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My career as a graffiti writer was short lived but plays a key roll in my photography. I was introduced to graffiti when I was 14-15 by a friend who showed me a legal wall. Painted from top to bottom on an expansive wall, ironically across the street from the police department, there were characters, lines, colors, every single element of a well composed piece by a reputable crew of talented writers.
At that time I had just finished my first photography class and was already hooked. I made a point to go back and shoot some photos of the painting. Walking in a straight line, left to right, I framed up sections of the painting until I captured the entire piece. Did I mention I did this with an old 35mm film camera and stitched the pano together in camera. When I received the 4x6 prints I taped them down to a piece of cardboard. I still have that photo, 16 years later, sitting in the studio.
i began documenting the places that had the best paintings. I always went alone, never when anyone was painting. I would photograph the paintings that I admired, by the artists I admired. I started doing research, bought sketchbooks and markets and gave myself a name. In high school I was known for drawing, the graffiti. I always had a camera around and was always drawing graffiti. Occasionally Id scribble on a desk, but mostly in my books. Chicks loved it, so did a few of my friends Id skate with. Graffiti went hand and hand with skateboarding. I introduced the medium to a few friends, some of whom either curse me commend me for getting them hooked because they are still at it.
Where I grew up was a haven of writers for years. In the backgrounds I would follow the artists by photographing their work. During that time I began painting, developing my style, learning and researching. I once came across a few paintings on website. I searched the interwebs, way before Google was around, and found something beautiful. The paintings always stuck with me. One eventful day I climbed through a fence, walked down an embankment, stepped onto the train tracks and looked at the wall. I was flabbergasted to see the same paintings I adored. I somehow thought these painted existed in some far off place in the world, not anywhere close to me. I began snapping away. I maneuvered around and kept shooting. There were two sets of tracks and a train quickly approaching. I was in awe and hadn't noticed the impending freight train. What seemed like inches away, the train engineer blew the horn, scared the crap out of me so hard I graffitied my underwear and ran for my life. It was a close call, but I caught some amazing paintings.
For years I followed one group of artists. I was never in their league, not even close. I had a few friends that knew them, but I never met them. I kept my silent distance and photographed their work. Of the group there was one artist in particular that I was inspired by. I admired his work, his style, his bold use of paint. Over the years I heard the rumors of the trouble he got in, the time he did, and that one time a judge let him off by painting a piece right behind the courthouse that had a positive message, "The future is in your hands." It was a beautiful painting of a pair of hands extended from a character the artist made.
One evening I was with a friend. At times he was a chill kid, other times he was a raging dick. That particular night he was a dick. He told me I should never pick up a can of paint again and that I should just make photographs of the writers and their work. He said the world needed someone to document the work and make the books instead of someone that couldn't paint. Id like to say that I took his advice, however I did not. I was not discouraged in the least. I continued painting and documenting what I saw. It would be a few years before I put the cans down. In full disclosure, I was never one of those offensive artists that would maliciously paint everything I could, racking up a case of vandalism. Graffiti for me, as it has been and always will be, is art.
Recently I found out from a friend of mine that the artist I idolized for so many years passed away. I was saddened by this news. While I did not know him personally, I took the loss in my own ways, knowing that another talented artist had left this world too soon. The day I found out about his passing, my long time friend, the one who loves to curse me for getting him hooked, was at an undisclosed location painting a mural with a group of friends. The mural was the last piece the artist was working on. They were painting it in his honor. He invited me down, but due to a shoot, I was unable to make it down. This past week I had a shoot in the neighborhood of the wall. I had a few minutes to stop and admire the work, so I did. I snapped a few photos and thought back to all those short years of the smell of Krylon, markers, discovering new paintings by the artists I admired, and that sensation I got from graffiti. It is sad to think that the artist I admired so much will no longer be producing work. There comes a date when we all retire from what drives us, the things we love and the work we love to produce. Enjoy the days you have and the work you make. Keep sharing, you never know who you will inspire.
The following photos are from the memorial mural.
Key West is the southern most, final destination in the state of Florida. Key West is by all accounts a tiny island in the Florida Keys. My wife and I rented bicycles and were able to ride around the entire island very quickly. Before we got on our two wheels and made our way around the island we took one of those uber, not the car service, touristy trains. Being a tourist, you can hop on a freight train for the unadventurous and get a history lesson of the island from one of the plump drivers. While bopping around the seat, photo-bombing the group in front of us taking "selfies," I spotted a restaurant that spoke to me. I made a mental note of where the restaurant was based on how the driver navigated his choo-choo train.
