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.


It’s beginning to look a lot like that season


You wanna know something?

I miss my daily blogging routine. I miss it a lot. There’s so many thoughts that I let slide, or don’t write down, or don’t keep in the forefront of my mind, because I’m “too busy.”

“Too busy.”

What a bunch of horseshit.

Priorities are what we decide is priority.

We are a good busy lately. We’re doing more of what I love than ever before. This month, we photographed a poster for a marathon.

We did portraits of an interior design duo. We photographed 33 packages of candy. And I photographed veterans who are given job opportunities through our great city’s safe passage program.

It’s work that I’m incredibly proud of. It feels like we’re doing more of what we want to shoot, more often.

I keep telling people that my dream is to photograph people and spaces. But the all-out dreamy-mc-dream dream is to photograph people in their spaces.

And that’s what’s happening. We shot the above this week, and we’re talking to an architecture firm now about photographing their principals.

We’ve been invited to parties that in years past we were hired to photograph it. Our dynamic in our industry is changing. We marketed the messaging that we’re not event photographers. We’re artists. And that message is starting to stick.

I’ve also re-designated time I spend here to marketing our work. I’m not a sales-y person. If you want to work with Tina and me, then I feel that hiring us should just feel right and not some choke hold pressure point that brings you to the ground and eventually kills you.

Or me.

I’ve been having a very artistic conversation with my brother over email lately.

It kind of started over the past year when we’ve talked about art, artists, the approach, the content and the process.

There’s people that inspire us. There’s art that I see or hear and I think, “Why isn’t that MINE?”

But the second I do something artistic, sometimes I struggle to find the “art” in it.

We’ve also talked a bit about religion. My brother loves his faith. He admittedly loves Jesus. He hashtags his work “#doesntjesusdeservebetterart”. And there was certainly a time when I completely agreed with him. Check out his work here and here for a very vulnerable and strong effort to raise the bar on faithful art.

What he’s doing is incredibly important for his cause.

I don’t agree with his beliefs. And that’s okay.

I used to be a very active vocal advocate for atheism. I’m not any more. I think the active movement, in and of itself, is somewhat dead.

I still call myself “atheist.” But I don’t find the passion behind it that I once did.

I also call myself an artist. And as an artist, I do believe that it’s my duty to represent art well, and to share my art … just like my brother is doing.

That’s all to say that I feel like I need to be more active expressing and talking about art. More than I already am.

There was one part of a recent email to my brother that I was somewhat proud of. It’s an idea that might need more fleshing out, but it’s in the context of religion and that if you’re a Christian, Hindu, Muslim or Buddhist, you’re likely to have been born into a family that also believed that. It’s like winning the lottery. You can’t tell me that happy Hindus, Muslims or Buddhists aren’t satisfied with their familial connection with their form of religion.

On that note, I think I like it when we all feel like we’re close to the same. Said and done, if you’re in the room with someone whose faith isn’t like yours, you will get along. Secularism is the great equalizer. We all know that certain public behaviors create harmony. And disruptive ones aren’t welcome. Here’s a snip of what I wrote on this topic:

When we were traveling internationally, almost every airport had buses ship us from terminal to plane and vice versa. So no matter where you were on the flight (coach or business), the bus at the airport became the ultimate equalizer. On the plane, you can dream about lucky folks in business or first class. In first class, you can scoff at the poor, uncomfortable yahoos in coach. But on the bus, everyone had to wait together. It’s like for 10 or 15 minutes, everyone is the same. Everyone has to face each other. No matter how fast you got though checkin or off the plane, everyone’s waiting in the damn bus.
I like the face to face time. I like the great equalizer.
If a man wins the life lottery by being born into a family who teaches about Christ, and another wins the lottery with a family that teaches teaches about Mohammed, or Buddha, or the zillion gods of Hinduism, they may all be on a flight together, but when do they get to be on the great equalizer?
Thoughts, ideas, responses … throw yourself in the conversation in the comments below.

Reliving our short 40 hours in Istanbul


As our schedule allows, I’m running back through our trip’s photography to find more that I haven’t posted yet.

I will warn you. I’m posting a lot here.

I can look at street photography all day long, which is why I feel comfortable posting many photos in a row. If it were a photo shoot with a model, I only post one or two finished photos. I could be wrong, but the industry tends to lean toward not over doing it when showing models or portraits.

But everything’s different when looking at the street, especially when it’s foreign to the viewer.

The great pinch in the tuchas when looking at Street photos is that these people and places exist. Every day that you live your life, somewhere else, there are gobs of people carrying on their day to day business. They’re going to school, to work, to church and to play. They eat and shop, all in places and in languages that differ very differently than your day. While you were born in your family, with your friends and your deeply-loved hobbies, ideas, beliefs, politics, there are zillions of people who have astonishingly different views.

Where you are born is a lottery that so many win. And there are contrasts to winning the lottery that boggle my mind with every viewing of a street photo.

