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,.”
Earlier this morning I received an email from Word Press wishing me a Happy New Year and sending me a personalized report detailing the blogs traffic, most poplar posts and where my visitors are checking in from. I was astounded when I read that in 2011 16,000 people from four different continents visited Photo Geek throughout the year. This was shocking considering I rarely check my stats or get many comments on my posts. I’ve run into many friends and strangers who when I give them my business card tell me “Oh my God, I read your blog all the time.” or “You’re that dude?’. It’s pretty weird to say the least. It’s one of the many reasons I still do this.
To tell the truth, it’s one of the longest creative endeavors I’ve been involved with. Knowing that I’m actually reaching somebody is enough to keep me going. Knowing that there’s more than half a dozen of you out there is the icing on the cake.
Thank you and Happy New Year,
The Photo Geek
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.
Last week while taking pictures in Hoboken (my town) I was swiftly pulled over by three Police cars. They came up on me quickly and boxed me into a corner.
An officer came up to me and very politely asked me what I was doing. They had received calls about a “suspicious looking photographer taking pictures near the trains and overpass.” The officer was cool. he just asked me what I was taking the pictures for and if i was working on any project, which I was. I told him I was a photographer and gave him a card which displayed an image like the kind I was shooting. He complimented my work and asked “Don’t you listen to the news? There’s a heightened terror alert today.” I laughed and told him I try to stay away from the news since it all seems bad. He radioed back “It’s just a photographer who’s working on a project. He’s legit.” Within a few seconds they raced off and I continued on my merry way.
I wouldn’t consider this a bad experience but it just goes to remind me how often this happens. I’ve been confronted by Police, Security Guards and just random people about where I can and can not take pictures. All the while our every move is being watched, filmed and documented. All so we can be protected from “ourselves”. I understand the fear that 9/11 created. I lost friends and family as did so many people. Yes, I understand the fear and the need to protect people but I don’t want to live in fear and be kept from doing the things I love because of it.