Every year like clock work the resolution fairy comes and delivers false hopes to many. It takes a strong willed courageous person to make changes. Many people are comfortable and complacent in their lives and blissfully make resolutions that they knowingly will not follow through on. I have never been one to make a resolution. I am however one that enjoys a lifestyle of reinvention. As the years pass, our careers and personal lives allow us to reinvent ourselves to fit new rolls while maintaining our personality. As the year winded down and came to a close I was seeing more and more posts on social media saying “2016 needs to end." I believe everyone was ready for a change. The truth is there are a lot of people that are frustrated, given the social and political climates that have been changing daily. We are currently in a liminal state of change as we await our President Elect to take office just after the start of the new year. 2016 was a tough year for a lot of people, myself included.
During the last year I met some great people, produced some awesome shoots, and traveled to new places. Work was good, all-in-all. There were some health obstacles to overcome that made work a bit challenging. I started the year off in the gym and taking a yoga class. I ended up with a slight knee injury due to the yoga class, pre-existing issue that worsened with the yoga, that became a compounded during a hiking trip along the Oregon Coast in February. The compensation from the knee injury over the course of a couple of weeks following our return from the Pacific Northwest led to a misalignment in my back that nearly put me out of work for two weeks. Due to these issues I had stopped going to the gym. After healing up and moving on from those injuries, the warm weather was prime conditions for riding. I am big into mountain biking and cycling. I started slowly with a few rides a week. Between trails and bike paths, I started to rack up the miles. One late afternoon in June I ascended a mountain nearby. I rode 25% of the way up and walked the remaining 75%. It took me a total of 45 mins to get the the peak. I had climbed up using an access road that was in no way shape or form designed for downhill mountain biking. Regardless, I had set a goal, ride back down. Within minutes I was carving down, taking the tight, very tight turns. It took me less than 9 mins to make it down the mountain.
During a few passes riding around the former ski slopes I had a few quick chats with some hikers. One of the girls was impressed someone would tackle such terrain, given that it was not groomed for riding. There were small to medium sized rocks that grew in numbers the more I climbed the trails. Ultimately that would lead to me turning back. As the group passed me a third time, making their way down the trail, one of the girls looked back and said, “good luck. If it were me, I would fall on my face.” Moments later while I was making my way down a path. The path began to open up, expanding in width as I maneuvered my way towards a body of water that had a trail looping it. I increased my speed and looked ahead to see how much further until I took a right onto the path leading off of where I was coming from.
My left hand floated off the handle bars as the front wheel turned 90 degrees sideways. My left hand and wrist broke the fall, taking the brunt of the hit as the front of the bike began to summer-salt forward. As my hand made contact with a rock, my wrist gave out under the tremendous weight of the fall and my shoulder was the next to make contact with the ground. I continue to move, sliding on my shoulder. My face was the third part of me that made contact with the ground. My left hip came crashing down as I slid a bit more and then continue to roll over. I rolled another 90 degrees before I looked over and found myself wrapped up in the bike. I sat up, pushed the bike away from me and recounted what had just happened. I could feel a cool rush on the left side of my face by my eye. My nose had a tingle, kind of like the sensation of being hit with tennis ball at a slow speed. My left hand was throbbing and my wrist was in pain as my hand instinctively curled up. My hip was sore and my shoulder was killing me. Within seconds I was on my feet and digging my phone out of bag, that sat under my seat. I needed to check my face to see how bad the damage was. I slide the screen open, launching the camera. I reversed it and looked at myself. Dazed. There was blood, nothing major. There was more pain than crimson colored blood running down my face. I could feel the swelling starting to form. I slide the screen closed for the camera and began calling my wife. No answer. I had to vacate the path as fast as I could with the sun well beyond the other side of the mountain. I was in agony and need to get home to determine if I needed medical treatment. I walked a short distance up the path, mounted my bike, pedaled up a short hill. I cradled my left arm against me as I passed a group of guys walking. I cant for the life of me remember what they said, nor my response, but the acknowledged that I had just taking a shitter. The biggest shitter of my life. When I reached the car I tried my wife again. No answer. At this point I was now upset, because that meant that I had to drive home. I did not feel that it was a wise decision, but the alternative, calling an ambulance seemed over the top. I could function, the fall to my face, at the time, didnt seem so bad, and I knew the date, my name, and where I was, a I kept mentally checking in, trying to make sure I was not having any signs of possible head trauma, more than the obvious. When I walked into the kitchen my wife was not completely surprised, but she was fearful of the injuries.
