Thursday, January 29, 2009

The loss of a dear friend...

The simplest of phrases...

I started these blogs with a promise to myself to be as honest about my thoughts and emotions as possible. This can be very difficult for me sometimes, but I'm doing my best.

A few months ago I lost a dear friend. It wasn't due to something that makes sense, like a long illness and death or even a sudden move to a different city. No, this friendship's ending was due to words, or the lack there of. Those closest to me knew her and were saddened for me when they heard the news, but I don't think very many know just how much it sincerely effected me.

It seems from the very beginning she and I talked about the friendship not lasting, either due to her need to push people away or for the habits people get in when they are around her. At one point she said that mostly people lose her as a friend because they eventually disappoint her, but in this case she corrected herself by saying that eventually she would probably be the one to disappoint me. And she did. That led to a series of events that unfortunately created a final, quiet, mutual fading away of communication and closeness that I had strangely come to rely on.

Being someone who myself is rather reserved when it comes to truly being open with others, that hurt a great deal. In the long run maybe we both disappointed each other, or were let down when the ideas we had of each other turned out to not be as accurate as we hoped. Frankly the sadness I've felt from that was a great challenge to come to terms with.

A few close friends said after the fact that they didn't ever really like her though never wanted to say so, which I guess makes sense. She admittedly is one of the hardest people to get to know, and again would be the first one to say that she isn't at her best when dealing with people's emotions, let alone her own. However, I was always pleased to be on her good side, of experiencing the sweetest, most sincere, giving, cooperative, and selfless parts of her. Most importantly, the rarity of being on the positive side of such a person was not lost on me. I valued her in my life greatly and shared not only my time with her, but my life, family, and friends as well.

And now, we don't talk. When it came to the distribution and returning of each others belongings our brief encounters have become that of strangers. I can't help but feel that the continually used phrase "you don't understand" is something she clings to like a security blanket, hoping no one ever will. The most naive parts of myself wonder why it has to be like this. Then, at my most angry and hurt moments, for the second time in a year, I want to tell someone who meant so much to me simply to fuck off and never talk to me again. Thankfully that is entirely out of character for me and in both instances this year I refrained.

This loss really was like a bitter break-up, with all the frustrating clich├ęs present in abundance, and yet there was never a romantic encounter between us. Some have told me maybe that was the problem, or maybe it was something else. I will probably never know, and that weighs on me more than it should.

The final analysis comes down to the eventual question: Would you want to have things the way they were? Knowing what I know now, or what I probably already knew but was afraid to think about, I guess not. Still, this situation made a tough 2008 seem almost amusingly sad by year's end.

And now its a new year, and life goes on.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Selfish 2009


I think 2009 is shaping up to be a pretty selfish year for me. So much of my time is spent thinking about others, what they might want or need, how to make them feel loved or wanted or appreciated. Most of the time it works, leading people to feel special and think I'm a pretty good guy, someone they think highly of and send really nice Christmas cards to.

Unfortunately, in doing so much for others I put my own desires on the back burner. For as far back in my memory the one thing I've always wanted is the one thing I couldn't have, so I think its time I started devoting a bit more time to what I want for a change. This summer I have a month long trip planned, with stops all over the country to meet photographers, models, and other like-minded people which should take my mind off of the useless things its usually occupied by. I also am planning many more short trips before and after that, again in hopes of just finding something new. I seem to crave the new and different right now.

This attitude is counter-intuitive to my very nature however, and I don't know how long I'll be able to keep it up. As I type this I am painting cards and ordering gifts for people they have never wanted or asked for all in the hopes of brightening their day, all with little regard to how much time or money it is taking to procure these things.

Am I just a fool? A sap, a sucker? Am I seeking attention and an appreciative chuck on the shoulder to validate my existence? Am I trying to prove Mick Jagger right, that I can't always get what I want? As usual, I have more questions than answers. Let's see if doing things for myself changes how I feel.

Just felt like posting.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What is good enough?

Open Door

The other day my model, Katie, asked me a very subtle and almost flippant question, of why nothing was ever good enough for me. She knows me as well as anyone who models for me can, and though her immediate question had to do with editing out the best images of a shoot, she also was commenting on what she knows of my life.

Many people who know me well enough for me to consider them my dear friends have echoed that sentiment countless times through my life. Why am I never satisfied? Either they are commenting on my social life and interest or lack there of in a certain person, my urge to create something better than what I have recently finished, or some other tangible thing that would eventually land my already established skills or desires squarely on a fixed and final target.

Usually I smile and shine on them on because I know that deep down, for as much as I have let them in, they are wrong. I can think of maybe two people in this world, who by word but more importantly through only eye contact have accused me of being the opposite, accused me of being lazy. It is a word I have fought my whole life, be it lazy in a physical, mental, or emotional way. It is one of the worst of the four letter words and it is something I see in myself constantly.

Sure, things would be easier if I settled down, got married to someone who didn't stimulate me mentally but was a nice enough person whom I could share some laughs with. Sure, I could go down to city hall and get a maintenance job with benefits and a pension. Sure, I could rest on the laurels of my skills of drawing and painting and studio lighting and keep reproducing the same technical works ad infinitum. That would be fine and good, and it would be easy.

