Over my Shoulder

After I was asked to write about why I deleted my Facebook account, and after doing so, I figured there would be both positive and negative responses. I received plenty of texts, emails and a few calls, some expressing anger, others support and a few accusing me of deleting my accounts for the publicity.

Most of the time when I share opinions this is what happens, and this is what I like about sharing my opinion. And remember peeps, if you are on social, have a burgeoning community or just love it, then like I said before….power on. These issues and feelings are my own.

First of all, thanks to Michael for sharing a link to another article that makes me feel like I’m not alone or off base here. Simon Sinek on Salon. I’ve seen a few articles really bashing the Gen Y folks which I don’t think is fair. This article does a good job of pointing things out without slamming anyone too hard.

It has been less than a week since my departure and I wanted to follow up by saying it feels great. I’m pleased to find the idea of social quickly slipping from my conscious mind. I have changed other aspects of my life as well, and these changes have aided my new direction. I contacted a friend, someone I find intriguing, mentioned I had, for the first time in my life, compiled ten goals for 2014. He said “So did I, want to meet and discuss them?” So we did.

Three hours of one-on-one, undivided attention in a tea room north of Santa Fe. When we were finished I said, “I honestly can’t remember the last time I did something like this.” No phones, cameras, computers or distractions of any kind. No recording, no immediate sharing. Complete and total isolation and the silence that accompanies three-foot thick walls. It also helped we had a BRICK of the most incredible Chinese tea that required a hammer to break into pieces small enough to steep. It also smelled a bit like tobacco and was loaded with caffeine, so the time went quickly with my fingers drumming nicely on the antique wooden table. We also burned pinon.

This was the first time in my adult life I shared direction and desire with another human being who is NOT my wife. The only time. I’m sitting here now wondering how on Earth I managed to avoid doing this. He listened to me, I to him, and then the dialogue began. Eye contact, no rapid-fire conversation where each participant works from a mental drop down menu of bullet points they are aiming to get off their chest. Nope. I can’t do that anymore.

Perhaps I should say I won’t do that anymore.

This was simply adult, focused conversation, and to risk sounding “all gooey and mystical” it was wildly rewarding. We hit short-term concepts, long-term and each had several that overlapped one other. We also saw things the other did not, offering subsequent ideas or plans. Notes were taken. Eyes glazed over as brains attempted to wrap their fibers around possibility, reality or fantasy.

I know what you are thinking….“He just turned 45.” MIDLIFE CRISIS. You might just be right, but if this is a crisis, I think I like it.

There has been another side effect of my social media betrayal. An unnecessary filter has been removed from my life. I feel closer to the surface of things. My content intake just dropped dramatically. If you havent’ read “The Shallows” then you might not know precisely what I’m talking about, but it’s worth investigation in my humble opinion.

My brain just went from a fast moving, shallow stream to a river appearing mostly calm on the surface but still marked with those boils warning of hidden danger just below. Maybe next I’ll be a Lake Michigan or perhaps….The Dead Sea?

Finally, I realized why deleting and moving on was so damn easy. I’m not cool, hip, popular or providing anything trendy or anything deemed critical for people to live their lives. There is NO NEED to share the vast majority of what happens in my life. You can only cry “Wolf!” so many times.

I’m just a guy with more time on his hands.

And finally, I finally came to grips with something I’d been thinking about and discussing with a chosen few for over a year. I boiled down those who I feel are elite in the fields I follow and realized that many of the people I find truly original aren’t on social media. They never have been and never will be. They are instead making work. Period, end of story. A photographer I consider to be one of the best ever in his chosen field recently had another museum show and when asked about his online presence said he didn’t have a site and had ever been on social media. I wasn’t there, but was told that he was also asked about email and he said something along the lines of “I think I have an email address but don’t remember what it is.” He also has two new books coming out. What I’m saying is, not only is he doing well, he is thriving.

