Through his work as a radiologist and his creativity as a photographer, Dr. Edson Knapp captures images that tell stories of moments in time.
While in his 30s and attending medical school, Knapp began considering the importance of life’s small moments and the meaning those moments bring to people’s lives.
“I was so busy at that time, working 120 hours a week in residency with no days off and at one point, I took a breath in the midst of everything and considered ‘what am I doing?’” he said. “I thought about what I was accomplishing and what I was longing for and I started recognizing those moments that were meaningful — sharing with a patient that they don’t have cancer, kissing my child goodnight.
“Since then, I’ve tried to find the joy in my journey every day, like recognizing that my dad is getting older and how precious he is to me and wanting to remember him in this moment. So many of the important things in life are relationship-oriented, don’t cost anything, and are small moments that happen in between goals and accomplishments and are often the times when our lives are the fullest and most meaningful.”
One way Knapp strives to connect with and share life’s small moments is through photography.
“The world around us is endlessly fascinating and filled with wonder,” he said. “I seek out those moments of magic when light, composition and subject come together to create something truly special, and while I may take many imperfect shots along the way, I believe that the pursuit of beauty and the joy of the journey are what make photography so rewarding.”
Currently on display at South Peninsula Hospital’s gallery is “Joy in the Journey,” Knapp’s exhibit of still life photographs from the abandoned gold mining town of Bodie, California.
“At first glance, Bodie looked like a bunch of old, rundown buildings, but as I looked around, I discovered a fascinating place filled with stillness, meaning and history,” he said.
Of the 16 images in his exhibit, Knapp’s favorite is one he shot through a window that depicts a dinner setting. A soup tureen, ladle, plates, bowls and silverware rest atop a dust-covered table and the chairs are pushed back.
“One hundred years of history are in that room, the story of a family who had been sitting at that table, got up, and never came back,” he said. “According to historians, this community was running out of places to mine and about half the population had left and half were still trying to make a living. There was a fire one evening and this family went off to fight it and by the time they were done, the community had lost half of its buildings. It feels to me like they looked around at the desolation, decided they couldn’t continue in the community and left with whoever had transportation out of town. It must have happened very quickly as they didn’t go back and get their things.”
While viewing the scene, Knapp began thinking about how we wake up in the morning and go about our tasks, expecting our day to be ordinary and perhaps the same as it was yesterday, and then something happens and our plans, our life and our day is interrupted.
“How often is this true in our life, that we expect things to be the same, but over and over again for different reasons we find that not only is change inevitable, but often unwelcome, tragic, horrifying and terrible,” he said. “And yet we find meaning from those things and a way through and in fact, we admire people who are successful in making it through and we tell stories about people who have been thrust into disastrous change and manage to overcome it. It’s not what we do in our everyday normal lives, but what we do in response to extraordinary change that sometimes defines our lives and character.”
A diagnostic radiologist for the past 20 years, Knapp spends most of his workday sitting in the dark, looking at pictures that are every shade of grey and that tell the story of a person.
“My job is telling the story from the pictures I see, and I see a lot of gray gradations because those are important in my work, meaning disease or not-disease,” he said. “Through the years, I’ve learned to see shades in my photographs as well. Constantly striving to improve the resolution and quality of my images is important in my work and has also improved my photography.”
Shooting photography for 30 years, his only aspiration is for people to enjoy his images and connect with the moments in time he strives to capture.
“There’s this idea that the photographer owns the pictures and that may be true legally, but I believe that beauty belongs to all of us,” he said. “I’m just trying to capture moments that are tender and meaningful and share these with others. Those moments don’t belong to me. My photography is my way of sharing how I see life.”
Knapp, his wife, Renda, an OB/GYN, and their seven children moved to Homer in 2016. The family enjoys traveling and Knapp is planning to share images from a recent trip to Antarctica in the SPH gallery next year.
Through his work and his creativity, Knapp captures images that tell stories of moments in time.
“Doctoring and photography are both things I do because I love them,” Knapp said. “Radiology is so much about trying to help someone who is struggling and in need and the reward of that is what keep me going every day. With photography, it’s the same thing, catching a moment that I can then share with others, sharing the story the image portrays.”