I Know How Lucky I Am

Hearing that song I’m brought back to that bed
where you’d been whittling wood

making an elephant if I remember right

At that time

over half a decade’s moons passed
to be precisely particular

I was falling in love
not realizing how the song
would come to bring chills of finger tips to my body
touching me and my space without my permission

But that song doesn’t touch me the same way anymore
much like how your violent gestures have stopped long ago
leaving me in an empty room that I’ve come to fill
with framed photographs and objects of love in action

From People I’ve regrettably hurt along the way
waiting for them to lose their patience with me
in some sick self-fulfilling prophecy

I know now that, after what you did to me,
I wasn’t always the easiest person to love
with my scared silence and irrational fears of being yelled at

or worse

always testing the boundaries to see if this person was just
going to be like the monster you were

But everyday I learn more about myself
and I Know How Lucky I Am
to know you wouldn’t even recognize me today
and I’m so glad

you’ll never know anything about me anymore

Loneliness

As I stand in my room,
watching a pool of loneliness
drift through my blinds
like poison gas,
I think:

Researchers say
the perception
of loneliness can kill;
it’s like smoking
fifteen cigarettes a day

I think how rude it can be
sneaking through quiet pleasantness
like the sound of neighbors talking
in thinly-walled apartment complexes

Turning solitude
into solitary confinement,
introspection to isolation,
wonder to withdrawal,
self-loving to self-loathing.

I feel it envelope me
with cold hands
of an abusive lover

It lies to me, saying
I need no one else
before throwing me
onto a poorly-made bed
filled with salt and ice

And as I lie here,
numbness spreading,
I think how

I’ll share my stories,
my fears and worries,
my strange peculiarities,
my unique idiosyncrasies,

And end the cycle
of false loneliness

Elevators

My emotions function
like a faulty elevator
with mislabeled buttons

Most times the buttons
screech upwards to anger
a peregrine falcon seizing
an insignificant insect

It’s common, or so I’m told;
most broken elevator
default to this

Some days they miss
by a few floors
the button for ecstasy
going to a small chuckle
or deep sobs of sorrow
to a single sniffle

on the worst days
the buttons fail
leaving me stranded
In a painfully silent
box


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!


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!

In Darkness

Everywhere I go, it watches in darkness, hiding in alleys and dimly lit cul-de-sacs. It preys upon my humanity, knowing eventually I will hit crisis as we all do. And when I do, it lumbers toward me.

I try to keep a tough exterior as it slowly wraps its claws around me. My stoicism only adds to the ever-increasing weight. I feel like I’m sinking in a suit of armor in the middle of the Bermuda triangle.

Do I cry, scream, burst into a fit of rage, or maybe all of the above? As I slowly drown, I feel myself dragged deeper into the void. Everything starts to go hazy as my thoughts run in lopsided circles and I can feel my body begin to shut down even though my mind’s still on a marathon and I’m not sure what to do at this point and I’m not sure when it will stop and I hope it will end soon and I keep telling myself to snap out of it but I just can’t and I feel powerless to even move even though I know I should reach out and then –

It’s gone.

It’s scurried back into its room as quickly as it arrived. I’m not even sure what’s in there anymore; The light went out some time ago, and I’m too scared to go in there alone. I do what I can to keep that room locked up. I get out of the house, I get lost in my hobbies, hang out with friends, and anything else that will keep it at bay.
I’ve been told that hiring a professional is the only way to go at this point, and, while I’ve been putting it off, I’m finally having someone come around the house to check it out soon.

That’s still some time away, so for now I’ll sit on the edge of trepidation, facing towards a future of new tools and locks. And when it comes again, I know I won’t go without a fight.

Door

I came through a door today
as white as a baptismal gown
and watched a city rise
like a knocked down boxer
rising to finish the last round

Amidst boarded up windows
I saw life:
a store here with antiques
another with sweet treats
artists’ studios and music stores
along with various office spaces
where my next story could take place

Away from my dead-end job
that gave me only a fancy title
and sucked away my creativity
dry like a juice pouch
in the middle of July
all for money that
I couldn’t even enjoy

Away from a flatlining city
its homes robbed each night
where I was mugged at gunpoint
fear growing as I watched in pity
at where I grew up my whole life

So, I closed the door gently behind
sure to lock it from the evils outside
and walked into the town
to start my next chapter
this one filled with less pain
and more laughter

Plato’s Cave

Two years spent here
pushing carts in solitude
stocking milk in a cooler

Away from irate customers
whose misplaced anger
taught me to fear others

But the store’s closed down now
its windows painted white
lights inside the only sign of life

So I’ve left this place
with dimly lit mismatched bulbs
to confront my anthropophobia
and see people in true sunlight