Behind The Photo...
Every photo has a story. Far more than a shutter speed, f-stop, and ISO compensation. These are some of those stories.
November 15, 2017 - Original Post
It has always amazed me how the actions of one person can affect me. Even the smallest of arguments, with the right person, can send me off into a spiral that leaves me feeling distant from the rest of the world. I think it’s this quality that leads to me doing things by myself a lot. Don’t get me wrong, I love being around people, exchanging stories and different view points, but getting into an argument with someone I truly admire, especially when things do not end well, really throws me off. Before I picked up the camera I would drive around, racking up thousands of miles in my car, just to get away from my thoughts for a while. If you go into my mother’s basement you’ll find hundreds of burned compact discs that I made for such occasions. The first car I ever owned was a 2003 Chevrolet Impala that I named Hermione (don’t ask) and it had a CD player. The entire stereo would often not work, leaving me in silence, reminding me of the first 21 Pilots song I ever heard. Eventually I got into photography, and when I experienced these feelings I would again find myself behind the wheel, this time with a camera in my passenger seat. I think college was the loneliest era of my life, which doesn’t really make sense. I had more friends in college than I had in high school, I had more close-knit relationships, and upon first glance I looked happier. But I honestly don’t think the person most people saw back in those days was the real me, and the few people that actually saw the real me and accepted me for it, didn’t stick around. Because of that, I found myself taking photos in the city a lot. It was my escape from the fake facade I had created for myself at college. It didn’t help that I hate most aspects of school in general either, but that’s a different story completely. The day this photo was taken I had gotten into an argument with a girl I had been seeing, which had me feeling somewhat distraught. Even with that weighing heavy on my mind, I had to go to Detroit to meet up with a venue manager to plan an event I had a stake in, so the day seemed hopeful. It was a rainy winter day, the kind that most photographers wouldn’t dream of shooting in, but I brought my camera regardless. I always say that you never know what kind of beautiful mess you might find yourself in. I left town after my last class, giving myself a couple hours to adventure before I was scheduled to meet at the venue. I drove the entirety of Grand Boulevard, which is one of my favorite drives in the world. It’s really polarizing, even though most of the drive seems the same if you really dig into the environment you start to notice the details that separate the neighborhoods of Detroit. The east-side always felt tough to me. The west-side felt flashy, more du jour. Southwest always seemed the most like a neighborhood, or at least there was more left of the old neighborhood there than elsewhere. Detroit is a different place in the winter than in the summer. Even on the most desolate streets you see people in the summer, but in the winter you won’t see anyone for blocks. Maybe that’s why I feel lonely in the winter, because I truly am more than ever, alone. That day was no different, especially with the snowy-rain pounding my windshield, the outskirts of the city were empty. This was even more evident after I left Grand Boulevard and headed further east, fringing on Grosse Point Park. The contrast between city and suburb couldn’t have been more clear. As I approached Alter Road I saw freshly plowed streets, sidewalks that had been recently shoveled to accommodate those trekking on foot. The two areas were but a block apart, but two completely different worlds. Having to accommodate for weather and shoddy roads, I decided I better head downtown for my meeting. I made pretty good time so I opted for the free parking rather than paying to park close. I had shaved my raggedy facial hair and slicked back my typically unmanaged hair for the meeting, and even though I knew this was fine attire for the circumstances, starring at myself in the mirror of the bar at the venue I felt oddly fake. I looked something like the other side of Alter Road, but felt like Detroit underneath. The meeting went well enough and the event ended up working out, but human interaction after hours of self-evaluation always wears me out. I felt drained, unhappy, and cold. I wanted to go home, but fog had rolled in and I told myself I couldn’t leave without going to Belle Isle first. Even if I didn’t plan to take any photos, I thought I was bound to see something beautiful that would cheer me up. I took the outer route around the island once, then decided to cut across the middle and take Central Avenue through what I always called the wilderness of the island. That ended into Lakeside Drive, which was my way off of the island and also took me past one of my favorite views of the city for the second time. If you catch it just right, you can see the bulk of the Detroit skyline rising out of Lake Muskoday. The year before I had walked out onto the lake to get a better view and photo, only to fall through the ice into the freezing water. I was able to keep my camera dry and crawl out, but I haven’t attempted that since and probably won’t ever again. My entire trip around the island I had seen two cars, both of which were State Police, which I often saw on the island and was nearly ticketed by twice over the years for what they called ‘trespassing.’ I’m not too sure how I can trespass in a state park, but we can talk about that another time. As I turned onto the bridge the rain picked up heavily, dumping buckets onto my tiny windshield. