Friday, September 14, 2018


One last hurrah to celebrate the end of another summer, ironically: Nova. With everything that's been going on with me and my creative crisis, my last scheduled shoot of the year needed to be named "new," though I imagine she goes with more of the "star" part. She's in the midst of her own crossroads as well, having made the decision to step bad from modeling because she is sick of how models get treated, which I got to experience first hand while we were driving and she was trying to sort out hosting at her next stop. I'll just sum that up by saying I dropped her off at a hotel.

There has always been a little list of models I would love to work with, but years would usually go by before they were anywhere near me, and that would generally line up beautifully with a time in my life when I was counting change to put gas in my car.  This year has been a bit of a phenomenon for me because when I do get the nerve to reach out to a model, though their initial response is that they don't come out here, it isn't long before I catch a travel schedule that reveals that they are on their way, which is not to say that their LA experience is positive, per se, but I get to work with them...and hear about all the bullshit they have to deal with.

Anyone who truly knows me can tell you that I appreciate the stories and experience, meeting these beautiful souls, and I just happen to have a camera on me all the time and have always shot the experience, though my work is not as documentary as I'd like it to be.  Maybe that's the wall I'm hitting creatively?  Maybe...instead of random, seemingly themeless and styleless photographs, they need to start having more of a purpose, and I need to focus more on the stories and experience?  I don't know.

I do know that I crave real and raw people.  On our way out to this location she started asking what I wanted to shoot and how I wanted hair and make-up.  I just told her the same thing I told everyone else: however you want to be seen.  I have a natural aversion to anything made-up, because to me it represents the machine's control.  Most professional models, however, do have an image to maintain, and their paychecks depend on it, so I respect that, but it makes me sad on a much deeper level.  I understand, but I don't get it.  This beautiful soul was perfectly comfortable rocking her natural everything, war wounds from a recent shoot included, which was awesome.  In the first pic in this series her face was completely flushed and reddish from the heat and mild exhaustion.  I saw a lot of character in that, so I shot it, but I was sure to ask her if it was ok that I use it.  She was just like, "PSH... yeah."  At the end of the day, the treatment doesn't nearly represent how she actually looked: like she was about to pass out from the heat.  I feel like I should explain how we got to the middle of the desert, so I'll go back a bit.

Any time I talk to a traveling model who's coming through LA or SD, which is very rare and primarily dependent on finances, I offer rides and a place to crash, general help, to compensate for the money I can't afford to pay.  I DO pay, but it is often less than what is now hourly rates, out of necessity, not because I'm a greedy, arrogant photographer, which is becoming redundant.  In this particular case I offered her a ride to Vegas because there was an abandoned water park just shy of Zzyzx that I've been wanting to hit.  The original plan was for my model wife and kids to meet us out there, all of us shoot each other (she's a photographer, too), then I take Nova to Vegas and go back to camp with my family because my wife's birthday was the very next day.

That plan got nixed because of finances, but I had already offered and it was agreed upon, so that meant I was driving her out by myself.  My wife demanded that I stay in Vegas and not drive all the way home, but I'm not about to wake up in Vegas by myself on my wife's birthday while she's at home with the kids.  I left my little mountain at 6am, and the hour and a half drive to LA took about four hours, because fuck LA.  Left LA around 10, stopped at the abandoned water park and shot in 100+ degree desert for a couple hours, and ended up dropping her off in Vegas around 6:30pm... got back in my car, and drove home attempting to lie to my wife about where I was staying to keep something resembling a surprise intact.  I'm a horrific liar.  Stopped in Victorville to buy some flowers, and was home a little after midnight, but she was asleep and I didn't want to wake her up, so I quietly curled up on the couch.  She thinks I made a sacrifice to come home and surprise her; I think she makes sacrifices to let me run off with models to accomplish what I love.  I honestly can't wait until my girls are old enough to come with me and not need constant attention.
At the end of the day, this is what I wish I could do for most models.  I have had a number of models ask me for rides to PHX or SF, shoot on the way, but they always cancel last minute.  I'm not a big talker, but I appreciate those conversations.  Nova was amazing to meet and work with.  I just wish my wife could've been there.  I hate to hear that she, and many others, are getting sick of model life, but I completely understand how frustrating it must be.  I'm sure plenty of models have complaints about me, when I was figuring this all out eight years ago.  For the time being, my gratitude runs deep for the souls I have worked with this year, but I imagine I'll be taking some time off so my family doesn't drown.

