Age Never an Excuse

If you see age as an obstacle for what you can’t do, you won’t get anywhere. You’ll just be stuck doing the same s***, everyday.

But if you see age as just a number and you focus more on learning, exploring, and creating, you achieve so much more. You go beyond your own expectations.

When asked my age, I don't know if taking few seconds to answer represents that I'm 36 or could it be that I simply don't give much stock to the number because it's not a reflection of how I feel. Without question I feel much younger. Growing up, I distinctly recall having our 30 year old uncles visiting us and I couldn't help notice how overweight they were.

I immediately assumed its how I would physically be the around the same age but that's certainly hasn't been the case. As a child the idea of things not being set in stone doesn't always sink and as you grow older it's imperative to hold on to that mental attitude. You're in charge of your own life and you believe it's too late to pursue something then you probably haven't looked around hard enough for people who began killing it at a much older age. Case and point...Anthony Bourdain who I admire.

Hammer & Nail NYC

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Shooting athletics at least from how I stepped into it revolves a lot around conceptualizing scenarios in which you place a strong and fit person within that scene with the intent to photograph them going through a series of intense physical activity. I love it because throughout the process I'm engaging a lot with the person in trying to get pointers with how I can apply a lot of what I see into my own workout regimens.

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But there's times when I don't feel like conceptualizing anything. I don't want to think about which athletic outfit and perfect color combination or equipment would work best for whatever I may have in mind. Sometimes I just yearn to enter a world I have a very narrow scope on and be the person who happens to have a camera to capture what I see without interring with what people would normally do if I weren't there.

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This was exactly the case when I visited Hammer & Nail NYC in Brooklyn, a new martial arts academy right in the heart of the artistic neighborhood of Bushwick. Justin, one of the trainers was gracious enough to grant me the opportunity to setup and simply capture a normal Muay Thai training session between him and James. He asked me, "Is there anything special you want me to do?" I said, "Not really...pretending I'm not even here" and hopefully a lot of that intense came across in the final photographs.

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Location: 400 Troutman St, Brooklyn, NY 11237
Phone: (718) 644-1999

Stacia Suttles

Stacia, a Brooklyn native, is the number one boxer in her category as well as a member of Team USA. Skillful, humble, determined and gracious are just a few of the attributes to describe her when I had the opportunity to meet up.

When publishing anything I’ve shot with someone, I rarely intent to make it about myself because in essence they’re the talent but in this particular case, I was a little thrown of by an accident I had with my lighting equipment that’s compelled me to make note of it as to avoid it again. Normally on any outside shoot, it’ just my camera and I but as I’ve become more acclimated in working with off-camera lighting, I’ve integrated it into my work with more frequency.

It’s so subtle you don’t realize it’s being used but I notice the difference with the absence of it. Due to its portability factor yet without sacrificing power, I’ve been using the Godox AD200 lately instead of regular speed lights. To make a long story short, I underestimated how windy the day was along with the fact that I failed to secure the light stand with proper sand bags, so the wind caused the entire stand to flip over sending the Godox straight to the floor and cracking.

I must have been too excited when I bought it because apparently I failed to purchase insurance for it. It hurt so bad having to dish out $300 again to replace it since there was no repair option either. Obviously I learned my lesson on both accounts but the moral of the story for me was that I didn’t allow this equipment mishap to send the entire shoot in a downward spiral as I kept my cool and kept going.

Outside of Your Own World

I distinctly remember when Instagram Meet-ups were a thing. The birds eye view of a chosen space being overshadowed by a flood of people eager to mingle and photograph as onlookers surveyed the area wandering what this whole turnout was about has certainly now been a thing of the pass. At least the way they use to be.

I attended so many and met wonderful people along the way. I befriended and kept in contact with a handful long after these meets began subsiding. We would text to meet up for coffee or even organize small explorations to enjoy each others company while sharing our adventures on Instagram. In 2017 there was very little participation on my part in any of this. Not by choice but just randomly where life begins to take over and you're no longer able to commit to opportunities you would have yelled emphatically "yes" to.

Did I miss these meets? Of course! Among the top advice you often hear as to what you should be doing to push yourself creatively is to surround yourself with likeminded people in your field. Sounds straightforward but what I discovered was that by having that limited time in some weird way allowed me to recognize my photographer voice even more. I thought less about which other creative I wanted to meet-up with and paid more attention to little curiosities I had about individuals in completely different fields.

It took a tweet from Tyler Phenes to give me the push to write about any of these. He said, "I get why it’s important to be a part of communities in your field of work, but you can learn so much more from people outside of those worlds." The old me had developed an obsession for the need to be around other photographers. I assumed it was standard and necessary but little did I know that swimming on your own is often the solitude you need to learn who you want to be as a creative as oppose to comparing yourself with the rest of the spool.

