We’re nearing the end of the Whole30


Tomorrow marks 30 days of not consuming alcohol, sugar, legumes, dairy and grains. Not to mention junk food, sulfites, or — as I’ve found — nothing you can’t pronounce or identify as a food product.

My first Whole30 experience has been a good one. Positive. Mind expanding. Challenging and liberating.

The diet started with a bit of a laissez faire attitude. I could care less if I lost weight. If I quit drinking beer alone, I was sure to lose seven or eight elle bees.

I started the diet to support Tina, her cousin and her husband.

Now I’m wondering if I’m ever going to quit the diet ever. Yes, it’s that good. I don’t miss any of the foods we aren’t supposed to eat. I’m not missing alcohol, and this was my BIGGEST fear on this diet. I was this close to consulting an AA sponsor before we started. On day 29, I have very little desire to have a drink, and I didn’t need AA to do it. Yay me! Continue reading

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Terry Crews sings the hits


800px-Terry_Crews_by_Gage_Skidmore_5.jpgAs you may already know, I read Tim Ferriss’ book Tribe of Mentors last month and I have been sharing different quotes I highlighted throughout the book. These come from former football player and actor Terry Crews.

When asked about book recommendations, he answered (emphasis mine):

The Master Key System by Charles F. Haanel. I have read hundreds of personal development books, but this is the one that clearly showed me how to visualize, contemplate, and focus on what it was I truly wanted. It revealed to me that we only get what we desire most, and to apply myself with a laserlike focus upon a goal, task, or project. That in order to “have” you must “do,” and in order to “do” you must “be”—and this process is immediate.

Focus is such a beautiful and evasive concept. I love it. And I hate it.

More below the jump Continue reading

The paths to artistry are many


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As mentioned, I’m reading Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking.

Reading the book is coinciding with lots of goings on. We’re still doing the Whole30 diet. I’m concentrating on being a positive presence in my world. Maybe just my little bubble. In that vain, I’m reaching out to more people purposefully. In turn, they’re reaching out to me.

Palmer’s book feels a little long at times. Or perhaps I want to get through it faster, and I am not directly connecting with her story at this point in my trips around the sun.

But a quote hit me yesterday that I had to share:

There’s no “correct path” to becoming a real artist. You might think you’ll gain legitimacy by going to art school, getting published, getting signed to a record label. But it’s all bullshit, and it’s all in your head. You’re an artist when you say you are. And you’re a good artist when you make somebody else experience or feel something deep or unexpected.

I’ve been mentioning lately that it took me forever to land on the Moon of Artistry, finally jab a flag its surface and declare, “I’m an artist!” Maybe I regret taking so fucking long.

But I got there. So that counts.

Sometimes I think the flag was already sunk in the dirt before I got there, I just pushed it a little further down.

Part of why I dragged my feet was because I thought artistry was unachievable. Musicians and famous painters are artists. Authors of multiple best sellers = artists. Weird people that dress funny are artists.

I create new work almost every day. I get paid to do it. It’s been that way for at least 16 years. Twenty years if you count my freelancing from the beginning.

One day I decided, “It’s time.” And I scribbled on a little blue and white “Hello, my name is:” sticker with the word, “Artist” and I peeled it off the little white part and slapped it on my chest.

I’m handing a “Hello, my name is sticker” to Tina. Time to sign it. Shit or get off … 

Tina and I have worked together since we first met 18 years ago here in Chicago. I pulled her onboard with my company around 2007, and her transition to freelancing with me was scary for her.

She hasn’t been able to identify exactly how she fits into the scenario of our business. Like me, she wears many different hats. In the Adam & Eve since of the word, it angers and belittles her to think of herself as Jeremy’s Support. The Bible calls it a Help Meet. Damn, that pisses her off.

Frequently, I’m seen as “the Photographer” therefore, I’m somehow superior, if only in Tina’s mind. While it’s not a competition, it creates a hierarchy when people say, “What do you do? … Oh, so you assist.”

So you assist. Period. Not question mark.

That’s some bullshit. 

