Category archives: Personal

Best of 2017My Year Off

I can’t say I’ll miss 2017. It was a long and disappointing year on many accounts. Professionally, I took a hiatus and learned a new skill: selling real estate. Personally I climbed so many mountains, mountains I’ll have to continue climbing this year. For me, 2017 was a year of rebirth. It was a chance to take some time for myself, shoot the things that mattered, and that meant not shooting at all sometimes. The images I ended up with at the end of the year were the ones of those moments I couldn’t NOT preserve. They’re immensely personal photos from my life. My 2017 best of is different from anything I’ve shared before.

Taking a year off felt wrong, especially since it followed my busiest year ever. 2016 and 2015 were my years. Sadie and I were shooting tons of weddings, enjoying a great family life balance, and my business was doing great. Then everything changed when we made the fateful decision to uproot everything and chase our dreams in NC. I don’t regret the move, but I think this hiatus was necessary for me to recenter and prepare to do it all again.

This year will be the first time in almost 7 years I am booking totally solo weddings. It’ll be the year I push harder for my real estate and commercial photography business ProLocal which features more photographers than just myself or my wife. But I want 2018 to also be the year I continue shooting for myself. That’s something I lost completely in FL. Whether for a lack of shooting partners or pure boredom with my surroundings, I can’t remember the last time I shot for myself in FL. This whole recalibration process almost requires me to make personal work. Before we moved, photography was more about work than it was about love. That’s fine, because as it turns out photography isn’t bad work, but I wanted my heart back in it.

As a part of 2018, I am going to try to challenge myself to make 1 new personal image each week. At the end of next year, if I can stick to it, I’d like my best of to be the result of that project. Maybe if I don’t call it a New Year’s resolution I’ll actually do it…

Pisgah National ForestAdjusting to our new home.

 

I realized I was bored of my home town. Once I had the freedom of a driver’s license and my first few jobs, it was clear that I was not inspired by my surroundings. Learning photography cured me of that stagnation for a bit… but that cure was temporary. Through my young adulthood, a few things pacified me from my boredom; college, friends, my wife… But nothing would completely erase my longing for something new.

My mentor, John, always told me to get out and see the world. I never quite took his advice. Whether because of my frugal nature or busy schedule, major travel was just outside my reach. I had explored nearly every corner of Florida, but not too far beyond.

When the opportunity to move came, we jumped on it. The decision was made in 8 hours. Soon we found ourself in a completely new home. Once again, my boredom with my surroundings was erased and I found myself inspired again. An entirely new state to explore and see. We began in the Pisgah National Forest. This project is a work in progress.

Hello Conor, It’s Hard Out HereThe trials of new fatherhood and facing my fears.

I worry. A lot. When we left for the hospital at 4:30 am, the scene playing through my mind was the same one from Star Wars Episode III where Padamé passes away during labor. With all the modern technology and expertly trained physicians at our side it felt like the weight of everything I’ve ever known was on my shoulders. It’s hard to feel this way, but also keep it to myself and be supportive. I am certain I fail at that often.

The whole thing started out rather mundane. We walked into the hospital and Sadie got all hooked up. We knew that since we were inducing labor we had a long haul ahead of us. By 5 am, things were rolling along. Sadie was receiving her medications and the induction had begun. Everything was going really well, in fact I have rather nice memories of waiting there, just the two of us, to meet our new family member. At the same time, it was also incredibly boring. Sadie was drawing on her iPad, and I was playing a game or something.

In what seemed like the blink of an eye, over 10 hours had passed. It was 3:30pm. During that time, Sadie had changed course on her goal to give brith without painkillers. They had given her a sedative which had made her fall asleep for the last portion of our wait. I still can’t figure out where all that time went, but it ended very suddenly and with a bit of shock. A couple nurses came in, followed by a couple more. Within minutes, there had to have been 5-7 nurses surrounding Sadie, checking charts and saying things. I overheard one nurse whisper to another nurse something about contacting our Dr. She was asking if he’d been reached and what his thoughts were. I began to worry.

Sadie was pretty out of it, but a nurse informed us that they’d gotten in touch with our Dr and that they were pretty sure he’d made the decision to preform a cesarian section. It wasn’t our plan, but we were told the baby’s heart rate had dropped and they were concerned about his position. It’s amazing how the mind works in moments like these. What is a normal, daily procedure suddenly seemed like open heart surgery. I was afraid, and when they wheeled my wife and unborn child out of the room, I was more alone than I ever had been in my entire life. They prepped her for surgery, and I worried some more.

Both of our sets of parents came in, offered words of encouragement and seemed not worried at all. Of course they didn’t, it was a completely normal and almost expected thing. An emergency c-section barely qualifies as an “emergency” in most cases. But for me, it was absolutely that. An emergency.

Once I reunited with Sadie in the operating room, everything was better. She was awake, she was alert. The doctors and nurses had already began their work. Within a few minutes, I heard the greatest sound of my entire life. I heard my son take in hist first breath and begin crying. With all he had, he wailed, it was the very first thing he had ever succeeded at – being alive. When I saw him, it was everything I’d expected and so much more I couldn’t have. He was perfect. Sadie was perfect. We were a perfect family.

