The Day Gravity Breaks

Some nights I stare up at my ceiling, textured with white specks of all shapes and sizes. It makes me think of when I was younger, and I’d lie on my back, pretending the ceiling was the floor. I’d pretend that gravity decided to do a 180 on us, turning us upside down but leaving everything else glued to its spot.

I’d think of how I’d have to be sure not step on any light fixtures. How I’d have to step over the head jamb of doorways when I went from one room to another. How I’d have to avoid any ceiling fans and the dangers they’d bring.

I’d think of how my frustration would build as I’d see everything I want or need, just barely out of my reach. The sink, the food in the fridge, my computer, my bed.

All of them, and many more things, just staring at me, taunting me with how frustratingly close yet unreachable they are. Time would go by as I looked at these things in a state of helplessness, wishing I had some way to reach them.

But then I’d get creative. The fridge and kitchen cabinets would become ladders to climb down to what once was the floor. The sink would become a water fountain. Making bagels in the morning would become a fun game of catch, my prize being a delicious breakfast. And going outside would be my time to pretend like I’m a superhero, using grapple hooks to make my way from one place to another.

It would be different, but after a while, I — and everyone else — would get used to it. None of us would get why the world is the way it is now, but we’d learn that we just have to accept it for what it is and adapt. Our upside-down world would become the new normal.

We’d all still get together with our families for the holidays and other get togethers. Friends would still gather to talk about the latest books or TV shows. Coworkers would still shuffle into their weekly meetings. Things would be different, but we’d all make it work.

Sometimes I still let those thoughts I had as a kid run through my head, playing through impossible scenarios. It’s challenging and just plain fun to see what solutions I can come up with, even if I’d have to work out the specific logistics at some point.

In a weird way, it also makes me grateful for my feet that are stuck to this Earth as they should be. It reminds me that life isn’t any harder than it needs to be. It’s not much, but it’s something.

And, while gravity is still in its right state of mind, know that if the world ever does go topsy-turvy, you can count on me.

Did you enjoy this article or have any other ideas of what to do in an upside-down world? Let me know your thoughts in the comments down below. If you’d like to keep up to date with my weekly blog posts and the thoughts sauntering through my head, go ahead and click the follow button on the side or bottom of my website. Thanks, and take care until next time!
– The Poetagraphist

Work That Matters

As of late, I’ve been struggling with my photography as an artist. The last year has been learning how to handle my camera and the basics like how to meter, orienting myself with various technical terms, and other beginner level tasks.

While I’ve still got a lot to learn, I feel at this point that I’ve learned enough to at least progress to the next level — exploring work that matters.

But how can you work towards that? I’ll list a couple of ideas down below, but before I do, I’ll give credit where credit’s due by giving props to this video by The Art of Photography. It inspired me to sit down and write this list and it’s a great channel that I’d recommend to anyone wanting to learn more about various aspects of photography.

So, let’s get started, shall we?

Research The History

You may be thinking,

“Ugh, history.”

I know. It seems boring, but it doesn’t have to be, especially with all the options we have. You can learn in so many ways about the history of photography such as books at the library, articles on the internet, or videos on Youtube. There’s so many sources out there full of history that it’s almost impossible to find an option that you don’t like.

You can learn something as in depth or as little as you want. Maybe you’d rather just flip through a book of compositions and read more about the pieces and artists that confuse or amuse you. Or maybe you want to read all the information you can and know the history down to every little detail.

Whatever option you choose, having the gist of your craft and its history is vital to creating work that matters. You’ll learn how artists in the past pushed their medium, and, more importantly, where we are right now in the world. This is crucial as the only way to push your medium is to understand what has and hasn’t been done.

Imitation: The Sincerest Form Of Learning

So now with your newfound knowledge of history and a handful of your favorite artists, it’s time to pay homage and copy them.

But why?

While it’s important to have done your research and look up a few of your favorite photographers, it’s equally as important to figure out how they got those shots. Find some images you really love, and see if you can get close to something they’ve done. Now, it doesn’t have to be an exact copy, but try to go for the feeling they got in that image.

For example, try to photograph dioramas like Paolo Ventura, use masks like Ralph Eugene Meatyard, dive into conceptual photography like Cindy Sherman, or even capture quiet moments of humanity amidst a chaotic world as Saul Leiter did.

By doing so, you’ll learn various skills that will help you in a variety of settings, and you’ll probably be having a bit more fun doing it than just taking photographs with no thought behind it.
You’ll also learn if you want to continue down that route. Maybe you found the dioramas to be a bit drab, but you found you really have a passion for conceptual portraiture.

From here you can further explore and begin to dive into whatever genre you pick up, honing the skills needed for it and really fine tuning what makes your particular rendition of a genre special.

Stop Taking Easy Shots

What do I mean by this?

When I’m talking about easy shots, I mean the ones we’ve all seen; things like pictures of sunsets, black and white images with one thing in color, and other cliché ideas.