I also began to look at those with the largest followings, and those who make the most noise, and frankly what I found were really good sales and PR people who knew the charade of tapping the generic masses of consumers who had little to no direction of their own. These are the creative self-help masses who are willing to be pulled in new and distracting directions on a weekly basis because they are high on gear, technology and technique, things FAR easier to acquire than originality.

Also, several people found out I did this goal thingy and began quizzing me on WHAT my goals actually were. I won’t share them all, but the first was to just get healthy. As you know I have Lyme Disease, a tricky beast almost completely ignored and denied by the American medical community. I need to stay on it to say the least. Two of my goals are already complete, one of which was to delete my social media accounts, and another that has to do with some redesign. Other goals were more lasting and dealt with things like “thinking about other people more than I think about myself.” Life goals I guess you could say. In reality, more tricky stuff.

PS: I’ve posted this image before, but I’m lazy and it was there.

Bike Commuting Update

Out with the old, in with the new.

I just switched from 700×32 tires on the right, to 700×25 tires on the left! Shake and bake!
I know that millions of you out there are wondering how my bike commuting days are going. Well, I have to admit, it is pretty exciting. Using a bike instead of a car, who would have thunk it. It’s not like the rest of the world does it or anything.
I’ve been enjoying my little commute, even though I’m not commuting. You see I work at home, so I have nowhere to commute to. BUT, I do use the bike for errands. Food, bank, beach, training, lab, clients, etc, I can do all from the bike.

My typical rear rack setup. Exciting right?

Sure, I get to the clients and I’m a total sweaty mess, but who cares, it adds excitement to our lives of routine. A lot of folks ask me about the reception to riding in these parts. Frankly, it’s fine. Most people are TOTALLY indifferent to someone on a bike, and those few who blow by you inches from your handlebar, or get close and blast their horn, they have always sucked and have always been lonely, scared, insignificant creatures anyway, and chances are they will never change.

Another photo here for no particular reason.

Last night a friend was able to debut his documentary film titled, “Riding Bikes with the Dutch,” at the Art Theater in Long Beach. A great, fun film which ultimately contrasts Amsterdam with Long Beach, “The most bike friendly city in America.”
I’m not sure why bikes have been so slow to catch on here, well, I take that back. I know why. But, I’m surprised we still haven’t put our egos and status aside and embraced our future. I think when gas hits $5 per gallon, and it will, I think the bike will suddenly become more appealing.
Forty percent of all trips taken in the United States are less than 2 MILES. Just think about that.

But, it has to begin with city planning. Without city planning we are DOOMED. Drive to Phoenix lately? From LA? NINETY miles from Phoenix someone is building track housing developments. People, people, people, this has to be stopped. Not only are they building out there, but there is NO public transport to the city. How in 2010 is that possible? Plus, these places are cracker jack construction which means repairs in ten years, required heating in winter, air conditioning in summer. People, how on Earth does this make sense? And yet…it continues at a record pace.

This country is fantastic, but we sure do settle for less much of the time. We squander our potential, and instead of being a leader in the world we are a distant, reluctant, often times belligerent follower. We have the means to LEAD the world in this area, and yet we lead in sprawl and energy consumption.

The bike for me, don’t get me wrong, was not a revolutionary tactic. I ride because I like to ride. It made sense to me. The VAST majority of my trips are within 10 miles of my house, so naturally, I can take a bike and be fine. I also think the bike gives me time to think. No cell phone, and I even quit listening to music. One, it is safer, but two my mind is more clear, uncluttered. The bike is the ultimate pace. I could never run ten miles a day, and don’t really need my car. A bike is that pace that forces you to be a part of the world, but also allows you to cover a fair amount of ground.

There are a hundred and one reasons NOT to bike around here, but most are lame and old and tired. Check out my friend’s movie. If the those pesky Dutch can do it then so can we. www.everydaybike.com

Thinking about Peru 2010

Roughly 120 days from now I’m teaching a workshop in Peru.

My planning has already begun. You might find that a little surprising, but it’s very true. And while this might seem like a lot of prep time, let me assure you, it isn’t. Not by a long shot.

