The reporter, the camera man, the shooter and you.


This news of the reporter and camera man shot in Virginia is destroying me.

Out of morbid curiosity, I watched the footage from the camera man and from the shooter. Unseeing/unhearing it is impossible. The shock, hurt, anger and confusion is heavy on my mind, like it’s wading through a mire.

Tina and I often interview people in a similar fashion (Tina’s not on camera like a reporter, though), and I can’t help but put ourselves in their shoes or visualize myself as them. When we’re doing that kind of work, we’re all about the moment and certain blinders prevent us from noticing a lot of periphery information.

I didn’t know these two people, but I can only begin to imagine the broken hearts, the pain, the tears of so many who loved these two dearly. As well as so many disappointed and appalled by the shooter’s actions.

I don’t entirely regret watching the videos. If you watch the one recorded by the shooter, he readjusts his camera zoom as he’s walking up. If that’s not proof that he’s entirely cognizant of his intention and goal, there should be no discussion of this man’s sanity.

Although, the word is he’s now dead.

From what I heard about the 20-some page manifesto he faxed to the station, he was upset by the way he was treated at work. He cited details regarding racial tension in his workplace.

And maybe, if I interpret this correctly, maybe these two people — the reporter and/or the camera man — were guilty, or purportedly guilty of what he saw as poor treatment in the workplace.

And maybe, if you stretch your imagination, can you empathize with the shooter for feeling like he was somehow mistreated, racially or personally.

It’s the violence that’s pathetic. It’s not dealing with the situation with tact and appeal. Has it come to this bullshit that the only way to be heard is to fire a gun?

I hate violence, and a lot of the news of different shootings in the past few years and even in my neighborhood have caused me to attempt a certain heightened awareness of my surroundings when walking my neighborhood. It’s likely futile. How do you see what’s happening behind you.

Should I constantly spin while walking? 

Another thing that’s completely appalling to me are all the people who say they’re praying for the victims, their families and those involved.

Praying? Really?

Who is that helping?

Where were the prayers before that prevented this shit? Who are you praying to and who feels better when they say that stuff? It’s not the victims or their families and friends. They’re fucking miserable right now.

Who is the god that is prayed to that knew this was going to happen and was powerless to intercept this shooter? What all-powerful god is this who is incapable of destroying the evil in the world? This fucker can create a universe in a week, but he can’t stop an angry man with a gun from shooting two people in cold blood while doing their life’s work? While doing their art?

If that’s what prayers are for, or to, I don’t want anything to do with it, and don’t understand EVER why anyone would.

My birthday is coming up. My one wish, as I blow out my candles, will be for people — unless it’s with a camera — to stop shooting other people.

Where the fuck did Jeremy go?


I’m almost 40. This September I cross that age threshold. That makes 20 years of non-belief.

My level of non-belief ebbed and flowed for a long time before I finally came out of that closet and eventually started this blog. During my closeted years, I searched for liberal views that were more accepting of my completely changed view of “god”. I tried to embrace different euphemism. That’s to say, when I said god, I meant me. When I prayed, it was to the universe, to nothingness, because sometimes that’s all that hears our hopes.

Why am I writing all this?

I don’t know.

Creatively, I feel like I’m producing more work than I ever have in my entire career. Not only is it more work, the quality of work has never reached this level. I feel I have so much more to learn. But I’ve also never felt like the work I’ve done in the past ever meant a good god damn.

But as an artist, I have never been as deathly afraid to share my work as I do now. When I share work now, it’s forced. I’m marketing, because, well, if I don’t, my business may suffer.

A few months ago, two different clients criticized some of my work and double-handedly created a sense of insecurity in my head that I can not shake.

I haven’t blogged in goddamn forever. I know. Not here anyway.

Between business, a decline in blogging motivation, and that WordPress now requires that I pay an annual fee to house digital media, I felt the need to back off of blogging at Le Café.

I miss you guys. I miss you all a lot. This blog had reached hit counts of over 30,000 to 35,000 per month.

This blog descended from one defined by my expression of non-religious beliefs to one centered around my day-to-day work and art, which caused a rift between loyal readership to a drastically declined one. This was something I did to alleviate the stresses I started to feel regarding my conservative-Christian family.

I chose family over fans. Morally, you’d think that was the right choice. 

