So pseudo…

Los Angeles

The surrealism of this journey never ceases to amaze me. When I toured for a living, and for a few years afterwards, it was a seemingly endless journey across the American frontier. I experienced more in those years, traveled and adventured more, saw and did more, heard, worked, played, and lived more, than most people will in a lifetime. I know what it means to be a nomad, a wanderer. To wake up in a different city every day. To adapt and learn and live completely different kinds of lifestyles. That vast array of experience has helped to forge me into the person I am today. It is why I can manage and function anywhere, despite never really being comfortable anywhere. I never mind anywhere. I can make do with almost nothing. I know how to just make things work. Very little bothers me, even less can actually stop me. I can go on for a while here, and I have lots of other notes to include, but I am exhausted. I’ll follow up later.

This morning I woke up in Santa Monica, CA after spending the previous evening on the beach, at the end of a stunningly beautiful day. The weather was gorgeous, I finally was able to take a long, hot, shower and get myself cleaned up, and I got laundry done. I slept in a bed. When you live on the road, days like that are few and far between. They are like pocket days, 24 hours of stepping outside of the reality you’re existing to recollect and recover. Personal days. Recharge days.

Santa Monica

Tonight I am laying on a couch, in a home at the top of a mountain, hidden away somewhere in a forest outside of Santa Cruz, CA. Another unfamiliar ceiling. It was a very long, dark, winding, road to get here. I have no cell reception. I’m writing this offline before I hijack some bandwidth. I can see every star in the sky here, but there are no fireflies like where I grew up. Bluegrass music is coming out of the TV. In 8 hours I will be awake, collect the few things I unpacked, and climb aboard a motor home that is very similar to the tour buses I spent most of my 20’s on. This will become three days of driving across the desert with two men I have known collectively for less than five days until I am in Albuquerque, NM. They are both chain smokers, but I fear for the well being of my camera, clothes, and computer more than I do my own lungs.

And once again...

That’s all for now. Just wanted to get it down here. Side note: Today’s photos were brought to you by my phone, not my camera.

Contact Defect

Santa Cruz Boardwalk
Santa Cruz Boardwalk

I just recently plugged nearly 500 old posts from IAM into this site’s timeline. It is the only other real place that I have published a significant body of content. IAM is a subsection of BME, the Body Modification Ezine, a private community for people interested in tattoos, piercing, etc. I was originally invited by my best friend, Stephen, in 2002, and since then I’ve used it to varying degrees as a secondary journal. It used it a lot during the transition phases of this site, when posting wasn’t push-button like it is now. It was an easier way to keep notes and tabs on what was going in my life and connect with critical people, especially while I was touring. Recently IAM has gone through a massive overhaul. It was floundering badly in the face of the rise of social media sites like Facebook and it really needed an injection of modernization. Unfortunately what it go was some bad plastic surgery. The site is mess now. Tons of basic features are missing, lifetimes of connections were stripped away, and the overall UI is just a disaster. I don’t anticipate it lasting much longer as it’s userbase flees, so I just sat down and took the time to liberate all my old posts before they vanish forever. A lot of the best interactions on IAM took place in the comments though. I’m still working on getting those ported over.

Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz

The real question though, I suppose, is “Why?” Why bear all that? Why make all that information available? Well, first off I didn’t drop them all in here. IAM existed before Twitter and Facebook, so a lot of the posts are akin to statue updates or tweets. There is no point in adding those kinds of posts. That would be like trying to consolidate that kind of social media into my post timeline here. It’s pointless. Anyway. I couldn’t really tell you why. A lot of it represents my raw opinions, but it is also an amazing chronology, especially of my touring years. There is still a lot of clean up to do around here, but part of rebuilding this space was finally consolidating all the weird, satellite, material I have floating around out there on the web. I actually learned a hard lesson when AOL Hometown (shut up) vanished since I was using it to host a lot of material. Photos, writing, docs, etc. I don’t want that happening again. I plan on using this site as more of a hubspace now, as I slowly start to link everything together. Flickr already hosts the images for this site, and is linked to my Tumblr, which I use as kind of a lightweight version this site. My tweets are there on the right and I’m working on Google+ integration. Google+ already aggregates my Flickr, Twitter, Reader, and YouTube. I tend to keep Facebook isolated and wrestle all the time with the idea of just stripping everything out of it and leaving it as an empty shell.

Bridge
Bridge

The simple fact of the matter is that we’ve come to live in a social world. Very little is private anymore, (not that it every really was) and what is private is always at risk of not being due to the ease of publishing information in a public space. I’d rather have control of it all here than out in the æther. This is especially true with Facebook and Google+. More so Facebook since they are so prone to up and changing their security settings and constantly make security and control more and more convoluted and complicated for users. It’s turning into an ADD nightmare and trying to keep it reigned in is getting more and more difficult.

