During the time when I was planning out the logistics for a 4-day trip to Tulum, Mexico with my wife for her birthday, I came across this absolutely stunning gym located in the heart of the city. "Tulum Jungle Gym is a real life Fred Flintsone gym. Nearly all the equipment is made of wood or stone." Prior to flying out, I reached to Katie Davis, trainer and co-owner of the gym with hopes of possibly securing the opportunity to shoot with her at the gym despite the limited days that I would be spending in Tulum. Luckily we were able to work it out. I ended up taking a taxis to the gym at 6a.m which was 20min away from our hotel.
We shot a total of 3 looks one of which I'm glad to finally share along a short video showcasing the experience.
I love Jerry Salts description on the correlation I never realized existed between these two very demanding roles:
"Being a parent is already very much like being an artist. It means always lugging things around, living in chaos, doing things that are mysterious or impossible or scary. As with art, children can drive you crazy all day, make you wish all this could go away. Then in a single second, at any point, you are redeemed with a moment of intense, transformative love."
To give you quick overview on how I manage being a parent, working a full time job, being a husband and having a creative outlet on the side: It mostly involves a lot of sacrifice on the social aspect. I really don't have much time to spend with friends as I would like. As for the work I do shoot, I attend to it on weekends while editing any of it after 8:30am once the kids have been put to bed. The entire dynamic is a little challenging but I don't think I would have it any other way because it's a routine I've adapted to.
One of the aspects of working with video which I use to find very intimidating was figuring out a way to retain and apply that same aesthetics I've used on my photos and implement them on to any video I might of shot. I struggled to find a straight-forward process until I came across this video by Elenor which answered the same question I've been having ever since I began using Adobe Premiere as my main video editor: how can I use one of my Lightroom presets to color grade videos without going crazy scouring the web for one that closely resembles my aesthetic?
Elenor does a great job walking you through the process of achieving this by using a pay-what-you-want software called IWLTBAP LUT Generator which is the key element in generating a .CUBE format file which you import into Premiere and contains all the color grading from one of your Lightroom presets.
For the past 2 years I’ve been had the incredible opportunity to work alongside the incredible crew at Solace, a premium health and fitness facility conveniently located in the heart of Manhattan.
Each year they’ve put on a fitness and wellness event called Strong New York hosted by Jen Widerstrom and comprised of workout and seminars led by the most influential health and wellness experts in the industry and benefitting Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.
The permeating frame of mind throughout the entire event was “surround yourself with like-minded people, who motivate and encourage you, who inspire and push you, who see greatness in you even when you fail to see it in yourself.”
In addition to shooting the event, I also wanted to offer some portraits as well but different from what I had shot the year before with the intent to challenge a bit more.
I’ve never worked with constant light LED panels but I came across a very affordable set on Amazon, so I figured it would be a great time to experiment with them. The setup was pretty straightforward. Both LED panels were gelled and placed diagonally across from each other.
To view the rest of the portraits, head over to the gallery.
I've been mulling over the idea of re-doing my site longer than I like to admit. As it with most ambitions, we tend to procrastinate because we assume there will be this magical time that will come into existence but of course that never occurs because life happens and priorities shift.
For the longest, Squarespace has been held in high regard among the photo community. I've been a member for the past 8 years and while I've never necessarily had anything substandard to say about the platform considering I've recommended it numerous times to so many people, I was simply ready for change. There were a handful of other platforms I was considering when it came to starting fresh elsewhere, none of which supported any type of Squarespace migration workflow so in the end, I came to terms that I would have to shed what I've published in the past and start something new.
After carefully considering my options, I opted to re-create my website using Pixpa. Looking around you may immediately get the impression that my site is more or less the same as before but I can assure you that underneath the hood it's an entire new world. Regardless of which platform I migrated to, it was important for me for any platform to have the ability to continuing blogging because sometimes regardless of how much admiration you may receive from your creative work there's instances when you wish to share more about what went into creating it.
Very often I’ll get the question on how I go about establishing test shoot with models. Do I contact them directly? Do I go through an agency? Quite honestly I’ve never dealt with a modeling agency, mostly because I was unaware that reaching out to inquire about working with someone from their roster was a thing but apparently you can. It’s certainly an approach I’ll hold on to for future shoots but for the most part, 95% of the portraits I’ve taken have been from people I’ve reached out to via Instagram.
“How so?” Well, for me, there's definitely much more than the obvious.
Before anything, I kinda want you to envision this scenario a bit. Imagine you've worked as a construction worker for the majority of the time you've been in the workforce and after much pondering, you're hoping to branch out and explore other career opportunities to be lets say, a cook. So the question is, has this newly found possible profession been something you've actively been working on the side to get to a level where you're comfortable applying for a job and you have the basic skills down? Or is it a skill set that's still in its untimely stages but you're just as eager to polish them to a point where you could live off of them?
