Sunrise

I’ve made a lot of positive changes to my life. Starting my day by watching the sun rise before I start my first of two daily workouts is one. Though we haven’t had many sunny mornings in recent weeks, my will to get out and start my day with some fresh air is strong. Here’s to starting the day on a good note.

Just for Fun

Now that the temperature is rising. I’m looking forward to visiting the many places I’ve mapped out to take pictures. For now, though. I’m staying close and shooting what I can. In my prior post, I went out a bit too late to catch the rush hour traffic that passes our building each night. It’s been a while since I’ve delved into long exposures and night scapes. I’m looking forward to the days, weeks, and months to put those ideas to work.

When in Doubt… Part II

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.

When in Doubt…

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.

Faces

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.

My First Photography Related Nightmare.

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.

Art Matters

It’s become quite evident that art is quite conducive to the mental health of others. Whether you’re creating art or witnessing it. The overall benefits are overwhelmingly positive. After stopping and taking in the creativity of Baltimore’a Graffiti Alley. I thanked my wife for always nourishing my soul by supporting and fueling my love of creativity.

Looking back, it all started as a young child and my Mom. She was a secretary at a rather large advertising company. Though she never made much money. She was always bringing home art and movie posters. Some of which I still have today. On the days I visited her at work. I’d find myself in the art room watching illustrators bring new characters and ideas to life.

I often look back at those times and my Mother’s influence as the gateway drug that inspired my long love affair with art, photography and the people who create it. Over the years, it’s help me process, heal and strive to create. Let art be your muse, the shoulder to lean on and that big blue pill that cures all.

Can’t Stop. Wont Stop.

Despite my medical issues getting worse and struggling with the challenges of having a progressive neurological disorder. I still, very much, think and see like a photographer. What I lack in balance, I more than compensate with my drive and passion to, for a lack of a better term, “find the light.” and while the day and the light still have a place in my art. I’ve become much more fixated on finding light in the darkness. No matter the subject or the struggle it might present. I’ve learned that obstacles will never curb my enthusiasm to create or disable my drive to learn and grow. Here’s to experimentation and the results that may come. (I shot the on a tripod at 100 ISO at a ’30 second delay. The F stop was 22. The photographer was full with the joys of Thanksgiving Happy Holidays.

Dear Dad

My Mom once (Okay, more than once.) told me to watch what I said in public and especially to be mindful of what I write. While being free to express ones self. We must also be mindful of what we say and share with others. A lesson I’ve tried to apply, and suffered from when not practicing. Yet there I was trying to write my Father a letter or email that will potentially mend fences in regards to a recent blowout between us.

And while I’ve spent a lifetime looking and often finding closure to many early traumas. I can’t help but open new wounds every now and then. In the days and weeks that followed. I searched and replayed the moments before the blow out. Could I have instigated the argument, said anything to bring on his storm of anger and hate. Or brought on his ire by perhaps seeming uninterested in his reasoning that Trump was a great president and world leader. “No”, “No”, and “No” I was assured by my step mother and wife.

Considering he read it (I confirmed this with my step mom.) and he never bothered to return or acknowledge my olive branch. I’m guessing we’re done. After a lifetime of trauma, anxiety, stress, panic attacks, and a whole lot of fun. I’m ready to move on. As bad as that night was, I did my best to reach out with no hate, anger, or blame. I’m sharing the email i sent because I wanted to prove to myself and anyone reading this, that I tried. I tried and I did it by taking the high road. Over and Out.

“Dad, how are you. More than a week has gone by since Kay and Me visited and we had our blowout. The arguments only show our beliefs have grown stronger with showing how different we are politically and socially. We always have been. However, the times have changed and I guess we have to. I just wanted to reach out and say, our beliefs should never overcome the fact that you’re my father and I’m your son. After a week of unpacking I’m finally enjoying going to the gym every day and enjoying the deck and the common areas. Also, after all this time, it feels good to sleep in our own bed.”

Best,
– James

Learning to Fight.

