My Goddaughter Sunni is a real character. She’s constantly making a variety of faces that, when viewed in pictures would lead you to believe she’s truly upset. Quite the opposite is true!
Take this set of photos for instance. She asked to be placed in the tree, but once she was in the tree she decided she wanted me to join her. When I explained that I couldn’t sit in the tree with her she immediately made these faces. The second after I removed the camera from my eye she started to smile and laugh like nothing happened at all. I wasn’t quick enough to catch the smiles, but trust me, she does things like this all day long. Her expressions go from happy, to sad, to anger, all within a matter of seconds. She ended up having great time at the park after all.
I have been thinking that I’d like to get her involved in some type of drama classes because, she’s already great at acting! Just look at that face!
I haven’t really been out of the house too much this month. The weather remains ridiculously hot for this time of the year, and I’m just not into the heat. Plus, my family and I didn’t do much cleaning last year, so we decided to finally get back on track and clean our house from top to bottom. Staying in has also given me some time to edit photos that I’ve been neglecting for a long time, so I guess that’s at least a good thing?
So whenever the weather is tolerable and I’m able to get out with my camera for a while, I’ve been trying to make the most of it. Nothing major, just walking and observing. Trying to slow down and make some photos of things I usually overlook. Challenging myself to pay closer attention to all of the beautiful details surrounding me on a regular basis. My thought process is, some of the work I’m doing now may not be considered my “best” but I’m sure the memories I document will be far more meaningful in the future. Also, I’m having fun, so that makes it even more important! After all, this work isn’t for anyone else…it’s for me. I’m creating to satisfy my need to create. So in that regard, that’s all that really matters. There’s so much freedom in not having to create for any specific reason. To me that’s the true joy of art. To create as a form of self expression. Having only ones self to please.
I’m still dealing with the long process of healing my mental/emotional health, so making photos for fun helps a great deal. I choose to share these photographs with the public as a way to share my ongoing process, my personal journey. Hopefully someone can make some kind of connection, or at least enjoy what they see.
With that being said, here are some photos from my most recent outing. Enjoy!
By some miracle of God, my wonderful cousin Latasha has blessed our family with a new version of my Mother Marilyn and my Aunt Theresa, both of whom are unfortunately no longer with us. Not only were they sisters, but they were also best friends. Now my little cousins are mirror images of them. Ever since my Aunt Tina made me aware of this observation I can’t stop thinking about it. I’m completely amazed by their similarities! It’s truly unbelievable how genetics work. I’m so happy I was able to photograph them both together.
I guess in a way it’s bittersweet? But no matter what, I love these 2 angels with all of my heart!!!
I really enjoyed photographing different parts of California with my phone stylized in infrared. I had so much fun I decided to share a few more of my favorites here in portrait orientation. Photography is hard work, but we must always remember to make time to enjoy ourselves. Never stop having fun!
After losing my mother last month I decided to take a break from creating. During my down time I thought a lot about how serious we take ourselves in the pursuit of money and a career. Getting back into the routine of making photos again I wanted to take it easy, and just try to have fun again. Reminding myself that not every photo has to be a “masterpiece” or your “best” work. Sometimes we should do things just for fun. Remember why you chose your line of work in the first place. Not for the sake of having another job, not for awards, or likes and follows, but simply for the enjoyment of taking photos. To create for your own satisfaction. I haven’t even been taking my big, “serious” work cameras out. I’ve just been taking snapshots with my point & shoot, or mostly using my iPhone. Truth is, when it comes to posting on social media, most people don’t even recognize the difference anyway.
I’ve always been in love with Kodak’s Areochrome infrared film. But since it’s been discontinued for some years now, I’ve never had the pleasure of actually using any. Thanks to the advancement of digital technology we are now able to replicate a similar look in our photos. Of course it’s not exactly the same, or better, it’s more like a simplified approximation of the original.