In so many ways, she’s so much more talented than I am. She art directs practically every shoot we do. She also art directs my photo retouching and video editing. I don’t think she realizes how much she does that. But there’s so many times when she makes decisions on video edit or photo delivery that I would never have done personally.

If her hand is in the art, it’s hers, too. Art is, and will always be, collaborative. It’s time for Tina to recognize her role in that level of the partnership.

She’s amazing with people. That alone is an art. She manages business for our company and stuck by her guns when people tried to undercut us or attempt to negotiate lower rates.

She’s got an eye for design and fashion. She has a distinct vision. Every time I turn around, she’s studying some magazine spread, watching a documentary on fashion, or staring at interiors on the internet.  While I would spent every last dime on new gear, she would spent every last dime re-desiging our home.

She’s even more amazing with me. When she see me fighting a light on set, and the client is standing near by, she’s a magician of distraction. When I break something or, just the other day, I plugged in a cord that didn’t belong in a light and it blew my flash tube, smoke bellowed out everywhere from the face of my light, she immediately goes into rescue the situation mode. I love that.

At some point, we have to say, “Damn, Tina, you’re not the support system. You own this company. You have a vision and an artistic eye. You make it what it is. Without you, we do not exist.”

I’ve been meditating on it, and I feel like between owning our company and being a creative force on it, we are blinded by a form of ignorance. There are major roles in business and art that she’s fulfilling on a daily basis.

If I had to give her a title or titles now, I would say that first we’re equal partners in our company. Second, I would call her Art Director. She manages the look and feel of almost everything we do, from style and function of a film to the look and design of a set. And thirdly, she could own the title Producer or even Executive Producer. Producers are, quite possibly, an instrumental and integral part of any photo shoot or video production. Without them, it would be absolute chaos.

She, like me, wears many hats. At one point she is wielding a camera taking photos. Then she’s shooting behind the scenes video. Then she’s consulting the client on where to put the chair, what flowers to add or remove from a scene, what books to put in or take out, etc. etc. etc. etc.

A photography and film company is not all glitz. While we do a lot of photo shoots and film production, there’s a bunch of non-creative stuff involved. Just like I couldn’t call myself an artist for so long, we are having trouble calling ourselves, say, an agency. Or something more than a photography studio. Our talents extend only as far as the fence we build around our capabilities.

I look forward to how Tina’s search for her identity unfolds, literally right before us. I feel it’s only a matter of time before she reaches

Show your work, you big dork!


 

Screen Shot 2018-02-08 at 8.22.25 AM.pngThe last couple of days, I read and finished a book by Austin Kleon called Show Your Work! 10 ways to share your creativity and get discovered.

The only thing I read when I borrowed the ebook from my local public library was “Show Your Work.” The little subtitle about getting discovered didn’t appeal to me.

But as I sit here self deprecating about borrowing a book about getting discovered, which seems very “sell-out-y” to me, I think, “So what?”

It’s a fast read. And if you read it, it’s an encouragement to basically either do what you’re already doing or to maybe do more of what you’re already doing.

It encourages you to chip away at your own art. To share something every day. To start documenting your own process and when you’re ready, share that. These are things I already try to do.

He presents the idea of hanging with like-minded people from an idea stemming from Brian Eno’s concept called, “Scenius.” It’s a derivative (in a way) of “Genius”. It’s basically the idea that if you are associating and hanging with artists, you’ll pass ideas, steal from each other, do more and essentially succeed at creation because of the ricocheting encouragement.

I should remind everyone that “genius” is comes from the Latin verb genui, genitus, “to bring into being, create, produce”, as well as to the Greek word for birth.[4]

So any time you’re creating, you’re practicing the art of genius. And, I feel at the moment, even though I scoff at people who I think are hacks and they’re creating their asses off … they are creating their asses off … so get out there and do it too!

There were two quotes or moments in the book that gave me the holy shits!

One was from the author Annie Dillard, who writes a lot of religious oriented books that my mom and sister read. One of my first production jobs ever was that I interned for this videographer who interviewed Anne Graham Lott about writer Annie Dillard.

