Category Archives: process

Sad Find

Sad find

More and more, I’ve been met with experiences that bring to light, just how delicate, precious, and fragile life is. What this brings to me, is to be grateful and incredibly aware, of the seemingly insignificant things in life, which in fact, are the most profound.

Last Song

I picked up this little bird, and before I laid it to rest, I studied every last miraculous detail. I found a spot that would honor and echo, its brief existence in the world. A delicate place replete with beauty. At the very moment I placed it back into the earth, my wind chimes rang with ferocity. A fitting chorus, to Its final song.

Sleep

Jennifer and Elmo take a nap in her granny's bed.

Jennifer and Elmo take a nap in her granny’s bed.

I first met Jennifer and Elmo at The Avian and Exotic Medical Center in NYC, while shooting a personal project. Jennifer is an only child, and was raised by her grandparents and her mother. When her grandpa died when she was only 23, and her mother shortly thereafter, Jennifer continued to live with, and take care of her 92 yr. old granny. She originally bought Elmo-an intelligent and engaging Cockatoo that talks, (and says her name in Spanish with a Dominican accent), to keep her granny company when she’s at work. Recently her granny passed away, and Jennifer and Elmo remain in the apartment she grew up in. Elmo likes to take naps, and here they are taking a nap together, in her granny’s bed. From the moment I met them, it was apparent they had a close knit bond.

I entered this image in Alec Soth’s contest for “this ain’t art school.” Alec Soth, in conjunction with Deichtor Hallen of Hamberg, ran a contest with the theme of “sleep” When I came across the contest, this image of Jennifer and Elmo came to mind, and I entered it on the last day. I am fond of it because for me, taking a nap with a beloved pet, is the best nap there is. To indulge in a nap with a pet- hearing them breathe, and snore, is not like taking a nap with a person. There is an understanding, an unspoken bond and connection that is beyond human comprehension.

I just found out that I have won second place, and am overjoyed. I’m overjoyed because of the good natured spirit of the contest, looking at all the entries, and for the love of the theme, which was”Sleep.” Sleep, love, eating. All the most basic of needs, that have deep meaning, ritual, and comfort in all its associations. It was a contest where placing, was akin to my memory of winning my first contest ever, where the prize was a 6 pack of orange crush that I had won by being the 6th caller into a radio station when I was in high school. Of course this contest has much more significance and purpose, but for me, Alex Soth’s work has deep meaning, context, but also many times humor and levity. And it’s humor and levity, that we need most of all.

Alex explained why he chose the images that he did, and for mine, it was Elmo the cockatoo, along with the fact that Jennifer’s curls mimic the telephone cord at the edge of the bed. Her curls and relationship to the cord, his did not occur to me as I was photographing them, but ironically, sometimes my images possess this type of irony after the fact. I find that these artistic coincidences, are really in fact probably not coincidences, but subconscious choices made deep within our psyche. It’s always a marvel, and a revelation.

Decongestant

Richard Serra. Storm King Art Center.

Richard Serra. Storm King Art Center.

Every since I was a child, I had asthma and allergies. I got allergy shots twice a week, and used an inhaler when environmental conditions activated my asthma. I was congested, compromised, and labored from any activity that taxed me.  I was frequently sick during winter, and then one day I got sick and tired of it. I began to read and research about health, changed my diet to becoming a staunch vegetarian, and applied the philosophy of food combining. I went through a detoxification process that concluded in giving my body – space. Space to breathe, function, and thrive.

We live in a congested society. Everything we do, our very way of being, clogs our mental arteries. Glancing at our phones prior to going to sleep, to reaching for them as the first thing we do when we wake up – lest we have missed anything, during those brief hours of slumber. We assault our minds with continual thoughts and distractions so much so, that it has become the new normal, and like a narcotic, we can’t seem to function without getting another hit, which feeds the paradigm, which necessitates that we perpetuate the dysfunction. We don’t understand what it means to be still.

