Michael Rosenblum — “tell me what you watch and I will tell you what you are”


Over at that drivel rag Huffington Post, I read this blog  from Michael Rosenblum titled, “Donald Trump is Going to be Elected.”

It opens with:

The American people voted for [Trump] a long time ago.

They voted for him when The History Channel went from showing documentaries about the Second World War to Pawn Stars and Swamp People.

They voted for him when The Discovery Channel went from showing Lost Treasures of the Yangtze Valley to Naked and Afraid.

They voted for him when The Learning Channel moved from something you could learn from to My 600 Pound Life.

They voted for him when CBS went from airing Harvest of Shame to airing Big Brother.

These networks didn’t make these programming changes by accident. They were responding to what the American people actually wanted. And what they wanted was Naked and Afraid and Duck Dynasty.

I imagine a few readers will finish that segment scratching their head wondering, “Wut?”

If that’s the case, perhaps this response isn’t for you.

While the sentiment and this blog’s expression are not new, I found myself nodding my head. Hell, I remember watching the “History” channel circa 2003 wondering why they were giving credence to the possibility that the biblical plagues happened and how they might have happened with modern explanations. Or musings about the whereabouts of Noah’s Ark. Two things that never happened. History, nor science, recognizes them as happening. And yet, the History channel spent beaucoup bucks getting this kind of shit produced for people who need their skeptic views of the bible they accept to somehow be reconciled and possibly true.

The French may love food, the Italians may love opera. What we love is TV. We are TV culture. It defines who we are.

TV. Fucking TV.

Throw away your television. 

We cancelled our cable earlier this year. We don’t watch sports, stay as far away from 24-hour news cycles as humanly possible, and check out very little on network TV. You can find all those shows on more inexpensive resources anyway. The internets are loaded with content.

I primarily use my TV to watch movies. We subscribe to Netflix and Hulu. We can get over 50 channels with an antenna. I have a movie channel now that shows more great movies than I’ve wanted. I also tend to watch PBS’s local news show: Chicago Tonight. Sometimes NewsHour and Frontline. NOVA.

The great thing about PBS is the content isn’t loud. People aren’t insulting each other. It’s civil, informed discussion. Most times. It’s actually really fucking boring. And somehow that appeals to me.

Tina has some guilty pleasures on TV, and it’s been perhaps a little more difficult for her to quit the cable. But all in all, she’s so glad we did. I am, too.

We read more. Exercise more. Talk more. Sit on the back porch and lovingly gaze into each others eyes.

Twenty-four hour news is bullshit. It’s loud, obnoxious and if nothing else entertainment, a ruse, and confusing. People honestly think that they are getting the information they need if they watch 30 minutes of FOX followed by 30 minutes of CNN or MSNBC … while surfing Drudge, Brietbart, Facebook, WND, et al.

And those lines about the French and the Italians. Cultured assholes.

We Americans are cultured, too. Cultured on TV and sports. And chain, cookie-cutter restaurants. There is a political conversation you can overhear in this goddamn country that wasn’t inspired by the exact same words that everyone on TV from dawn to dusk isn’t talking about. We have no brains of our own.

We’re us vs. them. We lump entire groups of people into categories of good and bad. Positive and negative. My own family posts to Facebook that liberals are vile and disgusting and their ideas and policies must be stopped at all costs!

But when all you surround yourself with is shit that makes one group awful and another group superior, that’s how you start to treat people you love. It’s inadvertent. The doer doesn’t realize they’re doing it. They mask it in, “I want to inform others.” Or “I’m proud of what I believe in.” “I’m a straight shooter.” Or “I love others and I want this love to show via these hateful comments.”

And then there’s me. Writing this blog post. Probably offending someone. Or maybe not enough. Should I write in all caps so that it looks like I’m screaming?

Donald Trump is great TV.

He knows how to entertain.

He understands ratings.

Hillary Clinton is crap TV.

She may be smarter, better prepared, a better politician. It won’t matter. She is terrible entertainment.

When I lived in France as a student, I was completely unaware of America’s great cultures. Compared to the French, I had no culture. I was incapable of identifying them. We didn’t have the traditions in food and love of the arts. Our appreciation of most everything worth a damn paled in comparison. I remember one day waking up and realizing that our American culture was largely sports, sugary drinks, shit food and the weirdest, anti-Jesus capitalism in the universe.

I don’t know this to be true. It’s what I’ve been taught. Right?

