Following up on last night’s post “When in Doubt…” I’m coming to the realization that my days as a studio photographer might be over. Being that I spent more than four hours going through old sessions and even considering reacquiring studio lights. I whole heartedly admit to missing experimenting with studio lights, settings, modes and above all, interpreting beauty. Looking back, the road was full of mistakes, anxiety, impatience and an overabundance of caffeine. Still, when I was clicking with a subject, it was magic. Going forward, mainly due to my issues with balance and speech, I will have to find peace and balance. In the end, I hope to learn more about landscape photography and long exposure. Enough so, that I can prove myself to me.
Perhaps due to the weather and the fact that I haven’t been shooting the most inspiring images since coming back east. I’ve been pretty down on myself. the sub-freezing temperatures and the snow have kept me from going that far and despite some very recent inspiration. (Inspiration that might have to wait for warmer temperatures.) During the four plus years in Seattle, the rain was pretty constant, but it never got too cold. (Perhaps the reason I no longer own a pair of winter boots.) The picture below was taken of a friend visiting from Germany. It was my last Jersey City shoot before moving to Seattle.
I’ve taken on the impossible task of listening to all, or to be more realistic, most of the albums and singles that call our second bedroom home. With well over fifteen hundred LP’s thirteen boxes of EP’s and singles, the project has already begun to fall apart. That said, the idea is a good one. While I most likely won’t be able to listen to everything in this lifetime. I will most likely come to terms with the fact that I’ve got far too many records and I need to continue purging. That said, after selling off six crates before moving back east. It hardly made a dent.
Before heading out into the 28 degree night. I put on enough layers to keep me from freezing to death. Here’s a shot I took before wising up and thinking that, in a few months, I’ll be wearings shorts and a short sleeve t-shirt. Until then.
Having a child like enthusiasm for things hasn’t always rewarded me as an adult. In all honesty, it gets me into trouble more times than not. As I’ve mentioned in the past, there are many things that raise the eye and perhaps, make me jump off the cliff before bothering to see what’s waiting below. For example, when I went to the gym today, I was able to see what you’re seeing in this photo. After just a few leg presses, I quickly headed back to my apartment to grab my camera. As I pushed the door of the community room open. I realized that, not only was I still dressed for the gym, but my walker lacked snow tires. After almost falling on my ass. I fired off a few shots before struggling to get myself back in the building. Lesson learned or put it on repeat?
When we headed out today, I made sure to bring my camera, tripod and recently surfaced remote. Knowing that running errands has become an all day thing for us. I knew that by the time we arrived home, it would be dark. Me being somewhat obsessed with night time photography and how beautiful capturing the available light in the night sky can be. I asked my wife to stop a few feet from the garage and let me do my thing. Both shots were taken at f22 on a 30″ timer. The top image was taken with a 200 ISO.The second (or bottom) image was shot at 100 ISO.
Just as we wear skincare to cover our blemishes and makeup to… wait, why do people wear makeup? We wear masks to hide our pain or secrets. Ultimately, we find a commonality in pain, suffering, joy, happiness and art. As divided as we may seem at times. Many of us, maybe even most, are connected on some level. During my recent travels along the east coast. I photographed many of the murals featuring the many faces and moods painted on the walls, parks, boardwalks and buildings. Each time, trying to understand the message/messages that artist was trying to convey. I’d love to read your thoughts.
I was home one day and decided to see if I could find a movie on Netflix. It seemed to be a better choice than watching CNN or any of the twenty four hour news networks. Unless I know ahead of time just what I want to watch. It can take up to an hour to find something that I feel can hold my interest for more than it’s entirety. Within a matter of seconds, I found a Seth Rogen film I had not seen or even heard of. It was even under the ‘Critically Acclaimed’ category. So, how can I refuse? Now don’t get me wrong, Seth is pretty one dimensional in his work. Throughout his career, he’s pretty much cornered the market as far as lovable losers are concerned. Still, I love his work, and in many ways, identify with his characters.
Going in, there were two other factors that drew me to the movie. One; It’s filmed in my then current city of Seattle and much like my years as a New Yorker, where I would be able to name most of the streets and locations featured in the various franchises of Law & Order. I easily recognized many of the Seattle streets where the film was created. What I did not expect and did not bargain for was the reaction I had to Jordan-Gordon-Levitt’s character Adam being diagnosed and struggling with cancer. As someone who watched a beautiful soul succumb to leukemia and die when I was only eight and was told I had month to live due to a brain tumor when I was twelve, it fucking wrecked me.
