Awakening, Connection and Domination ~ Day 3

What!! It’s over already??

Even the posts on the streets are eclectic in Portland.

The third day of World Domination was a pinnacle day for me. After wonderful conversations with new friends and a little Bollywood rhythm, something shifted for me. I believe I finally pushed the trepidation and the uncertainty aside and began to look at both this conference- and quite possibly my life’s work- from the inside out. Sounds odd, but for a person whose entire passion in life is based on observation- looking from the outside in is just my natural tendency.

It’s how I think. This outsiders perspective is how I travel through the world. There are moments of connection and touching the Source- from the inside, but they are not always a conscious decision. Once I’ve traveled deep within a story, then I am looking from the inside out- but in my daily life, I just don’t work that way. This tendency just always seemed natural to me and it has always stood as a natural barrier between me and the world.

This barrier of the outsider became my protection from a world that, at times, has been rather brutal and unforgiving. And even in those moments where this world has been beautiful and awe-inspiring, I still kept that barrier of protection erect out of the fear that this beauty was not mine to enjoy or that if I reveled too much in the essence of such joy- it might be forcibly ripped from my world- before I was ready to release it. I get it, the whole Zen suffering and releasing attachment perspective, but just because I get it doesn’t mean I always embody it.

And Sunday morning, the video that replaced the absence of speaker, Neil Pasricha, just brought all this shit to the surface. The emotions just surged- to the point where I had to go outside and hug a tree to ground myself. (A skill recently showed to me by a dear friend- thanks!) And in that moment, as I sat leaning against a tree wandering if maybe I should have seen a therapist so many years ago amidst all my turmoil, a strong voice just made this one statement, so clear and true that I thought maybe the tree was whispering in my ear.

This sadness is not yours.

Well, hell, that kinda makes sense. And, I stood up, thanked the lovely tree and then went back to dominate the world. And from that point forward, the entire day was this beautiful flowing, organic event and I was open to it all. I was finally looking at something from the inside out- recognizing my discomfort and owning its source.

Trees do have an amazing energy and wisdom, if we can take a moment and listen.

And I guess that’s all I could ever ask for in a “business conference”.  Thanks so much, Chris, for creating such an environment where self-exploration and self-realization could thrive amongst a community who might just be meeting for the first time.

And here’s the last of the documentary photo images and a few notes from the day’s journal. Enjoy and until next year- go step into the Flow and revel in the beauty of where it takes you.

Let the Day begin!

My 5 things of beauty that I noticed this weekend:

A couple sitting the park at sunset

The beagle at the coffee shop with the couple enjoying a Sunday morning coffee and the newspaper

The Third Place I found on Friday morning

Amazing trees in the park

Walking through the city at night

The Mondo Beyondo ladies brought the house to their feet! And have me thinking of a tatoo for the first time in my life.

My Mondo Beyondo Words

Duality & Flow

John Unger has a story- or a thousand!

A little fresh air and snack during the day of domination.

A happy surprise at the art museum! Some of my favorite photographers from the 20th century are hanging out here- Ansel Adams, Lewis Hine, Bresson and Edward Weston. Happy.

The man behind this gathering of dominators.

Seriously, is he fueled on caffeine, flow or the energy of World Domination?

The Portland Art Museum and the headquarters for this summit.

And why wouldn't a green top hat be a fabulous means of both expression and branding? Truly brilliant, Ms. Dagmar!

And now we unwind. The after party is in full swing!

The best thing about the one hour wait for a chicken taco- meeting some amazing folks in line. Though, we scattered like starving carnivores as soon as our food came.

Mmmm...food carts.

The lovely Farnoosh and magnificent Marla work diligently to photograph their Mondo Beyondo words in the limiting light of the party.

Catching a little fresh air with Matt and another Crystal.

One seriously hard-working crew of folks. Inspiring!

And now...we dance.

I believe this drink special livened the evening up a bit!

What better way to close out World Domination than with a congo line? Till next year, peeps!

Farewell, dear Dominators!! May our paths cross again soon. And until then- go enter your flow and build something inspiring! Ciao!

ps- you can click on the images to download them for free and use them as you wish. The landscapes and city shots are for sale, if you would like to decorate your dwellings.