Lately I’ve also been trying to spend as much time as possible in tranquil, peaceful, environments. Trying to employ different methods to lessen my stress at all costs. Enjoying the simple pleasures in life, not taking small blessings for granted. I was born under the water sign, so water has always had a calming effect on my spirit. The cool breeze and crashing waves help to soothe my nerves. Spending time near water has been extremely therapeutic for my healing process. From the very beginning photography has been medicinal, so combining the two has been beneficial to both my life and art. Creating for fun has brought a degree of joy back into my life.
Being an artist that loves experimenting with different techniques made choosing infrared for this series very easy. Although I wish it were the real thing, I am content with the results I’ve been getting digitally. So much so, I’m even considering making a more significant project, using infrared as my primary color grading method. But, that’s a decision to be determined at a later date.
For now, I’m not putting any pressure on myself. There’s no timetable for anything. The goal is to use my art to help me heal, however long that may take? Whatever work is created during that time will be whatever it is. And although I’ll probably share this work publicly, it’s not for the public. It’s for me and me only. I’m not interested in opinions, or commentary, I just want to have fun. What’s the point of spending all this money on equipment and working hard for years if you never get to enjoy yourself? That’s one of the biggest issues currently plaguing the artistic industry. Unfortunately, so much of the joy, fun, and love is totally missing from the different art forms now. Music, movies, photography…it’s truly very sad to witness.
So I have to do my best to bring the fun back for myself. I can only hope that others will routinely re-examine themselves and follow in my footsteps. It’s very easy to lose your happiness, thereby becoming lost in the serious business of work. Sometimes questioning your purpose, and even falling into deep depressions. But we all have to remain protective of our joy. It is sacred. The undeniable fact is, we don’t have to create to impress others, or to be the greatest ever…but we must remember to constantly try to have fun. That will ALWAYS be an important aspect of our lives!
Please remind yourself to actively enjoy the process of creativity.
Since it’s finally the end of this crazy year, I thought I’d share some random snapshots from my latest trip in and around Nevada.
There’s nothing more fun and relaxing to me as a photographer than taking road trips, exploring, and enjoying all of the interesting sights along the way. Being able to photograph all of my experiences are a true bonus! It brings so much joy into my life.
In troubling times like these, having a hobby or passion is of the utmost importance. I’m so incredibly grateful to be able to document all of my life’s many journeys. Sharing these moments with family and friends makes the journey even more special.
Goodbye old friend. It’s terribly painful to see you go away. I will always miss you.
The old friend that I’m referring to? My hometown’s local drive-in movie theater, the legendary Hilltop.
I can’t begin to express to you how many of my favorite childhood memories are deeply connected to this place.
My first experience was going with my parents as a baby in the mid 70’s. Next, watching it evolve as a child throughout the 80’s. Eventually growing up and taking my own family in the 90’s. Sadly watching it struggle to stay open and relevant in the early 2000’s. Witnessing a small resurgence under new ownership, before ultimately seeing it go out of business for good. The rapid growth in popularity of digital media as well as mismanagement helped to seal it’s doomed fate.
Seeing those doors closed and watching the property deteriorate over time broke my heart even back then. Now seeing it completely destroyed by misfortune breaks my heart in a seriously more profound way. Now I know it’s truly over.
The city I grew up in wasn’t always nice. The family I grew up in wasn’t always happy. But, some of my most positive memories of fun and joy are directly tied into this location. This where my love of the movie going experience began. It’s also a bridge to my personal memories of a period in time long forgotten. A place where people would socially gather outdoors to enjoy a movie. It might be very difficult for modern people to fully understand how eventful this activity truly was without having been there during that specific time. We didn’t have a lot of money and we couldn’t really travel, so the drive-in represented the type of excitement a child would feel when visting their favorite amusement park. The drive-in was literally like my Disneyland.
Just preparing to go was an event all unto itself. Looking through the newspaper to find out what was playing? And at what time? Getting dressed in the appropriate clothing based on the current season. The long drive there. Well, what I thought was the long drive there, since everything seems more grand when you’re a child.