You’d think that, wouldn’t you?

My family reads this blog — or at least used to — and I came to a conclusion that blogging about atheism created a larger rift between my family and me.

So I dialed it back. Way back. And then stopped.

I stopped to encourage a healthier, more productive relationship with my family. And at times, it seems to work. Other times, not so much.

Before all of the blog changes, I stopped any direct atheistic or liberal expression Facebook. I even told my family that it was the reason for backing off. I hoped it would encourage a reciprocated effort. It hasn’t.

Oddly enough, with certain family members, I feel it’s worse. And there’s a part of me that wants badly to divorce myself from the entirety of all that. It hurts too badly to continue, and I am finding myself somewhat close to what’s termed as one’s “wit’s end.”

I stopped believing around twenty years old. I don’t think I’m right about atheism. But I don’t think religious people are right either. Atheism is the closest mindset that reflects my views.

If you need someone to criticize atheism, give me few hundred thousand words and I’ll give you a great breakdown.

And that’s the same for religion.

But I can write a zillion words to back either up. Either. That’s the rub. I can defend religion just as well as I did as a teen. Why? Because I get it. At least I think I do.

That’s pompous.

I know.

Again, why am I writing this?

I’m at my wit’s end for sure.

Another reason: last week I heard a raucous out front of my condo. We’re on the third floor, and when I looked outside there was a police cruiser, an ambulance and a fire truck.

A group of people were out front, and one of them was my next-door neighbor Natalie. “I’m going to go down and see what’s up,” I called out to Tina. “Natalie’s out there, too. Just curious what’s up.”

When I exited my front door, I saw my neighbor with other folks just in front of our fence and neighbor’s fence to the south.

At first, I thought they were looking at something across the street. When I got closer, though, I could see paramedics were surrounding a man lying down on the sidewalk. Seconds later, one of the paramedics started chest compressions on the man. Another group of paramedics were wheeling a gurney from the ambulance to the sidewalk.

There were some six or seven people attending to man.

Once they got him on the gurney and into the ambulance, my neighbor and another man informed me that they had discovered the man slumped in front of the fence, and that when Natalie — a nurse — felt for a pulse, she could feel a faint one. Then she felt nothing. Seconds later, the paramedics came.

They took over.

The man died on the sidewalk. He was in in his fifties. Looked a little over weight. Gray hair. A dirty t-shirt and shorts.

He lived with two dogs in a building two doors down. I had never seen him before.

He died on the sidewalk.

Right in front of my building. Wait, right in front of me.

Seeing this certainly sparked thoughts of mortality. Of revisiting the ideas of heaven and hell, of afterlife. It caused me to review my perception that none of that exists. It caused question.

I think about religion — and my place outside of it — more than any other topic.

And the questions did not overwhelm my view that neither exist. And that doesn’t depress me.

What depresses me is that it’s this kind of thinking that might cause division between my beloved family, my loved ones, my life.

But I have to be okay with it. Right?

I mean, I feel much more at home in the thought that this life is it. That’s all. And soaking up the experience takes priority, rather than the idea that I’ll have eternity to cherish my loved ones.

It creates a wildly oppressive fear of not being an all-around decent person when hanging out with my believing family. It means that I stuff back thoughts and ideas for the sake of the whole. But damn does it hurt when those types of values aren’t reciprocated.

Who me? Officiate a wedding? What the fuck. 

One validating moment, though, was two weeks ago. I photographer friend asked to visit with Tina and me. He’s soon to be married. Usually when these kinds of things means you are going to read or stand up.

But the request for for Tina and I to officiate the wedding. Tina, because she represents spirituality for the bride. And me, because i represent skepticism for the groom.

My views have become much more private. And I feel it’s hurting me. Or at least part of me.

But it feels so damn good to be appreciated for my views. This is the highest honor. Marriage is so important to me. It’s the best thing about life and I wish I would have married much younger. Much sooner.

This scenario deserves a stupid metaphor. My life is a game of poker. Sometimes it’s a shitty hand. Sometimes it’s a royal flush. And it’s sometimes everything in between.

I’m up when I’m in my element here in Chicago; doing my art, cooking for Tina, being a husband, a friend to many, and an asshole to others.

And that’s worth everything to me.

