A NowHere Dilemma Solved.

And now, some of you have something that says, 'Home'. I don't. I'm Nowhere.I’ve been defining the new place which I call NowHere, and of course there are details that irk me here and there.

One of them was the ghastly electrical panel that someone thought would be a great idea to have in the dining space. A big, grey, electrical panel – one that might have gone with the more industrial side of me, a call to my childhood roots in electrical motor rewinding and industrial troubleshooting.

Somehow, that just doesn’t fit me in that way anymore. I might go hang out in a place like that because it’s comfortable to me, but it doesn’t mean that it should define my space. So, there was a thought of covering it somehow.

Worse, it’s the first thing I see when I come out of my bedroom. Haze grey and there to stay. It’s just ugly.

The first thought was bookcases on wheels that a cousin was going to give me, but those were bookcases made of that compressed wood that he had managed to put wheels on out of his own boredom. And really, they just didn’t fit.

Then came the thought of a mirror, but then, in an emergency, did I really want that? And given the angle, it would be awkward should I have a visitor in the visitor’s room. So I went around and looked at what people had to hang that would be the right size.

There were some paintings, priced for their own market which I am not a part of – and it came to me that I have enough photos that I should have something of worth. Thus I started going through my Flickr photograph collection, and I found it troubling how many pictures that I had taken in landscape versus portrait. I needed a long photo, not a wide one. I went on vacation.

Framing this one from Tobago.That’s when I saw the shot. I couldn’t take it properly – a lot of planning went into it to get it the way I wanted it. When I got back, I printed it.

It was, indeed, what I wanted – and of course the people who printed it said so, but that’s affirmation to a customer. It’s sort of like having your mother tell you that you’re smart and handsome/beautiful.

Maybe you’re not. You’ll always be special to someone who carried you around inside them for 9 months or so. They’re too emotionally invested in you to see you, sometimes, for what you are.  

Then I dropped it off to frame. The wait made that panel uglier by the day. In 3 days, I was called to pick it up, so I went and I did. The gentleman who had framed it, whom I never met, was busy with two ladies so I waited quietly.

It wasn’t long before all three looked at me expectantly. I pointed at what I could see was my framed photo, large enough not to be completely hidden by other framed works.

“That’s mine”.

“No, that’s mine”, said one of the women.

I know my work. I know that one is mine. In conversation, she realized I was the photographer, and she did something I didn’t expect. This was an opportunity, she wanted it and it was mine. I could have sold it right there and then.

“You didn’t sign it.”
“It’s for me, I have no need to sign it.”

She wanted me to sell it.

couldn’t.

I did not want to part with it. I know it’s one of my best photographs I’ve ever taken, if not the best. Yet, it wasn’t about the framed picture, it was about what I learned and how I had grown; it was collateral damage of a distinct growth of myself as a human being.

... And hung.Somehow, it had gone beyond covering that ugly grey panel. It had become about me stretching everything I knew about light, tides, meteorology, vectoring, photography, and timing – things that by themselves had no value to anyone. This was a nexus of a set of knowledge and ability that caused me to push myself to become better beyond that silo of photography.

This wasn’t pride, or I would have sold it and printed another. This wasn’t about bargaining for a better price. This was about who I am and am becoming, and some things – some things you hold on to as a reminder of that.

Some things hold a value beyond what other people might see as a cost.

The picture that hangs will never be sold.

However, it has pushed me a bit more toward getting more photos together for people to buy should they wish, which I’ll dedicate 10-20 hours a week on until it becomes manageable.

Beyond a Camera.

Blue-grey tanager [thraupis episcopus]I’ve made the time to go through my Flickr collection of photos to pull out some of the better ones for my FineArtAmerica page and my Zazzle page – something I had planned to do once I crossed the threshold of 20,000 images.

I’m down to 13,000 after a few days, having culled those that no longer matter or simply didn’t make the grade. It gave me an opportunity for me to look at what I had done and where I’d been over the years, something that we sometimes take for granted, and also my own motivations for photography. I didn’t set out to become a photographer.