From the moment we rode past Frita's Cuban Burger Cafe, it was my mission to eat there. The first time I had a cuban sandwich was in Boston. Not the most ideal place to have such a sandwich. It was lack luster, but when you eat something at the bottom of the barrel, that just means that when something is how it should be or when it is served in an authentic environment, it will be life affirming. Frita's would be both culturally relevant and decadent.
We handed over the credit card, signed the papers, and saddled up on the wheels that have probably been ridden more than a Brazilian prostitute. Our bikes moaned and creaked as we cycled our way around the island. Around a corner, down a street, up the block, to the left, followed by a right, we found a beach. Our bikes were equipped with locks, which we used to safely secure them to some bike racks. The water was beautiful. We had a swim, a few moments for photos, and a few minutes laying in the sand and we were off. During our train ride our the island I made a few photos of things we passed, mostly with my Gopro, photos I'll save for later. As we navigated around I built a map of the island, making note of visually appealing landmarks along the way. This mental database would be what helped me pedal our way to Frita's.
You should never judge a book by its cover just like you should never judge a restaurant by how many people are dinning. My wife was a bit reluctant when we rolled up Frita's. I was ecstatic because after half an hour and a wrong turn, we arrived. There wasn't a single person eating, drinking, or doing what people do at restaurants. I didn't hesitate or think anything none-the-less. I first learned about Frita Kahlo when studying Art History at The University of Massachusetts. I knew that if there was a restaurant dedicated to her, the food must be as well composed as her paintings were. I am by no means a food critic. I know what I like, love, hate. I am however one for a culinary adventure. I was eager to sit down, order, and stuff my face.
Everywhere we turned there was portraits of Frita looking at us, greeting us, asking us what we were hungry for. Our table had a bust of Frita painted on it. No matter which angle you sat, she was looking up at you. No doubt the artist who painted her knew a thing or two about perspective. We sat outside, as it was a beautiful, hot day in Florida. Groups of people passed by. Occasionally the brave would stop and read the menu, but most people kept passing by. I kept thinking to myself, "are these people crazy for passing a place like this up, or are they just not in the mood to eat?" My camera was torn from the bag the moment we sat at the table. It was obvious by my behavior that I am not a tourist. Most people get that the moment they see my set up. I made a few photos of our surroundings and a few while the manager came out and took our order. I stood and approached the guy behind the grill. I asked if I could make photographs while he cooked our food. He obliged, even showing a bit of excitement for being photographed, sort of as if it made his day. Dewan from Bangladesh worked the grill like an artist, perhaps the same artist who painted Frita on our table. He was happy to tell us his story as to why he was in Key West, grilling our food. At some point we had a more personable conversation with the manager who took our order. He handed me a business card with his name and email address, so as I could forward him this very post, but during my travels, the business card slipped from my notebook and became a reminder of why I should also write things down in addition to taking a business card. Some book make that card was..
I ordered 2 Cuban Tacos, Sue ordered 1 Cuban burger, I had the ear of Cuban grilled corn, and we shared 3 churros. Like I said, I am no food critic, but what I can say is this, my life changed with every bite I took. The juxtaposition of each element of our food created sinful, lusting, flavor bombs of transcendence. Frita's is the type of restaurant where you will eat something that you will remember. Located off the main road and 90 miles from Cuba, you would think that your eating at a restaurant on the Havana Port.
I am not a food photographer. In September 2014 I produced and photographed a fashion shoot with the theme, "The Perfect Date." This shoot was a spin from a shoot I had done a year prior entitled, "The Perfect Picnic." Both shoots incorporated fashion and incorporated food. The food was just one small accessory to the shoots. Both shoots were fun. Other than that, when food has made an appearance in my work it is been brief.
In 2013 I filmed a photographed a Pop-Up Restaurant that took place a few blocks up from my studio. There I met Chefs Jeremy Kean and Philip Kruta. Together they own "Whisk," a pop based restaurant. One of my photographs of Jeremy from the night of "Deposit," the first pop I filmed, was featured on Guy Fiery's show, "Guy's Grocery Games." Later that year, in December I went to their small pop-up restaurant in the North End of Boston. The food was incredible. I tried a few things I hadn't before, such as black squid ink pasta and a sort of beet dish. Prior to that night I had never liked beets. How they prepared it changed my perception of beets. I was hooked on their food. Shortly after they closed their pop-up in the North End, they opened up another restaurant that I had never tried.
