Back in 2016 I went to the theater to “Snowden”. The true story of an NSA agent who reveals illegal surveillance techniques used by our government to spy on its own citizens. There are a couple of scenes in the movie where the character suffers from seizures that had
him writhing uncontrollably on the floor. As someone who suffered from a serious seizure disorder from the age of eighteen to about twenty four. Those scenes freaked me the fuck out. So much so, that I could feel myself unexpectedly welling up with tears and feeling overwhelmed. You see, though I have experienced having seizures myself, countless times over. I had never seen one from the eye of the beholder. During the times people like my Father described the frightening scene that would unfold before them. My unresponsiveness and the sheer sense of helplessness that accompanies it. I completely roll up into a metaphorical ball of guilt and shame. Recalling how often I joked or made lite of my disorder and the challenges that came with them. Know what I put others through makes me want to take it all back.
Now, having a seizure disorder is nothing to joke about. Over the years I woke up many times with the taste of concrete or soil in my mouth. I had my share of trips to the emergency room and I can remember the crazy hallucinations that often accompanied them. Yet, over time I got to know the warning signs as well as the triggers. I learned enough to consistently question my doctors upon visits and do enough research of my own to learn that the medication/medications they were prescribing and insisted I’d have to take the rest of my life were not curtailing the frequency of my seizures while giving me a pack of side effects to add to my misery. Add to that the horror stories I reading in the medical journals my Father just happened to have lying around. Through quick browsing I learned that the long term affects of the drugs were going to do more damage than good.
Upon informing my family and doctors I would be ending the endless cycle of medication and doctors visits. I was met with closed minds, disbelief and a couple of dozen cases of “But, James.” Still, I went forward with my plans to take a more holistic approach. Seizures followed, but for once, I was taking responsibility for what was happening to me. I made changes to my diet and every day habits and before you knew it. I went from having up to three seizures a day to going years without them. No more Epilepsy Society, no more medication, no more visits to the doctor or even worse, the ER.
I’d feel remiss and somewhat irresponsible for not adding that my decisions and choices were mine and mine alone. Everyone’s case is different and no one in their right mind should refuse treatment. My story and road to recovery is mine alone. As painful as it might have been for me. I feel as if seeing something so jarring from a different viewpoint was an education, of sorts. I think it’s somewhat universal that seeing or experiencing both sides of the coin gives you better insight into the situation. I know it did for me.
For our first trip to New Jersey since our move to Seattle back in June, we decided to stay in Asbury Park in order to remain within striking distance of both New York City and my Dad in Tom’s River. When we booked a hotel within spitting distance of the pier and the beach. I made it a point to get out early enough to watch and photograph the sunrise there. While setting my cclock alarm for 4:45 gave me more than enough. time to get ready. Being met with rain and per-dawn darkness, left me with few options. While returning to my hotel room for a couple of extra hours of sleep definitely came to mind.. Finding enough cover to shield me from the rain while I worked on setting my camera to manual won out in the end. After a brisk walk that included it’s share of morning strollers, joggers and dog walkers. I returned to the hotel and my wife to plan for breakfast and map out the rest of our day. Looking back, I’m glad I went with the latter of the two options.
After a quick stop to gas up at Costco. We drove out towards an industrial area near the Spokane Viaduct that overlooked a sort of tent city. Weary of causing any disturbance or attracting the attention of the ones who called the area home. We pulled in to one of the companies parking lots, gathered my gear and headed back around the corner to check out some of the murals and graffiti displayed next to the tracks. It took a while, but I finally came to the realization that I wasn’t going to be disturbed by any of the nearby entities, cops or overzealous security guards that my curiosity seems to attract. After just a few minutes of shooting, I scurried back to the car where my wife was sitting with the engine. I thanked her for allowing me to indulge in my silliness and off we went in search of pancakes and french toast. The end.
I was talking to a friend about a recent excursion that really made the hairs on my arm stand on end. A little over a month ago, I came across a spot that was as scary as it was intriguing. That day, I spent a matter of minutes exploring the area just adjacent to the old, abandoned automotive parts/repair shop. At the time, I peaked through, before briefly entering the side door. When returning a few weeks later, I found an obscured front door and entered with as much caution as I had curiosity. Almost immediately, I could feel the hair on my arms stand on end as I had entered a dragon’s lair of graffitied walls, random garbage and the remnants of a recent visitor, or worse, occupant.
As I stepped cautiously through the debris and squalor. I couldn’t help but feel the tortured spirits of those who may have preceded my visit. As I moved from room to room through hand carved holes in the walls. I couldn’t help but feel that I might have bitten off more than I could chew. The random needles, paint cans and emptied glue containers served as evidence of recent hardcore drug use. “You’re too old to be doing this. You should be enjoying a plate of eggs and hash browns with you wife right now”
As creepy as my visit might have been. I had no inkling as to how weird things were about to get. While carefully opening one of the container doors. I unveiled what seemed to be a living space, complete with mattress. Though not the unveiling of a colony of brain thirsty zombies or bat wielding crack heads I spooked myself into imagining. It quickly served as the hair-raising moment that told me “Times up. Get your ass back in the car” Thankfully, I was in complete and total agreement with that inner voice. Until the next time.
I had so much fun shooting with Gia yesterday. Her laughter, smile and those incredibly expressive eyes. In the days leading up to our session. She sent me a couple of pictures of models dressed in flowing raps. (Imagine saffron robes blowing in the sahara winds.) While she never managed to track down the material. The idea stayed fresh even as we had begun our shoot. When it came time to change into the next outfit. She asked if I had any sheets we could use as a substitute. Thinking on my feet. I decided to use on of my photo backgrounds instead. Wrapping it around her upper . I had her friend hold the the ends. Creating somewhat of a loving tug of war. Notice the smile and the playful exchange she’s having.
When I posted a shot of Friday’s session on Facebook over the weekend. It definitely turned a few heads. The attention was both positive and appreciated. It wasn’t until this morning that I was questioned about my decision to edit it. While I liked the original. I thought a ounce of editing would do it some good. Then came the critique about consistency and how, if something ain’t broke. Don’t go trying to fix it. It seemed harsh at the time, but when explained, it made a lot of sense. I had the perfect light and settings from start to finish. There was no explainable reason for the change, other than change. To close, I’m learning a lot and it’s not always easy getting over old habits. Learning that a critique is aimed to both help and improve one’s work. How, listening is often better than talking. Below Left is the original file. On the right, my retouch.
With the help of a good friend and fashion forward photographer. I’ve embarked on a new project that hopes to connect my rock and roll background with his years of experience in fashion photography. In the time II’ve spent learning from him. I’ve come to realize that I’m in the midst of starting over. In recent months I’ve invested in new new studio gear, software and as of yesterday. Purchased a new camera in the Canon 5D Mark III. Fridays session was shot tethered through Capture One and was shot entirely on a tripod. Shooting from the tripod allowed me to better communicate and interact with the model while spending less time fumbling with the camera. The choice more than quadrupled my production in half the time it would take otherwise. The path is set. Everything starts here.