How Death Can Force Us to Face Our Truths

When mortality makes a presence in our lives- be it from someone close to us or through someone we merely shared a few moments with- it brings forth some profound truths we may be ignoring.

A Maosit rebel takes a moment to pose for the camera in a remote village in the mountains of Nepal. Image by Crystal Street 2006

When faced with mortality at a young age- some tend to embrace a fearless “in the moment” perspective on life. We realize that the brevity of life is real and that “tomorrow is guaranteed to no one”. Such a truth weighs on every major decision and guides us through our daily lives.

We are comforted by the fact that if tomorrow never came, we’d have no regrets. Nothing was left undone, no joy was left to chance, no love was left untested and no moment was wasted in vein.

Or at least that’s the core truth that death can give us. It can bring these little beliefs to light and remind us that we should harbor them as beacons as we travel through this world- and eventually into the next.

And sometimes the death of a distant acquaintance can have a startling effect. It hits us deeper then the death of a distant relative, even though the time spent with this acquaintance was merely a few hours and a brief conversation and the distant relative has a blood connection to us. When someone leads a life dedicated to an unwavering truth- and then dies in pursuit of this truth- it makes us pause and reflect. If this person, creating such intense art in places others could never dare to visit, died pursuing his truth- why am I still dragging my feet on following my own truth?

When a person is killed pursuing something bigger than themselves- and leaves behind a massive legacy that supports his truth- something in us shifts. We stop. We take notice. We listen. And we look within to see how far off we are from pursuing our own truth- at any cost.

And we know the world is a little less beautiful because this person has left us.

I’m speaking here of the death of photojournalist Chris Hondros, who was killed this week along with documentary film maker and photojournalist Tim Hetherington. I met Chris one evening many years ago through a function at UNC and several of us shared beers and a few games of darts later that evening. He presented his award-winning work that evening to a group of photojournalists and I was moved by the depth of such work. He spoke of the how and the why behind his work. I don’t remember the conversations that evening- we photographers tend to just chat about gear, swap assignment stories or just play bar games- but I remember enjoying the night.

Even though I didn’t know him, such powerful and intense work leaves you with an impression of the person. I could pick up the paper, see his photo of some war-torn country and think “that’s an amazing-and heart breaking image, Chris”. I feel connected to the creator of the work, even if there is no real personal connection.

And that’s how a powerful artist- who holds his truth close to his heart- moves people. That’s why a photojournalist can place his or her life on the line and stand for something larger then themselves. Their art speaks for them. Their passion is seen in their images. No language is necessary and no words could do the pain and sorrow justice. Chris, and the photojournalists who do this work, take you into the intense moments of humanity.

Photojournalists place a human face on the abstract concepts of war and conflict so we can not sit in our comfortable homes and think that bombing other people is justified.

They risk everything to show you what they feel is wrong with our world. They risk everything to show you what they feel is right in our world.

Photojournalists risk everything to show you the truths of humanity.


I’ve compartmentalized my life in the past several years. I’ve embraced commercial multimedia production to try and fund documentary projects- and have had minimal success. I’ve built an amazing platform on this blog that started as a travel journal and has evolved into a social commentary of what I find when I travel through the world. I’ve become a writer. And lately, I’ve felt a pull back to my roots. I’m feeling the photojournalist emerging and wanting to journey back into the world and document my truth. Though my training is in photojournalism and I have an amazing community of fellow photojournalists (we’re a small community, but passionate) I’ve always considered myself a documentary photographer. And, by definition, I am.

But I’ve always separated the work that pays the bills from my true passion work- my photography. And Chris’ death is causing me to look inward with some intense scrutiny. And the lack of alignment in these two departments seems to be my biggest hurtle and has formed a mental wall between pursuing my passion and supporting myself.

I do believe the time has come to embrace my truth completely. The time has come to pull the documentary photographer out of the shadows and place her in the light. She’s been a little timid- filled with fear and what ifs- but the time has come to truly put her to work- with structure, support, focus and Flow.

Now is the time to step to the Edge where all the fear and discomfort dwell and ride the Flow towards something larger than myself.