This is also an expansion of the balance I’ve been working towards in my life. There is a massive amount of content out there, best to have it filtered personally here, especially as my perspectives change. I made a choice a long time ago to control this website, to publish personal material, and to have it be part of my life. This was long before words like “blog” even existed. There was no “social media”. The Independent Web was an experiment to see if private content producers could hold their own. To see if it was possible for a person to run a website, rather than a corporation. It sounds silly now, but back then it was a new frontier. It took a unique kind of person to do that, I suppose. I guess I was one of them.

We all grow up though. Most of the IW abandoned their sites, or have since converted them to push-button publishing. Even I have converted this site to WordPress, though heavily customized, which I kind of see as a betrayal of those early days. I’ve come to accept it as progress though. New tools to keep track of all the data that is flying around there now.

Meanwhile, I’m still in LA, hanging out with superstar professional photographer Michelle Star. There was an epic 13 hour shoot a few days ago that ended in a huge house party. Good times. The Hollywood Waste shoot is this Friday, with two more on the horizon. It’s been an… interesting time so far.

La Brea & Santa Monica
La Brea & Santa Monica

I’ve spent some time with my brother, Marc, who lives here in LA. We’ve had dinner twice and saw Moneyball. We talked potential work here in LA and he has some people he wants me to talk to, so that is pretty cool. It’s nice that the older we get, the more civil and brotherly we actually are. We have a mutual respect for each others lives.

This whole trip, since I’ve returned to the US, has been pretty interesting. I’ve garnered a lot of insight into how I feel the need to live my life own by experiencing the priorities and value of others. It seems especially… intense, given the time I spent in Paris, where I experienced a lot of what I know I want my life to include and be. I feel like a lot of my personal values solidified there, a lot of my wants and needs became very clear to me. Experiencing the values and lifestyles of others has only strengthened my personal convictions.

There are a lot of opportunities currently on the table, lots of potential directions. It’s going to be interesting how things turn out over the next week or so.

This isn’t the last…

I’ve been thinking all morning about where to start this. I can’t really decide on an appropriate starting point. How about…

9 years ago I trekked to Los Angeles on a personal adventure and found myself waking up on Sycamore St. in Hollywood. I was in the apartment of my new friend and upcoming professional photographer, Michelle Star. I woke up, kept quiet, got dressed, and walked to Starbucks to start my day. Opportunities abound…

Yesterday I arrived in Los Angeles on a continuation of a personal adventure. Today, I found myself waking up on Sycamore St. in Hollywood. I was in the apartment of my old friend and well known professional photographer, Michelle Star. I woke up, kept quiet, got dressed, and walked to Starbucks to start my day. Opportunities abound…

Too “history repeating”? Hmmm, how about…

I’m sitting in a Starbucks on the corner La Brea & Santa Monica in LA. I’ve sat in this Starbucks before, 2 years ago, while on a break/materials gathering mission while working on a job at Paramount Studios. I can see, from where I am sitting now, the GameStop and Target I went to, looking for a Mad Catz Rock Band Drum Cymbal Extension Kit for the stage I was building for the “Get Schooled” media event (see “Résumé” above).

Funny where you end up sometimes.

Not quite what I was looking for. Just the act of being here is changing how this is progressing, adding new potential to the mental mix.

I’m sitting in a Starbucks in LA, a city I’m on record for not being a huge fan of after living here 9 years ago. I’ve warmed to it a bit in the time since, but it still doesn’t sit right with me. “New York State of Mind” is playing on the radio. I loved living in NYC when I did. It’s not the city for me anymore really, sadly, but I wouldn’t trade the time I spent there for anything, good or bad. As I’m thinking of all those old times, feeling nostalgic, I look out the window to my left. A girl on a fixie just got hammered by a car on the corner of La Brea and Santa Monica Blvd. The car takes off. She is banged up, but ok. Her bike is rough shape. I rush outside to help.

The same thing happened to me 13 years ago on 8th & Broadway in NYC. I’ve told the story a thousand times. I start to wonder if it’s some kind of cosmic sign. My old life and my new life colliding? My past catching up to me? A chance to pay back some karma? I hold the belief that there really is no such thing as coincidence, you just need to be aware and recognize events as they happen, then try and decipher their significance. So now I’m sitting here thinking about what that might be.

A bit esoteric. How about just some recap action?

If you’ve been following this website, blog, journal, experiment, whatever it is, for any length of time, you’ll know that I have a history of being a bit all over the place… in more than just one regard. That wanderlust is seemingly baked in to my DNA/soul/consciousness/whatever. It’s driven by my perpetual feeling of a lack of purpose, or sense of really belonging anywhere. I move around a lot, try new things, and generally try and fill my life with skills and experience.

