“No one can ever fully appreciate the power of the mind and one’s willingness to overcome great obstacles beyond one’s control.” We as humans love to be in control.
I am a disabled Army Veteran, served 12 years, and I am now a survivor of late stage TBI and severe PTSD. After leaving active duty in 2013, I took some years to reconnect with who I truly am, a period of discovery that took me on a journey to find my place in this crazy world we live in. My journey took me to school as a musician, recording engineer, talent manager, fashion photographer, etc. But one thing that always rang clear to me was the duty of helping others achieve their goals and dreams. A duty very few answer the call to. So still being fresh out the military, I once again answered the call to be of service through photography.
The Art of Photography has always been a passion of mine, a medium I use to convey the beauty and trueness in the world through my lens, in a way share the beauty I see with others. Despite the sure facts, we live in a world of instant gratification and if we don’t like the outcome we simply dismiss it. But what if what we see in life isn’t truly life but a mere glimpse of what can or may not be?
I embrace the new norm that anyone can step up and be a photographer. Now is the best time than ever. With so many tools readily accessible at our fingertips, one must only point and shoot and record the moment in time. We see this norm all to frequent when we dive into our social media accounts from our phones or laptops. But taking a picture is not the same as making one. I’ll explain further on that later.
A little about me: I am a Fine Art Photographer now currently based in Northern California. I have traveled far around over the years in search for where my heart truly rests naturally. During these years of searching, I’ve chosen to follow my pursuit of creating Conceptual/Fine Art works of art. My pursuit has driven me to create photographs that evoke emotions, that tell stories, ignite one's imagination and curiosities, and captures the beauty of the world around me for many years now. The visual drama and artistry of my photographs are born of a discerning eye for the many moods of my art aesthetic and my life-long passion for creating works of fine arts and storytelling.
Now... What if I told you all of that comes at a price?
The title specifies a “Dying Mind,” and to elaborate more on the subject I feel it best to be honest and upfront. I have late stage TBI, I spent years serving and being told “nothing was wrong,” “drive-on,” “drink water,” etc. Truth is, for the last four years I’ve been undergoing medical treatments to reverse the deteriorating damages caused from years of trauma and inadequate treatments. It’s taken a significant toll upon my health, mental stability, relationships and ability to maintain academic successes. Now, this doesn’t mean I don’t continue to fight each day to try and better myself. I’m 33 and already suffered three transient ischemic strokes this year due to the trauma and nerve damage I’ve endured so long gone untreated. Giving up can never be an acceptable option when you desire more out of life. This brings me to the cost I mentioned above. The only price is SACRIFICE.
Can you sacrifice who you are today for who you will be tomorrow?
What is your why for doing what it is you are doing?
Is your why strong enough to make you cry?
The world, friends and family will tell you always to play it safe, don’t try too hard to be different, take it easy, etc. My mother, who has served 22 years in the Army tells me every week, “Take the disability and settle down, you don’t need to work anymore.” Granted! But the world will always give you an opportunity to stop. Society is filled of people in the world that took that opportunity to stop and they quit. Whether the journey was too hard, or the sacrifice was too great... they quit.
When I was a talent manager years back, I would wake up each day at 5 AM just to pick up my partner from Torrance at 7:30 AM, to then drive to LA and meet with clients or sit in the magazine office till 8-9 PM. There were nights I didn’t make it back home till about midnight to 2 AM due to events and shows, just to do it again the next day. I did that for an entire year Mon-Sat/Sun. Throughout that time, I’ve faced the crossroads to quit repeatedly. Even though I didn’t quit the journey I was on, I did, in fact, quit on being myself and living up to the values I once held dear.
You see in that job, I was blessed and fortunate to meet so many bright and aspiring dreamers. I was the kind of person that if you came to me with the drive and ambition, I would work with you to achieve the very thing you set out for. Until one day, the Industry stepped in and took over, forcing me to turn away the very dreamers I believed in and focus on their selected picks, the ones that brought in sure money. That pain in my heart drove me to leave the environment I was in and return to school to be my own artist.
Currently, I am in my Junior year towards my BFA in Photography, and I know a lot of people in this world feel like photography is an easy class to take. Truthfully, it’s not by any means. Granted, in all honesty, you don’t need a degree or college education to be a photographer. There’s many different avenues available to learn how to take photographs and edit them, apply filters, make crops, manipulate, etc. For anyone interested try books, Youtube, online tutorials, masterclasses and so on. All of which are great places to start. But if you truly desire to make photographs and not just take them, one must truly look within themselves.
What is your why?
My “Why” for going back to school and fighting for others are many. I will never forget the look on my model’s face years back when she was cut from a Fashion Show, because the designer and partners didn’t feel like she was worthy. God, that broke my heart in so many ways. How could I encourage her to continue to pursue her dreams to be a model? Especially, when close minded people make you be the bearer of the bad news. (Just to clarify, she is now a runway model for various Fashion Weeks walking for multiple designers). I never gave up on her and just because someone didn’t see the value in her, didn’t mean I as well as others couldn’t. My why for doing anything in this life is for enhancing the quality of life of others. If we continue to let the definition of beauty start with K or J we are going to tarnish what good we have in this world.
The many faces and figures you will soon see throughout my works are not models, or traditionally speaking they didn’t come as models. Each individual came as self, but as self with a want to do and be more. Each one with their own individual story to tell. Stories that speak out against abuse, reclaimed inner strength, overcoming adversities, pain, heartache and capturing the perfection found in the beautiful imperfections.