I was seven or eight years old when my Father started dating Angie. She was like no other person I had met before and maybe until I met the woman who would eventually become my wife. Angie was born in Taiwan and lived with her very strict, traditional and educated family in Queens. I’m not sure how the two met, but with Angie being was a teller at a local bank and my father still driving a bus for the city. The chances of them crossing paths was pretty high. On the nights we’d pick her up from the apartment where she lived with her parents. I’d have to hide in the back seat until they emerged and I got the signal that the coast was clear. She, along with her family had immigrated looking for a better life and like many, the chance to work towards the American dream. A recently divorced bus driver with a son was more of a nightmare than a dream.
Angie and my dad were polar opposites in almost every way. While my father stood 6’4 with a booming voice. Angie was tiny in comparison, always speaking softly in what often seemed like whispers. Her jet black hair often hung down below her knees. Often causing her peers to ask how she kept it looking so manageable and beautiful. Though my Dad was always a heavy drinker and an occasional drug user. Unlike my Father, Angie never acquired a taste for alcohol, drugs, or gambling. Such distractions or deviances never interested her.
Her generosity and penchant for spoiling me were undeniable. However, introducing me to New York City’s Chinatown and adventures on Mott Street would impact and influence me the most. She would read the Chinese comic books I’d buy each time, teaching me a new word, phrase, or Chinese slang term. As a kid who hated the Wringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus, my Uncle Ray and Aunt Mary would take me to each year. Angie’s taking me to the Taiwanese Circus left my mouth gaping in amazement and adoration. The experience blew my mind.
By the age of seven, I had already witnessed a friend fall to his death and been to a funeral, but seeing Angie fall to Leukemia was the hardest thing I’d witnessed before or since. Seeing her lay in a hospital bed connected to tubes. Experiencing the process of her flowing black hair become stubble, only compared to what I saw in war movies depicting prison or concentration camps. The treatment, drastic, yet unsuccessful only seemed to make things worse. Eventually, after often brutal chemotherapy treatment that only seemed to worsen her condition, she would come home with my Dad , but it was short lived, as she would soon return to the hospital where she would pass.
Even now, when I bring her up in conversation, my Dad easily recalls detailed memories of her kindness, their time together, and what it was like sitting by her bedside at the hospital. As I write this, I try to focus on all the good and kindness that she brought us. The positive imprint she left in her twenty seven years on this planet. Maybe, writing about the suffering will help me heal enough to focus on the good things.
As for her family. I didn’t meet any of them until the day of the funeral. Like I said, they would have never let their daughter date a man who was divorced with a kid. When I think back to those days; and I often do. I didn’t like it, but I kind of understood. Looking back, I can’t help but think, that experience had a lot to do with my drive in volunteering on so many cancer related fundraisers. To think that something good came out of that tragedy is as rewarding as it is hard to believe. In the end, Angie may have been the greatest, most positive influence on my early childhood. Her presence and overall impact certainly influenced me as an adult and effected the way I’ll always want to treat people. I will always love her and appreciate the short, yet impactful life she lived. Till this day. I still have the Chinatown shirt she bought me on a trip to Mott Street. I had to be eight at the time. Though it hasn’t fit in more than forty years, I keep it as a token of her kindness and the last physical item representing our time together. Thanks Angie, you will always hold a place in my heart.
As of late, I’ve been doing my best to reach out to long-time friends and loved ones. With the advent of social media, many of us, myself included, have overlooked the importance and joy of hearing a friend’s voice over the telephone or opening a handwritten note or card from someone you once shared frequent exchanges with. Just imagine if one of your hundreds of friends on Facebook ever got a call from you. Don’t worry. You’ll be struck by lightning while accepting your lottery win before that ever happens.
No matter how much time has passed, there will always be a place in our hearts for friends, family and loved ones — sharing memories and getting updates on their current or recent doings. In contrast, exploring a new way to see one another. Although, those first words, “Hey …, this is …” might take a little courage. There is almost always a reward on the other end of the line.
I had a dream the other night where I lost all knowledge and ability to take pictures while on a vital magazine shoot with my friend and photography mentor Kevin. It was a beautiful day, and shooting in natural light, instead of the pressure of shooting in the studio, added a lighthearted, stress-free element to the job. I began to run poses with my model and formed a bond to allow us to work in a more carefree environment. I completely shut down. Suddenly, the camera and the knowledge I had built over the years were gone. I confided in Kevin what was happening. His assurance that everything was going to be okay. That I just needed to relax fell upon deaf ears and disappearance of any prior knowledge of photography. Even with and despite his calming nature. My struggles continued until I woke up. If I was to guess, I would relate the dream to my recent health issues, and future doubts of my ability to photograph the things I love and those the fascinate me. In the end, that scares me more than anything.