(I’ve been writing this in my head for four years. Four years and seven months, to be precise.)
So one last touch and then you’ll go
And we’ll pretend that it meant something so much more
But it was vile, and it was cheap
And you are beautiful but you don’t mean a thing to me
—Death Cab for Cutie, Tiny Vessels
I got this picture in New Jersey. It’s the most peculiar size for a photograph: 3 7/16 by 4 13/16 inches.
For some reason, I see it properly like this — landscape orientation, with the white stripe on the left — when it could just as well be rotated any other way. This is the bias I place on it. The way I view it.
It almost looks like a room with a wall in frame on the left, and the camera has metered for a flash off the wall, underexposing the rest of the picture. There are two smears in the blackness. Maybe an out-of-focus object, maybe a fingerprint on the lens.
I didn’t take the picture. Someone else did, thought it was bad, and was about to throw it out before I asked for it. Someone who took me for granted. Someone who’s world I lived in but for a week, in the midst of the intense summer humidity and coitus interruptus.
I’ve kept it in one of my notebooks since. The edges have turned yellow, and the corners blunt from handling.
Every time I look at it, I like to think that I see something in that grain and that noise. That something’s there; I just don’t see it because there isn’t enough light to expose it, but it exists nonetheless. Some photographic kōan, where I become that which I seek.
But I know there isn’t, the way I know it was nothing more than passing moment, a week forgotten, a life unchanged.
And I’ve been happily fooling myself ever since.
My therapist is on vacation now. When he gets back, I’ll start to see him on a bi-monthly instead of weekly basis. At first he suggested that we slow down only once I get a handle on my anxiety, but when I explained that the sessions were putting me in a negative cash-flow scenario, he understood and agreed1.
My depression is gone. Most likely, it was a side effect of my anxiety, or generalized anxiety disorder, which is mostly gone now.
The root of this is from my habit of predicting negative outcomes and asking too many “what ifs”, which I’m still learning to control.
There’s this idea of learned helplessness that I struggle with. The bigger issue is that when I feel helpless, I get depressed as a result, about things out of my control such as the weather.
I love how the practical side of psychology falls in line with Taoism. In this case, I think of verse 29 of the Tao Te Ching:
Allow your life to unfold naturally
Know that it too is a vessel of perfection
Just as you breathe in and out
Sometimes you’re ahead and other times behind
Sometimes you’re strong and other times weak
Sometimes you’re with people and other times alone
To the Sage all of life is a movement toward perfection
One issue I had a hard time understanding was my belief that attempting something is a waste of time if I don’t succeed. I suppose that it seems rather silly now that I think about it (such as avoiding getting in a relationship just for the fact that one may get hurt), but I spent an entire session on this subject alone. It’s a problem because I give up on certain things before I try, and lose important opportunities as a result.
I’m starting to become more aware of my automatic thought patterns. I’d automatically avoid certain situations because they would give me anxiety, or predict how other people would react based on past experiences, without even realizing it. This is wrong.
I was a little skeptical about the usefulness of thought records at first, but now that I’ve finished about a half-dozen, I notice a change in my thought process. Every time I get flustered, I think in my head of what I’ll write down later (simply because I don’t have time to write it in the moment) and just doing this helps a great deal.
My therapist is a fan of Chappelle’s Show (which is generally considered to be a low-class and crude form of humour), because it breaks social barriers by making fun of stereotypes, thereby robbing them of their significance. This makes him the coolest middle-aged white guy ever, and makes me want to smoke a spliff with him.
He also calls weed, “grass”, which is cute.
We’re both baffled by the fact that the sessions aren’t covered by OHIP, whereas physical health problems are. [↩]
Usually I don’t post this many pictures of one shoot of a single person because there’s often a lot of redundancy, but Paige has a thousand expressions that must be captured and shown to the world.
There’s a complexity in her face that betrays the layers and layers of her character. By turns ebullient, hopeful, playful, and uncertain — every frame is different. I feel like I could write an essay on her look alone.
Best viewed on large and on black, of course, so click the pictures. Commentary at full size.
I’m thinking this and writing this and I have to say something to someone but Pat’s busy, Julie’s out of town, and John’s gone missing. Not that they would understand anyway. Not that even I understand.
De-loused in the Comatorium is cranked on my speakers right now because it’s how I feel. Last week, my neighbour told me he’s never heard a peep from me. Now I question whether I’m pushing my luck. It’s like I stepped out into the darkness of a cool night from a production of Equus. These synapses firing. The jitteriness. It’s ten, I haven’t had dinner, but I’m shaking too much to eat.
