got the Kansas City blues
wishing it never happened
waiting for closure
The mother of my child and love of my life has eluded death at least three times. Twice she survived breast cancer. She once fainted in a movie theater lobby from a pulmonary embolism, due to complications with a stent in her arm relating to the cancer.
The disease took her ovaries and her breasts. Cancer made her voluntarily poison herself with chemotherapy.
She even survived a roll over crash on the highway before cancer was even a part of the equation. It decimates everything. The body. The spirit. The bank account.
Despite all that, she still smiles and cares for others more than she does herself. She encourages us and provides the roof over our head and the food on our table. She is kind, loving, responsible and strong. She makes our world go ’round. Together we see these close calls and consider them a sign. The sign says: “Live you’re life and don’t hold back.”
We had a child together after many conversations of what our future as a couple dealing with the repercussions of breast cancer would be like. We had Penny and then Maizy decided to let them take her ovaries to avoid the very real possibility of cancer developing there. Then she decided to let them take her last remaining breast. Total mastectomy. I still think she’s the sexiest woman on the planet. Survivors are hot. She sacrificed her body to have a chance to live a longer life.
Maizy is amazing. For almost dying several times, the life in her bursts out and infects me. She gave me an amazing daughter and encourages me to follow my dreams. I’m glad she’s in my life and I’m grateful to her for fighting to live as hard as she does and choosing to spend that life with a bum like me. I’m The luckiest guy in the world.
What would you do if you almost died? Wouldn’t you want to live your life to the fullest and not regret an existence of apathy? Experience things you never have? Go places you’ve never been? Enjoy YOUR life. Don’t wait for a life threatening disease to give you a wake up call. Do everything. Find what you love to do and follow your dreams. That’s what I’m going to do anyway. You can do whatever you want. It’s your life.
We want to travel. There are many reasons, but a big one for me is getting Penny out there to see the world. Cancer runs in the family. Maizy’s mom had it, and there is a decent chance Penny could have the BRCA gene. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are harmful genes inherited from the mother or father.
A child of a parent with the gene has a 50 percent chance of inheriting the mutation. I hope it isn’t true but I’m ready to deal with it if it is. I want to try to instill that appreciation for life in Penny, not that she doesn’t already have it. The girl is a firecracker.
Extremely emotional just like her dad. Intelligent and strong like her mom. A 50/50 chance that she could have to deal with ovarian or breast cancer? That’s tough to deal with. We are going to teach her to live life. What better way to do that than by example?
The fact is: any of us can die anytime. That’s news to nobody. We already know this. So why do we spend so much of our time doing things we don’t enjoy? I’m not talking about doing the dishes or the laundry. I’m talking about careers and life choices and doing things we wouldn’t normally do. Taking chances, trying new things, searching for fulfillment.
We live in a world where a majority of people think it’s crazy to follow your dreams. We think those people are crazy. Maizy and I have served our time on the hamster wheel and we are jumping off.
My girlfriend gave me some great advice about photography. I was complaining to her about how asking for permission to take a photo of someone ruined the candidness of the moment. She told me, “Don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness.” Whenever I’m out in the streets with the intention of capturing candid moments I live by that creed. Today I ran into a person who mistakenly assumed I snapped a picture of him. He got in my face and said, “What are you taking pictures of people for?”
His aggressive nature triggered an angry reaction in me. I took a breath and told him that I wasn’t actually taking a picture of him, I was intrigued by the giant lollipop on that truck that was passing through the intersection. Then he said this, “You are a lying little bitch, you’re camera was pointed right at me.” At this point my frontal cortex went dark and I turned into a crazy person, frothing at the mouth and spewing an expletive laden explanation of my rights as a photographer in a public space.
He is the second person in less than a month to confront me like this. On each occasion I was not actually photographing the people who were so offended by the presence of my camera and I. Over the years I have developed a sense of the type of person I think wouldn’t like their picture taken. In a world with billions of people I have no problem avoiding confrontation by passing up a photo opportunity, I know there is another person who would love their picture taken just around the next corner. This person was one of those guys. I had absolutely zero interest in photographing him.
In both instances I was harassed simply because I was carrying a camera around someone who doesn’t like cameras. Normally if someone questions me, I apologize and I tell them I’m a journalism student working on a project, but in these rare cases when someone basically attacks me for no reason I feel compelled to stand up for myself. I will not be intimidated by the guy flying a sign at the intersection begging for money because he got in my face for taking a picture I didn’t take. I’m sorry. I just won’t.