In the artistic process, as well as the human process, it’s essential that there be space. Stillness. Connection to the divine, as we are merely a conduit and channel for the unlimited creative energy that surrounds us. In my process, it’s non-negotiable that I meditate, practice yoga, journal every day, and connect to nature. Then I leave one day a week to do what I love, that which has no agenda. It was difficult to implement this at first, because we become so identified with “doing” that it’s the doing that creates our self importance. The doing is what you’ve become. The irony, is that when you create space and make time to do those things which fill your soul, more time becomes available. When you are present and focused, your awareness becomes heightened. Perception becomes sharper than before, and with no effort. However, we no longer have the ability to understand let alone acknowledge the power of creating that space which already exists, we just have to enter it. It’s become an equation of importance = “doing.” As a still photographer, I’m constantly asked “Are you doing video yet?” Always moving, onto the next, without much contemplation for what’s here. An Edward Weston, or Irving Penn still life, can speak volumes until the end of time. We have lost the art of contemplation,  addicted to moving, frenetic motion, being polished into nothing.

Geese. Storm King Art Center.

Geese. Storm King Art Center.

 

Considering The Tom

Although it seems as if it’s brain is exposed, and it’s organs are inside out, I find Turkey’s to be quite beautiful. They have over 5 to 6 thousand beautifully varied feathers, which are iridescent in ways that only nature can produce. If we can take something familiar, remove our habit of assigning a label to it, and pretend to be seeing it for the first time, it becomes mesmerizing. The multi overlapping feathers on this turkey, are reminiscent of the fungi that grows on  decomposing trees. The synchronized overlay of petals on a flower, and the rippling pattern of sand at low tide. The unlikely combination of textures and colors are something to behold, and inadvertently contribute to our sense of aesthetic and design. Lest, we still reference this magnificent bird as lowly, ugly and stupid. Housed in that indigo poc-faced, wart encrusted cranium, is a highly sophisticated GPS system, where a geographically accurate mechanism is in place, allowing them to learn precise details of an area over 1,000 acres. Once you consider your relationship to something, you remove the limits upon what it is you have defined, which opens you up to infinite possibilities, within your own realm.

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Where Have They Gone?

With spring in the air, I was prompted to visit this Styrofoam box in my garage, where I have a collection of beautiful dead butterflies. Works of art in their intricate pattern, color, texture, and anatomy, they lie still, weightless, and void of the moisture of life.   When I was a kid growing up in Illinois, summers were full of fireflies, June bugs, praying mantis, and butterflies. Playing on our swing set in the backyard at dusk, one, two, and then many, fireflies would flicker on and off in a blanket of glowing dots.  When we would go swimming at night, the light from our pool would attract a myriad of June bugs which would “tap tap tap,” as they landed hard on the water’s surface. My sisters and I would catch praying mantis in jars, and peer at their alien features through the glass before we put the jar down to set them free. Then we’d run away as fast as we could, for fear they’d jump out and  land on us. We saw them in trees and on the lawn, camouflaging their thin bodies in the bark and grass blades. And there were butterflies. Lots of them. Not just Monarch’s, although the classic orange Monarch’s were abundant. There were giant furry moth’s with beautiful orange markings on their beige winged backgrounds. We’d often see them in their beefy green caterpillar form, ebb and flowing, as they incrementally inched along. We marveled as we witnessed them spinning their cocoons tirelessly and meticulously, waiting impatiently for them to emerge in the months ahead.

And now, summers are void of these miraculous sights. When there is a firefly sighting, it’s practically as rare as a shooting star. And the butterflies?  If I see one, I try and fix my gaze on it’s erratic path, trying to hold onto it for as long as I can, as if loosing sight of it might mean it’s the last one I see.

So, where have they all gone? A call to attention has been brought out to list the monarch in particular, as an endangered species. Loss of habitat, GMO seed from Agrochemical companies, pesticides, weed killers, and the desire for a green suburban lawn, have all but obliterated these beautiful winged insects. For me, I don’t mind weeds, and I will be planting butterfly friendly perennials and wildflowers in my garden this year, and hanging fruit and nectar compost in my trees, in order to attract and nurture this delicate species. If I’m lucky, perhaps my daughter will have the experience of knowing the butterfly in her youth.

