Earlier today as I was waiting for the elevator, a man who closely resembled a healthy mix of my Dad and a mafiq hitman who is either on his way to execute a contract or preparing for a life in witness protection . Though I didn’t mention either, his striking look and mannerism seemed enough to get us past the usual “How are you today?” or any mentions of the weather.
Though memories of Just Jake’s, Depot Square, The Meatlocker didn’t immediately roll off the tongue. My long time friend, Mandy did. Having lived in New Jersey for over a decade, Montclair, with it’s little downtown always offered something to eat, drink or do. No matter the draw of the town, it was always the time I spent with my longtime friend that made everything seem so much better. Her laugh, her smile, her kindness and positive attitude always inspired me in enen the darkest times. Despite our geographical locations and the fact that we are almost polar opposites, we’ve managed to stay close friends for over thirty years. Now, with her now living in Europe and me residing on the West Coast, it hard to say when we’ll be able to sit in the same room together. However, with tools such as Skype and social media, I’m sure we’ll be able to keep in touch for years come. If you’re lucky enough to find someone, anyone who loves you unconditionally and not only accepts you for who you for who you, but reminds you how special you are to them, be sure they know how much you appreciate and cherish the fact that they’re a part of your life. Thanks to that dude by the elevator for jogging my memory.
With no studio, studio gear and just the basic camera body, flash and a couple of lenses available. I’ve had to get a bit more creative with my lighting and backdrops. And just as doing with less has created more opportunities than problems. Finding and booking test shots seems just as difficult in the Northwest as it was in New Jersey and New York. On my first shoot, I took photos in and around the corporate apartment I was temporarily staying in. Being that it was a sun soaked day. We retreated indoors, taking full advantage of the more subtle lighting its interiors offered. As we moved from point A to point B. I couldn’t help but feel relaxed and confident. Recalling the nervous knots I often get while working in the studio. And while I can’t wait to start booking more sessions with aspiring models, such as the one seen here. I’m not quite as eager to get back to studio work.
Less than midway through our first session. Angel leaned in and asked “Do you like working with me?” “Of course I do” I quickly replied. Truth be told. Working with her had been the most stress free session I had worked on in recent memory. Secretly, I was glowing inside. Knowing we had laid the foundation for future collaborations. So when the need to work on something new presented itself just months later. I knew I had an ace in my deck with Angel. It’s quite rare when I am so eager to work with someone again so quickly. However, the chemistry and the results of our first session created the desire to work on new ideas and themes together. We’ve already set up a third and final shoot that I’m hoping will give us something useful for both of our portfolios.
When my long time friend and favorite expatriate messaged me that she would be returning to New Jersey for a short, yet important visit. I knew the odds of me seeing her this time around, let alone catching up on her three years in Germany were about as good as the Cleveland Indians winning the World Series. Still, any chance to see such an old and dear friend was worth taking. Imagine my surprise when she was both available and looking forward to indulging me in one of my truest passions, studio photography. The hours we spent together were more of a gab session with me sneaking in a shot or two whenever I could.
Having met Mandy in the parking lot of a strip mall adjacent to my high school when I was sixteen. The likelihood of us ever becoming friends seemed improbable to say the very least. Yet, despite being polar opposites we became trusted, close friends before long. Supporting one another through sickness and health.Through the good times and bad. She’s been a huge supporter and influence on me as a photographer and as a volunteer to worthy causes. She’s one of the few people in my life who crosses the lines between friends and family. One’s that, no matter the distance or time. Remain, unspoken, an integral part of my life. And as my Mother put it “Damn, that woman does not age.” Looking at this picture. I think it highlights both her beauty and unwaning strength. I’m incredibly grateful for having the chance to catch up with her. One of Jersey’s best, no matter where she goes.
Over the weekend I had a musician friend over for some promotional shots. During those two or so hours we tried several looks while playing around with different lighting setups. Later that night as I began going through our session. I began to compare color shots with B&W copies I had made. To no surprise, I found myself preferring the B&W versions over and over. Knowing how predominant my love of B&W can be. I thought it would a good idea to get some opinions on the matter. Comments welcome.
I really wish more of my little studio sessions were as laid back and effortless as my day with Ruthie. Though this was essentially two friends getting together and just chilling out on a less than busy day. It allowed me some time to play around with my lights and take my camera for a walk. As the day quickly passed, we shared stories, listened to music, drank wine and smoked cigars. There came a point where she looked so relaxed and comfortable. A blissful moment that was shortly interrupted when she raised her head and told me how much she hated having her picture taken. It was a strange moment, considering how incredibly relaxed and natural she looked. The simple truth of the matter is she trusted me. She felt comfortable enough around me to allow herself to relax and feel beautiful. I was pretty humbled, to say the very least. You know, I’ve always loved taking more personal pictures of friends I’ve made along the way. Making new friends through the pictures I’ve taken seems even more important.