I can remember everything about this place in vivid detail!
From the swings, slide, and merry-go-round that sat right underneath the screen for the children. Hell, even the mosquitoes! The strong smell of OFF bug repellent in the air. To the way the light from the projector would shine across the night sky with the stars sparkling in the distance. Each and every time was exciting for me. From getting there early sometimes to beat the traffic. To playing with random children before the sun set, letting you know it was time to head back to your car. To showing up at night while the lights from the marquee would glow, illuminating the surrounding pavement. The display of bold red letters, arranged by hand, describing what’s “Now Showing”.
The long line of cars with their headlights shining, waiting to pull up to the brightly lit ticket booth. The friendly individual happily greeting you while handing you your tickets. Driving around until you find the perfect spot. Or maybe being too late and having to park further away from the screen towards the back. Rolling down the window, hanging the speaker inside. Followed by turning on the radio, trying to tune the dial to find the right station for a clear audio signal. Watching the intermission cartoons sing and dance, instructing you to be courteous to the others, while also recommending which snacks to purchase. To one of my favorite moments of all, walking to the concessions building.
Our drive-in had a large concessions building, much bigger than the average stand. When I was a child the building itself was painted bright orange and white. During operating hours the front and back doors would be wide open. The light from inside would pour out onto the gravel. People would be maneuvering in and out, balancing a variety of snacks in their hands. And the best part, the overwhelming smell of hot, freshly popped, buttered popcorn!
I’m an old-school movie goer and a diehard movie theater popcorn lover. I’ve been to tons of theaters, carnivals, fairs, plus popped my own corn at home for years. But, nothing can compare to the way the popcorn smelled at the Hilltop! It stands out as one the most instantly identifiable memories of my entire experience there.
The smell grabbed you instantly! It grew stronger as you moved closer to the inside, making you hungrier with every step. And although there was plenty of other wonderful food being prepared, the popcorn was the star attraction. The aroma was truly undeniable.
The inside was a child’s paradise! The assortment of candies neatly lined up behind the glass counter. All of a child’s favorite junk food items being prepared right before your eyes. The cheesy Tombstone pizzas. The flavorful ice cream sandwiches. The delicious nachos. The iconic Chicago style hot dogs. The old style lemonade & fruit punch fountains, with the colorful liquid dancing around inside the glass containers. Oh, and some of the absolute best hamburgers I’ve ever had!
I even loved just wandering around on the inside. The food, the games, the people, the decor. All of it made me happy to be there. Getting somewhat of a behind the scenes look at the huge projectors transporting our movies outdoors through a beam of light. I thought it was both fascinating and magical!
Over time watching the mostly mechanical 1970’s pinball machines evolve into the 1980’s electronic video arcade games. Seeing the large crowd of people gathered around the new technology of Space Invaders, then Pac-Man & Donkey Kong. I can’t count how much money I wasted in those machines, but it was worth every penny!
Running into both friends and family randomly was always another exciting surprise. Living in a small town means you’re more than likely to run into someone you know quite frequently. Especially in those places where large crowds gather seeking to enjoy themselves.
Honestly, walking back to your car with your food was even an adventure. Trying to find your way in the dark while not spilling or dropping anything…classic.
Let me just reminisce a little deeper for a moment…
I’m thinking about how we’d always go no matter what. Despite all of the completely different Midwestern weather conditions. The heat. Being rained out. The cold winds. It didn’t really matter. We always seemed to have a good time, even when the movies were no good. Sometimes we’d sit on the hood of the car, or my Dad would park in reverse so we could sit on the trunk. Taking blankets and pillows for extra comfort. Meeting new, friendly, people. For instance, very often someone with a truck would allow us to sit in the back of the flatbed, providing another playful viewing position. Even my earliest memories of being a small child and sitting on the roof of my Father’s car. Can you imagine how much fun that was?
We use to bring our own foldable chairs to sit outside, and sometimes we brought our own cooler. We even barbecued many times on site before and during the movie. You can’t do that inside a regular theater!
