on home. Proof of this can be seen in the Quentin Tarantino movie Django Unchained where the song was used for a travel montage.

When I listen to the song and look at this picture, my own travel montage plays in my head. I remember walking up hills in the pouring rain to see the waterfall I came to photograph in the distance. I can feel the thick humidity hanging in the morning air and feel the dew-soaked ferns bleeding through my jeans as I cut through an overgrown length of the trail. I remember driving down the highway when I noticed the white bark covered in moss and pulled over to march deep into the heart of it where I found this composition.

"Moving me down the highway, 

rolling me down the highway, 

moving ahead so life won't pass me by"

That sentiment comes through a lot in the title choices for my early work. I can't stress enough the amount of doubt I had in myself or the amount of fear I had to overcome to see photography as a potential path. I knew life would never be better than traveling the world creating art but there was so much uncertainty and that made those inevitable death bed regrets sound reasonable.

"I know I could share it if you'd want me to, 

If you're goin' my way, I'll go with you"

That is one of the last lyrics in the song and perhaps the one that resonates the most with me. I wasn't alone in Oregon. My wife Sarah was with me every step of the way. Through the long days of driving and hiking through the cold, rain, fog, to the point of exhaustion she was there supporting me. I had found someone to not only support me but convince and push me to do what I loved to do, and she was willing to walk the path by my side no matter the result.


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