Thursday, September 13, 2018


 Thirty-three seems like such a long time ago to me.  I was finally starting to figure myself out, but still had years before I even decided I wanted to survive my thirties.  I can't help but smile when this beautiful soul reaches those personal milestones that seemed so blessedly profound and blatantly obvious, as my flailing gradually got less extreme, and my accidentally harming those around me began to taper off.  Eight years ago I thought I was done with relationships. Although I was done playing the stupid games that most relationships require, it took a pretty extraordinary human being to show me that life could be even more beautiful.

She showed up in front of my camera for the wrong reasons, and I simply showed her the beauty that I saw in her, which she still cannot even begin to fathom.  She then pulled me out of a lonely world that I had become complacent with, having to accept that I would never have another chance to have and raise children, and showed me that I was waiting around for something that I didn't really want or need.  I was so anxious to just go, that I became frustrated with all those moments that relationships must go through, but she has stuck by me through my relearning process.
No, she was not a model that I started dating; she was a strong, independent woman, raising a daughter by herself, basically, who was on her own journey of growth and discovery.  She not only let me in, put she has pursued modeling because she knows it's something I love.  Now we have an amazing daughter together, to beautifully contrast her oldest daughter who I am doing my best to mold into a human being as beautiful as her mother.  Having such a gorgeous model with me at all times is just a bonus to being with such an amazing person and mother, and I couldn't ask for anything more.

Happy birthday, Love.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Privilege and Power

 We were recently inspired to embark on a journey with a beautiful tribe of women who are connected with this little mountain and the fire that came surreally close.  My wife took the lead, a FB event was created, and a small list of strong souls were invited.  The initial response was that the photographer needed to be a woman, which made me cringe because I have always wanted to do projects like this, but finding real, strong women to be involved is near impossible, so this would be yet another beautiful mountain tribe moment that I would be excluded from because of how I was born.  When I was presented as the photographer, the response was overwhelmingly positive, though I'm sure it did deter some from being involved, primarily those who don't know me, or haven't taken the time to really read my posts.  That support felt amazing, but by the end of the night, one of those invited demanded to hear a feminist's argument for the project, and argued that being naked in front of a "man's" camera did not support strong, independent women, but perpetuated the patriarchy and women's suffering.  Normally I would roll my eyes and refuse to engage, but my wife asked me to defend myself, which I've been doing my entire life, so my response was one that has gotten more and more angry and frustrated over the decades.  That, of course, fueled her argument, so she just kept bashing me and bringing up obscure things like English photographers exploiting African women, and it quickly became apparent that she wasn't even reading what I was writing, she just had a lifetime's list of predetermined arguments why this talking penis was wrong, so I stopped to breathe.  A number of women interested in the project jumped in to defend me, which felt amazing, and a number of souls who refused to engage in the argument later validated what I had to say.  By morning, my heart was heavy, wondering about what horrific things happened to this woman that would cause her to insert me into the role of MAN, having no idea who I was, and obviously having no knowledge of my work or point of view.

  I posted an apology, and a brief history of what I've dealt with as a "man" growing up in a system that I did not agree with, and what I have had to overcome to accomplish what I love.  She responded by giving me a list of feminist authors to read, and to learn about power and privilege.  *eye roll*. I have no power or privilege.  I live in poverty and servitude.  If anything, I have had less opportunity in my life because I'm a white male.  I have been surrounded by individuals who are handed opportunities because they're women or minorities, because it's "man's" job to take care of them or certain groups' job to look out for their own, while this patriarchal system has conditioned most to think that I'll be fine.  I'm not.  I have always needed help and support, and have had to make the most of having very little, and the help and support I did get was not because I was a white male, but because I am who I am, while I suffer constant attacks for being a white male, and false accusations based on others perception.  Such a privilege.