I mean, where else could you have the choice to see two brand new movies, two awful horror movies, or two goofy B-movies for the price of one? It was seriously a better value when directly compared to my other love, the standard sit-in movie theater. Not to mention the freedom and privacy it provided you with. It was great! And it was definitely an extra special treat to go on a random school night!
Being able to go back to school and tell your friends all about what you saw. Especially if it was R-rated or nudity involved! Or sometimes simply falling asleep in the backseat before the movie ended. Only to wake up with just enough time to ask, “what’d I miss?”
It was always bitter sweet staring out the window as the credits rolled. Slowly drifting along as my parents tried to beat the traffic to the exit. Not wanting it to be over, but looking forward to the next trip.
Then becoming a young man, driving your own car, going on dates. The many make out sessions with any young lady you were trying to impress at the moment. Finally, maturing and taking your own children in hopes that they’d have an appreciation for your nostalgia. Being able to bond over this retro form of entertainment in a modern setting. Man, what an awesome experience!!!
In light of our recent COVID crisis, there has been an unlikely rebirth of drive-in movie theaters worldwide. A whole new audience is now being introduced to their parents or grandparents “old fashioned” way of viewing films. For this very reason, I had high hopes that the Hilltop would somehow be revived. For years I would tell anyone who would listen that the Hilltop is and should be a historic landmark for our city! It should never be disregarded or torn down! Now the worst has happened…Weakened by years of neglect and abuse, this seemingly indestructible brick construction is abruptly destroyed by a powerful summer storm?! I’m stunned!!!
For the official news report click the link below:
Selfishly, I never wanted this special place to go away. Specifically in such a disgraceful fashion. I often hoped that someone with the money and the proper vision would see the value in renovating the property for the future. I thought that maybe some local saviour would come along, willing to invest into the community, but it never materialized. Such a shame because, I always looked forward to riding by to catch a glance, or stopping by to take a few pictures whenever I would visit. It was always one of the highlights of my trip. Even when it was strangely converted into a makeshift soccer field. Even throughout the years when it was abandoned and vandalized. I hated seeing it that way, but I could always count on physically seeing the buildings and taking a moment to reminisce.
I don’t know what the owner of the property or the city is planning to do with the land? Maybe they’ll rebuild it? Although I highly doubt it. Maybe they’ll clear it all out? Effectively erasing the entire history of this once thriving landscape. No matter what they choose to do, I know that whenever I visit my only option will be to recollect on what use to be. Even if they totally rebuild the site exactly the way it once was, I’ll always know that the original, this important symbol of my childhood, is now gone forever!
So, goodbye my dear friend! Thank you for the countless thrills, excitement, and memories. I will forever reflect upon you with happiness and great fondness. I will continue to tell your story, and I will absolutely never forget you! You will forever represent a much simpler time in my life, as well as the world in general. You were quirky. You were unique. You were romantic. You were the best!
Very few things in life can compare to the beauty of an early morning sun rise. I wouldn’t consider myself a “morning person” by any means! But, I understand and appreciate the energizing power of a brand new day. The colors that come alive and start to envelop the surrounding environment is truly inspiring. It seems that they can only be matched by the soft, warm, glow of the setting sun. I always feel a sense of thankfulness whenever I’m up to both document and enjoy a wonderful sunrise.
Truly thankful to God for all of his many blessings.
Happy 21st birthday to my first born child, my young Queen. It’s so hard to process this much time passing by, and what was once my little baby has become a full grown woman! With every passing year I feel both happy and sad. I try to enjoy every moment with you because I know your next steps in life will move you away from me, and I’ll have to learn how to let you go…How did we come this far so fast?! Seems like you were just graduating high school, and now this! No matter what, you’ll always be my baby.
I love you with all my heart!!!
I’d just like to wish my one and only son a very Happy Birthday today! I LOVE YOU Jr.!!!!