I feel like I could write for days and days and days and days. Maybe I’m just happy to have something to write about. Maybe I’m just happy to feel this way again. This self-destructiveness, even in the face of certainty.
A little clock in front of the turquoise man says I’m away, but I’m here. Talk to me, Darren. Where are you? Only you would get it. Only you know how I feel, because you’re probably feeling the same thing right now.
We’re drawn to that which hurts us. In this way, we reveal our vulnerability, and only those who are so vulnerable recognize their own.
It’s time I turned down this music. It’s time I put some food in my stomach. It’s time I scalded myself in the shower. It’s time I got some sleep.
Sometimes you don’t know you’re alive until you’re burning.
It’s been a full year since I did one of these update entries. It’s interesting to read the last one. Addressing the subjects I wrote about: I’ve changed layouts three times, I’ve received over 2000 comments, Balls of Fury was hilarious, and my trip to New Hampshire changed my life.
I finally, finally, finally got a car.
For years I took the bus, just so I could put the money — otherwise spent on a loan, insurance, gas, or maintenance — towards my mortgage or photo gear. Things like heavy groceries, purchases of large or bulk items, and trips to remote areas with no bus service would leave me dependent on the favours of friends with automobiles. No more.
It’s black 2008 Honda Civic Coupe, like the one above without the tinting. At first, I wanted it in grey metallic but it looked rather blah in the showroom.
I should have it next week. Trips to Montreal (for photography and food) and Toronto (to visit John and Darren) have already been planned, as well as the surrounding areas during the springtime. And if Bronwen and I were still on speaking terms, I’d drive her to the Casino du Lac-Leamy to gamble on the horses.
The Temporary Housemate
Alex is staying with me for two weeks while he does a medical internship at CHEO. The company will be a welcome change. It’ll be nice to have a roommate for a bit and give me an excuse to watch movies that I don’t otherwise make time to watch.
The Photo Gear
Fed up with the deep red of my studio and taping black construction paper to the walls, I bought a black muslin backdrop.
Dolly, being a cat who must sleep on anything new in the house to mark her territory, promptly settled herself on the backdrop as soon as I had finished ironing it.
I also got a Chimera XXS softbox for one of my next projects, which will heavily use macro shots. The softbox will allow me better control of light, as well as more even distribution of light than an umbrella.
Next on the list is a second flash and stand, but it’ll be some time before I can afford that.
Snow is a relatively hard thing to capture on film. With so much white, there’s very little contrast or texture, so nothing to lead the eye. You want to give a sense of being suffocated by all this now, but too much of the same thing in a picture becomes boring. It’s balancing the subject and working with available light that becomes important.
I don’t think we’ve reached the record for snowfall yet, but we’re close. I tried to walk to work, but gave up. Even trudging through the snow to get these shots left me sweating. It’s days like these that I’m thankful that I live in a condo, because my condo fees go towards shoveling the parking lot. People told me they had to shovel their driveways a couple times in one night.
I’m just coming off a moderate cold I’ve had for the last week. All the classic symptoms — runny, stuffy nose, congestion, slight headache, yellow phlegm — but oddly enough, barely a hint sore throat. It’s been unpleasant to say the least.
This cold has made me realize that I not only look in the bowl (I’m sure Freud would diagnose us as being fixated in the anal stage of psychosexual development), but I open my Kleenex after blowing in it as well, to check for discoloured mucus, phlegm, blood, or bits of brain that may have escaped through my nose.
My Moo Minicards are in! I wanted a set to hand out at art shows and to people I ask to model for me. I also throw a few in with each print I sell. People have really enjoyed them; many have a hard time deciding which one they want to take. The great thing about the Minicards is that you can order up to 100 different pictures on the front, so that people get a sense of the range of photography you do.
I can gather all the news I need on the weather report.
Hey, I’ve got nothing to do today but smile.
Da-n-da-da-n-da-da-n-da-da and here I am
The only living boy in New York
Half of the time we’re gone but we don’t know where,
And we don’t know here.
—Simon and Garfunkle, The Only Living Boy in New York
Every day, we get caught up in our lives.
We adopt pets to give us a sense of family. We eat breakfast at work or in the car to save ourselves time so we can work some more. We scorn those who express emotion, we avoid eye contact with strangers on the street.
Everything we do — the food we eat, the movies we watch, the home team we cheer for, our coffee shop romances — they’re just trying to fill that hole, that gap that’s missing, the only way we feel alive.
We don’t slow down, we don’t figure things out. We don’t reflect and appreciate what we have.
