Back to School

I was recently asked to speak to a group of eighth grade students at DECA Middle School. I began by telling the students a little bit about myself and how I got started in photography, about my many sources of inspirations and how photography feeds my soul. I explained to them how my camera often serves as my voice, how it allows me to express how I’m feeling even when I can’t find the words to do so.

Now eighth graders are hard to read… the room was pretty quiet as I was talking so I didn’t know if they were bored out of their minds or simply a well behaved class! When I wrapped up my introduction Mr. Rodriguez opened the floor for questions and I was impressed and inspired by some of the questions that the students asked.

During my introduction I mentioned some of the challenges of learning photography along with some of the mistakes and blunders I had made along the way. This led to one of the students asking “if it was so hard what kept you from quitting?” I explained that I don’t know how to quit, how I enjoy the art/process and challenge of learning something new. That’s something I always knew about myself but never expressed out loud or really gave much thought.

Another student asked if I chose photography to express myself because I was shy or quiet. That caused me to pause because I am somewhat of an introvert and very selective in who I REALLY talk to. Then I went on to explain to the class “and myself that what really drew me into photography was the ability to show people exactly how I feel. How sometimes you have a conversation with someone and you can’t quite find the right words to express exactly what’s on your mind or how you are feeling. Well photography allows me to show them.

One student asked at least five or six questions. I found out afterwards that he’s always quiet and rarely speaks in front of the class. He asked a question that stomped me and one that I had never asked myself before: “what is the most important picture that you have ever taken?” and he clarified, “not the most popular, not your favorite but the most important.” I still haven’t figured out the answer to his question but I promised him I would get back to him with one.

The day finished with a few random questions and me telling the students that no matter what their interest or calling is – there’s inspiration all around them. I suggested that they look into Gordon Parks work and start taking pictures “even if it’s just with their phones,” find their own voice and to get out and just express themselves. One of the female students who earlier asked if I’d be taking their school pictures raised her hand and told me she didn’t know a lot of photographers by name but wanted to make sure that I knew that I was her favorite! We got together for a group picture and a few selfies and I left the school inspired and very impressed with the students!

America – Do Your Job and VOTE!

The tone of this year’s election has been nothing short of disgusting. It’s uncovered the undertones that we all have tried to ignore and/or pretend that we as a nation had moved pass.

And while both candidates leave a LOT to be desired please don’t use that as an excuse to stay home on Election Day. Let your ballot count, especially on your local level. These are the issues and candidates that will impact you the most. And take a long, close look at both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Try to sort through all of the propaganda and smear campaigns and choose the candidate that you feel will best lead our country.

America IS beautiful. Yes, we have our challenges, setbacks, etc. but there is no place else on earth I’d rather live than right here in the United States of America. And with that said it is our civic duty to do what so many before us have fought, bled, died to do – vote.

afropunkfest 2016, Brooklyn

Commodore Barry Park, Brooklyn, New YorkAugust 27-28, 2016


My trip to afropunkfest Brooklyn 2016 began with me not knowing quite what to expect and ended with me planning my outfit, camera gear and logistics for afropunkfest 2017! For those of you that aren’t familiar with afropunk it’s a collection of fashion, music, art, culture and oh yeah… more fashion!


It’s funny how karma works. On this trip I sacrificed my airplane playlist, “The Epic by Kamasi Washington” to talk to an aspiring photographer that just happened to have the seat right next to me. We talked the whole flight. I gave him my contact information and encouraged him to reach out to me with any questions he may have. Well as fate would have it the FIRST person I saw when I got out of our Uber ride was none other than the legendary New York street photographer, Louis Mendes. This man is approaching 80 years old and stays on his hustle! He lectured me about not having my camera out with a portable printer to make money, invited me to go over to Harlem with him on Sunday morning to take in the scene all while greeting each passerby with an infectious smile and an occasional wink of the eye, “usually anybody that had a camera in their hands.”


FASHION

Once I actually got inside the gates I realized that I underestimated the fashion element of afropunk. There were fashion photographers everywhere and with plenty of worthy subjects to shoot! There were people rocking custom made dashikis, African print head wraps, dramatic hair styles, statement t-shirts, I could go on and on. There was an abundance of stylists, makeup artists, beauticians and bloggers on hand all taking notice of the fashion trends on display at afropunk. 


MUSIC

As far as the music at afropunk Cee-Lo Green and The Internet were my only MUST see acts. Cee-Lo was great and I would go see him again in a heartbeat! The Internet left a lot to be desired. They were just there, no energy at all. Other acts in attendance were Janelle Monae, Ice Cube, Saul Williams, Fishbone, Tyler the Creator, Thundercat and Flying Lotus and they provided a great soundtrack for the weekend.


ART

I’m inspired by art from all different genres and there were some very talented artists at afropunk. Art that makes you think, art that makes you laugh, art that makes you fight back the tears, art that makes you second guess everything you that you’ve ever known. There were artists doing body and face paint, spoken word artists, painters, jewelers, fashion designers, graffiti artists, dancers… the whole gamut!


CULTURE

I have been and will always be intrigued by other cultures. At afropunk you see a little bit of everything. You see people from different cultures, backgrounds, sexual preferences, religions all melting together and having a good time. To call the event tolerant would be a disservice. People were engaging with one another, giving out free hugs and genuinely making sure that everyone they came in contact with was having a good time.


And did I mention there were more than a few photographers in attendance? I had a good time talking shop with them. We talked gear, photography approach, the challenges of shooting afropunk and a few other nerdy things that only fellow photographers could appreciate. I also bumped into some of the photographers that I’ve interacted with on social media throughout the years. 


With all this said my favorite memory of afropunk is creating new ones with my daughter. We had a great time at afropunk and it was our first time seeing each other since she went off to college. As you go through your daily life be careful not to get lost in the grind. In fact make a point to find your passion, to find a way to scratch off something on your list of “things you’d like to do” and then add something new under it. Get out and create memories!


Hope to see you in Brooklyn for afropunkfest 2017!