Reviewing old B&W photos with no dates on them


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Today, Tina and I drove to the south side of the city to an area called Palos Park. I think.

We visited Tina’s aunt and uncle to share some recent black & white photos that Tina received from her brother. The photos were from Tina’s parents and grandparents, and many of the faces were of strangers or people we have no way of recognizing.

Tina thought it would be a good idea to share the shots with her family to see if they could identify them or if they would even want them, or copies of them.

It was a trip down memory lane, and her uncle was able to name many of the folks in the photos.

Among the pictures were envelopes filled with loved-one’s hair.

It’s great when you’re looking at photos, and you hear the stories about different people. Tina’s uncle would say, “Oh man, this guy here. Your mom’s uncle’s brother’s sister-in-laws brother’s cousin’s dad … I hated that guy … what an asshole.”

I love the candor.

I personally enjoyed looking at the quality of the photos. I mean, you have these strange families in their better-than-Sunday best posing in the once-in-a-lifetime photo that captured them in such crisp and beautiful black and white. Or the little photos that are thumbnails of street scenes. Kids playing in fire hydrant water. So much history with ghosts whom I’ll never ever meet. Or maybe met once at a wedding or funeral.

It was a lot of fun.

After the trip down memory lane, we enjoyed dinner together before driving 45 minutes back to the city.

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When shooting a lot of reflections in a tight space, go with your gut


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The photo above was from a shoot I found incredibly challenging. We were asked to shoot a space, a small space mind you, that showed the environment and the product within.

The products, dear reader, were incredibly reflective. Tina and I went great lengths to cancel reflections hoping that it would make the photos shine.

The available light, while constant in the space, was mixed when viewed like this. We had to schedule the shoot during office hours, pretty much insuring that we’d have the blue cast across the tops of the images.

I know I can crop in, but I feel this image actually gives a sense of place.

More images below. Enjoy.

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Spark Energy might not be a scam, but their business practices are suspect … a review, a recorded customer service call, and you


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Like many Americans, we get door-to-door salesman from time to time. Last fall, we actually welcomed a roaming door-to-door sales guy in from Spark Energy. Why? Because the sales guy was a friend named Mike. I worked with his girlfriend on a photoshoot and I used to see him every once in a while at my local watering hole. I tend to put trust in friends, basically because I want the same in return.

Spark Energy is a company that claims to work with your energy utilities to provide a cheaper rate than actual utility can, by selling you gas or electricity at reduced costs.

The sales meeting was suspicious to both Tina and me, but in the end, we accepted what this guy Mike was saying was truthful, because who lies to their friends?

By the way, the funniest thing was that the sales guy was not allowed to step inside our apartment. He did the entire transaction from the threshold of our place. “But we’re friends,” I told him. “Come on in.”

“Nope. I can’t,” He explained. “I could get into trouble.”

After he explained what seemed to be a good deal,  we signed up last September. We didn’t see much of a difference in our bills. We were contracted to use them for a year, so I was fine with sticking it out till the end. We weren’t losing money after all either.

Status quo is fine with me.

And the early termination of the contract would be $50.

But then we received our gas bill this month for over double last month’s bill. Further examination showed that it was an adjustment fee from Spark Energy. Tina called People’s Gas first, and they said it was Spark’s charge. She called Spark, and a robotic customer service rep kept explaining that the charges were an accumulation of three month’s of Spark Energy charges. He explained that when Spark sent invoices to People’s Gas, PG rejected the invoices.

The charge after three months of rejection was for $112.63.

So if you divide $112 by 3 and add that to our monthly bill, that’s almost $40 more each month.

So Tina was on the line talking circles with the customer service rep trying to understand where this charge came from and how to avoid it in the future. While she was on the phone, I googled Spark Energy and found a lot of websites like this or this from BBB with lots of negative reviews. On a Consumer Affairs site, Spark Energy representatives responded to each complaint and made some resolution statement.

The Better Business Bureau has not accredited them.

So I should have done my homework, but — like I said — I want to trust my “friends.”

What ended up being the kicker was Spark Energy’s own website. Get this.

On their front page, they claim to have a 5.0 customer service approval rating. I’m not statistician, but I read that to mean that no one, not one person, has given a negative review.