Like strawberry cheesecake ice cream with a thick graham cracker swirl. Like the serenity of the snow that falls around us, when heaven decides to bless the earth.
Life gets in the way of living.
And now I realize just how guilty I’ve been of this. I’ve been looking for love, but never recognized it when I found it. All I ever wanted to do was lie in bed, look into your eyes, and go through my favourite albums with you. But I never did. And now I wonder. Why can’t we just live? We can’t we just love?
Sometimes you have to stop. You can’t capture everything. You need to throw yourself in.
One of the photographer’s greatest assets is the nude model. Without clothing, there’s no chance for someone to outwardly project their personality. Only a human stripped to the bare essentials, naked to the world as the day they were born, pure and without bias.
This was an exercise in mixing monochromatic colour channels to bring out details such as cuts, scars, stubble, and goosebumps. Also, some good practice in composition and framing. Best viewed large and on black (so click the pictures1).
And, of course, it doesn’t hurt if he looks like he’s been carved out of marble.
Feed readers may have to visit the permalink to take advantage of the black Lightbox script. [↩]
Five years ago, I wrote that hope was the mindkiller. It can be a euphoric feeling, but as the result of several bad experiences, the potential for disappointment outweighed the gain.
My way of dealing with disappointment was to assume the worst. It made me comfortable. There was certainty, and I could move on.
So I had learned never to hope. This is how I changed. This is how I adapted. A defence mechanism I used to protect myself from being hurt. I had been fine with this, until today.
Perhaps it was having Julie tell me that I’m better than the attitude I have, or the life I lead1, but I’m filled with hope again. For once, I dare to dream of something greater.
I want it and hate it at the same time. It gives me courage, but throws my world into uncertainty, like I’m setting myself up to be hurt again.
But Julie’s strong enough to believe in me and stubborn enough not to give up, because I’m not capable of believing in myself.
And maybe that’s enough to break the cycle.
It made me realize I need someone else to tell me certain things, because I can’t see them for myself. I hate the fact that I can’t be strong enough for myself. I probably shouldn’t. It just means there’s something else about which I’m being too hard on myself, which I’ll have to tell my psychologist about anyway. [↩]
Why is it so politically incorrect to show your feelings? Would it be inappropriate to tell you that I’m in love?
That your dimples are like hinges that purse your lips in the most adorable way, and I want to kiss them. That I want to have you here next to me, to feel the weight of your body pressing against mine. That I want to smell you on my fingers, I want to fold my sheets around you, I want to feel your curls under my hands as I lather and rinse.
Because I’m sick of being polite and I’m tired of propriety.
So let’s deal with this attraction. Let’s not ignore what’s between us.
After attending Opus 01, I knew I wanted to be a part of this.
John, as a true friend, flew from Toronto to be there for the night. Alex, who was doing a medical internship at a family practice in a nearby city, drove there. Even Pearl also dropped by and I got to meet her.
I was so busy talking with my guests that I didn’t even have time to go into the other rooms to see how the other artists were doing. The house was packed with people again, young and old.
Jacqueline’s second piece was Sonata in A Minor, by Franz Schubert (unfortunately, her first piece was over ten minutes long, which isn’t allowed on YouTube). I found it to be a rather masculine piece, beginning like a sombre funeral march, leading to a journey of bubbling emotion, so it was mesmerizing to see a girl play it with such conviction. Pay special attention to the burning trill at 5:28, which leads back to the main theme.
Misun told me that when she handed Jacqueline a rose after the performance, it looked like she had run a marathon.
Afterwards, Jacqueline told me after she couldn’t stop looking at my penis through her performance, then quickly corrected herself and said the penis picture, which was hung across from her.
Louise plays the harp by feeling only. She doesn’t have formal any musical training, so she doesn’t write any of her compositions down. It just flows from her fingers, and quite well I might add. As a result, her music is semi-improvised.
John kept telling us how not drunk he was, even though you can clearly seeing him downing glasses of wine in this video.
The after party
When the people left and the doors closed, the real party began for the artists, their guests, and the volunteers. Frédéric and Misun broke out the cold cuts, the fresh and fancy bread, the wine, the cheese and we celebrated a successful night. We had been standing for five hours, so it was time to take a break.
When Dan gave me a reading two years ago, and said that I would be making money off my art within the next 15 years, I never would have believed him.
Note: All media in this post has an extremely warm colour tone. I decided to keep it instead of balancing it to neutral white, because I enjoy the cozy feel of it, which expresses the mood of the house-gallery.