When I went back to France in 2008 on my honeymoon, McCain announced his running mate Sarah Palin. Tina and I watched it on TV one night while munching baguette and sipping wine. We almost spit our wine when we heard her open her mouth. Palin was GREAT TV. And many ate her up. She paved the way for Trump to get as far as he has. He owes her a fist bump.

Rosenblum exits his blog with this:

In 1825, the great French gastronom Brillat de Savarind said, “tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are”. Today, in America, we can safely say, “tell me what you watch and I will tell you what you are”.

I’ll tell you what I watch.

I watch people. My favorite things to photograph are people and places.

If I’m not photographing, I love sitting and watching people.

I guess that — based on Rosenblum’s logic — that — kind of — makes me a … a person.

 

I turn to you


rosie mae _0175-

“I ask you to turn to each other, not against each other as we move forward. Let us support one another. Let us help heal one another.”

– Loretta Lynch, July 8, 2016

Agoraphobia is getting more and more attractive.

I’m starting to have nightmares on a regular basis about murders. Not to self diagnose and to diagnose America … but I think we’re all suffering from PTSD.

I’m hoping that I wake up and this was all a bad dream.

Last night, a sniper took out five cops and injured more. This week, two more black men die with phone video to show the world. Just this week, a friend of mine — a person whom I only know through social media —  was murdered in her home in North Carolina. I refer to her in this old vLog I did back in 2009. Her name was Wendy Rae. See this article here for information. It’s fucking awful.

Fuck, man, I’m still trying to get over that attack last August when Bryce Williams shot and killed those two reporters while working. I’m still trying to get over the Charleston massacre, let alone the Pulse Nightclub bullshit and November 13 in Paris.

When I ride down the street on my bike with Tina, I look at people in cars and wonder if they’re going to execute a random act of violence against us. It plays out in my head. It scares me.

Shit, a lot of stuff plays out in my head.

I hate it.

Social media makes it worse. You have friends ranting and raving from their stereotypical points of view. You have the shitheads that no matter what happens, they’ll side with the NRA and rant against the president. Then you have the folks that scream, “Do something about the gun problem!”

Who the fuck knows what the problem is.

We’re living in a goddamn powder keg. While I am fond of this president and the last eight years, I know so many who aren’t. And that building tension is about to explode no matter who wins the chair in November.

If Hillary gets it, the rednecks and racists will scream bloody murder. They’ll collectively say, “We’ve already had eight years of a black man. Now we gotta deal with this white-y fucking bitch who broke the law and shit. That’s what FOX told me!”

And if Trump gets it, the rest of us will eloquently bitch and moan for four years using reasonably decent grammar and educated words.

I doubt I’m alone when I say that I would love to win the lottery, move out of the country and hide away from all this chaos for a while. I need a goddamn break from violence and negativity.

When I was in France a few weeks ago, there was one night that Tina and our travel partners went to dinner while in Marseille. The place we chose was a bad choice. And we got stuck with tourist level food at not so great prices. The night’s conversation was loaded with negative comments, and everyone was damn sure not to leave even the smallest tip.

So I went to the bathroom after we were leaving, and I told everyone I’d meet them outside. When I came back down from the toilets, I gave our waiter, who was very patient with us and not a bad waiter for sure, a tip. He did, after all, deal with our table’s lack of French. We were a bit loud. And he hooked us up with another table’s unfinished bottle of white wine.

Instead of going back with everyone, I told them politely I needed to take a walk for a minute. So I walked around the Old Port and got my bearings. This was my trip to celebrate my birthday. I also think that traveling abroad means embracing the negative experiences and doing one’s best to stay positive.

You know that old idea that you can give someone a swell of compliments, but one negative word can or might carry ten times more weight than all those positive words?

I feel the same way about how negativity affects every day life.

And boy are we affected.

I took the above photo last week, and I find it particularly apropos given all the events over the last year, or more … Racism, violence, bigotry …

Whether we know about it more because of social media or we’re living in an exceptionally violent time, I fucking need to take a walk and get away from it for a while. But I can’t seem to get far enough away from it all.

Man, I’m spent.

I’ve decided I need to be a force for positivity in my world. So when Loretta Lynch gave her speech today, I took notes. And that quote up there meant everything to me at this particular time … when I want to be on the blame team. I want to be negative. But my brain can’t take it anymore. My heart either.

I turn to you. And not against you. 

 

Hanging on for dear life during neck-snapping re-trajectories … or something


I feel like I’ve aged four years in the last four months.

