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.

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

Getting Older

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.

The Kind of Pictures You Always Wanted to Take.

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.

Leave a Positive Footprint

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 oftFootprint-1en 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.

Art is my Weapon

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.

IMG_1269M

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,.”

Change

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.

H-Bomb-1Since 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.

Speaking of Similarities

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.

IMG_3942

Finding Happy; The Journey Continues

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.

Happy.jpg

You Can Never Go Back

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.

_MG_8781MAs 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.

IMG_3960MIn 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.)