Year of Dynamus [1/2]: How One Question Can Change Your Life

Photographer: Chris Burkard
The alarm on your phone is dinging. It’s Monday.

You enter your pass code to turn off the incessant noise as fast as humanly possible.

Maybe you then look at your calendar for the day. Maybe you check email. Maybe you text a few people back.

You get ready and go through the motions. You have your standard breakfast you didn’t leave quite enough time to finish, and then you rush to work.

Maybe you sit in traffic for a little longer than you were hoping to. Your manager won’t make a big deal about 3 minutes.

You find your way to your cubicle in your row, decorated well enough to your liking, but somehow still feeling stoic and cold.

You work all day on spreadsheets or coding or calling other business units or having client meetings or checking email or completing tickets or writing something up.

Hopefully you squeeze in a lunch with your team or a friend from one of your 5 go to spots.

By the time you leave work, and get home, you’re exhausted. If it’s winter it’s dark outside and that run you promised yourself you would go on just seems really inconvenient right now.

If you lay down on the couch or in bed and check social media for any amount of time, you know it’s pretty much over. You’ll grab whatever in your pantry to snack on and pass out right there.

This gets put on repeat most nights. Friday night roles around and you go to the same 5 bars and have the same conversations and maybe have one too many. Saturday you sleep in and Saturday night becomes a choice between doing it all over again or staying inside and watching 3 episodes of your favorite Netflix show. Sunday you do chores and go grocery shopping and do laundry.

And months go by. And years. And one day in the shower or as you lay in bed as you always do, you think back on your life lately. It’s gone by so quickly. And the worst part is, nothing stands out to you all that much. And you tell yourself that’s what being an adult is. And that’s just life with responsibility. You say all kinds of things.

But you know.

There’s that voice in the back of your head you don’t allow yourself to pay attention to. It just keeps asking questions, and they usually start with “What if?”

What if you would have done this or would have done that?

What if you do this, would it work out?

What if, what if what if.

After I graduated college and worked at my first job for a couple years, I was just like you. I silenced that voice. Because entertaining it was not helpful, and it would just bother me.

Until one day, that voice that I once silenced got a hold of a megaphone. And nothing has been the same since.

What is Dynamus? and what does all of this have to do with it?
I’m dying to tell you, but you have to know where this all started…
My identical twin brother, Gavin, is a recognized photographer that shoots adventure, lifestyle, landscape and portrait photography. He’s kind of a photo journalism boss, inspired and even mentored by the likes of John Kaplan, Steve McCurry and Chase Jarvis among others.

One day we were candidly conversing about what makes a great photo. I started breaking it down in my opinion as such:

1D Photos: landscapes, environments, or contexts.

Photographer: Gavin Doran

2D Photos: an environment that has a person or subject. The subject is usually posing for the photo and the photo is arranged to some extent.

3D Photos: where there is a person candidly interacting with the context or environment they are in. These photos usually involve some level of motion or “doing” or the subject “acting on” the environment.

And at this point I stopped. 3D photos were some of the most amazing work out there. But there was something else. There was another level I couldn’t articulate to Gavin. I called it… wait for it… 4D.

“These photos…. they just have this dyamite… no…. they’re dynamic… no… dynamo dynaalskf;fadj doaid….” and I was just babbling made up words trying to find the one that fit. And then I said it: Dynamus.”

It felt right.

4D Photos: These photos had all the characteristics of a candid 3D photo. But they connected with your soul. They reached into chest and grabbed your soul. They spoke to something ubiquitous in every human being. Our very humanity… They had Dynamus.

Photographer: Gavin Doran

Sometimes the things that grip you are different than what might grip me, because you are particularly bent toward that aspect of humanity. And that’s okay. That’s why you go into a high end photo exhibition or art gallery and one person will pay $1,000,000 for a photo, where someone else you couldn’t pay to put it on their wall.

But there are other aspects of Dynamus that we all connect with. I call it Universal Dynamus.

These are:

1. Altruism
2. Love
3. Sacrifice
4. Children/childhood
5. Gratitude
6. Someone who does something beyond themselves and against all odds.( Ex. Someone handicapped achieves goal that a handicapped person isn’t supposed to be capable of. Easily seen in sporting accomplishments.)
7. Overcoming fear and achieving in spite of it.
8. Perseverance (knocked down 1000 times and still got back up) and an overwhelming belief that defies physical consequences.
9. Motherhood (and what it means to be a woman)
10. Fatherhood (and what it means to be a man)
11. Death


But Dynamus isn’t just a candid action IN or ON a specific context. The action has meaning or weight behind it.Whatever the subject is doing is gripping to you as a fellow human being. They are fully engaged with their reality at that moment, and whatever is being done resonates with your heart.

A week after the conversation with Gavin ended, I still couldn’t stop thinking about it and noticing this hierarchy everywhere, in every photo.

….And then something odd happened. I started seeing it in real life.

Finally- it dawned on me.

Dynamus isn’t a way to characterize photos.
Dynamus is a basic element of life.
I just capture it THROUGH photography.

I’d uncovered something bigger than I ever imagined. It was like discovering a missing element on the periodic table. And what I discovered next with this new found perspective, totally rocked my world and would forever change how I walked through my life.

That’s for tomorrow.
We’ll talk about how Dynamus looks in the REAL world, and how living in Dynamus every day can lead to a life you couldn’t have ever imagined.