My photographs are an expression of my existence. Being present, I went to the ends of the earth to see again. I took a journey abroad, beyond my grounds, mapping my soul as a constellation belonging to me, Derek Schrock, owner of one. My name, my soul, had become misplaced—I couldn’t capture, describe, nor recognize them. Unbeknownst to me, being aware of this was to become my greatest fortune. Recognizing that I could reclaim myself was clearly a golden opportunity.The existence of a deep void enveloped me in a dark shadow, propelling me forward on this journey abroad, which exposed an opposing flash of light that illuminated my reawakening. The sowing of my soul, by an arrangement of places traveled, was my ultimate investment. Figuratively, this was my natural burial to bid farewell to a lost self.
Unfulfilled by the road taken, I strapped on a backpack to trek across six continents and encountered sheltering embraces that mended my being. The wild landscapes, happening streets, and endearing faces in some of the most remote places in the world contained a cultural significance that served as the influential callings, contrasts, and medicine in which I found myself.
This is neither a heroic story of accomplishment nor a sad story of a broken soul. I am not a summiting alpinist or hopeless wanderer. The adventure was never about the pinnacles hit from ascension or the descending to accolades upon return. Forged in an athletic background, ambitions of winning awards to justify my efforts had been shed. Those dreams expired. It was about the journey and how it happened. The immersion of an experience into something spiritual. To rethink what it means to be a witness to the lives of others and to contemplate how far we are or are not from one another, in a great many things. More than anything this is a thank-you for the gift of this journey. Complications unfolded before me, as the road was an ironing of the soul. But it was easier than expected, like meeting the love of your life and feeling a particular way and not having to explain it.
Life is simplified on a big adventure. The checklist is short on an existential walk. A North Star, self-determination, a back, and a pack. Searching is innate and the weight of the pack to the back demands the necessity of self. The further I went, the lighter the pack got. Yes, my conditioning upgraded, and I learned to pack better, but additionally, the further I went the more I was given.
A family vacation gifted to the Schrocks to a divided Germany in the eighties certainly planted a seed. I remember feeling a sense of adventure at the age of five. Then there was the Christmas gift of a globe, which I would spin endlessly. A passion for maps and hunger for novel spaces, there was a fire lit inside of me to explore the great unknown. My father once pinned a quote by Henry David Thoreau: “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live a life in which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
I wasn’t sure what it meant for the longest time; blind to it, I did pull-ups in front of it. Somehow, it rubbed off. I followed my dreams, from once being static to being in the eye of pulsating light, and there my dreams had the geometry of beautiful lines and shapes. I went with all I had, with the hope of becoming a better person, more rounded and one with my surroundings. Plus, traveling is romantic and who wouldn’t do it if they could?
I traveled with my flaws and faults, found my strengths, and learned I was capable. A modern-day hunter and gatherer of the soul, I passionately sought my unknown while remaining in an attractive state of anonymity, illuminated by the intimate understanding I so valued—all with a camera present and focus to balance. I went alone and cut off; there were no tagging posts. I was traveling in a pure style. Not knowing initially what I had been about, just going with a heart on full tilt, I photographed the world I saw with gut instinct. I took up photography as a means of companionship, to overcome my tendency of being closed off, while wandering to far-reaching lengths. As an elongated form of self, photography was a means to communicatively engage and not be alone. As it turns out, I was never alone.
Read the full essay by Derek Schrock in his new book A Sum of One
Derek Schrock is a world traveler and self-taught photographer who picked up the medium as a means to communicatively engage while wandering solo to far reaching lengths.