Wow...I do not even know where to begin. This post is a prelude to a photo story which will be linked at the end, but it goes so far beyond that for me, as it would for so many others I am sure. This is the longest blog entry I have made since starting this young rebooted photography journey, and the most I have written in quite a while too boot! So before I begin, allow me to apologize for it's breadth...but take the ride with me...I think you'll like the way it feels in the end!
My life and career didn't exactly take the routes I had dreamed as a kid. Life and responsibilities took me down the path of the "9-5", but as a kid, the thing I wanted to do most of all was shoot photos and write. From the first time I held a cheap Kodak Instamatic, I knew it was in my blood. I developed love for shooting and writing about what I shot, along with a fair amount of Science-Fiction and essays about day to day life. I rarely shared much, other than those shoots I did for school like sports and standard school fare, but I ALWAYS had a camera and a notebook. As I got further into middle school, I fell in love with the drama and the excitement that I saw in "Rolling Stone" and "Creem" and so many other rock rags big and small. The raw imagery and stories captured on film by the likes of Jenny Lens and Mick Rock, the amazing shots made famous by Barrie Wentzell and Phillip Townsend and so many others grabbed me. The music drove my passions and still does, and the photography allowed me to tell stories without words. I ate photography trade magazines and the music rags like food, and learned to shoot from some great shooters I met at photography stores and the user groups they hosted; including several not so well known, but weekly published newspaper photographers from my hometown who were amazing at their trade. Hanging around the music scene eventually (around 16) got me connected to a local radio station where I got the opportunity work around the station and do whatever else they would let me do to be around the music scene. I went to headlining concerts through my connections to the station, and to local band shows at any venue that would allow me to shoot. I shot a lot of pictures and got very involved in the right side, and the wrong side, of the music culture of the 80's at times, from punk to pop and the beginning of the hair band era right into the early days of hip-hop, I dove in it all head first! It was the beginning of a passion for music in my life too, music of all kinds...and that has remained with me as well, through my greatest of days and my worst of times, music, lyrics and the passion the artists put into their work, has helped drive me and forge me into who I am on so many levels.
But, as many know, a future in a creative career requires discipline, a level of discipline I certainly didn't have in those days, and floundering after leaving High school led me to the Navy. Then a wife, then kids, then...The dreaded "9-5". But photography was ALWAYS with me as was writing. Music still drove me in everything I did...there was always a tape, or a CD or an MP3 player close and when I needed to retreat into myself, music took me there and helped me regroup. I knew those dreams of photography and writing were not dreams and passions I was going to give up on. Through the years, there were stints doing portraits and senior pictures, live music whenever I could get free time and get into venues to shoot, but it was sporadic at best.
Life is different now, I have raised my kids into amazing young adults, some with families of their own, some enjoying their early 20's in other ways. But a drive to go back to my dreams was eating at me. So when the time was right, I packed up my life back east, headed west, settled in Southern California with a new 9-5 and started planning my next "Season". Things have certainly changed with the dawn of digital photography and camera phones, the greater demise of the print magazine and the rise of "mainstream" photography; but one thing is still a constant, owning a camera does NOT make you a photographer...It does not give you an eye for composition or the instinct to see an emotion and capture it in a way others would miss, and being that "GWC" (Guy With a Camera) doesn't give you the passion it requires to tell a story with picture...
So I set out to build my brand, show my style and start getting my name out there to start shooting anything I could. Then just when I am starting to get moving, with very little time spent building the modern Social Media marketing machine it requires to get a foot hold in any creative career in our digital age(read as barely started)...along comes an opportunity that I couldn't have dreamed. This is not to say that I feel like this is "my big break" or "a breakout chance to propel me to the top of my chosen future career"...not at all, it was just a reminder that networking, making friends and being yourself can often open doors to opportunity that can help you get started with your greatest dreams...small or large...but what you do with those opportunities is up to you, they may propel you to that success you hope for, or they may just give you an experience that re-instills you with the confidence in your abilities and your talent and keep you pounding at it until you do find that success.