The quote I took from this book was:

“The impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”

BAM! POW! ZING!

Isn’t that nuts?

I completely whole heartedly agree with that quote. And it makes me want to go out and create something now. It makes me want to help someone else. It makes me want to be better. Work harder. Be more productive.

The second quote I wanted to share is a passage from the book:

People need to eat and pay the rent. “An amateur is an artist who supports himself with outside jobs which enable him to paint,” said artist Ben Shahn. “A professional is someone whose wife works to enable him to paint.” Whether an artist makes money off his work or not, money has to come from somewhere, be it a day job, a wealthy spouse, a trust fund, an arts grant, or a patron.

This quote means a lot to me. Because over the past 20 years of my career, I’ve had jobs I hate. I have had to supply my own art with capital from jobs. At first, I worked for the man. I had two “big-boy” jobs. One was for a newspaper and the other as a graphic designer for a large trade show producer.

Then I went on my own in 2002. But for the majority of my career, I’ve had to make a transition from supplying my own capital to create my own work. Fortunately, the past five years or so, I’ve made the transition to — let’s say — 80% exactly what I want to do and around 20% what I need to do to supply my passion, which is interiors and architecture as well as making cool videos.

The struggle as an artist is how much do you talk about, promote, show work from your (my) other jobs? Those jobs have contributed to my whole being?

But over the past few years, I’ve basically hid the fact that I shoot events. I shoot less and less of them per year. But I still use them as a means to an end.

Secrecy, I’ve found, is destructive behavior.

But if Tina were working to help me do my art, I’d have to admit it. If I took out a loan, to pursue my passion, I might have to admit it. But if I do work that I don’t want to do, hide it?

It’s still a conundrum, but I’m starting to think, why hide who I am? Why?

Any advice you have, I’m all ears.

Is there a good time for your refrigerator to die?


On Sunday morning, I woke up, zombie walked into the kitchen and could hear the refrigerator straining a little harder to keep itself cool.

I walked closer, thought, “Something is wrong.” I double checked the doors. They seemed to be shut. So I thought, crisis averted.

I peered back into the door and up at the temperature reading, and it was in the high 40s. It’s supposed to read 37 or so.

The freezer was reading well into the 30s. This sucks!

“Somebody left the door open. Probably Tina! And now we’re screwed!” I thought. Obviously the only culprit in the house for leaving open the door is her. But all will be okay, now.

So I went about my routine. Brewed a French Press of coffee. Did my morning mediation and stretch. Followed that with a warm cup of coffee and my journaling session. Mentally prepared for my Sunday work out.

Throughout the day, the refrigerator didn’t cool down. The temperatures rose. The ice melted. Everything defrosted. All our fridge items were souring. Not only is this bad timing in general, but we’re on the Whole30 diet which centers itself around pre-preparing parts or entire meals, so our entire freezer and fridge are dedicated to Whole30 success.

Around 8:30 that night, we panicked.

“Our refrigerator is dead. We need a new one. Our whole30 is at stake!” We exclaimed in bizarre unison.

Before bed, I filled drawers with snow from our porch and put in some of our more delicate groceries. I left as much as I could on the porch to freeze in the 10 degree temps.

In bed, we ordered a new $2000 refrigerator from Home Depot. The earliest delivery was Thursday or Friday. We chose Friday because we had an interiors job on Thursday. Tina had one of those “I’m a psychic. Thursday will postpone. I just know it.” I doubted her. “We can’t bank on your special powers of intuition.” So we went with Friday (a full five nights away!).

I’m a skeptic and she’s the damn goddess of prediction. 

Monday morning, our nightmare was still reality. We got a text that our thursday job postponed (Tina did the “I was right!” dance). I called my dad to ask him for advice. “Should I call a repairman or do you think this thing is dead?”

“If you can get it repaired,” he said, ” You could get another few years of life out of the thing, and not spend $1500 or more bucks, the better…”

I couldn’t help but feel guilty about throwing a 500lb piece of Millennium Falcon junk out because it happened to stop working and might be fixable. Tina and I went back and forth and thought, “This thing has been on the fritz. It’s dead. No dice. Let’s buy a new one.”

