Writed Lefts

Righting wrongs
is hard when words dry up
when things go

down south

to mass graves of San Fernando

When I’d prefer to think
my actions are left justified

But

I know that’s not true —
I know I’ve overreacted.
After time, guilt becomes
a comfortable uncomfortability

A fine balancing act of managing
a stack of plates
wobbling unevenly in the center of my stomach
on a bowling ball of shame

I wish I could stop and stare at the plates
only getting to briefly look at passing images
of mazes, negatives, and a red prius among other things
before stacking them onto an ever-growing pile

But

in control of it all
is that damned bowling ball in the shape
of a person’s head with hair dyed crimson
and jagged fangs that sunk in

leaving scars in my teens

deep in my amygdala

from a slinking snake

an immortal hydra
no matter how many
heads I cut off

It couldn’t be beat

until I learned,
like the computer in WarGames,
that “the only winning move is not to play”

But

I sit in a garden of snakes
offspring of the hydra
mortal, but ever-resurfacing

And I know

It’s time to grow up and leave
this garden of garter snakes
waiting for the next one to bite
so I can draw attention to a preventable pain

I intend to leave this yard today
and turn it into a research site
only meant to teach me a life lesson
and never to hurt me
or anyone else again


On Breaking Hearts

As I sit here, questioning my M.O.
I add another heart, broken
I think “How can I change this reckless soul?”
staring at this container, left open

I add another heart, broken
losing track of my count
staring at this container, left open
how could it get to this amount?

Losing track of my count
the pain I’ve caused that can’t be undone
how could I get to this amount
I never meant to hurt anyone

The pain I’ve caused that can’t be undone
why does this keep happening?
I never meant to hurt anyone
to start this cycle, unending

Why does this keep happening?
Am I just a shitty person?
Can I stop this cycle, unending?
or will my past be too great a burden?

But I’m not a shitty person
I’ve just hid from past hardships
but I’ll no longer be a burden
I’ll rip off these old bandages

I’ve just hid from past hardships
of an armed robbery and loving abuser
it’s time to rip off these old bandages
and finally heal this wound with sutures

Of an armed robbery and loving abuser
I will confront and conquer
and finally heal this wound with sutures
turning from victim to victor

I will confront and conquer
and change this reckless soul
I’ll turn myself from victim to victor
and slowly change my M.O.

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


Planes

Walking back home
on a cold winter’s night
I look up at the sky
as a lone plane blinks by

I become a kid again
in my parent’s front yard
watching that jet soar by
beating the speed of sound

I look down to a yard
filled with flickering fireflies
casting a beautiful cascade
of light over fallen leaves

I listen to the crackling wood
as the final flecks of fire
flick off the bonfire
before my parents call me in
for the end of a perfect fall night

I hear a crunch of snow
crinkling like lettuce leaves
crispy under my feet
I’m brought back to the present

my head snaps down
to the road to my apartment
a path lit by dim street lamps
highlighting the occasional
broken booze bottles in gutters

I hear the whoosh of cars
on this street with no sidewalk,
wind whipping through my hair

And I look up one more time
at that night sky, now empty
waiting for the next plane to fly

Just Drive

Today the thoughts run rampant through my head
they’re naughty children with nothing to do
until I decide to take them on a road trip

The drive’s surprisingly quiet and uneventful
as they sit in the backseat with headphones
moody music flowing through their ears
only acting up when I slow down
to park at our destination

As my thoughts and I hop out of the car
I study a deserted landscape of frozen sand
while they run off to play hide and seek,
leaving me with the sound of my heart

I observe a distant power plant
minuscule and insignificant
its smokestacks exuding exhaust
over nature’s beach of ice

And I feel my eyes well up
As I watch the steam drift
lazily towards the sun
before fading away
into soundless
nonexistence

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!

A New Year To Mental Health

5 Ways To A Better Mind, Better You

As I look back on this year, I can’t help but be proud of what I’ve accomplished. I picked up and ran with photography, shooting concerts for an online publication and learning more about how I see this world. I started writing song reviews and doing interviews for artists on another site. I even got my own website up and running for the world to see! It’s been a great year of getting my feet wet creatively and to let the small number of people who visit this site see what I do.

But after some contemplation and rough nights, I realize I’m lacking somewhere; I’ve been so busy chasing after dreams that I haven’t taken the time to closely look at the bumps, cuts, and bruises I’ve taken on along this path of life filled with its fair share of prickly patches.

With the new year coming up, I figured now is the time to think about what I can do about that. I’ve created a list of 5 specific ways you can work towards greater peace of mind and be closer to the best version of yourself you can possibly.

So without further ado, here are my 5 ways to work towards a healthy mind in the year of 2019.

1. Journal Once A Day

After a tedious day filled with stress, it can be hard to know what’s on your mind. While you may be tempted to sit and watch old episodes of Arrested Development, Workaholics, or silly cat videos ad naseum, consider writing in a journal. Journaling can be a good way to reduce stress, get some quiet time, and organize your day and sort out whatever thoughts may be in that tangled up yarn ball of a mess we call the human brain.
Just write about whatever comes to mind. It doesn’t even have to all make complete sense. This activity is for you and you alone so get it all out there and drag out whatever thoughts you may have onto the page. And if it seems hard to focus, putting on some ambient music may be a good way to provide a lush soundscape that can help ease you into your thoughts.
These thoughts don’t even have to be in a physical journal that you write in. Typing up feelings in a word processor on your computer is a great alternative, and may even be better for some who feel like they often can’t keep up with their thoughts while writing. Various programs are out there specifically for journaling, but again it doesn’t really matter as long as you get your thoughts out there. The sooner you sort out what’s in your head and figure out what’s on your mind, the sooner you can identify and solve problems in your life that you might not have even known were an issue.

