Life Lessons through photography.

Every roll of film has 36 photos, and if every photo is a captured moment in time, then together as a roll they are so much more than just “36 photos”. When shooting film, there is generally no “Auto mode”, one must know how to use the knowledge of their experience when calculating certain factors. The equation in itself has to deal with elements such as time, and environment. How much time should I leave the shutter open to capture enough light to expose the negative? It’s a skill that must be learned to produce a photo, and to perfect this procedure adds more significance to each individual photograph. On top of the care of what goes into each photo, one has to add on the contemplation of the moments importance. The moment has to be more than just a pretty image you want to take, this is where things like composition and focus come into play. So with emphasis on choosing that moment, making sure it’s important enough to capture, and making sure you’ve done everything correctly to produce the photo, each exposure is more than just clicking a button. Individually all these things come together to deliver one purpose, in this way the photos make up the “Life of the roll”. This philosophy and principle of photography is why I love doing it. I am in control of what I want every roll to be, what its sum should portray and what that rolls “life” and “story” are. In essence, each roll tells a narrative, it has place, time and an arc, and it is told through 36 moments where every photo is in itself, is a lesson. So in each roll, throughout its life, those photos represents its “life’s lessons”. This is the connection that makes me believe and value the importance photography has to life.

In our lives we are instructed, and set our ways based off the life lessons we occur throughout our time. When thought about deeply, the usage of these lessons do more than “guide” us though, they become staples that have a dominate hand in the approach and direction we take and have in life. In the time I have spent trying to understand myself, I’ve come to see that there is a great connection in why people are the way they are, why they do what they do, how these aspects came to be and the control someone has on them. To me these questions are more than just simple thoughts, alone they may portray a person, but together I truly believe they can represent more than just what we see in someone and in ourselves. Alas, I think learning someones life lessons and how they use them to navigate their time, should be considered when considering this idea. These lessons come from either in someones life based off milestones or failures, blessings or hardships. They are the outcomes from situations in life, they have a reflective point of view and are based in a form change and growth. In this way, these lessons are a product of a forced outcome, the person has either very little or great control in it. Since a “lesson” in itself indicates education, most lessons of life are brought on by misunderstanding, or better yet failure. And like a variable in an equation, its the effects of these hardships or blessings one goes through in life that influences these questions I have. But again with deeper thought, is their a way in taking greater control of the outcome? Can someone regulate these outcomes better? If they conduct someones life, shouldn’t the narrative be in the guidance of the person they reflect?

Recently I’ve come to the realization that I’ve been ignoring certain thoughts, emotions and feelings that have only led to issues that could have been avoided. And only since I’ve overcome the effects and suffering of the simple process of “one after the other,” I realized that these occurrences are just that, one after the other. And this may not sound profound and can seem obvious and over simplified, but I genuinely feel that it’s something everyone deals with, unnecessarily. For example, life may tell us to slow down and we may ignore it, we think they we are capable of pushing forward. But it’s not until we get overwhelmed or fail at something that we realize we actually needed to stop and listen when we first became aware of the symptoms. Because there becomes a threshold where there is no longer progress, but suffering. Now, life is crazy and we can all get busy and that doesn’t mean we are just ignoring these little indicators life is giving us, but this seems to be a pattern. In sticking with this example, I bet when you think reflect on a hardship you’ve encountered, you can recall a time before it where you felt signs in your body or mind warning you about a possible outcome. With me in mind, here’s a lesson: Stop. Breathe. Take a step back and slow down. Think about what needs to be done, what your priorities are and in the grand scheme, what is important? Is this worth the time and the exposure of yourself to gain the outcome of what it is you want? It’s like the philosophy of the photo to the roll. As a mantra? “Remember the Photograph”. Remember the importance of each photograph in a roll, take control of the factors and command the outcome that suits the narrative you want. Use the guidance we receive before hand to control the education we direct ourselves with. We try so hard and do so much to accomplish what we want, but our mind isn’t the only factor at play. Listen more to what may not have the ability to verbally inform. Don’t let the change and influence come through regret or suffering a hardship after the fact, understand they will always come as blessings first, you just have to expose yourself to them.

We as a society seem to value the lives of people who inform us on how to achieve accomplishments. It’s usually the old wise man who tells impressive and prized tales but consider this, its the ignorant old fool that we learn from most. It’s the lessons we learn from the hardships instead of the achievements that direct our paths. This approach of “controlling the outcome of life” and the difficulties of its factors is funny because it is not profound, it’s almost comically commonsensical. I use the words and theories of equations and plans like its a game of math, but its completely incomparable. Math only makes sense, because it has definitives, its essentially black and white. And life is rarely set in monochrome, the beauty of life is its color. Life rarely makes sense, it’s always changing and that is the basis of our evolution. But, how many times does this happen? How many times does this little idea of ignoring and pushing forward instead of listening, comprehending and accepting, happen to you? Yes its small, yes it’s a basic idea but it fits the narrative of the hardships we learn from life through its lessons. And in that way, with this reminder we can start enjoying the outcomes from the blessings of life’s lessons instead of the impact we get from the misery or misfortune we’ve come to deal with after the fact. By ignoring the signs? The only control is in the acceptance we “achieve” from a forced result in the end. So doesn’t it make more sense in a given circumstances we may find ourselves in, to accept the circumstance? And inevitably control the outcome? Again, “Remember the Photograph”. Photographs start as a negative until they are exposed, by ignoring the blessing, we expose ourselves to the negative. If I give myself the time now to expose myself to the negative, I can have a greater control in the outcome that guides myself in my environment.

Initiating and its struggles

Lets just say this month has been “Weird”. I spent so much time, energy and put so much pressure on this project I have started that I’ve completely missed out on what I had begun and done. As of late, I’ve been struggling with this concept of what makes up who I am, and its relationship with who I want to be. This inevitably led me down a hole I was familiar with. “Relapse” isn’t a word I use a lot, and like the word “Recovered” it holds a certain weight and attention that is extremely distinctive and individualistic to the person it is in usage with. But again, I’ve found myself in a “hole”, and I needed to be here again to realize that this hole I am was in is self manifested. Like before I dug this hole for myself, but this time, I caught myself early enough to stop digging. I realized that I was in a very similar place I was a couple years ago, again barely eating and trying to be some “starving artist”. And I came to the realization that as of late, I've spent so much time trying to be a starving artist, I’ve wasted all the time in becoming an actual artist, and just wound up starving. Starving from food yes, but also starving from purpose. I was passion starved. My body officially resembled how I felt, again. So I do what I always do? Think back, reflect and remember the steps you have already taken. Im in this hole digging, but there's a ladder down here I left from last time. How did I recover before? After spending some time meditating I remembered I have to get this manifested struggle out of my head and focus on the issues in my reality, this is where it hit me.

Since I’ve been going down this process of my new life journey, I’ve kept one question at the core, what makes me, “me”. And I've come to the idea that it’s not just what I do, or how I do it but it's “why” I do it as well. This concept and symbolistic relationship that I have of, “What, how, and why you do is who you are, and if what you do is your passion, then through the consistency of doing it every day you’ll be full-filled with the most authentic genuine life, which will lead to pure happiness” became my new obsession and goal. So with the focus on myself, I’ve really set down this path in finding out how to apply this approach to life so I can finally find self sufficient happiness. Step 1, why does anyone do what they do? Don’t humans do everything out of want or need? I’m comfortable to break it down to such a bare singular idea, because at our core when it comes to the individual it becomes extremely personal and singular. My old doctor once told me, “Everything we do is either for pain or pleasure, dopamine or discomfort.” Sticking with life lessons, I was also told “Do what you love every single day and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Add these two together and in practicality, they work together, both in short term and long term. To me it made sense and these two sayings were how Ive perceived my life. Figure out what you do for pleasure, for the dopamine, and do it every single day and make it become your job so you’ll live a happy life. It's a perfect accumulation, it made sense and seemed kinda easy so I setoff for this journey. But before I can put this equation into process I needed to find that pleasure, that passion that makes me want to do something I love so much that I can do it everyday and be happy. So starting young with this idea, I looked around and tried to see if any one person did anything that I liked so much, I would see if it had the same effect on me. Looking at the people around me it was my brother with hockey, but after playing on multiple teams at the same time, it was wearing me out more than fulfilling me. Then it was music, my best friend, same results. Then it was college and teaching, my sister, just left me feeling dumb and wasting my time. And then I was 26 and I driven these “passions” of mine into the pavement. Because they were not my purpose, no matter how hard I tried to make them be. This is unfortunately an issue, see the more I did the job or pursued the career, it didn't make me happier. And seeing how happy those other people were doing it, I instinctively did it more and more, and when doing this instead of maybe stopping or changing what I was doing, I doubled down and worked harder, which is a double edged sword, because I would be doing well, sometimes even excelling and people would notice my work and outcome and that made me feel good. And that made me put more value on that thing I was doing, which made me neglect my true feelings on the subject even more. The intention is great and I pride myself so much on the outcome of my work but I really had to try and figure out why this idea matters so much. And no matter how much what I was doing meant to me in a positive way, I know that I can not do something with such a value on it and not have it become an obsession. And when it gets to that point what I’m doing usually consumes my entire day, even me entirely, and then it becomes soul destroying. This has happened again and again no matter how pure and well meaning the approach was. But why am I trying to control so goddamned much? After contemplation I really started to be terrified with the idea if I don’t do something important to me, then it won’t be important at all, and if you are what you do and how/why you do it, and if what you do isn’t important… then aren’t you, not important? And if you’re not important, then aren’t you nothing? And you’ve been doing nothing really important for 25 years, and you put so much devotion into this idea, doesn’t that make you a failure? As a failure, what ideas will people have of you now? What will you leave behind?