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The Final Frontier

Space. I require it. A lot of it.  Not just physical space, but a lot of psychic space. I’m about to take an Amtrak train in a couple of days, and it’s “first come first serve” for the quiet car. You can bet that I’ll be getting to the station early to get a seat.

The thing is, even if you have physical space, congestion is of the mind. You have to be your own nasal spray to your physical and mental tightness. Deep breathing and awareness are great tools in which to create more real estate in your mind and body. Kicking in your parasympathetic system to “calm down.” Talking yourself off the ledge won’t do the trick. It’s just more dialogue, more thinking, more overdoing.  “Less do, and more be” is the formula to actually doing more. If ideas, projects, and tasks are not given time and consideration, they don’t have the necessary nutrients to breathe and grow. They are constrained, and limited by a tight mindset to control the outcome. A friend recommended a book to me recently, and it’s one of those books where I feel you can get rid of 5 other books in your library and replace it with this one. “Full Catastrophe Living” It was recommended to the author, to change the title to something less dramatic. The author gave this some consideration and tried a few other options. However, in the end he felt kept getting drawn back to his original thought, that this title best illustrated the content of the book and the message he wanted to convey. I was happy with his decision to stay true to his inner voice because for me, it was this title that prompted me to purchase it. It is not just for people who are experiencing trauma in their lives. It is for those who live every day, with the trauma of living. From “The Secret Life of Bees:”  “People who think dying is the worst thing don’t know a thing about life.” If we learn to be where we are at any given moment, rather than lament on what isn’t, or can’t be, then we can reduce our suffering and focus on creating towards a more desired outcome, every day.  Every day and every moment is all we have, at any given point in time.

I am an well planned person, often to my detriment. For those of you who follow me, as you know, I do not post pictures of my projects until they are finished. I often feel pressure to do so, since we are such a visual society. Currently, I have hit a speed bump in a project that I am working on. I had planned, researched, and created a picture on how the entire thing was going to play out in my head. I had to change its direction and concept which is not always easy since there are many factors/people/institutions that are involved. Had I posted photos of it, I would have felt obligated to stick to a path that was not working. I needed to walk away, leave it alone, until it became evident which direction to head. Believe me, I, like everyone else, tried to make it be what I thought it should be. I tried to force the circumstances to fit my plan. But I only got more resistance. Force, is always met with resistance. I feel it’s like checking the pot too often when it needs to simmer. Even when the timer goes off, you still check it’s doneness and only then, will you know if it has reached maturity. Sometimes you have to stick it back in the oven, or take it out and let it rest. We no longer give allow things to cultivate, but are obsessed with having more, faster, not even experiencing what just happened, in search of more things to experience. There is no understanding what it means for things to unfold. Even when there seems to be no perceivable negative consequences to our hurried actions, often times on a cellular level, there are unseen circumstances. We become detached and desensitized to detecting these nuances, in our race to nowhere.

A robin creates a space for her eggs to incubate–– amidst a sea of Andromeda plant leaves.

A robin creates a space for her eggs to incubate–– amidst a sea of Andromeda plant leaves.

 

The Power of a Single Image

A picture is worth 1000 words. We’ve all heard that before. That saying is understated to say the least. One of anything, can have an enormous impact, a cataclysmic devastating effect, or the most beautiful event ever experienced––depending on what that one thing is. It could be a tsunami, a kind gesture, a movie, a song, a relationship; even something seemingly minimal as the right accessory to bring what might have been an otherwise mundane outfit, together. In our society, hyperspace is now the norm, and The Race To Nowhere, applies to everything. It is happening all around us. There is no pause button. There is no contemplation. There is no consequence. The images we are exposed to are often over rendered so that we no longer understand the simplicity and power of a single organic image, but are exposed to a montage of pictures that blur the lines between what is real and what is fiction. Our sense of reality becomes undefined. The over sensationalism, commercialism and exploitation numbs us. We turn away, and become desensitized. I feel that people want to pause, they have the desire to pause, but nobody else is going to pause so they remain in the race to nowhere. They do not pause for fear of being left behind. They are in the race but don’t know why.

