urban giraffes, physics exams and why individuality matters

In my early twenties, I first experienced Instagram as a broke college student. It was a mecca for iPhone 4 images of food and people’s travels. It was a pseudo-popularity contest of seemingly meaningless art. People loved it though, because it was unassuming and fun. Most images were low quality, and overlaid with the very first Instagram filters. It was at this time that I began to enjoy Instagram from purely a consumer perspective. This may have been the time period when my brain was first stirred towards the idea that art could be interesting and amusing. At that time, art taking up space in my imagination was a new concept. I had played sports all of my life and was athletically gifted. My family didn’t have a ton of money growing up, but I found myself in almost every free or low-cost sports league that I could get into. I played in 40-85 baseball games every summer, basketball in the winter and eventually football in between. I began weight and speed training in high school, and became like a limber gazelle. I eventually went to small college on a baseball scholarship and after several injuries I left. This created a large surplus in mental energy. At the age of twenty I was now playing zero sports for the first time in fifteen years. I decided I would focus more energy on lifting weights. A few months into that, I was with my uncle in California and through a freak accident ruptured a disc in my back, leaving shards of bone in my sciatic nerve in my leg. I began to have incredible pain and numbness in my back and leg, then had surgery three weeks later. After this accident and surgery, I began to have physical limitations and shied away from playing sports, even as a recreational activity. Again, I experienced an incredible surplus of mental energy. What was my meaning in life, what should I do?

In the years that followed, I delivered pizza, worked supporting those with special needs, and became more intrigued by art. I found this Instagram account by a girl named Elise Swopes. She had a fascination with giraffes. She would photoshop giraffes into the most unusual places. Elevators, jungles, open loft windows and city streets all became a home for her carefully placed giraffes. As I observed Elise and her fascination I realized something. Others loved her art not necessarily because they cared about giraffes but because Elise cared about being herself. Deep down, I don’t believe Elise really cared in anyone else liked her giraffes, I truly believe they made her happy and that’s all that mattered to her. This began to marinate in my brain. It dawned on me one day that art does not need to explain itself, nor does it need to be proven by anything. Two plus two always needs to be four, oxygen will always be composed of the same elements, but art is complete without any explanation of how or why. This led me to a belief I still hold today: art is necessary for the human soul. Within art contains all the uncertainty required to intrigue a human being. As I said before, many realms of life are immune to uncertainty. If architects or city planners maybe knew how to do their jobs, buildings and roadways would maybe fall over at any moment. No one wants a heart surgeon who is maybe qualified to perform emergency surgery, yet the maybes with art make it meaningful. Maybe when I capture a portrait of a woman she is uneasy. Maybe she is uneasy because I am unskilled at taking her portrait. Maybe she is uneasy because her looming final exam in physics is crushing her high hopes of graduating college. Therein lies the imagination. The viewer gets to decide and interpret art as they see fit, and there are no wrong answers. I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked to create images for someone and their request for the images is that they be “nice portraits, in a field”. I like fields, but these high volume requests often make me curious as to why. Maybe people like having their portraits taken in a field because vitamin D from the sunshine on their face brightens their mood chemically. Maybe they like portraits in fields because no one ever took a physics exam in a field. Regardless, I love the meaning drawn from creating art that has no clear explanation. Why did I shoot portraits of Madison Bell laying on an inflatable flamingo in the road downtown? Probably because a flamingo in a road reminds the viewer of nothing. There is no mentally cataloged, pre-programmed response to “girl seems at peace lounging on inflatable flamingo in the road”. The viewer can only process and choose how they feel about that very uncommon sight. Maybe, just like Swopes and her giraffes, some saw that image and appreciated that I was merely enjoying life and doing whatever made me happy-enslaved by no rules and subject to no formulas. I do not believe there is a such thing as successful art, but authentic art certainly exists. Authenticity in art is doing not what you feel will please others, but what pleases you to do. This is why I often wear two or three pairs of Nike crew socks. I am being myself and trying to look like no one else, and it makes me happy to do so. A great step towards happiness in life is doing things that make you happy regardless of what others think. Free thought is worth its weight in gold. Societal norms are unusual and often nonsensical in nature anyway. I once heard a story that a woman would always cut the end off of her full size pork roast and throw it in the trash before the roast went into the oven. Finally she was asked why and she responded that her mother always had done so when she was a child. When her mother was asked why she did it, she responded, “the roast pan I owned was not long enough to fit the whole roast, so I had to waste some of the pork in order to cook the rest of it.” How much of life do we spend throwing out some of our roast because someone we loved or respected did so in the past? What if we are equipped with mindsets or unique understanding of how to overcome problems other before did not? Are we too afraid of being different to become incredible? Swopes giraffes got her over 281,000 followers on Instagram, her account became verified and she now has large corporate sponsors such as Champs Sports, Foot Locker and Apple to name a few. I write this to say, find your genius and grab hold of it. I’ve never once photoshopped a giraffe into anything myself, but feel incredibly blessed to have ran across individuals who were fearless enough to be themselves.

from one dreamer to another...SZN SVN x The Dreamers Eye

When I first met Tre Betts this winter, I noticed immediately he was a man of two things: passion and action. He set an incredibly high standard for himself in integrity and work ethic. I learned later that he had been a student athlete at Missouri State University, I have no doubt in my mind that Tre inspired his teammates and classmates on a regular basis. Some people are infectious in their mindset and attack challenges with no second thought. Tre Betts is one of those people. When we first interacted I heard of his intention to open SZN SVN: a physical home for himself and all of his clientele to challenge each other in fitness and be a family. He put incredible zeal into learning how and where he could do such a thing.