Vegetables at Mon Repos marketSo why did I take all these pictures? There are different reasons. Writing on the web does better with pictures, and I couldn’t afford to buy the rights to the images I would have wanted to use – Creative Commons has helped me with that, thank you – but there were less images available online for free almost 20 years ago. To make matters worse, I’m probably one of a handful of people who managed to fail Art as a class (I failed Student Orientations for similar reasons).

So the early photos I posted online were guided by that – I’d take a lot of pictures and upload them because I thought I could use them for writing at some point. Some I did, most I didn’t – and image quality with the elder, lower class cameras I used just didn’t age as well as I hoped, with few exceptions (some are here in this entry).

From top to bottom - blue-grey tanager, yellow oriole and palm tanagerWhen my father died in 2005, I had a slightly better digital camera and had taken up my father’s habit of feeding the birds – and I studied them, their behaviors, and found some comfort in those  things as a distraction from the mess his Estate was, and the fact that the lawyer in charge of doing things was as efficient as stoned molasses moving uphill on a cold day. In a way, it kept me sane. And when I got the opportunity, I got a better camera and did better.

This Revolution Is For Display Purposes OnlyAnd all during this, I remained Nobody Fugazi in Second Life, wrote an eBook through O’Reilly that is now dated and useless, and was also looking at textures for prims in Second Life. Since I lacked graphic abilities beyond straight lines, a budget to afford software or copyrighted images, I pushed forward in that regard too. So, a lot of images of would be textures and a lot of images of my forays in Second Life that were no longer relevant were culled – Second Life is really a novelty now, where once it paid my bills.

Handful of bird peppers.The world changes, we change… and through all of this I had accidentally become a passable photographer. I say that because I noted that there were less and less bad images I uploaded over the years between the good ones.

People were asking to use my photos through Flickr, even NASA at one point, and I was letting them use them. A lighthouse picture paid me for the rights to what I considered a really bad photograph of the lighthouse in Port of Spain. I came to realize that the good photographs weren’t always what made the money. Pictures I have taken of bush-fires appear in textbooks in the Caribbean and some other places. I was actually making money with some really bad photography.

Patrick Manning and Basdeo Panday at Presentation College Reunion (2010)And people and companies were actually using my pictures without permission, in contexts I did not agree with – so I had to battle over that, and I never let them pay me after their abuse as a matter of principle. Anyone who takes something without permission and tries to pay for it when they get caught is someone I don’t want to be associated with. But now, I found myself a guardian of something that I never expected to have, and I began to understand better how it feels when things you are emotionally invested in are taken without permission. It made me look at artist’s rights differently. You’ll note that I don’t have cheesy copyright notices on my images – I have my own methods for finding things that work well enough without destroying images.

Sloths gone wild! Arlene the Sloth gets her bearings as the humans leave (3)And during all of this, I traveled. I met other human beings in different places as I grew myself, and found humanity is generally mundane except for a choice few. But the creatures! The stories of the humans!

And so I stretched a little further even as the camera became less of a tool and more of an extension. Not a great extension, mind you, but I was learning through experience… and ultimately staring at some really bad photographs, most of which I have culled.

Other things became apparent. I have an aversion to photographing people – perhaps fodder for another post.

New Smyrna Beach Sunrise 12-22-2014And once it became an extension, photos started getting better.

So much better, in fact, that I sold prints for a while in Florida, bought some more updated equipment based on what I needed of an extension, and my photography got significantly better.
But if you ask me what I do, I won’t say I’m a photographer.

Nope. I still say writer. Neither pays well, but when I look back over the years they have become constants in a life of change.

I’ll be taking a break for a while… but I will be back after a relatively short retreat.

The Expanding of the Canvas

Framed WallI was standing with Tony, who I’d just bought a copy of his book from at the Presentation College Reunion. I mentioned I was battling existence in my mind.

