the devil wants my lenses


I take a French class every week. Recently, the topic of discussion was superstitions. We talked about Voodoo, Réne Descarte, rationality, culturally specific superstitions (French superstitions vs Turkish superstitions), etc.

I find all religions/faiths and many cultural behaviors to be superstitious, and while I claim to not be superstitious, I often question my claim as superstitious thoughts creep into my head all the time.

When something happens in a pattern, science explains that sometimes — we as humans — attribute these things to something larger than ourselves, like a deity or a devil or any other number of fairies, goblins or leprechauns.

Superstitions claim misfortune might be caused by breaking a mirror, opening an umbrella inside, walking under a ladder, being taught a lesson by a parental god, being tested by a wily devil, not praying the right prayer, or simply failing to knock on wood that one time I said, “I have the best lens choices in the universe!”

Knock on wood. 

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve had to replace two lenses. These are literal misfortunes, as I feel like replacements have cost me a literal small fortune.

One of the lenses was — in a general sense — inexpensive (around $600). The other one was for my Hasselblad, which is the rough equivalent of buying property in Trump Tower.

My Hasselblad is medium format camera. Working with a medium format system is like owning a luxury vehicle like a Ferrari. You don’t take the car in for anything without seeing your wallet lighten by many pounds.

I had to buy a battery for it recently and it set me back $375. A battery for my DSLR would cost between $40 and $65, for a generic brand or name brand respectively. There’s  no generic option for Hasselblad.

Buying a new 35mm lens — which I use most for interiors or architecture — would be $5200. On eBay, you can find used ones for $1500-$4500. But that’s risky as I found out. I ordered a used one off of eBay and it was dead on arrival. So I had to send it back to the seller, which ties up several thousand dollars until the return is processed.

Because we have a big interiors job next week, I ordered another one. I don’t use credit cards, so I’m basically tying up liquid cash.

Another unfortunate lens mishap happened in my studio. I was using a camera to videotape an update. Here’s a shot below of part of the space. There’s a long strip where I can throw a ball with my dog. We occupy the area behind where my camera is for photography.

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I had my dog with me last week. I was washing my car in the shop area and I had a camera setup to record an update for a vLog. The floor was wet and it’s already very slippery.

As I was about to throw the ball to my dog, she was headed straight for my camera on its tripod and her head was facing me as she ran away. “Nooooooo!” I yelled as I sprinted after her. She turned. Started slipping. And I slipped trying to get to the camera, but it went down.

If a camera is a face and a lens its nose, it landed smack dab on its snout. The lens shattered. Fortunately the camera was unharmed (cross fingers and knock on wood).

Ha.

On the surface, it’s tough not to see these financial blows are not some kind of message from an unseen force attempting to discourage my creativity.

Is this a message from the Lens Gods or the Productivity Gods saying, “We don’t want you to be productive?”

We want to use financial stress as a distraction! 

My view, though, is to not let those superstitions to prevent, paralyze, stymie creativity. I’m pressing on. These things happened. They just happened. That’s it. They were accidents. They were and are explainable by natural causes.

My human brain might try to attach mystical explanations or place more emphasis on them because in a pattern … lens lens lens lens + money money money money = stress stress stress stress stress — that somehow is attractive.

There is no amount of prayer, of self sacrifice, of worshiping the unseen that will bring back those lenses nor would it protect my other lenses that still work.

Shit happens. And it’s when I try to attach superstition to natural events that I get caught up in distractions from creative expression.

Well, fuck that.

 

 

 

contemplating getting back on the path to creativity


For about a year and a half, maybe longer, I’ve been in a creative slump. My goal lately has been to yank myself out using the tuft on my neck that you pick puppies and kittens up by when they’re getting into something they shouldn’t.

Creative slumps suck.

As an artist, it’s easy to point at all the extraneous factors that are at fault. Certainly there are external factors that come into play. For example: doctor’s appointments, an accident, or any other life moment that may distract from productivity.

I’ve seen other artists — people in general — complain about the current political climate and blame that for certain levels of anxiety and lack of productivity. I share that sentiment completely.

It may be too early to shout out to the world about getting out of this slump, but I’m putting myself on the path. And with hard work and perseverance, I hope to stay there.

I’ve been seeing a therapist lately, and we’ve been exploring my fears, insecurities and how they pertain to self-expression.

Like other artists, I allow fear to prevent me from creating something, for fear it’s going to turn out shitty. Not creating anything defeats the purpose of the creative.

I recently completed this self portrait.

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It is a motion portrait, btw, so look for movement.  It’s one of many things I hope to do to stay on the path. I’m not saying it’s the BEST image in the world. But it’s an image. It’s an executed idea. I had the vision. I made a version of it. I’m sharing it with the world. I’m moving on.

In a way, it’s a metaphor for how I want to grow out of this place of fear and become bigger in the eyes of my audience. Whoever that might be.

I designed the visual with a couple different people in mind as the subject. One girl didn’t respond at all to my request. Another one told me she wasn’t the one for the job. At least she responded.

The image is a compilation of eight images composited into one. I’m working on a behind the scenes video now to show how I put it together.

Enjoy.

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.

 

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 …”

Why?

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.

Yesterday, it snowed in Chicago


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Okay, okay. This photo isn’t from yesterday. But I came across it while archiving old photos.

Yesterday there were also many eye-witness accounts of white stuff falling from the sky in and around the Chicago area.

In case you haven’t noticed your calendar lately, it’s May. Fucking May.

And it snowed.

This winter there was more snow than I’ve ever seen in Chicago. It started long ago … in November. I was able to shoot our Christmas card after a few inches in December.

This photo above was from January 3 or so. And it snowed, at least a little all the way to May.

The 2013-2014  season was the weirdest months of winter we’ve ever seen.

And you may ask yourself, why, oh why is all this weird weather happening? Why is it so cold and the scientists — those liberal, immoral scientists — screaming that there’s global warming?

It blows my mind that this weather is all been predicted … by the bible … and by science.

The bible reads that an increase in earthquakes and weather phenomenon will call forth the end times.

But the bible also reads:

The Mighty One, God, the Lord,
    speaks and summons the earth
    from the rising of the sun to where it sets.

And you can insert images of sunsets and flowers with a soft glow. Or you could insert the soft warm glow of a setting sun cast across the bloated belly of a starving child covered in flies in Africa or Detroit.

These kinds of vague references are so tarot card reader slash fortune cookie like.

So when we are all arguing about climate change and global warming, everybody feels right as rain and self congratulatory. The bible is the astronaut jamming a flag into the moon of so many things … and it’s a little annoying at times.

Just a tad.

I was very appreciative of this video (below) from John Oliver that I saw yesterday. But I don’t think it will help things. It’ll just make people who disagree look for more disagreement. It’ll make them blame liberalism and thank the dusty old book that they think they love, but not the parts that they choose not to. And those who agree, will agree.

And the sun will rise and fall.

Oh, wait. We’ll actually do all the moving — we here on this spec of dust called the Earth — and the sun will sit relatively still. But we’ll all be moving through space with billions and billions and billions of stars and planets. And science will continue to answer questions. And ignorance will still win out in the end!