For me no greater reward can be attained then that of the purest satisfaction of helping others. I’ve seen far too many pay to play to only get left broken in the end. I’ve taken so many from their knees crushed by an objection, told they will never model and have them later featured in Maxim Finest, LA Fashion Mag, walking in LAFW, SDFW, NYFW, London FW and so forth.
It’s all in the willingness to sacrifice who you are today, for what you will become tomorrow. I won’t pretend to be perfect and to say this all came dropped in my lap. I’m not going to begin to lie to you and play like so many other gurus out there. Even with my present conditions and all the meds I’m now forced to take to live a decent life, I had to struggle each morning to get up and keep moving forward. So many days I’d wake up in so much pain, wishing to stay in bed, skip class, not do the assignment or even the times to give up on the journey in itself and roll over. I’m sure we all heard about the VA’s 22? When that became a daily factor in my wake up, I had no choice but to find something else to live for. But, in order to do that I had to engage myself in consistent actions everyday. That meant beating upon my craft daily, not just when I felt like it... because a lot of times I didn’t.
Beyond that, I had to focus on what was truly important in life and that was others. If I quit, how could I explain that to my younger siblings and nephews that when times get tough it’s ok to quit! When people don’t like you or your work it’s ok to throw in the towel. Never!!! If you have a will to be more, than pursue it with all you have in you, no one said the journey would be easy or the road will be flat. Someone once told me that it’s not about the end product but the process. The process is the journey that leads to success and greater growth.
I could’ve easily just stayed at home when I got out and been comfortable, but a valuable lesson learned from a lobster, a lobster lives it’s life uncomfortable in a tight shell forcing itself to shed the old to grow bigger. With lobsters there is no definite stopping point of growth. Much like all of us as humans, there truly is no limit to our growth and potential. We define that for ourselves. So why do we allow outer influences to hinder us from reaching our potential?
What do we honestly have to lose in life by trying? I never thought I would truly be rich or be featured in magazines and be sought out, I did everything to be of service and to help others achieve their dreams. Most of my work was unpaid, I mentored so many to achieve better and never took a fee. How can this be possible? God gave me a gift and with it I gave back to others. I never cared how much or how famous someone was and looked up to them if they never gave back to others to better the industry. We have so many followers in this world and if we don’t transition them into future leaders what good are we doing? Nothing.
When I first met this model back in 2016, she wasn't a model. She was a new student in one of my photo classes and her passion for black and white imagery captured and fueled my passion to create. Over the years we have worked together, she has been an essential part of my creative works. Her love for the arts and her drive to defy the norms of society, especially the ones imposed upon women, helped spark a ripple in her small town and throughout our campus. Not only did I help her upon her journey as a model, she helped me become a better photographer and artist.
"A clouded mind can never accept the truest beauty and wonders of this world's offerings."
If all we care about is how the world views us, will we ever truly know ourselves? Don't be afraid to express yourself your way, lean not on the validation of the world but on one's self. Only you can validate who you are and your worth.
If no one else sees it, at least see it in yourself. We all have a drive and a passion that compels us to do the very things we love in life. Whether we are compelled to paint, draw, sing, sculpt, chisel, mold or form. We each do so to achieve something once said to be impossible. Funny thing about "Impossible"—"Impossible" broken down is simply the process of making it happen. Simply put, it starts with self and your mindset, broken down "I-M-Possible". Now, no one said it will be easy mind you, but the belief in one's potential makes all the difference. Just because no one else sees you succeeding doesn't mean you won't. The belief in yourself and the process you take to achieve your goals and dreams, lays the building blocks that shapes the foundation, which later forms the structure of your successful life.
"In the farthest depths of my consciousness, I call out that which is within you to dance."
I would like to thank you for taking the time to allow me the space to express myself from the heart and view some of my photographic arts. I mentioned my obstacles before and my passion to strive to create a pure unapologetic celebration of the human form. I welcome you to come back and explore, consider, and take something I pray you cherish with you. My images are created to invite the viewer to explore a dreamlike world of Love, Sensuality and Devotion.
Keep in mind photography is simply a mere starting point on a journey to unknown destinations. I strive to create works of art that will sometimes pay homage to, and other times challenge traditional ideals of the human form. This is my chosen perspective of beauty that feels neither saturated with eroticism nor obligated towards the modest.
Each one of my subjects take on a role of fictional residents of a parallel world, a world much like our own, frequently more beautiful, more interesting, and sometimes abit frightening. My artwork is exploratory; a pastiche of hidden cultural perceptions and glimpses into an alternate reality that dives deep into the hidden realm of one’s sensual mind.
Photography has become my most chosen medium and is best suited to convey my ideas more clearly, especially when my mind goes astray for words. The most successful images leave the viewer either unsure or unconcerned as to the message behind the works. I never intend to have my photographs be a technical tour-de-force. My craft is honed only to the degree necessary to convey a concept. I try not to focus on and follow rules, become predictable, or appeal to a mass audience.
In design, my images should appeal to a select group of viewers. The allure of mass recognition is seductive at best, but it is also creatively hazardous. I do not aim to simply distill a menu of classic poses, competent photographic practices, or even apply effects that are commonly admired by most. Such images are meant to be consumed, applauded without criticism, then quickly forgotten away. One of the most exciting things about any creative work is the discussion that surrounds it. For me, I strive to successfully engage the viewer emotionally or intellectually, whether that response is positive, negative, or inquisitive.
I appreciate your time, and come back for more stories and words of encouragement. I do this to inspire and uplift others. Sometimes, it takes one to make a difference in the lives of others. Hopefully, be back shortly to share more triumphs in helping others to excel.