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Mini-Armageddons

10/25
About  my pictures:

I am interested in themes of complex spirituality, human consciousness, the ephemeral nature of life and the things that never go away.  But eventually everything goes away or at least changes.  This is nothing new to talk about yet I think about it frequently.  I care deeply about other human beings and what they experience, but only know how to begin with myself.

It seems like I want you to have that “ah-ha” (thanks Nancy) moment and then question it. Or perhaps this is what the experience of both life and picture taking, the great moment where everything resolved and then slowly or quickly dissolves, changes or fades. Then something else happens…The pictures are evidence what was there at one moment in time, maybe even of things that stay stationary for relative epochs, like our memories of people that we haven’t seen for a long time or just haven’t  recognized as changing.

I’m interested in faith in spite of the ephemeral, tokens and monuments to these. I’m interested in things both in decay and well maintained, because, as a human beings, we all have the potential to experience both of these many times in our lives.

I was at the hospital a few weeks ago, waiting for mine turn in line to receive a permission form to receive files of the x-rays of my recently broken arm.  There was an exasperated woman there who had been waiting for a couple hours to receive permission to take her grandson’s records so they could proceed with whatever it is he needed at another hospital. The frustration on her face went beyond this occasion.  She was her grandson’s caretaker and consistently had to deal with bureaucratic perplexities in trying to care for him. She was spending her whole day trying to get this important information and eventually was sent to another place. She lives in Coney Island and it was something that took up her whole day.  I know how many days and hours and minutes I spend dealing with crap like this. I don’t even have a grandson I have to care for. I wondered briefly why her daughter was absent.  It must be hard for all of them. It took me a couple of hours to get my x-rays but my day was better than hers. Although, the next day I got caught in the rain with the ICP’s Mark II and my dog and a broken arm and was running late to class.  How precious are the moments when we aren’t dealing with bullshit.  I grew up with a religious rhetoric where the end of the world was coming at any moment and later I created situations where it definitely was. And now sometimes even these small moment feel just like mini Armageddons.

It is important to me to know how people read the images and the edits.  I know I have something substantial and important to convey but I’m struggling how to put these moments together.

Always a rough draft…

October 17, 2010

A walk in process

one recent pentax image I like

A walk in process

I walk my dog everyday…sometimes 4 times, at least 2. While I’m walking her I think about life and about taking pictures. All of the pictures I’ve taken seem to gang up on me in my mind, each of them in a circle, shouting “NO! Pick me, I’m great” or “why the fuck did you take me, I suck,…I didn’t ask to be born.” Pictures are like babies, there are already too many. I take pictures anyways and then don’t know what to do with them.

Moving forward, on my daily walks, each step I take on the cruddy sidewalk, I get closer to the next moment, the next thing I see.  My dog stops to pee.  When she’s done I say “good girl.”  Several times on each block we stop to do the obedience drill, “Nova, sit!, no, sit!, good girl!, now down, no, down, all the way down, good girl…heal” then we keep walking. She knows I’m in charge now.  I reflect about the pictures I took over the summer on the way to Kansas City and how most of them I don’t like; the ones I shot with the Pentax.  The 4×5  pictures are better. My Mamiya 7 was in the shop and it hurt me both financially and on the documentation of my road trip.  The Mamiya7 changed the way I shoot entirely.  I shot good pictures with my Pentax 6×7 too at one time. I loved that camera. It was annoying when I would meet other photographers and they would ask me what I shot with and when I responded, “Oh, a Pentax 6×7,” some would shnarkily say, “oh, I shoot with a Mamiya.” Pretentious fuckers. I hate photographers…some of them. I know some I like too… but, anyways…now I also have a Mamiya .  It was by accident though. A good friend and artist friend gave me a killer deal on his Mamiya 7 with a lens and that camera has helped me shoot better, for how I shoot now.

I was walking with Nova near my home in Bed-stuy the other day and had my camera. It was about a half an hour before dusk.  There was the most beautiful light hitting this tree. I can’t remember what street on off Bedford I was, but the sunlit tree and silvery sky caught my eye and I walked down the street to photograph the electric tree. Some old dude was scowling at me from behind his fence. I don’t know if it was because he didn’t like my dog or if I just looked like another trendy fucker with a camera. Maybe it was neither or both. I often have great conversations and am treated well in my neighborhood so I try not to take it too hard when the opposite happens. Doesn’t matter what he thinks.  I asked him if he noticed the light on the tree. I don’t know why…maybe I just wanted to explain what I was doing. He stared at me blankly as I walked away.

