April 30, 2011

The Struggle

How to feel miserable as an artist (or, what not to do); check all that apply:

1. Constantly compare yourself to other artists.
2. Talk to your family about what you do and expect them to cheer you on.
3. Base the success on your entire career on one project.
4. Stick with what you know.
5. Undervalue your expertise.
6. Let money dictate what you do.
7. Bow to societal pressure.
8. Only do work that your family would love.
9. Do whatever the client/customer/gallery/owner/patron/investors asks.
10. Set unachievable/overwhelming goals. To be achieved by tomorrow.

Being a photographer and having a blog I'm constantly tormented with what to shoot, what direction to take my career and what to post on this blog. Talking with friends, I've often expressed my boredom with shooting what clients tell me to shoot. I basically have very little creative freedom or control when doing my job. Obviously I understand my clients have specific needs but I find myself always thinking I should have done something more creative. I envy many art and fashion photographers who have the ability (and confidence) to do exactly what they want without compromise. These are a very lucky few.

Having a blog, I tend to be MUCH more conservative with my language and photographic content, leaning towards what may be more "entertaining to readers" and less controversial. And, sadly, I'm acutely aware of what might be offensive to my family and friends. A little voice always pops up saying, "would that offend Mom?" I know other photographers who don't take such things into consideration. It's a struggle.

Last night I came across the little list above on some random blog. Pretty much sums it all up.

April 28, 2011

Cello Lady

The other night I hopped on a northbound A train at 42nd street. As I stepped on and picked my seat I glanced over my shoulder to notice a woman rolling her eyes, pissed that I had taken the seat she obviously wanted. Not giving a shit nor feeling especially gallant I sat down and pulled out my book. There were plenty of other seats. She sat across from me holding a cello upright, obviously closer to some street person than she had hoped. She got off at 181st.

Yesterday, I was standing on the platform at 125th when I noticed I was standing next to the same cello lady wearing a red dress (sans cello). She glanced at me with that look of "Do I know you?" I smiled and said, "Weren't you on the train yesterday with a cello?" She smiled and said, "Yes," and then stopped smiling, obviously remembering that I was the dick who took the seat she wanted. There was an uncomfortable silence, so I broke it with, "I'm a big fan of the cello. The Bach cello solos are some of my favorite music." She returned with a raised eyebrow, a look of doubt and a short , "Really?" I said, "Yeah, I have a special bond with Bach, we were born on the same day." Her eyes lit up and she replied, "Me too!" I said, "Get the hell out of here." Smiling broadly she said, "March 21st, that's amazing...." I said, "Yep, first day of spring, How crazy is that?" I reached out my hand to shake hers, "I'm Stephen." She replied, "I'm Leigh."

Just as the words left my lips the train arrived and I jumped on. As it pulled away I didn't look back at her. Then I realized that in my haste to leave this odd conversation I had jumped on the wrong train.


I saw this and couldn't help but wonder whether three people sat on this stoop drinking coffee or if one person drank three cups over a period of time (and was too lazy to toss the cups in the trash). I obviously have way too much time on my hands to ponder such things.

April 27, 2011

Grounds for Divorce

There are two kinds of sleepers: beautiful sleepers and ugly sleepers. Sadly, a person rarely ever knows which they are. I doubt anyone ever tells their significant other, "Damn you're ugly when you sleep."

I remember years ago I would occasionally fall asleep on Mario's couch and when I woke up he'd be giggling like a little kid. Thinking he painted something on my face with a Magic Marker, I'd say in a suspicious voice, "What'd you do to me?" Then after a few minutes of making me sweat, he'd show me photos he had taken of me while I was sleeping. Usually curled up on my side, hands clasped together and pinched between my thighs in a semi fetal position. Mouth closed and content looking. Not so bad really. He thought it was hilarious. Actually, I looked almost exactly like my previous post from a few days ago of the little brown man asleep on the ground next to the door.

On Sunday it was sunny and beautiful, in the high 70s. While walking through Central Park I came upon this ghastly sight lying on a bench. WAY beyond "ugly sleeper" status. I had to take a photo of this hideous creature. Without a doubt, the ugliest sleeper I've ever seen in my life.
Personally I think ugly sleeping should be justified grounds for divorce. Who could possibly get sexually aroused after looking at something like this night after night? It's repulsive. That limp drooping face, mouth gaping wide open, looking like death. If that's not a BK (boner killer) I don't know what is.