This revelation/realization crippled me. This was the basis of the idea to starve myself. I was nothing, so I wanted to embody that, I wanted to be nothing. I wanted to just physically disappear, so I tried. This idea, or just the significance of this “plan for life” and how damning this thought is, is obviously unique. But to this day, it’s still an idea that I view as relevant and true. Which leads me to often fall prey to this ideology that have to claw myself out of. And luckily the approach in combating the sense of “being nothing” is something I also have experience with. “What are you allowing food to stop you from doing?” This was all it took for my old doctor to flip a hardened switch in my brain. My doctor truly was a main component in saving my life, and this question and was how he did it. He showed me that it wasn’t “why” I didn’t I want to eat, but the “what” and “how” I’ve manipulated and replaced an issue in my reality, with an issue of food. Well the issue? Being stuck in life and depressed so instead of breaking through this rough patch, I manifested the struggle by every day imposing an issue on what I need to do to sustain my life. AKA lacking substance in life? Diminish myself of all substance. It was definitely a mind-blowing realization, I never thought of what I was doing in this way and it truly saved me. But that was then and here I am again, depressed and slipping. I’m again having to face myself and rediscover why this is happening. How am I here AGAIN??! As I search and ask myself these questions, I see the ladder in the hole I’ve dug. So knowing and realizing the signs, I stopped and used what I’ve learned to climb out. Ask yourself the questions that have led you to recovery. What am I putting so much emphasis and importance on, that its becoming a struggle and such an issue its inhibiting me from progress? Well, this plan of living my “passion” once saved my life right? And I don’t really know what my passion is, so is my life worth living? Sounds drastic and dramatic but it doesn’t start off this way, it grows into this. This is the end point and that’s why I care so much about passion and purpose and how I value myself, because it gave purpose to my life once before, so I need that fulfillment in life to consider it worthwhile. Luckily I have the experience and wherewithal to realize this is the hole, and the more I put value on it or double down on it, means I’m still digging, but my realization of it? Means I’m climbing. And now I feel like I’m almost out, climbing the ladder. And that made up, imaginary ladder I’m on? Well, it’s actually real. 

I came up with my new mantra, “Go. Be. Different.”. Together as a sentence it works, individually it stands for this: “Go”, literally get up and start. “Be” be the art, don’t worry about how it or you look, think authenticity. “Different” stop trying to be on other people's paths and journeys. I realized again the difference between wanting and being is doing, so it all works and its something I frequently remind myself with. “Go. Be. Different.” And what exactly am I going to do, what am I becoming, and what's so different about what I'm doing? Well, I'm starting. Im initiating and I’m being an artist on my own path. And that path is my podcast and Art of Passion Project. The Project will essentially be a week with an artist and I plan to deliver through an audio podcast, with a photography collection, a written article and short film based off that guest and their passion. My hope for the podcast is to reach out to an audience and help them find their purpose by having the guest share theirs, and draw in that connection and community by their stories and the importance of their passions. This so meaningful to me not just because I want other people to live the happiest life they can, but because I’m still trying to figure out how to live a life of passion, still trying to make this concept work. This project encapsulates my idea of a meaningful life, a life worthwhile. I have some great guests lined up, and I’m so excited to really go down this path and that terrifies me. Yes, it terrifies me, and yes this struggle of being open and vulnerable and starting something new manifested into a mental struggle that almost stopped me from doing it, but I’ve started and I could not be more excited. I hope you are as well!

Burn out, Reflection, and My Future.

I often reflect on what people admire about someone. Its a weird, but natural thing humans do. Think about it, there is some aspect of someone else that you’ve deemed worthy enough to desire and possibly acquire. Now its essentially the lowest form of envy, or jealousy, thats why its weird to me. We often are told not to compare or get envious of others, I mean its a lesson stemmed back to biblical times, and I think it’d be safe to say that this part of human contact isn’t looked upon as negatively, because the next step of admiration for someone is creating not just using one part of that person, but their whole being as an “ideal” for you and your life. Introduce what we call a role model. When talking to people there seems to always be at least one person who they can look to as their role model. Introspectively, this never seemed accurate. There were many things I like about certain people, no one person could ever really just “take the cake”. There were parts of Bruce Wayne, not just batman, parts of Jay Gatsby, Remus Lupin, my father, other family members and friends, that I really admired. Like so many others these fixations and fascinations started at a young age. Funny thing though, I remember being a kid in my room created this amalgamation of an idea of this “super person”. By using what I thought was the best aspects and characteristics of people, this was my idea of self identity. Growing up like this, I never really wondered about who “I wanted to be”, instead I always tried to figure out “who I think I should be”. This conundrum, if you will, is something that followed me my whole life. Retrospectively I came to realize that everything I did, pursued or liked when I was younger was influenced by someone else. This self identity I came to grow into really had nothing to do with “Self”, but the aspects of identities from other people. Getting other perspectives of this it seems that this isn’t a unique approach to life, but they all seemed to go through, or go to, something I never really did. And this is where the often say “College was where I found myself”.

High school was fun, I did a lot of growth and it was the first time where I began to combat this “identity crisis” but I can’t say there was real completion nor accomplishment of who I was. Post high school I found myself essentially pursuing a life that seemed decent, full of love, struggle, commitment and purpose. I found a girlfriend, a decent job, and I prepared myself to take care and grow with her. Lacking one, I found an identity within someone else, it was easy and something I was used to doing with girlfriends. But I truly think, and this may sound drastic, this set me on a course for where I would find myself a couple years later, in full treatment for my depression and anorexia. And this lack of development really took its effect during my stay at home where I attended community college. Funny thing? I always dreamed of going off to college, I always wanted to go away, meet new people and be whoever I wanted to be. Have a new identity, create who I wanted to be known as. These people were new! They didn’t know who you are in high school. “Find your identity”, thats a big aspect of college correct? There was something so attractive about having that chance of a clean slate, the idea of being whoever you want to be. Truly making yourself in your own image, I could be someone totally different, I could experiment and try things and be someone new, fresh, but I never did. I never got that experience. I don’t know if that’s phony or not, or if this even truly happens, but let’s be real everyone seems to have done it. There was a time though, which I believe was my first actual step to personal growth and development, that took place during my recovery from anorexia. There were 2 questions my doctor asked me which truly starting my recovery, my inner awakening. “What’s your passion?”, and “What should you be fulfilling that you’re letting food stop you from doing?”. I remember these questions like it was yesterday, I remember how they made me feel, the drive and motivation, and I remember my answer. But these questions were asked 2 years ago, and up until a couple of weeks ago, I thought I still believed that answer.

These last 2 weeks have been weird. For the first time in what seems like a very long time I wasn’t bogged down in a productions. This is the first time since what seems to be October that I’ve actually had time to sit and reflect on what I’ve been doing, my choices and my future. With the planning of my departure from my day job I had some pretty grand dreams and goals to fulfill. And one of those dreams, again, stems from something from when I was a kid. For as long as I could remember I always loved conversing with people. It was my favorite way of spending time with them, and my love for this is something I think I can actually do “professionally”. As a history lover, I have always had such a thirst to understand people and why they do what they did. People are really like enigmas and puzzles, there are so many layers and every perspective, life and lesson learned is unique and interesting. In studying History, we often cover how countries, societies and generations change and grow by learning from past mistakes. You see this mostly in the communities that are covered particularly in times after war. This is do to the lessons people learn after either overcoming or being defeated in a battle based on beliefs. These beliefs are understood to be wrong and they pass that lesson down to the next generation, and this is evidently prehistoric. But more on a personal level, this feature of communal learning is communicated through wisdom. These lessons are not scientifically factual, they are not based on years of peer reviewed evidence, they are extremely personal and individualistic. And these are the lessons I love hearing, and most particularly, hearing about how someone came to them and what they’ve learned from them. In my opinion this type of interpersonal communication tends to lead people into a deep, emotional connection, which can be hard because this requires more than a surface level agreement. One often has to expose themselves of a mistake or hardship to delivery these lessons, which informs and demands trust and respect. This level of communication doesn't just happen off the bat, but it’s extremely rewarding and fulfilling when reciprocated. I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of these conversations in my life and I often look forward to them in relationships and friendships. And its these conversations and its this love of human connection that led me to creating and pursuing my podcast, which was the reason for leaving my job. But luck would have it that at the time of pursuing this dream of mine, I got 2 opportunities I couldn't turn down, which has led me to where I am today, trying to pick up the slack of what I’ve let fall by the waist side. 

