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“Find your passion” has gotta be one of the most broken-record phrases ever repeated throughout someone’s life. It’s difficult to fathom anyone who hasn’t been told at one point and while it’s great that you might already be in a position where that “passion” represents your career or your job, I’m come to believe it’s equally important to have something you’re also passionate about but that you selfishly pursue outside of the confines of normal work hours.

It’s no surprise to anyone at work that I’m “passionate” about photography. In fact, I’m the guy most co-workers come to with anything related to the topic. Regardless of how good we may be at our profession, it’s up to us to establish /some/ form of parameters that reminds us that what we do for a living is not the only label that defines us. There’s more to us that just being a friend, a co-worker, a boss, a spouse, a partner, etc. The catch is that it’s up to you to discover and explore what the selfish pursuit is.

Friend Laura and Paula in Upstate New York capturing sunset

From experience, here’s a few reasons I believe you should place emphasis on having something you pursue outside of work for yourself even if it means being selfish at times:

It keeps you curious - what I often observe from people who lack in having an interest outside of work is that there’s limited scope about what they may know other than the task they perform day in and day out because there’s a deficiency in having a curiosity to seek out new information.

My kids assume that adults are inherently predisposed to know everything but obviously that’s not the case. Think about something you’ve always been interested in knowing more about and see where that curiosity leads you. It could involve pottery making, volunteer work, Jiu Jitsu, etc.

For me the way in which I gravitated towards photographing a lot of personal trainers in New York was because I selfishly wanted to learn more about living a healthier active lifestyle and what better way to glean knowledge than from professionals as an adjunct to the self-education I’ve been giving myself.

You’ll never be bored - I honestly can’t recall the last time I felt genuinely bored. My camera has truly been a license to meet people and discover new places without the need of having to board a plane. My mind is constantly churning on what I can do the moment any free time pops up. I have an ongoing list of books to read, topics to write about, Netflix documentaries to satisfy my curiosity, places to eat that it’s all a matter of plucking anything out from that bag to keep me occupied.

Being bored is the equivalent to not knowing what to write about in the sense that if you can’t come up with a topic then you’re more than likely are not being curious enough in anything.

You become comfortable with being on your own - Back when I was single, I cringed at the idea of doing anything social on my own because there’s always that fear of being perceived as a loser. It’s a normal feeling, especially when you’re still in the process of developing that confidence that will eventually make it crystal clear to you that there’s a difference between being lonely and being comfortable with being on your own. There’s the presence of confidence in the latter and not in the former.

It doesn’t bother me spending time on my own, especially on days when my wife is at work, the kids are at school and I happen to have a random day off in the middle of the week. If you’re a parent, you’re well aware that time for yourself is a rarity which you should learn to treasure when it comes along unexpectedly. It’s a healthy component to seek for your our own sanity. Heck, there’s been times when I’ve gone and have brunch or watched a movie on my own and it’s never bothered me.

You’ll become more understanding of what people have going on during their own time - I don’t convene with friends as much as I would like to especially between having parental responsibilities, work, and what mainly occupies the majority of my free time which is my photography.

I have a friend who’s an amazing painter, one who is equally elevating their photography game and another is who pursuing their transition into the personal training business. I can’t ever hold a grudge against them for any missed opportunities we may have for meeting because I’m understanding of their grind because I’m doing the same on my end.

Working is part of your life, but it does not have to consume your WHOLE life hence the my plea to find something that keeps your mind off of work when you’re not there.

I recently discovered Josh’s writing on Medium in which he’s written several thought provoking pieces on photography which have had very little to do with gear. In my opinion, these are the best kind because they never have an expiration date as to how much inspiration you can glean from them as oppose to gear which rapidly gets outdated.

In this piece entitled The 5 Mindset Shifts Of Becoming A Pro Photographer, he touches on a topic which resonated and has often haunted me in the past. As you begin envisioning your craft as something more than a hobby, there will always be that lack of confidence that will accompany you because you before you can wear proudly the title of introducing yourself as a photographer, you feel that you must know everything first and that’s certainly not the case.

