I am fortunate to live in one of the greatest cities in the world, New York. A place steeped heavy in culture, from Broadway to world class museums, which I try to visit as much as I can. Standing in front of a piece of art, absorbing the creative vision of the artist, the texture of the brush strokes or the smooth definition of the carved marble, I get infinitely inspired. People come from all over the world to visit and have those same experiences.
But recently, with the age of social media, selfies, check-ins, tagging, and posting of any and all experiences, I’ve noticed a troubling trend in museums. People aren’t actually LOOKING at the art. They quickly snap photos of the painting and the text next to it, then move on, never taking the time to see what is right in front of them. Some even taking selfies with a Van Gogh or a Degas as if they are proving they have had a cultural experience. But have they? Have they noticed the way Rembrandt uses thin paint over thick to give transparency to a lace collar or the number of blades of grass in Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World.
Don’t get me wrong, I love that people are falling in love with photography, but when I shoot it’s so that I DON’T miss the experience. So that I can be engaged in the details of every day life and celebrate the many faces and personalities that bring joy to this sometimes stressful world. But it seems to me that people are using photography to capture every second instead of living it. Even though I shoot a lot and would be lost without my camera, I still make time to put the lens away and just soak up the experience for what it is….life happening all around us.
But maybe there’s hope…..
New York ComicCon 2016
Ensenada, Mexico 2016
Paris, France 2014
As I was going through the process of updating my website and portfolio, pouring through years of photographs to narrow down to just a few select images which would represent my work as a whole (not an easy thing to do I can tell you) I started noticing patterns in the subjects I chose to shoot. Some of these themes I was aware of, like my series of bicycles or winding roads, but some took me by surprise. One of those themes that I hadn’t realized before was portraits of accordion players. Performing in the streets of New York, Mexico, and Paris, why did I find myself drawn to capturing these musicians?
Maybe it’s the graphic lines of the bellows, which breathes air, like lungs, into each note, or the crisp black and white of the keys and buttons. Maybe it’s the shear devotion of their players who have spent years learning their craft even though they know that it won’t get them any girls. Not to mention that it’s awkward and heavy. It’s as if they have a portable piano strapped vertically to their chests.
So why the accordion? Why not the flute or the violin? I think it’s because I can relate. The backaches and sore knees from lugging around your equipment. The looks from passers by that say, “Why bother?”. The passion for your craft, that keeps you moving forward because without an accordion (or in my case a camera) in your hands, you’re not quite sure who you are. The electricity that radiates in your body when you know you’ve nailed it. They are brothers in arms and I hope I have done my best to capture them.
When I was single, I would bring my camera out on dates just in case I saw something interesting at the restaurant or park, wherever my date was taking me. When I would stop to take a photo, the date would ask me with a scowling face, “why are you taking a photo of that?”, and I would know right away they weren’t the one for me. Then, four years ago, I met Clive, a nerdy British guy with a love for music, travel, and bad puns. When I stopped to take a photo, he would look at me and say “Here, let me hold your jacket so you can get the shot”. He was just as excited to see what I had gotten. Couldn’t wait to get the film back from the lab. Planned our dates to interesting places that he thought I would like visually. He was Neo, the one. Not only has he held my jacket or camera bag so I can crawl under a fence, he’s trekked with me up mountains, crossed oceans, and roamed with me down unfamiliar streets with the same excitement and sense of wonder that I used to hide from others. He’s my Sherpa, my friend, my traveling companion, and the love of my life. He is the reason I write this blog today.
I love you Clive.