NEW STUFF IS FUN!

Tina went online to find a retailer with an earlier delivery date. I jumped in the car to pick up our studio mini fridge to use in the interim and run some other errands.

A text showed up while I was out that said, “I think the refrigerator is cooling off again. Am I crazy?”

I called. Sure enough, we were looking at the rough, metallic equivalent of a technological resurrection. Our fridge was Jesus’ing a Lazarus. Or vice versa.

It looks like we had  left a door open and it froze up its coils. The fridge shut itself down for 24 hours to thaw.

So for about 24 hours, Tina and I wasted a bunch of time troubleshooting a broken fridge that wasn’t broken. We’d like to thank the academy for our performance of freaking out. And for all your support during this time of stress and need, we appreciated your incessant prayers and positive vibes.

Oh, you didn’t send prayers? that’s weird. How did this fridge start working again, then?

What kind of Twilight Zone do we live in!?!

 

“It is vain to do with more what can be done with less.” Thank you, Mr. Ockham


When it comes to gear envy, the struggle is real. I’m a photographer, and if it’s shiny, and someone’s gushing over it, or it’s $200 off retail, or its promise is to make my life easier, better, more productive, I want it.

Want.It.

Crave it.

Obsess over it.

Some people look at porn like I look at new gear.

Just yesterday, there was an ad on my favorite camera store’s web site, B&H Photo & Video. It was for a light. A hot light. One that stays on all the time. And I wanted it. It was LED. New. Brand new tech. I stared at it for 15 minutes. Twenty minutes. There were no reviews, so I googled it to see if anyone on the internet had one and was reviewing them.

No luck.

So I googled comparable lights. When there’s one company making a light, that means someone else started it first. I found all kinds of information, but said and done, I don’t really need this light. It’s not going to make me go out and shoot more. Although, I want to believe that having more tools in my arsenal would somehow make my life soooooo much easier.

Said and done, keep it simple, stupid. Take it easy, Azizi.

That quote above from Mr. William Ockham (Occam) is a good reminder. For a long time, I use to reference Ockham and his razor when discussing religion. His razor is a problem-solving principle that, when presented with competing hypothetical answers to a problem, one should select the one that makes the fewest assumptions.

Because you know what happens when you assume. 

There’s also a quote that I found in Tim Ferriss’ Tribe of Mentors with a similar tone:

“Learning to ignore things is one of the great paths to inner peace.” –Robert J. Sawyer Hugo

Lately, I’ve had to eschew some news, even NPR, for the sake of peace. Like you and you, but not you, I’ve been Trumped to bits. Trump trump trump trump trump. Trump.

There’s not a corner you can turn in this media diet market when his name isn’t the focus or mentioned. In stories ranging from world markets to kitties stuck in trees, Trump. In stories about flu to venereal disease, Trump. Not even porn is safe anymore.

“The world is a vampire.” Thanks Billy Corgan. 

On top of my Whole30 diet, I’ve had to really take stock of the media I’m consuming lately. I needed to just take a step back and review what I’m reading, and how it’s affecting me.

This conversation I had a while back keeps playing in my head. It was about reading “both sides” of the issues. It was about balancing “liberal” web sites with “conservative” ones.

This person I was talking to said that Matt Drudge was left-leaning, and I almost spit out my turkey and stuffing. “Drudge is as conservative as it gets.”

“No,” sayest my friend, “He links to New York Times and other liberal sites.”

“Linking to those sites does not make the liberal.”

Clearly, it takes very little effort to see the bias of Matt Drudge, or any blog or website. His slant is clearly pro Trump, pro Republican, and anti Liberal.

If you don’t take my word for it (I’m not talking about you, because the whole world knows except this one fella), but take his word: “I am a conservative. I’m very much pro-life. If you go down the list of what makes up a conservative, I’m there almost all the way.”[38]

My point is: if you (or I) do not recognize something simple, how can we work from a level playing field. How can we discuss, say Politics, if we don’t recognize resources as what they are or are not?