Just because something is pleasing to the eye doesn’t mean it’s work that matters. These are all things that have been overdone ad naseum, and if you’re not imitating something to learn how it’s done, you’re not really pushing yourself or working towards creating something that matters.

Really work with your subject. Consider all the angles you can view it at. Think about what you’re trying to say and why you’re taking a photograph of your subject. It’ll take a bit more time, but you’ll come out with a composition that speaks much more about you and what your view on this world is. You’ll develop a style that will eventually become recognizable to other people.

Sure, you may not get as many likes and attention because you’re not feeding into society’s demands for pretty pictures, but you’ll be much more satisfied knowing that you’re working towards making something unique and worthy of your skill set that shows what you believe in.

Pick A Theme, Any Theme

Even after considering all the angles and working for your photographs, things may still begin to to feel a bit stale.

By this point, you may want to sit down and really hone down a specific subject or idea. It could be something simple, such as only photographing subjects like doors or cars. Or it could be photographing in black and white, looking for more abstract shapes and ideas in the world.

You could even start a project on something you really care about. Maybe you really want to document all forms of American society like Robert Frank had. Or maybe you want to tackle other issues, such as environmental ones like the effects of global warming or social ones like human trafficking.

Take all the time you need on whatever it is; if it’s something you’re extremely passionate about, it could even be a project that you continue for your whole life. You never know where a project will take you, so get started on one and let it take you where it may.

Volunteer

Volunteering your talent is an incredible way to create work that matters, and there are numerous opportunities such as elderly services, animal shelters, and any local non-profits in your area. This article has a few more helpful options as well.

Through volunteering, you’ll get in contact with people you may have never met in your life, learning their stories that may change how you see the world and your place in it as a photographer. You’ll get a lot of practice working with different subjects and in different settings as well.

It’s also a chance to make an impact on people. At the very least, you’ll make someone’s day just a little bit better, but in some cases you may even go so far as making a profound impact on someone’s life.
Now that’s work that matters.

Patience Is A Virtue

Overall, there’s no easy step to making work that matters. It’s countless days, nights, months, and even years of continuous work. No matter whether you’re at the beginning of your path — like me — or further down the road, keep this in mind as you keep working. Be patient and keep striving to find and refine your photographic voice.

Get out there and work hard, but never lose track of why you picked up a camera in the first place.

Best of luck, and happy shooting!

Do you have any other ideas on creating work that matters? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. And if you enjoyed it, feel free to check out the rest of my site, share it, and Follow my blog for even more content!


The Doctor Is In

I recently went to my first therapy session. While I was a bit nervous, things are already off to a great start and I’m already learning some helpful tips and tricks. Today I’d like to share one tip involving a grounding technique that uses all five of your senses:
You slowly go through the list and label five things you can see, four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.

Normally I’m a type of person who’s always running around at 100 miles an hour with all sorts of busywork, so it really struck me how this forced me to slow myself down and focus on the minute details.
My favorite part was when my therapist added to tell yourself at the end, “And my feet are on the ground and

I’m Safe”

I just love that. Every time I get to that point I feel a wave of warmth envelope me. I feel relaxed and accomplished to have come back to the present moment and ultimately bring down my stress levels.

Perhaps you may be thinking that stress isn’t such a big deal. You’ve gotten along fine so far, even in a stressful environment, so why add something like this?
The thing is, when you get so worked up, the body goes into fight-or-flight mode, releasing all sorts of chemicals that result in physiological changes such as increased strength and blood flow, dilation of the pupils, and a host of other effects that prepares the body for times of crisis.
Unfortunately, when the source of the stress is something like rush hour or a bad day at the office, this really does no good. It’s even downright dangerous if it’s chronic, leading to issues such as anxiety, depression, or panic attacks among other things.
In reality, adding a short little exercise like this is more than worth the extra couple of moments you have to take out of your day. If anything, it can’t hurt to try it at least once or twice, right?

So, next time you’re feeling a bit stressed, give it a shot, even if it’s just to humor me. And when you’re done, you can tell yourself:

“I’m Safe”


Street Subject No.1

One of my goals for the New Year has been to ask strangers on the street if I can get a photograph of them. It’s been a success so far with the first subject found in Kenosha, a town filled with sights such as retro signage, Lake Michigan, and even an old trolley!

After a day of exploring the city and working up the courage to speak to a stranger, I found an older gentleman sitting in a chair. He was out on this cold windless day for a smoke break.
Still a bit nervous, I came up to ask if I could get a quick photograph of him. He quietly agreed and flicked his cigarette away before readjusting himself for his photograph.
Without instruction, he looked at me without a smile, a stern but open look on his face. I snapped a quick shot before thanking him for his time and wishing him a good rest of the day.

And from there my point of view kind of shifted.

While I’m friendly to people, I’m a pretty shy person. It was a shock how calmly this stranger reacted to my request; it was the exact opposite of how I thought he’d respond. It was an exhilarating feeling to go up to someone I knew nothing about and to request something as personal as getting a photograph of them.

