An Ending

The image says a lot but not the whole story.  Since the early days of scientific exploration, coinciding with European imperialism, we white people have done whatever we deemed nessecary at the time to further our empires and our fortunes.  We have always perpetrated these crimes of progress off the backs of those too unfortunate to realize they were being enslaved.  We’ve lied, cheated and stolen in the name of advancement.  We’ve committed genocide in the name of science.  We’ve enslaved generation after generation in the name of economic growth.  We’ve devised systems to enslave races in perpetual ignorance and poverty. We’ve perpetuated false, fear based stereo-types, we enact hate-crimes, we deny it all.  

But as horrible as we white folk have been to the races around the world, it is nothing compared to what we men have made you women endure since the dawn of time.  What’s worse is that man’s treatment of women transcends race; transcends socio-economic background; transcends religion or region.  Men treat women like shit and they do it as Christians or as Muslims, or Hindu or white or African American or Japanese or Swedish or poor or rich or as vanilla middle class.  In fact, men’s equally shitty treatment of women may possibly be the single unifying thread that binds all races and religions together and not just in this era but throughout all time.  That’s right.  The single unifying belief in all of humanity might just be the oppression of women.    

It’s hard not to think about it right now.  Everyday more and more women come forward with accusations about men in power having committed an ever increasing array of pretty horrible shit.  You have your Weinsteins and Cosbys and Ratners and Louie CKs—you even have the president of the United States and all of these deviants have a line of accusers so long that it’s hard to imagine these guys having any time left for anything other than whipping out their cocks and acting like sexual predators.  And these are just the famous, well-to-do folks.  What if you’re just below poverty line and looking for a job and the guy at the grocery store, while interviewing you, whips out his cock and says if you really want this job, you’ll get to work now?  Who are you going to tell?  What’s your recourse?  

It’s hard not to be ashamed.  I’m a racial oppressor by birthright, shamed by the acts of those in my family and others, years back, but not so many years back that I shouldn’t be paying reparations in one form or another.  But I’m also an oppressor of women by birthright, shamed by those who say that they love all races and creeds but keep women firmly under their boot.  Men who rape and hurt women.   Who threaten them and make them think that they are weak and feeble.  But ultimately it’s we men who are weak and ill-suited for the power we’ve stolen from women.  Our strong beautiful daughters and wives and mothers are our superior in every way.  They’re better adapted at reasoning, conjecture, structure and survival.  They give birth.  They feed us at their breast.  They lovingly guide us into the world and how do we repay them?  

So when I saw Ester standing behind this piece at the Hammer, I felt conflicted.  Yes, we need to truly embrace that we believe all men are created equally imperfect and deserve the same opportunities and inalienable rights as our liberalism ideals dictate.  We should be viewed as a single race, known only as humanity and we should be brothers in arms.  But this applies to all men and all women.  We men need to put an end to the single biggest act of systemic hate ever known and finally show unconditional love and respect to all women of this world for they are more than our equals.  We owe them our lives and they owe us nothing.

“An end” shot on my Mamiya6MF at 50mm on Kodak Tri-X film pushed to 800 at the Icon.


This morning I woke up with a single word on the tip of my tongue.  “Simplicity.”  Life is complex.  I can’t say if it’s work or the current political climate or navigating the treacherous waters of two teenager girls, or Elliot.  When I write it out like that it seems pretty obvious that it’s all of the above in constantly mutating, random combinations.  In all honesty it doesn’t really matter why it’s happening, what matters is the outcome.  I feel run-down and uninspired and a bit detached from my own life.  I don’t think I’m alone.  The few friends I keep (and few being the key word here) feel similarly.  We all seem to be having trouble sleeping.  We all have issues with anxiety or depression or health.  We suffer from self-doubt and a lack of self-confidence.  You wouldn’t know it to look at any of us.  We strut around, joking and laughing but a good deal of it rings hollow… well it does for me at least.  

There’s a danger to look back on your life and remember times that were easier and less complex.  When you were younger and bulletproof and unafraid.  When work was just something transitional to get to that place you really wanted to be.  Somewhere along that journey though work became the destination and that place you were aiming for turned out to be a mirage.  Or maybe you just made it one.  Maybe I just made it one.  I don’t know anymore.   Along that journey you make friends and sometimes you make enemies.  Those friends sometimes turn out to be enemies and enemies who turn out to be friends.  You have a rationale for each instance and often times that rationale turns out to be nothing but self-serving bullshit rather than nuanced, altruistic reasoning.  Sometimes you’re the asshole and sometimes you are the good guy but that ultimately depends on who’s watching–everyone has their own perspective and those perspectives change and evolve.  That includes your own. 

Complexity.  Then along comes family and that fills many of the gouges, sores and wounds left by career and faltering ambitions.  Those wounds are still there; some fester but family heals most pains.  But with the love of your family comes new pains and worries and concerns.  You empty your emotional account every night staring at the ceiling before the curtain goes down and everything goes dark.  Are you raising them right?  Are you emotionally available as much as possible?  Are you more angry than you should be sometimes and not angry enough at other times?  Are you spoiling them?  You tell your partner that you’re doing your best and that your best is all anyone can ever do but are you really doing your best?  Could you be doing more?  Are you to hard on your special needs child?  Are you as compassionate as you should be to their needs?  Have you called your mother enough?  Should you call your father?  Do you tell your partner that they are beautiful?  Do you treat them with the respect they deserve?  Do you feel respected?  Do you feel loved? 