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the Detroit Boat Club being rocked by the wind, waves crashing over it’s docks. Fog was hovering partially over the ancient structure, giving it an almost haunted feel. I slammed on my brakes, readied my camera settings, and sprinted out into the monsoon that engulfed the MacArthur Bridge. I did what I believe is called a ‘spray and pray,’ a tactic that basically means holding down your shutter, taking as many photos as possible, and getting the fuck out of there. It’s quite useful when you know you only have a moment to capture an image, or in this case, when you’re getting dumped on by mother nature. I got back into my car and drove across the rest of the bridge. As I looked to my left, rain water dripping down my face, I saw nothing but fog where the city would normally be. I was always fascinated by fog, but never cared to understand the actual science behind it. It felt better as a mystery. By the time I got onto the highway I was starting to warm up, so I carefully placed my camera in front of the heating vent and started on my slow journey home. When I finally got to edit the photos, only one turned out, the very first one. On each of the rest of the images there was at least a million-and-one water droplets on the lens. I printed one of those shots, with the water droplets, and put it in a little frame. I don’t really know why I did, but every time I see it I remember how I felt during that period of my life, and how I never want to feel as caged as I did then. If you have followed my art from the beginning, with its many ups and downs, you will know that there have been a number of downs since this photo was taken. But hey, I’ve gotten better at keeping water off my lens, so I guess there’s that.
November 8, 2017 - Original Post
This was one of the first photos I ever took that I was actually happy with. I had never had a nice camera before, but I had always taken pictures. When my family would go on road-trip vacations as a child my mother would buy me disposable cameras. To this day, one of the greatest photos I have ever taken was in the fourth grade on a family vacation out west…but that’s a story for another day. When digital took over I saved up and bought a point and shoot camera, but nothing that was capable of what I truly wanted to do. I don’t think I really knew what I wanted to do, but after I finally got a DSLR camera my sophomore year of college I somewhat figured it out. I was growing eerily sick of the sheltered bubble of a town my school was in and needed an escape. I felt like everyone was striving for individuality, but nobody was willing to leave the bubble that our educational status created around us. I started coming to the city as much as possible, driving around in my little Chevy, experiencing a place that truly reminded me of home. I don’t think I knew at that time how much this city would end up changing my life, but looking back, I’m glad I didn’t. Seeing all the beauty Detroit had to offer with naive eyes was truly blissful. I knew a bit about the history of the city that had stolen GM from my hometown almost a hundred years prior, but driving around in those early days, it really felt like nothing I had ever imagined. I had been to big cities before, spending time in Chicago while visiting family and vacationing on the east coast once as a kid, but Detroit was different. Everyone I met came off as kind, genuinely interested in why I was wandering around with a camera. I still love those conversations today. I found solace on the east side. It was so green, the summer air flowing through the uncut grass, untrimmed trees, and my unmanaged ginger hair. Although I was born in an urban center, I grew up in rural area (or as I like to call it, bum-fuck-nowhere), so the empty lots intrigued me. It looked like the rural backdrop I had grown accustomed to, but it sounded and felt like my roots. No matter how many historical photos I see or stories I hear from old timers, I cannot seem to imagine how full of splendor this city once was. I’m not saying it isn’t now, I just think the grandeur has transformed into something new, unique, and oddly familiar. Even though this wasn’t exactly a happy time period of my life, I will always remember that era fondly. Everything was simple. I used the automatic settings on my camera due to a lack of competence and was too scared to ask people to come out and take photos with me. I was alone in a city I knew almost nothing about, with my camera, a bag of books, and nowhere to be. I don’t think I will ever feel as alive as I did in those days. Countless times I would get lost, but by not allowing myself to use a map I figured out the confusing layout of the city pretty quickly. I took this photo on one of those astray adventures. I had driven and walked around the area a couple of times prior to taking it, watching block parties held by Detroiters on vast numbers of connected empty lots, getting passed by teens on ATVs, and starring at the empty city airport across the street. Upon this visit I was quite literally alone, and the sunset seemed to be a fitting image. After I snapped this photo, I walked back to my car, sat on the hood, and drank my Faygo for a while. I could never find Faygo back at school. I had grown accustomed to drinking it growing up, so the lack of it saddened my taste buds. Even though it was already October the weather was unseasonably warm. I remember being so happy that I wasn’t back at my house, and when I returned home I was excited to report to my friends about my adventures. They probably thought I was crazy, hell, I still think most of my friends think I am, but seeing photos like this after sliding my memory card into the slot on my shitty computer make it all worth it. It's far from the most technically perfect photo I’ve ever taken, but it will always be one of my favorites. ‘Nature takes back what used to be hers.’ That was the Instagram caption I chose for this photo years ago. I think this photo was a turning point in my mentality as an artist, even back then I knew it wasn’t a perfect image, but it gave me a drive to constantly work towards bettering my art, myself, and my life. I think a lot of people get stuck trying to figure out what they should do next, when in reality all they need to do is get out there and it will unfold in front of them. Cognitive action makes art, planning alone doesn’t. Today, my life is far from perfect, but I’m still working towards something I know has the potential to be great, and best of all, it’s completely mine.