THIS is where the new story begins...About a year ago, strictly through chance, I forged a friendship via my local community's forum on Facebook. Off-handed comments on posts back and forth with a guy who was also a regular on our forums, some serious topics, some all in fun, eventually led to conversations on messenger, which led to a connection and what I felt was the beginning of a friendship. I knew little of who he was till one day a comment on a post from another user made me stop for a moment, then go see what I could find out. It seemed I had begun forging an online friendship with a local author and award winning journalist. I looked into and read some of his journalistic writings and gained an immediate respect for his writing style and the career he had built, not to mention the legacy of work behind him that I found as I read about him. He documented history, preserved many legacies through his research and writing, and helped several contemporary historic figures to document their stories. With everything I read, my respect grew. One evening while chatting, I mentioned to him that I had a great respect for his work and appreciated what he had accomplished and since then, we have talked many times about the passionate and emotional career of being a writer. Chris Epting has shown me the great honor of reading several of my writings on a personal blog and shown me a respect that I had not yet earned. We have talked many times of not only the often emotional journey of being a passionate writer, but of photography as well, as he is no slack with a Canon in his hand either! That led to his learning more of my passions and plans for my future.
That online friendship recently led to an opportunity for me, that I am having trouble describing, but I am going to at least say a few words about the event I was recently invited to be a small part of. Chris showed a blind trust in me that I am VERY grateful for. The opportunity I was given, was to be a personally invited guest of my friend, the author who worked one on one, with one of the greatest names in music from my lifetime, in writing his memoir. A man who's career certainly touched my teen years and beyond, Mr. John Oates.
This was not some grand venue with 1000's of people where Mr. Oates would be playing for a crowd, but rather a small, nearly intimate (read as tight space for shooting!) venue. Not a live music event, but a book signing for "Change of Seasons", his recently released Memoir; of which I had already read the moment I found out Chris had been a part of it. This was not an opportunity to come as a photo-journalist and shoot a few shots as the media are usually allowed to do at such events, but the opportunity to go to their private staging area, to interact with both he and Chris and others who attended, not only from the music industry, but from their personal lives.
When I arrived, I must admit, I was nervous. I had stood in the wings and in the media areas at some headlining shows in the past and had, on more than one occasion, rubbed elbows with greatness, and am generally pretty level headed and just myself. But in this case, I was shooting a small venue, and intimate setting, after a VERY long time of not doing this type of photography, and to top it all off, I was shooting with a brand new professional rig, that I had only gotten to use for little more than a few hours in the days since I upgraded. I was not nervous to meet Mr. Oates or anyone else who may have been there, I was nervous for my own performance. An opportunity had been handed to me to shoot an intimate photo story for someone who showed a great trust in me, and I did not want to let down his trust.
When I arrived, I was greeted quickly by Chris and immediately introduced to Mr. Oates. For just a moment, I was taken back at what was happening, here I was, face to face with half of the most successful pop duo in music history, a man who's legacy spans more 40 years of touching people with his words, and his music...and before I could even ingest that thought, I was immediately put at ease by an extended hand, a sincere "hello and welcome", and the respect he showed me immediately, when he could have seen me as "just another damn guy with a camera in his face". While the venue, a Barnes and Noble Bookseller at The Grove in Downtown LA, finished preparing the area for the signing, I took some test shots while Chris and Mr. Oates retired to a private area to finish preparing themselves before people began to arrive. Those few minutes with my Canon in my hand calmed me; They reminded me that I am my lens once the camera is in my hand. The medium I use to tell stories, is light, reflected from objects and people, back to my lens and in my hands and with my passion for telling those stories, I was confident I would capture those fleeting moments and tell an amazing story.
I was led by the B&N team back to the private area where Chris and John were tending to final thoughts and talking with several people. I was afforded the chance to have a few words and express my gratitude for the opportunity again to Chris, and now to John and Lennie, the Promoter for B&N who had organized the event. Then after a few minutes, I headed out to see the people being seated and excitedly awaiting the opportunity to listen to John and Chris talk not only about the experience of penning the memoir, but also hear John tell some of his own story to them...in a way that few people will ever have the opportunity to hear it. The first segment of the event was amazing. Watching Chris and John talk about the process of compiling and writing the memoir, the time spent together and the role they each played. I snapped and listened, snapped and listened, fully in awe of the story being revealed to us all, not only the memoir story, but the story of that moment. The connection of this man and his amazing legacy being brought to an "every man" level, bringing this huge Music Star, down to our level on a very human scale. He conveyed to us that feeling of struggle and dedication to succeed as he and his partner in the duo Hall and Oates gave all they had in themselves to make their way through a difficult and sometimes impossible industry to flourish in. It's easy to see stars like John and just imagine how amazing their life must be, how easy things must seem for them and how so many of the day to day problems we all face are so far removed from their world, but in the time he spent talking to the crowd, he reminded us all that very few people start at that level. he brought his journey into the terms of the day to day life we can all relate to and feel.
