The Fight that Never was.

Surviving a brain tumor might seem paramount to many. Surviving high school is something many never live to tell. However, for myself, the challenges that often followed were often traumatizing. It was often the changes and adjustments I’d have to make later that proved to be the toughest. Though we’re talking a lifetime ago, I still remember that follow up visit to my doctor when the surgeries and treatment were done. I recall going through the ordeal with him while going over some C-A-T scans and being told how lucky I was to have survived. Then came to bad news about how I needed to restrain from the sports loved, which meant no more baseball, hockey, soccer, and above all, fighting, explaining that even one blow to the head could kill me. What else was a kid to do? Wear a fitted helmet for the rest of my life? Maybe an iron robot suit. I might have sucked at basketball and football., but damn, I still loved boxing, had a nasty left hook, and had made the all-star team with my little local league the year before.
High school turned out to be quite a challenge. While I wisely chose a school close to my home that had its share of older friends that looked out for me in varying degrees, I soon found new people who, for whatever reason, designated me as a target.
Just as the bell rang and I could see our teacher Mr. G steps away from the door. I made my move leaping from my desk, gripping the front of his and flipped it over with him in it. “No, Motherfucker, we’re going to do this right now.” the combination of the look on the kid’s face and the alarm in which our teacher entered the class served as proof of perfect timing during the most desperate of times. Though my hastily devised plan didn’t give me the protection that cooling my jets during a lasting after school would have. It scared the fight out of my opponent. Like my mother always told me and my father would go on to add. “If you think you can’t win, make them think you’re crazy and capable of anything.” The Fight-1.jpg
While no further words exchanged between myself and my aggressor, his previous call to meet him after school spread throughout the hallways, cafeteria, and gymnasium long before the final bell concluding the school day rang.
Though the walk from the school doors to the buses and trains blocks away were never lonely ones. It felt as if the entire school was heading in the same direction and ultimate destination that was the IHOP parking lot where the fight was to take place.  As the crowd grew and began to create a physical circle, my older friend Jimmy took his school ring off and placed it on mine. ‘Put this in his eye. You got this.’ I remember taking some deep breathes and mentally devising a plan based loosely around the countless other fights I had before. Only this time, my focus was more on survival than winning.
While I can’t recall if I thought of what that doctor had told me about what the chances of a blow to head killing me were, but I’m pretty sure it crossed my mind. As the minutes passed and the crowd began to disperse, it became apparent that this clown wasn’t going to show. Perhaps he forgot, maybe I convinced him that I was, indeed, crazy. I guess I’ll never know though we would cross paths the next day and many other times during our tenure at Monsignor Mc Clancy. We would never again speak. Though others might confront the aggressor, knowing full well that he would have probably hand me my ass, I took that little victory and kept it packed away for another day. Just as I appreciate my Dad for teaching me how to fight my mother’s lesson of making your opponent think you’re crazy and capable of anything might have been my saving grace. Thanks, Mom.

Piece by Piece. Day by Day.

As I find myself working harder and harder to point my way back towards becoming a full time, or at least more consistent studio photographer. I feel my doubts and insecurities reaching a boiling point. The combination of learning new things while unlearning others that once worked just fine for me and many of the people I worked with. With shoots being booked and sessions coming in. I find myself overloaded with information and ideas. I have to admit, it’s a little overwhelming.

As I was setting up for a upcoming shoot and getting familiar with some new software, gear and switching up backgrounds. I had to stop, take a deep breath and step a bit back to find comfort in some older sessions to remind myself “You got this. You can do this.” I can always go back to the things I already know and relied on, but that wouldn’t get me anywhere but where I already am. In order to grow you have to learn, take chances and try new things. In order for me to continue doing what I love. I have to get past my anxiety  fear of failure. To quote a wise green guy. “There is no try, only do.”

IMG_1834M

IMG_1852M

IMG_1854M

Making a Rare Radio Appearance

On Tuesday, March 22nd at 11:00pm. I’ll be joining Al Crisafulli and Katie Kazimir on WFDU HD2’s “Signal to Noise”. Over a thirty minute time slot I’ll be answering questions about my photography while playing some of my favorite songs from some of the bands I’ve photographed along the way. As someone who prefers to use imagery to express my thoughts and emotions. This is somewhat of a rare opportunity. A bit scary too. Be sure to tune in. JD

WFDU Fairliegh Dickinson University

Signal to Noise

12800144_1669929563273269_2608285736715305061_n

Time to Reflect

I’ve been having a real hard time finding the right words to describe my recent shoot with Roksolana. Sometimes it just takes time to properly let an experience run it’s course of emotions in order to write about it from an observers point of view than an actual participant. Roksolana IIIThis became evident to me when talking to a model I worked with the other day. I’ve worked with this particular woman for years and over that time, developed a close bond and trust. We’ve always shared stories and not only is she supportive of my wiring. She’s downright forceful in that she feels my stories are worth putting to paper. This Friday afternoon, as she unpacked her chosen outfits for that days session, the conversation quickly turned to just that. It was then that I realized why I do and do not write about certain subjects and certain experiences in my life. It was then when I understood why I was having such a hard time writing about this particular shoot with this beautiful and very sweet woman. Roksolana IIIt all came down to separation and the time it takes to remove yourself and a certain emotional element from the story. At the time of the shoot I was overwhelmed by Roksolana’s energy, her thwarting of everything I had planned and inability to focus on anything for more than a few seconds. That could all be easily overlooked if not for the pure fact that she turned my organized and uncluttered studio space and turned into a combat zone. Even going as far as moving my couch and taking the shirts I had picked out for her to model and spreading them across my couch insisting “See, it feels like a college dorm.”

RoksolanaYet, with all the madness, lack of direction and complete exhaustion those few hours created. I still had a beautiful woman in my studio. One who is inspiring in all that she’s already experienced in her short life. I was doing one of the things I love most in life and I was in the midst of a ‘real story’. I controlled my anger and emotions throughout and stayed focused. An hour or so later, my heart rate was normal and I was sharing dinner with my lovely wife.    I was not only alive, I was living.

Nervous Knots

IMG_7577After this weekends workshop I was eager to get back to my own home base and put to work some of the things I had learned. I had scheduled shoots for the week in advance. Lucky for me, my week would start with someone who is by far, my favorite person to work with. That morning I drove into the city and picked up a beauty dish at Calumet Photo. I’d been considering purchasing one for some time. After working with the dish over the weekend and seeing the results; I was somewhat obsessed with picking one up.

IMG_7604As the day progressed I had become more and more anxious. Getting into the city, dealing with traffic and finding a parking spot amongst a sea of loading zones, “No parking during the hours of…”  and “Don’t even think of parking here ever!” As I returned home to set up my typical butterflies turned to nervous knots and full blown angst. Now, I’m usually a little antsy in the minutes and at times, even the hours before a session. What was particularly strange about it was Audrey and I had been shooting together for five years. She is my muse, my canvas and by far the easiest person I’ve had the pleasure to work with. When she arrived I was surprised that I was still feeling like somewhat of a head case.

This Fashion Workshop has turned me into a complete headcase.Whatever anxiety and awkwardness I had been feeling faded as we began to work together. We put the new beauty dish to work and did our share of experimenting with lighting, angles and different lighting techniques. Having a beautiful, naked woman traipsing around the apartment without a care added  a odd calming effect. At one point I walked into the room as she was undressing. I apologized and quickly began to close the door. “Oh God, as if you’ve never seen me naked before.” she laughed. Suddenly, all was good with the world. It was as if the clouds had lifted and all the stress and tension from recent days was lifted. I am officially back to my old self. Thanks Audrey.

Butterflies

In just a couple of hours I’ll be headed to Montclair’s Gallery U for the opening of ‘Permanent Images’. This is my first time exhibiting there and my first time displaying at a gallery in over a year. The three images showing at the gallery are a few years old which, for some strange reason, takes away a little of the excitement away from my inclusion. I’ve always been one of those people who’s appreciation for his own work has a sort of expiration date. Shooting work and preparing it for exhibition has always been the exciting part for me. Seeing it on the wall and standing under it with a “Hey baby, wanna see my junk?” look on my face has never given me the satisfaction that capturing the image and hunting down a wall to show it does.The truth is I’m a bit of an oddball. I often feel weird at these things and can’t wait for a friend to stop by to snap me out of my geek spell and say    “I hate this kinda stuff.” “Wanna get a beer? Which I’m usually more than happy to do.

By now my nerves are starting to get a little scrambled. I’ve had way too much coffee and even broken into the cola reserve. I’ve peed a half dozen times and the butterflies are turning into tarantulas. This is the uncomfortable part. Knowing that getting there is the hardest part and once I’ve seen a familiar face those butterflies will disappear is comforting; But for me it couldn’t come fast enough.