Since last weeks session with Denise the two of us have been in constant contact with one another about working together on other projects. Every now and then my phone lights up with an image, shortly followed by “Look at this.” “I want to try this the next time we shoot.” I’ve been really inspired these days to work with different people, try new things and experiment with different concepts and lighting. As the winter begins to thaw and signs of spring just starting to show. I feel energized and confident that I’m moving in a good direction. I’m meeting new, creative people who are open minded and love living life to the fullest. Photography, art and being a photographer allow me to communicate, create and relate on levels I would never be able to otherwise. Only the future can tell just where life takes me. For now, I’m extremely grateful to be where I am.
I was talking to my Mother tonight on the phone when the subject quickly turned to my recent work and more specifically, studio work. I mentioned the evolution of my style and approach. As a kid I was surrounded by art in general. My Mother was an office secretary at a well known NYC advertising firm. From an early age I’d take the bus or train in from Queens and meet up with my Mom at the office. I’d spend most of my time in the art rooms where art work, advertisements and movie posters were being made right before my eyes.
I met a lot of really amazing and creative people who would later have a major effect on my life and the direction I decided to go in. At home we scraped by but my Mother always made it feel like a home. There was art everywhere. Vargas posters and Marilyn Monroe prints throughout the two bedroom apartment and classic nudes in the bathroom. There was also a collection of art and photography books always within reach under the near by coffee table. To put it mildly, my Mother has so much to do with the person I am today. The way I think. The way I work and my crazy, unfiltered personality.
Lately I’ve been reminded more and more of those days and in particular the Art books that first captured my attention and imagination. As I was photographing my most recent inspiration the other day I noticed a few images that immediately brought me back to the beauty and overall simplicity of those images that first inspired this eight year old. Mixing those classic elements with somewhat of a modern touch excites me to no end. Finding people that inspire me to do this is essential.
Ruth and I have been cyber friends for years. We originally bonded during the My Space’s salad days in a Photography Chat Room. We both loved art and often talked about organizing a photography exhibition at some point. Since then we’ve kept in touch sporadically but never made the leap towards a face to face collaboration. That is until a few weeks ago. We started chatting again on Facebook and she mistakenly said, “We’ve been friends for such a long time.” I quickly jumped on the opportunity and returned with “No, we haven’t. But once we actually get together, we will be. I invited her to the studio and lucky for me, she said “Yes”. The day of meeting she brought her childhood friend and business partner Mayra and although it was short. We managed to have a great time cementing our long standing friendship.
Ruth and Mayra are both beautiful women in the traditional sense. There was a certain class and dignity about them that really impressed me. But it was Ruth that completely won my heart with her smile and youthful exuberance. For someone who is damn near close to my age. (Late 30’s) She looks like someone you’d pass on the Freshman campus of your local Ivy League school. I honestly wish I had more time that day to get to shoot and talk about art and life in general but within a short time they were out the door and off to a meeting. Ruth and Mayra have embarked on a new business adventure. One can only hope it turns out to be as successful and rewarding as their friendship. Time will only tell.
When Audrey arrived for her shoot the other day I had a short list of things I wanted to share with her before we got started. Audrey and I have worked together numerous times and have developed a working partnership that has helped us both to grow and mature over the years. I won’t go as far as speaking for her but I could not have asked for a better canvas. It was five months to the day since we last worked together.
At the time I had just printed a photo book with shots exclusively taken during our prior session. I had been trying to print a few books over the last couple of years but could never make a final decision on the photos or layout. The whole process was maddening to say the very least. So one day in a total fit of consciousness I broke from the normal routine of gathering pictures from various prior shoots and focused on just one. Remarkably, it worked. The pictures hit the pages effortlessly as words flowed like poetry. I had created my first Mac Photo Book in a matter of minutes. Damn, was I proud. When the book arrived I was more than pleased with the quality and theme. Needless to say, I was eager to share it with Audrey and just about anyone else. That day came Audrey and I had another great shoot and parted ways. About five minutes after she left I realized I hadn’t shown her the book. I thought of calling her but didn’t want to sound like a maniac.
So in the hours before Audrey showed up this week I made sure I had the book out and ready to share. As I handed it over to her I watched as she went from page to page. I could see the emotion building up in her. She really, really loved it just as much, if not more than I did. It was a nice moment to say the very least. Having the stuffing hugged out of me was just an added bonus. Knowing that your work has touched someone or moved them emotionally is a reward I can’t quite describe. If someone asks me what I’ll be doing when I’m sixty four or eighty four years old. I’ll look them dead in the eye and say “Im meeting up with Audrey to make some magic.” Thanks to Audrey for always being “The Muse”.