November 1, 2017 - Original Post
I’ve always been a firm believer that it's better to be lucky than good. It might not always work out, but some of the best photos I have ever taken have been given to me from the fickle hands of lady luck. The summer would die in a few weeks, and I was cramming as much shooting into its final days as I possibly could. I found myself shooting alone most Summer nights, but when I was asked by a girl that I’d had a crush on for ages to explore the city, I couldn’t help but say yes. A few other photographers had said they wanted to meet up too, so I figured it could be a fun night. Back then we were still somewhat obsessed with trying to find new views, sneaking onto rooftops with open doors or faulty locks to get a glimpse of the skyline that was only typically seen by security workers on their smoke breaks. I don’t find myself really doing that anymore, but for whatever reason, at that point in my life it seemed important. When I walk downtown with friends these days it's different. I look up at the skyline and can remember each and every rooftop I have taken photos from distinctly, each telling a different story about a different time in my life. Every time I walk by this particular building, I can’t help but smile. It is by far the best view I have ever experienced, and it was truly an adventure I will never forget. My friend from school and I met up with my some photography colleagues of mine and we made our way onto a rooftop that happens to be visible from this picture. It’s far shorter and much more modern, but it does offer pretty great views of downtown. We managed to find ourselves atop the structure around sunset which was absolutely stunning. I had been on this rooftop a number of times, but anytime you’re taking in something beautiful, especially with new people, its special. I was, after all, trying to impress this girl. The first roof was nice, but I knew we could do better. It was the end of summer, so in my mind it was go big or go home. After the sun had set and we left our first rooftop, we decided to ride the People Mover around the city for a while. It isn’t exactly the most exhilarating thing in the world, but riding an empty train through panoramic views of the city is pretty fun. It was already dark anyways, so I knew that we had all the time in the world. We ended up hitting another rooftop I didn’t find very interesting. It was modern and had a few unique views, but nothing I was all too desperate to take photos of. While my colleague took photos of my friend I just sat on the edge of the roof, looking over the manufactured plateau onto the empty street below knowing how easily this all could end. But at the time, I was happy. I always felt that the skyline was full of benevolence in the summer. On nights like these I truly felt untroubled. When winter hit and I took in the same views I had in the Summer a handful of months before, I would feel lonelier than I ever had. I love the cold, and I love winter, but it often leaves me feeling depressed. They always say that the most beautiful art is created out of sadness, and I often feel my winter images are far better than those I take in warmer weather, but I won’t get too far into that. As I stood overlooking the city, I felt powerful. I felt happy. Taking in the skyline building by building, I saw that my entourage on the opposite side of the roof was ready to depart. I took one last glance at the city and walked to the door. We were back on the streets, tired and ready to get some food. On our way to the car, we walked past a construction crew taking their break outside a once abandoned skyscraper, now being renovated by Bedrock. It wasn’t uncommon to see crews like this in the city, I could name off at least a half-dozen buildings that had a similar fate within a four or five-block radius. About half of the men were enjoying a smoke, the others sitting on lunch pails, buckets, or whatever else they could get their hands on. It was at least 11PM at this point, and I was genuinely curious why they were working so late. I walked over to the group, my posse trailing shortly behind me, and inquired of the man closest to me. I ask why Dan Gilbert was working them so late, and he replied with a smile that they had to demo the entire interior by next week, so it was early mornings and late nights