One day I start the day with meditation. The next, I start the day in a full-on mental sprint. Gosh, I guess sometimes it’s a full-on physical sprint.

Today is somewhere in between.

My company, Wittefini, is busier than it’s ever been. My personal ambitions are occupying the hell out of my so-called free time.

This is good.

While I work most hours of my week, these hours don’t feel so “worky”. I’m doing what I love. It just happens to be billable to someone else.

The driving force of positivity in my life, my wife Tina, balances me. Even if I work all night, the next day we work out. Spend us time. Spend time together. Take our dog Talulah for a walk.

Our schedule is unlike anyone’s I know. There’s no clearly defined work schedule. There’s no right or wrong place to sit down and work. There’s no clearly defined free time.

I’m not sure if it’s good or bad. But I know it’s not completely awful.

Lately, my goals are to remain positive despite all the fucking chaos around me. Politics will drive a man crazy, and then some. Other people’s views will then send that same man to the edge of oblivion.

This “positivity” is no small feat.

I went through an angrier period a few years back. To me it wasn’t so much anger, as it was the swinging pendulum that I was riding at the time. I needed to let go of a lot of poisonous ideas and thoughts from yesteryear and I was confused and desperate to let go.

Anger to others was my inability to accept others failures.

Anger to others was my perception that all people strive for perfection, to make the world better, to be better people to their loved ones, to call, to nurture relationships, to want to be present.

Anger to others was my pervasive disappointment.

Negativity can be perceived by others in so many ways. I couldn’t and still can’t paint other people’s perceptions. I can’t control others ideas or responses. That much is true.

Declaring a state of “positivity” is basically admitting I’m not always positive and it’s a struggle to be so. It’s like god declaring you can have no other gods before him. We can only assume there are other gods that can be considered for the job.

My other ambition right now, that just may kill me, is to create more content.

Tina and I are, apparently, as barren as one of those landscapes on Mars.

Legacy takes a different form with me.

And while insecurity and self-doubt sometimes prevent me the idea I’ll reach the level of — say — notoriety that I might dream of sometimes, my ambitions seem to want to push me to try.

Do. Or Do not. There is no fucking try. 

Lately, my perspective is a concentration on Tina, Talulah, my cat Zoe, and being/becoming a role model, force of good, strong creative influence. I want to work with groups. I want to collaborate. I want to leave earth better than the way I found it.

And concentrating on negative and not doing something positive about it … that shit was killing my so-called soul.

If I could do it all over again, I’d likely do it all the same way, though.

Why?

I accept the way I’ve done this life recipe is right. I’m at the dinner table of all I’ve cooked, and I see what’s wrong, see what tastes can improve, and will cook the next meal marginally better until one day, most courses taste great.

For the first time in what feels like ever, I’m not concentrating on perfection.

This is big for me. Concentrating on perfection is creatively, mentally and physically paralyzing. It’s a preventer of all things artistic, loving, beautifying and doing.

I want to “do more.”

Be more.

Going at it alone is the wrong choice. There are very few successful artists, people in general, who found any level of success by their lonesome. And this idea banged me on the head several years ago, and now it’s just starting to make any sense.

So onward and upward with “doing more,” “productivity,” and “positivity.”

Shake it up and throw it on the barbie.

Let that shit rest when it’s cooked and serve it with a smile and a hug.

January Photo Challenge: Levitation


For 2016, I’m participating in a 12-month, theme-based photo challenge with fellow North Carolina photographer Sunny Lee and Chicago photographer and studio partner Bill Whitmire.

The first month theme is Levitation, and above is what I came up with.

The story behind the image is not exactly fleshed out. The image is kind of documentation in a way. You see, we’ve decided to leave our studio space for another one, and this is a way to honor our current space with a going-away hurrah.

We move into our new studio on February 1.

For this image, I worked with model Danielle Maddox. I’ve wanted to work with her for about a year now, and finally got up enough nerve to ask her to be a part of this project. I knew I wanted someone athletic, as the process here is having her jump in the air and land on an air mattress.

Plus, I love Danielle’s sense of humor that comes across in a lot of her work. She’s got that sassy, fun, somethin’ somethin’ that shines through, and I love working with people like that.

She really hit this one out of the park and was incredibly thoughtful in her approach. We landed the right shot early on which shows just how professional she is. Kudos to her and I can’t wait to work with her again.