Is that a man or a woman? Whatever it is...it's frightening.

Saw this oddly lit corner on 4th Ave and East 12th street.

I know, this looks like a photo I may have taken in my Photo 101 class 30 years ago at NOVA. I was walking around the Central Park sailboat pond when I spotted these two geese standing on a drain cover. I found the the reflections to be somewhat interesting. What can I say?

April 25, 2011

Meatbats, real music with no additives

Once in a blue moon a band comes along that renews your faith in music. With all the CRAP out there coming from the likes of Lady Gaga and others who can't sing nor play an instrument without the aid of electronics, it's so refreshing to go see a band who can play their asses off and make your heart pound. Last night I went to the Iridium to see The Bombastic Meatbats. Headed by the drummer Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, it's a departure from his usual type of playing. This is good old fashioned fusion. I was lucky enough to sit in the front row and snapped off a bunch of shots (and video) with my little Lumix point-and-shoot camera. And, to make a great night even better, because it was Easter night and the crowd was light, they let me stay for the second set (for free), which was even better than the first.

The best time I've had listening to music in a very long time.

I was told by my waiter that this was the loudest band ever to play at the Iridium. It wasn't that bad, though my ears are still ringing a bit.... I love that!

Variety of Odd

I can never help myself from shooting a self portrait into one of those fish-eye mirrors on the front awnings of nice buildings.

What ever happened to plain old rat traps or boxes of poison laying around to kill vermin? Walking down Christopher Street I noticed this sign for a "Rodent station" pointing down to the building's basement.

It sounds cozy and nice (comparatively), when in actuality it's still just a box of poison.

On my way to the green market to get my weekly supply of Fuji apples I saw this man sleeping peacefully on a doorstep. He seemed very content and comfortable.

Someone took the time to balance this empty raisin box on top of a fire hydrant rather than put it in a nearby trashcan. People can be so lazy and stupid.

April 24, 2011

Flower, Gator, Jet

Walking down 6th Ave. toward Canal Street, I glanced up to see these orchids in the sun on a roof deck. Colorful!

Odd sight lying on the ground in the Village. I have no idea what it was there for, some promotion I would assume. I'd bet it was stolen shortly after I took this.

On the A train platform, Far Rockaway.

April 23, 2011

A Pooch, Carts and Gas

Today, after leaving Conde Nast, I saw this little dog sitting out in front of a bar patiently waiting for his owner. I wondered how long he had been sitting there. I really wanted to pet him but didn't. Instead, I just stood there looking at him. He seemed very sweet. I felt sad for that little dog even though he looked somewhat content watching the passersby.

Look how he rests his little butt on the planter thing.
I truly wanted to yell at his owner for being neglectful and then dog-nap him.

While in Virginia last week I stopped by Costco and noticed this long caterpillar of carts in the parking lot. I stood there for a few minutes watching people adding to it. People saw me taking photos of it and scratched their heads probably wondering why. Frankly, I found it odd but I guess it's a normal occurrence in the burbs.

Walking through my Dominican ghetto neighborhood I noticed the current price of gas. Suddenly I was thankful I didn't own a car. Still cheap by world standards where a gallon of gas in England is more than $8.

Then again, on the NYC subway you can travel 30+ miles for $2.25. A comparative bargain (if you don't mind watching degenerates pee and vomit).
Reminded of that, suddenly I want a car.

April 19, 2011

Spontaneous Shoot in the Woods

While home for my sister's wedding last week I made time for a quick shoot Saturday morning. I picked up D.C.-based model Kori Lei and her friend Melissa at the Vienna metro. Not having a great location in mind we took a quick ride out Route 66 to Haymarket where we pulled down some dirt road and took some fun photos. The car was our only prop. It was a dreary, overcast day but turned out to be lots of fun. We pulled into an abandoned farm, put down the windows and blasted the heat. Kori and Melissa were both great fun. Kori's different looking than most models I shoot (in a good way). She's exotic and full of enthusiasm. I was exhausted just watching her jump around.
I'm sure she'll be a famous at something soon (rock star, model, actress, etc.). Keep your eyes peeled. She's a hoot.

