Is it over?

2020 was a lot, and it turns out that it was also unfortunate timing for someone trying to find their photography spark again. In the Summer of 2014 I put my beloved camera, the original Fujifilm X100, up on a shelf after a memorial trip to Chicago for my brother who passed from brain cancer at 39 years old. 

For 5 years, I didn't touch that camera unless it was to dust and clean around it, or used it to take a picture of a new pet that found their way into our home. 

Chapter 1 - The End | My Favorite Moment

Life Between the Shadows

After a long mental battle, I refocused how I used photography and set off to start a photography project in 2020 to try to bring some closure for myself and a way to motivate me to pick up a camera and do something I love to do. I'm both happy and proud to say that I shot for the entirety of 2020, and that project is now finished. So, to spoil my final chapter of 2020 early, here's a few finished images from the project and a link to the full project, where you can read the backstory to my 5 year break; A quick write up about bipolar disorder, brain cancer and my return to photography.  Click on any of the images below or the title above to be taken to the finished project - Life Between the Shadows.

Chapter 2 - The Beginning | Finding Direction

New Start, New Gear

I shot just 2 times in late 2019 with that original X100, but I knew when I used it that I was back in a place where I wanted to shoot again, at the same time I felt limited and held back a bit with it's technology at this point. So, I started 2020 off with my dear X100 on a shelf (it is pretty) and picked up a Fujifilm X-T30, which I turned around and got an X-T3 instead. With an idea that zoom lenses and a variety of focal lengths would further boost my new motivation to shoot, I set off to start shooting. See TL;DR for my bullet point thoughts now that I GAS'd through several focal lengths:

TL;DR Year of Gear Verdict

  • Zoom lens - Not for me
  • Focal lengths tighter than Fuji's 23mm - Not for me
  • Shooting 23mm or wider on the street - That's for me
  • I did like pictures of my pets with the tighter focal lengths.
  • The XF 23mm f2 lives on my X-T3

Having put my photography creativity on the shelf for so long, I started out with a vague project idea but didn't have a lot of direction beyond that for it. I spent the first month or two bouncing between shooting landscapes around Northern Indiana, and shooting cityscapes and the sights downtown. I leaned heavily towards showcasing the city, as I didn't find landscape photography engaging enough for what I wanted to shoot. An endless amount of miles were spent mindlessly walking around and shooting anything and everything in downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana. But it paid off, 6 lenses used and 1000's of images of our city later and suddenly I had what amounts to a stock photography page for anything relating to downtown Fort Wayne, which led to many of those images being published with the great people at Fort Wayne Magazine including a 6 image spread in their January 2021 issue and commercial use for big local health insurance ads and in the Fort Wayne Visitors Guide. 

Chapter 3 | Black Lives Matter

By the time May rolled around, 2020 was in full meltdown mode. Since late March much of the world was forced into isolation as the Covid-19 pandemic shut down the country, people were scared, anxious and stressed out. Then a tragedy that happens all too often in our country reared its ugly head with the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man who was killed during an arrest as a police officer knelt down on Floyd's neck until he stopped breathing, all while 3 other officers stood around and watched it happen and prevented passers-by from intervening. This sparked outrage as civil unrest and protests began.

I was born and raised in Fort Wayne and had never experienced an event like the protests here before, and documenting a moment like this was a first for me. As the emotion of the huge crowd spilled out I had a hard time balancing taking in what was happening as a person and trying to capture what was going on around me with my camera. 

 I think choosing to leave my house that day to document what was going on changed the entire direction of my photography for the year. The raw emotion just oozes out of all the images when you're shooting an event that is fueled by anger, people are angry and tired of systemic racism and the police brutality that comes along with it. People should be pissed, and changes have to happen or this cycle will never end.

And, the cycle has to end. I consider this a favorite moment because I got to document a historical event with my photography, and I got to see a community of all races and nationalities come together to fight for the right cause. I hope I never get the chance to photograph a protest about this ever again. Click the images below to see the rest of my George Floyd protests photography in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Chapter 4 | Pit Bulls and a Calendar Girl

Pit Bulls, a love deeper than photography for me that always has my camera's focus. I've owned Pit Bulls as long as I've had a camera in my hand, they are amazingly resilient, athletic, powerful, sweet, beautiful animals. In my life we've lived with pit bull mixes, a pure - game bred American Pit Bull Terrier, my wife and I have fought at city council for them when Fort Wayne was trying to ban these beautiful animals. . . shame on you Fort Wayne, don't let it happen again. That pure APBT we had was my red boy named Kadin, we lost him to bone cancer at 12 years old. Kadin came around right when I really decided to start taking photography more seriously, and with his help I taught myself all the technicalities of photography that I know to this date. Without him and that original X100 there's no way I would have made strides in photography.