So now I’m sitting in a familiar Starbucks on La Brea and Santa Monica Blvd in Los Angeles, CA. This morning I woke up on the couch of an old friend, a friend I met here 9 years ago. Yesterday I was walking through the fog in Santa Cruz.  So, just how did I end up in this seat?

Approx 2 years ago: I move from my apartment in Las Vegas, NV to Boston, MA for a shot at a fulltime job at Harmonix Music Systems, Inc. It’s a longshot, but the culmination of a lifetime of freelance work in the videogame event industry. Long story short, I get the job and become the Event Specialist for Harmonix. I go on to help produce events like E3, PAX (East & Prime), and Gamescom. I also slide into a kind of defacto photographer role for the team I’m on.

Approx 6 months ago: I quit my job at Harmonix Music Systems, Inc after the company is sold by MTV/Viacom and internal event production is scaled way down as the studio shifts it’s focus and new partners exert influence. I make the decision to move to Paris, FR for as long as a travel visa will allow. While there, I also travel to places like Cannes, Brussels, Antwerp, NYC, Bierves, Le Mans, etc. While in Paris I work on not just my photography and writing, but on myself. I try and sort out all my personal short-comings, my flaws, my weaknesses… the things I don’t particularly like about myself. I attempt to reconcile the two sides of myself that I feel are constantly at odds with each other. To find some kind of balance. In the process I end up boiling myself down a lot. I discover a lot of things about myself and for the first time in a long time I feel like I have priorities. I solidify some goals, make plans, and feel not only a sense of purpose, but also of belonging and comfort. I start to consolidate and focus on what I want in my life. A new me starts to emerge.

Seattle
Seattle

Approx 1 month ago: I leave Paris bound for Seattle, WA. I’ve spent as much time as I could in Paris without risking deportation. For the first time in a long time though, I don’t want to leave where I am. I actually like Paris and the life that was starting there. Duty calls. I’m headed to see Suki Valentine, a friend from way back, from the old New York days. She’s building and opening a new store in Seattle and I agreed to help out with the opening. She’s offered me a place to stay while I do. Though I’m sad to leave Paris, I am excited at this opportunity. After nearly 5 months of creative and emotional focus, I’m going to see if my practical skills are still sharp. I find that not only are they, but I am able to find some the balance I had been working towards. I start shooting photos for the store after it opens. I build massive playlists and DJ sets as well. I work on social media. I meet a lot of great people and even get a chance to shoot some photography on the set of a film in Olympia. I kind of like Seattle and the potential it presents. I seem to have started down the path I was working towards, but something is missing.

Approx 1 week ago: I leave Seattle, bound for Santa Cruz, CA. The housing thing didn’t quite pan out as expected in Seattle. I slept on the floor of the store a lot. I slept on the couches of new friends. It was fine, I’m adaptable and experienced. I’m good at making due with what is available. The hospitality and kindness shown to me by new friends was amazing. I’m not really comfortable with that for too long though. I don’t like intruding on people’s lives, no matter how much they insist that I’m not.

Patton
Patton

So it was off to Santa Cruz, CA, the home of my best friend, Stephen, his lovely fiancé Heather, and their hilarious Welsh Corgi, Patton. You can read more about that in the post right below this one. There will be another incoming shortly, a follow up on my time spent in Santa Cruz.

Yesterday: It’s an intensely foggy evening in Santa Cruz. Stephen drops me off at San Jose airport and I board a little prop plane bound for Los Angeles, CA. It’s a more introspective flight than usual. Since the plane never clears 25,000ft during the whole flight, I can watch the sun set below the California coastline and the lights of cities twinkle on. The two stewardesses are hilarious. They dole out complimentary drinks with wild abandon. The front cabin stewardess talks like she’s smoked two packs of Camel Light Wides a day since she was born. It was entertaining.

Sunset
San Jose Sunset

The fog is just as intense in LA when we land as it was in Santa Cruz when I left. It lends a kind of quiet to the arrival as we slowly descend though it. You still deplane to the tarmac on flights like this, and we’re all standing in the fog waiting for our luggage to emerge. It’s surreal and still kind of quiet. I get my bag and all that quiet goes away the second I emerge from the other side of LAX. It’s like the car version of white water rapids if it was a race and you were allowed to jump into the rafts from the sidelines. Cacophonous madness, but that’s LA. I knew what I was getting into.