But why the hell would I ever want something easy? It is another one of those ugly four-lettered words. My dad always told us "nothing worth having comes easy", and I have held those words close to my chest for as long as I can remember. Maybe its the inherent Catholic upbringing, the need to suffer and punish oneself, but frankly I don't think I'm ever doing as well as I could or am. I could exercise more, learn a new language, put more in my savings, help my parents more, visit my nieces every day, call distant friends more often, do just one more take...

Its true, nothing worth having does come easy. The few times I have truly gotten something that I have worked and fought desperately for, wow, let me tell you, the feeling is unnameable. The success and amount of pride is so sweet and intoxicating, how could anyone not want to experience that?

This is just one of many things I think about when I can't sleep, of the things I need to do and all that is left undone. To sum up my opinion, I leave you with one of my thousand favorite quotes:

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat." -Theodore Roosevelt (1858 - 1919)

Couldn't have said it better myself. Goodnight, all.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Behind the Scenes

Surely, one of the large draws that photography has for me is the idea of getting to witness first hand that which others do not. I hate to say it, but its kind of cool to have a woman who has only been with one man in her life pose nude for me, to work behind the scenes of large public events and gain otherwise unattainable access to things like the Michael Jackson trial or weird Mexican wrestling events or adult entertainment sets, etc.

I've always wanted to know more than what I thought the average person did, which is probably why I've always gone out of my way to study as much background information, history, and origins of topics or events before I embark on any given assignment or subject matter. Subscribing to George Santayana's quote that "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," I can't help but feel that there should be an addition to that quote. Perhaps, "those who aren't aware of the whole situation are doomed to misjudge it".

I often hear my dad's voice in my head saying "there are always two sides to a story", and that probably led to my geeky enjoyment of Paul Harvey's "The Rest of the Story". Its important to not only see the show being presented to the public, but also know about what it took to make that show come into being. More often than watching a movie, hearing a song, or reading a book, I am curious to know what the person creating those things was going through, what was the inspiration for it, what made them tick.

Perhaps as a creative person myself I know what it takes and am thus more intrigued with the back story than others. I've had friends who have said that it doesn't matter, to just enjoy the work created or event being witnessed, and though I can appreciate the moment, I am always left wondering and wanting more. Don't just show me the end result, take me on the journey that got you to that point. Don't show me the surface, challenge me with the depth.

Here are a few shots from behind the scenes that I enjoy:

First is from my very first photo shoot with a model, a 40 year old stripper who actually started out my career as an official photographer. During the shoot in a strange house up in the Ventura hills, as we waited for her 60 year old husband to return with more buckets of bubbles to throw on her. I have always enjoyed this image because it really shows how unglamorous photographing such a model really is.

Next is a shoot from a porn set, of a couple taking a break during shots. Again, fairly monotonous and boring, aside from her top being up and her pants open.

I love this shot, taken during Mardi Gras in New Orleans in 2003. Here a cop was hitting on a prostitute on a side street of the French Quarter as it began to rain again. As soon as the flash went off I hurried away as the officer yelled at me to come back. He must not have wanted to lose his place because he never followed me.

Here's is a very upclose and personal shot of Angelo Moore, the lead singer of Fishbone, one of my favorite bands, while on stage at a local club.

Lastly, one of my all-time favorite documentary shots. I was hired to shoot a wedding for a really fun, cool couple. During the course of the reception the bride went off on the Maid of Honor, making her cry. Here she makes a gesture of excitement knowing she has hurt her friend's feelings. Sheesh!

Questions about Blondes...


What is it about blondes? There is an undeniable draw that blonde women have in our world that never ceases to intrigue me. From the 1400's with Lucrezia Borgia to modern times with Marilyn Monroe, Farrah Fawcett, Pamela Anderson and the Swedish Bikini Team, blondes have dominated Western Culture's fascination for a very long time.

Most of us know at least one blonde joke that reinforces the stereotype that blondes aren't as smart, interesting, or clever as their darker haired counterparts. I can't say that all of the smartest women I've met were blondes, but I also can't say that I haven't met many ditzy brunettes, red-heads, and raven haired beauties either.

Is it a sign of basic evolution to be drawn to someone with sunlit hair? Is there some primal urge that makes our subconscious think blond hair makes an individual more pure, closer to lightness and perfection? Or is it as simple as our eyes being naturally drawn to a shiny object?

In my small town of Santa Maria I have found it incredibly difficult to get models who aren't Caucasians with blonde hair. Are white girls taught to be more open and willing to be photographed? Does their "white" upbringing give them less love so they have more of a desire to have attention given to them? Are they taught to be more open about themselves? Is it that they are more likely to aspire to what daddy's back issues of Playboy contained? I have many questions, and the answers vary as much as the individual blondes I work with.

Personally, I've dated both blond and non-blonde women and honestly I don't have a preference when it comes to hair color. However, when it comes to my photo work I would love the opportunity to shoot more brunettes. Not much of a point here, just a few thoughts.