I must confess that at the beginning of every year I have a creeping anxiety that I will not be able to produce anything of interest. But year after year, the adventures and characters I meet because of photography expands into new exciting areas. This year was no different.
Early 2018 I used my tax return to invest in a drone to give me new perspective on some of the places I had been shooting for years. Instead the new horizons that opened up pushed me to go even further and push the envelope. It is no surprise then after compiling these photos that many of them are in fact drone shots. The photo above was taken at an abandoned prison in the middle of nowhere. Much like the cell block facing a barren farming landscape all around, I often feel abandoned, alone, and isolated. I deliberately try to funnel those themes into my work.
This photo of the Eagle River Mine is a great example of the lengths I will go to replace loneliness with adventure. It is located deep in federal property in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. Getting in and out required incredible physical exertion, especially when climbing the mountain to get up to Gilman, Colorado. But the results were absolutely stunning, and I now have an adventure story to tell anyone who will listen.
In May I had the opportunity to take a vacation to Sequoia National Park with members of my family that I had never travelled with. Our time on this Earth is ever fleeting, so if you have the means, there is no better time than the present to go explore. Which by the way is just a blink of an eye to the great Sequoia trees who live for thousands of years. The photo of this fallen giant is by no means a technical accomplishment or has much artistic merit. But it is one of my favorites because in that moment, I felt wonderfully inconsequential to universe and it’s raw beauty, in the way that only grasping nature’s wonders can.
This view of the Yosemite Valley is a great example of how nature provides a greater form of entertainment than even Hollywood can provide. Earlier in the day I had expended a great deal of energy climbing Vernal Fall, which is in the lower right. Upon reaching the top I considered it a great accomplishment. Well… when we snaked our way up to the other side of the valley I saw just how small it was next to the towering Half Dome. My great accomplishment was nothing. And it was beautiful.
Later that evening I camped out in total darkness with my camera pointed to the sky. The stars were so bright, and again, I felt as a speck of dust floating in an ever expanding universe indifferent to us all.
The next few photos are examples of being in the right place at the right time. The dancer above, ahem, doing his thing, would not have been possible without a bit of social engineering. The telephoto lens I had brought to Pride Fest in Milwaukee was a little bit longer than the limit. But I was able to convince staff that I was well intentioned and had been shooting all morning without issue. Sometimes it is not about your talent as a photographer, but your ability to connect with other people.
There are a lot of homeless people on State Street. I don’t normally take the time to talk with them, but every once and a while they do surprise me. The man above was trying to make his way to Oregon after a run of extremely bad luck. He felt cornered by circumstance, which given the angles where he was sitting was just perfect. I gave him some food, and wished him the best on his travels.
Whether you agree with the politics of a protest or not, it is the fundamental basis for democracy in America. Without it, we the people are powerless. I often wonder of whom I have taken photos of at protests over the years will rise to elected office.
This one is just serendipitous. I love when life throws you weird curve balls. As a photographer sometimes you have split seconds to react. This was one of those moments where I turned around and just happened to nail it.
Another example of serendipity in action. This is a drone shot above the Wisconsin State Capitol Building. People always ask as to whether the timing of the sundown was planned ahead of time. It was not, I just got lucky.
Natural light and its manipulation continues to be an area of interest for me. The winter days around the Capitol Square can be drab and uninteresting. But you have to engineer magic with what you have. The above shot was taken with a telephoto lens with a fixed focus. With the shutter open I change the focal length from 400mm back to 18mm. The shaking and stuttering you see in the light streaks are caused by my hand. But the end results are magnificent.
As the sun sets on 2018, I am quite satisfied with how I have grown as a photographer. But I can feel that anxiety slowly creeping in and I must harness it for 2019.
If you like any of the shots above and would like to support my life’s adventures please visit my store on Society6.
There is a pernicious cruelty to loneliness, or at least, the particular kind that incessantly erodes at my well-being.
I would like to start with that I am blessed to be surrounded by a loving family so numerous I cannot name a fair portion of immediate cousins. I am extraordinarily fortunate to have friends that not only insist on socializing, but do so with regular frequency to the point where I have to decline invitations. In the community I am surrounded by characters who can be dropped in upon unannounced to bring excitement to an otherwise empty day.
A wealth of family, friends, and community provide distraction from the thing that I crave most: a match, a partner, a companion, a better half, a woman who reciprocates love and affection. This is an emotional poverty that I often feel completely powerless to resolve.
At some point in every day, when the distractions fail to take my mind off such things, it is there. Omnipresent, malignant, and wrenching. It is there to greet you the minute you wake in the morning. It is there to remind you when you see a couple walking hand-in-hand. It there as you slavishly swipe on dating apps with daily notifications of your solitude.
I feel like a puzzle piece thrown into a box that does not match the larger picture. There is a drive to fill the gap furrowed close to my center. Sometimes the connections sort of fit, but do not feel right. Other times the color or texture is close, but not enough.
There is a stigma to loneliness that makes it difficult not only to acknowledge publicly, but also privately amongst family and friends. After posting the first few photos I had taken people were not sure exactly how to react. On social media where attention is currency, people are presented with an internal conflict as to whether or not to push that like button. What do we do when the systems designed to bring people together fall short of being able to address an entire component of the human experience, namely pain and suffering? If you press the like button, does it offer that person any respite from it? Or does it incentivize the behavior to further create distractions?
After its initial conception it took months to take the first step in this melancholy project. It bears open a wound that most had no idea has been festering for so long. It places me in a position of direct vulnerability on a platform notorious for criticism, abuse, and vile comments.
Weekly I will sit down and take a simple headshot with a single light source. Editing will be kept to a bare minimum. In each one I will pose the same way, keep a blank affect, and try to mimic the prior photo before without referencing it. The repetition of which will keep the photo looking very similar to the rest, while maintaining the originality of each one.
Therein lies the ruthlessness of this loneliness. It may take different forms, but it is essentially the same corrosive matter. It persists, on and on and on and on, without any hint of what or where or when or how or with whom to end it. It is a banal torture that seems only luck, fate, or coincidence appears to resolve.
In all honesty my heart wants nothing more than this project to come to a swift conclusion. Given the improbabilities involved the reality is likely that it won’t. Loneliness is a silent killer of the mind, body, and soul. But if I stand by and do nothing how will that ever change?