For, as I learned at a young age, the brevity of life is real. And as I was reminded of this week, our truths are what define us and our legacy reflects the impact we have on the lives we touch as glide through the world.

Democracy Now produced a wonderful segment on the two fallen photojournalists this week. Take a moment to watch this video and learn more about their work, their legacy and the beauty that was silenced this week. The video below is from GritTV and is a wonderful interview with Tim’s roommate, another amazing photojournalist, and truly speaks to the thought process and awareness necessary to do the type of work they embrace.


More GRITtv

Someone, Somewhere Thinks Your Journey is Beautiful

As we travel through our lives, we sometimes come to a massive fork in our path. Sometimes the path splits do to forces beyond our control. Other times, we take a dramatic turn because we want to.

Because we need to.

Taking in the sunset at The Park in Cairo, Egypt. Photo by me.

We take the drastic turn because we fear where our safe, predictable path may take us. Sometimes we hit the brakes, yank the steering wheel to one side and hold on tight as the wheels tip into the air and fight to touch the ground again.

In those moments, we feel alive! Our hearts race, our vision is clear and our being is at peace- in the midst of the chaos. Deep down, that inner voice, that inner-child, knows we’ve made the right decision. We feel it, in the depths of our being, that connection to a source larger than us. We understand that this radical shift will take us closer to that source- yet we can’t articulate what we’ll find on our journey.

And if someone is looking in from the outside, they may see our radical shift as just that. Radical. Without grounds, without purpose- radical for the sake of being radical.

Our friends and loved ones may not understand our inability to justify ourselves in a way they can comprehend. They may doubt our choices. They may judge our decisions. They may question our sanity.

At this point, we are speaking a foreign language. Our loved ones simply do not have the frame of reference to understand us. We’re speaking gibberish and it scares them.

Hopefully, if we’re lucky, they will understand that this need for change, this need to evolve, this need to touch something greater than ourselves is just who we are. It’s the path we’ve chosen- the journey we must undertake. If we are lucky, our loved ones will step back and just accept that we must travel this path, with all its vines and vistas, and they will not try to understand the how or the why. They will just accept what is.

If we’re unlucky, our loved ones will judge, they will protest and they will try to crush our plans and dreams. (I’m not speaking from personal experience here- I’m speaking from observations. My family may object or question at times, but they understand and accept- eventually) What breaks my heart is to meet a person who was in the process of yanking the steering wheel off-course yet kept on the safe track because someone questioned his dreams. Someone shot down the possibilities that he was about to embody. Someone shattered the path we was about to travel because of jealousy, fear or ignorance.

And he let them.

Do we have to justify our radical shifts? Do we have good retorts when someone mocks our decisions?

I had coffee with a friend recently and mentioned that I was going carless once I left the beach and he laughed. He said, “It’s like that phase, in the 80s, when everyone thought it was cool to be gay.” I just kinda looked at him. I didn’t know what to say. We were walking away and he said it with a laugh and that’s just the way my friend is, he’s a good guy and open minded (remember, I’m in South Carolina right now). I just shook my head and rolled my eyes at him. The comment stuck in my head though, I didn’t have a good response. My reasoning is beyond his comprehension. And I don’t know if it’s worth having the conversation.

I feel as though I have two worlds sometimes. I have my “virtual world” where I connect with real people who are on the same page as me- in thoughts, actions and lifestyle- and I have my “real world” where I interact with people from all walks of life, and only a handful of them actually understand me. When I mention things like, “gas at $5 a gallon soon, can’t wait to ditch my vehicle and walk everywhere” or “yea, I’m gonna go off-grid soon because I think we’re in for a rude awakening as a society and I want to be self-sustaining” people look at me like I’m on crack.

It would actually be less shocking if I took out a crack pipe and lit up in front of them.

I get it, I’m on the East Coast and people don’t think this way. Most people in the East (most- not all) think that the lights will always be on and the gas their SUV guzzles comes from a magic fairy in the sky. (Or the don’t mind bombing the hell out of some other country to keep their car running) Rarely do they stop to consider that the whole circus might come crashing down. Or that their consumption habits might want to be curtailed if they’d like their grandchildren a chance at a livable future.