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But if you go into their comments and ratings, there are many ratings lower ratings than a 5. They apparently only keep about 22 comments at a time, because I can’t imagine a company has only 22 comments in all its 10 years of business.

Below is in fact what their ratings are based on 22 responses at the time of this writing.

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So their site isn’t exactly a very ethically sound one, don’t you think?

The guy that Tina spoke to finally agreed to give her to a supervisor. And I took the phone from Tina. I learned a trick recently that helped with a dispute with our bank over a $50 charge: I record my phone call.

My hope was to get to the bottom of the charge. And when the guy told me what he told Tina, I would cancel my subscription to Spark Energy and also ask them to waive the $50 early termination fee.

Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t get that shit waived. If you keep these guys on the line until you’re blue in the face, you will get what you want.

So … if you can stand hearing me stumble and bumble over my words … I’m posting our conversation below. I feel a little badly about calling him a liar, but it was a moment of weakness. I needed more leverage, and I thought I had a better argument going into the “lie” statement.

You gotta give the guy props, though. He never lost his cool with me.

All in all, we got what we wanted: to get out of the contract and to get the fee waived.

This is certainly a lesson learned. Don’t trust door-to-door without doing my homework.

Do yours as well. If one of these guys comes to your door, just do a quick google of their company before signing on the dotted line.

I couldn’t edit the clip for this posting, but I’ll revise it soon and upload it. Edwin, the customer service supervisor doesn’t pickup until about 0:30.

When you hit a creative deficiency, make a casual shoot appointment with a beautiful model


 

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It doesn’t take long for someone like me to feel the sluggishness that results from a creative deficiency. It’s a time of frowns and repeating the lines, “Gosh, I need to photograph something soon that isn’t a bland cracker of a project.”

We get a lot of projects. Some are creative. Many aren’t. Lots of people’s and company’s needs for content aren’t much more than things that feel cookie cutter. And while we make great strides to work with folks who need more creative content, it’s dampening to the part of me that some call the soul. You say soul. I say creativity.

As a photographer, I have lots of friends on social media that are photographers, models, hair and makeup artists. I see their work all the time, and it loads up another pile of jealousy onto my creativity depleted soul.

Then I remind myself, the difference between wanna-be artists and artists is ideas versus execution. Lots of people have ideas. Few have the strength to pursue them, let alone follow through.

So reached out to Andrea to do a short casual shoot, two hours tops. Her time was valuable as well — because in two days from this shoot she moved to China to model for months.

My goal for this shoot was to shoot all f2.8. Find poses and then push the focus point to be SPOT ON. Focus is something I prioritize anyway. But I do it with more depth of field, f6 to f11. The depth of field plain on my Hasselblad set at f2.8 is closer to f2.0 on my DSLR with a similar focal length. And hitting the mark is often made more difficult because of a minor move by the model or camera.

Andrea here is a true professional, and we were able to work with the minutiae until we landed beautiful shots, spot on focus … all of which were done within a short two-hour window.

The image below is probably one of my favorite shots in a LONG time. It’s all natural light, and my only criticism is that I didn’t have her do an implied nude, as I’d love to see her decoupage as well. I cropped it out, because what she is wearing over one shoulder and it really distracted from her face.
Andrea Susan Bush, February 2015

Andrea Susan Bush, February 2015

The Growlers take JBTV by storm


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Last week, I photographed a portrait and snapped a couple concert shots of The Growlers at JBTV.

The portrait portion of our day was a little on the chaotic side. I’m not sure they heard a word I said when asking them to pose in a particular way. When that’s the case, you get what you get.

And that’s what I got.

According to Wikipedia:

The band is known for its heavy use of effects, including voice effects, especially reverb, and mixes the sound of the Californian rock of the late ’60’s, with psychedelia creating what they call ‘Beach Goth’.

The band’s sound has been described as “a trademark style of music that somehow combines country, surf, pop, and rock”.[7]


The Growlers performs at JBTV Music Television on February 28, 2

The Growlers performs at JBTV Music Television on February 28, 2

The Growlers performs at JBTV Music Television on February 28, 2

The Growlers performs at JBTV Music Television on February 28, 2

The Growlers performs at JBTV Music Television on February 28, 2

The Growlers performs at JBTV Music Television on February 28, 2

The Growlers performs at JBTV Music Television on February 28, 2