So I bought one of the authors she recommended, Bell Hooks' The Will To Change, because I will never pass up the opportunity to learn something.  To be perfectly honest, I have read nothing about feminism or patriarchy.  In the world I grew up in feminists were angry man-haters, and I hated men too, so I didn't think I really needed that redundancy in my life.  The closest I ever got to feminism was reading up on the beautiful and independent Imogen Cunningham, who blatantly refused to be a part of the feminist movement, but accidentally became a symbol of it because she just flipped everyone off and did what she wanted to do, despite the patriarchy and men.  She didn't stand on a soapbox and whine about how much men sucked.  Bell's approach took me by complete surprise.  The title of the preface, About Men, was an immediate turn-off, because she goes on about the rage and violence she was subjected to as a child, and lo and behold she found herself in similar relationships as an adult.  Hearing things like that hurt me deeply, and I did not want to read a book about the horrible things women have to suffer.  I am fully aware of those things.  On a personal level, I don't understand it, because, aside from observing the society at large that I grew to hate at a very early age, I never had to experience it.  The only aspect of patriarchy that I grew up with was my father being the provider, but he didn't treat us like his property.  He provided for us and and expected nothing in return.  I never saw rage or violence from my father, but I did see enough frustration and anger to respect him.  When I did something stupid, he would briefly explain why it was stupid, what the result would be, call me a bone-head, and tell me to stop it.  The only thing I was afraid of growing up was disappointing my father, which was expressed by a simple glance.  My mother made the decisions in the house, and he followed her.

I learned the pride of providing, and have always done whatever I can to support my family, because I love them and I want to, not because it's my job as a man.  The first chapter started with the statement that women just wanted to be loved by men, *cringe*, and ended with men needing to be loved and freed from the patriarchy, and there were some unexpected tears in between.  For the first time in my life, how I felt about the system was completely validated.  Bells' approach to patriarchy immediately pointed out that men are emotional time bombs, suffering constant emotional repression from the role that is demanded of them, which I have experienced first hand.  When I started blogging in 2009, the one constant note I got was that I talked too much about how I felt, and that most of my emotional rambling was unprofessional,  while female models' and photographers' blogs, riddled with emotion, were celebrated and coddled, mostly by men, who were simply playing out their patriarchal protective and dominant role.  The only real readers and followers I got over my almost decade of unnoticed and demeaned emotional rambling were women, because it is socially acceptable for women to feel and support emotion.  I could easily argue that the only reason I haven't "succeeded" as a creative is because I respond to the patriarchal roles with two middle fingers.

My blogging exploration into emotion and self discovery was also on the coat-tails of my second marriage unravelling by the firm gripping hand of patriarchy, and my struggling to be a part of it.  I spent my teens and twenties trying desperately to play a character that contradicted my nature, and that came to a head when I became an abusive "man", fueled by gin, whiskey, and self hatred, flailing miserably to figure things out.  Just shy of 30, my wife, who at this point had been driven to wander off to other men and bars, refused to come home one night, her excuse was that she was afraid I was going to kill her.  That seemed so absurd to me at the time, but I immediately stopped drinking and recognized that I was the problem.  A month later I accidentally killed someone, and every single thing in my life became a catalyst to change, obviously too late to save my marriage, and I honestly had a lot of work to do on myself, and still do.  God fucking bless my second wife for letting me experience that first hand, not that she "let" me do it, but she could have easily called the cops at any point in the entire year leading up to that, and she didn't.  I needed to see the fear and hurt I caused, in someone that I loved too much, but I didn't even understand love at 30, because the system never allowed me to.  Testament to the kind of woman she is, she hunted me down three years later, saw my blog, and sent me a message saying that she forgave me, veiled beautifully behind "I don't hate you anymore," and I regularly apologize to her now, veiled cleverly behind me making fun of the stupid shit I did.
So clearly this book brought up a lot of things, and I have already been blessed with so much more understanding, but I'm not sure if it's in the way that was intended, by someone who doesn't know me.  This shoot went beautifully.  I did not take many photographs, as there was a lot of getting comfortable time allotted.  By the time everyone seemed to settle in, two had to leave, but hopefully this opens a door for more shoots like this, and I am overwhelmingly grateful to everyone who showed up and helped this happen, because I can tell you from first hand experience, if I would have reached out to people and tried to make this work, it would not have, and that's not me being negative; that has been learned from a lifetime of trying, being forced to do it the wrong way out of necessity, suffering trying to do it the right way, then finally just giving up and settling for "professionals."...and if I don't get reads, shares, or attention because my feelings don't fit into the patriarchal system, I believe all of you are familiar with what my middle fingers look like. =)