It's not very often I'll quote a tweet but Christian Gideon always has me tapping on that heart with a lot of the inspirational thoughts he puts out into the world, especially this one at a point where I've lately have had self-doubt about my photography work. Sometimes you have to remind yourself that you geninuinely do things for yourself and if other people happen to gravitate towards it then consider that a bonus.
It’s been a while since I’ve visited this lovely tranquil oasis of a museum in Long Island City. It’s only a 25min a drive away from home so getting there is never a problem but it become more about taking time of yourself to enjoy your time in this Zen urban industrial space. You kinda wish art spaces would be like The Noguchi Museum - big, beautiful and no crowd. I only had the opportunity to be there for about 45mins but it was enough to feel as if I’ve cleared my mind as I walked around observing the rock sculptures to help relieve ones tension.
Jonathan Harris on The Great Discontent. To that I would add..."don't be the type that's driven to do anything only when you're compensated for it. Do it because you love it and getting paid for it is a bonus and privilege."
I may not seem like it in the photos but you’ll have to take word when I say that Andrew Kung has epic apartment with a breathtaking view that overlooks downtown Brooklyn. Do you know what’s equally admirable? The fact that he manages with a little bit of effort to convert his living room space into this mini photo studio which he’s bragged about on multiple occasions, so when he extended the invitation to test it out, of course I couldn’t decline.
I was also fortunate enough to catch up and test shoot with Emma who like most people nowadays, I met through Instagram the year prior. Andrew was the person who by the way had suggested I invest on the infamous modifier Annie Leibovitz (Photek HSD-60 Umbrella Diffuser) uses which I did, so I brought it over to his apartment and between his and mine, we experimented with various forms of lighting and what you see is the result of a lot of tinkering with light.
My biggest takeaway from this impromptu test shoot is that regardless of epic you’re envisioning a shoot to be, especially with lights, make you’re you’re giving yourself ample time to get down the lighting to how you wanted before the model arrives because there’s nothing worst than wasting their time and yours. Normally I like to arrive an 1hr before but I ended up cutting it too close this time around.
I’m always both amazed and intrigued by people who exude the type of confidence you may be secretly jealous about. I think what happens, or at least for me, is just the fact that you assume they have everything in life figured out but unless you’ve known from the beginning, you literally have no idea of the amount of life experiences that’s mold who they are now and that’s led them to this very moment in their life where you just happen to have met them.
I truly admire people who are very vulnerable, very honest, very real and who have this ability to share their heart without the worry of how it’s going to come across or worrying too much about how unperfected it may seem because in the end, we all know perfect doesn’t exist. I recently had the pleasure of meeting Viviana, a native from Colombia but who’s called New York her home for a large portion of her life.
I can’t ever imagine photographing someone without ever asking questions as I’m interviewing them to be part of my life, so I was beyond appreciative for Viviana being as candid as she was to questions I shouldn’t always expect people would have the answer to right away and without hesitation to share.
Is there any thing you were insecure about growing up that you’ve learned to love?
Yes, my skin color. Being Colombian with a light skinned mother and a very dark skinned father, it was a struggle to cope with myself when I was younger. I would get teased as a kid for being "la negra". In Colombia, dark skin people are often associated with a lower social economic status- the implication that I was too dark made me feel insecure and question if I was pretty enough. Often times, my family would say "you have to marry someone lighter, to better your race." This implied that being light skinned was better. My insecurities were set in my mind not to love my skin color. It wasn't until my early 20's, where I began to love myself for who I was, and to understand that my skin color was beautiful. It made me who I am now. Being different was unique and it's how I began to feel more comfortable in my own skin.
What is something you believe that other people think is insane?
Well, people think is insane to workout as much as I do. When people see me at the gym working out, often times they'll ask if I'm competing or getting ready for a special event and the straighforwad answer is "no". I train hard for me, I train hard for life.
Do you have a quote you live your life by or think of often?