I bought and used Atmosphere Aerosol for this shoot, but the way I did my lighting ended up overpowering it, so it doesn’t read in these images.

I lighted the scene using a large stripbox over head and some front fill and a light in the rear left-hand corner to embellish the sun rays.

I used our Hasselblad H3DII-31 with a  35mm f3.5, at f8, 1/800th, ISO200.

Below are behind the scenes photos taken by Bill Whitmire.

Attempting to document our world via vLog


Over the last few years, I’ve attempted to vLog a little. They’ve always been intermittent attempts to do some kind of behind the scenes or show a snippet of our lives.

When I slowed and basically stopped blogging here, it left a large hole in my, um, spirit, that I’ve since wanted to fill.

In November, I decided that I would produce a weekly vLog — at least — for as long as I can do it.

I’ve been somewhat successful with it, even though the vLogs themselves are far from “professional” video productions. They’re pretty gorilla really. Things I’d never include or do on a pro job, I let slide with these vLogs.

My goal, first and foremost, is to document my life as a professional photographer, a husband, and friend to about two people.🙂

I’m not getting any younger. And as the years pass and I look back, the only road I’m paving comes in the form of work for clients with a spattering of personal work. But I’m absent in my own life, because my face rarely shows up in front of the camera.

In full transparency, these vLogs are incredibly influenced by YouTuber Casey Niestat. I’ve even lifted some of his approaches to telling stories from his playbook.

What I like about Casey is that he’s an incredibly creative and prolific content creator, but he does it in a way that’s true to his personality. Love him or hate him, he’s a positive guy and goes out of his way to present himself with a sense of lovable neutrality.

This blog certainly started as a divisive voice and it ended up dividing parts of my personal/familial life that I wished it didn’t do. It wasn’t that I wanted to be anonymous, but I also didn’t want familial interaction to influence my views.

My views regarding the supernatural remain the same. Those views are largely kept quiet except during short discussions with Tina.

Recently, Casey included a quote that means a lot to him. It was, “Never let perfect be the enemy of good enough.”

This is a perfectionist’s conundrum. When I release something to the world, I’m endlessly critical of it. I’ve had to learn, through my career, that nothing I do will ever be “perfect” per se and that when clients and others like something, it’s okay to let go of self criticism that leads to self deprecation, insecurities and even creative paralysis.

The way I see many creative people — including myself — is that they/we are paralyzed by fears and insecurities, even perfectionism. They have a zillion ideas and even criticize those who create, while their own work is minimal or prevented thanks to those fears.

I’m not sure any thing ever gets any easier in this regard.

My next goal is to really push my personal envelope. Put myself out there with more gusto. More Oomph. I think there’s a formula of likability + crazy that creatives must have to set them apart.

I don’t define that crazy as a pejorative. I think there’s good and bad crazy. It’s that je ne sais quoi of likability and anomalous something something. Or maybe I already have it and I just need to keep plowing forward.

 

The other reason I’m doing it is because I want to be a content creator.

I’d much rather make something for someone else to consume than to consume something.

That’s why I love cooking. That’s why I love photography. That’s why I love making motion pictures. That’s why I don’t like sitting absently in front of a TV.

I haven’t seen a movie in the theater in years.

That’s right. I haven’t seen Star Wars yet.

And it’s killing me.

If anyone is still out there, I’ll do my best to at least publish my vLogs here. Gosh, I miss writing as well.

Before I forget, Happy Fucking New Year, to you and you and you.

Let’s do this #2016.

 

Embarking into my forties never felt so good


Forty years ago today, I was born in Charlotte, North Carolina in them United States of America.

Flowers were blooming. Choirs were singing. Swarms of bees were buzzing. Beautiful women were leaping for joy. Babies were hiccuping. Dogs were barking.

Cats were meowing. Children were scribbling in coloring books. Mothers were shopping in Sears catalogs. Fathers were dreaming of a way to contact women to have affairs without their wives knowing about it.

Trash was being collected. Beers were being drunk. A pair of lips tugged on a cigarette. LSD trips were took. Pot was smoked.

Wars were waging. Daughters were being sold into the sex trade. Animals were going extinct.

It was another day the earth was swirling around the sun. One star of zillions in this great big universe.

The pale blue dot gained a Puerto Rican, who would later be adopted into a family of Dutch heritage. He’d grow up, become a photographer, marry a beautiful woman and have to pinch himself every day for the good fortune of landing on two feet.

