006: Karen and Jenna and Brianna [and Penguin Prison]

“I’ll stay when it’s hard, or it’s wrong, or we’re making mistakes. I want your midnights, but I’ll be cleaning up bottles with you on New Year’s Day.”

It’s hard to talk about the holidays, without talking about depression. Unless you’re lucky and privileged, then just decorate the house, Karen, and have those cookies ready for when the hot chocolate is done. 

There really is two realities to every holiday season, one birthed from looking at, and one birthed from being at. The majority of Americans have experienced or live in one of those two realities. I’m sure theres a third version of the American Christmas experience, but I’m unaware of that one at this point of my life. 

I wanted to do something more long form about the season, but honestly, I was too busy to give it the time it need to breathe life into this year. And now we’re past the ball drop, most of the feelings are gone, and the words I want to write really need to be brought out during those six weeks where the eyes are everywhere, and no one is watching. Those dark days illuminated by envious green and red lights.

I will eventually write about my personal relationship with the holiday, and while I have a lot of emotional baggage regarding the season, and while my current opinion is constantly changing and evolving, this is not the year. 

I’m going to reserve talking about the year I had, purely out of guilt, and a sense of responsibility not to add to someone’s else misery this winter. I’ve been that guy before, who had a mediocre or basic year, or maybe even a bad year, and the influx of subtle comparisons you deal with from Thanksgiving until New Years is rough. Stuck at your job all year, turned down for a raise or promotion? Not too bad really, but when you sit at a table of people who went on trips, bought cars, took time to learn a new skill, you feel lesser so you retreat to the bathroom. Instagram is there to show you a year recap of your favorite travel blogger or creative, showing their entire year’s highlights in seconds. Shit. You worked all year, paid the rent, or maybe didn’t pay the rent a while. You’ll pay your parents back, it’s cool. When you Make It.

New Year’s day comes, your family left, you shake it off, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and round up and do it again.

Or maybe you don’t. Maybe there’s a Monk marathon on USA and you are busy becoming one with your couch. You masturbate to some random scene for a minute with Tony Shalhoub’s muted face moving about in the background on a larger screen, but you need more of a distraction, and the moans of Jenna and Brianna provide that for moment before you come back to reality.  It’s 11 am and your ‘friends’ are still sleeping off last night. You should probably take a shower, the eye crust is annoying. Nothing is open really, though, so why, just nowhere to go, the half box of fish sticks in the freezer is fine. The couch is comfy. And frankly, the third act is about to begin, and you need to know how everything unfolds. 

Days like that will happen. And everyones end date for those varies. And that’s ok. 

Anywhos, here’s some pictures of Penguin Prison from August:

NW: NJPW WrestleKingdom 13/New Year’s Dash

NL: “Daydream Time Machine” - Wooing

NR:  “Photographs” by Mark Seliger 

More tk….

005: Power [and Public Practice]

“Maybe the mind works differently in different people, but my father believed the true means of communication is the picture. We are bad at talking, bad at remembering language, and bad at spelling, but we are just great at remembering pictures.” - Walt Kelly

Words versus pictures is the  Unstoppable  Force vs. Unmovable Object storyline of our generation. Social media and the new journalism rules of the modern era paint the picturesque trend that the walls and pottery of Egypt started, and the iMessages of today continue.

I’m not a history major, nor am I much of anything more than a soul attempting to be curious when my nature is to but survive, I can’t speak to the history of lines and light, and why they pierce the brain more than the imaginations drawn by san serif. I know they do, and I know I’m drawn to the romance that an image can speak a volume that my mouth or my pen or keyboard can not. 

Nick Ut’s “The Terror Of War” communicates the realities of war more than a thousand letters from the battlefield. Kevin Carter’s “Starving Child” tells us more about the hungry and the unfortunate than is convenient for a first world citizen. The Times Square snap by Alfred Eisenstaedt gives us a years long romantic timeline in merely a second of a glance. The Tank Man photo shows us strength we can’t even comprehend cultivating in a gymnasium. 

In the facts fighting emotion category, emotion always wins. Emotion isn’t logical, nor peer reviewed. The fact that America isn’t in the top 10 of almost any major quality of life measurement, means nothing when Beyonce hits that one note at 6:05 on Super Bowl Sunday, or when a daughter of a firefighter nails the National Anthem for a Yankees Game Seven. 

Emotion can be exploited, and we’ve seen it in the pulpits on Sundays for all our lives, and on the national political scene for longer then we will ever acknowledge. Emotion is a serious power that can be harnessed, and used to attack, the damage of which, not to exaggerate, can be felt for generations. 