April 18, 2011

Another Day in Paradise

Another Subway Tale:

So tonight I hopped on the A train headed home after shooting all day on 59th street. I'm sitting across from five flamboyant gay guys all laughing, singing, talking loud and being very "gay." The mannerisms, the hand gestures...very affected. They were causing quite the scene but no one seemed to care. There was also a plump boisterous woman in the middle of them (their f#g hag) having fun with her little "girlfriends." A seat opened up a few feet away and I sat there not paying them any attention. Suddenly (again) I hear people gasping and mumbling, "Oh no...." I glanced to my right just in time to see one of the stylish boys with vomit dripping from his mouth and about a gallon of what looked pancake batter in his lap, in his seat and all over the floor. All I could think of was, "What the hell had he been eating? Pig slop? Hummus?" And, just like yesterday when the bum peed, people got up and scattered. Someone handed him a big wad of napkins and he began to smear the mess around his pants attempting to wipe it off but ended up pushing it onto the floor. He mumbled "Sorry" a few times as the stared at his lap, mortified by what had just happened. It was truly disgusting. And what the hell WAS that pancake batter looking stuff?

I really have to stop riding the train so much.

Spring has sprung (I think). This guy drags this upright piano out into Washington Square Park and plays for money. He invites others to play as well. I've seen him rolling the piano home late in the afternoon up Bleecker Street. If you ever want to get your kid involved in music I suggest buying him a harmonica or a flute, maybe the triangle. Something a bit easier to carry around.

The other day it was beautiful. In the high 70s. People were confused with what to wear. I saw a girl in a bikini laying in the park and and hour later this old woman dressed like it was winter with an umbrella...it was sunny.

Standing on the elevated #1 train platform up in the Bronx, I looked over the side to watch the people below (I like to do that). I saw this guy standing there staring at the wall and shuffling his feet. He was there for the longest time.

April 17, 2011

A Subway First

Subway Tsunami (read on)

Headed home the other night I hopped on the #1 train around 10:00pm. Stepping on the train looking for a seat I instantly noticed a homeless man lying across 5 seats asleep. At the next stop some guy about 30 stepped on and being that it was a packed train immediately went over to the sleeping bum and started clapping his hands inches from his face yelling, "Hey Buddy, get up--people need to sit down!" I thought to myself, "Wow...what balls this guy has." I imagined the homeless guy getting up, startled and lunging at him with a knife. Nope, he opened one eye, grumbled a bit and stayed where he was. A few minutes later, I hear women shrieking and looked over to see the bum reach down, pull the front of his pants down and start to pee. It sprayed out onto the floor and pooled. Everyone sat staring in disbelief, mouths wide open in shock. I said out loud, "Holy shit, now I've seen everything." Then, as the train wobbled back and forth the large puddle of pee started moving...like a urine tsunami. People grabbed their bags, jumped up on seats and darted to the other side of the train. At the next stop the car nearly cleared out. I stayed out of pee range but surprised myself with an overwhelming desire to do something horrible to this man. Beat him, drag him onto the next platform and kick him...just punish him for doing something so disgusting and filthy. In hindsight I should have felt compassion for him but all I felt was disgust and anger. I turned to the guy next to me and said, "Fucking animal." He looked back at me and replied, "No, a fucking animal wouldn't do that." Perhaps these people should be taken off the streets and institutionalized....or better yet... wait... no, no... bad thoughts... have sympathy on the less fortunate and disturbed. Yeah right. You pee or defecate on a subway and you should be punished. Maybe you won't do it again.

About once a month I stop into Mamoun's and have a falafel sandwich with hummus, hot sauce and extra tomatoes. The best $3 you can spend in the city

Walking down the street I saw this abandoned set of bunny ears laying on the ground. I couldn't help myself using my shadow instead of my head.

Walking through Times Square I saw this enthusiastic mother showing her very young child the sights. The kid was obviously less impressed than Mom.

The cops at Times Square park their horses for long periods of time letting the tourists take photos and pet them. This one was very majestic and well behaved. And, unlike that derelict on the subway, he didn't pee or poop once.