Arrival
Arrival

Michelle and I chat on the drive. We catch up a little bit. I see her new place, drop my stuff. She’s been awake for 25 hours and is out pretty quickly. I drop onto the couch in her living room, putting pretty much everything aside for the evening. Stephen had let me borrow “Do Travel Writers Go To Hell” by Thomas Kohnstamm, so I start in just to see how it is. 3 hours later, I finish it. I start it over again, book marking passages with, appropriately, old boarding passes, airport receipts, and TSA inspection notices. Some of the paragraphs read like I wrote them, or at least like I thought them. Paragraphs like:

I am rarely lonely or depressed when I travel alone – except when I first wake up in the morning. My eyes adjust to the surroundings and I try to figure out where I am and what I’m doing there. One white ceiling with cracked paint is the same as the next. It is also a point in the day when I have too much space to reflect on the events that have led me to where I am, and to think about what else I could be doing with my life.

By the time I was though the second read, it was about 5:00AM. So much for sleep. I hadn’t really eaten all that much in the past day or so either. Sleep was in order. I’d figure out food tomorrow. Dreams were strange. I was up by 10:00AM. And now… here I sit, tip-tapping away, trying to get all this in order. LA is going to be a bit crazy (more on that later).

So yeah, something like that. Not the most detailed of recaps, but you can always just go read the individual posts if you’re interested.

And now we’re caught up a bit. For those that really know me, they know that I am omitting parts of this story, including one of the most important parts, actually, but that’s the way it is for now. The time isn’t quite right for that.

So that’s where I sit, literally. Dinner with my brother tonight and a shoot that starts first thing in the morning.

The afterglow of pure resplendence…

There is a story here.
There is a story here.

Santa Cruz, California. A city of particular significance for me for more than one reason and a unique place unto itself, not really like any other I know. That became even more apparent when I went to name the Flickr Set “Santa Cruz: Street” and realized that there isn’t really any actual… street. It might be time to overhaul those sets into more all encompassing titles. Nearly all my shooting here has been on the beaches, although I plan on heading over to the boardwalk before I leave. I’ve only been here about a week, but I’ll be gone before the weekend. There’s only a short time to finish up what I want to do here. But, the people here are great. I’ve had a lot of interesting conversations with strangers about all sorts of things. People always seem quick with a smile, a wave, or a hello. Reminds me a bit of Hawaii, but I think that’s just surf/beach culture in general. It’s been nice.

Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz

The one thing that won’t include though is what I originally came here to shoot, which were engagement photos for my best friend. Yes, he’s still engaged, and to a marvelous woman at that. The timing just isn’t right. They have a TON of stuff going on and since they weren’t really planning on engagement photos to begin with, they’re not exactly high priority at the moment. No worries though, the wedding is still a year out and that is the far more important matter. Besides, I won’t be anywhere far enough away to not make it back here whenever I’m needed… well, as far as I know. I still have my eyes on Everest.

It's a big ocean.
It's a big ocean.

I’ve had a couple of interesting conversations recently with folks I didn’t really expect to have them with. I’ve been feeling distanced from people recently just due to personal growth, unfortunate circumstances, and a couple other random things, so it’s always a unique change of pace to talk with people outside my usual circles. One of the topics of conversation that came up was the act of holding on to other people’s secrets, people who keep secrets in general, and general levels of trust. Everyone hides something (that’s no secret, ha!), but it’s always interesting to see who entrusts who with what, and why. I am the bearer of many secrets for my friends and I take that responsibility very seriously. As do I also know the same of those I have entrusted with mine. Later on, I proposed the idea of a relationship where-in no secrets are kept, but that idea was shot down pretty quickly. I maintain that it is possible, but there has to be a level of trust that a lot of people are not capable of. There was a brief discussion about the semantics of “keeping a secret” and “selectively omitting information”. Things can get convoluted pretty quickly, which is why I think most people avoid talking about it in the first place. The elements of risk and danger involved can be overwhelming sometimes.

Everyone has a little secret he keeps… – MC 900ft. Jesus

What is a man but a miserable little pile of secrets! – Vlad Tepes Dracula

I will say, though, that I am exceptionally lucky to have someone I do not have to, and don’t, keep secrets from and can trust with mine. That is extra-ordinarily rare to find in a person.

Waiting for the right moment.
Waiting for the right moment.

I haven’t been sleeping well recently and am still finding myself distracted and generally uneasy. The sleep thing doesn’t really bother me, since I’ve always fought with insomnia and am perfectly capable of running on very little sleep.

Another unfamiliar ceiling – Shinji Ikari

Well, that’s all for Part 1 of Santa Cruz. I’ve been up all night and I should really try and get a little sleep. It’s been productive insomnia though, so that’s good news.