After leaving my job and going into 2 big productions, it felt like I was shifting into a higher gear, putting the pedal down and just grinding. Having wrapped both production I’ve recently found myself trying to keep that momentum going, that motivation, drive and thirst for accomplish-based fulfillment. But I couldn’t do it, I had nothing left. I often found myself with nothing to do, which led to much needed, harsh, soul searching. After this reflection I found myself off my path, lost and disappointed. But its times like these that I needed to really focus on, and prepare myself. What’s important to me? Like really, what's important to me? My work is important, and I know I can pride myself on my work, and I’ve always just worked a lot, it’s essentially all I know, it’s all I ever really do and I often put a lot, albeit maybe too much value on it. And it feels good when people appreciate my ethic and what I can produce. But I realized something, I often talk about hard work vs talent and I think this was the time I really had to swallow the tough pill. So, let’s be real, I’m not talented, I can just work hard. What comes with this revelation is that I will always have to overcome this feeling of not being good enough. And what hit the hardest was that as of late, I don’t work hard for myself. I really only work as hard as I do because it’s what I see other people admire about famous, or profound people. They work hard, and they often sacrifice a lot to get the best product they are working on. So that's what I do, I imitate and imposter. So after all this, and much contemplation I found myself back in a familiar state. My eyes were glowed to either my computer screen or an old book. I was reading, watching, thinking, reflecting, going through everything I possibly could. I figured I had to get back to why I made this drastic jump, this bold leap to follow my passion and heart. To get back into full swing in my productions, my podcast, my interests. I had to remember back when I was working my day job I gave myself an ultimatum, I made myself a promise. As soon as that job starting inhibiting me from outside and personal productions, then I would quit that job. With my idea for my podcast series, and when the opportunities came for the Documentary and the Indy feature film, I knew I couldn’t do it all. Something would have to give and my career in the film industry must not be held back by the idea of security and a paycheck. But since I’ve left my company to fulfill this dream, I have not stopped working, nor ever worked harder in my life. Yes, launching my production company and Patreon was really my plan and my reason for leaving, but these other 2 productions felt like something I needed to do, and I had to fully commit and put everything else aside. Having finished those 2 productions and with plans on starting my podcast next week, I found myself in yet again, another dilemma.

To Be continued.

What does Pride mean to you?

Over the past 2 weeks I wrote about certain passion projects, and the importance of a production crew. This week will be a continuation on that topic but with a concentration on a particular project that has more of my blood, sweat, and tears than any other production. A couple weeks ago I posted about a documentary I was working on with the City of New York for the first ever World Pride Parade hosted by NYC as it was celebrated on the anniversary of the riots at Stonewall, where I teased about having its own article and post saved for a later date. Having just recently wrapped production I think it’s time I tell this world about this documentary. Let’s start off with some questions. Can you list what the letters in “LGBTQ” mean? Or what the colors in the pride flag represent? What about the trans flag? What if I asked you about Stonewall? Now, I’m not asking these questions thinking you know all this, because 2 months ago I didn’t have any clue. I’m asking because when looking at all the years of work and effort done by the LGBTQ community, is the public any more knowledgeable? Am I any more knowledgeable? After coming out of this production 2 months smarter, 2 months stronger, and 2 months tougher, I’d like to dive deep into what I’ve learned from this community, and how they showed me what a being a part of community really means regardless of whatever you identify with.

We would often ask the subject we were interviewing, “What does Pride mean to you?” It seems like a simple, yet direct question. But what was amazing was hearing the different types of answers. Never were 2 answers the same, some stemmed from the same place, or seemed to have similar foundation, but it was so individualistic. We had some really key people interviewed in this doc and the whether the answer are from a openly gay public official with HIV, a seasoned Drag Queen, or just a young teen with a hopeful heart, the answers all varied. “Pride” meant so many different things all of them. In the beginning I was a little taken aback because there didn’t seem to be any real unity with this word, everyone had a different meaning and “Pride” seemed to be a bit of a blanket motto. But shoot after shoot, experiencing the history of this movement, the history of these individuals I came to really understand this word and what it could mean for someone. Standing there listening to these people, I had to flip the question and really ask myself, what does pride mean to me? Not as a gay man, but as an individual. I figured in essence, it starts with acceptance. And it’s true by what they say in death and addiction, that first step? Seemed to be the hardest. As someone who has struggled with this step with my mental health, I know all too well how difficult it is to appreciate and love who you are.  And this is not at all me trying to say I know what this community has gone through, because for them? It wasn’t just an internal struggle. For some people it wasn’t just personally accepting themselves but from people accepting who they were. Historically its no secret that there has been a great opposition between the gay community and their paralleled modern societies. Today? Everyone on both sides would praise how far we’ve come. But there still seems to be hostility and opposition that without pointing a finger falls particularly strong on one side of the politician spectrum. And funny enough, these particular groups resemble each other. Their history is to protect their rights, and keep being vocal against things they believe are being taken away from them. I mean it goes down to the super political. They don’t like big government, they don’t want handouts, and although they don’t fear “change”, they have such a great culture and community that they want to keep it that way. In the beginning, I thought this was a great angle for our Doc to take. Help bridge the gap, by showing the connection through the similarities of both communities. Help by being a platform to share the stories, so others who oppose can see the resemblances and relate. In the end, I still believe the Doc does that, and as a civilian I still think it should be something talked about more. But again, looking back now that I'm a bit distant from it all, I realize I was still lacking what “Pride” meant. And that was really what we were trying to capture. Which made my job pretty hard, how can I truthfully and honestly represent “Pride” and teach its meaning on a global scale, if I can’t even do it on an individual scale? If I can’t even do it on a personal scale?

I guess I found the reason why I was struggling to understand what pride meant, was because I couldn’t make it past step one. How does someone accept themselves fully, or even begin to embrace accepting themselves if they cant even get past the liking who they are, let alone the thought of even loving yourself so much you project your image for people to see who you are.  Some of the most beautiful moments where seeing how people portrayed how they saw themselves in their own extravagant fashion, future pun intended. I guess it could come off weird to someone, but when I see someone in drag I don’t see a man behind makeup. I saw someone who wants to project their soul, personality and identity regardless of what they lack from a viewer's eye. The fucking courage that takes a human to do that? Is truly something I’m “proud” to see as a bystander. It’s so easy to see someone be in drag and wish to have that strength, but what I didn’t realize is that was the final step in their acceptance. I got so caught up and focusing on my end goal, that I completely missed the most fundamental foundational step. I wish I had that courage, that understanding and accepting. I've been thinking and wishing I had that last step, that Pride step, that projection, but I didn’t even have the first step. I wanted people to see the image of what I thought was the real me. Next week, I’m going to post about my future and how it all has been part of my “process” of being my true self. But this documentary not only exposed me to so much, it exposed me. It broke me down, my self image, my needs and wants. I left my job for a new path in life and I’m not sure I still want that life after this experience. I used to see myself, and what I thought I should be, so I got my metaphorical makeup out and put it on. I got titles and positions I always dreamed of having, I made posts and plans, scheduled and prepped, but that was all done on an idea of a future “better me”. But I dont have makeup, or a dress, or an iota of that process these powerful women must have gone through. And that’s not something anyone can do for me or give me, but they taught me the lesson I needed to learn, I just have to put it in use. I have so much to learn about myself, and I have it all to thank from this community, and this experience. So many to thank. To my crew and everyone who I got to meet, thank you, thank you, thank you.

I know I’m a couple days late with this article but I really wanted to take my time and make sure I post about what I really I needed to say. Plus there were some things I had to run past a few people and although this isn’t everything I originally wanted to post about, this Doc is really important not just to me, so I feel the need to release this and I can’t push it back any further. I started writing this article about a month ago and where I’ve ended up now is vastly different than what I originally planned. Rewrite after rewrite I thought I had it, an idea about how amazing and awesome this experience was, because the bottom line, it truly was and I can’t express that enough. But, finding myself looking back and this production, and after having some time to sit with what I did and saw, I decided to scrap half of what I wrote and take a new path. Because through this new journey I’ve started for myself, I’ve strived for 1 thing. All I want to do is live a more genuine, truthfully fulfilled life. Like this article, I thought I had it. I thought I knew what that was, but that image I made for myself a couple months ago has changed, again. So if I were to talk about acceptance and what it means, and what it takes to accept yourself, I better be pretty damn accepting of myself. And, at the end of the day, I didn’t feel it. And my article lacked truth, and that’s one thing I can’t stand for. Not only did I need it, it needs to be. So if I want live this life, and be as honest or truthful as I need to be, I had some serious work to do. I seem to have history with this process of growth. I base my idea of what happiness means to me by how someone else sees it. And I copy how they embrace it and how they accept themselves. But it never works because it’s a manner that is so extremely idealistic and individualistic. This is their acceptance, this is how they portray their identity. If I want to be truthful and honest, I must find my own way of accepting myself and my own way of living that truth. In essence, I guess I’ve learned that the end goal can be the same, but the journey has to be uniquely my own.