Josh says:

Yes, there are still things to learn, this is true in any profession. That doesn’t mean you aren’t a professional. And the real truth is, all photographers still have things to learn — at every level. Your professionalism starts the minute you declare it, even if you are still learning things. As long as you have the ability to get hired for one thing, that’s being a professional.

Up until this point I classified myself within this list of people who every New Year considers it OK to declare that we’ll “do this and that” but what often lacks in the statement is the presence of any form of concrete steps for how we’re planning to accomplish any of these things we so easily announce. It’s borderline annoying because we’re aware that we do it but we do nothing practical to effect the potential outcome.

How often do we daydream of moments to happen in our lives? Regardless of how much we may fantasize about the perfect anything, it really comes down to holding ourselves more accountable to achieving those beautiful moments of bliss that we yearn for.

For example, I’ve visited El Salvador with my family in the past but for the longest I’ve yearned to return on my own or at least just with my wife for an entire week to focus entirely in staying in a well known surf town and carry out a photographic project as if I had been assigned by any of the travel magazines I admire.

La Libertad, El Salvador - 2018

I’ve lived in El Salvador, I’m well aware of the customs, the food, the setting but very often there’s been so many compromises between parental responsibilities and what I can do on my own by leaving family behind that I ultimately walk away with “I should’ve” moments which leave me wanting more. Well, I'm finally doing it. Flight and lodging has been booked! To satisfy that desire to explore El Salvador on my own, and to knock out this goal of mine this early in the year is big because as I had mentioned before, I was all talk and very little doing.

This year should be about doing important things that makes us happy. Invest in yourself, spend a good chunk of that time on you.

At this point I've equated vloging in public a lot to working out for the first time in the gym. You'll have initial insecurities about the prospect of it mainly because you're afraid of onlookers, you're afraid of being "that person", you're afraid of being judged all of which are valid hesitancies that normally arise out of lack of continuous practice. Do anything consistently enough and it'll become second nature where it becomes seamless to tune out variables around you and focus on your sole intentions.

Jeven Dovey has compiled some great tips to help you and I overcome that shyness that comes with filming ourselves in public whether it's for vlogging purposes themselves or IG Stories which at this point they're both the same.

I'm heading to El Salvador in January 2020 on a solo photographic adventure and perhaps the idea of being alone will make the process filming myself much easier because there's more time to focus and less compromising.

I don’t think I would have met as many people as I have in New York or anywhere had I not viewed my camera as a license or entry point into their lives. It makes a difference when you have something to offer or something for people to see about you prior to even meeting in person. Whether those are photos, writing, art, etc or anything that exist out there in the world where people can evaluate a bit as to whether they can even make the time to meet.

I had reached out to Elsa via Instagram with hopes of working together on a test shoot and in between her busy school schedule , dance practice and work, we literally managed to carve out a 2hr slot in the middle of the day to shoot.

During the Summer, Under Armour filmed a segment featuring Elsa in which they caught a “glimpse of the eight-hour-a-day training sessions that go into perfecting her craft” which was amazing to see. As Elsa says, “in dance, you can’t just wish your way into getting the steps right; you have to put in the time and energy to understand how your body and mind connect with one another.”

To view the rest of the photos from this look with Elsa, feel free to check out the gallery.

Dec 06, 2019

Roxie Jones & LES

Prior to going on a small getaway with my wife to Cozumel, Mexico in November, I had the opportunity to meet up with Roxie in a part of New York I use to frequent incessantly back in the old Instagram meetup days. It was also my go-to neighborhood to practice street photography because you were never on a shortage of interesting characters to shoot within that gritty backdrop that's always characterized New York neighborhoods.  

As I write this, I'm confident Roxie and I will team up again to shoot but without question she had been the one person I had been wanting to work with because not only is she epic in at what she does in her profession but equally her advise, her perspective and her overall willingness to put out positive vibes within her Instagram has me always coming back to actively listen to everything she has to say.

Head over to the gallery to view the rest of the photos from our shoot. As a quick side note, the bike you see in the photographs is my Super73 bike which I rode from Williamsburg, Brooklyn into the city for our shoot. 

I've always been a very active person. I enjoy putting my body through physical exertion and up until now, I have a set routine 4-days a week in which I religiously wake up at 5am to then be at the gym at 6am, out by 7am and to work at 8am. I don't have to think about my regimen. It's so ingrain in me to a point where I don't feel like myself when I divert from it. I dislike when people ask me how I manage to do this because regardless of what I may say, in the end it's going to come down to you whether you care enough or not.