[flickr-gallery mode=”photoset” photoset=”72157627718944600″]

Some Very Strange Birds

Unit Still

So last weekend I was in Olympia, WA and found myself shooting unit stills for an indie film, which was pretty amazing.

I’m going to try and recap this the best I can, since the reality of the situation is that I’ve been pretty distracted lately. A lot of things remain in question about, well, a lot of things. Vague, yes, but for the time being they have to be. Thinking about it all saps my motivation.

Anyway, Olympia.

Basil
Basil

So originally I wasn’t hired for any kind of photography, I was, well, I should say, my lenses were hired. I had spoken to filmmaker/producer, and friend of a friend, Basil Shadid, at the opening party for BedlamBedlam (see below). We got to talking about cameras and lenses and I mentioned the lenses I had with me while I was traveling. A couple days later he got in touch about renting my lenses for a film shoot he was going to be working on in Olympia, WA, specifically, my:

I was hesitant to let those lenses loose in the wild, especially my beloved 28mm (yes, I know the 10-22mm is like, 2x the price, but I love my 28mm so much) so when the offer to join the on-set crew was included, I wasn’t going to say no. Tack on transportation, accommodations, food , and free reign to shoot on-set and I couldn’t have really asked for a better deal. The experience alone made it worth it.

Om... nom?
Om... nom?

And overall it was. I shot about 2500 photos, with about 400 of them being select worthy, and about another 400 being passable (in my opinion). That’s a pretty good ratio and some of the selects came are really good, some of the best I’ve shot. There is no gallery up yet, and there won’t be, until I talk more with the director and the producer about them. They expressed interest in buying some of them from me (even though I was not the official set photographer), so that’s pretty awesome.

I brought along back-up lenses because I knew that some of my best primes would be used by the film team (seems funny to call it “film”), so I brought my:

I didn’t know what kind of environments we were shooting in, so I figured that would cover my bases. The film guys ended up using all of my lenses (including the 3 above) at various points in during the filming, which was pretty awesome. They also used my tripod and the ballhead off my monopod, which I was happy to offer. Even my Speedlite 320EX got put to use (finally got to seriously use the video LED). One of the cool flip-sides to having them use my lenses, was that I was able to test drive Basil’s EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM. It’s a pretty nice lens, I live shooting on it, but I don’t know that I’d take it over my beloved EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM, especially since it’s due for a refresh soon, hopefully adding IS to the mix.

The lens that really saved my shooting though, was my EF 50mm f/1.4 USM. We ended up shooting on some really dark sets and the speed of the 50mm was just unbeatable. I tend to shoot wide open a lot, so I was used to framing and shooting at f/1.4, which can be a challenge when you’re trying to keep two or more actors in focus on different planes. f/1.4 is a pretty unforgiving depth, but knowing how to shoot that shallow really helped me grab shots that would have been impossible otherwise. I also tend to shoot with a -1 exposure bias, so my experience with that offered me a bit of extra shutter speed.

2nd Lead

I also learned a lot about what I am and am not interested in when it comes to being on a set. I also learned more about my personal strengths and weaknesses.

  • I really like set photography. It may not be glamorous, but I really, really, enjoy it.
  • A lot of my technical skills were put to good use. I know my equipment and what it can do.
  • My ability to creatively problem solve, especially in a production environment, is as strong as ever.
  • I’m still adaptable to fill pretty much any role that is needed in a production environment and my practicality still runs strong.
  • I feel like I could take on a DP role, especially with the combination of my eye and my knowledge, but I definitely need to study up.
  • I still love writing and creating. As I was photographing, I was also re-writing and directing in my own head. I kept a lot of notes during takes, I’m interested to see the final cut of the film.
  • I definitely do not know enough about light. I know how to utilize it effectively, but not create it as well as I should.

Another thing that is interesting is a conversation I had with the Gaffer, Alex Walsh. We were talking about light, how I wasn’t used to shooting in scenarios where the light was so perfect, and how it was making for some stunning photographs. We got to talking about “seeing things as a photographer” vs. “seeing things as a filmmaker”. For me, when I see a perfect scene, I imagine it as a perfect photo: how I would shoot it, what I would need to capture that exact moment. Alex talked about how when he looks through a viewfinder, he asks himself “Why am I taking just a photograph? I could be filming this.” It was an interesting conversation about how different people see the same thing, and it also represents the same way my brother Troy and I see things. It’s one of the reasons we work so well together when we collaborate. I really hope I get to work again with Alex in the future.

So all in all, the whole thing was a pretty excellent time. I met a lot of really cool people, learned quite a bit, and got to put a lot of myself back into practice. I haven’t been part of a production in a while, and never part of a film production, but it’s good to know that my skill-set is pretty much applicable across the board.

