In 2012, when Austen was a junior at Indiana University, I let him use an old Nikon D50 camera with a 28-200 mm lens. He took some photos in Bloomington, which I saw. After he died, I found the camera in his room in Evanston and discovered some photos I had not seen, ones he had taken in late May 2012 from our 13th floor condo balcony and others he had taken on a walk to the lake. Many of the scenes are ones I have photographed myself. I paired some of Austen’s shots from the balcony with excerpts from his “Journey Through Sobriety,” written on June 6, 2014, in which he describes the view from the balcony and his state of mind:
“How beautiful the world is… Moon in the sky, sun setting over the clouds, open water to my left, big metropolis in the distance. Here I am. The green expanse of the trees spreads off into the distance as far as the eye can see, a lone church chapel sticks up in the distance. Planes speed off to destinations far away, a train meanders through the urban expanse into the heart of the city and right back out of it. Here I am. Thirteenth floor balcony.
* * * * * *
To find out that you are a wonderfully complex and ancient being expressing itself through the configuration of a human being. That’s what’s waiting for me. It can be a lonely journey. Most people shun the truth, they run from it. They die on the way to the other side. I am brave enough to make it. Stay calm, stay focused, stay in the moment, breathe. You don’t know what other people are thinking, their judgments are inconsequential. I am what I am. It’s not up to them. It’s up to me and the universe. * * * I just want to go full bore into it. Keep writing until my words become magic and take off.” Austen Berj Brooks, June 6, 2014 (emphasis added).
The photos below were taken by Austen in May 2012 from our 13th floor balcony. The first 3 photos provide a panoramic view of Lake Michigan and downtown Chicago. The last photo is a ‘selfie’ by Austen standing on the balcony looking into the window: