Growing up in Jackson Heights, Queens. The nearest swimming pool was in what seemed like a far off world. Without the money, or knowledge of the transit system. We were often left to our own devices and local fire hydrants when cooling off in the hot Summer sun. The joy of jumping in and out of the hydrants canon. Applying a hollowed out plastic bottle to better direct the waters flow. Or better yet, giving the passing cars a thorough soaking. Hoping that one unprepared driver would drive past with his guard and windows down. The childlike excitement of soaking the interior and occupants of an automobile felt as if it would last forever.
Documenting Your Surroundings.
Over the years, it’s become crystal clear that my wife is my staunchest critic and supporter. However, adding her to the creative aspect of it all is both a major distraction and a pain in the fucking ass. As someone who has become more of a landscape and street photographer in recent years. My wife is, more than often, right by my side. Whether it be asking a million question as to what attracts me to a subject or being over protective to my history of risky attempts of capturing a moment. A good example would be yesterdays trip to Richmond and my fascination with photographing many of the downtown murals.When asked about “Photographing other peoples art.” and, basically hijacking someone’s creative energy. When my explanation of both documenting and interpreting my surroundings didn’t communicate the intended message. Explaining that my approach and goal while when shooting is to document the artists work respectfully. While also interpreting and conceptualizing in my own way. Why that might some like bull cookies to many. It’s how I do.
Influences and Origins
The other night, I came across a documentary about New York City photographer Ricky Powell (R.I.P.). Perhaps best known for his raw images of NYC personalities and the up and coming graffiti and hip hop scenes. Powell, was, amongst many artists whose art and images inspired me to pick up a camera and document the world around me. The documentary features many of the highs and lows while remaining focused and very interesting. Overall, it had me thinking about organizing, printing, and even attempting to display my work at a local gallery. With so many other, perhaps more important, tasks on my to do list. The reality that I don’t know anyone outside my immediate neighbors in the area. Chances are slim for any exhibitions. Still, I plan on consistently sharing my images on the internet and with anyone who’s willing. The image below was taken more than ten years ago when I lived and worked in Hoboken, New Jersey.
The other night I had a dream involving a very close childhood friend who was both a victim of child abuse throughout his youth and murdered before becoming an adult, regardless of the dream involving us partaking in a crime. Considering the thirty plus nightmares that had me revisiting his blood-soaked body or the blackened eyes or bruised back, this was the brightest and overtly positive dream I’ve had regarding my best friend. A gift of sorts, rewarding me for finding closure after more than thirty years.
Even as a kid, I often felt helpless and afraid to say or do anything to improve the situation.
Being aware of and even witnessing some of the beatings or the following results were terrifying to me. I can only imagine what it might have been for my friend. Choosing between who was more abusive, the oversized nonfunctional alcoholic father, and his quick fisted bartender mom is hard enough. The two of them inflicted enough physical and emotional damage to last two lifetimes. While everyone on the block and my parents were aware of the abuse. Perhaps due to the times or their fears of what might happen if they got involved. Not one of us picked up the phone or visited the local precinct to file a report. The thought of being a rat or pushing into a foster home both played a part. However, in the end, the fear of possibly making things worse formed the most significant cloud over our wanting to protect him.
Considering it took me close to twenty-five years to put his murder and the mental scars of his abuse to appreciate what a special and unique friendship we shared. To get over the nightmares and thoughts that focused solely on the darkness. It feels rewarding to look back at all the good times we shared and the many adventures we embarked on.
Glen loved baseball and, more specifically, the Yankees, for which he knew the history of just about every player wearing pinstripes. As pre-teens, we shared a love for comic books, baseball, the original star wars saga, and slasher films. There were countless sleepovers where we’d avoid sleeping to get a jump start on the next day’s adventure. We did everything in our power to see every horror flick that was released during that time, whether it meant finding a way to break into the theatres’ back door or convincing an adult to pose as our parents or guardian. It seems as if at least ninety minutes of each Saturday dedicated itself to catching a flick. These days I can’t help but think those slasher films were an escape from his own nightmarish life.
I’m not sure, and I don’t remember when or how we met. Though living just a few houses apart most likely initiated our first meeting, my first memories involve being curious about why some neighborhood kids attended pre-school. To think we were already exploring an environment outside of our front yards and parents’ protective eyes is somewhat of a head-scratcher. For sanity’s sake, I’ll say the times were very different.
Glen’s thirst for adventure and nose for trouble led us on countless adventures. Some of which, I find it hard to believe we managed to survive or, at the very least, evade the police and a possible stay in juvenile detention. Whether it be trespassing, shoplifting, vandalism, arson, or worse, Glen had a particular taste for trouble that only seemed to grow over time. Perhaps being the smarter or at least, more analytical of the two. I often served as the moral compass that kept us from getting in too much trouble or, to an extent, getting killed. Funny how in looking back. I never looked too far into the future. Whether a life of crime, prison, or following his parents as both alcoholics and abusers. And though we spoke about juvenile hall as sort of a badge of honor. I’m grateful to add; it never came to that.
Regardless of our differences and perhaps due to our similarities, we were inseparable. There were a few fistfights over the years, but no bloodied nose or black eyes kept us apart for more than a few days. From the age of four to thirteen and beyond that, we were brothers, even taking a blood oath when we were eleven.
