Caracas Travelogue

Caracas_Travelogue_001

Caracas_Travelogue_001

If money was taken out of the equation, and I was given access to unlimited funds, I would still need little.  I would place the lion’s share in the hands of those who could fight for civil equality.  The rest I would use simply to travel and document those wanderings.  Perhaps I paint myself as a simpleton, but exploring new places at my leisure with my camera in hand, and my newlywed wife at my side is my idea of bliss.

I would watch as themes and concepts organically evolved, tying these brief glimpses and snapshots together.  I would let the disparate places and images create a whole greater than themselves.  I would stop to smell, and feel the breeze, and talk to a stranger at each opportunity, for I would have no final destination.  The end would always be found in the journey, leaving me with a goal achieved with each passing moment.

04.26.2012

Since this is not the case, I am nourished by my brief glimpses into bliss.  I am rejuvenated by each small outing and journey along the way, and blessed to find them more often than most.  Perhaps this is a gift in itself.  Perhaps the fruit would not be as sweet if it was of unlimited bounty.  Perhaps my bliss shines brightest when it only has a crack through which to flow.

For now I comfort myself with these thoughts, I take joy in my passing moments of zen, and I plot to narrow the gap between.  My recent travels in Caracas, Venezuela was not a vacation, and not a trip of leisurely pace – it was one of intense instruction and learning with long and rewarding yet sleepless days.  While that may have been the case, it was still a trip that renewed my passion through those I met, and gave me hope and excitement I needed in a way I was unaware of.

Despite the hectic pace, and emotional ride this trip entailed, I was also given the gift of time to wander.  This gift came in small doses.  It came while in the car between radio interviews.  It came while walking with students down alleyways as they worked.  It came when I least expected it, and wasn’t looking for it, but it was there.  For these moments of wandering bliss, I will be forever grateful.

 

View and license my images from Caracas → here.

Via Crucis in Petare

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Via_Crucis_001

Given my obsession with The Fourth Wall, and our society’s interaction with altered theatrical realities, I was in heaven, so to speak, as I watched Jesus drag his cross through the barrio El Nazareno in Petare, Caracas, Venezuela.  I was on visual overload as I watched the passionate reenactment unfold through this small corner of the largest slum in Latin America.  It was like a perfect storm of culture and social interaction for my taste.

Normally I would have been in production mode, blocking out everything, and searching feverishly for a photograph.  But that is not why I was there.  I was there to teach, and not to produce.  This gave me the license to simply take in the scene, absorbing it in a way uncommon for me when in ‘work’ mode.  Without the pressure to produce, I was free to really see, and only shoot when the urge pulled the camera to my eye instinctively.  I was able to shoot in the way I document my personal life – without rush, without agenda, and merely on a guttural or instinctual level.

To be honest, this was a free and liberating experience which produced photographs I was pleased with.  I thought I had come back with nothing, and wasn’t worried about that possibility.  When reviewing our photographs, both Kendrick Brinson and I saw images that we didn’t even remember shooting.  These photographs that had been created from within instead of calculated precision.

For me, it was a return to something that had gone into brief remission in my own photographic life.  The production of the images harked back to a time in my life when photography was new and alive with possibilities, and this feeling has stuck with me since.

This idea and feeling was compounded by the liberty I afford myself while shooting with my Fuji X100.  Though still only a tool, the camera creates in me a freedom from the perfection and attention to technicality which I apply to most of my work.  I allow myself to just shoot, feel, and let go of perfectionism.  I also believe the small camera strips the barrier between myself and my subjects, allowing me to blend more easily and draw less attention (except of course when I’m the bearded tattooed guy in the middle of a barrio in Latin America).

It wasn’t just my mindset or the camera that give me this new-found photographic reboot.  It was our students.  I saw in them a passion and excitement for photography.  An excitement with an end of creation and learning instead of monetary gain and career advancement.  I saw in them the reason I fell in love with the photographic arts, and the core that will carry me throughout my life.

 

 

Atlanta Untitled 4

Atlanta_Untitled_4_001

Atlanta_Untitled_4_001

I was recently speaking with a friend about his ideology and intent in shooting iPhone photographs.  He told me that he looks at them less as photographs, and more as visual notes.  For me, the same idea transcends to much of what I shoot, especially in the realm of street photography.  Much of it is visual notes on places, people, and light.  99.9 percent of street photography is failure, according to Alex Web, and so it is especially healthy for me to think about the process and the reason more than the final product.  Many of the photographs are more of a sketch than a finished drawing, and I’m okay with that.  It is through these photographs that I learn and understand the world around me.  It is these visual notes that make up the diary of my life, and reveal what I’m looking for in the future.  Here are some of my memos and sketches along the way as of late.

Workshop and More in Caracas

RMTF_001

RMTF_001

Kendrick Brinson and I spent over a week in Caracas, Venezuela at RMTF, an amazing photography school run by teacher and photographer Roberto Mata.  We arrived in Caracas and immediately went on a press tour – we were interviewed and photographed for a full-page section front story in Venezuela’s El Nacional newspaper, and were also interviewed about the workshop, talk and the exhibition by three radio shows and an online art magazine.