I awoke the next morning. The black eye arrived at some point during the night. My left hand and wrist were locked up and I could not move either. My shoulder was tender and my hip was cut and sore. My left eye socked, on the side of my face, was in extreme pain. How the hell was I going to work like this, I thought to myself. I had a small shoot that afternoon and a few shoots lined up over the next few days. After speaking with my wife and trying to call our Dr, I ended up driving to the very same urgent care she visited that same morning. By the time I was able to get in, she had already left. Long story short, my wife and I had the same Dr treat us. She, too, could not reach our primary care and ended up going in for a cut that was infected. My injuries were a growing concern, which of course brought me into the office. After having some X-rays and finally speaking to the Dr, it was determined that due to how fast and rapidly the black eye grew and spread, a CT Scan was needed. If you take a blunt force impact to the face near the eye and a fracture occurs, air can get in through the eye socket and cause an infection that can spread to your brain. No one has time for that kind of shit! I took her very seriously and promised I would make my way to the hospital and get check out. If there was a fracture to my face, I would need surgery to repair the damage and avoid any future issues, such as a killer brain infection. I did not have a break to the wrist. It was as sever strain, which as the Dr said, can sometimes be worse than a break. Pardon me while I stop typing for a moment so I can crack my wrist. For about 8 weeks after the fall I had my wrist tightly wrapped up in a fabric and velcro splint. It was black and had a thin sheet of medal that contoured my hand and wrist. Not very comfortable for working 10-12 hours a day. The next two weeks following the accident were miserable. The pain in my face was annoying and the limited use of my left hand was troubling for work. I felt like I had been in a major car crash, except I wasnt. Instead I had a major accident falling from my bike, which was seemingly worse.
Now, six months later, most mornings I wake up with soreness in my left wrist. The left side of my face has scar tissue on the inside of the skin, near the eye socket. I can see it when I smile in the mirror. My shoulder recently has been sore. My hip, healed up a while ago. 2016 was a tough year for me. I spent a great deal of time healing from all the injuries. The obvious one, the bike accident, took the most time to heal from. For the last 4 weeks I have been back in the gym. My friend and I have been on the stationary bike, less likely to end up with a contusion from that kind of riding, than being out on a mountain, and really getting our asses into gear. I have been longing to be back in the gym the way we have been the last few weeks. The gym is a place that is devoid of all of my work and is a place where I can go to escape almost anything and be free to be active. I am still a bit limited though. The wrist injury, as I said with a sever strain, can be worse than a break, which has caused me to have a slower start with using weights. I was once fairly fit and in the gym regularly, before I met my wife and before I started working 60-80 hours a week. So it has been a long and tiresome road to get to the end of this year.
2016 was a year of self actualization. I produced some great shoots, took projects to new levels, and have begun to reprioritize my career with a focus on specific goals. The latter part, “focus on specific goals,” really began towards the end of 2015, but sometimes we need to take time to ensure our interests are more than that, just interests. I spent a large part of 2016 learning new things about myself, my interests in photography, and how all of this applies to our future, my wife and I. It takes a lot of understanding of ones' self to realize what they want. The hard part isnt figuring out you want to do something, it is figuring out how to make that happen. In November I was doing some portfolio work in New York City and I connected with a photographer, who is now a new friend. She writes for SLR Lounge and is trying to figure out her place and path within the fashion world, but trying to concur New York City as she does so. It is rewarding to connect with someone that is in the same area as I am, a great photographer standing at the front door to a dream, knock, peering in the window, trying to figure out how to unlock the door and gain access to work, lifestyle, and career.