He said we writers look at the world differently and see things differently.

That’s a true statement, I think. I also think that it’s not true enough.

Our world is framed, and when I say that, I mean that your world is framed, my world is framed, and everyone else’s world is framed. There is absolutely nothing in our world that we deal with that isn’t a derived construct of our brains. All of our senses are interpreted, processed and spat out to us as reality. We know what we like and we know what we don’t like.

That physiological limitation is the first frame. We cannot experience things like magnetic waves and radio waves directly; these are things that we have interpreted into motion and sound so that we know that they exist. And all of our frames are slightly different – someone may have better vision, someone else better hearing, and someone else may be more sensitive to touch, smell… the list goes on. And how we interpret these signals, the ratio of these signals, varies our framing.

Then, when we introduce more human beings, it gets more complicated. We have sounds we agree on for language, and around the world we agree on different languages. We agree on things like what the color blue is, even though each one of us might perceive it differently, some of us more sensitive to the visual spectrum than others, but we have this agreement on what we call blue – and if you get into the finer details, you find the disagreements.

We frame our own physiological experiences to each other in the context of what we agree on. We will say that the sky is blue, even though it actually only appears to be what we all agree on as ‘blue’. And that, too, we frame – within our physiological frame. The communication frame, the ability to share things with others and have them shared with us.

Then it gets even more framed with society, with cultures and subcultures, and suddenly we’re looking at the world through shared experiences rather than as we actually see it, the phrase, ‘typing at a keyboard’ only making sense to someone who knows what a keyboard actually is.

So I don’t know that just writers see the world differently. I think we writers simply communicate more differently than others in the written sense, some of us  to expand it because we see the world differently at some level of framing and feel the need to expand the canvas within the frame. Some could argue that artists only see things that way, but that argument is typically made by artists. Scientists also have that issue.

In fact, everyone has that issue. It’s how we expand our canvases… or try to… that allows others to define us so.

Photography vs. Writing

I’m still muddling through a perplexing problem at times where I wonder whether a picture is what I want to take, or whether writing the scene is better. It’s hard to judge; I’m a published semi-pro amateur photographer, I’m a published writer (one eBook, if that really counts, but through a publishing company). I can do both reasonably well, or at least I would like to think so.

Here’s an example. I was wasting time on Independence Square (South) in Port of Spain, Trinidad, waiting for the next water taxi.

I came across a burnt out building- the marks on the walls through all where there had once been glass. Welded BRC wire framed on steel, painted with a reddish primer kept people out of… a burnt building… and a new sign in the lower right proclaimed it to be the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services. A promise, perhaps, like so many others in Trinidad and Tobago by politicians seemingly paid by the quantity of what comes out of their mouths rather than the quality.

In front of this armored concrete husk lay a vagrant, facing the building, his red t-shirt contrasting with cardboard he was laying on. And oh, how I wish I had my camera with me at that moment. It was as critical a social criticism as any. It was, in fact, a perfect shot.

But I didn’t have the camera, and I simply wrote about it – taking 3 paragraphs.

In this, the picture would have been better, I think. Yet I wrote about it and described the highlights of the scene pretty well, too.

So what this taught me is that it’s not a versus. It’s a matter of combining the two, and really, I still need to work on that.

Rainy Day

Monk in RainGetting up in the morning, rolling out of bed, finding everything to head out to the beach to take some morning photos… you can hear the rain slap the metal outside like a drummer with bad rhythm.

You go anyway.

Sometimes braving the rain gives you some great contrast shots – sometimes it gives you the muted colors of a sunrise through clouds and an empty beach, with no stray humans running into your frame, drawn as if moths to light. Sometimes you get the best shots this way, by going when no one else will.

And sometimes, like this morning, it’s just haze grey at the beach with the spray from the waves merged perfectly with the grey clouds – a harmony of monochrome that lacks any frame of reference.

Sometimes, it’s just a rainy day.

That’s more life than most people understand.

Some of us dare to get up every morning and go look.