Where to start?
Alright, here goes.
Its been about a year and a half and nearing two years since I’ve toured alongside a band/group of musicians and tonight it has finally hit me after seeing a couple posts over the past couple days thanks to face book’s “on this day” feature and now more recently seeing a couple of my favorite bands announce their departure from touring. A lot of people know me for being a music photographer primarily because I used to photograph it so much, even while I was in high school I used to do it almost every day and continued to do so for years after I graduated. Nowadays, I legitimately can’t remember the last time I photographed a show at the top of my head…which honestly kind of bums me out to even think about. I stopped doing something I fell in love with almost entirely out of the blue.
The honest truth now, is that I’m scared to do so, why? out of fear and judgement that my work won’t be good enough since I haven’t done it in so long and because I feel I’ve become dated compared to all the new faces that have arisen over the past couple years. For two years and a half I felt like I was on top of the world because I was touring with some of my favorite people and doing what I loved even though it was with small time artists and wasn’t making too much money…a lot of people have been asking me why I stopped doing so.
So this is to answer that question.
Right after my last tour in 2015, my mother got sick and I wasn’t in the position to leave again for another tour knowing I wouldn’t be able to help out financially. (The only family I have is my mom, whom has raised me all by herself [bastard child from an undocumented immigrant mom] ) A little more back story to this is that we had been living paycheck to paycheck for a couple years back then and this was a huge blow to us both financially and emotionally… So the fact that I had been touring for that time frame astonished me because I had money saved up and was helping her throughout the time I was touring and she even helped me once whilst I was out.
But anyways, I digress… Ended up selling my camera gear and I gave the money I had and left over saved funds to help pay her medical bills and knew I wasn’t going to be able to freelance work because if any of you Freelance workers know, you gotta have some money and invest money to make money. I ended up getting a warehouse labor job with the help from a dear friend of mine. I worked there for about 6 months, I can honestly say I hated every single day I was there…though my coworkers I had we’re some of the nicest people I have had the pleasure of meeting and still keep in touch with them when we have time.
On average we worked about 50-60 hours a week, 10-11 hour shifts 6 days a week, rarely did we do 8 hour shifts. It was there when I noticed my mind really was going in the wrong direction… I started having suicidal thoughts after seeing that the situation I was in wasn’t going to get any better and wasn’t happy about life. A couple people kept me afloat but I remember the few times I had hung out with some friends they would say that I didn’t look good. Its crazy how something can affect someone so much even when there’s so many worse things happening elsewhere but it did…. I never believed in depression or stuff like that and joked about it (and still do at times) until it happened to me. My first tour was when I was 18, I stopped at 20, almost 21 years old and it hit me that life can be so strange and you don’t know when things can go wrong.
Nearing my 7 months at the job, I had saved up my money, my moms health surprisingly got better after being told that it wasn’t going to happen anytime soon and knew if I didn’t get out of the job I’d make a decision that I wouldn’t be able to regret. I was going to attempt to go back to shooting full time and decided to buy some gear to get back into it.
I remember the day I purchased my camera I have now… I was listening to Vanna, a band from Boston whom some of you know and whom I had the pleasure of touring alongside. Davey, the vocalist… I remember having a conversation one night with him at a Cookout somewhere on the east coast after a show. He talked about his past and why he did what he did and why its important to have something you’re passionate about no matter what it is…. I didn’t think much of it when we had the conversation since but it was the first time I had talked to him for more than 5 minutes at a time and it ended up ringing back and made a huge impact on my mindset when I needed it to. I hadn’t listened to his band prior to this tour nor met any of them and that night I formed a newfound respect for Davey… and (if you read this man, I miss you and hope to see you sometime soon) The day I held my new camera, I remembered the very day I knew I had fallen into something truly special and why I fell in love with a camera…a tour I did with SECRETS. The day we went to New York on a day off… I had dreamed of seeing it but never knew a camera would’ve paved the way for the opportunity to do so and meet some of the best people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Even though it was nothing new to the guys, it was brand new for me and I remember gazing at the cityscape as soon as we got out of the tunnel and I held back tears cause I didn’t want to be judged… It was such a pivotal moment in my mind cause I’ve always been dirt poor and never would’ve been able to afford doing any of this on my own but because I worked hard for years and built relationships with a camera, I did it… at the time they didn’t know this but I was emotional as hell the whole day. ( I could go on forever about some of the things that happened throughout those couple of years but thats for another time) Cam Birchill, whom also has played a key role… He’s always been so supportive since I met him. Forced me to talk when I wouldnt want to and taught me a lot about what goes in in the touring world. I never ended up taking a photo of the night he locked me in the back of the back of the warped tour bus, gave me a drink and just talked about random bs but I wish I did cause since then he’s become one of the people I have an enormous amount of respect towards not only in terms of business but also as a friend…Another key moment was getting to know a little more about Jonny Craig as a person whilst grabbing coffee with him and walking around the tour stops. I learned not to judge a book by its cover and actually converse and be human beings…it was someone I had a lot respect towards despite his past. I got to meet and get to know more because of a camera…something that otherwise would’ve probably never would’ve happened. I will forever cherish the little moments that a little lightbox has allowed me to experience no matter how insignificant it may be to the other person, it means something to me, you have to take it all in and see the beauty of just living.
Now, onto the past year and a half.
1 week after not working at the warehouse job, I got a small studio/office space with the help from a friend whom I now consider a crazy older brother Tyson. I knew I had to move fast and get business going, I hadn’t touched a camera in months and had to get the ball rolling. I turned 21, 2 weeks after getting the studio. It was time to live again… a month passes by and a week after my moms birthday she ends up having more health issues so I gave her the last of my money again but decided to keep shooting.
I couldn’t go back to what I was doing.
The past year and a half I have been shooting freelance work and I won’t lie, its been tough at times. Budgeting has become integrated into my blood. I’ve been able to help pay rent at home, rent at my studio and rarely have some money to spend on myself… a couple of dear friends of mine have helped me when I’ve needed help and never question me about it…and for that I owe them my life and more. I’ve been more involved with helping my community and local area and I have built such a strong support system/family and I’m eternally grateful. I want to get back into photographing music when I’m ready… I have been offered some tours and I’ve turned down some because of all the issues that have been going on and some have just simply fallen through for some reason or another but I’m grateful that some people still love my work from before.
I had a very close friend of mine have a drink with me the other night and it was interesting, I met her 7 years ago when I got my first “real” camera and has seen my growth over the years. I had some Jazz playing in the background and she said she was proud of me for not giving up and actually staying true to my word since I picked up a camera. Something that a lot of people around have done with photography.
I’ve met so many great people because of this thing we call a camera… I haven’t seen so many of you in so long and I miss you dearly but I’m sure I’ll see you soon and take your photo as per usual and maybe have a drink together.
If you stuck around and read this, I thank you and love you. It was emotionally draining writing about this while still censoring most of it all to keep it as short as possible. Sorry about the rambling. I don’t write much.