I was living in Midtown Manhattan when my grandmother was hospitalized. The smart as whip, quick witted person I had known my whole life was quickly fading. and though I could not accept it at the time., was not returning home or even graduating to one of those old age homes that, at the time, had only seen in movies and on TV. With trips from the Broadway office where I worked quickly becoming a challenge. I decided to stay with my Dad in Staten Island, just blocks away from the hospital she had been admitted to.
One weekend morning.as I held her fragile hand in mine. She turned to me and in a weakened voice inquiring about an incident I hadn’t thought of in close to twenty years. Referring to a second grade incident that I took the blame for but never played any part in or even witness. “Why did you throw that girl’s snow boots out the window?” Those words, the last she would utter before passing away served as a heavy burden I still carry today. Of all the things I did. The bloody noses and black eyes I gave out to those who came to me looking for a fight. The times I mouthed off to teachers or questioned the religious dogma we were being force fed. The one she took to the grave was the crime I never committed.
While I still look back, dream and write about my childhood and growing up. Rarely do my dreams include the angel who played a pivotal role in my growing up and becoming a man. The few times she’s showed up in my dreams, her role mirrors that of her real life presence. Through thick and thin, my grandmother was always that of a care giver and a peace maker. Whereas she always comes up in conversation with my Dad and Step Mom. I often feel that I never had a chance to thank her for her infinite kindness, hard work and guidance. I promise to always be grateful and appreciative. Oh, and just a reminder. I never touched her boots.
It’s been close to a week since my Mom’s first visit to our new home here in Jersey City. During her week here, I made it a priority to capture some intimate images of her stay. Being that we’ve lived so far from one another for over twenty years now. I don’t get to see her nearly as much as I’d like to. While her stay had it’s share of ups and downs. It reminded me of how much I love, respect and appreciate how much she’s shaped the person I am today. By far my favorite moments of her visit was seeing her interaction and the positive foot print she left on everyone she met. Her smile, positive outlook and ability to make complete strangers feel like family are inspiring. Looking back at her visit, I realized that the thing I enjoyed the most was hearing her speak in Spanish s0 often with anyone and everyone she new spoke the language. For me personally, it’s always been one of the many traits that made her so beautiful. Till this day, I still remember the first words she taught me as a baby “Dame Un Beso.” (Give me a kiss.) All these years later, I still tell people about my first words and about what an amazing woman my Mother has always been. Despite all our differences and endless similarities. We still love one another to the fullest. Thanks Mom.
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.