I just keep walking, and even if I walk down the same block every day, nothing ever stays the same.  I think about all the pictures I’m going to show for critique next week and what they mean. Viscerally the images mean so much to me, but how do I tell others. I’m not trying to think of something smart do to so I can further the “conversation.”  Although, I was told that I do have a responsibility to advance something. I’m trying to think of a way to convey some thing sincere and almost intangible, something that I don’t even know if I’m allowed to talk about even if I knew exactly how.  I’m tired of people trying to make the perfect picture….it’s so tiring. Pictures like life are always in transformation.How can a picture stay the same?…the color, the size, it’s meaning as perception is always changing.  I liked the part in the John Cage writing, “Lecture on Nothing” where he just went on and on about how we are getting nowhere, slowly getting no where.  I found this page on the internet where he is quoted as saying, “There is poetry as soon as we realize we possess nothing.” I feel like I try to possess so much.

I’m have to write more later…I have too much crap to do……

 

 

 

Nova!

The Kansas City trickle

I shot a lot of film last June when  I drove to Kansas City to visit my friend Jason.  After developing a small portion of what is stashed in the freezer a few weeks ago, I finally got around to scanning a few last week during the digital printing workshop I took at ICP.  The pictures from this trip will probably come trickling through over the next few months, which to me is an enjoyable prospect.  It’s like a present. One of the things I enjoy about shooting film is that I have to wait. When I finally get the film back and scan it, I get to revisit the memory of shooting the picture, while in a completely different time and head space.  Things that weren’t resolved in my life at that time might be clearer now; other things more murky or at a distance. Did I see the image the way that looks? Or was I completely off? If so then I have to live with consequences and maybe just like the picture anyway, or have to let it go.

That day my friend Jason and his friend Micheal drove  me around the train yards and old sections of town near the river bottoms so i could get some shots with my 4×5 (I have loads and have not processed any!)  At times we just stopped somewhere and walked around for a bit so I used my hand holdable Pentax 6×7 in situations when I didn’t feel like setting up shop all over again. MY Mamiya 7 was in the shop. Photographers often smirk at mention of the Pentax beast camera as they tell me they shoot with a Mamiya RZ (which I’ve still never shot.) The Pentax is a pain in the ass but it takes great pictures and deserves a lot more credit than it gets.  I feel like the Mamiya is name drop camera…like it’s cool to have one so I resisted making the turn.  As it turns out, I bought the Mamiya 7 off a friend, almost on a whim. The lighter-weight, range finder still yields a nice 6×7 negative, and haven’t regretted it.  I didn’t know how to use a rangefinder (with a spot meter!) when I got it so the leanring curve was a little rough. It’s a much easier camera to carry around though and I really love it.   Bummer it was in the shop for my trip but it was really cool to get re-acquainted with my old camera and lenses.

Tiny freedoms…adding up

Dreams of Buddha and Mexican Cowboys (in the Hidden Valley)

I’ve been stuck in my apartment today, sick.  Waking up at 10:30 A.M., 12:13 P.M. and then 1:47, 2:24 with the same stuffed-up aching head, I finally got up to stare at the computer screen.  I called André to thank him for all the tea and juice he brought for me regularly before leaving the house.  He left me more  beverages and some oatmeal ready on the stove to cook.  We have had bumpy times as of late, yet keep showing up for each other. It’s amazing to feel taken care of by another human being.  It reminds me of my mother and how she would give me vitamins and juice and cook for me when I was sick.  I still feel shards of resentment from time to time for mother’s over-bearing behavior in other situations, but as I grow older more appreciation for demonstrations of love and concern slide through the cracks in my softening awareness.  Adults seem to weave in and out of situations where they have some one to help them out when they are sick. I have spent times alone, ill and angry at myself for not being well enough to get anything done. I’m slowly learning how to have more compassion for myself, but even today, as I lay half awake, the soldiers of anxiety were marching around my head, shouting that I haven’t got enough done in the last month or so that school has been out.

I haven’t been working a job, yet still find it hard to accomplish even my tiny goals in an acceptable amount of time. The feeling that I’m losing the battle against time never seems to leave and my condition worsens at the thought of how irrelevant and miniscule my need for more time is to time itself. I’ve wasted so much of it on various things and still do by obsessing about it and not accepting myself for just doing what I can. Then I’m pressed up against the idea that there are large gaps of knowledge that need to be filled in order to be capable of doing the things I want to do properly. And even in the areas I am proficient, I have much work to do organize and market myself. It’s agonizing.

Ultimately it’s up to me to shift perspective, however, it’s difficult in a culture whose relentless messages touting the importance of success, skills, and ability has shaped everyone in the environment that surrounds me. I seem to take things quiet literally, believing you if you suggest I’m not cut out for the job market.  I’m sure I’m not the only one beating myself up for feeling this way.  After all, I live in New York City.