This past Friday night I went to their latest pop-up Restaurant, "Whisk at Fazenda." Located in Jamaica Plain, within a cafe, with plans to expand, this pop-up has been the culmination of their careers, as how I see it. I met with my friend and visual artist colleague Chris Davis. Chris is a super talented designer that I met when I attended the Art Institute of Boston for a short period of time. Recently Chris produced a new logo for me. I was in the middle of a visual rebranding and he was responsible for the new logo that is being attached to everything that gets mailed out, featured, shot, whatever I can put it on basically. I invited him to join me.
I must admit, the following photos were shot at the table with my iPhone 6. In addition, that was the first meal I had physically eaten in 4 days. Yes, that is right, first bites of food eaten in 4 days. Before you call me crazy, let me quickly explain. On Sunday I had watched a doc, "Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead." The gist of it, he was sick, over weight, almost dead. He embarked on a 60 day course of drinking just juice. He lost the equivalent of a small human being, in terms of weight, stopped taking drugs that were prescribed to him, and became healthy. His work inspired people that he met along the way. As I watched, I said, wow, what a way to become healthier and lose weight. I figured, Ill give that a try. So I did. I set a goal and began working on it. I knew that I was scheduled to eat dinner on Friday night, so I figured that would be the only meal I would have and until then and after then I would keep a strict regiment of fruits and vegetables.
By the time I sat down to dinner I was starving. My brain knew food was about to be introduced into the body, well prepared fine dinning. I was beyond ecstatic. I chose the pescetarian option. It was a no meat but fish 5 course dinner. It was incredible. I am going to spare you the boring, wanna-be food critic breakdown of each dish and allow you to enjoy the photos.
NOTE: I am traveling to the Pacific Northwest at the end of February. I will be producing some travel photography work while we navigate around a few different cities in that region. In addition to the travel photography, I am going to be starting a personal project. When I return I will be sharing the details along with some of the images from the personal project. I am very excited for this project and I hope that you enjoy reading the photographs as much as I will be making them.
In October I received a request for photographs of Holyoke to be featured in Land Lines, a publication put out quarterly by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. I have a studio in Holyoke, a post-industrial city with a sea of mill buildings. My studio is situated almost directly in the middle of Boston and New York City. I have spent a lot of time making photographs in Holyoke. While I have featured the tear sheets on my website, I wanted to also post them here.
All the photographs that are featured in the article are aerial images of the city. I flew in a helicopter to produce the images. It was my second time flying in a helicopter for an aerial shoot. I would jump into a helicopter any given chance. On this particular shoot I had a friend accompany me. It was a lot of fun because our pilot was very skillful at flying. At one point she turned the machine at almost a 90 degree angle to give me a complete downward view over a landmark. Fun times.
Debra is a friend of mine. I met her through her husband Aaron. Aaron and I connected when I came back from Boston in 2009. Him and I co-produced a photography project, Yoga in Unusual Spaced. Since then Aaron and Debra have been a subject in front of the camera dozens of times throughout the growth of his political career and the expansion of his family. When Aaron and Debra found out they were pregnant, I was the first person to find out after Aaron. For months they did not tell friends or family, all while Debra was coming into the studio once a month to be photographed. The year before Debra had seen a progression series I had worked on for another client. She was so impressed that she asked me if we could do one for her.
We spent a few days emailing and discussing some options for the styling of the shoots. She had an idea from a magazine and I had a few ideas of my own. Debra, being a former Rockette, was drawn to dance pose that I found. I really liked a pose that she had found. We ended up producing a pose that was a combination of a few different variations of what we had for inspiration. This being the second progression that I was producing, I had come up with a set of rules that would allow me to reproduce the same pose with ease every time Debra came in. There are subtle changes that you can see, but each shoot resulted in the same pose, but with the obvious change, the development of their baby.
I am eager to produce another progression series. Email me, call me, beep me, snail mail me, and we can produce a progression shoot.
Every so often someone will tag in a Facebook status or connect me with someone I am not friends with that has posted "I need a photographer." Kim posted a status that she need a photographer for head shots for her business that she launched. Kim is as comfortable in front of the camera as she is behind the camera. She has commercial modeling experience and was excited to work with me. A client of mine connected us. We began discussing her needs and then started discussing incorporating some fashion into the shoot.