Shortly after we lost Kadin, the Fort Wayne Pit Bull Coalition, a local pit bull rescue and advocacy group, had a 2 year old female ready for adoption, she wasn't with them more than a day or two before she found us in 2018. They also put on an event to raise funds every year for the dogs called Pits in the Park, which is only the best thing ever for someone that not only likes to take pictures, but take pictures of Pit Bulls.

One of the things that is done for this event every year is a calendar that they put together with images of adopted and adoptable dogs that they have rescued, all taken by the highly talented photographer, Tara Denny. There were some time constraints for her to get all of the dogs photographed for this years calendar, and I had been spamming the FWPBC Facebook Group page where people share pictures of the dogs they adopted. With the time constraints they had to get the calendar done for 2020, they reached out to me to help photograph a couple of the dogs for the calendar and then including my own beautiful bully Blossom in the calendar girl.

I'm forever grateful to FWPBC for holding on to Blossom until she found us, and I am honored to be able to help these dogs in any way that I can for them. Being able to use my photography to help these dogs in any way is a favorite moment, and the header image for this chapter sums up another favorite moment of mine in 2020, and among my favorite images of 2020; A person that loves to help these dogs helping these dogs, Jessica Phillips works with FWPBC and she was helping get the calendar wrapped up, I captured this candid moment with her and one of the dogs we were shooting for the calendar. 

Chapter 5 | Hit the Streets - The Final Chapter of 2020

Remember back to Chapter 2? Probably not, but shooting in the city every day drew me more to street photography, and that is where my motivation skyrocketed. You'd think 2020 would be a weird time to try your hand at street photography, during a time where people are locked down and in general just not going out. But, it made me quickly adjust to how I would need to approach street photography in Fort Wayne. You see, Fort Wayne isn't a huge, sprawling city with a bunch of people always out walking around like you'd find in big cities like Chicago or New York. Fort Wayne is a medium sized city, and the downtown area where any regular action would happen is restricted to just a few blocks, and the city is deserted on weekend mornings and after the sun goes down pretty much any time. A run and gun style of street photography would be very tough here, at least for the majority of what I like to shoot. I prefer to find a scene I like in the city and compose for the scene and just wait for someone to enter or interact with the scene, it's more like fishing, and it's how I carried out a large majority of the images for my Life Between the Shadows project. The bigger lesson I learned for my street photography is just making my own luck, luck is only found if you look for it . . . you have to be out there shooting, and that's when you capture those random moments, images with some more juxtaposition or humor or just a guy with a message for people during terrible times. 

While starting street photography in 2020 was a bit unconventional, it did bring the chance to photograph life in Fort Wayne during a pandemic . . . another historical thing I had the opportunity to document with my camera. Watching how people interacted and changed throughout 2020, a new normal as people masked up, a new look as you can see the concern and confusion in the eyes of these masked up people. I got to capture people just making the best of it and trying to forget about the chaos around them, at least for that moment. I captured an isolation in my city that I don't like to see, despite my own comfortableness with isolation.

So 2020 was a lot, it was a lot for the world but it did a lot for my photography which in turn did a lot for me. Coming back from a 5 year break and I was able to use photography to think differently and complete a personal project, I got to see my images published in magazines and used in large ads, I got to document a historical protest, use my photography to help a cause I love, and I found street photography allowing me to document a historical period in my city. 

If you made it this far, I'm  forever grateful that you would take the time to read this. Below you'll find links to my Life Between the Shadows project, the Justice for George Floyd protest, and my favorite images of 2020.

Life Between the Shadows
A project I completed motivated by my brother. A quick story about stepping away from photography, Bipolar Disorder, brain cancer, and hip hop music.
Justice for George Floyd Protest
Images documenting a day of the George Floyd protests in Fort Wayne, Indiana
My Top 12 of 2020
My top 12 images from 2020 with a quick description and exif data about the images.

“Since I’m inarticulate, I express myself with images.” -Helen Levitt