Deafening silence

It’s quiet where I am.  It’s so quiet that the noises outside are monstrously loud even though there’s nothing new or unexpected about them.  It’s the same motorbikes and traffic and barking dogs and car alarms I hear every day, but the house is oh so quiet.  So quiet I can hear the “fuck you” guy–you know the guy that just yells “fuck you!” over and over and over and over again at the top of his lungs as he wanders the streets–from miles away.  As he gets closer to my house his vomitous mantra pounds in my head and rings my ears like he was standing next to me and mainlining his spittle ridden maxim over and over directly into my ear canal.  I’m fucking unsettled.  I am not comfortable and I am not on the up and up.  I’m hopelessly alone in a house that all of a sudden doesn’t feel like my home.  I find myself uncomfortable in my own skin.  

My wife and the kids are on their annual pilgrimage back to the motherland and I here I sit.  Alone and wanting nothing more than for them to be home again.  My work and projects managed to hold me at bay for a week, but they’ve lost their luster.  I go to the gym everyday and most days twice, but it feels futile and silly and vain.  When you strip away my photography and my little creative musings you’ll find my family underneath it all–holding the framework of who I am together.  When they’re gone, I fall apart.  They left the day before my birthday.  They won’t be back for two months. 

When I came home from dropping them off at the airport I started crying.  The emptiness of the house was all-consuming.  The realization that they were gone washed over me, knocking me down and I cried.  After a while, I walked to my bedroom where I discovered that everyone had made me birthday cards and left them on my headboard to find before bedtime.  One of them–the one from Ester with a pen and ink drawing of an FM2 on it–said that she (and the rest of the family) knew how much I would miss them and that to take my mind off things, if even for a little while, they had snagged all of my undeveloped rolls and processed them for me.  She went on to say the film would be ready tomorrow and that hopefully having something that I loved would help me not to think about missing the people that I loved.  

Well I cried and this time I howled like I haven’t since, well fuck, I don’t know when.  It was an ugly cry, and since it’s so damn quiet in the house, that ugly, howling cry reverberated from my bedroom to the bathroom to the living room and back, echoing louder and louder with every iteration. My skull felt cracked and my lungs burned.  I thought about the “fuck you” man for a second–how people can break–and how I was on the verge of breaking from the loneliness and the joy welling-up in my heart over this seemingly simple gift and all the love behind it.  I wiped the snot on my hand and calmed my breathing.  My eyes were fire red and my ears were ringing from the deafening silence pressuring my head at a million pounds per inch, but I didn’t break.    

“Deafening Silence” shot on my Mamiya6MF on Kodak Tri-X film pushed +2 at the Icon

Rumors of my demise…

I’m still alive.  I’ve had a ton to write about as well, but the formula is broken without the images to accompany the narratives.  So I’ve put it all on hold while I’ve focused on making other kind of images using other techniques and technologies and concepts.  The deadlines for the various competitions I usually enter have come and gone.  I haven’t bought a monograph since December and I’ve largely retreated from Instagram except for my @nollergrams account where I’ve been posting my digital sketches.  So if I haven’t been commenting or liking or lol’ing it’s not personal.  I’m just nonexistent in that sphere.  The question is though, have those pursuits been as rewarding as analog street photography?  

The short answer is “not all of the time.”  

The long answer is more complicated but worth sharing.  I’ve made no secret of the fact that I find shooting digital a difficult circle to square.  The images feel flat, lifeless and lacking in value.  Highlights are wrong.  Shadows are wrong, contrast ratio is wrong and that’s just the aesthetic.  There’s there’s the physicality of it all.  That someone can spray at 10fps on their brand-new A7III and get lucky doesn’t strike me as a skill, it strikes me as equivalent to deer hunting with an AR-15.  Next comes all the Lightroom and Photoshop processing and we’re left with Frankenstein’s monster–a flat, lifeless foggy mirror of reality predicated by an “a la mode” view of current street photography trends.  And I’m not saying that I’m right and nor am I saying that my view is the only view.  I’m just saying it’s the only view that works for me. 