More questions, more complexity.  Then there’s the world around us in this constant state of flux.  Credit being pumped into an economy to substantiate growth to in order to give more credit to substantiate more growth in this constant cyclical consumerism that we are so accustomed to at this point it’s like gravity pulling our wallets out to buy more shit that we truly do not need in order to prop-up a self-inflicted system of wealth and power who’s end is it’s means.  This rampant-running, rabid dog of capitalism in a constant state of invisible ideological war with our beliefs in liberalism and the sovereign rights of every human being.  We’re being pulled in a million different directions by a million different forces–forces that are no more than fictions we’ve invented to bind us together as a society of socially conflicted consumers.  Then you have faith ripping through that shit storm like a hurricane of chainsaws.  God defying fact defying god.  The religion of science offers constantly evolving answers, the science of religion dictates never evolving mandates.  One has all the truth and none of the answers while the other offers all the answers and none of it’s true.  More forces pulling you apart.  

Complexity, complexity, complexity.  I’m out of breath.  Rather than traverse the history of humanity searching for the point when we went wrong and failing to make sense of a time when each day is systematically an order of magnitude more complex than the previous, I’m trying to close my eyes to it all–if only for a minute or two.  I’m trying to breathe in and breathe out and clear my head.  Trying to find a certain beauty or serendipity in simple everyday moments–finding joy in doing little but seeing and breathing and being.  It’s complex trying to be simple but I’m trying.  Camera in my hand, I’m trying. 

A “Simple” shot on my Nikon FM2 at 50mm on Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed +1 at the Icon. 



I shot at 50mm for two years.  It was the only M mount lens I owned so it was the only lens that mattered.  During those two years I learned to shuffle my feet, to duck and tippy-toe and bow and every other strange contortion you can make to put your camera where it needs to be.  

After a while I added a 28mm which quickly replaced my 50 for a whole slew of reasons that had little to do with composition or compression.  At the time I had become obsessed with Winogrand and his 28mm lens.  I loved how close he was getting and the way the 28 slightly distorted the perspective of his subjects.  I wanted to push past Cartier-Bresson’s compressed scenes and become more intimate with my framing.  Then, of course, there was hyperlocal on 28mm where at f22 you were in it to win it from a meter.  Oh the joys.  This was going to be the lens for me.  

Except it wasn’t.  It’s an unwieldy beast truth be known. I quickly realized that mastery was going to take me years and years and all this just when I was feeling really good about my 50.  But I pressed on, fucking up all my lines at first, jacking up my perspective all over the place for roll upon roll.  After a while my ratio was starting to get better and compositionally I was getting the hang of it.  I still wasn’t getting as close as I would have liked but it was feeling ok bordering on acceptable.  Then I tried a friend’s 35mm lux.  

That was it.  I was sold after an hour.  It was perfect—not as unwieldy as the 28 and not as compressed as the 50.   I found a nice used 35mm Summicron and from then on out we were like peas and carrots.  I couldn’t part with the 28 as we had grown so close and I secretly hadn’t given up the dream of getting closer, so I stowed it on another body, figuring I would come back to it at some point.  The 50 lux, suffered a different fate.  My once beloved was bardered away for a used Mamyiya 6MF and it’s accompanying lenses at the bargain camera show.  For me the door was closed for 50 on small canvas.  

Until recently.  Anna Maria and I were heading out at sunset to the beach.  She lives for the sea and loves taking pictures at sunset.  By the front door in our house we have a chest of nine drawers, a few of which have old film gear hidden away.  There’s a Nikon FM2F4 and F100 in there, and old Minolta (which Ester just adopted), a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye, and a shit ton of old glass.  We were in a bit of a hurry so rather than run to the back of the house to grab my camera bag, I grabbed a roll of Tri-X from the top drawer, the FM2 and a 50 1.4 and away we went.   Sunset was almost over when we got to Tower 26 but before I even noticed what was happening I had burned through most of the roll.  I had forgotten how incredible a camera the FM2 is.  It’s as close to mechanical perfection as you can come with Nikon.  The hammer cocks perfect, the dials click perfect.  The shutter press is perfect.  The view finder is perfect.  The real revelation, however was the 50.  I had forgotten just how surgical it feels–how discerning the framing can be in the right hands.  I realized how much I had missed that perfect bokeh, how it compresses the frame just enough.  It felt like coming home.  I had three pictures left on the roll when I saw the image I wanted to make.      

Anna Maria was gazing out over the sea.  The pier had come to life behind her in a tinkling of multicolor lights.  I swept in behind her getting as close as I could and burned through my last three frames.  Since then I find I’m fighting the urge to take it out again.  I love the images.  What do you think?   

“Home,” shot on a Nikon FM2 with a 50mm 1.4 lens on Kodak Tri-X film pushed to 800 at the Icon.  

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