Kim needed some new headshots for her makeup business that she launched. She wanted to feature the photos online, business cards, and social media. Her face is her brand. Below are a few shots that I delivered to Kim.
I went through some saved images, work that I liked and found inspiring, you know a mood board and sent them along to Kim. For this portion of the shoot I wanted things to be simple. I wanted the photographs to be more commercial, ad based work. There are a few photos not posted here that are on my website and within the print promo that is being delivered to some special recipients this week.
Charleston embodies the south and southern living. There is a rich history that can be seen, tasted, heard, and enjoyed in all parts of the city. I am spoiled, as we all are, by such travel shows like Guy Fiery's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. Such shows are as entertaining as they are informative. My wife and I have made a point that when we travel, we are going to eat at the places we see on Guy's show. This trip to Charleston, we had neglected to think of doing that, probably because that was before we became obsessed with his show. We did however get a chance to try a well known restaurant, Poogan's Porch.
A culture can not exist without its people. People are the creative force that designs the food, art, and music that make up each region of the world. When I photograph someone I have an instant connection with them as well as I can understand them better. This is irregardless of age, race, or gender. The same can also be said for when I photograph the places I travel to. I try to experience the music, food, architecture, and art as best as I can. One of the things I fell in love with is the rich, vibrant, saturated colors of the buildings. The colors reminded me of Bermuda and some regions of the Bahamas, bright.
Whats better than food and art? music. Country music all sounds the same, just like a lot of other styles of music. But there are some artists that embody the places around them and become an element of that region by the sounds they create. One of the best ways to absorb the sounds of an area, get very close, so close that you can feel the tones, the sounds, each strum of the guitar or hear the sound of the singers lips opening and closing. Get close and take it in.
The area around Charleston is just as beautiful. We rented a car and made a point to visit Angel Oak. I am pretty sure the tree is older than the dirt that its roots are firmly planted in. Other things that come out of the ground are vegetables. Colorful, beautiful, natural vegetables. Crossing the bridge from Charleston we headed towards Sullivan's Island. Along the way we stumbled upon a farmers market that was part of a larger fair.
The south is known for a few things, BBQ is one of them. I wanted to find something authentic. I am not sure where we stopped, Fiery Ron's Home Team BBQ, was authentic, but it was pretty damn good.
Charleston is a wonderful place to visit. For New Years eve I wanted to take a trip, like we have done in the past, but due to some work related events, we couldn't take the time away. When I had suggested the idea, I suggested Charleston. When you find something someplace that inspires you to go back, you go back. My wife had said why go back when we could have gone some where else. Charleston I know, there was a great Thai restaurant that I would love to get back to again and for a holiday trip, a few days away, Charleston is the perfect destination.
I wanted to wish a warm and happy new year to all my friends, family, clients past, present, and future. In 2016 I am looking forward to some new work and big business changes.
Next week a promo will be dropping to some potential clients. I have been working on some new ideas, new work, and have a new trajectory for my photography. The photo below is from part of the promo kit that will be dropping.
2015 was a great year. I made some new friends, new connections, had some fun shoots, and most importantly got married. Second to getting married, we traveled. Below are 4 photos that are from Paris, Venice, Florence, and Rome.
2016 is going to bring more travel. I am looking forward to landing in the Pacific Northwest in February, seeing Portland, Seattle, and Canon Beach. I want to travel for leisure, pleasure, and work. Between the work, I want to enjoy the places I travel to. The world is smaller than we think, yet bigger than we could expect. I have never been one for "resolutions." I am however one for setting goals and accomplishing them. To all my friends, family, clients past, present, and future, I want to wish you all a safe, happy, and prosperous new year. I hope that you accomplish all that you set out to do.
Tis the season for 60 degree weather in the north east. We all wish for a white Christmas, well a majority of us here in the north east do. This year is shorts weather. I can not remember a Christmas being this warm, ever! Kind of really sucks. The weather has played a huge part in a lot of people not feeling the Christmas spirit, me included.
I want to wish all my friends, new and old, future and past, my clients, new and old, future and past, and to my fans and followers, new, present, future a safe and Happy Holidays. Make wise decisions and enjoy yourselves and your family!
And for those wishing for snow, here is a photograph of some snow from Stowe, Vermont.