Over the past year, I have been able to move away from figuring out how to pay my rent and do nothing but photography. I have learned to live a very frugal lifestyle. Because of the help from my friends and family, I am able to get by and do nothing but make images. And only images. By that I mean if I've been out making pictures and the getting was good, I will spend the next two days in Lightroom and Photoshop trying to be very organized and methodical about working on each image. What usually happens is I just go nuts with it and I make a note to be more organized in the future. And then when I'm done working on the new set of images, I'll listen to some music, try to do some writing but generally spend the next 3-4 days in bed sleeping long hours with occasional periods of sitting in front of the computer for a few minutes. I do wake up to eat and use the toilet but that's about it.
My shrink looks to be about 23 and just like that actress in "50 Shades of Grey". When I started seeing her last year I was in a serious fight with the black dog. When I asked her how old she was she asked me if I would be more comfortable with an older therapist or a man. No. Because I figured just seeing her and her perky persona each week was already a life improvement for me. So why not just build on that? After the first few sessions of making sure that I didn't feel like taking the dirt nap, I am way too vain for that I assured her, we started talking about photography and have been doing so ever since. I've been diagnosed as having PTSD by three separate shrinks so I am beginning to believe they might be right. It manifests itself in the aforementioned sleep cycles, an overactive startle reflex and the idea that what has kept me maintaining an even strain most of my life has been making images. I'm also great in emergencies and disasters and would be the perfect companion should the apocalypse happen. The simple things I am just shit at still.
Last week we were talking about feeling vulnerable. It is a big component of the anxiety I have had since I was a child. I have tried very hard not to feel vulnerable. But lately, I've been thinking about street images and what makes them work for me...and not just street images but situations like the party in the above image. I love talking to people. I am fascinated by lives that are not mine. Very often when I'm on the street I end up in conversations that make it very easy to ask if I can make an image. I used to think that I was talking too much and freaking people out but I got around that because I was making the images. I also realized that at my age, it's just tough shit if I am. The perky shrink said that in those interactions like asking someone earnestly about their fetish I was making myself vulnerable. I had to agree. I'm always a little anxious that someone will tell me to fuck off or worse just ignore me. But I keep doing it. I can't help myself.
Last week when PhoDOGrapher-NYC and I were up in Harlem I did the same thing I always do. The further north we walked, the further we were getting from the newly gentrified Harlem and the area where Bill Clinton has his offices. We stopped at a McDonalds' for a cup of coffee and so that Mark could drop his new camera. While we were waiting for our order I noticed that we were the only white people in the fairly crowded restaurant. Yes, I have been in that situation many, many times in my life and a few other "One of these things isn't like the other" situations too. I learned a long time ago that if you smile and are polite most people will do the same back.
The counter person wasn't smiling at all but I did notice her beautifully done fingernails and I complimented her. That made her smile and she thanked me. I asked if I could make a picture of them and she said yes and of course, I wasn't only photographing her fingernails but also her beautiful face and the big smile.
If I do say so myself, I think that the more vulnerable I feel, the better the images I have the opportunity to make. Rather than avoid vulnerability, I think I am going to embrace it. Isn't it really about being comfortable with who we are and not feeling any shame about it? I think we are all Bozos on this bus so why the hell not? I'll have to talk with Perky Shrink next week about it.
Happy Festivus to the rest of us.