Josiah Pugh

— photographer, writer, sojourner

I was born in Bryan, Texas to my mother Roberta Ann Pugh and my father James Richard Pugh on August 14th, 1984. My father died regrettably when I was just three years old. My mother raised both my younger brother Jameson and I with the help of both families. I was stubborn as a child. I refused to learn to read until the third grade, where by chance I happened upon a fantastic teacher who made reading fun. By the time I reached the eighth grade my reading skills surpassed that of most high school juniors. Some said I spoke far too much as a child and when I stopped speaking, people said I spoke barely enough. This led to the development of a speech impediment that I struggle with to this day.

At the young age of thirteen, I earned the rank of Eagle Scout from the Boy Scouts of America. Computers had become an integral part of my life. By the age of fourteen I was creating three-dimensional digital art, motion graphics and was designing and coding my personal website. In 2001, my programming work for a complementary iTunes program, titled iTunes Associator, saw my name and software published in the German book Das MP3-Kochbuch and magazines in the United States, France and Japan. It was also a featured download on Download.com. In its lifetime the application garnered over 100,000 downloads. From 2001-2002, I designed, coded and maintained the website for Fisher The Band. In 2000, their hit song "I Will Love You" was named the most downloaded song in Internet history. The band’s singer Kathy Fisher went on to work with Paul Van Dyk, The Thrillseekers and George Acosta.

In the fall of 2002, at the age of eighteen, I began my studies at Texas A&M University as a philosophy major. I adored my core coursework and how it stretched my mind and expanded my limited view of reality. It was in my freshman year that I found myself socially for the first time. I met a girl whom I would one day call my sister. As I began to analyze what I was doing, I questioned the validity of the degree I was pursuing and summated it to be nothing more than a very expensive piece of paper. I dropped out. I then found myself without direction. My aunt Mary convinced me to join the U.S. Army where I learned the trade of a photographer and videographer, though I found myself in a career field slightly adjacent to what mine should have been.

I spent just over five years, from 2005-2010, as a broadcast journalist and eventually as an anchor for the American Forces Network Korea. I predominantly covered Kunsan Air Base, the capital Seoul and the Korean Demilitarized Zone. I filmed, wrote, edited and delivered award-winning news reports broadcasted on four continents to an audience of millions. I interviewed celebrities and high-ranking military personnel from across the globe. I produced motion graphics and commercials for both radio and television. Some of the historical and culturally significant footage I filmed appeared on the BBC in Britain and Fuji TV in Japan.

My time in the Army provided me with the opportunity to meet some of the most amazing people I’ve encountered in this life. I discovered within myself one of the greatest joys I’ve come to know found within a camera and lens. I developed my skills as a photographer in Korea and saw my work exhibited in Barcelona and included in an online travel guide. In 2007, I traveled to India with the goal of publishing a book and to satisfy my desire to photograph the holy city of Varanasi and its people. I contracted dysentery from an unpasteurized lassi, which subsequently dismantled my immune system in no time at all. I lost about 20 pounds in four days and nearly died from dehydration. It took me nearly six months after returning to Korea to recover from the emotional toll the trauma took on my psyche to finally complete my book.

In 2009, I yet again faced a close encounter with death. I sustained dozens of lacerations on my arms, torso and legs, and the loss of some muscle tissue in my left hand while filming on Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia. My naïveté of ocean tides lead me to being interviewed for the reality TV show Bondi Rescue. In late 2009, Texas A&M University's Spirit magazine published an article I wrote as a foray into the world of print publishing, which told the story of alumni in Seoul observing the tradition of Aggie Muster.

In January 2010, I left active duty and returned to the States. In the months that followed, I traveled with my brother, exploring seventeen national parks and visiting family and friends along the way. In the fall, I decided to return to the military part-time with the Texas Army National Guard. The 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment in Austin, Texas employs me as a photojournalist and public affairs specialist. By 2011, I began to freelance as a photographer while working towards finishing my bachelor’s degree. Some of my more notable clients included the Texas A&M Foundation, Scion, The Eagle (a local Bryan-College Station newspaper), Texas A&M University Office of International Outreach and AggieSports.com - where I was lucky enough to get to film the 2010 A&M home football games.

On February 27, 2013, I died.

I do not remember dying. I merely slipped from one consciousness to another, unknown, state of existence. I can still vividly recall my euphoric near-death experience before more than twenty doctors reunited my spirit and body. The twisted, terrifying and unexplainable lucid consciousness that followed my resurrection during my two-week coma continues to haunt me to this day. When I awoke, I had sustained more muscle cell death than my doctors had ever witnessed anyone survive. I had lost one-fourth of my body mass. I was so weak that I could not open an ordinary bottle of water. I had to relearn how to sit, how to stand and how to walk all over again. I left the hospital seven weeks later on April 16th.

I could easily blame my death on a horrifyingly toxic and abusive three-year relationship. However, I’ve come to prefer to take the blame entirely on myself. In my blind obsession to make the relationship work at any cost, I stayed to fight instead of just letting go.

In spite of being told I would likely be reliant on machines for the remainder of my life for survival, I recovered far faster than anyone could have expected. By the middle of August, I was able to run an entire mile. In September, I could leg press half a ton. Before the year was over I ran a half marathon. With great effort, I purged approximately ninety percent of my possessions after recognizing the role they had played in my demise. In February 2014, I graduated from the American Military University with a Bachelor of Arts in General Studies.

In Japanese, there is a saying, 「初心に戻る」(shoshin ni modoru), which means to go back and remember the feeling of being a beginner. It is there, in that mindset, that I can forge a new identity, free from the successes and failures of the life I once lived.

Elsewhere on the web.

  • Photography: Pugh Photography.com and Flickr
  • Videography: AFN Korea work and film work
  • Books: Culture Shock and Road Trip: USA 2010
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