We each exhibited images in the gallery at the school: I had work from my ongoing project “Atlanta: Too Busy to Hate” and Brinson showed work from her new ongoing project “Memphis: Music Eden.” The exhibition was the first for both projects. Although many Caracas residents vacation at the beach during holy week, the exhibition opened to a packed house. The same went for our talk a following night, where we both shared personal project work and then debuted work and fielded questions from the crowd. Our talk was standing room only and was received by a dozens of questions by the crowd and a round of applause.

We also held a four-day photography shooting and editing workshop centered around Semana Santa (Holy Week). The 29 students shared personal work and then were paired into teams based on their strengths. Each team was required to photograph Holy Week in Caracas, specifically in Petare, one of Latin America’s largest slums. The teams were given challenges and were required to help each other shoot and edit. Each day Kendrick and I would edit the previous day’s photos down, explaining why each photo worked and if it didn’t, how it could be improved, and then the groups would go out and shoot again. Saturday, the entire workshop was escorted by police as they photographed the stations of the cross in Petare until past dark.

What made this group of photographers so unique was each has such unique backgrounds, the majority of whom do not have a goal of making a living off photography. The students ranged from a student who is 14-years-old to a professional doctor and lawyer. All of the students have plenty of distractions in life, so their devotion and passion for photography pushed their work to another level. Their styles and tools ranged as well. Some shot instant film, some shot medium format, some shot Holga, some shot digital, some specialized in still lifes, some specialized in portraiture, and some specialized in documentary. Each day, after we edited images down as a huge group, the students would try shooting in new ways they’d previously seen in their classmates’ photos. Each student improved each day and because they worked in teams, they got to experiment in ways they hadn’t before.

Don’t be mistaken, we were not easy on our students. In an upcoming post, you will be very impressed with the range of images the students created during the Holy Week workshop in Caracas. Stay tuned! (photos of me, and a few others included by Kendrick Brinson)

 

 

 

Atlanta Untitled 3

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Atlanta_Untitled_3_001

Fragments, dislocations, scattered pieces of a puzzle.  This is what makes up much of my personal photographic existence.  Looking for the ties and glue that hold it together is where much of my personal introspective time is spent.  I have two times of the day where I invite myself to be lost in a more stream of consciousness thought-pattern.  The first when I steal away to exercise in some form or fashion, and the second in the brief time after work is done just before sleep.  This is the time to let my synapses fire, and my thoughts wander down loosely-connected paths, dense with overgrowth.  The times when I can think as an end, and not as a means to an end.  The latter time is when I prep my head and steer it in the direction for what dreams may come.  I’ve been reading lately about the subconscious and its ability to either reap havoc or guide the way to a fulfilling life.  I believe it has the ability to perform on an intuitive and cognitive level, processing countless life equations, reacting on instincts and previously framed theories.  The subconscious makes up in intuitive feeling what it lacks in reason, and offers us an alternative and counter-point to our ration-based society.  For me, it’s a guide to life, but a particular friend to photography.

Atlanta: Parade

Atlanta_Parade_001

Atlanta_Parade_001

In my early days shooting at a newspaper, I used to hate shooting parades.  I was always directed to shoot the main part of the event, and I saw them as this horrible jumbled mess exploding in bad light.  I was a very clean and controlled shooter then who hated to shoot at mid-day, so the very idea or mention of a parade horrified me. Even worse, it made me feel like a tourist, and dammit, I was a professional.

Then I saw the light, so to speak.  In fact, the first step of my ideological 360° was light.  I realized that I like almost every kind of light our world has to offer, and each can be used in a uniquely beautiful way.  The second step came in two forms of inspiration from my peers.  First was a photograph and brief excerpt of writing by Juli Leonard in which she described parades as places with strange possibilities for landscapes reminiscent of Dali paintings. This idea stuck with me, as did her photograph in an essay titled ‘Found’, which ran in Blueeyes Magazine, edited by John Loomis. This idea may have been the first spark, which led to my interest in our projected realities, a theme which I continue to study in The Fourth Wall, and undoubtedly will throughout my career in various forms.

The second form of inspiration came years later by way of the very talented Peter Earl McCollough. Peter’s study of moments and juxtaposition at large parade events reminded me of the possibilities.  His street work also helped me realize and strive for a different and more discreet way of working.  This led me to shed my desire to be looked at and recognized as a working professional.  I now crave to blend, to look unassuming, and be mistaken for the tourist I used to dread so much.  But more of a local tourist, someone who fits there, who should be there, and merely captures moments of the world around him. The newest addition to my box of tools, the Fujifilm X100, has allowed me to project a less threatening barrier when I lift my camera. For this reason, the little digital rangefinder has been my tool of choice in recent months for all my personal work.

These photographs represent recent visual slices and moments that caught my eye at the Atlanta’s Veteran’s Day Parade downtown, and the first annual Black History Month Parade on historic Sweet Auburn Avenue