Sex is, above all, entertainment. Yes, it perpetuates a species. Yes, it can be an expression of affection and intimacy, an addiction, a tool, and a weapon. But the bottom line is, after all the fireworks, in a healthy sexual relationship, you’re supposed to feel really, really, ridiculously good.
For reasons I cannot explain, I have discussed sex lately with an amazing variety of people, in entirely unrelated circumstances and from every perspective I could have imagined. I have no professional training in psychology, or sex therapy, but I have no issues discussing sex and, for reasons I’ve stated below, I’m fairly knowledgeable about it, so people tend to feel comfortable talking to me about it. The one thing that stood out – and yes, I am keenly aware of the comedy in that phrase – was that people STILL just don’t know how to talk about it to one another. One would think that such a simple problem is easily solved, but with everyone boiling in their own tea kettle, it’s a problem that seems to require an interpreter in nearly every case. As I listened intently in every conversation, I began to see patterns.*
“Didn’t have a camera by my side this time,
Hopin’ I would see the world through both my eyes,
Maybe I will tell you all about it
When I’m in the mood to lose my way with words.”
I’ll have to beg your forgiveness for beginning this piece with song lyrics, but it is among my favorites songs, and every time I hear it, it takes me down the same path.
A few years ago, I officially retired from IT and decided that I’d pursue photography as a profession rather than the hobby it had been. While I have enjoyed the work most of the time, I now find myself having learned an unexpected lesson. The business of photography sucked the joy out of the art of photography, for me. I wanted to capture a story in every frame. That is not what happened. It became rote. It made me very depressed. Most inquiries wanted cheap, quick, painless and Photoshop. I wanted to create. More and more of my friends are leaving the “business,” as well, for the same reason. In an effort to love the art again, I cut jobs down to only a few a month. It has been a relief.
I have had several heart-to-hearts about this with a friend. He is my creative conscience, and he gives my fears no quarter. Stop taking your gear, he said. Just use your phone. See things. And this weekend, on a trip to Minnesota, I did as he said. The process was, at first, frustrating as hell. I know my gear, intimately. I know the buttons and dials. I can control depth of field, and ambient light, and compression. With my phone, I could only control composition and focal point. It was a bit like someone had cut off my hand. I forged on, nonetheless. And I did, in fact, see small things I might have missed. As usual, my friend was right about what it takes to get out of my head space.
All of these images were shot using my iPhone. It is proof of two things: (1) seeing requires your eyes first, (2) the camera is only the tool.
I’m slowly getting my mojo back, and for that I have to thank my friend. I don’t enjoy looking inward, because that’s where the heavy lifting is. But I’ll do it every time for the payoff. It’s priceless.
More on these images individually, in later posts. Some warrant their own.
For some bizarre reason, I am obsessed with archeology and history as it applies to the Old Testament. I’ve tried to figure it out, but frankly, lost interest in the reasons. Perhaps it supports my real obsession with the psychology of motivation. Tonight, I started a recent Nat Geo issue that was entirely dedicated to Biblical history. The first section, logically, is dedicated to the Pentateuch. I’d never really read the story in such a condensed arrangement. Taking out much of the text truly simplified the message and my wanna-be-psychologist-in-training mind went to work on it.
I allowed twenty-something years in IT to turn me into a harpy, screeching and bringing ill will to those that had stifled my creative darlings. I wanted out so that I could live with myself and stop tormenting the people around me. So, while expecting the birth of my beloved niece #2, I decided on an exit strategy. Continue reading →
Photographers hear that a lot because many people assume that the camera does all of the work. But the camera, like the computer on your desk, or the oven in your kitchen, does nothing without the person holding it. Furthermore, the camera means nothing without the lens. The lens is what determines the look of the image. Is it wildly distorted? Is it what the human eye sees? Is it the perfect portrait lens?
But what is the lens without the hand that gives it focus?
It’s an easy metaphor, isn’t it? One can have all of the talent in the world, and not have the ability to give it focus. I know my lenses, intimately. I know which one will give my subjects the most beautiful profile. I know which will showcase the spectacular silhouette of the wedding dress chosen with all of the emotion of a hopeful bride. I know which lens will add pounds and I know which will take pounds away. And I know how to focus them all.
I have spent (and will continue to spend) a great deal of time acquiring my education as a photographer, and yet in 13 years, I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface. I will never be wholly satisfied. But I view the world through my lenses. I see an image come together in that small frame and I know I’ve selected the right tool for the job. Each lens has a different feel, and I’m aware of the quality I can expect from them. But without my hands, they are simply glass and metal. It is entirely up to me to use them to make something beautiful.