So back to the question I had in the beginning, what do I want for this doc, or what do I want people to get out of this? By using the approach the LGBTQ community uses to love themselves, I’d like to teach people how to do the same and support each other, even if they don’t represent a specific community. I hope the common person sees how easy it can be done, by seeing how unbelievably amazing it is to be a part of a community where everyone accepts and loves themselves. Hopefully they can see the strength and beauty in this community because there is nothing to fear or hate about them, we should be so proud that all they want is inclusion and acceptance in our society, to be seen as a normal part like everyone else. So the question to me seems to not just be about pride, but what are you proud of in yourself? It’s not about what pride represents to them, but what is it about them that they represent as pride. Having “Pride” isn’t the end goal, it’s not a finish line, it’s the journey. “Pride” isn’t the identity of the community, the community is proud of the identities of who make it up. That’s why there are so many letters in LGBTQ+ because, it’s all about the individuals that make it up. All in all you control what you’re proud of, and you get the choice to be proud of something or not. I’ve never fully accepted things about myself, and I’m not proud of that but there is no end goal to this. There’s no commencement into this community, because you’re already apart of it because your on the path, so in essence “Pride” isn’t something you have, or are given, it’s just what you do.

So in a convoluted way, Pride isn’t something you just have, it’s what you do. So be proud in all you do, because that makes up who you are/what you have. 

Now listen to this song and realize how awesome you fucking are, because “Hey! You’re part of it”

And go to this link if you want to read up more about the Humans Of Pride Documentary, please feel free to promote and support!

Working with your best friend and accepting your self

So due to some legal things this weeks article has to be postponed to next week, so I thought I’d write an article about working in the film world with friends and how that relationship can effect your friendship. Hope you enjoy!

I’ve been told that going into business with friends and family is often something to avoid when possible. But what if you and your best friend are so close, so “two in the same” that you both end up pursuing a common love? And what if your both really good at it? Add on top of that, you and your best friend are so compatible its obvious you’re the light to the others dark. You're so like-minded that when you do it together it’s so natural, you make each other better at it. Well, then you’d find yourself in the same boat I find myself. And in that boat with me is the man I’d like to introduce you to, he’s known as “My best friend Tom Finn”. Tom, not only being my best friend, is somewhat tied together with me in a weird production relationship. Although this “Production-ship” is fairly new, it was inevitable as it seemed to be a leg in our friendship. Whether or not it’s a healthy aspect in our life’s, “being on” or “putting on a show” seems to be how we spend most of our days together. Gone were the days of just hanging out, we found our self frequenting coffee shops, trying to make each other laugh playing improve games and practices to make the time go by. And an idea that stemmed from an improve game, turned into a little movie known as “Ghoul Catchers”.

First off to Tom, or anyone who works with us, I hope you know how much I love working with you. What we do is often crazy, but it’s unbelievable to be apart of. And as proud of our work as I am, I don’t really know why I never posted about this film, or why I never posted about the last film we released a year ago. I’d like to think its not my ego that gets in the way of my actions, but with this I think it may have been. Funny enough, “ego” is often described as something someone uses as a defensive mechanism, almost as a weapon against others, and that couldn’t be any further from the truth in my case. I wish I had more of an ego to feel comfortable in posting some of my/our work. Whether with films, photography or acting, this issue seems to be prominent in all I do. Let’s get something straight, although I have no issues being on a stage, or performing, I am most comfortable behind the camera. I can handle lines and dialog fine but lets be real, I am in no way an “actor”. But yet I’ve stared in the last two productions I’ve be an actor in, and both have been feature length films. Totally transparent, here’s to my ego: I’ve always been told I was funny, I often make people laugh and that’s one of my favorite things to do. I know I have a good personality and am a “good time”. Im talented infront and behind the camera but with that being said, I don’t think I can ever be called “bubbly”, hell I’m told to smile more almost everyday. I’m in no way the “Light” to someone’s “Dark”, and the issue with me on screen is that the characters I play are the opposite of who I am and I don’t feel comfortable “being” or even having something perceive me as that person. So why do it? Well, I didn’t/don’t do it for me and my ego, I do/did it for Tom. I invest my self in things I believe in, and I believe in him. Even if we weren’t best friends, I’d see the talent and the effort he puts into his work and I’d reciprocate that, and then some. As I’ve expressed in past articles, productions and the film industry are funny, and that’s without working with friends and family. Productions often fail because of personal issues between people, and failing outs between key players. Theres a lot of strain on people, since shooting days are long and you’re usually with the same people for countless hours day after day. Its no wonder why a film set can make 2 people either fall in love, or drive them away forever. And unfortunately whether or not Tom knows it, this last production we were on probably put the most strain on our friendship to date.

Whether tom or anyone knew my struggles with working on this film, it was something I really had to battle with at almost every shoot. Because we are a bunch of friends on an independent production, using all our own gear, resources and time, it’s understandable when I say shoot are often felt rushed and chaotic. Now with my frequently crazy production days, the only time to get shooting done turns out to be when you should be sleeping or recovering from your 12 hour day job, then have to go star in an Indy film with our friends, doesn’t always sound like a lot of fun. There were often moments where I just didn’t want to be there, I didn’t want to do it. On top of having a day job, working on other productions, now this? More free work to go to something I’m sure no one will see? why is Tom making me do this? I’m embarrassed to say this is what I was thinking. In retrospect, I know there were other things influencing my emotions. When I see the final film, its evident that I was struggling with my eating. For a production that only took a month, my weight loss towards the end is something often noticed. With an unhealthy mind and body, this built into an unfortunate situation revolving and leading to resentment. There were some nights I really felt like I was either missing out on something I either deserved or needed for myself, and there were some nights I’m sure no one wanted to be around me on set, not even Tom. And theres a weird power dynamic shift that often happens when you start to either work for or under a friend. Now I will never blame my actions on my issues because they are not an excuse. I decided to act/say/do everything, and I hold all the weight. This was a brutal, cold and long production but there were moments I needed to go through, and emotions that needed to be felt for me and Tom's relationship and we were put to the test. But with this, so much has come from this experience. We’re more open with each other, communication has never been better and we have a deeper love and appreciation for each other than ever before. This was a difficult yet necessary growing experience I’m happy we went through, and I’d like to think I learned something more than this from this production. I learned a lot about myself. It’s hard to work with your friends, there are pressures and stresses you wouldn’t consider if you swapped them for a stranger. The idea of letting someone down upsets me, but letting down my best friend is something I can’t live with. This production probably couldn’t have happened at a worse time for me. Slipping away into a relapse, working essentially 2+ jobs and then filming this whenever possible, and trying to keep myself happy with the reflection in the mirror seemed to be an impossible task. What I was doing was feeling uncomfortable about more than just my weight and what I looked like, I was uncomfortable about my “everything”. And I took it out on the people around me, and for this, I am sorry. I am sorry to the crew, my friends and Tom. I am so god damned proud of what we do and what we’ve done. So with that, Ghoul Catcher for life. 

Ok i'm done complaining now, no more pity talk and really what I want to say is this… You know whats the best? You know what’s fucking awesome?! Seeing and working with my best friends and watching how talented they are. I’m so lucky to have a select few friends and holy shit are they talented. My best friend is one of the best comedic writers I have ever read, and another one is a fucking Jersey Boy, and that’s just from this shoot alone. They’re my best friends and I’d do anything for them, want to know why? Because they accept me, all of me. And if there really is anything I did learn from this production it was the beginning of my accepting of myself. So if you’re reading this and struggling, I love you, your friends love you, your family loves you. If you don’t think you’re enough or worth the love? You’re wildly outnumbered. So flip the switch, treat yo’ self, and realize what you’re missing out on.

So please if you’re interested in checking out of film, the trailer link is listed below!

https://vimeo.com/338297564?fbclid=IwAR0uiW3gJnLa9hT1VUtLSTKQUyjgFFWHyKFkgTICac04v17zK9Otz8leeT4

Passion Projects and the Production crews behind them, Part I!