It was also nice to shoot in that environment (perfect lighting, all the time) and know that I don’t have to sacrifice quality for application. That I can integrate into a production in a capacity that I really enjoy. Photography has always been a part of my event production, but never the focus. I’m still not 100% comfortable with it being my main role though. It’s a bit difficult to detach from wanting to help out with all parts of a production or event (which I kind of did anyway), but I just had to assist where I could and remember that photography was the real reason to be there (though, I hadn’t been officially hired as the set photographer, I still treated my role as such).

The drive back to Seattle was fine. I rode with the producer and writer of the film, Brent. We talked a bit about travel, working, identity, and purpose in life. Talking with him reminded me that I am basically sitting on the equivalent of close to a thousand pages of writing. I’ve almost posted/published them here a few times, but for some reason I’m far more protective of my writing than I am of my photography.

I was only back in Seattle for a day, repacking and getting organized for moving on. I couldn’t finish this out without mentioning Steve Barta and Gennifer Holland, both of which showed me incredible kindness and hospitality during my stay in the Emerald City. My own personal Wizard and Glinda, though I’m not sure Gen will appreciate that reference. Ha!

I’ll have more on Seattle up, and an update on where I am now, next time.

What forever means…

At this time last week I was preparing to leave Paris, FR, after 3.5 amazing months there.

At this time this week I am in Seattle, WA preparing to spin after having spun my final set at BedlamBedlam, a new store opened by one of my close friends, Suki Valentine and her husband, Shea.

Shea and Suki
Shea and Suki

I flew in to not just DJ the premiere weekend events, but also to assist with the actual store production in it’s final days leading up to the grand opening. It was a mad rush right up to the very last second, but that kind of executional environment happens to be a specialty of mine. I operate very well under pressure and the diversity of my experience means that there wasn’t a single task I couldn’t take on. Everything from electrical work, vinyl cutting and application, construction/carpentry, A/V, merchandising, social media roll-out, etc, the works, you name it. It was nice to put all those skills to use again and to know I’m as sharp and well versed as ever. Helping my friends is the best possible cause so I was glad I was able to put my skillset to use for that purpose.

Vinyl Cutting
Vinyl Cutting

On top of the production work, I’ve also spun a series of live sets for in-store events, created epic playlists for the store, and photographed the goings on (simultaneously DJing and photographic events is not easy, heh). It’s been a strange amalgamation of my past and my present. When I was originally asked to DJ for the store events, including a fashion show, I thought it might be a joke. It had been nearly decade since I was behind decks, during a time in my life that was a million miles from where I am now. The technology has changed dramatically (I used to record my sets on long-play cassettes) so it was a bit of a challenge to do everything digitally from scratch (no pun intended), but I pulled it all off in a pretty spectacular fashion and added a lot of new tools and techniques to my audio arsenal in the process. My musical taste has certainly changed since that time too, well, “expanded” I should say. That proved to be a bit of a double-edged sword.

Taking it all in.
Taking it all in.

It is unfortunately, painfully, obvious that I am just not part of this subculture any more (something I also experienced with the hardcore videogame culture in my last job). I’ve evolved as a person and while I still retain aspects of the subculture as part of myself, I’m certainly much broader in scope as an individual than can be associated with any one particular group. Yes, I’m of course connected through the music, in a way, but I’ve found that as I have changed, and that which I introduce those changes, it’s not often met with a sense of acceptance, especially when applied to something as rigid as a specific subculture. The image is rooted in tradition, no matter how “anti-traditional” the image is. People want what they are familiar with and straying from that, even into a space that is more authentic or situationally suited for the environment, tends to incite conflict. I’m not saying I’m some progressive or creative genius or anything like that, just that I try to encourage the evolution of all things. To be open to the possibilities that something unknown can work within the context of what you are familiar with. As an example, here’s a small sampling of the tracks I used for the BedlamBedlam reception set I mixed.

Satan (Live from Irvine) – Orbital
Still – Neotropic
Radio Babylon – Meat Beat Manifesto
Moya (7″) – Southern Death Cult
Ostia (The Death of Pasolini) – Coil
Papua New Guinea – The Future Sound of London
Destroy Everything You Touch – Ladytron
Ballad of a Paralyzed Citizen – The Faint
Chainsaw (Josh Wink Remix) – Skinny Puppy
Stopwatch Hearts – Delerium
You Can’t Go Home Again – DJ Shadow

