Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bungalows and No Boundaries... Speaking My Truth

"Joel, Baby Joel and Stephanie On Bungalow Porch #1", Rockaways, NYC, 2011. Juliana Beasley.

I met Joel, Stephanie and "Baby Joel" (as he is called)  this past summer when I went to Joanne's granddaughter's birthday party. I had never met anybody who lived in the bungalows out in the Rockaways. I went about 30 blocks away from my usual location at 116th Street in Rockaway Park. I hope to continue photographing them and other people living in the bungalows during the next year.

They were kind enough to open their door to me.  Joel's parents, his brothers, his two sisters and his nephew share another bungalow in the same complex.

"Joel and Baby Joel in the Sky", Rockaways, NYC, 2011. Juliana Beasley.

"Baby Joel and Mother Stephanie #1", Rockaways, NYC, 2011. Juliana Beasley.

I am posting a loose edit. Why? Sometimes, I am afraid that I do not make the right final choice. But, I'm sure this is a common feeling amongst photographers, especially now that so much is shot in the digital world. I only get 12 shots per roll. And I'm thankful for that. It makes me focus. And I like to focus.

On another and more profound note:

I want to apologize to my readers or those of you who have kept up with me on my blog. I think I apologize at least quarterly for the same reason. I am not writing as much despite the fact that I love to write and generally, it helps me organize my thoughts and get in touch not only with my creative side but just with myself.  Over the last year and a half, I have honestly considered talking very frankly about what has been going on in my life. Some of the stuff is very personal. Actually, most of it is.

In the past, I have written posts that have been brutally forthright about difficult periods (in particular my fight with clinical depression) in my life, as well as joyous ones. I have gotten good feedback. I have also received thankful responses from people going through similar problems. I'll refrain from using the word "issues". So, I hope writing with honesty about my personal struggles, as well as my successes can be of some comfort to someone reading my blog. And open a dialogue about mental illness, irony, stigmatization, inspiration and creativity.

I hesitate only because art does not support me. And how does one present oneself publicly when there is a smoke screen that everything is alright in cyberspace. Facebook is the epitome of creating a persona that is endlessly upbeat and proactive. In the photography Facebook world or network, it's important to keep up this spotless facade of daily success whether it be creatively, emotionally, or most of all financial. One must always be on top of things and informed and super Type A productive. This is by the way, not only my impression.

And yet, many of my photo friends are suffering from personal hardships. Over the last year, I know several artist friends who went on public assistance and food stamps. We don't hear those stories. These are hard working photographers including myself and yet, I still feel like there is this illusion that all is spotless and easy peasy for artists who even have a name in the business. What kind of message is this to show the aspiring young student or enthusiast who doesn't yet understand the sacrifices and endless work that goes into making a living as a photographer?

We as an audience don't see beyond the photo smiles at the gallery openings or the family events. No, one actually talks openly about the economic recession and how it has effected many of their own livelihoods. One friend and fellow blogger, Colin Pantall remarked on this discrepancy of public and private persona and how little photographers talk about the financial difficulties of working and living as a fine art photographer.

The last couple of years have also taken me on a financial and emotional roller coaster of instability. But, I hang on because I love what I do.

I asked Colin, "Should I write about my personal and financial difficulties and even my challenges with depression over a lifetime?"

My concern of a "tell-all diaristic blog" is cemented in the fact that perhaps it would put me at a disadvantage in the editorial, commercial or fine art world-- perhaps, my honesty would hurt my chances at getting the next job that would pay the bills. And so, that is my dilemma. Said and true. Sad and true.

One photographer friend told me that he came out and talked about his battle with anxiety in an interview for a blog. Sadly, he actually lost work because of the blog post and had it taken down. Should I fear the same stigmatization?

Colin's response to my question was something like-- and this is not a quote-- that if we can't be honest about ourselves or in our work "what is the point?". And I agree with that.

Are there any editors out there who would answer this question... or fellow photographers? I would love to hear your feedback.

In the meantime, Merry and Happy Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!!!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Tristan Laughing

"I want to photograph you next to that house, " I said. I pointed at the modern transparent box behind the dunes.

Tristan and I were standing on the beach walking towards the stately homes that lined his beachfront neighborhood of Belle Harbor in the Rockaways. Far from the chaos and human tragedy of my usual stomping ground near 116th.

"You know they are selling that home for a couple million dollars. I don't think anyone has bought it yet. Sure, let's go over there, " he said. The sun was beginning to set.

"Tristan Palm Springs", Belle Harbor, NYC, 2011. Juliana Beasley

The wind came up from behind us and his red hair flew into his face. Every so, often he would scoop up a swath and push it gently away from his eyes. The kindness and tenderness of this gesture seemed to reveal that he not only had a longstanding close relationship with the fiery curly mass on his head but, that he undoubtedly showed it the respect one might give a prized trophy.

As we got closer to the house, a middle-aged woman appeared from inside. She waved at us, smiling and called out as if she recognized us.

"Do you know her? " I asked Tristan.

"No, but she probably thinks she knows me. She probably thinks I'm Shaun White. This happens all the time."

He could have been right. When we approached her she was grinning and greeted Tristan as if she already knew him. Her face was ruddy and she seemed strangely overjoyed.

"Sure, come in and take photographs", she said after she told us that she had just moved in. I didn't expect such a welcoming gesture from a stranger even if she was Tristan's neighbor.