What’s left after all this thought is the humbling reminder that despite all our differences, we are all the same. We all want to eat, to sleep, to love, to be healthy, to laugh and to live.

We are all incredibly different while excruciatingly similar.


















































Police: Driver Who Asked Jesus To Take The Wheel Hit Motorcyclist

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (CBS Cleveland) – Usually when someone says “Jesus take the wheel” it’s meant to help them through a rough patch in life.

But police say an Indiana woman took the phrase literally on July 11th, when she took her hands off the steering wheel as she was driving.

The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette reports 25-year-old Prionda Hill told authorities she let go of the wheel because “God told her he would take it from here.”

Unfortunately for Anthony Olivery, her car veered off the road and slammed into his motorcycle, throwing him to the ground. Then the car ran over him.

“When I looked at that bumper and looked at that tire, I told myself, today is the day you die,” he told the paper.

Read on. 

The Pope predicts my miserable future … and his own

The Pope — that genius — told people that it’s better to have children than to keep pets, like dogs and cats or else wind up miserable and bitter.

That’s according to this article anyway.

The article reads:

The Pope criticised couples who decide not to have children during the service, saying they had been seduced by the myth that a life of material comfort is better than raising a family.

‘You can go explore the world, go on holiday, you can have a villa in the countryside, you can be carefree,’ he said.

‘It might be better – more comfortable – to have a dog, two cats, and the love goes to the two cats and the dog. Is this true or not? Have you seen it?’, the Pope added.

‘Then, in the end this marriage comes to old age in solitude, with the bitterness of loneliness,’ he went on to say.

Well, firstly, it wasn’t my decision not to have kids. We tried. Even employed science with a little more investment than I would care to admit.

So either god or evolution made that decision for us at the moment.

Yes, we know there’s adoption. But I hate adopted kids.

[I’m adopted, you bozos!]

But, you know what? Isn’t it weird that the Pope himself is making a judgement against himself and people like him? Isn’t it better for him to stop his Popedom, get married and have some fucking kids?

What giant douchebag.



Explaining away ghosts and gods is easy, unless you’re somehow unable to do so

Me? I don’t believe in ghosts, goblins, gods or anything supernatural.

I just don’t.

I read this article recently in The Raw Story titled: Our ancient caveman instincts may explain our belief in gods or ghosts.

The article’s author, Steve Kelly, writes essentially that we believe in ghosts because we survived human history by giving supernatural rationale for a rustling of leaves or a volcano. Science hasn’t yet infiltrated the evolution of the human mind enough to make a dent in the irrationality of pervading religious thoughts.

Kelly writes:

Notions of gods arise in all human societies, from all powerful and all-knowing deities to simple forest spirits. A recent method of examining religious thought and behaviour links their ubiquity and the similarity of our beliefs to the ways in which human mental processes were adapted for survival in prehistoric times.

It rests on a couple of observations about human psychology. First, when an event happens, we tend to assume that a living thing caused it. In other words, we assume agency behind that event. If you think of the sorts of events that might have happened in prehistoric times, it’s easy to see why a bias towards agency would be useful. A rustling of a bush or the snapping of a twig could be due to wind. But far better to assume it’s a lion and run away.

Oddly enough, the information wasn’t that big of a mystery revealed. It’s a late arrival to a party that’s already been packed up.

Ain’t nobody who’s religious going to read that article and think, “Man, this has convinced me that my religion is based on a weakness generated by evolution …”


Because evolution itself is a pejorative evoking negative thoughts immediately.

An article like this is only good for the kids who subscribe to the idea that there aren’t ghosts and goblins.

In Louis C.K.’s SNL opening monologue a couple weeks ago, he talked about religion and God saying:

I’m not religious. I don’t know if there’s a God. That’s all I can say, honestly, is “I don’t know.” Some people think that they know that there isn’t. That’s a weird thing to think you can know. “Yeah, there’s no God.” Are you sure? “Yeah, no, there’s no God.” How do you know? “Cause I didn’t see Him.” There’s a vast universe! You can see for about 100 yards — when there’s not a building in the way. How could you possibly… Did you look everywhere? Did you look in the downstairs bathroom? Where did you look so far? “No, I didn’t see Him yet.” I haven’t seen 12 Years a Slave yet; it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I’m just waiting until it comes on cable.

And, no, I have not looked under the stairs, either. Nor have I looked behind every planet or star.

A god, gods, ghosts or goblins do an amazing job at hiding, though. They do it so well that there’s absolutely no, not one shred of evidence to indicate that the bump in the night is anything other than something natural with natural causes.

The evidence points to science, and when something seems unnatural, it’s likely something that is explanative and you didn’t wait for the explanation and made up your own conclusion or the explanation hasn’t been conceived yet.

In sum, I don’t know there’s nothing else as Louis C.K. so boldly pointed out. But I don’t know there is either. And that difference makes me happy to have a natural understanding of natural worldly events.

Thank goodness.