I was asked to keep it generally down-tempo and low-key. This was a reception, not a dance party. I was billed as spinning Trip-Hop, Ambient, and Darkwave, and while I am familiar with all those styles of music, I am not really devoted to any one of them. Now, a lot of those tracks above are not any of those three styles of music, but when well sampled and mixed, they work into a marvelous dark electro-ambient landscape. More-so, each track was explicitly, deliberately, chosen for personal significance to the people in attendance. The opening sample in the live version of “Satan” is something Suki and I still reference to this day. “Assimilate” is an industrial classic and a staple of my old sets, the remix I used for this set fit the event but still was able to call back to those days. “Destroy Everything You Touch” is one of Suki’s favorite tracks. “You Can’t Go Home Again“, well, I’m sure by now you can guess why I put that in there. I can go on and on, but you get the idea. The entire experience was designed to have significance, even if it didn’t fit exactly into the genre scope I was assigned. To me, that is the essence of producing a meaningful set/event/photo/etc. A personal connection trumps guideline/genre confinement, especially when you can still operate within the boundaries of the theme. That is what having passion about something is. Well, to me anyway.

Stopwatch Heart.
Stopwatch Heart.

My in-store sets have been much different. Crazy uptempo, epic, sprawling, sets full of old and new. Although the store’s theme is “Goth” (which also usually bends backwards into 80’s, New Wave, and Post-Punk) I’ve been straying far more into Industrial, EBM, Synth, Electro, and even a bit of Metal. As it is, I’ve been banned from mixing The Misfits into my sets and that is extra-ordinarily disheartening to me. I’ve caught some flack for some of my choices (Southern Death Cult is ok, The Cult is not.) and some I’ve been able to sneak under the radar because they fit so well (Devils Never Cry, Bloody Tears) and I know how to mix them. Pushing boundaries like that was one of the reasons I was originally noticed and picked up by Nintendo (mixing classic Nintendo tracks into my cool-down sets). Pushing those limitations is progress and imagination.

BedlamBedlam promo
BedlamBedlam promo

In any case, it’s been an experience. Originally I was going to make Seattle my base of operations for a while. The start-up scene, tech industry, and creative environment are very strong here and there is a lot of great job potential. Unfortunately, the housing situation that was proposed to me did not manifest as planned and, well, I kind of need one of two things to get the ball rolling in most places. A place to live or a well paying gig. With one, the other can usually be secured very quickly. Without either, being particularly effective at anything becomes a challenge. So, with that, it’s time to move on. I definitely still feel that there is potential here though. I’ve made some amazing contacts across all different kinds of industries and I could probably integrate very quickly here, but now is just not the time. It’s been a good lesson in saying “No.” and understanding what I don’t want. Both of those being kind of opposite scenarios for me. The former in that I’m not going to just be ambivalent about things and the latter in the way that I do have such a better idea about what I want in my life, especially after Paris.

Lights Out
Lights Out

During the reception one of Suki’s closest friends asked me if I live in my own “Kyle World”. I asked her what she meant (I’m not fond of that phrase) and she clarified. She said that it seemed like I didn’t quite fit into any of the traditional group dynamics around me, especially for the store. That I seem to live outside of my given environment, observing or affecting it externally via my photography, music, work ethic, etc, but never becoming an actual part of it.

It was an interesting observation. In a way it’s true, given my natural adaptability and ability to play a role that is needed while still holding on to some base element of myself. Maybe I’m out of practice after Paris, where I was just able to be myself 95% of the time.

Add to circle.

Well, last night was the last party in Paris. I would say “sad”, and it is, but it was such a good time and I met so many great people.

Café Martini
Café Martini

Café Martini was the venue of choice. I’d been there once when I first arrived here in Paris and for whatever reason really liked the Bourgogne (Burgundy) red they serve. I was happy to return. I also love Le Marais, and while I’m not sure I could live in that part of Paris, I’ll use any excuse to go.

Rosé
Rosé

I was so glad to see the wonderful and brilliant Jessica again. She is the words and images behind cartasafilosofia.com. We had an Indian food adventure a couple weeks ago and she totally busted out an ICQ reference during our conversation about how digital communication is becoming more and more fragmented and it’s relation to my “Real Time” vs. “Real Life” concept. Yeah, that’s how awesome she is.

I also got to finally meet the lovely and talented Haleigh of MakingMagique.com fame. We talked adorable bunnies and got to wax photographica a bit. She shoots on a Canon EOS 7D with a EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM and I will freely admit to being insanely jealous of that lens. I talked up one of my favorites (as I’ve written about before), the EF 28mm f/1.8 USM (all the shots in this post were shot with the 28mm, on my trusty 60D). It’s always so refreshing to meet intelligent people who share interests and passions.

You won't find me drinking fizzy water, ever.
No me gusta fizzy water.

There were so many great people there, I’ll have a full gallery of the evening up soon.