What does any of this have to do with portraits or reaching out to people on Instagram?
Well, I bring this up because the instance I discovered that taking portraits was where I seemed to obtain the greatest satisfaction within everything I photographed, that’s the moment I began exhausting the patience of friends to serve as models. This very act in return provided me with the opening to create work which would serve to attract the people I would later reach out to. The way I saw it, I couldn’t be livid about anyone not wanting to collaborate with me on a shoot if when they saw any of my photos, there was complete and total lack of portraits and now all of a sudden I’m reaching out to them without having anything visual to incentivize them to say “yes!"
I’m not saying you can’t reach out to people with the intent to shoot portraits if you don’t have any work to show for it already but I feel as though it helped me tremendously when people saw I was already doing it because it provided them with an idea of what our collaboration could look like.
In addition to making sure I dedicated time to creating a backlog of portrait work, I wanted to share a few other tips/guiding principles that have kinda helped me along the way in working with some pretty awesome people who I probably would have never connected with otherwise had it not been for Instagram.
For some people, the whole concept of meeting another person who you've befriended online may still sound creepy, perhaps because they're still thinking back to those creepy chatroom AOL days but I've had nothing but terrific experiences with people I've met. In fact, the majority of them I still keep in contact with on a regular basis. It's generally a good sign when you can establish a friendship with a person that extends far beyond the initial reason you reached out to them in the first place.
When we’re no longer being challenged or when we have become used to the work we are doing, it’s a sign that we are not growing creatively, personally or emotionally. We’ve drained the life out of ourselves.
- Paula, the Mediterranean Wanderer
I’m still attempting to process Anthony Bourdain’s passing. We hear news about celebrity deaths all the time and I’m not saying these are reports we should be numb to it but the initial reaction is still of disbelief. We’re spectators to the glorious lives these people live as they’re flashed on every media outlet like an ongoing slideshow but behind all that we’re never truly informed on the intricate mechanics of what we’re seeing.
I’ve written before how much I idolized Bourdain. 6 years later that admiration remains which is why his unexpected death made me reflect on what a lot of his work revolved around: everybody has a story based off their life experiences of which we may know nothing about. We can only decode so much from the outside.
We’ve all familiar with the saying that “it’s lonely at the top”. I assume while you’re up there, the desire to reveal the best image of yourself, to stay liked, to be a role model puts an insane amount of pressure on anyone. A feeling which very often goes unspoken by the person living it. Who knows if this was the case for Bourdain; he certainly didn’t seem the type to have given this celebrity quandary much thought but we’ll never know.
I’ve read all his books, I’ve seen every single one of his show episodes, I’ve followed every project he was involved in, including the very ambitious Bourdain Market which was set to open in New York but unfortunately the entire project was axed. I’ve trolled Bourdain’s work because I cared so much in listening to his perspective on life matters that extended far beyond what he was known for. While food might have been the entry way in which he gained access into people’s lives, it was more about than that. It’s that “more” element which enabled him to shine. You can’t fake being interested in people. Either you are or you’re not and that’s what he was all about.
As Helen Brosner said in a recent New Yorker piece, “Bourdain felt like your brother, your rad uncle, your impossibly cool dad—your realest, smartest friend, who wandered outside after beers at the local one night and ended up in front of some TV cameras and decided to stay there.” This is what made him so relatable. He was highly thought of and yet he never seemed as thought he thought highly of himself.
What’s not to love about a guy like that! Through his expression you can read the pain he had endured to reach the well-deserved celebrity position he was at. He lived and suffered but inspired as well. Without suffering and the occasional doubts, the mind will have a tendency to rest on cliches and stay there and there was nothing Bourdain despised more than that.
We may never have the opportunity to travel as much as his sough-after career allowed him to but I’ve learned traveling doesn’t always have to entail far long journeys. I’m fortunate to live in one of the most diverse cities in the world and not a day goes by where I don’t encounter people with different customs, different ideologies, different life perspectives and it’s those differences that Bourdain taught us to embrace.
I’m extreme sadden by Bourdain’s passing just like any other fan. He’s the reason I enrolled my son in Jiu Jitsu. He’s the reason I bought my first ever pair of Clarks Suede Desert Boots, he’s the reason I became a voracious reader, he’s the reason I love to write about what I shoot because I was inspired the way in which he narrates his travels experiences in his shows.
To do what he did required a lot of toughness but also a constant connection to reality. To me there was no one else more real than him and that’s how I’ll always remember. Speak your mind, stand by it and stay curious.
If you admire him as much as we all do, I think you'd appreciate this beautiful Life in Pictures CNN composed of his life's work.