The following few days were full of adjusting to life as a father. I was up that entire first night changing his diaper and watching Sadie feed him. It was fascinating. To meet my child and see all he could already do was more than I can type. He met most of his immediate family, his grandparents, aunt and uncle. I wasn’t so worried anymore. Everything seemed perfect.

Then… it wasn’t. As Sadie was discharged, one of the nurses became worried about Conor’s breathing. It seemed too fast. She had seen this before during her work in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. She took him down to NICU and before long, they admitted him. We were devastated. We were told we could stay that night, but then we would have to go home – without our child. After some deliberation, I determined we would be better at home that night and we went to sleep in our own bed.

Though only a few miles away, it felt like we were on an entirely different continent. Leaving Conor in the NICU was, hands down, the hardest thing I’ve ever done. We cried. We held each other, and we grew closer as a couple. We both felt it. Being parents had already changed us more than any other life event could have. Struggling through his highs and lows as he recovered from an unknown ailment was a powerful experience. Over the course of 7 days, we visited the hospital dozens of times.

After what felt like a lifetime, the doctors deemed Conor healthy enough to come home. It was Thanksgiving day. We actually did have a Thanksgiving baby! We were finally a complete family again, and I finally learned my purpose. I’m happy I documented his journey, though it was hard, we’re all home, happy and safe. I now look forward to the many years to come; the joys and scares, bounties and hardships we will all face together, as a family.

SadieMy inspiration.

 

Anyone who feels a responsibility to create has to draw their inspiration from somewhere. For me, I always knew my inspiration came from love. Whether it was my love for nature or exploration or just making pleasing images, I have always been the most compelled to make images when I am in love.

Meeting Sadie was a pivotal moment in my life and after we began to date, she was pretty much the only person I cared to photograph. With this new motivation, I found myself shooting more frequently and with more skill than I had before. By falling In love with her, she helped me fall back in love with photography.

These are personal images I made of her. They show Sadie as I see her every day.

A Bucs LifeMy time shooting for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

In 2010 I spent a full year working for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers football team. It was a shock and an experience that I’ll never forget and this post contains my favorite photos that I created during my 12 month stint as a part of the National Football League and my reflection on the experience. It’s going to be lengthy.

Before I first stepped foot into One Buccaneer Place, Tampa, FL, I was as far from a sports fan as I think you could be. I could count the number of football games I’d watched on one hand – now I might need to use two. I didn’t know any of the players or coaches. I didn’t know many of the rules and I certainly didn’t know anything about the world of the NFL. When I left, I was lucky enough to call a couple of the players, cheerleaders and coaches personal friends and I parted on good terms. In the end, I’m glad I did it and it was one of the most defining, educational choices of my life.

When I was offered the job, I was unemployed and three months post-graduation with a degree in anthropology. I had forgotten that I even applied for the position and I began planning to move back to Tampa as soon as I accepted the offer. Little did I know what was in store. For the next 12 months, I was in the middle of press conferences, in locker rooms, on the sidelines, behind and in front of cameras, at bars with players and cheerleaders, in SUVs with the head coach and players, on military bases, in children’s hospitals, homeless shelters, churches and local schools. I was firmly amidst the chaos of the NFL. I saw behind the scenes and, in so many cases, created the scene behind the scene. I worked with a killer team to do jobs we were understaffed, unprepared and untrained for. We always came out victorious and, for the first time in several years, our team had a winning record for the season. Though it wasn’t enough to make it to the playoffs, I couldn’t help but feel a little proud as I stepped out of those giant wooden doors for the last time.

Now looking back, certain moments have affected me to my core. I never expected to be influenced like this from working for a football team. I mean… football? Really? It’s just a game, right? Just a game where rich guys wrestle with other rich guys and eventually someone wins to opportunity to temporarily be called “the champions”. Well, unless it’s your favorite team that wins. Then they’ll always be champions. But, my point is that I never expected to encounter what I did. I encountered the Make-A-Wish program. I received a personal Thank You card from a kid whose wish was to meet the team. He got to meet the team alright, he also got a grand tour and tickets for his whole family to see the game and be on the sidelines. His dad even traded in his old, non-Bucs gear for new Buccaneers attire. That Thank You card was addressed to me, Mr. Scharf, personally and when I got it, I cried. He thanked me for making his dream come true. A task I had, literally, no hand in other than to document it. It was at that single, defining moment that I realized how big what we were doing was. I realized the capacity of the human heart and what a little compassion and some charity could do in the heart of a child. Maybe I’m too sentimental or soft, but that Thank You card changed my life forever… and all within the wide world of sports. In addition to this, I saw all the community service the team did. I saw the smiles on the faces of kids whose parents couldn’t afford gifts when they received everything they wanted on the bill of players and, even, Bucs employees. I saw joy in the eyes of the downtrodden as their heroes visited them while they collected clothing, food and assistance from a homeless shelter. I saw a lot and I retained it all.

For me, the actual game of football was, probably, the most minute detail of the whole year. It was overshadowed by the constant community events we hosted and attended, all of which I shot. When we did have games, I saw them from a standpoint few get to. On my evenings after work when we’d go out for a drink, we’d see a player who would almost always approach us as a friend, as an equal. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about the Bucs or my short year spent with them. While I’m still not a football fan, I think it’s safe to say that I am a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan. I’m proud to have this on my resume.