Through recent conversations with family and grade school friends. (yes, I still have those.) I was reassured that many, if not all, of my early childhood memories, happened. My doubts surfaced a few years ago during a neighbor’s daughter paid a visit. After examining the six-year-olds hands and soft knuckles, I began to think some of my memories and tales were something of folklore. For better or worse, those stories remained in the memories of those who were there to bear them.
Whereas many of my memories remain detailed and almost sharp, the most formidable ones start around the age of four.

While kindergarten was a great introduction to socializing and learning to communicate, it was also an education on dealing with bullies. To state it boldly, it’s when I first learned to fight.

I remember it clearly, and with detail. During that morning, there was what was, without any doubt, most kids’ favorite event of the week, ‘Show and Tell.’ At the same time, I may not have been the most popular kid in the class. Bringing my G.I. Joe with Kung Fu grip and authentic (Fuzzy) hair was both a hit and the envy of some male classmates.

As the half-day came to an end, I found myself waiting in the nose bleed seats of the school auditorium. Suddenly, the Cruz brothers, Carlos and Eddi, intended to take my G.I. Joe and give my ass a proper beating. Their plan to attack from both sides was a good strategy. However, they surely underestimated my intent to hold on to my prized possession. Despite their two-prong attacks of kicking and punching, I stood my ground and did enough damage to hold on to said action figure.

When I got home, my Father noticed the scratches and red eyes and asked what had happened. I remember telling my Dad about the incident and commenting they used karate on me. (At the time, I considered any form of kicking to be karate or kung fu.) He told me to never back down to bullies and began to teach me how to fight.

A day later, I found myself in the garage with my Dad learning the ropes to not only fight back but win and even disable my opponent.

A year later, I was in the first grade, despite how handsome and charming I might have been. There were even more cruel kids looking to target and bully me. And just as I was learning how to defend myself properly, my Father was slowly but surely gravitating towards loansharking and numbers to make a living.

By the early school year of the second grade, my parents headed for a messy divorce, and I was processing my anger and newfound anxiety. A lesson, for better or worse, was taught that would set me on a course.
My Father got down on his knees and asked me, “Do you want to win a fight?’ I nodded, “yes.” “Do you want to win a fight quickly and be sure he never comes back at you?” I agreed again. Nodding, “Yes.” That’s when he took my hand gently yet firmly and taught me a lesson I’d never forget.

The first thing he taught me was pressure points and how to throw a punch properly. “Hit somebody directly in the chest, and they can’t breathe. If someone can’t breathe, they can’t fight.” Punch someone in their throat, and they can’t breathe.” “They can’t breathe. They can’t fight.” “There are two ways to punch someone effectively in the nose.”
“While an uppercut can cause a nosebleed, but if you come down on the nose hard enough, you can break the bone. Either will take your opponent out of the game. That was gouging one’s eye out with my finger—a tactic best saved for mortal combat or some soldier of fortune adventure in Uganda. Now luckily, the last and most gruesome lessons I learned, that day would never be called on, let alone thought.

Now, bear with me. I’ve gone over the inappropriate nature of a father or any parental guardian teaching their six or seven-year-old son how to disable their opponent both physically and mentally. For me, and perhaps in my Father’s eyes, learning pressure points was like learning how to play chess. The streets and schoolyards were often battlegrounds, and bullies came in all shapes and sizes. One day I might be fighting for more than an action figure or my lunch money.

In the week, months, and years that followed, I stood my ground in countless altercations in the schoolyards and on the streets. The lessons my Father taught helped me navigate and win fights with people older and bigger than me. I quickly learned that school administrators and police officers rarely judged who started the fight—often seeing the more damaged or bloodied person as the victim. Looking back, I take great pride in the fact that I was never a bully. In contrast, I was quick to throw a punch. Yet, I never once started a fight. Often leaving one teary-eyed, asking why they made me hurt them. Except for one that sent my friend to the hospital, and the exception of my first school. I never fought a classmate.