John Langford and the Rompin' Stompin' Circus of Love Extended World Tour

The Austin SMUG group held its October meeting on Thursday, October 25.  

Our speaker this month was John Langford, a successful commercial, advertising and editorial photographer in Austin.  Two years ago he decided he wanted to travel the world with a camera.  He sold everything he owned and embarked on a journey around the globe that he dubbed "The Rompin' Stompin' Circus of Love Extended World Tour".  His travels have taken through over 20 countries and the Austin SMUG was lucky enough to have him speak during a brief layover in Austin before he heads out for another year of world travel. 

There was so much interest in this SMUG event that our meeting had to be moved to a larger facility.  Even then, it was almost standing room only at the

First Universalist Unitarian Church in Austin with over 225 people in attendance. 

John Langford - Photo courtesy of Matthew Lemke

John's story is intriguing and exciting.  He literally sold all of his possessions and was down to whatever necessities he could pack in a modestly sized bag when he started his journey.  Even his camera equipment is rather downsized for a professional photographer.  He chose to travel with only a Canon G12.  Not only does this small camera make for light travel, it is also less intimidating when photographing people.  An energetic and engaging speaker, John dove right in with a long slide show of images he captured around the globe, accompanied by interesting back stories.  He showed some amazing shots of the places he explored and the people he met along the way.  His shots are not your run of the mill snapshots.  His images captured the personalities of people and the small details of their environments.  A common theme in John's images are creative captures of the small mundane details (he especially has a thing for brooms) that he said likes because they illustrate commonality in the world.

Everything John owns fits in this bag.

Averaging about a country per month, John has visited places such as Australia, Fiji, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Burma…and the list goes on.  This was more than a sight seeing trip.  John sought to actively engage with people along the way.  He talked about saying "yes" to people and being open to opportunity.  In Fiji, he ended up working with a marine biologist for a while, photographing fish in pristine waters with his G12 in an underwater housing.  While in Cambodia, he landed a job teaching photography to children.  On another leg of his journey, he was befriended by a monk who accompanied him as a passenger on a rented motorcycle!

Though he interacts with many interesting people along the way, John is a solo traveler.  Of course, he misses his friends and a sense of community while traveling and he has to contend with the loneliness of solitude at times.  He developed a mantra of empowering words that he speaks to himself in the lonely times.  These words include "gratitude", "peace", "openness", "creativity", "joy", "compassion", "acceptance", "humility", "willingness", "clarity", "playfulness", "expansiveness", and "courage".  John also shared a number of quotes that he finds inspirational.  The most powerful in my opinion was that of Storm Jameson: 

"Only one person in a thousand knows the trick of really living in the present.  Most of us spend fifty-nine minutes an hour living in the past, with regret for lost joys or shame for things badly done (both utterly useless and weakening) or in a future which we either long for or dread. . . .There is only one minute in which you are alive, this minute, here and now.  The only way to live is by accepting each minute as an unrepeatable miracle.  Which is exactly what it is—a miracle and unrepeatable."

At the conclusion of John's presentation, the audience erupted in a 2 minute long standing ovation.  His words and images struck a chord with our group.  Not everyone is in a position to take on an adventure like John.  In truth, most of us can only vicariously live the adventure through his images and stories.  Regardless, I believe everyone in attendance left inspired to live life a little more fully - maybe take a few more chances, maybe say "yes" when opportunity presents itself.

John's images and the chronicle of his journey can be found on his site, Cosmic Candid Camera.  Prints of his images may be purchased from his site.