If we’re sitting around celebrating NPR as the most fair and balanced news source in the world, because they’re neither conservative or liberal, but straight down the middle of excellent journalism, then we both suffer from the worst case of the Delusions that the world has seen.

That’s like reading Breitbart or WND and thinking, “I’m doing myself a favor!”

As I near the 30 day mark on my Whole30 diet — or reset — I’ve also had to revisit and diet from my media consumption. The stuff/words/food we put in our body is clearly going to affect how we view the world, our place in it, how we feel about it.

I’m going to do my part to encourage others, but I’m starting with me. And little old me feels fucking GREAT right now. Better than I’ve ever felt.

Amanda Palmer sings the hits


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A portrait I took of Amanda Palmer in 2016. 

“In both the art and the business worlds, the difference between the amateurs and the professionals is simple: The professionals know they’re winging it. The amateurs pretend they’re not.”
Amanda Palmer, The Art of Asking; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help

I’ve been reading Amanda Palmer’s book, The Art of Asking” thanks to a recommendation by my new little adopted sister Aynsley. She’s the daughter of my college mentor and she recently moved here from Michigan to pursue a career in esthetics.

When recommending the book, I told Aynsley I photographed Palmer a few years back. She was all, “NO WAY! I am one degree away from Amanda Palmer. I think I’m going to throw up.”

She wrote that if she had a religion it would be Amanda Palmer. And now after reading a good bit of her book, I get it. Amanda Palmer is rich with a good honest kick in the teeth. She reminds us that vulnerability and honesty is key to creative exploration and execution. Secrecy and shame are the Devils that suppress art and kill self exploration.

And, I hate to write it, but in a world where women don’t have nearly the presence in the art world as they should, Amanda Palmer is a tour de force of originality and motivating presence!

I watched Palmer’s TedTalk back when I photographed her. She’s an inspiration for sure. She’s super creative and tends to fly under radars while having the biggest following you never knew about.

That quote above. That shit about knowing and not knowing. That shit is true. And it’s not until I embraced the insecurity that I started feeling like there was art in winging it, art in chaos, art in vulnerability, art in acceptance.

Yesterday, I was on set with an amazing crew photographing a lovely model for a new mattress company. I had my gear out everywhere. I setup lights and mods, and my equipment was spread out from the bedroom to the bathroom, down a hall and into a bedroom. I leave lenses all over the place, all uncapped and exposed.

And when we walk away, we magically get beautiful photos. But in the act, damn, I feel like the world is a chaotic as it can be.

And you know what, I love it and hate it. I’d much rather know exactly what gear I need. Not leave gear out to be stepped on or knocked over. But I love it at the same time. It’s a weird presence that I bring. It’s me. And I accept that.

Over the last few years, I’ve suffered from mental challenges of fear and creativity paralyzation like no other time in my life. I amplified levels of shame and dishonesty in ways that I’m discovering don’t make any sense.

There tends to be an ebb and flow within most people for a time of negativity and a time for positivity. I’m enjoying the flow of positivity at the moment. I only hope I can keep it up.

There’s this model I know who has discovered her own, let’s say, religion. I’m really not sure if that’s accurate. Her name is Nasreen Ameri, and she calls her idea Carrorism, an extension of the made-up word “Carror” which she defines as the opposite of “Terror.”

On Facebook, she’s been posting positive quotes and pictures of what appear to be hearts she finds everywhere in the world, in cracks in the pavement, in oil spots on the road, in the way food is shaped on her plate.

How cool is it to look for love in everything, even things we find as inanimate as pavement.

I’m not necessarily going to call myself a Carrorist. But I love when positive people influence me with thoughts of wonder and intrigue. When the build while destroying. Isn’t that what it’s about? Creating one thing while eschewing something else? You can’t be both lazy and productive. So when you concentrate on art, you are also demolishing zombism, paralytic fear, shame, doubt, dishonesty and war.

Or maybe I’m missing the point all together. I need to go think on this a while.