And when I say planning, I don’t mean dragging out my suitcase or beginning to prepare lecture notes. Those will come, in time. I mean, one of the basic questions is which camera will I take – my Leica or my Hasselblad?

At the moment, I’m beginning to prepare the logistics of my photographs. My personal introspection of what I’d like to make while in Cusco for the first time – what I’d like to make while there, not what I’ll be teaching. In fact, this note is somewhat of a primer on what we will be considering while there.

You see, in many ways, I’m in a similar position to the students who will be attending the Peru in Book Form photographic workshop. I’ve never been to Peru. I’ve never witnessed Easter in Peru. I’ve never seen Cusco. I’ve never been to this hotel. I’ve never flown through Lima. So, it is difficult for me to know exactly what will happen, which is what is so exciting.

(For those curious why the heck I’m teaching a workshop in a city I’ve never visited, I’m working with the producer of the PhotoExperience workshops who specializes in photography in Cusco. Between the two of us, we’ve got it covered.)

I think one of the most difficult things about doing an event like this is fighting the urge to preconceive what will happen or what I will see. More seasoned photographers might stand over my shoulder: “been there, done that“ trying to share the easiest solution with me, but again, my mind is telling me otherwise. I have grand visions, but there is always a catch.

In my editorial and newspaper days, assignments NEVER appeared like the concepts I’d preconceived. On the one hand this was frustrating. My visions were always incredible, and often times the visuals in front of me were not. I’d find myself cursing the assignment editor or saying to myself, “Gotta make chicken salad out of chicken sh%$.”

But on the other hand, arriving at unexpected things was fantastic, kept me on my toes, challenged me, and in the end made me a far better photographer. Heading into unknown territory with my camera became second nature, which has helped me tremendously when it comes to shooting weddings or even portraits. I don’t get rattled.

So today I find myself dreaming about Peru and also trying to figure out how I’m going to “design” my photographs – better yet, create my story.

I don’t know what I’m going to see in Peru. I could go online and look up Easter and try to find something specific, and part of me wants to do that, but I’m fighting the urge. Perhaps I don’t really want to know. I want to see with fresh eyes, knowing that what I see has never happened before. Each year brings something new, something I learned from photographing Sicilian Easter over a four-year period. I would return to the same towns, shoot the same events and see different things each time.

I’m thinking about other aspects of my images: how do I want them to look? In what format? Color or black and white? What size prints will I make? Will the prints be digital or traditional? Am I shooting for more of an editorial look? Gallery look? Or a book?

The specific goal of this workshop is to photograph Easter in Peru with the idea of producing a book from the material. What size book? What format? Will this be a commercial book? A personal book? A limited edition? Softcover? Hardcover?

What if I shoot two different ways and make two different books? Can I even do that? Will it water down the images if I try to do two things at once? Should I research previously published books on Peru? Of Easter?

Okay, by now it is evident I just finished my morning coffee, and that perhaps I’m a little fixated on this issue. Guilty as charged.

But this is my reality. You see my “design” on my images changes. I’ve got more than one look, and I’m trying to predict the future.

The easiest thing to do is shoot my Leica and Tri-x. I’ll love it. I know because I’ve done it so many times, in so many places. But I could also use the Hasselblad, which I love for portraits. Maybe I could shoot the action with the Leica and the slower stuff with the Blad?

It would be so great to board the plane with two small bodies, two lenses and a small bag of film. Light, easy, simple. But my mind tells me I can do more, make more, but this might just be another trick.

But in the end I can’t allow the concept of a book, or what a gallery might like, overpower the basics of light, timing and composition. I need to put myself in the best position to make the best photographs that are most reflective of me as a photographer.

It’s so easy to get lost in the “design”.

So, today my planning and designing continues. Soon I will work on lecture notes, slideshows, etc. I will curse myself for losing at least half of my Spanish ability. But I will also relish the idea of what will happen 120 days from now. I will dream about the moments and the happiness we will experience.

Like a fire burning inside, keeping us creatively warm, until that moment when the starter gun says,” Go!”