until then. I didn’t expect such an honest response, so I inquired further. I asked if he was the foreman of the project, he shook his head and pointed over to a man sitting on a bucket smoking what I believed to be a Marlboro Menthol. I wanted to ask for one, but I didn’t think such an inquiry would win me any points with the girl I was trying to impress. He looked over at us, flicked his cigarette into the alleyway, got up and started towards the building door. Just before he was out of earshot, I blurted out something he must not of heard. He stopped, turned around, asking what I had said. I replied, “will you let us up on the roof?” He replied with a smug look, “shit, you wanna climb 38-stories?” I looked back at my friends, smiled, and nodded, “absolutely, sir.” He looked rather shocked, I mean, I probably wouldn’t have thought a bunch of hipster-looking kids would have climbed over 400 feet just to take some photos, either. He smiled, “Aight then, I’ll take you up in the elevator then if you’re that committed.” We quickly shuffled into the 80-some year old structure littered with construction equipment and dust from the interior demolition taking place. We all crammed into the elevator, and it began to rise. He explained that the elevator often ‘jumped’ on the way down, because it was so old and hadn’t had any maintenance in years. That didn’t exactly warm my heart, but I was ecstatic to be inside a building that had long been on my hit-list before the renovations were announced and it had been sealed up. We eventually reached the top floor and exited the shaky elevator. They had already demolished this floor, and it was a shell of what it once was. I knew that the top floor had once been law offices, but after those had folded it became a bar that offered panoramic views of the city and expensive cocktails. We found our access to the roof of the building and I was immediately blown away. You could see the entire city. Each and every building of the beautiful Detroit skyline, all of the spoke streets that run out of Campus Martius, New Center way off in the distance, the Ambassador stretching over the river, and oh so much more. I didn’t imagine we would have much time before our new acquaintance wanted to head back down to work, so I set off in all directions, taking photos each-and-every-which-way. After I had captured most of the angles, one last spot caught my eye. Book Tower had always been my favorite building in the city, and the Broderick was also a structure I admired. This view showed both towering over the north end of downtown, with Woodward blazing a trail out of the city. The Fisher Building, glowing in the distance, acted as a beacon calling those who lived in the North End and further to come back home. The Tigers had played that day, so Comerica was still illuminated, as was her sister, Ford Field, just across Brush Street. The skyline of Detroit is truly immaculate, especially now that more and more lights are returning to it. After I felt I had taken enough photos, I just stood there, experiencing what I knew only a handful before me had. The building is scheduled to reopen in the next year to two, and I’m pretty excited about it. I hope the top floor is once again some sort of observation area, and although I will most likely never be as high as I was that night, I would love to be able to experience a view like this just one more time. After a few minutes, our guide gestured for us to get back into the elevator, and we hopped all the way down to the ground level, back onto the streets of the city. The feeling of your two feet on the pavement after being so high is always eerie to me. I get the same feeling when I get off an airplane, but different. It isn’t as strong. When I’m coasting at 30,000 feet, it feels normal, I’m supposed to be there, business as usual. But finding myself some 400 feet above a city who’s inner mechanisms I could never possibly understand, internalizing its every turn, crevice, and cranny, almost felt surreal. I don’t really get that feeling anymore, not from climbing to the summits of the city, anyways. We set off for our car, grabbed some food, and went home. I’ll never forget that night, or that view. This is one of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken.
Oh, and if you were wondering...that girl and I never hung out again.