After more than an hour of talking to the group(I actually lost track of time in the moment), conveying so many experiences and interacting so smoothly together on stage with Chris, it was time for John to thrill the group with a few songs as a solo act, with nothing more than a beautiful Taylor acoustic guitar. Of Course, he did not disappoint. Watching him play and share his gift of words and music in such an intimate venue was amazing. As you will see in several of the shots in the photo story, his face shows his emotion and the life he pours into his chosen path in life. It was easy to see this man's pure and unfettered desire to entertain, to evoke feelings and convey the emotions of the songs he wrote and performed for this group. It was amazing to see the faces of those in the crowd so engaged in his sharing...not a performance, but purely a sharing of his emotional journey, conveyed with a melody and words...combined together to give life to the sound and the moment.
After a few songs and some stories about their meanings to him, and their origins, it was time to take a break while the B&N team set up a table for the book signing, and that time came none to soon. It was easy to see in Johns face that this journey of his life and his career had worn on him that evening. The pouring of yourself and your story to a group of people can be a draining ride...and it was obvious this was the case. As a photographer, I see a lot of faces and the stories of those faces have become easy to read. John's face as he finished playing, told the story of someone who had just spent a lot of time again reliving a long and hard fought journey of success and strife, hard work and sacrifice. He and Chris thanked everyone for being there, and we as a group retired as a group to the private space and I was again afforded an opportunity to chat and informally interact with both Chris and John for a few minutes, along with a few others. Little did I know while heading back to that private space, then I would soon have the opportunity to shake hands with and talk to one of the greatest driving forces of the music that drove my young life and helped shape the personality that would become me. While meeting people and chatting, I was introduced to the warm and inviting smile of none other than Jerry Greenberg. Jerry had a lot to do with the success of John and Daryl and had shown his support through out their careers after they first crossed paths, and many years later, still continues to support not only John, but many other acts he was responsible for bringing to the world. To be in such an informal setting and shake hands with someone who brought so much music and emotion to the world through that music, was an overwhelming feeling. Jerry shook my hand on our introduction and chatted with me for a few moments, but it was not lost on me to finish our conversation with a thank you. He asked me what I was thanking him for, and all I could say was "For bringing so much enjoyment to my life". His smile on that answer said everything.
The rest of the event was as you would expect, John signing books and shaking hands. Though he was obviously exhausted, he didn't make a single fan feel as though they were being rushed through; He shook hands with every fan as they approached with their copy to be signed and had a gracious smile for each one as pictures were taken with each of them. John clearly knows that none of this would have been possible without the fans who love him, his music and the messages and emotions he evoked for each of them through his talents. In my opinion, THIS is what makes him a great and lasting legacy, his ability and willingness to never leave behind the gratefulness he has for the opportunities each of them gave him to have success in his chosen career.
My experience that evening was overwhelming, not in the moment, but later at home. When I started post processing pictures and trying to write this blog, I was left speechless, not a feeling I have very often. I am not one to be "star struck" and enamored with the rich or the famous simply because they are famous, but I am someone who is very in touch with the emotions that drive him, and through the years, a steady force that has always helped me to keep my emotions in check when they needed to be, and helped me to let them out in amazing ways has been music. The opportunity I was given in such a personal way, to be a very small part of this legacy is what overwhelmed me. The thought that I was given so much respect by John, Chris and Jerry that evening, was something that is hard to put to words, but something that I will always appreciate and remember.
For those of you who actually read this whole rambling, likely incoherent piece, thank you for taking the ride with me...it is a part of my journey and sharing it means a lot to me...Now...On to the photos...
As a rule for me with most events, a photo story is a series of 10-20 amazing shots. Shots that give the feeling of the moments, the emotions of those involved and that capture just the right fleeting instant in a brief but real time in life...
Photo Story---> I hope you enjoy this set as much as I did creating it and being a part of it. <---Photo Story
LAST, but certainly not least...a few thank you notes!
A HUGE thank you to Chris for inviting me to be a personal part of this event. It was a great honor and I hope you find value in the photos!
Another huge THANK YOU to John Oates for his time, his graciousness, the respect he showed me and for allowing me to be a part of his time in this signing. I was honored to get the opportunity to capture some of the amazing moments of the current "Season" of your career and life. It was an opportunity that I will carry with me as I work hard to develop my new path.
Lastly, a big thanks to Lennie and Barnes & Noble at The Grove in LA for not only hosting this event, but for assisting me in getting the great shots presented in this photo story!
Capture Moments, Capture Life, Capture Chaos!!!