Minnow Park


Upstream is letters sent every Monday morning about freelancing and creativity, and being a human.

In order to tell you why I called it “Upstream,” I have to confess something to you. My real name, the name on my birth certificate is David Park.

I got the name Minnow because my Korean name is Minho Park. Growing up, a lot of my friends knew me by that name. I was in 7th grade when someone, a bully of sorts, came up to me and said, “Minho… Minho… your name sounds like the fish Minnow. Yeah you’re Minnow! like the fish! A little minnow!”

The irony of being called a little minnow wasn’t lost on anyone. I was an overweight, awkward kid desperately wanting to fit in.

“No, I’m not a fish! I’m not a fish! Don’t call me that.”

“Yes you are, you’re a fish! A little Minnow!”

It stuck and I hated it. Some people didn’t even know my last name. Like Bono or Madonna, I was known only as Minnow. It wasn’t until junior year of high school I embraced it because when I started playing music, David’s were dime a dozen, but Minnow Park was a unique stage name. And ever since then it’s been a well, or tank as it were, of great puns to name my different pursuits (and boy do I love a good pun). My online presence was simply be “minnowpark” because no one else really had that username. When I started to photograph weddings, I didn’t have to come up with a wedding name like “Forever Moments” or “One Special Click.” “Weddings by Minnow Park” did the trick.

So when I started to think about a name for this newsletter, I dipped into the tank and came up with “Upstream”. Like fish who swim upstream, salmons being the one that everyone knows. Salmons are anadromous fish meaning they migrate from the sea up to fresh water to spawn. The distance from ocean to the gravel bed where they lay their eggs can be hundreds of miles. And at times, they leap out of the water, jumping over rapids to go upstream. After they reach their destination they spawn, and die soon afterwards.

But their death means more than just laying eggs for the next generation of salmon.

“In northwest America, salmon is a keystone species, which means the impact they have on other life is greater than would be expected in relation to their biomass. The death of the salmon has important consequences, since it means significant nutrients in their carcasses, rich in nitrogen, sulfur, carbon and phosphorus, are transferred from the ocean to terrestrial wildlife such as bears and riparian woodlands adjacent to the rivers. This has knock-on effects not only for the next generation of salmon, but to every species living in the riparian zones the salmon reach.

For us as creatives, we are swimming upstream in our own river. That river has been called different names: self doubt, the amygdala, the Resistance, or the Censor. It’s the voice that’s screams at us, shaming us, calling us imposters, and stopping us from taking a risk and spawning our art. 

My favorite definition of art comes from Seth Godin

Art is a human act, a generous contribution, something that might not work, and it is intended to change the recipient for the better, often causing a connection to happen.

So these letters each week will be a look into my journey upstream as well as sharing what I’m learning on the way. Because as long as we are willing to show up and do the work, we’ll end up creating knock-on effects that serve those around us. 

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