My interest in Photoshop was birthed out of necessity.

As a young upstart musician in the middle of everywhere, I couldn't afford to do a lot of the things that bands need to do in order to survive. This led to a lot of inside bickering between my teenage bandmates that all had jobs and income that I didn't have. They would want to do banners, album art, logos -- all things that cost an insane amount of money to someone that never seemed to have more than ten dollars in his pocket at any given time. My solution wasn't to go out and find employment (ever the pragmatist), it was to learn how to make those things myself, so I wouldn't have to pay someone else to do it. At the very least, I thought, it would cut down on the arguments at band practice.

It was a natural extension to start using my own photos for that same purpose. Why pay somebody to take our pictures when I could get a cheap camera and do it myself? I begged my dad for months, and finally, on my fifteenth birthday, he bought me one.

His only requirement for buying me a camera was that I had to use it every day. No exceptions. He didn't want to drop a couple hundred dollars on a piece of equipment that I used a few times only to lose interest and never touch again. I gave him my word that I would do that and here we are some thirteen years later, and I am still living up to my end of the bargain.

This has left me with an impressive catalog of eras gone by, and I can pinpoint the exact moments that my life shifted to new territories. I see foreshadowing in the form of portraits. I see life in the form of seasons, death as the season's end, birth, self-destruction and personal resurrection in otherwise insignificant moments. I have a keen understanding of myself due to the process and am unforgivably self-aware as a professional nostalgia addict.

Featured above and below are key moments in my life as a young person. I wanted to pay tribute, and this is the only way I know how to do it.

September 14th, 2004


It took less than a day for my interest in Photoshop to shift to photography. And it all started with a thunderstorm that happened the day after my birthday. I drove around with my high-school girlfriend, and we spent the entirety of our evening taking photos of the colourful purple swirls in the sky until the car hobbled home with its gas tank on E.

Before 2004 ended, I would lose interest in every other thing that I enjoyed doing before getting a camera. I even stopped playing the drums as much and quit my band. All I wanted to do was take pictures.

September 20th, 2016


I was never a model student, but I became the world's worst by the time I found photography. The small school I went to had exactly two elective courses to choose between, and that's it. You could take a general arts class, or you could take band. That's all you got.

I have long wondered if my interest in school could have been salvaged had there only been a photography or videography class to keep me motivated. Instead, the closest I ever got to that was a group project in English class where my teacher included an option specifically built for me to make a movie based upon a story we read that semester. I have never forgotten that gesture, and it was the one time that I can remember actually trying in high school. The writing was already on the wall.

January 3rd, 2005


All the students were released for Christmas break that year, and I knew one thing for sure. I was never going to go back. School didn't interest me and I was wasting time there that I could have been putting into my photography instead. I would let future Cody deal with the consequences of that decision, and my mom cried about it for a week straight. What could I really say to her, though? I couldn't handle it anymore. I wasn't inspired. I didn't like the kids I had to coexist with. There wasn't a single class that excited or interested me (except Mrs Dion's English class, a teacher I am still indebted to). My time as a student ended prematurely at the age of 16.

The world could now open itself up to me. The way I saw it, this was only a head-start in life. By the time my classmates graduated, I would have almost three years of real life experience. That proved to be wrong, obviously, but it was still a very hopeful time in my life.

This is how the photography (and my life) progressed:

My dad and my brother at the old Aldi's grocery store in Keokuk, Iowa. The building has since been converted to a Goodwill, and it's strange as hell for me when I go there to scope out records. It still looks like Aldi's to me.

This was a routine adventure damn near every night while The Chuck Wagon was still open in Keokuk, Iowa. My friends and I would all pile into Rob's station wagon, get cheap diner food, and wax philosophy until the wee hours of the morning. It was still legal to smoke cigarettes in establishments at this time, and even though my friends were all underage, they were still brazen enough to take advantage of it as often as possible. I miss the thick smell of Marlboro cigarettes as the smoke mixed with fried pastries and chicken grease.


On the way to a concert with some friends in 2005. Rob got called into work but still let us take his uninsured station wagon to the show. It was a good time.


This photo shoot was the first time I ever felt like a real photographer. My neighbour was burning leaves in a bucket directly behind these trees, and I captured some really neat images of the light pouring through them.


Making films with my friends. When you live in a small town, you have to get creative to have fun. And man did we ever.


My dad, after being assaulted with a large rubber hammer I won at a carnival. And yes, even twelve years after this photo was taken, he still rocks that awesome hair. Don't ask me about the boxers, though. Luckily, I don't know if he still rocks those.


My brother Dakota early in the morning before another day of school, watching cartoons.


My grandma Weber destroying me in a game of Kiss pinball.


This was how we paid for late night snacks in 2005. All my friends and I would scrounge one another's houses for any coinage we could find and we usually found enough money to buy soda, chips, and the occasional cheese or bean dip.


Rob and his station wagon, after carving pumpkins on Halloween.


One night, for no reason, in particular, my friends and I decided to rip Rob's muffler off his car and leave it with a random note at another friend's house. At the time, we thought we were the most clever people on the planet. And serves Stephan right for ditching us! We probably thought. Loudly.


I started staying up all night in 2005 just to get a chance to shoot photos of the sunrise and then I would sleep all day. My parents could have easily forced me into some manual labor job at this point in my life, but they were always incredibly encouraging of me exploring my artwork instead.