     Full disclosure ahead, this will be a “Part 1” of a 2 part article based on the 2 productions I am currently working on. Both have been unbelievable and deserve their own words. These productions and films have been the best and biggest thing I’ve done yet, and there is no doubt the effort, outcome and importance of both films are amongst the proudest things I’ve ever done in my life. Alongside the birth of my podcast, these are the other 2 reasons why I quit my day job to live the life of an artist. They are the encapsulation of passion, they have my heart, soul and plenty of blood, sweat and tears. So here’s Part I, it’s about a Film I worked on called “Triple Threat”. Enjoy!

     Often I get asked about what it is I “do”. Which is a weird question because it makes me have to drag them into a very confusing subject that most people don’t even consider a “real job”. “I’m a filmmaker” I say. Then I tag on, “And a photographer, but photojournalism, not really portraits… But my dream is to be a documentarian, but I am working a lot in narrative film work as we speak.” Either thinking I’m working for Spielberg or Netflix they ask, “Oh, narrative? What’s your role?!” Im then forced to paint a spider web of inter-tangling titles and roles as I try to explain the Indy Film Industry. “I really kinda do everything, as I like to call myself a one man production team”, this normally ends the conversation after a “Good luck”, and “Can’t wait to see your finished work”. To their credit, I think the idea of it not being a real job to some, stems from the fact that in inner workings of the industry are a bit difficult to understand. The film industry is funny, especially when you take into consideration of unions, titles, and positions. Have you ever stayed after a movie was finished and read the credits? Why are they so long? And what the hell is a “Best boy”… Really? “Grip?!” That’s not real. “Why is “Catering” going to get there own credit?” To all these questions people have based off the scroll let me just say a few things. YES, the actors are numero uno. Their names deserve to be on the front cover. But the back bone? The foundation? The real reason you just enjoyed that movie is because of the crew. Its because the catering was there to feed the 18 hour manual labor days the Grip had to work for the Best boy. So yeah, it may be a long scroll with a lot of people but if it weren’t for all those people, you wouldn’t have just seen Avengers for the 5th time. So next time you’re watching the Oscars I hope you can realize “Best actor” is greatly deserved, but you can tell how great they are by watching the movie. But when those weird one off acceptors came up and are given a fraction of the time everyone else is? Think about how earned and deserved their time up in that spotlight is because I’m sure you wouldn’t know who that person is just by their name on some scroll 10 minutes after everyone’s left the theater, praising how good looking Gosling is.

     In previous articles I’ve touched on the subject of passion projects and working for free. Last winter I found myself on a small, one off, low budget, streamable mid-series episode of a show I doubt anyone has ever heard of. Now did I ever think anything but experience and knowledge were to come from this small production with an early call time in New Jersey.? Nope. But! What did come out of it was a connection I made through networking with the director, which led to a job that has changed my life. This director was a young woman and I could tell this shoot was below her pay grade. By just her vision and what she wanted, but humbly expected from the actors, I found my self enamored by how she saw the scene. I knew that she was better than this shoot just by the way she worked and just by the direction she gave the actors. Not really knowing anything about directing, I knew she was worth studying and remaining in contact with. So after the shoot that’s exactly what I did and that led me to this unbelievable, humbling, beautiful production I find my self working in as we speak. What do you get when you have 3 best friends who after ten years of development, the musical that they have created is flying towards Broadway. But now thirty, Gus wants a baby. As opening night approaches, Chloe reluctantly donates an egg, Maggie signs on as surrogate, and relationship lines become irreversibly crossed? Well you get “Triple Threat”. A feature length narrative, directed by the writer and star Stacey Maltin. She along side the other 2 main actors are just a few people who make up the production company, “Besties Make Movies”. And funny enough, that’s exactly what this film has been. Best friends, making movies together. Living out their dreams and passions, together! Supporting and fulfilling each out every day for the same goal, same outcome. Being on set and working with this crew reminds me of a quote I often share: “It won’t fail because of me”. This seemingly self involved philosophy means, if everyone on the team has the same goal, then working together the project will succeed. And that’s this film. To me? That alone would make this movie worth watching for me, but where will you watch it? Its an Indy film so I doubt it’s going to have the overwhelming distribution plan Disney has modeled right? Well that’s the thing. This is where “blood, sweat and tears” and “passion project” find their examples. What Stacey and Besties have done is truly unbelievable, and this isn’t even their first attempt! They’ve done this already, completed a other films and a feature called “Landing up”, which is on ITunes! And they’re doing it again! And this time? Its bigger. And it’s going to be better, and succeed beyond their belief because, “It won’t fail because of me”. They might not know this quote, or tell themselves this as the days get long, and your putting in extra hours loading the van, staying later than everyone else has left to go home and sleep after a 14 long day, but they don’t have to. It’s in their blood, it’s in their souls. As a family, this bond,  driven by passion and love for the art is evident and eminent. And this is why I do what I do. I get to see a glimpse that I am not alone in these ideals, that my ideology and approach to art is shared. And there is a family with arms wide open. Ive been told Ive made the family by a couple key players in this production, and if fucking feels awesome. Not just being acknowledged or respected for your work and ethic, but supported because I know this dream I have. And this life I live won't be a failure, because of them.

     So like I said this will be a 2 parter, and if this passion talk and love for art is what you’re into then stay tuned because next week's article is about a production I’m also working on that has my heart and soul. Listed below is all the links to the film and Besties’ website where you can see/more on them. Also, if you can please, please, please donate to this project. This film will be amazing and honestly it’s something that truly means so much to me. So thanks for reading and I’ll see you for round 2 next week!

https://www.seedandspark.com/fund/triple-threat#story

https://www.bestiesmakemovies.com/

Instagram.com/bestiesmakemovies

A life of mental Illness and its effect on ones purpose and future

There’s a great quote I’d like to start off with, “We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one.” If this makes you question the purpose of your life, then good. If it makes you think about why and how you do what you do, then good. If you think, “I wouldn’t want to live a different life, or change anything in my life”, then good. Well, I can mark my life in 2 distinct parts, the first life was a life filled with love, triumph, pain, friends, sports and music. It wasn’t perfect but I wouldn’t have traded that life for anything. But the reason for you being here is because I’m about to start my second life. Although the outcome, nor where I find myself, wasn’t exactly intended, I can tell you subconsciously it was necessary and I am now where, and who I truly belong to be.

In retrospect, I can see the confusion in people when they hear about what was inevitably my culprit demise. Talking about mental illnesses are difficult for many reasons, often one feels it makes them weak, and because rarely physical it’s hard to be aware of someone’s struggle. It’s a personal wound and when not dealt with it can be deadly. What people on the outside don’t know is that, there’s often nothing someone on the exterior can do to change how someone feels on the inside. The “darkness” that’s often officiated with mental illness is a pretty good analogy because that’s what someone struggling sees when they look in and try to figure out why they are hurting. Its dark and it’s been my understanding that the only way to really get out of a struggle is an awakening within yourself, literally by shedding light on the issue. The hardest part? Wanting to find and fix the issue, even having a light, holding it desperately shining it all over your life, you often still can’t see the issue in the darkness. That’s when no matter how hard we “mentally ill” try and still can’t find hope, after failing over and over again, trying to find the issue to change it but cant, we just have to give up. It really seems like the only option. In truth we want to fix and change the issue, but we are alone, we're alone in the dark. The proximity of another human in the world seems so far away because we’ve been searching in our minds for so long, we feel weak, we get lost in our own thoughts and everyone else seems so far away. We’re all alone, and the flashlight is losing battery power, and it’s dark, and its only getting darker. 

As I write this I am comfortable enough to say that in my past I have struggled with mental illnesses. Issues and steep falls into depression and anxiety have been pretty prominent in my life but they were not the most severe. At 22 I was diagnosed with Anorexia and found myself at the lowest point of my life. 26 now, a recovering anorexic, I’m lucky enough to be alive and understand that this does not define me. None of these illnesses have or will. What I do with my life and how I do it will define me. Today I am a filmmaker, a photographer, a history lover and a brother and son to the greatest family in the entire world. This is what I do. I come from the most supportive and accepting family and they have been the biggest blessing in my life. I am extremely thankful and lucky to have a caring and understanding support system but that’s not the case for everyone. The unfortunate fact of the stigmas surrounding mental illnesses still hold power and are the reason why too many people stay silent about their struggles. If you look at the data, mental illnesses are on the rise, suicide rates have never been higher and more people suffer from depression and anxiety than ever before. But why? We live in the greatest time in human history and we have more advancements than ever thought imaginable. So really why are people so unhappy? This question needs to be asked and I think there is an answer, but on a personal level I’m more curious to why do we let these struggles go unannounced and unnoticed for so long. Maybe people don’t reach out because there's an interpersonal emotional disconnect. Maybe people just settle with their struggles because it seems hopeless, or its been happening for so long, they just accept and grow used to it without fully understanding it. When I was younger I often felt depressed and anxious, and I don’t think I knew exactly what these feelings were. After failing over and over again in trying to understand where it stemmed from, I couldn’t figure out exactly why I was anxious. This lack of assurance and understanding turned into the struggle that led to my depression. This horrible diss-eased couple led me wanting to often disappear, and when they told my brain I should disappear, I tried and almost succeeded to physically disappear. As a more experienced person in recovery, I no longer wish for these things or outcome. And throughout time my struggle would often fluctuate with seriousness and intensity, but there’s one thing that has been a constant help and that's opening up and exposing myself of these issues. 

