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.
After an already full day in Baltimore. We made a final stop at Graffiti Alley, which is located in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District directly behind the Motor House. It somehow reminded us of a miniature version of Long Island City, NY’s “Five Points.” (R.I.P.) Awash with colors and ripe with the smell of newly created art. We made sure to taking our time to soak it all in. As someone who grew up in graffiti culture and always admired what kind of messages would come from a can of Krylon. It energized me. Seeing that someone was using the name that I once tagged up with was just candles on my cake.
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.
As I continue to experiment with light, composition and my imagination while trying to adapt to a two cups of coffee a day routine. I find myself trying weirder and more unorthodox ways to create images that will hopefully stand. I started the idea by borrowing some of the empty bottles, jars and vases stored in the kitchen, The ones featured below were shot while inserting my Canon 15mm fish eye lens in a vase and placing it directly on top of an object. Luckily, I was able to both fit and remove my lens and camera without any damage. I like how the vase somewhat served as a filter.
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.
It’s been a garish week of freezing cold weather, sleet, snow and cancellations that have left me looking over my shoulder for the four horsemen of the apocalypse. As the cancellations grew in numbers my inspiration flourished. Giving me new ideas and energy. I had scheduled a Friday morning session with Audrey earlier in the week but as I crawled out of my coma like state this morning I was less than inspired and more than ready for yet another last minute phone call lamenting yet another “I’m so sorry but this snow……” All I could think of was indulging in one last hour of hibernation. Maybe I’d call her to let her off the hook. Luckily for me I don’t make any hard decisions before a shower and coffee because working with Audrey is always such an incredible high. Our artistic collaboration started back in the Spring of 2008. Since then we’ve worked together numerous times and she’s helped me grow tremendously. It’s also given me an opportunity to watch her grow as a person and artist. Audrey is what you would describe as the complete package. She’s smart, funny and beautiful. The girl has a heart of gold and is a true person of content. We got a lot done in a short period of time and I got to put some of those ideas to work. I’ll be posting those shots later. For now I leave you with my favorites. Thanks Audrey, I look froward to more in the future,
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.