Just recently this winter, SVN SZN opened its doors in central Springfield and has been flourishing. Tre not only brings people wisdom about exercising but also drives home ideals about purpose and understands legacy as well as anyone I know. He wants to turn his passion into something that others can better themselves with, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. He is an incredible role model in this community and someone I am proud to call my friend. I hope that SVN SZN grows in all the ways you want it to, Tre, and that you grow in wisdom and influence as you lead others powerfully.

(Tre had no idea I would be sharing this, nor did he ask me to. I wanted it to be a sincere sign of respect from one dreamer to another)

If you want to learn more about the classes or membership options for SZN SVN, find them on Instagram or Facebook.

Here are some images I took of Tre and some of his new company merchandise a couple of weeks ago, hope you all enjoy.

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Surrealism...and why I am the worst marketer I know.

For the handful of you who read this, I want to personally say thank you. Growing up I enjoyed the emotion of writing, but tried to paint pictures as they really were. Some things in life are moving and powerful and breathtaking, and some things are not that interesting. This clickbait, scandalous, “public figure” life is never one I want to have anything near. If something in my life is really exciting or interesting, I will paint it as such, if it is not, I will paint it plainly. To me, this part of my personality is very true and transparent. I find that overdramatic people have a hard time articulating things that are actually meaningful because they’ve already worn out meaningful words and phrases, spending them on nonsense.

My personality is very transparent. Core values define what and why I do things. One of my core values is to create things that awe my viewers. I would rather have no viewers than to share images I’ve created that I don’t feel create a sense of awe. I would rather die protecting a mole hill I care about than live freely in the vast space of a mountain that is insignificant to me. This makes me probably the worst self-promoter of all time. I struggle with this. So many experts have given me marketing advice that involves gushing about how cute things were and how happy people were, and this simply isn’t me. I’m a terrible actor. However, when the light hits the subject just right, or if there is any whimsical characteristics of photograph, I’m entertained with it intensely. Often times with my art, I spend in incredible amounts of time and brain activity making it perfect in my eyes before I ever share it with others. Yet sometimes, I lack of words necessary to convey what it is that makes me so happy about the image I made. This further drives home the idea that if I These blog posts are my attempt to be both more vocal about my art, and be myself in how I deliver that self-promotion.

These images I want to share here are before and afters of long edits that took 3-8 hours each to finish. Often I mixed around elements that I liked in them, then deleted said elements and went in a different direction before feeling satisfied with the final product. The techniques I have learned to do so are almost entirely learned from sources online. Many of which completed process steps in such a rapid pace that at times I felt I was listening to a foreign language. The angst of wanting to learn and often ending up with a piercing headache created intense joy in me when I first felt that my images were coming together in the way I had envisioned them.

The first image here is an image of Reese at a basketball court. I loved the open spaces of the scene above his head, and spent some time filling it with various night scenes. I love night images, and especially during the Missouri winter they are not something that most people are willing to volunteer for, so this was my way of creating what I saw in a big of a smug way because “night” was not necessary for a night styled image. The blacks in the image came together so well because he was wearing virtually all black and I enjoyed the simplicity of that coming together. The day I did this, I had learned a new technique of deleting pixels, so everything black in the image is actually not black, but rather “lacking pixels” entirely. This keeps an even flow among the black and some consistency. Later I went in and added some white elements, and they popped really nicely against the black, so I exaggerated them as much as I could. For someone wanting to make images like this, my advice is to browse. Spend lots of time viewing and searching for intrigue in images you find. Ask yourself what you enjoy and don’t about certain images. Ask yourself what things need. Be willing to fail. Failure in this is only a failure to try.

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My next image I want to share is an image I shot with Gabrielle in St. Peters, Missouri. I purposely took a lot of images of her doing unusual things with her hands, changing perspectives of how I photographed her in this spiraling concrete staircase, hoping in the back of my head that someday I could put it to creative use. Anytime I am dealing with images I want to photoshop, I must inspect and analyze the perspective used. This is why I do so much to try and have a myriad of different perspectives within a photoshoot. As I’ve grown older I’ve become more aware of what is happening within each photoshoot. That to say, I sometimes am in a flow of taking simple, nice pictures and sneak in these potential home-run images as I see them. This image begged for me to create something much bigger with it. The urban background behind not near the creative peak it could reach, so I added to it. To me, the greatest thing an artist can do is make whatever they see into a reality, regardless of what is put in front of them. Seeing that end goal, that big picture from the start is how people like Walt Disney created their own world to live in. Some of the most stunning scenes I ever saw never existed. Hope you enjoyed these two images and some context to why and how I did what I did with them!

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Lifestyle Photoshoot: The Chestee x Nicole Roggow x Remington Claire

Wanted to share a few images from a photoshoot I did the other day for The Chestee brand!

Chestee asked me to create some fun & unique lifestyle images featuring Nicole Capurso Raggow and Remington Claire wearing a few of their new products, so I chose a local Springfield, Missouri firehouse and Farmer's Park for locations! The shoot was fun and unique for me, being able to capture elite athletes in a casual and lighthearted fashion was very entertaining. Additional entertainment was provided by the always jovial Brenton Roggow -Nicole's husband who tagged along as well. Here are some of the images we were able to capture!