October 25, 2017 - Original Post
This is my least favorite photo I have ever taken. It honestly doesn’t have much to do with the photo itself, but the situation, the outcome, and the aftermath have led me to hold a particular hatred for it. It's weird how certain non-physical things can hold a special place in our memory. A song can enchant us into deep thought about those who are no longer in our lives, a movie brings back memories of our childhood, or a photo capture moments that will never be forgotten by all those who lived through them. I can honestly say that this photo changed my life. I was having a great summer until the accident. I had been working the same job, hanging around the same clowns, and working on my photography as much as I could possibly bare. Looking back over my short career as a photographer, I always felt, at the time, that I was pushing my limits. If I had to pick a time period that I learned the most about myself as a photographer, it would be that summer. Sleepless nights, early sunrises, and an ex-girlfriend that made me want to get out of Ann Arbor. The city was my haven. I would sleep in Riverside Park, taking in the skyline for hours only to find myself atop an abandoned building to experience the sunrise over the city that truly never sleeps. That summer I became who I am now, and my accident was definitely a part of that transformation. It was late summer, and a few friends and I decided to meet up at a local bar to have a burger and a few drinks before a photography meet-up downtown later that night. The place had a killer selection in their jukebox, cheap beer, and huge burgers. I was in heaven. After we had our fill, we rode downtown to meet up with other photographers on a rooftop. We had been promised free booze and food, which was all I needed to hear considering I was broke and the expenses of another school year were looming only a few weeks away. I also knew other friends would be there, which was a plus. The event was fun enough, and I got to meet a number of photographers I had known only via their online personas. It can be weird finally putting a face to a name, but it is fun to see if someone stacks up to their online profile. The bar stopped serving alcohol, so we decided it was time to split. A friend had parked her car in a garage a few blocks away, so we set off to walk her to her vehicle. After we had dropped off our friend, I got a phone call from another photographer who had just left the event. She explained to me that an abandoned building that had long been on my hit-list was busted open by some unknown hero, and that we should hustle over there. We did exactly that, our camera bags bouncing in the now chilled night air. We arrived to see that our friend was correct, the doors were wide open, alarm sounding quietly inside the ancient structure. Our friend was waiting at the fence, and upon our arrival informed us that it had been like this for about 20 minutes and that nobody had come in our out in that amount of time. Maybe it was our nonchalant late summer mood, maybe it was the booze, or maybe we were just stupid. But over the fence we went, darting through the open glass doors. We found ourselves inside a Spanish Gothic designed theatre, one that was missing most of her ornate pieces, but for the most part intact. I had researched the building dozens of times before, and most in the city know about this gem, but I am one of the few I know who have seen it with their own eyes. We hastily made our way up onto one of the lower roof levels of the structure, hanging out there for a little while before descending once again into the ostentatious theatre below. We took our time to snap a few photos, including this one, which I was quite happy with at the time. We saw that some other friends had joined us, but I wasn't concerned with that. I wanted to get higher. I knew that the office tower of the building was quite tall, and I wanted to get up top. I began looking around for my route to the summit, but it was nowhere to be found. I finally found what I believed to be my way up, and started my trek. I got to a dark stairwell that looked a little risky, but I knew I had experienced far worse before so I began to climb. As my second foot hit the metal frame of the stair I heard a loud crack. The crack was immediately followed by my feet falling out from under me, and naturally I tried reaching out to grab the ledge, the wall, pretty much anything that would stop my fall. Everything I reached for broke off and started to fall with me, and I was locked in a free-fall alongside the staircase that just given out from underneath me. I never really believed people who claim situations like this feel as if they take minutes, not seconds, but after going through it I can confirm this is the case. I finally landed with a thud, camera still in hand. Adrenaline pumping through my veins, I threw off one strap of my backpack and tossed my camera into it. I looked up from the dusty floor I was now laying on and could see a glimmer of light from where I had fallen, what looked to be about three stories above me. I had finally caught my breath, so I decided it was time to try and get up. I pushed myself up with my arms, but as I began to get up I felt a sharp pain in my right foot. I tried to stand, but the pain was becoming unbearable so I just sat on the ground. I howled to my friends, who unknowing what had just happened, began to call my name. They eventually found me on the ground floor, jaws dropping in disbelief at my current state. We all knew that we needed to get me out of there, and fast. I was tossed onto a friends back, and we began our escape. If you remember earlier in this piece, I said we hopped the fence to get into this particular building. I could barely walk at this point, let alone do anything that resembled a hop, so I was stranded alone on the inside of the fence. My friends and I frantically exchanged ideas over the hedge, and eventually our…ingenuity...freed me from my cell. I was out of the building, but far from free from the worries this accident would cause. Before I knew it I was in the back of my friends Jeep, bleeding all over her cloth interior. Within minutes we made it to the hospital, the first of many visits over the course of a month or so. I ended up shattering my heel (causing surgery), getting 12 