My dad, in fact, refused to let me get a real job at all. I worked at Burger King for exactly one day, and he threw a fit about it when my shift ended. I never returned.


My grandma Sandy bought me my first DSLR, a Canon Digital Rebel 350D XT, in August of 2005. It opened up my world and changed my life for the better. I started to get a lot better with the camera.


My baby brother Jake, after being terrified by an umpire at one of my brother's baseball games.


Having a real camera allowed me to explore things like long-time exposures and I started to get real creative with flashlights and apertures during this time. Featured above is my friend, Stephan, helping me on one of those weird late-night ideas. All I ever had to do was send him an IM on MSN Messenger, and he would arrive at my house mere minutes later.

That was one huge perk of living in such a small town.


A self-portrait in early 2006. I took a lot of photos like this as I started to isolate myself from my friends. There was no reason for me doing this other than a weird social anxiety I developed around this time. True to my fashion, though, I didn't just burn bridges. I learned how to strap dynamite to them and blow them up. This would become more and more of a personality defect as I got older and I am just now learning how to operate in a different way. Nowadays, I'm trying not to damage my bridges at all. It's progress.


One day, we decided to dress up as zombies and terrorise the mall in Keokuk. I have no idea why we decided to do this other than the fact that it sounded like a fun time. Like I said earlier, in small town USA you have to get creative to have fun. And we did.


After playing a couple games of Pool at Whitey's Billiards Bar in Hamilton, Illinois.


My favourite photo of my grandmother, listening to Billy Idol on her front porch. She broke her foot carrying one of her great-granddaughter's dirty diapers to a garbage can, and she thought it was the funniest story ever.


My brother and his friends after they decided to start a band one summer day.


The first time I ever went storm chasing.


My friend, Charlie, drinking an Icee at Burger King in Keokuk, Iowa. He is also the main inspiration behind this article and of my recent desire to relive my own personal history. Tragically, Charlie committed suicide on January 13th, 2017 after a long fight with OCD and depression. I will miss him dearly.


Making a short film in the early summer of 2006.


My favorite photo of my brother Jake and my mom.


The first time I ever tried shooting BMX photos, of my friend Chris at the lone Keokuk skate park.


Playing hackey-sack in a garage and sweating to death.


Reconnecting with my middle-school girlfriend, Ashley, at her grandma's house in Hamilton, Illinois.


My brother Dakota after fracturing his wrist skateboarding.


Playing in the Mississippi River. The night we shot these, there was a news report about a factory being charged for dumping raw animal waste into the very place we swam. All we could do was laugh.


My photo-shoots took a very macabre turn when Rob moved in to my house.


I miss the Weber family cookouts. We haven't had a single one since my grandma passed and it used to be a weekly event for us.


The excitement I felt after getting this photo was what pushed me over the edge with how I viewed photography. I no longer wanted it to just be something I did, but something I could make a career out of and I still think it's one of my best photos.


More BMX photos. I started to get into this pretty heavily in 2006.


My favorite photo of my grandpa, hiding from the camera.


My brother and dad getting dinner at The Chuck Wagon.


The day of my great grandma Ruth's funeral.


My grandma and grandpa Weber, telling us to hold our horses.


The very first time I was ever paid to take photos, at the Mississippi River in Hamilton, Illinois.


That location was where I did most of my photo work those first few years of photography. It just always felt so alive down there, so feral, and there was always a strange beauty in the weird factory smell that wafted in from the Roquette factory across the river.


Out of respect to those that no longer wish to associate themselves with me, I have omitted many faces from this article. It really bums me out that there are certain things you just can't make amends with, but that's the way it is sometimes.

In regards to that, my landscape photos have taken on a lot of importance. The faces can be painful for me, but the land stays eternally beautiful, and there is a certain amount of peace to be found in that.


Sledding at Oakland Cemetery.


My mom and baby brother.


My little buddy. What a joy it has been to watch him transform from a baby to a toddler and then to where he presently is as a thoughtful and intelligent teenager. What a wild ride that has been.


Messages on a foggy window.


My cousin Jay and grandma Weber enjoying a cigarette together.


My dad used to work at an autobody shop called Lem's and his friend Bob was often my favourite part about visiting them. He was always very reserved and quiet, but also very smart and funny. My dad stopped working there years ago, and I've always wondered what happened to Bob in the time since.


My mom and brother taking a walk in Hamilton, Illinois.


My photography started to get weird as 2006 came to a close. I dyed my hair all kinds of crazy colours and started doing more macabre and surrealistic photography. Luckily, my friends were all just as crazy as I was and were usually down to humour any weird idea I had.


Like this one.


And this one.


And this, too.


And just like that, my childhood dried out. I want everybody that reads this to know that every face featured in this piece (and even the ones that I left out) hold a close place in my heart. I am happy and thankful to have spent time with them, and I wouldn't trade the experience for anything in the world (except maybe the chance to do it again).


I grew up in the middle of everywhere and nowhere could ever take its place.

Cody Weber is a no-coast mixed media artist travelling the country one small town at a time. He is the owner and operator of ForgottenIowa.com and has an inferiority complex the likes of which have never been seen before. He is generally unlikable.