On Anthony Bourdain's Passing

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.

 DAVID SCOTT HOLLOWAY VIA CNN

DAVID SCOTT HOLLOWAY VIA CNN

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.

5 Most Basic Rules of Health and Fitness

It pretty much breaks down to this:

  1. Do Something Active Every Day
  2. Do Stay Engaged in Life
  3. Don’t Overeat
  4. Don’t Drink to Excess
  5. Never Smoke

In case you haven't noticed, I've been photographing a lot of people within the fitness space largely because the very thought of individuals who utilize their body to inspire and push their own limits challenges me to apply what they so willingly share.

For some reason, I have a timid demeanor in talking to people about the healthy lifestyle I live because I consider what I do nothing out of the ordinary other than being content with repetition. The biggest difference based off the people I continue to meet is that you do something long enough to the point where you don't feel like yourself if you're not taking care of your body and lets face it, who doesn't yearn to just be themselves?

Living the NION Life

The struggles never go away they just change...

If anyone makes it seem like living the life of an artist is easy it's probably because they've been shy to share all the sh*t they've gone through and continue to improve it in order to achieve their version success. I personally don't do anything of this creative endeavor full-time yet but I can tell you there's a lot of sacrifices involved which hasn't bother me because it still allows me to spend time with people I love while still being behind the camera when I'm not a work.

Someone who I've learned a lot from not just from his work but from his continuous writing on the creative life is Nick Onken. He said, " My journey...was NOT easy… however, I discovered a few tricks along the way that I know could make it a whole lot easier for YOU."

He recently wrote an article on this very topic which I highly recommend you sit and take notes on, especially for those considering starting a career in art.

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.