stitches, acquiring a blood clot in my left leg, collapsing part of a lung, bruising my rib cage, and catching pneumonia. All that for a damn picture. The physical issues eventually healed, but mentally I approached photography differently after the accident. Not being able to take photos for almost half a year was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. Yeah, physical therapy is a bitch, finding people to push my wheelchair to class was embarrassing, and having to tell the story over and over became tiresome…but getting back into the hobby I devoted my entire life to proved the most difficult. Over that 5 month period my mentality was crushed. I had no creative outlet, and all of the creativity that I once channeled into my camera was now seized up inside of my already unstable psyche. Looking back, it reminds me of when rappers go to jail. Everybody thinks that they will come out and have bars on bars from sitting in their cells with nothing but their thoughts, but that is rarely the case. When you can’t practice what you love, you don’t hatch new ideas. You don’t grow. You don’t innovate. I can’t compare my experience to being in jail, but I think you understand what I’m trying to say. I was caged. I won’t say that it was all bad, I did learn a lot during that period and I was able to launch my website with all the free time I had, but I will say that I came back from that accident a different person. Its really easy to take the simple things in life for granted until you lose them. I know a lot of people will probably just like this post because of the photo that accompanies it, and most won’t read nearly this far. But if you have made it this far, you probably understand what I said in the beginning when I called this my least favorite photo I have ever taken. Hey, can you blame me? It’ll probably hang above my mantle someday…but until then, fuck this image.
October 19, 2017 - Original Post
I don’t normally go into abandoned buildings alone. Not that I ever feel unsafe, it's just that certain circumstances have led me to try and avoid such things. Falling 3 stories in an abandoned theatre, only to be dragged out by the same friends I climbed the fence with an hour before, is one of them. My distaste for wasting shots was greater than my moral conduct for such an action, though. I had one frame left on my roll of film, and I was planning to drop the roll off at the lab that evening on my way to visit my mother. I was trying to think of a location I had not visited in a while, a place I knew I had already logged enough hours at to act quickly upon this visit, but also a location with nice smooth colors that would pop on the emulsion of the expired Fuji Superia roll I had loaded in my camera. I knew of a small little synagogue, one I had visited for the first time somewhere in the middle of 2015 and a number of times afterwards. I really liked spending time there. It was the kind of religious building I wish I had spent time in growing up. It had an old-timey feel to it, seeming to be the kind of place important community members once attended, everyone knowing each other, and the religious head of the building truly looked out for their congregation. I had no idea if this was the case, but for whatever reason, that’s how I had always pictured it. I decided to head over there, knowing the gentle overcast day would provide some nice lighting for my singular photo. Every time I walk into a religious building, abandoned or not, I am reminded of my own experience with houses of religion. Having been raised in a rural community outside Flint, the church I attended growing up was quite small. Although my town was a fraction of the size of Detroit, my church was larger than the synagogue I now stood in. Whenever I think back to the days when I found myself in church every Sunday I am reminded of the book I was forced to read in the second grade, 'Because of Winn-Dixie' by Kate DiCamillo. I remember the author stating that her father’s church had no pews, so members of the congregation brought their lawn chairs and scattered them around the former store. Although my church did in fact have chairs of its own, around the holidays or Easter-time they would always have to bring out folding chairs from the back to accommodate those who only found themselves in God’s house a couple times a year. Now that I have joined that crowd, I take the discomfort my ass goes though sitting on those metal chairs as a punishment from God for only coming every so often. Standing in the middle of the abandoned Synagogue for the first time some two years before, I realized that I knew literally nothing about the Jewish faith. I had attended a public university that was known for their large Jewish student population, but other than a few things here or there, I knew nothing. I wandered around the tattered house of worship, stepping over the once ornate pews as I made my way towards the altar. I had photographed the front of this building a number of times, with both my digital and film cameras. The shots would always come out alright, but I still wanted to capture it in a unique way. From my place on the elevated surface, I stood in front of my congregation, feeling less powerful than ever looking at row after row of dilapidated pew. I began to imagine the sadness that the last Rabbi of this congregation may have felt, looking out over his empty temple one last time before closing the doors for good. I am sure this sight would make him cringe. It was in that moment that I tried to imagine Detroiters from all around the neighborhood shuffling into the building during Yom Kippur or Hanukkah, realizing that there were no seats remaining, and returning to the vestibule. Leaning up against the side wall was a stack of metal chairs, each one ensuring its rusty screech heard by all as it was taken into the other room and opened to be sat on. You’d better believe, no matter the denomination, only being religious on holidays can be uncomfortable on the lower back. I heard a dog barking a couple houses down, which I had heard on previous visits as well, and decided that was my cue to leave. I aligned the viewfinder of my Canon, snapped this photo, and hastily exited to my vehicle parked a few blocks away. For once, when my mother asked if I had been going to church, I could honestly say that I had.