2. Avoid Obsessing Over Social Media

Every day you’re bombarded by all sorts of apps vying for your attention: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, the list goes on and on. Even the perception that we need to devote so much time to it can be draining.
On top of this is the nasty habit of comparing ourselves to others, making us feel insecure and inadequate.
But as Steven Furtick – a pastor, songwriter, and New York Times best-selling author – points out, “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”
Just because you might not have as nice of a car or as high-paying of a job doesn’t mean you’re any worse than someone you might compare yourself to. You can’t possibly know their entire story; maybe they’ve had to make sacrifices to get whatever it is, be it long hours at work or long sleepless nights. Or maybe they even got the money through the death of a loved one who they would take any day over the money.
To put it bluntly, it’s also possible that they had a better start to life than you did with a family that has more wealth, higher education, or any of the above. It’s not fair and it’s just the way this world works, but the sooner you can grapple with this reality, the better off you’ll be when you can feel the temptation to compare yourself to others.
Your path will be different than everyone else’s, so feel free to take a look at whatever social media you enjoy, but considering limiting yourself on it, be it by your own will or with an app that limits your usage.
Whatever social media you do use – or don’t – just remember this: as long as you’re happy with where you’re at or are making active changes to better yourself, that’s all that matters.
The only person you have to compete with is yourself.

3. See A Therapist

In a society that often times look down on therapy, it can be hard to justify that it can be a good step towards better mental health. You may think that it’s too much of a hassle, you’re worried about what others may think, or that no one really thinks about going to therapy, right?
But the thing is that that’s far from the truth; a press release from the American Psychological Association back in 2004 concluded from a survey that, “Nearly half (48%) of American households have had someone see a mental health professional and nine out of 10 Americans say they are likely to consult or recommend a mental health professional if they or a family member are experiencing a problem.”
Clearly from this we can see many people have sought out therapy or would consider it. We all go through hardships, some of us even suffer from mental illness, and most if not all of us would benefit from talking to a trained professional who can help us work through our mental barriers.
The release goes on to state that cost and insurance are still seen as significant barriers to people, which is completely understandable; with sessions costing anywhere between $75-$200 a pop, it’s no wonder people see this as a barrier.
For those that are concerned about their finances, this article may be a helpful resource in finding an affordable option that works for you. I’d recommend giving it a look and seeing your options. While I wish I’d seen it earlier in the year, I’m more than grateful for it and am happy to know I’ll be seeking it in 2019.

4. Answer Honestly About Your Feelings

In society we’re often trained to answer the same way about our feelings when asked how we’re doing. The question “How are you?” is more often than not just a formality that we almost always answer positively, even when we’re almost completely in shambles.
So instead of just saying “I’m good”or an automatic response like that, start working on being more honest with how you feel when someone asks. This doesn’t mean revealing every dark secret like your collection of limited edition beanie babies, but just saying things like “I’m OK” or even as far as “I’ve been better” is more honest and leaves room for the possibility of opening up with people.
Not everyone will delve further into it, and you might not even want some people to probe further, but at least you know you’re working closer to being honest about how things really are going on. It’s just another tool to better stay in touch with your emotions.
Ideally, it will also help to make it easier when you want to sit down and talk with someone about how you’re feeling. You’ll already be used to being more transparent about how you feel on a day-to-day basis, so telling someone how you honestly feel won’t necessarily feel like you’re burdening them or like it’s a sudden surprise. You may even grow closer with them as they may share some of their own thoughts and feelings as well. Overall, being open and honest is often a win-win for both parties.

5. Pick Up A New (Or Old) Hobby

Picking up a new hobby can be a great way to add some excitement to your life and give you another reason to get out of bed each morning. The best part is it doesn’t even have to cost much money or even anything at all. Maybe you want to be a writer or get into drawing. Either one only requires a pen and paper. OK, maybe some colored pens too, but people make some pretty amazing stuff with just one plain old pen.
Even resources to learn how to start a new hobby are cheap. Your local library and the advent of the internet puts us in a world where many guides and tutorials can be bought at the low low price of free.
Hobbies once reserved for the wealthy have also become much more accessible. For example, while photography is and still can be extremely expensive, you can find much more affordable cameras than you ever could, especially if you’re buying a refurbished or older model.
And even then, you can always use a cellphone for photographs. It won’t necessarily be as good as a DSLR, but many phones nowadays have cameras that can get you off to a good start before you even invest any money into the hobby, if you even decide to at all.

And for those that already have enough hobbies, maybe you’re just feeling a little stagnant with a current one; you feel like you keep doing the same thing over and over again and can’t seem to find anything new or exciting about it. If you haven’t yet, look online and see what other people are doing. Maybe there’s a new technique or trend, or maybe there’s something you can do with a hobby that you hadn’t thought of or knew was possible.
For example, I photograph mainly concerts and urban environments, but it’s been feeling a bit stale. While I still love it and enjoy it, I’m looking for that fresh breath of air that will keep me going.
That next step for me is street photography, starting with asking people in public if I can take a photograph of them. I’ll admit the thought makes me terribly nervous, but I know it will make me both a better photographer and a less self-conscious person. There’s a lot of tips, tricks, and videos online that have helped me mentally prepare for when I ask that first person if I can take a photograph of them.
While it can be scary to start a new hobby or progress further in an old one, you’ll feel accomplished and happy with yourself knowing you took the next step. The only thing holding you back in most cases is excuses, so get out there and chase after those hobbies you always wanted to pursue.

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.