Shot some shots for a new jean start-up this weekend. Me and the founders (both named Phil) walked through different parts of Brooklyn talking about life between shots. The jeans are designed for men with thighs and butt, definitely something I can relate to.
It was the first actually hot day in NYC. I very much started sweating, a feeling I haven't encountered in months. I so appreciate having these longer days with more sun to take advantage of!
Last weekend I took the A train up to Inwood. My mother used to live off the last stop, which made the visit feel like a return home in a happy nostalgia kind of way. It was one of the first sunny days of 2017, you know, freakish 65-degrees-after-that-massive-snow-storm day. The combination of the sun, warm memories of walking my mom's dog, the smell of budding flowers and dominican chicken; all these things made me quite happy to be alive.
I met up with Olivia who moved to the area (with my mom's endorsement) a couple years ago. I lived with Liv my final year of college, and didn't know her well before that, despite Vassar's small campus size AND despite the fact that we both grew up in NYC. We grew close and have remained tight. I think we both agree we wish we saw each other more often.
Liv is getting her Masters degree at Columbia and will be graduating in May. She has this uncanny ability to get shit done. Liv wants something, and she just does it; no frills, no attention seeking, no search for approval, she just does it. I admire her for her matter-of-fact decisiveness and how our conversations feel intimate without being gossipy.
Liv wanted some photos for applications and general use, so we walked through inwood hill park and snapped some between chatting about the last few and next few months. I have gotten really into this whole active-listening in my photography thing, so it was nice to work through it with a good friend. But also good to just catch up.
Towards the end of our walk, a helicopter began to circle above us, quickly getting closer and closer. Law and Order lovers by NYC-native design, we joked about the dead body someone must have run into, and curiously walked towards the water. With not a second to spare, a big military style NYPD truck drove past us and a man in a wet-suit stepped out.
"Have you seen anyone jump?" He asked.
We looked up at the bridge, there were cop cars and an ambulance parked, people peering over the side. The helicopter got within feet of the water so that the propellor wind created great waves in the grey-green-vomit colored hudson.
"I've been here with my husband for about an hour, no one has gone over," Someone announced.
The helicopter waves revealed nothing. The wet-suit duty detective got a code in on his radio, took a sigh of relief, and turned back around. The whole spectacle was over before it began, the helicopter circled away just as a crowd of people, iphones extended, had only begun to grow.
A false alarm.
We didn't take any more pictures in front of the water. Best leave the body discovery to Mariska Hargitay
Last week I participated the in inaugural "Spoonie Collective"; a retreat co-run by our team at Suffering the Silence and our lovely hosts at Zeno Mountain Farm. The retreat focused on offering a safe and productive space for those living with chronic illness and their allies to share in and to generate community.
It was a snowy, very chilly week filled with absolutely inspiring conversation and connection-making (all nestled between two MOUNTAINS!?!). I myself am not chronically ill, so in my work with STS I often feel as though the space is not mine to fill; but this lovely group of giving souls showed me how I can be a better ally, activist, and straight-up friend. I love working with Allie and STS, it's helped me develop my photographic practice so immensely but also just be a better human. The week really solidified my thought about the work we do: if one very simply offers a platform to stand on, and opportunity to be heard, people will rise up. SO powerful.
Over the week we had several workshops including one with a meditative art healer (I went IN!), a half-day with some award winning Moth story-tellers, and some emotionally important group-sharing sessions. The week culminated in a POWERFUL moth-style story-telling evening. Again, it is so awesome that it can be so simple as asking, "hey, what's your story" of someone *especially those otherwise marginalized* to evoke great inspiring narratives. For some, really being heard is cathartic.
On our final day I sat down with each of the attendees and spoke with them. I've been honing in on this thing I call "meditative photography" where a subject and I sit and chat and muse and ponder before we start photos. I find it really helps people to not only be more comfortable with a big camera in their face, but also with my own understanding of who that person is. Sometimes it's really just a few words, but I find it brings out the subject's spirit, and also helps in my own creative practice.
For these photographs I asked each person "What are you leaving with and taking with you into the world". I have to laugh because in explaining this prompt I mentioned the "day four" concept I know from my time working in Episcopalian retreats. It is interesting that my time working with youth ministry and in the church feels so distant but also so entirely close to all the things I am passionate about.
I'm always trying to come up with different ways to include words with photographs for our campaigns on STS (so over the hold up a white sign deal!!, Cara at the retreat made a good point that this trend is also dangerous in the potential for someone to photoshop in whatever words they want once it is published!). I had each person write down the word they were thinking of as I shot them and used that in the photos. It's cool because it's their own handwriting, but the even cooler thing is that I think the word would shine through without the superimposition.
Im so excited where the next year will lead us at STS. I'm hoping next year's retreat is a bit more diverse, just as life-resetting, and even more powerful!