I love the way Brad Stulberg eloquently puts it because it's equally a beautiful life-advice metaphor for life in general: 

In the weight room...it’s just you and the bar. You either make the lift or you don’t. If you make it, great. If not, you train more, and try again. Some days it goes well, other days it doesn’t. But over time, it becomes clear that what you get out of yourself is proportionate to the effort you put in. It’s as simple and as hard as that. 

My wife Vanessa and I just returned from a 5-days escape I planned for us for her birthday to Cozumel, Mexico.

Last year we had such a relaxing and explorative experience in Tulum. We trekked ruins, dived in refreshing cold waters of Cenotes and ate delicious local food that Anthony Bourdain would have unquestionably approved of. Our curiosity to explore served as an impetus for us to cycle from one place to another via $7 a day bike rentals.

Overall, I foresee these micro-escapes necessary and ideal for us to spend more time together as couple because it’s easy to allow the “couple” title to take a backseat to parental responsibilities and work related routines that permeate the majority of our thoughts.

Prior to heading out to Cozumel this year, I had plans about what to do on specific days considering the amount of Trip Advisor research I had done prior. Ultimately we had to improvise upon arrival because for 3 days out of the 5 the weather was against anyone who had fantasized about working up a tan at the beach.

Of course I was bummed about having to experience a typical rainy season in Mexico but I quickly remind myself that while we may have lost sunny days of frolicking in the sun, I should not lose the purpose of the escape to begin with. Sometimes you’ll find yourself in situations where you may not be doing anything exciting worth Instagramming but who you’re spending that time with holds more value. My memories of this escape lives more in my head than they do in my camera.

We actually slept in longer while having conversation with each other afterwards minus the interruption from the kids bursting into our bedroom and forgetting afterwards what we were talking about. We walked aimlessly in Cozumel not compromising our curiosity to explore since we didn’t have to worry whether the kids were bored. We ate delicious charred grilled octopus and lobsters dinners without worrying that they might potentially be nothing that the kids would like from the menu. Everything was solely about Vanessa and I as a couple and while that may come across selfish, I’ve learned that it’s ok sometimes.

Philip Edsel is a photographer who's working I've been admiring for some time and if you follow him on Instagram you'll notice that every morning he publishes what he refers to as morning thoughts. On this particular day the quote below resonated with my tremendously because it's something I took it upon myself to do to cut down the digital noise that easily becomes overwhelming because we often fail to create boundaries around what we really care to pay attention to:

...just because I follow someone for their work, doesn't mean I need to follow their day-to-day experience. Meaning, I waste so much watching Stories I have zero affiliation with...because of that, I went through and muted a lot of Instagram Stories.

Try it!

Regardless of how much time may elapse in between, Iman and I always managed to reconvene again at some point and play around a bit in the studio with some beautiful shadows and light. 

Shawn Blanc on a reflection he recently had during a moment in which he got annoyed at his "boys for leaving their toys out and forgetting to clean up before bed" - 

"One day, my boys will be grown and they will move out to live on their own...we will miss the days, like this one, when toys were left on our steps and our boys were at home in the evenings to play and to laugh and fight about whose turn it is to brush their teeth first...I try to remind myself in those moments of annoyance that the things which frustrate me now will one day be the things I will miss terribly and wish for again."

As a father of a 8 and 5 year old, I can't tell you how often I constantly remind myself of this reality because any parent will tell you that those years go by much faster than you can ever expect unless you take the time to reflect.

No matter what you sell, you must be confident the price you charge for it accurately reflects the value, utility, and benefits provided to your customers.

Linda Lopeke breaks down the 15 factors to consider when you set a price for your work.

Almost every freelancer at one point in their early career has simply winged it when being caught off guard by a potential client by the dreaded question of "how much would you charge for...?" It's paralyzed me in numerous occasions because there's rarely a straightforward answer without first considering a few variables. Rates and fees are not something that should be wung because as Linda states, "pricing is ultimately a mathematical exercise and your testing should ultimately tell you what price is ultimately right."