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On December 30th, I began writing some kind of reflection post for 2014. I found myself thinking of all the uncertainty that loomed at the beginning of the year, both the dread and excitement of the unknown that lay before me. But I felt so uninspired to write that kind of post. I grow weary of looking behind at what has been and even more, I am tired of discussing it. I know the future is only an illusion and to discuss the future is a dangerous thing; you trick yourself into believing you've already done something that you haven't. Future projects, future plans: once you put those thoughts into spoken words, you're suddenly patting yourself on the back for simply thinking of what you could do. 

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But what did happen in 2014? A lot. Three-hundred and sixty five days of chaos and change, and it's been everything I needed, even when I didn't want it. In January at this time a year ago, I was still living in California, with a blank slate before me and not a single plan. By February, I was crashing on the floor of a friend's place in Chicago, trying to figure out my next move and the pieces have continued to fall into place to leave me exactly where I am today. As an artist, my attitude developed and matured to leave me entering 2015 with a healthier perspective and balance. I let go of the feeling that I must be constantly creating as well as the guilt that coincides when nothing of value manifests. I focused on pouring myself into outlets that felt more natural in the moment, such as writing. I spent a great deal of time reflecting on the work of the past three years and contemplating the best way to compile and share that work. 

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For the moment I gave myself to look back at what the year was, I tried to locate the lesson of it all and what I saw staring back at me was this importance of the present moment in my own life and what the prominence of my role is in my own life. I think we all have seasons that upon reflection, weren't really ours. We showed up, we witnessed, we even participated, but we weren't leading. We handed that power to another and we became minor characters in our own lives. These aren't necessarily bad times, in fact they can be cloaked in roses, but when that season ends and you try to regain control or grasp what actually happened, it is utter chaos. It's like waking up one morning covered in cactus spines—it was for me anyway. I spent a lot of the year pulling them all out and trying to remember exactly when it was that I jumped into the brush. 

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But now it's 2015. There's certainly a spine or two lingering that I have yet to extract but they've become tolerable. And anyway, my heart is full. At this moment, I'm excited for the possibilities of the coming year. There are a lot of things on deck that I hope come to fruition. Even if they don't, I'm not sweating it because I know now what is in my hands and what pieces are dependent on others. The clarity of roles alone makes the bigger picture so much more promising and I know, regardless, that the only thing that really matters is what I am doing today. 

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neighborhoods: avondale

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Patrick and I followed Albany Park with a visit to Avondale, also on Chicago's northwest side. The neighborhood has traditionally had a high Polish population though the 80's brought an influx of Hispanics to the area. In recent years, Avondale has begun to feel the effects of gentrification though still maintains a hold on a distinct "Eastern Europe meets Latin America" culture.

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Patrick's contributions can be found here.

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This is an ongoing project; Albany Park, Pilsen, & Humboldt Park can be found below. Chinatown will be the next stop on our agenda.

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I once had a six hour train stopover in Albuquerque. A man from Florida, Sal, that I met on the train wanted to take me to see his silver and turquoise dealer. Sal had a lot to say. He told me he was in The Regents, the doo-wop group that sang "Barbara Ann", long before the Beach Boys. He had a business on the boardwalk in New Jersey that was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. He traveled a lot between Florida and California in the winter, but back to New York in the summer. Pulling out a small notepad and pen from his shirt pocket, he scribbled down his number and offered me a place to stay if I ever made it to Miami.

2013

It's been a weird year. Great, but weird. I haven't been so great at keeping the blog updated (new year's resolution, maybe?), but a lot has happened. It may have been the most adventurous year to date, which makes me eager to see what's in store for the 2014.  I know you're supposed to write an end of the year post before the end of the year, but I'd rather think of this as a beginning of the year post instead. Here's a look at some of my favorite moments from 2013 and some hopes for 2014.  .

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1. January ended up being a very productive and fruitful time for me, but the first favorite memory of the year, was the February day I spent a Pilsen cathedral with The Giving Tree Band during a shoot for this video. The setting was amazingly beautiful and the music was haunting. I'll forever treasure that memory. This was also the day that my beloved FT-b bit the dust. The shutter jammed and after having a friend take it apart, it was decidedly dead of old age and irreparable.

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2.  The opportunity to go to and shoot SXSW last April was by far one of the year's best experiences. I have a lot of love for Texas and to be able to spend a week footing around Austin, listening to some of the best music in the country with camera in hand.... well, what gets better than that? I had another FT-b that I used during this week, which ended up having it's own mechanical issues and though it functioned, I learned that it's not reliable enough to keep in the rotation. I have almost a dozen other 35mm cameras but the FT-b is my favorite model so it was disappointing to so suddenly have two dysfunctional Canons in my possession. Luckily, a friend had a spare that he was willing to part with, so I wasn't without one for long.  (More SXSW photos here)

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3. What I didn't know in April was that just a few short months later, I'd be taking photos at four midwest stops for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. About three years ago, I spontaneously had decided to buy a ticket to see the headlining ESMZ at the Chicago Bluegrass and Blues Festival and because of that decision, my entire life changed, so having this opportunity in June and July was extremely meaningful for me. (More Edward Sharpe photos here & here)

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4. Carolina Chocolate Drops at ROMP 2013. Though I didn't have a proper photo pass, I was able to sweet-talk my way into the photo pit during the headlining CCD set at ROMP in Owensboro, Kentucky this past summer.  Best performance I have ever witnessed and their lively on stage demeanor was a blast to capture on film.

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5. Summer in the city... I decided to give up the apartment I had resided in for the past five years to spend some time with family in California. With the countdown on, I made it a point to take in as much of the city and all that I loved of it before my time was up. This was certainly a rekindled love affair and left me wandering the streets in exploration shooting everything in sight just in the good ole days, when I first arrived. 

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6.  It's probably no secret that I love everything about the outdoors. So when I was given the opportunity to tag along with the Giving Tree Band to document their time at a recording studio on a remote island in the north Wisconsin woods, only accessible by boat, I made sure to free up my schedule. Not only did I feel as though I was able to truly capture the experience as it unfolded and in the way I had envisioned, the environment could not have been more ideal.  (More recording photos here)

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7.  Remember when I mentioned that I couldn't have imagined the Edward Sharpe opportunity coming along? Well, I couldn't have imagined in July that by October, I would be in LA shooting the first Edward Sharpe Big Top Festival. It was an amazing, vivid, rich experience. The festival was very carefully cultivated and the entire environment mirrored what one would imagine an old time roadside circus would entail. Having the opportunity to photograph this was something I certainly feel was once in a lifetime and something I will never forget. (Big Top photos here)

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8. Two weeks after the magic of the Big Top, I boarded a plane for Hawaii. What can be said of Hawaii? Nothing can quite capture its mystical qualities nor the terrifyingly and beautiful realization of its isolation. I've never experienced anything like it. I had a camera in hand constantly, but felt as though not a single image could quite capture the experience--the mountain sides that seemed so majestic and prehistoric in the fog appeared as simple foothills on a gray day in my photographs. I walked away with cultural images that I loved but scenic scenes that could have used some work. Developing landscapes and intimate documentation of the places I get the opportunity to visit is certainly a goal for 2014. (A few more Hawaii photos here)

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I've got a lot planned for 2014, but things almost never go as planned. I'm certain that there are adventures ahead yet, though, and as always, my camera will be in tow. I do hope to be more consistent about updating the blog here, to more thoroughly trust my instinct, to only take advice that is relevant, and to be more firm in my own vision.

 

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Happy New Year.

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