The Pause Button

When people ask me if "photography is what I ultimately envision myself doing", I respond with a resounding "yes!" It’s a valid question. I guess they see what I do and don’t do. Between being parent, having a day job, committing to side gigs and test shooting on random days off to experiment concepts I tend to overthink in my head, I still somehow managed to make everything work. Of course there’s sacrifices along the way but regardless of all the hoops I go through, the goal has continuously been to protect the passion while doing everything else.

Failure is a scary thing but who knew success had it's own share of baggage. I assume because success instantly creates expectations, it creates accountability and so rather than position ourselves in a place where we fear not being able to meet them, we withdraw from even taking no brainer opportunities that would undoubtedly take us to that next step. In essence, success is just intimidating as failure and for me Paula said it best for those moments in which you talk yourself out of doing something you know you love:

Back in the old days, if you were an avid gamer, you knew that committing yourself to passing a game involved doing it all in one shot. There was no “save and come back later.” In fact, the only thing I could do was hit “pause” and hope I finished my dinner fast enough so I can resume after. If I stayed on “pause” too long the Nintendo would freeze up and restart itself. Moral of the story…stop hitting pause and keep going!

Printing the Digitals

The call for photographers to print our work is nothing new. I’m guilty as anyone else when it comes to this practice in that I’m not consistent. We’re prompted to do this time and again for the sole purpose of squeezing them out of the digital realm where they often get lost and instead give them the opportunity to exist as something tangible. It’s one thing to admire your work on a beautiful screen but it’s another to hold it. We already succumb to this cozy feeling with family photos and so that same sentiment should bleed over onto our other work.

I don’t currently own a printer but considering there’s a slew of services wanting our business to print our photos, it doesn’t bother me to outsource the work for the time being.

Overview of my photography work. Used Shutterfly to print.

Above everything, the most daunting task is determining which work is of value for us to print. I value everything I shoot, especially family photos but for the sake of conversation what I’m referring to here specifically are photos relating to your portfolio as a photographer and the ones you feel represent the type of work you aspire to do more of.

I’ve shot a lot ever since I began taking photography more seriously but I was horrible at establishing a system where I would at least know which photos within Lightroom were worthy of printing. One can only imagine the intimidating task of sifting through everything. What I do now is that any time I consider a photo worthy of being printed, I simply tag it portfolio so later on I can execute a quick tag search to pull up all those I've been sorting along the way.

Recently, within the span of 3 weeks, every night I set aside 45 minutes to cull a few of my favorite photos, print them via Shutterfly because it was cheaper and lay them out on my desk to gain a new perspective on my work.

For example, the fact that the majority of it has revolved around capturing subjects while a beautiful sunset is transpiring or that I tend to photograph more females as oppose to men or that I’ve recently developed an affinity for sport and fitness.

To balance that a bit, I’ve already embraced shooting in a studio environment and maneuvering the use of strobes, v-flats, etc. The concept itself was both foreign and intimidating last year but the comfort level has grown as I’ve been putting in the practice as oppose to salivating over videos on how to do this or that but never taking action.

Overall, printing at least 10 photos a month of anything new I’ve shot will be an ongoing ritual to make me more aware of elements I may tend to overlook as it’s become normal to gaze endlessly as screens non-stop.

Alicia Kelley

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For this particular shoot, I had one specific place in mind which I frequent a lot during the Summer with the family. The challenge for me was how can I portray it in a way where it seems as though it's my first time. The challenge for Alicia was how to make it seem like it's warm when in reality that harsh and low temperatures made us cringe every step of the way. We shot in late March which technically made it Spring already but so far it's been nothing but wishful thinking on our part. The notion of warm weather is taking has taken longer but luckily everyone I've shot with has been more than willing to be sport about creating work despite the weather.

Permission To Suck

The way to creativity is to create a lot, and the way to create a lot is to give ourselves permission to suck. People will forget the mistakes and garbage we make, but will remember our best works.

Who doesn't enjoy being good at things. It's a sweet position to be in especially when your words and demeanor who are being observed by others give off the vibe that you know what your'e doing. Sometimes we do and other times we make face hoping it all works out at the end.

I was recently in the middle of a test shoot with someone who I had connected with via Instagram. As with all test shoots the pre-work had already been done, so I was essentially walking in with a specific vision in mind but as I began shooting, I had difficulty in connecting to that final product I had constructed in my head. I continued shooting for a few minutes until I called it quits and moved on to the next look. Till this day I wasn't pleased at all with how the photos turned out so I've suppressed all in those photos somewhere in Lightroom.

In my eyes, I sucked and it bothered me tremendously I wasn't able to deliver but I've realized that the worst case scenario from when situations like this happen is to get past the fear of being bad at something. What's the other option? Not to do anything? I think that would suck more!