I’m hoping in the coming year or so to merge my virtual and my real lives. And I’m doing this by making radical lifestyle shifts and surrounding myself with people who don’t think I should be committed for purging most of my belongings and walking to the market.

And hopefully, you also have the core people close to you who will allow you to take a radical turn and embrace you as your journey unfolds. Hopefully you’ve found your balance and touched that inner space with the loving support of people who get you. While they may not be traveling the same path, or even understand why you are walking that way, they will embrace that this journey is your life.

And if not, find the community that will help you turn that steering wheel. They exist. Somewhere, a community exists that understands your motivations and the journey you have chosen. They understand because they made the same choices- for the same reasons.

Somewhere, someone is waiting to connect with your journey. Somewhere, that person is waiting to celebrate all that you are and all that you will become. Somewhere, there is a person who doesn’t think your radical journey is insane.

Someone, somewhere thinks your journey is beautiful.

If Someone Held a Gun to Your Head, What Would You Choose?

You’re staring down the barrel of a gun.

The hammer is cocked and a finger’s on the trigger.

The potential grim-reaper has one demand.

One simple choice stands between you and the bullet ready to careen out of that gun and end your life as you know it.

Author John Kitchens poses for his promotional portraits- intense!

The gun man says this…

“Pick one absolute, one passion, one activity, one pursuit, one purpose.  That’s it.  No others.  Only one thing and do it everyday, with all your remaining life, all your creative ability.  Do that one thing to the fullest everyday.  And nothing else.

Or I end it right here.

But there’s a catch, you have to do this one thing to the best of your ability with all the talent and logic your mind can muster- and only your mind- to the irreverence of everyone else in your life.  You can think of no one else’s opinion of your work, you can embrace no one else’s vision of your life, you can stand by no one else’s decisions.

Only your own.

From this day forward, you must embody your absolute and you must shed everything else.  And you can live for no one else’s vision or opinion of what your life should or could be.

Or I shoot.”

Could you decide?

Could you- with the reality of your decision only inches from your face, look at all that you do and all that you think is possible with all the ideas and creative endeavors you embrace- and pick one.  Only one.  And do that one thing, that one absolute to its highest potential?  Without waiver, without deviance from your path, without outside influence on your work?

What would you choose?  What would you do?  What would you discard?

I’ve had several conversations with my local barista revolving around modernity and the effect this virtual world is having upon the way people interact and communicate.  And today, as we were talking about her potential Mac purchase and my tutoring her to bring her up to speed on the ways of the Mac, I repeated a statement I often make when people are impressed by all the computer knowledge I’ve gained over the years.

“You could take it all away, all of it, give me a darkroom, some film and my chemicals and I ‘d and I be in bliss”

And I mean it.  While I love writing for this blog and the new world it has opened up for me, I would gladly place it all on a shelf, take out my film camera and some black and white film,  pull out my negatives, fill up my trays with stop bath and fixer (darkroom chemicals) and go to my happy place.

You wouldn’t even need to put a gun to my head, you’d just have to slide some food under the darkroom door every few hours and be sure I enter the light of day every so often.

I continually come back to this point throughout the entire duration of my career as a photographer.  I went digital because my clients demanded it.  I produce multimedia because people are paying me to do it.  I shoot weddings, portraits and write online articles because it puts food on my table and keeps a roof over my head.

But I would gladly give it all back if I could return to my roots- and still make a living.

I would gladly return to the days of film. I’m heavily debating it at this moment.  I’m trying to figure out if I can stand in front of that gun and just do one thing.  And can I still support myself in the process- can I swim against the current, do it my way and not starve to death?

I miss the days of film and the darkroom.  The days of waiting with child-like excitement, for days on end, for my negatives to be developed just so I could see if the actual vision in my head rivals what I captured on film.

And in some instances, I opted not to develop the film because I liked the vision of the image in my brain so much that any actual representation of the image in real life would be disappointing.

That’s fucking crazy.  But I’ve done it.

There’s a fabulous scene in Vicky, Christina, Barcelona, where Javier Bardem is explaining about the beauty of his father’s poetry but that he never published any of his work, nor translated it into English, in fact, he speaks no English because of his art.