October 3, 2017 - Original Post
I fired up the engine of my grandfather’s Pontiac and let it begin to heat up. Although it was already Spring, it was unseasonably cold. In Michigan, you really never know what you’re going to get weather wise that time of year. I kind of liked it that way though. After the car warmed up a bit, I started flipping through the CDs in the hand-me-down case my brother had bargained for at a garage sale years before. Finally, I settled on an album that frequented my CD player, the album XXX by Danny Brown. This album became a favorite of mine immediately after hearing it for the first time when I was in the eleventh grade. My parents were getting a divorce at the time, and I remember sitting in my room listening to it ear-drum-rattling-ly loud while staring off into space at the banner of a university I would attend two years later. Although this album came into my life during a rough patch, I’m still fond of it even now. I put the CD in the system, and per usual it spit it back at me hastily. I fogged the back of the illegally burnt compact with my breath, its warmth hazing the scratches from numerous drops onto a number of dirty car floors. The system decided to accept my offering this time around, and I heard the screech of Danny Brown’s voice yell ‘Check!’ The car’s small interior finally began to warm so I removed the comforter I had used to keep warm the night before, throwing it into an already cluttered back seat. My windows had frosted overnight, but the heat was beginning to erode the previous night’s work on my windshield. I grabbed my AE-1 from the passenger seat, checked the film count, and shifted into drive. As my car started to meander down the avenue, I noticed that morning was beginning to take hold of the city. I could see the occasional 9-5er through the windows of curtain-less homes, sipping warm beverages, watching myself and others who started their day before the sun comes up head out into the still dark morning. As I drove further and further out of the city center, I saw less and less of this. I began to regret my CD choice, as the tone of ‘Die Like A Rockstar’ was a little too loud for me at six-something in the morning. I knew what was to come, so I let it ride out. I really didn’t know what I wanted to shoot that day, but I knew that the skies were in my favor. I love shooting on overcast days. I don’t have to worry about the sun’s rays gracing the front of my lens causing a flare, and I always enjoy the out of focus parts of a cloudy-day image. I didn’t have anywhere to be. So I drove. Most of my time shooting those days was dedicated to looking for cars. Although I really didn’t know nearly as much as it might seem to others, I loved cars. I was raised on cars. Pretty much every member of my family worked for GM or a related company in Flint at some point. I couldn’t tell you a damn thing about anything under the hood of your car, but I could tell you the location of at least a couple dozen cool cars around Detroit. You could find them everywhere. Sitting next to homes, just off the back porch, on the street with tires that hadn’t seen fresh air in years. I think I was so attracted to these cars because I someday hoped to be like their owners. Purchase an old beauty with the hopes of fixing it up, coming home from work every day to find it just where I left it, waiting for me to bring life back to her rusty interior. Often I would come across owners who had come onto hard times, hesitantly setting For Sale By Owner signs inside the windows of their prized projects. I could only imagine how hard this must have been for most, like an inventor forced to sell the blueprints to a project he was never allowed to complete. It was at the very moment Danny Brown serenaded me with ‘so guess who's the little bitch, that’s you! You must suck a lot of dick, that’s true!’ I saw something quite peculiar, but not all that uncommon in the city. It was an old gray sedan that had almost the entirety of its front end ripped off, obviously to be used on another car or to be parted out. I often would think about how somebody could even think about doing this to such a beauty, but after examining my license one summer afternoon a number of months later I realized that I too, after all, was an organ donor. After snapping this photo with my frigid AE-1, I figured that the dogs barking behind the car my cue to leave. I got back into my grandfather’s Pontiac, rubbed my hands together to prepare for the cold steering wheel, and drove off in search of more rusty gold.