Forty years is a landmark. We measure life in lots of ways. We measure in meals, in naps, in time between meals and naps. We measure in snacks, in weight, in fat and distance. We measure life in seconds at times, others in minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years and and in times like this … decades.

In my first decade, my mind was getting packed with information, stimulation, and socialization. It was a decade of playtime, schoolwork, homework, Sunday school, friends, family, and wonder. My body developed from baby to pre-teen. The years were laden with discipline, pain, thrill, excitement and love.

I didn’t have one iota of an original thought that influenced anyone else. I believe that I had creative, original thoughts but I didn’t have the wherewithal to write anything down. Children are, quite possibly, the most creative people around us. I felt creative in those years. Sometimes I approach work with the idea that I must harness my first decade self in my approach to current projects.

In my first decade, I held a camera or two in my hands during that time. My second decade was filled with more play time, more homework, more Sunday School, church, religion, faith, friends. It was marked by wonder and creativity. I found a written voice and a visual one. I loved and lost a first love. I wrote, photo’d, video’d. I traveled.

I explored original thought, all of which were tainted and steered by religious thought, traditions, pangs of guilt and adolescent craze.

In my third decade, I was playing, traveling, trading faith for nonbelief, finding new friends, removing old ones, and wondering about what was next. I was succeeding and failing. I was both a rebel and not one. I was perpetually scared of letting others down. Individuality was an internship turning into a mediocre part-time job.

In my forth decade, I still played, I traveled more. I retired faith completely. Found more new friends and lost other ones. People my age were dying. I got married. And all the while, I constantly kept wonder in the mix. I tried making individuality a full-time job, but found it to be a disappointment to others.

And now I start the fifth decade. Today. Labor Day Twenty Fifteen. And wonder remains. Individuality still remains a mystery to me.

I’m inspired by all that’s behind me to create all that’s in front of me.

With another decadal notch comes a tinge more concern/thought about mortality. It inspires a sense of determination to create more. To seize the day’s seconds, minutes, and hours in a white knuckled grip and give everything, family, friends, creativity and love more of a crying chance.  To love more. To hate less.

Yesterday is an investment into tomorrow.

Without the promise of afterlife of any kind, it casts a different shade of urgency. Without an afterlife, there’s no casual dilly dallying like our dog Talulah when she’s in the yard smelling every stump, tree, patch of grass and pole. When you’re blessed with a creative spirit, there is a constant insistence on making new, then moving on to the next project.

My dad tells me often that I am part of a bigger plan. A divine one. And I understand where he’s coming from. And it pains me when I disagree, tacitly or directly. I don’t want to disagree with anyone. Not even a movie or music that someone else likes and I don’t.

But if a divine being had influence over how well things worked out for me, that same divine being ignored/hurt/maimed the thousands upon thousands upon millions who wished for the same, similar or safety, and came up short. Way short.

When I revel in a creative photo, I remember a child dying of leukemia.

When I bask in the success of a big paycheck, I think of the child sold into slavery.

When I hold the woman of my dreams, I can’t help but consider all who have loved, lost, and lost again.

This so-called divinity that watched over my life, stood by with crossed arms and a nose in the air when so many … so so fucking many — who probably even attempted to love this being — he ignored them, their prayers, their wishes.

Why would a being like that care about me? A guy who gives no mention, no thought to its existence or involvement. No thanks?

I guess — from some standpoints — you could call that the definition of faith.

But that would be mental gymnastics.

The way I see it, I got here by inexplicable luck. Maybe not inexplicable. I worked my ass off. I’ve worked my ass off. Over the weekend, I gave my photographer expertise away to a friend. The results were BEAUTIFUL. My pay is results. Money helps me keep a roof over my wife’s head, food in my dog’s bowl and litter in my cat’s box. It keeps gas in my tank so I can visit my family, whom I love and cherish dearly.

Art, love, life … they are my passions.

I love the process of the creative spirit. I love to create and be creative.

It’s the process, not always the outcome, that drives that spirit.

Without children of my own, the only legacy I have to create an afterlife is creating things that outlive me. Whether they are thoughts, ideas, images, motion pictures, or other art.

I feel good about my position. I feel good about my marriage, my life, my friends, my professional network.

I feel good about the art I’ve been creating, and the reception to it.

I feel good about my health.

I’m inspired by my friends and family. I’m reminded too often by the passing of my loved ones around me. And I’m goddamn determined to do everything I do as well as I possibly fucking can.

Hey, Forty! Let’s do this thing.