The other guy who did this to me actually rode up on a bike while I had my back turned, ran into me and actually started physically pushing me around. He was screaming at me, and accusing me of taking pictures of homeless people waiting outside a shelter in the middle of the night. Both of these times I tried to explain that I wasn’t doing what they thought I was, my explanations came across as sheepishly delivered excuses. When I heard myself sounding weak and meek that really made me angry and then I just started yelling back at them, standing my ground, trying to stand up to their “alpha-ness.”
As a photographer in the streets, I will be happy to delete a picture of any person who doesn’t want their picture taken. You don’t have to yell at me or get in my face or push me around, all you have to do is ask. I take thousands of pictures a day, losing one is no skin off my back. If you do push me around, that only will cause me to do the very thing you didn’t want in the first place. You get in my face, I’ll take your picture every time.
I’m just trying to tell the story of my life. I’m not out to ridicule people. I’m not out there doing undercover investigations of panhandlers. I don’t care that much about what you are doing. Just like it is this guy’s right to stand on the corner and make people feel uncomfortable every time they have to stop at the red light while he stares at them in their cars begging for cash, it is my right to take his picture while he is doing it. The truth of it is, I’ve been practicing street photography long enough that panhandlers and the homeless aren’t really my preferred subject for a photograph. Especially not a guy in a Superman hat.
I’m not a terrorist. I’m a Marine Corps Veteran. I’m not a pedophile. I’m a 40-year-old father of three, trying to make a new start in the world. Investing my time in the pursuit of a college education, trying to re-invent myself. I’m not proud of any arguments I have with my fellow humans. These type of confrontations make me sick to my stomach and I agonize over every cruel word I said in anger. So I’m sorry confrontational panhandler guy, you probably didn’t deserve to be the subject of my tirade. I felt disrespected and I reacted. It is a part of who I am.
I’m a photographer. That’s what my daughter is telling everyone anyway. I walk around with my camera hanging off my neck or shoulder. I struggle. I question myself constantly. I push myself out of my comfort zone and go for it, and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I miss the shot. Sometimes my camera malfunctions just as the decisive moment is blooming before my eyes. I sweat and my glasses get foggy. I try sitting around and blending in, and I also run around like crazy trying to squeeze myself into moments.
I try and look for meaning. I try to find people that I empathize with. The out of the ordinary. Someone who knows ridicule and shame and awkwardness and feeling anxious all the time. I look for that in people, because that’s how I feel. Angry people, people with power, the authoritarians the meek, the affluent, and everyone else in between. I’m curious about them. I’m curious about you.
I don’t make money, and I work with what I can afford, which isn’t much when you think about how truly expensive a photographer’s tools are. I shoot with one lens. A 21mm prime. I keep trying to branch out and try different focal lengths but nothing feels as good as that 21.
I think a lot about violence and how it is celebrated in our society. In the movies, on television, in our kids video games and cartoons. It has always bothered me and it never surprises me when I hear of a school shooting or any other type of violence. Humans fight and kill. Always have, always will. I don’t think we take it seriously enough. I don’t think we give it the respect it deserves. Glorifying it is wrong, yet it is the norm. I’m only one person, I can’t change it so I document it and study it and question it and bloviate about it on my personal web log.
I only share about 1 percent of what I shoot. Hundreds of thousands of images seen by my eyes only currently live on the several hard drives in my collection. I still feel like my best isn’t good enough, and it always seems like I’m chasing that next level no matter how many compliments and likes and words of encouragement I receive. I don’t even have a speedlite yet, three or four years into this obsession with photography and no external flash yet. What kind of a joke is that? A photographer with no flash.
So these images are just random things I see in my everyday life. I usually end up walking around downtown aimlessly just waiting for something to happen. I imagine that will be the same no matter where I go. I tend to stay away from other photographers although sometimes I find myself in a pack of them desperately wishing I could find the one place they are all ignoring so I can capture something “different”-whatever that is.
There are just too many of us. Everything has been done, and the things to do that really push the envelope involve purchasing or acquiring super expensive gear and going to dangerous lengths to capture it. So I’m not a Nat Geo super photographer scaling cliffs and diving to the deepest depths or a guy listening to police scanners and rushing to the scene of the latest fire or other major catastrophe. I’m just a guy wandering around with a camera, observing life.
I’ve learned that everyone is beautiful and ugly at same time. I’ve learned that some of us are uglier than others and I’m not talking about physical appearance. I’ve learned we are all complicated and have our own stories to tell. We are self-centered and egotistical. Caring and kind. We love each other, we hate each other, we can’t get enough. We always want more.
We all live and die. Some of us get a long time, and some of us are gone too soon. All of us have taken it for granted at some point. It is our nature. Photography is my way of appreciating life. Even if I never make a dime, even if I never become a superstar photog, I will always be taking pictures.
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