So we as photographers, and directors, and crafters of the image need to be wary, and not yield this grand power lightly. Documentation, creation and distribution of the chosen frame has never been easier, and when a visual strikes that emotional volcano, the creator can no longer control the flow of its lava. 

Here’s some pictures of Public Practice (St. Vitus Bar, Brooklyn, NY)

NW: The Hitman’s Bodyguard

NL: “On Veut Juste” - Gnarrcissists

NR: “Crazy Like A Fox” by Liam O’Rouke 

More tk…

004: Stats [and Feels]

‘It’s part of being an artist. You can’t create great stuff all the time, you’d be inhuman. The human side of people is that sometimes they fail.’ - Elton John

I could bore you with statistician-ish numbers of what I’ve shot since I moved to NYC, in my attempt to best my most productive year in photography in just the five months I’ve had a new Drivers License picture, but I won’t because the attempt was nothing more than an attempt at a humble brag that no one other than myself cares about, and then I would do nothing but try to best that number next year.

The quality over quantity argument is the longest tenured spiel of what I emotionally react to as the lazy artist. So some famous painter took three years to make a figure of light and shadow, but honey, we’re in 2018, and we’re at the 20 frames-a-second part of history now. 

So I shot a bunch this year. So I shot some of my best work this year. Did I though? How long do you have to sit on an image before you think it’s actually good or be objective about your own work? I’m perpetually torn between hoarding the images I make like a Chicago Nanny and pushing everything out into the world like a parent with a Flikr account. 

I did shoot more this year than any year previous. I created more technically good frames this year than any in previous years. I pushed myself creatively in ways I haven’t before, and the new year presents new opportunities to reset and refresh and throw myself against the tsunami of creative juices that flow through this city like the Slime River in GhostBusters 2.

[In case you can’t tell, I love metaphors, and creating comparative structures of reference, simply because I mentally do that in my everyday existence, as a way of coping with my ever so feeling out of place in this society. Like a formless robot, I apply so many new endeavors to a catalog of previous history and known pop culture references, which are nothing more than pseudo lives lived that I’ve adopted in a void of my real life attempts and seclusion. It’s how I attempt to relate to the world place we all share, live, love, judge, and operate in. I also think it shows cleverness and a humorist side of me, and Millennials are always in combat over individual cleverness because so many of us were nurtured on the teat of The Office. It’s also my personal attempt at out-vague-ing and losing the larger audience I may be speaking to. By getting more and more obscure, I’m speaking directly to a smaller number of human like creatures, but speaking more directly and passionately, and I love the road trip from accessible to niche.]

But am I sprinting through a marathon? Am I attempting to justify forgoing care and time for the numbers and hustle and bustle? Some dude said your first 10,000 images suck, and only after that do you start creating worthwhile work.  I shot one of my favorite images in the first four months I owned a DSLR, and in many ways my entire creative life has been just about chasing that dragon of recreating that moment with better gear, at a slightly better angle, with a more marketable release plan. Is the creative journey designed to be more than just a box check of 10,000 images and 10,000 hours and boom, you’re an Artist(TM)? Journeys are lot less interesting than declarations, which is why everyone says they watched all of the Lord of The Rings movies, and then conveniently leave out how shitty the middle of the second movie is, and how much a chore that was to drudge through. 40 pages of “walking” in the script isn’t sexy, but getting to the top of a mountain and conquering an evil deity is.  The creative life is similar, but our Eye of Sauron is a 9-5 job with a 401k.

The year ahead lies with doors I’m gonna break down with a hammer, or a chisel. Not sure yet. Maybe a flame thrower (do you know any billionaires marketing such a product?) I know I have to continue to destroy and rebuild, maybe because I read that somewhere that all art is just a rinse and recycle version of the all of this planet’s known creations, and I wired that somewhere next to the fuse panel of my brain’s interpretation of the art creation process.

I have a week or so before I finalize my Goal Set and Vision Plan for the Year of the Pig. This week is about shutting down, being proud of whatever I’ve accomplished this year, and taking a brief breather as the clock strikes midnight and we all enter over the threshold of Gregory XIII’s wacky idea. 

So over the next few days, as Americans navigate through the landmine that is What It Is, I get to sit back, binge some Angelina Jolie movies (Christmas in Jolie Marathon donchaknow) and figure out if the New Year’s focus will be less is more or more is more. 

Here’s some pictures of Feels (Union Pool, Brooklyn, NY)

NW: Life With Mikey

NL: “I Hope Your Band Goes Nowhere” - Talay

NR: I Must Say : My Life As a Humble Comedy Legend by Martin Short 

More tk….

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