As a teen and even through my early thirties, I always looked very young for my age. I questioned police throughout my twenties, thinking I was skipping school or being carded at bars well into my thirties. That baby face and look of innocence has been a curse as much as it’s been anything. As my dad began sprouting gray hairs and even thinning at the top in his thirties, I’ve entered my fifties with no greys of bald spots to cover. And while I took on some weight during my drinking phase and a strict diet of fast food and red meat, I’d say the subtle changes I may have made more than a difference in preserving my fountain of youth. Yet, here I am celebrating another birthday, wondering if I’ll ever sprout greys in anything besides my beard or learn the art of the comb-over. Lucky for me, I have my sarcasm, smirk, and cynicism to guide me through my journey. Allowing me to look good while shaking my fist at the clouds and screaming, “Get off my imaginary lawn.” to anyone who chooses to trespass upon it.
Aside from music, photography has been the longest and most constant passion in my life. Over more than thirty years, countless rolls of film, and thousand and thousands of digital images, I’ve learned and decided that in the end, less is more. Instead of taking and keeping a million images I might like or look back on with lessened enthusiasm. I’d instead take, save and share the ones I carefully composed and maybe planned. Learning to shoot on manual and TV modes while arranging and carefully composing my shots has given me the knowledge and the ability to take the kind of pictures I want. Proving that you’re never too old to learn new things, and there’s always plenty of room for improvement. Therefore, keep shooting, keep learning, and aspire to shoot the pictures you always wanted to.
If you let it, life can teach you a lot of things. Some of the most important things I learned were about empathy and how much of the happiness we enjoy comes from helping others. No one is perfect and we all carry scars we often wear for all to see. There’s nothing wrong with making mistakes, as long as you learn and grow from them. I’ve yet to meet anyone who hasn’t made a few. Even the strongest take a beating every now and then. I know this from my own experience.
I learned to defend myself and fight at a very young age and with all the broken noses and black eyes I delivered as a kid, It was the first beating I took, that stands out the most. I’ve had my share of battles outside of the schoolyards and streets. We all have. What’s most important is that we never give up or settle. In the end, it’s how we treated others. If there ever comes a time when we’ll be judged or remembered. It will most likely hinge on how we overcame life’s obstacles and how we treated others. In the end, I hope to leave a positive footprint on those I have encountered.
For as long as I can remember and most likely longer, I’ve always been surrounded and inspired by art. As a kid, my mom worked as a secretary for a huge advertising agency and would often bring home art books and have artistic nudes (Two of which I still own and proudly display in my own home.) hanging for all to see. Whether intended or not, it set me on a course that still inspires me to create, build and make things that I feel might be impactful.
It’s worth noting that my Mother’s early influence and my trips to her midtown office, where I’d often find myself sitting in with the companies art department. It was those moments and exchanges that would play a major role in my early development, as well as becoming a major influence on my wanting to write and inevitably become interested in picking up a camera in order to document my surroundings. Many years later as childhood led to adolescence and adolescence led to adulthood., I can’t help but notice how much art and the desire to create still drives me. Now that my Mom is following my blog, it might be time to thank her and tell her that I understand and even partially agree when she says, “We’re a lot alike,.”
In moving to Seattle, Washington from Jersey City, New Jersey. I had some fear that much of the toxicity that had become a part of my daily life for so long would follow me out west and cast a negative cloud on whatever changes I was hoping to undergo. Despite a rather grim diagnosis just months after arriving in the great northwest. I’ve manged to maintain a decidedly positive outlook. Now, by no means does change come easy. Everyone is different and their isn’t a one fix fits all remedy out there that I’ve seen or heard of.
Since being diagnosed with a chronic illness. I went through a number of emotions that included depression, anger and self blame.. Throughout, my one constant has been trying to define what truly makes me happy while sustaining a balance that can nourish and fulfill my soul. The more I’ve searched. The more I come to realize how much the little things play a major part. When listing my favorite things, music, photography and maintaining a level or creativity on a daily basis are the first things that come to mind. However, the more I search the more I’ve come to understand how much joy comes from sharing or preparing a meal with my wife, traveling and sending silly texts to my younger brother.
As we get older our priorities change as often do the things that attract our interest and show up on our shelves. The solitude and alone time I often seek and have learned to enjoy, only improve my ability to socialize. Training myself to limit the people I let into my life and not getting caught up with too much bullshit has helped tremendously in cutting down on stress, anxiety and many of the ingredients of my once toxic personality and lifestyle. While my posts do get there share of likes these days. I would love to see some of your strategies, techniques and practices for dealing with stressful situations and day to day anxiety.
We were just finishing up our breakfast at a local Denny’s when I saw what would have made for a cool image. Not wanting to seem intrusive, I took a quick shot as we headed towards the exit with the intention of doing whatever editing was needed later. Just a couple of hours later as I was enjoying a cup of coffee with my wife. As I sat there enjoying my cup of joe and admiring a pretty cool capture. My wife burst my bubble by sharing a very similar image featured on the cover Seasick Steve’s “Can You Cook?” Though I had never heard of the artist or seen the relatively new album. I couldn’t help but feel that the rug had been pulled out from me I even wondered aloud if the picture was taken at the same location. And while I’ll stop short of posting the album cover. I’ll readily admit that my love of this image took a major nose dive after seeing something so incredibly similar. Oh well.