As I mentioned, I shot most of the evening with my 28mm, though I did switch over to my EF 50mm f/1.4 USM for a while. I usually only use it for portraits, since it crops down to 80mm on my 60D and I find that a little tight for candid shooting, but it’s the fastest lens I own. The light in the bar was decent, and I had my 320EX with me, but I typically try to avoid flash photography in public places, if I can. The Great 28 came through admirably, as always. It was a great example of how even though I love, love, love the EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM as a utilitarian master lens, there was no way it could have performed in this light at that speed. The overall size would have made it much more “in your face” as well, and that definitely was not the theme for the evening. I shot most of the night with a +1 stop exposure compensation too. It gave me a little more flexibility when it came to shutter speeds, and I find it to produce slightly deeper colors with my lens/body combinations.

A good night.
A good night.

It was a great night, all in all. Today was a little bit of a recovery day, complete with some hilarious out-of-context quotes over breakfast, Indian for lunch (and another bag to add to my collection), some napping, and some more packing. The idea of leaving doesn’t get any easier, but I do keep in mind that I can always come back and that there are great people here when I do.

Morning after breakfast.
"Morning After" breakfast.

Still have two days left. Tomorrow is French haircut day. I haven’t cut my hair since I moved here (3 months) and it’s the longest it’s ever been. It should be an adventure.

In exchange for a smile.

Self Portrait: Paris
Self Portrait: Paris

And so, here we are. My last week in Paris. So much has changed since even my last entry. Well, that was 21 days ago so I guess that makes sense. 3 weeks ago I moved from my original apartment, which I’d only rented for 2 months, to an amazing place on Île Saint-Louis. I wake up to the bells of Notre Dame now.

As you might imagine, I am not ready to leave this city (again). Let’s be honest here, the good ol’ US of A has seen better days. Every time I read news about the states it seems dire, for all kinds of crazy reasons. Now, I’m not saying France is in any kind of uniquely spectacular condition but if I’m going to call a place home in the middle of all these global financial crises, it might as well be somewhere I enjoy. I’ve come to love the people here, friends I’ve made, I love the opportunities this city presents (it really is an artists wonderland) and what the city itself represents. I love that as I continue to travel, I can do so from here much more easily than from the US (“travel” meaning “outside of the US”, I’ve seen 95% of America already). I have met some amazing people here and I want to meet more. I’ve integrated into this city well already, but it really is a place I feel I could be a part of.

Sure, I didn’t get a chance to do or see everything I wanted to. That is of course contributing to not wanting to leave. There are things I can easily do back in the states vs. here, of course, and some I cannot. I am excited about a lot of things I’ll be headed back to as well. I haven’t seen a lot of my friends in a long time. I’m going to be helping friends open up an amazing store in Seattle as well as guest DJing a few sets in the same city. Talk about nostalgia (I was a club DJ in NYC back in the late 90’s). I’ve been asked to shoot my best friend’s engagement photos in Santa Cruz. I’m meeting with a great friend and amazing photographer in LA about more photography work. I’ll be passing through NYC and Boston as well, and who knows where else beyond that.

Thinking about it that way makes it all sound like an adventure, and it is! It also means I’m going to be transient again. It means jumping back into the battle. It means a lot of stress and fighting and figuring out things day to day again. If there is anything I’ve left behind in my time here is Paris, it is my desire to go back to living like that.

There Is A Man With A Newspaper
There Is A Man With A Newspaper

It’s not that I can’t, or won’t, of course. I’m as adaptable as ever. I can and will make work what I need to make work. That’s just the way I am. There is something different though. Something that has changed. I’ve mentioned it before, it’s simply wanting to be where I am. It’s being in a place where I feel at home, supported. A place I care about. A place that frees me up to put my mind on other things. When I don’t have to constantly worry about where I am going to be next I see myself open up to so much more.

Plus, you know, I’m getting too old for all this. Ha!

I am much more complete from my time here. I have a much clearer direction about what it is I want, who I want to be, who I want to be with, and where I want to be. On one hand I feel energized, excited to put myself into practice, on the other I know leaving Paris leaves a lot of unknowns and I don’t like that.

You’re waiting for a train. A train that will take you far away. You know where you hope this train will take you. But you can’t know for sure. Yet it doesn’t matter. Now, tell me why?

I’ve had a hundred conversations in my head lately, but none that I can remember enough to put down here. I still stand by the idea that as soon as I can directly write via my thoughts on long, night time, walks this website will be a content powerhouse.

From a dream.
From a dream.

It’s easier to leave than be left behind, I suppose.

Well, that’s all for now. This post has been sitting as a draft for almost a week now. My Paris galleries will keep expanding even after I leave. I have a lot of photos from this particular adventure, eventually they will all be in these galleries. My time here has been too important for them not to be.

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