April 12, 2011

Harry & Margie

Just back from Virginia. My wonderful sister Margie was married to Harry Lee on Sunday. The wedding was small and intimate with just immediate family present. It was a beautiful afternoon and the whole thing went off without a hitch. It was really very nice... I usually hate weddings because they're generally too formal, too long and too stuffy. Theirs was fairly brief and wonderful.

I was the designated photographer. These are just a few unedited random snaps--don't judge my wedding skills on these!

The vows...

Margie and Harry at the reception...

Wanting to make this day special, I dragged a ton of lighting equipment to the affair hoping to take some beautiful group portraits. As soon as the service was over everyone was running for the door. I was once again reminded (for the ten thousandth time) that most people really don't like having their picture taken. If I snap more than a few frames they start to complain..."Why do you take so many?" And they sigh with disgust, "Another one?" They roll their eyes and make faces and slump and complain. This isn't just my family, it's everyone. If I had a dollar for every time someone has said, "I really don't like having my picture taken," or, "I don't look good in photos," I'd be a millionaire. I want to scream out, "Shut up! I have to shoot a lot because you're going to blink in 75 percent of the photos and you're going to give me fakey unrealistic smiles in 90 percent of the shots, so shut up and let me shoot. I might just get a good one. And take that damned mint out of your mouth so your face won't be contorted." Damn what a pain in the ass. Now, this was a wedding with only twenty people attending so it was fairly painless. I can't imagine shooting 200 and trying to get a few good frames of each one of them.

A few times during the evening someone said, "Gee Steve, you may have found your calling. Move back to Virginia and become a wedding photographer." To which I replied, "I'd seriously rather blow my brains out," and I wasn't kidding. I'd sooner shoot myself.

After the wedding and my SHORT photography break, we went to a great little Italian restaurant in downtown Fairfax called Bellissimo. Amazing!

The the service was incredible and the food was as good or better than any Italian I've had in New York City, and that's saying a lot. Truly great!

April 1, 2011

Time for a Change? Perhaps.

I look stressed. I think I need to go to a dermatologist and get a squirt of Botox between my eyes. Or, forget injecting rat poison in my face and change my life. Ever since Mario died I've had this permanent dent in my forehead. A divot, a crow foot, a crease, a gutter, a crevice (or crevasse), all synonyms for my furrowed brow. Whatever you might call it, I need to fill it in. Perhaps it's a combination of going to bed at 3:00am and eating too much sugar. I admit it, I do enjoy the "white devil." I love a cold Pepsi, though I only have maybe two a week. I do love ice cream. Always low fat, but still. Unfortunately I've watched a few of those late night infomercials by Dr. Perricone (the so-called skin expert) telling everyone that if you eat a single grain of sugar your face will soon morph into the likes of a Sharpei. Now I can't even enjoy a Pepsi without looking in the mirror afterwards to see if it made me look any older. That damn TV doctor, he ruined eating sweets for me.

To be honest, I'm fairly certain my furrowed brow is caused not so much by sugar as it is my flawed A.D.H.D mind constantly tormenting me.

The following things annoy me incessantly:

The massive consumerism in this country.
95% of what's on TV.
Our ridiculous celebrity worship.
The wars we've started and can't seem to resolve.
Our massive debt.
Our dependency on fossil fuels.
Our over consumption of virtually everything.
Our huge pollution problem.
Extermination of so many species.
Over population.
Plastic bags (actually, plastic in general).
Overall human laziness and apathy towards everything.

Talking to my Dad last night I mentioned that I'm almost (that's, almost) ready to cash in my chips here in New York City and move to a place out in the country in Maryland or Virginia. Live in a small trailer or cabin, use my TV only to watch movies on DVD, have a good stereo, only have a few guitars (sell the other 9 or so), join or start a band, get a dog from the pound, start a garden, go to bed at 11:00pm, buy a four-cylinder car, read more, write a book, get a good rocking chair, put a fire pit and some lawn chairs out back, invite friends over often and finally, travel and take as many road trips as possible.

The things I truly love to photograph seem to be all outside of New York. Rural county fairs, coal miners, preachers, people butchering pigs. I feel I've done a full circle. Perhaps it's time for a change.

Now the BIG dilemma... Just what do I do for a living?
With that said, I can feel my forehead tighten and begin to furrow...