Since moving to Seattle from New Jersey back in June, I’ve spent more and more time writing about my personal experiences. With a music column back in Jersey United By James and all but finished music blog United By Rocket Science. It’s a wonder I ever find any time to write about my own struggles and experiences.
Like with most things in life, we all experience that sense of burnout that often comes with focusing so much of our energy and time on our passions in life. Whether it’s work, relationships or other passions. We all need room to breath and step away in order to view the bigger picture. There have been many times, more than I can count, when I just wanted to fold the tents, close up shop and go home. In the end, I’m glad I didn’t.
After months of writing stories and struggling to find a name for a new writing blog. (Just about every name I came up with was unavailable.) (I was about to try Squirrel Farts.) I’ve decided to incorporate some of these stories to Photo Geek. While it might be a far cry from record reviews and interviews. It’s something I feel will be a positive addition to the blog. Besides, I can’t think of any one who wouldn’t be interested in reading about my crazy life and scatterbrain theories.
I was in downtown Manhattan this afternoon enjoying a beautiful day when I decided to stop in to a photo gallery in which I was once a member of. As I walked in, one of the members popped her head out of the office to greet and ask if I was familiar with the gallery. I said yes and even went on to add that I was once a member of the coop.She took a closer look, but did not recognize me.”You must have been here for a short time.” I replied “Maybe two years, but I lit some fires and even thought of planting a bomb before I burned my membership card.” Without much more than a glance, she returned to the office as I proceeded to check out what was currently showing. While my words had no intent to intimidate her. I always prefer to interpret art as I see it. As opposed to the person who’s day it was to handle office duties.
As I enjoyed my walk through. I was reminded of the reasons I left in the first place. I simply couldn’t connect or relate with a lot of work the group and the gallery was producing. Not to say that mine was any better or more insightful then or now. My two or so years as a member where a growing process. A testing ground. I was able to regularly display my work in a gallery that was built from scratch in the seventies and nurtured with creativity and love. However, unlike many of the members. I did not look to remain there until my ashes were scattered amongst the wood and brick it’s foundation was built on.
In the end. I’m glad I had a chance to go back and see what was happening since the ten or so years I turned in my scouts badge. In recent conversation with a friend and professional photographer. I shared with him my thoughts or becoming a member again. Perhaps, for the sole chance of having new work displayed monthly in the gallery. He scoffed, adding that many of these coops, important as they may be, somewhat mirror a sewing circle where old photographers go to die. While I found that to be harsh. It was honest and true. I’ll never be able to move forward if I keep looking back.
(The pictures posted above were taken during my tenure at the gallery.)
Weekends have become a time to get lost and reflect on things that matter to me. The things that make me happy and those that I’d like to spend more time focusing my energy and time on. This morning, as we drove past a farm. I caught a quick glimpse of several cows conspiring near a barn. The mere sight of these beautiful animals always sends me in to a full blown state of euphoria. While we didn’t stop to trespass. It did remind of the things I love and hold dear. Minutes later we stopped at a corn field before getting out of the car to buy some farm fresh tomatoes,berries, plums and corn. Not a bad way to start my day.
Last week I had a representative from a local painting company over to get an estimate on our loft foyer area. In the hour or so he was here, we went over ideas about color schemes, wallpaper removal and the stripping of a concrete column located at the left end of the room. It was apparent that the company had worked in the building in the past. As he began to leave, he asked curiously about the extensive damage in the lobby and common areas. I took my time explaining how the pipes had frozen causing a flood while putting the building on an all day fire alert. I told him about the alarm and sirens that wailed for hours and how the inescapable flashing lights in the loft and hallways triggered my first seizure in years. He stood there in a frozen state, captured by my story, asking questions along the way. I had no intention of keeping him longer than I had. Nor did I have any motive in sharing my history with seizures. It wasn’t until he told me about his beautiful sister’s long history with grand mal seizures and depression that I did. He told me how witnessing his sisters seizures unfold as a young teen terrified him. How, to this day, those memories still haunt him.
I shared my experiences with him on how I eventually got off the medication roller coaster after years of them adding miserable side effects to my somewhat manageable seizures. Taking more holistic path with diet and more spiritual approaches such as meditation. How both doctors and my own family were less than supportive of my choice. And ultimately, how I went from having three to five seizures a week to about a half dozen in the twenty years since.
As for depression, while I have yet to find any cure (Believe me, I’m no rocket scientist.) I told him that, in my own experience. Knowing that you are not, in any way, alone is key. It’s also important to understand that, no matter how I might feel at the moment. I’m always able to convince myself that I will most likely feel a lot better in a few hours, days or weeks later. My regiment depends on staying busy and creative whenever possible. Fresh air and even the most brief exchanges can change the course of a day. The smile on his face said it all and I think the amount of time he spent lingering in my doorway was more than enough evidence that even the smallest exchanges can change someone’s outlook on things. In closing, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to share our experiences and history with one another. We are all connected to one another on one level or another. Large or small, every word we speak can go a long way while carrying a heavy load.