For better or worse, his father’s attempt at sobriety took them to Las Vegas when we were thirteen. His father, a long time nonfunctional alcoholic, was finally looking to turn his and Glen’s life around. Returning to his gift for cooking, he took a job as a line cook in Vegas. During the two years apart, we kept in touch through letters and occasional phone calls, conversations about girls, music, and, most importantly, girls. A couple of months before my sixteen birthday, he wrote a letter announcing his plan to take a bus back east. A lengthy bus trip from Las Vegas to New York Cities port authority was undoubtedly a better idea than hitchhiking. Sure, what could go wrong?
Upon his arrival, it was easy to see that the sense of brotherhood we shared was still intact. Though we had grown in different directions, our bond seemed more vital than ever. In the days, weeks, and months that followed, there was talk about my mother adopting him. However, Glen never lived by a set of rules or curfews. His not coming home for days and even weeks proved to be too much for us to handle. While I often wished he would adapt and accept the boundaries of a new life. Part of me fully understood why he couldn’t.
Weeks later, his bloated, beaten, and bloodied body found blocks from where the bus dropped him off to start a new life. There amongst the trash on the side alley of a midtown late-night food joint. Though I never really followed the case, investigated what he got into or why he ended up. Both I and those who knew him all have their theories.
However, with years behind me and somewhat of a sense of closure, I wanted to look back on the best friend I ever had and let him know how much his friendship still means to me. Through closure and a sense of acceptance, I’ve finally opened the doors to remembering all the good times we shared, the adventures we embarked on, and the many discoveries we made along the way.
United By… (One Nature)
Though I only saw the band once. Boundbrook, New Jersey’s One Nature left a lasting impression on me. With an incendiary live set, the first double ‘7-inch ep I’d ever seen and a sound that reminded me of the band Ignition as well as the many great Dischord Record acts of the’80’s. Though I never did hear from or see the band live again, I still own that double ‘7-inch and play it regularly. Thanks to an old friend for unintentionally reminding me of all the bands that, while I only had the chance to see once, left a lasting impression that still holds today.
Here Comes the Sun
I spend a lot of time thinking about the kind of pictures I’d like to take. As someone who became interested in taking pictures in his teens, but didn’t own an SLR until his mid twenties. While debatable, I’d say photography has become the greatest passion in my life. As someone who made his name as a music photographer, built a strong portfolio as a studio photographer and worked continuously on a project called “Left Behind”. I feel that I’m always dedicating whatever spare time I have to learning, testing and putting new projects to work. It wouldn’t be overstating if I said it was. While my time on the East Coast offered an abundance of beautiful sunsets. Living in Seattle, an area with many lakes, bays and waterways at every turn. I have long imagined myself waking up in the early hours and driving to a spot where I can watch the sun rise.
Just Because you don’t Like it…
It happens sometimes. You go to a club or music venue to see your favorite band and there are four to five bands you’ve never heard of playing before them. Some of those bands will knock you on your ass, opening the doors to becoming the next band you give your heart to. Then there are the ones that make you second guess why you ever left the house in the first place. Over the years I’ve seen my share of bands that left scratching my head, covering my ears or imagining myself as a machete wielding harbinger of death to shitty bands across the planet.
You can often remedy that disdain by heading out for some much needed fresh air, hitting the bar or merch table. Or, if you’re like me. Document that shit. I’m often surprised at how I can manage to get a quality shot of a band I dislike or absolutely hate. Sometimes a good shot can go a long way to erase the memory of a bad experience and in the end, make it all worth while. And remember, while you might not like a bands sound, music or personality. There’s always going to be those that do.
Documenting My Travels. Part II
As a certified old curmudgeon. I admittedly have a big fat stack of pet peeves. You know, those little things that get under your skin, torture your soul and make you want to shout out loud. “Get off my fucking planet.” Well, when it comes to pet peeves, eating on the train is pretty high up on the list. While public displays of gluttony and disobeying basic rules while thumbing your nose (and any boogers that might be clogging up your senses) at common sense principles might be traits some folks look for in their future soulmate. Personally, I find it disgusting. It’s something I witness on a daily basis. Something that goes beyond and race, regional, social or economic boundaries. People literally eating amongst disease carrying rats. Yuck! Okay, I know my rant won’t change a thing, but it might inspire my “Humans of New York” inspired coffee table book “Don’t eat where others shit.” Todays morning ride featured this very attractive rider who, before ripping in to her noodle salad, managed to down an entire hoagie without getting any mayonnaise stains on her blouse. My guesstimate is, she dines here regularly. I’m just glad she didn’t notice the sign before she sat down.
As I began to plan my route back home last night I ran into more than several dead ends and locked fences. Feeling a bit worn and self aware that I wasn’t exactly walking through territory that saw much heavy foot traffic. The rocky, uneven and muddy ground below me had already began to take it’s tole on my new pair of Nike’s and a slight sense of paranoia had start to set in. Weary of being sighted by any construction foreman’s or pulled over by the authorities. My pace quickened as my eyes widened searching for an opening in one of the fences. As the night grew dark and my path became more like an obstacle course. I kept my eyes close to the ground. That’s when I found buried treasure just below the muddy terrain. Without wasted breath I leaned forward, scooped up a couple and headed towards home. The experience quickly reminded me of my elementary school days when my friends and me would explore the train yards of Sunnyside Queens looking for buried treasure. While I may not be hoping any fences or climbing up on roofs these days. The explorer in me is still alive and well.