Not to long ago, sometime in mid-November I was searching through hard drives and came across some old work. Work that I was making blindly, with no idea and no consequence. At the time I was a contributing photographer for a small publication. I was hungry then, which meant I was naive enough to pursue things without vision or knowing what I was truly doing. All I knew is that I wanted to shoot and be published. The rest would get figured out as need be. That juvenile mindset allowed me to blissfully shoot without vision, knowing that it would lead me somewhere. Which it did. It lead me to other opportunities, which lead me to shooting my first published fashion shoot. It obviously not Vogue or Vanity Fair, or else I would have said so by now. While searching that hard drive I looked back at the photos and realized that not only have I developed a vision, a set of skills that I have worked hard at, but I have evolved. That is the key word, evolved. As a photographer, an artist, a business, you must evolve. If you fail to evolve it means you are failing to live and learn and grow. If you are not living, learning, growing, you are not succeeding. If you are not succeeding, well, you're shit out of luck in the game of life and you will be forgotten in a New York minute.
2016 was a good year for me in terms of business. I had some great shoots, met great people (as mentioned) and have begun to internalize my dreams and goals for the next year, two years, and the career I am looking to expand. I will say this, the highlight of the year was shooting Dale Noelle in her Upper East Side apartment for the cover of a magazine. Not only did I connect with a great person, but I was able to make some incredible images of her. In order to make a dream a reality, you must go through processes, such as the learning curve it will take in order for you to get there. It starts with the internalizing process. You must prepare yourself for the hard work that is ahead. You can not just say, “I am going to do this,” and the next day you are there, at the top of your career, doing exactly what you want. It just does not work like that. To rise to the top or to any level beyond where you are takes time. For some it is shorter than others, that is the learning curve. However, for others, it takes more time and more hard work. This is where I am at. I am at the self actualization stage, where I can see where I have come from and how I got to where I am, and am now in the “figure it out” phase of the next chapter of my career. Not a lot of photographers openly discuss this. I am not sure if it is because they are too busy, fear letting people know to much about themselves, or just do not care to discuss the intimate details of their business and lives. But as photographers, we must grow and adapt and always be focused on moving our careers forward.
Have you ever wanted to travel some where and finally you get there and realize that it is everything you hoped it was and then some? That is how I would describe the Pacific Northwest. In February we landed in Seattle. We stayed with friends for a few days before we drove down to Portland Oregon. Portland like Seattle is funky city. They are going through a gentrification that was fascinating to see. Their culinary boom is incredible. We ate great! Literally. I connected with a friend from back east and we had some great beers and the following day he cooked us lunch before we made our way to Cannon Beach. While we stayed in Portland we drove down to Multnomah Falls. WHOA. What an incredible place! I was able to see Mt. Hood from a distance and captured that scene from Pittock Mansion. Cannon Beach was an eerie area. We arrived on a foggy afternoon that looked like a scene from the Goonies. We stayed in an awesome bed and breakfast that was within 200' of the ocean. I slept great. I was heavily inspired by Cannon Beach and the surrounding area. It was my first time touching the pacific ocean and experiencing the pacific coast. My vague translation of my internal feelings is due in part to the fact that I could write a novel about the area. I will say this though, I had the great hike of my life as we meandered and wandered up the pacific coast. I saw things and found things I never thought I would, but always hoped. I will be writing some travel posts in the very near future.
From the last week of September into the almost second week of October we were in the south. We had a house on Isle of Palms, South Carolina and spent a few days exploring Charleston. It was our second time down there together. This time we drove, bringing out dogs with us. We faced numerous issues. Our puppy was injured at doggy day care, ended up with kennel cough a few days later, same puppy, and we were evacuated from the island 2 days early due to a hurricane. What a bunch of crap! We had a great trip though, regardless of the issues we faced.
I want to travel as often as I can. I want to see as much of the world as I can. I want to be able to share what I see with others, especially my wife. My goal for 2017 is more travel, both for work and for leisure.
I have had some failures, successes, ideas and desires. At the end of the day I keep going knowing that my good days will be matched by days that are less than desirable. However, the days that are bad, seemingly monumental failures, will pale in comparison to the days that yield the highest rewards. As we leave 2016 I offer this piece of advice. Let us not forget where we have been, but let us remember where we want to be. Keeping yourself focused and determined will ground you to your ambitions as you work towards those goals. For me, 2017 is going to be a great year filled with a lot of work, a lot of networking, promo distributing, and opportunity seeking, in addition to consistently and constantly developing my work. I want to wish everyone a happy, safe, injury free New Year. Let us not forget the talent that we are saying good bye to as we exit 2016, but let us remember how they changed the world.