(Tone shift)

Let me introduce to you the pride of Long Island, Colin Moriarty. Colin, born on Long Island, resides in Santa Monica and is the host of “Colin's Last Stand”. CLS is a podcast company that has a couple of conversational series’, one in particular is called “Fireside chats”. Fireside chats is a podcast between Colin and an “eclectic” guest. Recently he requested for people to reach out to him to be a guest if they have an interesting story to tell. Without really thinking of hearing back from him, I decided to reach out and see if I fit the mold, and he believed I did. Cut to a couple months later and I found myself sitting across from the man himself, telling him and his audience about my life struggles with mental illness. Now let’s rewind to a couple months before, and I find myself sitting in my bedroom at 3 am staring at a scattered word document trying to piece together what I want to say. I figured I’d start with just opening up, about everything. Fully transparent. This wasn’t new to me exactly, years in therapy supplied me with enough experience and intellect on where my issues stemmed from and it’s at least a good start off point. But I knew if I really believe in this idea of being and living with honesty and truth, I must act on that in every front. So this became the goal, be completely open, accept and expose your weakness and be transparent. The funny thing? It wasn’t hard. After dragging myself through the shit of remembering/reliving all the times I was struggling, It was so refreshing just accepting my choices and my decisions in life that got me where I am. I found that being fully exposed is the only way to be open enough to accept the things you need to accept. And it was this life lesson that I lead every day with. The best part of my journey with this is that I’ve been lucky enough to create this connection with people, and apparently I've helped them. The feedback I’ve gotten from people who I’ve helped or have reached out to me, has been so eye opening and so soul fulfilling, it’s clearly become the leading aspect of my new purpose in life. Being on Colin’s podcast wasn't just an amazing experience because I was a fan, it showed me that there are so many people out there asking the similar questions I asked and are searching for the same type of purpose filled life. If helping people seems to be my purpose conversing with people about their passions can help them realize the art of being true to living their purpose, then how do I not lead by example and make this my job? Again, it wasn’t a hard decision. So learning from Colin and believing in myself I am more than proud and happy to share with you my purpose, welcome to The Art of Passion Project.

So what does this project mean? well, I believe when people do what they love, truly love they do it so honestly and purely that whether it’s baking, accounting or being a priest, their work becomes art. In short the Art of Passion Project is going to be a podcast, film and photography series with weekly articles and blogs on each featured guest. As a history major, I am enamored about why people did what they did, what was their purpose, their goal? My favorite part of connecting with people is watching, learning and experiencing them living out their passions and fulfilling their purpose in life. And I think a lot of people enjoy these often educational conversations so why not create a platform and deliver these talks to you, an audience? But not only will I be delivering this as a podcast, I will be doing a film series on the subject as well, a brief video of the featured guest in the act of their passion with a selected slew of questions and a photography series of them performing their field. There will even be an article from my POV on the subject, why I chose them, what they do, and what went into their interview. If you’d like to make a donation to my project or become a monthly contributor and support me, you can through my Patreon. There will be content tiers that you can select, and the more you decide to give, the more perks you will get. This project of mine is my life’s purpose, this is my job now, and I am so lucky to understand this and act on it. So I hope you listen, watch and view my work as I bring to you. This new path and direction in my life of sharing peoples ideas, passion and the happiness of people living their passion. It has been an unbelievable start and I hope it leads to building a beautiful community that I can share with all of you. I’m lucky to have a second chance at living a truly purposeful life. Instead of the idea and the fear of “I wouldn’t want to change anything” in my life, I now find comfort in wanting to change. In particular change through growth, from the lessons taught from the lives of people who have something to show, by people who have something to add. I want to keep growing, learning, sharing and accepting. And I know to accept things you must be open to receive, so I am open. Truly, officially and happily open to it all and I can not wait to bring my passion to the world. I cant thank Colin enough for the opportunity to speak on his podcast and I hope you listen to it and support him as well. Please follow me on my social media, my website or at my Patreon. I love you all, but don’t forget to love yourself as well.

Listed Below is my Patreon, underneath that is the link to Colin and my conversation, and below that is a link to a video of me speaking about my anorexia at an eating disorder conference.

Thank you all<3

https://www.patreon.com/ArtofPassion

https://www.patreon.com/posts/fireside-chats-27568762

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGykcKVHCWs&t=108s

Returning the favor: Working with your hero’s and knowing your worth

If I had to think about it, about 90 percent of the work I get can be stemmed from a contact I met on a job I did for free, especially in the beginning. And if I were honest, its probably closer to 100 percent of the jobs. When I first picked up a camera I had no idea what I was doing. But I knew that if I offered free work, with my two rules in life I knew I could count on myself that no matter what were to come from this job, it would be beneficial. Just think about it, no matter what every experience is a learning opportunity and if you do the job for free normally people really admire the fact that you are willing to sacrifice for them. If it’s a photography job, they usually let you have the rights to the photos and because theres often new growth to come out of the shoot, its really a win-win. To be blunt, regardless of the things that would benefit me from the job, I was lucky to even get chosen for the job, and that humbling, yet confidence booster, was always at least one thing to take away from a shoot. But its really not about you, its about what you have to do to succeed at the job. And that takes, ethic, morals and values. If you take these 3 things seriously, theres a pretty damn high chance you wont just get great results, but your contacts will grow as well as your skill and your experience as a worker.

Now there were shoots where things didn’t work out or I didn’t do my best, but I can count on one hand all the times Ive worked on a shoot where I left a job feeling like I failed because I either didn’t give 100 percent of my effort, or I had an issue with someone. I don’t like to be considered an example of anything, but I have to say though I am proof that if you bust your ass and show people you know how to work hard, and you actually want to work hard for them, many will respect you. And that is a better than having skill, ability, or talent. Having never judged a job or a gig, I learned a lot from working with all types of people. From paroles to trustees, Ive learned one thing, businesses run on trust and interests. And trust? Its earned. Its earned through hard work and support of the interests. Bust your ass for someone and what they believe in? And they will remember you. Bust your ass for someone, and the thing you were busting your ass for turns out great? Dude, you’re golden. It really all goes back to two things… Give a shit, and don’t be a dick. This is the ethic I learned from the greatest man in my life, my father. No matter how hard I work, I know that he worked harder at some point and it pushes me forward. (So Dad, thank you and I love ya.) But how well does this all work within balance? There must come a time where this ethic becomes costly, on you, your time and on your price. The balance is explained in its breakdown, what’s more important? You? Body, mind, health, spirit. Your time? You could be doing something else that could benefit you more. Or your price? How much does this all mean to you? Whats your worth. Better question, what’s its worth to you? How will this job better you? Will you learn more about something after this? How many people will you meet from this? What would you really be doing if you weren’t doing this? Is there a better situation to be in? I cant answer theses questions for you, but if your reading this because you like how I work or the work I am putting out in the world, then these are the questions I ask myself. Over, and over, and over again. And 99 times out of 100, it’s a no brainer.

But let’s get into it, you may say that its not worth it to work for free. And yes I AGREE. Some things aren’t worth it. You need to figure out what’s more important. You need to know and understand what exactly makes up your worth. To me, the most important thing is time. And time is money. Travel time, time working, time shooting, time editing, time thinking about the job, it all adds up to a value. But yet again, what’s the value of experience? I’d say one would value that pretty high. Doing work for free will at least give you two things, experience and knowledge. Whats the value of knowledge? Again, valued pretty damn high.. And if you take the job seriously and give a shit about it, you’ll gain more than just that. With all of this, a job is great to learn and grow from, but the best job is the one that challenges you. What you gain most by taking on challenges and doing things that may seem too difficult, is that you expand the threshold of what you thought you could accomplish. In short it’s an awesome confidence booster and will make you want to go even further the next time. And if you fail, and the job was too challenging, you’ll learn from that more than any other experience I can ever explain or give examples for. Cut to last week where I’m currently sitting outside of the location I’m on call for as a Gaffer on an Indy film, and I’m FREAKING OUT. The level of production is a hell of a lot bigger than me and I’m definitely under certified and out of my league. As I try to think about what this shoot will require of me, I am absolutely terrified. So im here, way too early and im listening to my Harry Potter audio book because I know its comfort and it’ll calm me down a bit. Now the production scale of the film industry is weird, an Indy Film can cost absolutely nothing or, could cost a million plus dollars, and this movie seemed to be right in the middle. I don’t know a whole lot about this tier of Indy filmmaking, but I saw an opportunity for a pro bono job awhile back and took it, networked during the shoot, met this films director and she’s taking a shot on me. Its my third day, its back breaking work and I have no idea if I’m getting paid or not. But does that really matter? This is “free” education, and ill be gaining experience and skills I didn’t have before it. So I will go into it like I go into everything, I’m going to give it my 100 percent and do everything that’s asked for me, and more. I Just received a text from my producer and they’re ready for me upstairs. Here I go, wish me luck.