Yes, and is hard to choose just one. I actually read quotes for relaxation. It soothes me when I'm stressed out or worrying about life in general but a quote I like to think I live by is "your perception is your reality". As human beings we are in control of our own story. As you go on about your business; people will inevitably make judgments about your appearance, personality or capabilities. So it's up to you to project your best impression of who you are. Making this perception your reality!
What is the worst advice you see or hear being dispensed in your world regarding fitness?
When I started working out, my parents or family members will tell me not to lift weights. "You are going to look manly" they would say. But in reality this is false. Weight training with heavy resistance, WILL NOT make you look bulky; it will empower you!
What have you changed your mind about in the last few years? Why?
In the recent years I changed my mind about having children. I'm an only child and I feel like my parents have demanded a lot of responsibility. So the thought of being responsible for a child is something I fear. I love kids, but I feel the demands of being a parent is a lot and is something I don't want to do now.
Let that sink in for a while. So ultimately the question is what are you getting paid for? Some people are paid to do, some are paid to think and others are paid to do both. There’s no question on which camp you and I should strive to be in and what better way to demand that than to follow Chase’s advise on how to go about developing your style as a creative. In my case a photographer. Great quick podcast episode I listened to as I commuted to work.
The one thing there will be absolutely no shortage of 10 to 15 years from now thanks largely in part to Instagram, our smartphones and the accessibility by which mostly everyone can get their hands on a reputable and dependable camera nowadays is the fact that we’ll know exactly what our neighborhood, our city and even our block looked like because of how much we currently photograph the heck out of them.
I may occasionally scoff at the typical stream of New York scenery we’ve all grown accustom to seeing all over the web right now but I think as I get older, I’ll more than likely look back and be very appreciative of all those people who spend countless hours documenting a city that’s forever changing.
“In the early 1970s, Camilo José Vergara trained his camera on scenes of everyday street life in New York City. His photographs captured kids playing on the street, subway cars before graffiti, sections of the Bronx that look bombed out, and the construction of the World Trade Center in progress.” I pulled up the entire photo essay on the iPad and handed it to my parents to see and boy were they taken back. These photographs may have seemed insignificant to people at the time but boy are they golden now. Amazing!
In addition to Medium, Flipboard is another app I launch on an almost daily basis. The ability to find, organize and curate content based on your interest alone is golden, especially in a time where it’s become so effortless to subscribe to anything in hopes of being inspired by something at some point.
One of the Flipboard Magazines I follow is called Self-Improvers and the other day I came across an article entitled: How can I make myself better each day? Regardless of whether you’re not the type who’s on the lookout for pointers on ways to optimize your life just a little bit more, you have to admit the title is catchy enough to spark anyones interest. Luckily, it was certainly worth the 2 minute read and among the 7 life recommendations given, there were 3 which resonated with me the most:
Start Writing: I don’t consider myself a prolific writer whatsoever but the aspect of continuously showing up to this blog to write since 2010 has enabled me to formulate and manifest my ideas better, it’s allowed me to build more context around my work and ultimately, it’s enabled me to figure out my voice in the process. If you’re not doing it already, you’re missing out! Like Sean Wes says, anything you can possibly think of ultimately starts with writing so why not get use to it now.
Read: Just as an experiment, I dare you to perform a quick Google search regarding commonalities very successful people may have and while I wait here, I can 99% guarantee you’ll come back telling me about that one omnipresent characteristic you couldn’t help notice all throughout is the fact that they all self-educate by reading. It’s simple…wealthy people would rather be educated than entertained so why should you and I be any different regardless of our wealth disparity? As of now, I’ve given myself the goal of reading a minimum of 12 books this year but the real goal is to exceed that. Like Jim Rohn once said, a “formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.”
Expand Your Comfort Zone: This one is easy. The only way to improve your self-confidence is to improve your skills and to improve your skills, it requires for you to become better at something and to become better at something you must embrace sh*t you’ve never done before.
Zig Ziglar, a motivational speaker once said, “People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily” and this very mentality keeps me going strong on the 3 life recommendations I talked about.