Tuesday I will go on an interview next week for an unpaid TA position in a program in the Bronx that teaches kids photography. The class will only run for 5 weeks, however, it’s a program I would like to continue with as one of the things I hope to do with my degree, besides making photographs to show and live in the world, is to teach.  The Chair of the program I’m currently in the middle of, Nayland Blake, has demonstrated the value of both mental and emotional intelligence in imparting wisdom and useful information to others.  When you teach somebody photography, there is the possibility that you’ve given them a tool to better look at themselves and grow as a human being.  For me, it’s been a slow process.

One of the things I was fretting about this afternoon is the slight possibility I would have to work part-time while finishing my last year of this program.  I don’t want yo be in a total mess of debt when I get out of grad school.  But, I’m afraid I won’t get everything done and I’ll miss out on things.  There is a tremendous amount of pressure to go to artist’s shows and lectures while in art school and the of course, making your own work.  I’m fine with making my own work, but there’s this thing in art school and the art world that still baffles me; where in conversation, the names of other artists, past movements and current shows are incessantly stacked on top of each other like leaking ice-cube trays.  Each thing is a part of, or an analogy, or compared to another thing or person through the context of this or that. I usually manage to connect 1 or 2 useful names, at tops, from the stack in any given situation before they eventually melt into a giant puddle. Once in a while I find myself talking that way and wonder if I’m making any sense.

I look around my living room and am reminded I want to photograph the way it looks right now but am unsure I’ll pull out the camera in time. I’ll have to use my 4×5. My Mamiya 7 is in the shop and I’ve been upset that it’s costing almost 500 dollars to fix it.  The quality of the light is nice right now and it highlights the things that have changed around the place in the last couple months.  When I was in California last I took pictures of my parents house.  It’s a house they’ve rented for ages now. Over 10 years and this is the first time I took pictures of it.  It’s the standard pink track home with reddish curved tiles on the roof.  My dad had spent his whole life doing beautiful masonry work on opulent homes and yet they never managed to get around to building their dream house.  When I was about 3 years old I used to go over to my grandparents house and tell them how my parents were fighting over the “god-damned property” again.

They had a piece of land in Utah they wanted to build on but it didn’t work out.  We moved to San Diego when I was 13.  We lived in a few different places by the beach while I finished school, then I moved out when I was 17.  My parents moved to a suburb of San Diego, about 45 miles north-east called Escondido.  When I was in my early twenties and would find myself in a bad place I would end up living there with them. They lived in a few different places but this one has been the one they’ve stayed in the longest.  Escondido is like the lame place you didn’t want to say you lived when you were a kid.  Kind of rural and smallish.  The last time I was there, just this last April I was struck by how beautiful it is and also by the potential for wonderful and odd things.

Two Buddhist monasteries have been built recently near my parents home. During the trip, I visited both of them with André, my parents and some friends, but on different days.  The second one we went to was on the day of the last big earthquake that hit Baja, Mexico and I didn’t even feel it.  I was taking pictures of these statues that completely captured all of my attention.  Just before getting to the monastery,  we walked past a horse ranch featuring a wild horse tied up to a tree, waiting to be broken in.  A Mexican Cowboy rode another horse down the paved road with a rope in his hand, successfully controlling the animal. ( I took some pictures of this but they’re not that good.  The better close up of the horse is in an earlier post.) All this just outside the monastery and just down the street from the Christian school and several Christian churches that have been there forever.  I felt excited and was looking forward to going back again, maybe for a few days late in the summer.

My mother called me this afternoon, in the midst of my worried and sickly broodings, to inform me that they are moving by August. My Dad will go to Utah to work and be near my very old grandmother and extended family, and my mom to work in Palm Springs.  Their story continues and so does mine. I’m reminded that home is where the heart is.  Tremendously cliché as that sounds, it renders true. Lately on days when I really fucking hate New York and get frustrated with being one of all these people that are trying to do something, I have this fantasy of going home to the place of Buddhas and Mexican Cowboys and then… maybe teaching high school photography or something.  I don’t even know if high schools there still have darkrooms.  I would teach digital if I had too. I still have really close friends in Southern California and even if I didn’t, I can always go back.  But without my family, at the moment it the idea feels weird.  And fantasy is just there to create an outcome I feel I can control, so I feel safe for a few moments.

I think about families that have this one house that they always go back too and how for me the homes kind of pass through my life, leaving certain images, smell, textures and memories that I may or may not encounter again. I’m into the idea of embracing it; the contingency and the impermanence. Mostly because I don’t really have choice, yet have to acknowledge the process towards that acceptance and understanding becomes entirely something else.

More pictures from California