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.
The other night I posed a simple, yet complex question to a friend and fellow music photographer. “Can you ever see yourself enjoying, or even going to a show or concert without your camera?” It was a question I had to ask, considering I’ve asked it of myself countless times. After what seemed to be a decades long pause, he exhaled “No. I don’t.” The answer was as much a surprise as it was a relief. Having asked myself that very same question numerous times over the years. I find it somewhat strange that I know for a fact that I couldn’t. I don’t see any time in the near of distant future where I’m hanging back with a beer in my hand taking the show in as nothing more than a spectator. Whereas I see myself now as the old man with the camera at the show. I’ll probably end up as the really old man with the moment capturing apparatus at shows twenty years from now. Otherwise, I just wouldn’t know what to do with myself.
It was a beautiful Sunday. So my wife and I decided to get out early and head to Manhattan for some vegetarian Dim Sum. It was the first 60 degree day we’ve experienced in what’s felt like years and there was no way it was going to be misspent. Our usual walk to the Journal Square PATH train involves my complaining about how the neighboring homes take little to no effort to maintain their homes or follow even the most basic sanitation standards. (Par for the course when you’re an old curmudgeon like me.) As we turned the corner on to Newark Ave. We both lamented the fact that it had been so long since we took advantage of the areas bountiful Indian cuisine. Promising, “This Summer we’ll sample each and every one of restaurants offered to us.” As the long, punishing and somewhat endless Winter has finally shown signs of old age. Seeing colors, anything not gray for that matter, seems promising. So when I saw this display adorning one of the local restaurants. I knew I had to stop and document it. Like Alexander Pope said, “Hope Springs Eternal.”
I’ve met a lot of unique and beautiful people in my lifetime. Though trying to start a conversation with a complete stranger can be a humbling kick in the ego. It can open the doors to to so many new and rewarding experiences. These days I don’t feel all that comfortable speaking myself. Often catching myself stumbling over my words or feeling unable to say exactly what my brain is trying to communicate. Depending on how you look at it. It can be viewed as a positive, negative or both. For me personally, I try to see it as a positive. The positive being I can muster the words and expressions well enough to invite a conversation before letting my ability to listen take foot. Though I didn’t expect it. I find myself enjoying the time I spend with my mouth closed and my ears open. I’ve met some very interesting characters with some really incredible stories to tell. I’ve learned a lot with this little gift. More about the world and it’s people. More surprisingly, I’ve learned a lot more about myself. Most times, a smile, a nod or a simple hello can start a conversation. I took each of these three images within about an hour with the help of those three expressions. Try it some time. You might be surprised by what you get.