My second most favorite NBA player, second only to Michael Jordan. It’s taken me a whole week to even attempt to sit down and write anything. I’m in total shock, disbelief and denial. This is truly one of the worst moments of my life! As a human, a father, and as a basketball fan. This is so surreal, so unbelievably painful. Feels like a nightmare that I wish I could wake up from!
I shot these photos in October of 2018 for the Kobe Bryant co-owned sports drink company, BodyArmor. I never knew how much more meaningful and poignant these photos would become to me…that’s all I have for now. This is much too heartbreaking!!!
My deepest and most sincere condolences to all of the families involved in this unimaginable tragedy.
The young man in this photo is actually named Kobe. Named after his father’s favorite basketball player, Kobe Bryant.
This set of photos is a continuation of my family’s recent vacation to Sedona, Arizona.
As with most of my work, I tend to create in both color and black & white. It’s not alway an easy decision. It’s honestly more of a constant challenge in choosing what warrants being photographed in color or in black & white. Sometimes it can go either way, or sometimes lighting conditions and color palettes will specifically dictate exactly what should be done.
Here are a few color selections.
I guess the old saying, “you learn something new everyday” can certainly be applied to this particular experience.
Before I ever stepped foot in Arizona I never knew it snowed there. I, like most people, assumed the weather was too consistently hot to produce snow. I couldn’t be more wrong! During a recent holiday vacation to Sedona I was finally able to see snow in the desert first hand. It’s both a strange and beautiful sight to behold. Seeing all of the familiar desert trademarks such as, a cactus, covered in snow is definitely a memorable occasion. I’m so happy that my family and I were able to witness this moment together, as I feel it’s a unique encounter that my children will never forget.
Photos and videos can only do so much to represent the sheer beauty that can only be truly appreciated in person. Exploring unusual scenery such as, the juxtaposition of snow in a desert setting, is something I highly recommend for everyone fascinated by travel and adventure.
The more I visit Nevada the more I fall in love with all of it’s beautiful desert scenery. The colors, textures, and of course the details! I hope to go back soon for more in depth exploration and photo making.
Here are just a few photos from a visit to Red Rock Canyon that I captured with my phone.
Wishing Queen Terri a very special and Happy Birthday today!!! I Love You!!!
Happy Birthday to my younger brother Marcus. I hope you enjoy yourself and have lots of fun. I wish I was back home to help celebrate with you. Cheers! I love you man!!!
In honor of my youngest brother’s birthday today I wanted to share a photo we created back in March. This was one of the first photos I took with my brand new Leica M10P. Thanks to my brother Antonio for helping me out with the session, and I’d like to wish him a very Happy Birthday!!!
Happy Birthday to my first born. I can’t believe that you’re 20 years old today! Where did all this time go? Sometimes I sit back and think, it really trips me out that you were actually born in the 90’s. I’m so proud of the woman you’re becoming. As a father you make me so happy! I wish you all the best going forward in your life. You’re one of the sweetest people I know and I pray you’ll always stay that way. Oh yeah, you may look just like your mom but, you act just like your old man! 😉 I love you so much!!!
Here are a few of my favorite iPhone photos from a recent trip to Las Vegas. More to come soon…
Happy 18th birthday to my son Nas. I love you Jr.!!!!
A very late night trip to try the local Waffle House. Shot on iPhone to test the phone’s low light capabilities.
2018, what can I say about you? You took so many of my beloved family and friends, leaving my entire family with completely broken hearts. Just when we thought you were done with us, just when we thought that you would give us a break for the new year, you decide to deal us one final, cruel, blow. December 28th you decided to take with you my mother-in-law, Renae. What a terrible way to end one year and begin another.
The last few weeks have been unimaginable!!! Everyone has been far too busy dealing with this tragedy to even think of posting anything on social media. But now that we’ve said our final goodbyes and have a moment to reflect, I thought I’d share this unfortunate news with extended family & friends around the world. If you know Terri, Toni, or their mother Renae, a few kind words plus some positive energy would be greatly appreciated at this time. Thank you!