“He’s a poet, and he doesn’t feel that another language should pollute his words.”

When asked about his poetry and why he doesn’t publish, Javier answers with this, “He hates the world. And that’s his way at getting back at them, to create beautiful works and deny them to the public.

[He’s so angry] because after thousands of years, they still have not learned to love.”

That, to me, is the sign of true passion, to an extreme.  That is a man, who, were a gun pointed at his head, would choose one thing- instantly.  And further more, if a gun were pointed at his head asking him to share his work or water-down the vast significance his work held based on someone else’s judgment, he would tell the reaper to pull the trigger.  Or do it himself.

He would choose death before he compromised his art.  His passion.  His purpose.  That’s intense.  That’s real.  That’s the type of absolute drive we should all hope for when we embrace our passion.

Would you go so far to defend your purpose?  Would you hold your work close to your soul and let no unworthy person see the fruits of your passion?

Would you choose death over the compromise of your one purpose in life?  Do we even speak of such extreme passion in today’s world?

Have we lost the true devotion to a craft, to a purpose, to a drive that we would choose a slow meaningless life devoid of passion, intensity or risk over the brief opportunity to embrace our purpose, to pursue our calling?

Would we choose the bullet, rather than take the risk and fail at striving to embody our purpose– our absolute?

Would we have the strength and the courage to deny the world our art if that world was unable, unworthy or unwilling to embrace the brilliance of its purpose?

What would your choice be if the gun was in your face?  Is it not already?

 

Damn, the West is Beautiful!

Why has this blog been so quiet lately, you ask?

Well, I’ve stumbled onto a little writer’s blog. It happens, what can I say. Due, in part, to my abrupt change in location in November. Disruption- while I am a fan of change- can take a toll on the creative muses that live in my brain and help me create my work. So can the constant changing of living situations.

But more on that later.

I’ve decided to just show you what I’ve been up to rather then tell you. A change in direction, I know, but at least it’s visually stimulating.

What can I say, this is where I live. Or about 40 minutes down the road from where I live. Hard to leave such an amazing place, I admit it.

Yet, this is where I was heading. So, who can argue with this beauty as well. The deserts of Arizona are not a bad trade-off to the peaks of the Rockies. Assuming one had to choose.

And yes, I must include Little Red and the Happy Hound Dog in as many photos as possible, especially when the backdrop is so damn gorgeous. Makes Little Red look like quite the bad ass!

Driving down through the Rockies, close to Salida on route 285. I have to admit, I felt a profound sadness when I reached the last town on the Colorado/New Mexico border and my Rockies were far off in the distance. It’s possible that this nomad has truly found her home. Yea, I’m the kind of person who has to leave what they have in order to know that want it. Tortured, eh?

After a long day of driving and an extensive hike, Ladybug commandeered her new friend Waylon’s very large doggie bed. Quite the gentleman, he allowed her to be the queen of the doggie bed before we headed on down the road to southern Arizona.

“Uh, I’m not quite sure what those needles and prickly things are, but they keep getting stuck in my paws. And didn’t I see a sign for rattlesnakes and scorpions over there? You really think this is better than that nice fluffy white stuff we just left, mom?” Yea, if my dog had a thought bubble, that’s what it would say. But at least that’s Sedona in the background and she got some good Vortex Vibes while she took care of her roadside business- or I like to think she did.

Yea, that’s beautiful. Enough said.

“I like to watch all those clouds go by. I don’t think we’re in blizzard country anymore, my hair is flying off at an alarming rate. I can smell rabbits out there, I wonder if I can have some for dinner. Look mom, no more gas, damn my furry little ass was a little stinky at 10,500 feet. Think they’ll have hiking trails and howling wolves in our new location?” More Ladybug thought bubbles. She likes to ride with her nose resting on the window sill. Little does she know she’s about to land in the warm desert to live in an RV park with some old timers for a few months. I think they’ll like her, she’s likes to lay around and listen to stories- which is a prerequisite for living in the park.

I think Arizona may have the best rest stops in the country.

And what photo essay of a westward drive would be complete without the sunset?

Amost there...just a few more mountains and some cacti.