When I got up to go to the bathroom before leaving the Starbucks headquarters located in the SODO area of Seattle, my wife looked up at me and laughed before asking “Are you going in there to take pictures?” I frowned as if to I was reacting to some ridiculous question from a half out of her mind crazy lady. “Pffft” I quickly replied as I rolled my eyes before wandering towards the facilities. Though relieving myself before the ride home was my key reason for my sudden departure. My wife’s knowledge of how incredibly predictable I can be, had me reaching towards my back pocket to ensure I was indeed carrying my iPhone.
When you enter a room, whether it’s a cheap hotel, a lavish ballroom, someones living room or a bathroom. You are sure to get a sense of what went into the thought process and overall design. Bathrooms are by far the most overlooked when it comes to proving anything more than the basics. However, when you walk into one where you can tell a lot of thought and artful attention went into creating a space that is often overlooked when it comes to art. So after making my deposit, thoroughly washing and drying my hands. I took a moment to capture an image of the sink that extended throughout like a brook and the lighted mirrors that adorned the wall above. Note the contrast and shadows disabling the flash gave me.
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,.”
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.
If there’s anything I missed in 2014. It would have to be portraits and studio photography. While the year presented many opportunities for travel, event and real estate photography. My studio work suffered greatly for many reasons. Moving to a new and spacious loft in nearby Jersey City offered new opportunities while allowing me to expand and grow. Unfortunately, I stalled in the process and temporarily lost my way. It seems I lost my ability to communicate in a way I’m used to, in a way I’m accustomed to. Then came the winter, the cold, the ice and the snow. During that time, I kept busy, worked on other aspects of my photography and waited. Suddenly an opportunity showed itself when our interior decorator, friend and neighbor stopped by to see the remaining pieces he ordered for our kitchen. A great communicator and story teller in every sense. I asked him to sit for me as I tested some lighting set ups. He happily obliged and within five minutes we had some great photos to go with the stories we had shared. It was a nice moment that reminded me about navigating the highs and lows of creativity. How when one aspect of your work loses steam, another might thrive. Like life itself, creativity is a balancing act. Thanks to my new friend for reminding me.
I was having a conversation recently with a photographer I had just met the day before. We were just talking shop and sharing some of our experiences. Then she said something that hit me like a bag of sand. (bags of sand are quite heavy.) She said “To be honest. I’m only truly happy when I’m shooting.” I sat frozen for a second. A second that seemed like a lifetime. This woman who I had just met said what I’ve been feeling for so long. It was as if someone had just hijacked my soul and said the very words that I’ve never been able to say myself.
Since I was a child I always had this hyper creativity about myself. Always writing and creating in one way or another. It wasn’t until I got into photography that it really hit me though. From the moment I got my first camera I was obsessed. As I got better that obsession took up more and more of my time and occupied more real estate in my thoughts. When I think about it I’m reminded of an old Ray Romano skit where he talks about his young daughter of four. She was looking out the window in what seemed to be deep thought for some time. When he asked her what she was thinking about. She replied “Candy”. That’s me. Only a lot older and with photography. I was laying in bed last night around 4:00 AM. Tossing and turning, reflecting on that days shoot and the ones that are coming. Thinking of how I can avoid having my pictures start to look the same. Working on new concepts and ideas. I just can’t put my mind to rest. Laying awake my eyes focused the wardrobe in front of the bed. “What if I emptied it out and photographed someone inside. Someone who feels trapped.” It’s fucking 4:00 AM and I’m thinking about this shit. It’s crazy.
My long time friend Mandy got me into volunteering a little over a year ago. During the times I shot these events I’ve received so much love and praise for pictures I thought were pretty mediocre. I’ve sent them to her with an almost apologetic tone. Of course she’s always positive and appreciative, exclaiming “these are amazing.” “Why are you so hard on yourself?” The thing is, I’m not an events photographer but I want to be at my very best regardless. Even when I’m shooting portraits, something that I’ve become very good at. I keep thinking “I can do better. I can do more.” It’s an obsession.
The plain and simple truth is that when I’m shooting. When I’m in that mindset. I’m the very best I think I’ve ever been or can be. I’m pretty much a dork when it comes down to it. But when I’m in the studio communicating and creating, I feel like a fucking Rock Star. I can say and do things I wouldn’t be able to otherwise. I’m happy and confident. I’m not shy, self conscious or clumsy. (okay, maybe a little clumsy.) Not to freak anyone out but I’ve even compared it to sex. Not quite there but about as close to an orgasm as you can get without….. well, you know. So yeah, maybe I am only truly happy when I’m shooting. God, help me.