Well fuck that.  

I decided to build my own realities instead.  I realized that if some portion of what I was making was going to possess any single quality I despise with digital street photography then the only solution was to create a reality where none of it was real and thereby not bound to the same stupid dogma I so desperately cling to with my analog themes.  So I kicked my 3d learning into high gear.  It was the only way to break the chain so I decided to shatter that shit into a million tiny pieces.  I started small and built my way up until small props and pieces of my vision came slowly into focus.  Those pieces built on top of each other until I had scenes.  And as I keep learning and those scenes began to move and flow and have their own stories to tell.  I’m not sure I know what those stories are all the time but ultimately I know who’s voice their being told in.  

Mine and only mine.  

I’ve thought about posting those images here on this blog from time to time, but it doesn’t feel right.  They are opposing dichotomies to some extent and holistically intertwined to another.  No Face’s coin.  I have a few ideas for a series of images that could bind these two pursuits together but I’m still not capable enough of an artist so it remains an idea.  Maybe one day I will be but one thing’s for certain, I feel like I have found a side of me that I lost at some point when I was a child.  There’s something so incredibly lego about this creative process, but unlike lego, when I extend beyond my limits it’s super frustrating and I long for those metal-wrought limits of a camera and an uncooperative street scene–it’s just so much easier to come to grips with bridging that reality.  

Shot with my dear old Mamiya6MF on Kodak Tri-X 400 film, push-processed +1 at the Icon.  


There are few people that I call good friends.  

I think a lot of of it has to do with the fact that I’ve never really been good at being a friend to another male adult.  I have a hard time connecting with my gender on a personal level, especially the American variety.  When I’m around other guys I find myself wondering why the hell they are talking about what they are talking about.  Not always but often, I can sit there, somewhat quiet considering how it’s possible to have so much to say about a subject that really amounts to nothing in my mind.  In the midst of these conversations my mind just floats away until someone yanks me back down from whatever cloud I’m floating away on, back down into the depths of a massive discussion about what brand of power tools are better.  Or the Superbowl.  Or MMA.  I just don’t care.

I’m not saying I’m above these conversations and their perpetrators.  In fact quite often I feel the exact opposite.  I sit there, deep in the throws of a full-blown bro-convo (brovo?), feeling stupid and inept at not having anything insightful to add, thereby left with no way of tightening the emotional tethers connecting me to another male human therein creating what normal humans call “a friendship.”

Every once in a while though someone breaks through to me.  Such was the case with Tim, who was one of the first people I met when we moved to Santa Monica.  Conversation was fluid and came with a degree of ease I didn’t know was possible. Our world-views were very similar as was our family situations.  We both worked in “the industry” and had a similar appreciation/disdain.  It was a total bromance and it continues to this day.  

Now I won’t bore you with many details suffice one important one.  Of all the qualities I could praise in my friend, I would say that Timothy is the best father I’ve ever met.  He is loving and caring at the same time as being consequent and impactful.  He balances his frustration and his praise perfectly and I often find myself standing in awe of both how wonderful he is with not just his own children but how wonderful he is with all children.  

A few weeks back Tim and his two kids showed-up at my house, totally out of the blue.  He told me that Elliot had facetime’d him a couple hundred times asking him to come over for a few rounds of “Let’s Dance 2018,” on the console.  After an hour of singing at the top of their lungs and presumably dancing until they were out of breath, everyone emerged from Elliot’s room, horse, sweaty and completely danced-out.  We all said our goodbyes and I caught Tim in a tight embrace (that maybe lasted a little too long) just as he was trying to get out the door.  We broke, shook hands and smiled.  “Thank you” I said.    

He’s one of the best men I know.  Shot on my Leica M7 on Kodak Tri-X film, pushed +1 at the Icon. 

Using Format