The last year has been a wild, wonderful storm of new things for me. I relish every minute, even the most painful. It all taught me something.
Earlier today, in one of the professional groups I belong to on Facebook (Craig Lamere, a talent so huge, it’s almost criminal) a challenge came down to post our best work of 2014. As usual, a blog entry was born the moment I realized which image I should use.
It is the final year in my 40s, but it has been the year that taught me the most. I have accepted and embraced things about myself that have freed me to be who I wish I was when I had the freedom to do it all. A lot of people say that, but can’t pinpoint exactly what that means. I can.
Tomorrow, I’ll be introducing “The Year of a Hundred Things” in this blog forum. I am going to examine things that are important to me, hoping it will resonate and inspire others to do the same. But today, I want to focus on the one thing that changed for me in 2014 that represents years of searching.
I grew up in a household that did not put value on creativity. That’s not an indictment; they just didn’t learn its value from their parents, so they placed no value on it themselves. I have lived my life within the confines of that barrier, not knowing HOW to break past it. Well, this year, I did. A few people influenced that epiphany, some of whom will recognize their reflection in this piece, and some who won’t, which makes me sad for them because they don’t know what they mean to me. One I believe is lost forever, and there is nothing to be done.
And now that I have broken past it, I want to take a moment to recognize one of the moments that brought it to my attention. In February of this year, my dear friends said goodbye to their father: a man who garnered respect and admiration because of the example he set. He also had a voice that shook the walls of every sanctuary in which he sang. It was a difficult time for his children and grandchildren, but their faith made them a shining example of what saying goodbye should look like. Their collective grace was inspiring.
As my friends began the arduous process of planning his final rest, I had the privilege of occupying the tiniest member of the family. She is among my favorite muses. I had decided earlier in the year that I was going to make the leap into a level of creativity I had theretofore denied myself. And that day, with my tiny muse more than willing to be photographed as long my camera’s battery would last, I made what I believe is the most iconic image of my career, so far.
As “Let it Go” rang out in my studio, my tiny muse danced around in her lovely blue dress and I focused as fast as I could. I shot hundreds of frames that day, but the ones I loved most came between the first and the last notes of her favorite song. I gave her every age-appropriate prop I had and I watched through my viewfinder as her imagination flourished. It was magic, and it reached into my chest and wrapped its tiny hand around my heart. I was exhausted when I finally set my camera on the table, but I was thrilled at what I’d achieved. I just let it go. It seems so prosaic, but in reality, it was the perfect storm.
As I look back on this past year, the years I wasted searching for my passions become far less important than those ahead of me, giving me the chance to further push the envelope in both in my writing and my photography.
Happy New Year to all my friends and readers. May the new year bring you to yourself, and may you find joy there.
You can view my work on Facebook by searching “Imagomodo” (www.facebook.com/imagomodo). My website is http://www.imagomodo.com, but it is woefully outdated (and currently number 1 on the New Year’s resolutions list).
I wonder at the number of people who dabble as musicians. Every other person I know plays at least one instrument. I sing, so I’ve experienced the rush of moving a crowd. And now, I’m watching my son enjoy learning the beauty of the piano. I believe in the power of music.
Yesterday, I got the chance to photograph a rehearsal for my friend Gumbi Ortíz and his new band “The Electrik Rendezvous”. Gumbi is a world class percussionist from the Bronx. He still has the telltale accent. He’s irreverent and intense and I adore him. Keeping your hips still while he plays is nearly impossible, especially if you are Latina, like me. It’s in our blood.
Walking around in the small rehearsal space made me a captive audience. The limited square footage required that I stand right in the center of the musicians and their amps. I was getting every note from every angle. It was loud and funky and somewhere in all of the sound coming at me, they heard every nuance. I heard drums, congas, guitar, bass all working together to create a jazz fusion that made me want to salsa. But they heard missing riffs, crescendos, high hats that needed more volume, and lead-ins that should be cut shorter. It was fascinating to watch them make small changes, like the sound of a single snare in the drum line, and then hear the change in the texture of the rhythm.
Next time you hear a song on the radio (and hopefully, you have good speakers), listen carefully to every instrument. They aren’t there by accident. Somewhere, in a garage or a rehearsal studio, a group of people got together and created the texture that draws you to that song. It may be the drum line, as it often is for me or it may be the weep of the violins. But whatever it is, it was deliberately added the same way a painter brushes a highlight into his subject’s eye. It makes the masterpiece come alive for you. Spend a few moments appreciating the nuances in your favorite music, for that is where the craft is.