This is the single reason I am a photographer. To incite contemplation. To create pause. For contemplation can bring awareness. And with awareness comes a hope for change. (click on the link to read his story)

The Worst Day Ever

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Make No Small Plans

My posts are few and far between. I’m working simultaneously on 2 projects, but I don’t post my process. I have sort of a “fight club” rule when it comes to my personal work. I don’t talk about them until they are completed. Therefore,  I don’t post my progress. Since I am working on 2 at the same time, and they are in completely different locations, and completely unrelated, other things fall by the wayside. It’s unfortunate because I have posted many blogs in my head, always with the intention of making them live.

This has been a very challenging year for me in terms of loss. Ironically, both my projects, incorporate this very topic. No matter how prepared you think you might be, no matter if you know it’s coming, when it actually happens, there is no preparing you for the permanence that comes with the realization that something very precious, is gone from the material world. It’s inconceivable, and very difficult to accept.

I lost one of my dearest and closet friends, tragically, and abruptly. The gravity of this loss was not just for myself, but for the world, for the creative spirit that ran through this incredible individual who died with his music still in him.  It was not his time. It was not time for either of them.  We are at the mercy of something greater than ourselves and it’s important to acknowledge that if only to develop humility, and gratitude for everything that we experience at any waking moment. I think that I find photography forever magical because it is an expression of your thoughts. I took these photographs the morning after I learned of my friends death. This fresh dirt was the first thing I happened upon, and it was so fitting to see the contrast between the rich dark earth, seemingly representing the vast nothingness–the abyss of the unknown journey, juxtaposed with the uprising of new life; fresh, green, and vibrant. What seems to be death, is nurturing new life. To me, the scattered and faded pink rodenderon petals represents the transition of life next to the unfolding ferns, and the blanket of cool dark soil.

With the first snow, fall has come to an end. A fresh and sturdy pumpkin which I carved on my back porch in what seemed to be just days ago, seems to have rotted over night. Upon closer examination, it’s macabre spooky face was now covered in black mold and held such beauty as it crept into the crevices of my jack o’ lantern. I sadly chucked it over the fence, climing a few rungs to look down upon him buried in the autumn leaves. Sad, deteriorating, and transitioning into something microscopic. Leaving this world, into another-donating nutrients back to the earth from which it came.

Make no small plans. Live Large.

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Planting Seeds

There have been many photographers who have influenced me for various reasons, but there are some who have really struck a cord with something deep within me. Sebastiao Salgado, is one of those few. We are bombarded by images-receiving images, taking images, but many times there is a lack of content, of connection, of purpose, at least for me. When I look at a image, there is either the presence of a soul, an experience, a feeling and emotion that has been captured and communicated, or it’s just a moment that has been documented with no real message or content.  As a photographer, I feel you see, capture, and convey what is in your heart and soul.

Sebastiao Salgado understands what it means to experience this life, to capture the beauty and splendor of this planet, to participate, engage and to revere it no matter what it brings you. We live in a microcosm of our own life experiences-myopic to our own condition rather than realizing we are components of a larger construct.  In our society, I find our methods and outlook to be impatient and mechanical, subsisting on the external and as a result, we are losing touch with our innermost selves. We are deadening our senses.

My Hit and Run project is ongoing, and the other day I came across a opossum. I am especially empathetic towards those things that are “slow” in a society that only knows fast. I mentioned my find to my wildlife rehab friend Jenny, who told me that the other day some of her rehab friends came across a opossum that had just been struck. They checked her pouch and rescued the 3 babies she had in tow and they are now being rehabilitated without their mother. I don’t know what it is, but many Disney films kill the mother off in the beginning: Bambi, The Fox and the Hound, Finding Nemo.

We need to change our focus to one of cultivation, rather than elimination. I think that man underestimates the power and infinite wisdom of mother nature. I don’t think that is one mother that is going to lie down.

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Opossum

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Bats on tamarind trees in the Berenty Reserve in Madagascar,2010. Sebastiao Selgado.