(PS. I did just fine that day, and the next day - more about this production in a future article)

Now recently one of my favorite musicians was about to start his “resurgence tour” and I thought this may be a good opportunity to reach out and see if he could use a photographer. Have I ever done band photos, or live performance photography? Nope. Did that matter? Nope. Did I ever want to? I don’t know, it just seemed like an interesting opportunity. So with nothing but blind faith and good manners I decided to reach out to him through instagram. Again following the same path I’ve traveled countless times before, I offered them my services for free. At this point with a website and social media filled of examples of good work, I had some leverage, and I guess they agreed because they gave me a shot. Now, this is kind of a unique example, I was about to work with an idol of mine so I didn’t care if they offered money, because I wouldn’t have taken it. I’d do anything to even talk to this guy let alone work with him. And what an amazing feeling it is to genuinely do something for someone. One of my favorite things is to capture someone’s moment in time, document that life moment and give them a physical tangible representation of it, AKA give them a developed photo. So not only did I really, really want to work for him I wanted to give him my all. Not just give a shit, but treat this job like its life or death. Essentially, I wanted to return the favor. I’ve enjoyed this mans art for 15 years! How lucky am I to have the opportunity to attempt to do the same!? That night, I believe he saw that passion and that love in my craft and myself. I believe he realized that not only was I a serious photographer but there was something else, he saw my love and ethic. And I believe these things transcribe the photos I took. After the shoot he was extremely thankful and humbled, and it was the best response I could have gotten. That connection with him was 100 times better than really great photos, and thats why you do it. And you do it, again, and again, and again. No matter your work experience, level of technical skills, or talent you have. Nothing trumps passionate hard work, and I think the photos are proof of that.

(And if you want to see the Fred photos please check them out here!)

If you’ve read to this point, I thank you. This article and my approach to work and life are pretty self involved and individualistic, I get this isn’t practical for everyone in every situation. I’m extremely lucky to have been able to pick and choose the way I live my life. I don’t have many responsibilities my parents had, or a single mother has, or what you have. I’m blessed and privileged to be able to have done this. But I know me being blessed and privileged had little to do compared to my ethic, morals and value of my work. At the end of the day theres a joke in my family about what Ive done and my “faking it till I make it”, taking on bigger responsibilities and titles I shouldn’t have without true training or schooling. Truthfully, I think everyone is faking it, or at least faked it in the beginning. So next time you have an opportunity or a job that you want and you’re willing to sacrifice everything, remember that if you put your all into it, do your job and then some, theres an overwhelming chance you’ll be gaining a hell of a lot more in the long run.

Storytelling: Connecting community through communication

Have you ever thought of the most important moment in human history was? Or maybe the most significant discovery in human history? What would you say it was? Fire? Agriculture? THE FOUNDING OF AMERICA?!?!?.... But in all seriousness, lets talk about communication. But even more in depth, the role communication has in a community. Think about what makes someone who they are, they identify with a culture more than anything else. And you wouldn’t have a culture if you didn’t have a community established, and you wouldn’t have a community established unless you had common communication set between people. The communication is how you established the norms, and ideas set within the community. Think about the history and lessons that were so lucky to have because of this discovery. Through communication we got story telling, or vice versa. In its voyage through out history we see how story telling established set rules and norm. Using language and the art of using it as a outlet for telling stories, it created what communities are founded on. In its earliest stages this of connection had limitations of its structure, these days? Twitter and instagram have more of a domination in the writing, and communication market than any other medium. But back to the important thing, story telling. In general its something any one and every one can do, and personally I believe it’s the most important thing we’ve ever done.  

Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be a story teller. I often remember creating stories in my head and how much I’d rather spend time in my imagination rather than pay attention to what was in my reality. Chalk it up to being naïve or even ignorant, but I never really took the idea of becoming a “writer” or a “creator” as a serious profession. If I enjoyed it so much and did it often then it wasn’t technically “work”, right? Yeah I used to think like that. A little sad, but I always thought work meant struggling to get something done, and that’s how I perceived what my future occupation should be. But I guess thats why I can find my self on my current path and journey in life today. So with this new direction and path in life I knew I wanted to document it somehow. Already thinking of ideas about some kind of photo and video series, I figured it was time do take the jump and do something I always wanted to do but never felt “smart enough” to accomplish. It was after all here in college where I picked up a camera, where I learned the notions behind capturing emotions. Where a story can be told with a look, or a gesture, during an instinct, a fracture of time, captured perfectly. That divisive moment that Henri Cartier Bresson talks about, that small sliver in time where a moment has so much meaning, detail and power that an entire story is played out in front of you. This ability we have as humans really shouldn’t be considered but anything less than the most important obligation we have. Its simple, a actions may speak louder than words but words can silence an action. 

Let’s break it down. I also wanted to be a writer. But what kind of writer? I knew my favorite type of writing was the introspective, intrapersonal, life relating stories, I guess something that compelling yet easy and relatable. Now, I have been writing personally my whole life, and yes I was that “pretentious-annoying-Emo-poetry-writer” in high school, but it wasn’t until college where I found my written voice. Being obsessed with F Scott Fitzgerald, I learned the importance of a word. My favorite book is the Great Gatsby and every single word in the book is necessary. Every sentence is perfect, and it to me just encapsulates how important the idea behind a motive can be through elegant description and purpose. Now add that to Charles Bukowskis simplistic free form approach to questioning and documenting life and its true meanings, with the greatest writer of all time, David Foster Wallaces unbelievably personal yet resembling and relatable point of view which was often ironic or self debilitating or telling, and I’d hope you’d get me. Whether or not I’m successful at this, all I want to do with this blog and these posts is maybe share some personal first person insight and intelligence on the reasons why someone does what they do. But where do I go to release my wok? It is even important work? Why would I or really anyone think their ideas are important enough for someone to spend their time investing in your words? Well, I mean you’re here right? So this blog must have some kind of importance, and I hope you know that I am truly, truly grateful for any/all of you. But “written word form” is a product, people often need products, products are costly… you want people to receive your product? Give it to them for free. And that’s exactly what I am doing, not only on here but I recently been given the position as a contributing writer for the online journey “The Grey Journal”. I have already been published on their website along with Apple news as the “new feature” and am currently writing my next two articles with them. Kinda feel like a humble brag or this may not sound all prestigious but like many other things in my life this is just the start and is something that I have always wanted and am extremely proud of. If this is of any interest there will hopefully be  another blog post about my endeavors in writing and a self funded and indy distributed work coming soon!

But is writing the only form of story telling? Let’s go back to photography for a second. We’ve all heard “Every photo is 1,000 words”, and the better lesser known, “every frame a painting.” Now as a photographer I know that’s my job to accomplish the task of artistically capturing moments in life that represent/show/express/encapsulate more with one frame than one could with an entire page. Make a visual visceral connection without having to explain without details. That’s the difference between the written word and the exposed negative. But what about a medium that has 24 frames per second? I don’t have many pinpointed goals in life, but I know I want to make a documentary at some point, and I was recently lucky enough to given an opportunity to shoot and work with an amazing team on a documentary that deals with a subject that hits very close to home for me. This documentary is taking on the responsibility of showing the world the love and pride of the LGBT community. The documentary will be covering the Official world pride parade as it comes to America for the first time, and its importance as it takes place on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Inn raids. Although I personally do not identify exactly as part of the community, the LGBT community has been unbelievably accepting and loving towards me and everyone I’ve seen them deal with. To bring it back to story telling, I’ve learned so much about these people, their struggles and their goals. I’m so blessed and grateful getting to sit across from them and hear their stories, some of them are powerful and courageous and some of them are heartbreaking and soul identifying. This is the representation of the importance of story telling. Through communication I get to experience these peoples lives and learn and grow from them, and its my job to capture it 24 frames per second. I go into my shoots on this doc with the same approach I go into a photography shoot, I have a mantra and I repeat it over and over again, “Where is the story? Where is the story”? And its no different on the documentary. The story is whatever the person is going to talk about, so how can I encapsulate that? How can I capture them in their community, in their world? What on frame adds to their words. And then it all breaks down, one image at a time. One image, one story. I think of it as a photo, the image should embrace what they say by representing their words. That’s my role in this history, pass the knowledge along, spread the community, teach those that are not aware.

