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.

Infusing confusion into the fuzzy frames of taking aim at becoming popular …


_DSC8532

Being a photographer is an interesting business.

There are very few other professions in which your friends, colleagues, family and clients are all looking over your shoulder at what you do, how you do it and the path you’re taking.

Imagine if people posted copies of a legal deposition onto Facebook hoping for hundreds of likes.

Imagine if a teacher posted her lesson plans.

Or a mechanic posted a list of cars he worked on today.

But I can look back over the year and formulate a timeline of not only my output photographs but I have photos of me doing my craft. I have documentation in ways that most people don’t. The above photo is from a test Tina and I did back in 2012. It’s so weird to see how far I’ve come and the trajectory that I’m in.

It’s images like this that give me a bit of pause, but also a reference point. I imagine a person who cleans homes doesn’t have this kind of visual documentation of the homes they’ve worked in.

The path to becoming a rockstar photographer is high on my inspiration board. The more, let’s say, celebrity a photographer becomes, the more value to his work and creativity for hire.

Insert a photo of me looking at other photographers’ work. 

In my relationship with Tina, I don’t find myself to be a jealous person. But one of the biggest demons I fight is looking at other people’s work and fighting off jealousy in highly emotional and nauseating ways.

I hate other photographers who post too much. Or they post stuff that makes them out to be better than their work. And then I grow insecure and think, “Others must hate that about me.” Or, “I’m probably a shittier photographer than I make myself out to be.”

I saw this fStoppers article this morning of a list that B&H Photo in New York put together of 14 influential photographers from 2014. My first response is, “Damn! When do I get to be on that list?”

I get it. I’m not good enough yet. I haven’t found the celebrity status within the community that these guys have. And that keeps  me out.

I look at some of these photographers and I realize they’re working another full-time gig doing self promotion. Or they have other people doing it.

And that kind of thing makes me jealous as well. I want their status, and I want more hours in my day to do it.

How about a 2015 todo list to get this year started right. 

So I’m going to make a list of things I hope to do in 2015 to land my name in the echelons of photographic celebrity.

  • Hire other photographers often to collaborate with on large projects.
  • Do more personal projects
  • Volunteer my time to schools and mentorship
  • Hire more interns to mentor and help our workflow.
  • Focus on Interiors and portraits, in motion and still, instead of taking almost any job that presents itself.
  • Encourage the photographers whom I become jealous of.
  • Take aim at undaunted creativity, searching for growth opportunities
  • Get my portfolio professionally printed and reviewed by others.

Let’s see how this 8-thing list does when we reach December 2015.

Twenty fifteen … hit the ground sprinting


Over the holiday, Tina and I visited my parents in North Carolina.

We drove down two days before Christmas. Usually we leave on or the day before Christmas.

We left on Christmas eve eve because my brother asked if I would make it to his Christmas program at his church. He was asked to take a regular Christmas carol and make it his own. He was excited about what he was going to perform and would love it if we were in the audience.

Check the recording I did below:

During the Christmas program, he took “What Child is this” and made it his own. He took it to a different, other worldly level that I’m not sure many are even thoughtfully capable of.

Artistry knows no bounds and my brother is not exempt from that truism.

I uploaded the recording and you can listen to it below. The video is of the video screen. I didn’t want to be that douche that holds up his phone during a performance. But I felt it was necessary to document the performance.

If you listen closely to the orchestration, it’s phenomenal. I wish it had better fidelity, but it is what it is.

cx-5

What’s behind door number 3? Well, Pat … it’s a brand new car! 

One of our goals over the holiday was to look for a new car. Our car wasn’t in bad shape. In fact we loved it.

I decided about six months ago that instead of waiting for the car to wear out and become worthless, we should trade it against a new car.

The idea of waiting till your car is completely worthless to buy a new car is, quite frankly, a bad fucking idea.

So we came back with a Mazda CX-5. I’m not completely sold on this car. I like it, but don’t love it. I think the CR-V did a better job with using the space within the cab.

I believe we got a good deal on the car. After a day and a half of car shopping that includes the initial negotiations and bearing the sales tactics of car salesmanship, we ended up throwing up our hands in exhaustion.

Tina and i thought we were pretty savvily fighting the normal sales-guy pushiness. But we weren’t landing any deals.

We had a sheet of paper that had written negotiations on it. On it, we had an MSRP price of the car we wanted and all that one of the dealerships was willing to do for us, including how much they would give us for a trade in.

The deal on that piece of paper fell through as we asked for a price that the High Point dealer didn’t like. We took that same piece of paper to neighboring Greensboro. When a salesperson met us on the lot and went into a spiel, Tina stopped him and said, “Save your breath. We’ve been through this already.” Handing him the piece of paper, she said, “Here’s how far we got with the guys in High Point. If you can give us the deal, we’ll drive a new car off your lot. If not, we’re driving our perfectly good CR-V home next week.”

After credit checks and paperwork, and about two hours of sitting around, a sales guy came out and said, “You got it!”

And now … work work work! 

We had a nice visit with my parents and family, but we had to get back to Chicago to start work on a couple of video projects. We’ve worked every day since New Year’s eve, and will likely not break until the third week in January.

Artistically, I’m in a negative space about video production. Twenty fourteen was the year of crappy videos for me. We experienced growing pains as we developed our photography business, we let video slide a little. This was, in a sense, well worth it. I love photography. But my first love has always been motion picture.

So 2015 is the year of the video. Or at least, getting back to where it once was.

2015 is also going to be a year in which I pursue the art of being more mindful. It is, at the moment, what my plans are.

What are your 2015 plans and how will you keep them?