It was even more exhilarating when they agreed.

Of course as I’ve also learned, you get your fair share of negative responses, but it’s worth it for the occasional “Yes” you’ll hear from a stranger’s mouth. The experience taught me to be a bit more open and friendly to this world, and I can’t wait to grow even more as I photograph more people.

Already I can feel myself getting more friendly and invested in these strangers, wanting to learn their names and stories. As time goes on and my confidence builds, I look forward to learning more and more about these fellow humans of Wisconsin.

Who knows, maybe I’ll even get a photograph of you, if you happen to be drifting through America’s Dairyland.

If you’d like to see more of the strangers I’ve met so far, take a look at the “Street” section of my photography. Feel free to let me know what you think of them in the comments below or by sending me a message directly.

Either way, I hope you enjoyed this short read and that you come back next week Monday for my next post!

What I Love About Christmas

It’s that time of the year! The holidays have rolled in, and while it may be dark and chilly outside, the holiday spirits have kept homes bright and warm. The Salvation Army Red Kettles are out ringing their bells, the airwaves are filled with all sorts of caroling, and the malls are packed to the brim with last minute shoppers.

It’s kind of overstimulating to be honest; I hate crowds, and sometimes all the flashing lights and sounds can be a bit much. Despite this, I refuse to say bah humbug and instead focus on the parts I really love.

I love that it’s a time when I get to see more of my family. We all live in the same area, but we’re all so busy that we just never seem to see each other. But then Christmas hits and everyone’s getting along and laughing together as we’re all focused on right now rather than what’s left for later. Jokes are tossed across the room like lights on a newly christened Christmas tree and an extra sprinkle of wholesomeness fills the room just like the extra dash of love (it’s actually just more sugar) added to the Christmas cookies baked each year. 

Speaking of which, I love all the food. Gone is the day of Thanksgiving turkey and here comes the days of delectable Christmas ham with pineapples on top for extra flavor.
And of course, the aforementioned cookies, marching in flavors like peanut butter with chocolates on top, butterscotch, raw cookie dough that you’re not supposed to eat, and, my favorite, Mexican wedding cookies, which I was shocked to learn came from the white part of my family and not the Latino side.
This is all washed down with eggnog that tastes fantastic as long as you don’t think too much about the gross culmination of what is essentially half & half and eggs.

After a joyful Christmas Eve filled with family and overeating, I get ready and often times fail to get much sleep for my favorite part – Christmas day itself. It’s not because of the presents, but because of the fact that, on Christmas day, everything

Stops.

.

.

.

.

.

Do you hear that? It’s nothing. The shop lights have all gone out, leaving the business districts like ghost towns. The once-crowded streets are now seas of asphalt covered in slushy snow. A hush of quiet covers the town as everyone implicitly agrees to stay home and spend it in peace. It’s the one time of the year I can truly relax and settle in for a day of rest.

My only gripe is that I wish every day could be like this, but then again that wouldn’t make Christmas special anymore, would it? So put on some old Christmas music or just kick back and enjoy the silence. Whatever you do, I hope you have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Nice Doesn’t Mean Perfect

It’s a hard truth to accept, isn’t it? I think many of us have been through the experience; You’re dating someone, and nothing’s wrong, but at the same time, nothing’s great either. That’s not to say it’s a nightmare. In fact, you laugh with them on a fairly regular basis and even enjoy their company. Things have just taken a path different from what you expected.

You try everything you can think of. Trips to new places, learning more about this other person, even talking about how you feel, and still nothing’s working. No amount of new experiences or talking can seem to help. It might mask it for a little bit, but at the end of the day, the feeling’s still there.

The guilt starts to set in. How did this happen? What did I do wrong? It all feels like your fault, and it gets trapped in your chest like a bunch of starved tarantulas in a cage trying to get out and forage.

And you know what needs to happen next. For the sake of yourself and them, you know you’ll have to say those dreaded words:

“I’m breaking up with you.”

Even just thinking of it makes you sick to your stomach. You might not want to be with them as a partner anymore, but at the same time you don’t want to hurt them. While the feeling’s gone, you still consider them to be your friend.

But think of it this way: if you know you don’t love them anymore, staying with them is, in a way, hurting them as well. They may not know anything’s wrong, think the problem’s been solved, or maybe they’ve been on edge about it the whole time. They’re also losing precious time that could be used to process and move on from the relationship.

The longer you wait, the worse it will be.

It’s not going to be easy, but hopefully they’ll understand and maybe you’ll even be able to end things on amicable terms. Either way, you’ll feel incredibly relieved to have it out there, and both of you will be one step further along on your relationship pathway.

So be respectful, be kind, and let them down gently, but know you’re making the best choice for both of you. They may be nice, but if there’s no more sparks for you and you’ve tried what you can, it’s best to move on and learn from the experience.  After all, nice doesn’t mean perfect.