All in all, whether its through pen and paper, or camera and screen my purpose in life is to communicate and connect with people. To be open, transparent and accepting, this to me is the only way to see clearly and speak truthfully. And as I go down this journey I hope you follow me on social media to see how I do that with my camera, or read the words here as it’s the purpose of this blog. I just want to share and be open about my self and issues but make it somehow relatable to everyone with precision, concision, and understandable detail. Or read my articles that will come out on the Grey Journal. My becoming a contributing writer is something that I am immensely proud of and cant thank the guys and my editor David for accepting my submissions and taking me on as part of the team, linked below is the article link to their publication site. To be credited as a Director of Photography in a feature documentary is still something that blows my mind. But as cool as it is, being a part of someone else’s story and be a part of the way of playing a role in the community story and the telling and sharing/teaching aspect of it, is the absolute best and most rewarding part. Linked below as well is the website of the documentary and the social media account where you can read more about our goals and contribute/donate to the funds and cause.

  So with that I hope you continue to follow my journey on here in my own words, or see what I’m doing with my camera through social media, or follow my contributions of the Grey Journal! All in all, I truly just hope that I can connect with you and hopefully together through this communication we can learn, grow, spread and great a great little community. 


https://discovergrey.com/work/work-tech/richard-browning-the-man-defying-gravity/

https://www.humansofpride.com/

The life lesson of believing in someone

Disclaimer: This may not resonate with everyone but I would really like to write a quick article on some people that have become important to me within the last 3 years. I believe an article like this may not be the most popular but it may show you how much it means to someone to believe in them. It’s a bit personal, but its from my first hand experience and it really taught me what it means to have people believe in you. So here is my appreciation and acknowledgment to the people who have done that for me these last two years.

6 months after I picked up a camera, I found my self back at square 1. Pretty broke, living at home, and at this point I would consider my self an official “College dropout”. But just like any other day, I woke up, picked up my mothers old Nikon and set out to try and hone in some of my newly acquired “skills”. Now with no real direction, plan of action, and parents who were anxious to see what I was actually going to do with my life, I knew this free living situation wouldn’t last long. Something I have always been grateful for is my relationship with my mom. And I’m proud to say we that out of all the aspects of our relationship, one of the best parts is our communication. We often can see between the words and there was always and understanding about how we really, really feel. I believe she knew up to this point, I was struggling. Struggling to find work and place in life, I found my self in a bit of a rut. I had a quick chat with her and told her I was thinking about going back to the bar and bartending for what I promised would just be for a little bit. Little did I know she already knew this conversation was going to happen and she had been looking for jobs as well, and it was this day were she told me about an ad she had read on indeed.com.

The ad was pretty straight forward, “Diocese seeking camera operator”. Now I’d hardly call my self an “operator”. I mean, a camera owner? Maybe? Up until this point I only had one completed videography job and a select few of decent photos. But on faith I applied, and to my surprise they liked what they saw. A week later I was sitting across being interviewed from my future boss. I don’t remember exactly what we talked about but I remember we barely talked about the position and often found ourselves talking about our passions and art that we loved. Now, I’m sorry if this post isn’t connecting with you right now, but I did say that this all is a personal appreciation article. I got hired that day and they took a big, big chance on me, and this seemed to become a running theme. With no real experience, and absolutely no training or school, they gave me a shot. And not only did they give me a shot but they taught me all they knew. From the producers, to my friends working in master control I can not thank the people I worked with enough for putting their faith in me and teaching me everything from how to deal with talent, to understanding exposure and lighting ratios. Some of the people I met at my old job have become great long lasting friends, and I truly believe they’ll be in my life for a long, long time. Through out the years, yes… not every shot, or angle or lighting ratio was decided collectively or coherently, and there were disagreements and arguments had, and yes… tempers did flair at times. But I am so blessed to have met some of the people that I did over these 2 year and these people became my family and there are a select few I know will be there with me for the rest of my life.

Learning, watching and working with them has been an absolute blessing and it taught me much more than just what makes a production work. Life lessons, handling people, working and dealing with crews of varying experiences, when and when not to talk, I learned how to work with people and lead a crew, be a team player and know what it takes for the product to be the absolute best it can be. Because it deserves to be. In these two years, Ive made two simple rules and they are the rules I apply to EVERYTHING.

Rule 1: Give a shit

- No matter what, no matter with who, always, always, always give a shit and put your 100 percent into it.

Rule 2: Don’t be a dick

- Simple, lead the team by example. Never delegate, but show how to get something done through ethic, morals, hard work, and appreciation.

These rules may sound obvious or simple, but I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.

As I leave this position and go forth on my own, I am proudly taking these lessons with me. There are too many things I was taught to list, and there are some people who deserve their names said even if they don’t read this. Lisa, thank you. Thank you for always giving me a shot again and again, even when things I did seemed “fireable”. There are WAY too many things to talk about here, and what I want to say, so i’ll just say this… “save some chicken for me, bruh”. Dawn-Marie, you ARE STILL my second mom and your gifts make me smile till this day. Your love and nourishment(literally) kept me alive and sane there. You have an amazing soul and I’m so blessed to have gotten to know you so well. Jon, you’re a god damn dad now. You were the person I always wanted to be there. We both know what makes life worth it and the communication we had always made my days better. Like Lis, there are too many things to say so I’ll leave you with this… Chief… Chief…. Chief. I love you guys.

Thank you.

Welcome to the Blog! (Photography, A love letter)

HI! Welcome!

So why a blog? Well ever since I was a kid I wanted to be a writer. There was never a specific genre or type of writing I preferred, I just remember how important it was to be to create and construct a story. It’s kind of funny because as far back as I can remember I was never a big reader. Growing up I always had a hard time concentrating visualizing the story in my head. But, give me a blank piece of paper or 5 minutes of your life and I could draw something for you and then tell you a whole story arc behind that image or character. It was all in my head, and it often got me in trouble.  As a kid with an insane imagination I was often just creating stories or depicting scenarios in my head that I’d rather be involved in, rather than what was happening in my reality. But, this is a post about photography so enough exposition and let me introduce you to the most important thing Ive done at this point in my life.

I remember a particular day in early middle school, just another day where I could often find myself drifting off into my imagination, until history class. There was a moment in my class, where we were discussing one of my favorite topics in American history, The Vietnam War. Now I have to say, I believe the art coming out of this period is the best cultural movement we’ve ever had. To me not only is this music the best music to come from American, but it wasn’t till the introduction of the the edgy, gritty, war themed new Photojournalism style, where everything changed. The photojournalist style that came out of these years changed the importance of what a photograph can do, after this period a camera was not only just something you used to capture an image, a camera became as powerful as a weapon. For the first time humans were able to document and show the world the truth and realities of war and society, and it was here where I saw it.  John Paul Fino’s famous photo of the Kent State Shootings. The photo is a simple black and white, but I will never forget the face of Mary Ann Vecchio screaming and crying over Jeffery Millers Body. I remember being mesmerized. Not only did this picture capture a perfect moment in time, it was like looking into history, I felt like I was there. It alone was a history lesson and you knew the whole story. You can understand and tell what was happening at that particular moment in time, and no words were needed. It was like I knew everything that was happening, and I knew what happened before and after the shutter open end closed, the story was all right there. something changed in me that day, but it wouldn’t be for many years till I acted up on that feeling.

Jump cut 10+ years later. After already graduated college with a music degree and living a life as a musician, I found myself back in the classroom. It was here in a community college classroom where I was in my American History classroom and I saw the photo again. And yet again the wave of appreciation and admiration came over me. I still couldn’t believe after all this time how much I loved this photo and what it represented not only to the importance of that day, and what was happening during that time, but how important and purposeful it was to me. But I seemed to have a different perspective and understanding as I looked at it. I was sitting in the classroom on my way to become a teacher so I could educate people of the importance of our history, and up until that day I really thought that was the best way to do that. But staring at that photo, I realized what the photo was doing to me, it was telling me the story of that day, of those times. No lecture or lesson the professor could have given me that would have compared to what I learned from this black and white. It was only one frame, but it encapsulated more than all the frames in a movie could. I fully changed that day, and I remember going home and picking up my mothers camera that night. The feeling of holding that cheap Nikon camera in my hand, looking through the viewfinder… changed how I viewed the world forever.

Photography is more than just a photo, its an obligation to capture moments in time. Its a literal and historical time capsule. One photo of a subject can make you feel, experience and appreciate something more than an entire encyclopedia on it. Don’t believe me? Check out any photography book on a subject and compare it to all the lessons you learned about that subject from school. I promise you, you’ll know more about what the American people were like during the late 50’s in Robert Franks “The Americans” than you will in any book written on that period. This is why I love photography, this is why I have chosen to make this passion my purpose in life. I hope you have enjoyed this first blog post, I appreciate you even clicking onto this article whether you came from a social media account or stumbled upon my site. I plan on doing more and more of these articles as some will be attached to social media posts and some will be on specific moments, ideas and esoteric interests. So go ahead, pick up a camera, and before pointing it at something, ask where is the story? Find it, then capture it.

John