David is a talent—one of the first photographers I discovered for myself, an inspiration to me in the beginning, when I was a teenager surfing the internet at dial-up, and still without a camera of my own. Back then as now, he was shooting the kind of pictures I wanted to shoot and working with the sort of subjects I found interesting and different. If you know it, his models reminded me of something out of XY Magazine.
I got to meet David back in 2012, on a visit to Seattle. We got coffee on Capitol Hill, got to know each other a bit, and chatted about work. He was friendly, encouraging, serious about beauty. We hoped to work together on something someday...
Four years later, David and I have now had the pleasure of collaborating three times. We shot together at the Ace Hotel in 2014 with Dillon, Dylan C, and Zach. And we took six models out to the Oregon Dunes Nat'l Recreation Area in Florence, OR last year to work on this series. The last time was Sunday.
If I'm being honest, Sunday was a bit of a whirlwind of emotions. It was Dillon's first time in front of the camera in over a year. The room we had at The Society was spartan, with only one small window. And we had all just gotten the news about the shooting in Orlando, FL. The latter I just tried to work through—ignoring my vibrating cell, eschewing the dozens of updates by news sources and pundits, and on social media. (I was suddenly very glad I'd left Facebook...)
Yet a word should be said about this now. As a human, I am both sad and angry and more deeply affected by this tragedy than I ever thought possible. This has truly blindsided me. My grief for the victims' families and friends, including two potential models who go to Pulse (one as an employee, the other as a patron), is only matched by the utter disgust I have for the dead subhuman bully capable of carrying out such atrocities. As a gay man, I am feeling paradoxically violated and resolved: old fears and anxieties, like checking my surroundings or planning the safest route or avoiding strangers on the sidewalk, are already creeping back into my consciousness even as I believe (with Lin Manuel Miranda and Salman Rushdie) that "Art is what fights tragedy" and "The enemy for the fanatic is pleasure." Pride feels infused with new, and once forgotten, meaning. And safe spaces seem more important to me than ever...
As an artist, Orlando brings home again the reality of time and safety. My artistic spaces need to be absolutely safe ones—sacred spaces where respect is the highest virtue—which makes me all the more grateful for Dillon, whose choice to return to modeling after a year-long absence felt like a confirmation, a coming home for both of us. Greater still, I feel that seeking beauty for my pictures, in my pictures, honors the narratives of queers and non-conformers to accomplish creating a visual world where toxic forms of masculinity are neither held up nor celebrated. Maybe such a project is ephemeral, but that only means such a project is suited to making photographs.
A GoFundMe page for the victims of the Orlando shooting, managed by Equality Florida, is located HERE. You can donate on behalf of the victims, their families and survivors, for medical costs, mental health costs, and additional support and services. I encourage it greatly!
I don't know. To a certain extent on Sunday, and the days that have followed, I've been unable to avoid these thoughts altogether.
However, one thing truly amazing happened on Sunday: David let me borrow his flash equipment. Which, given the lack of available light, was a lifesaver! It was my first time using a flash in almost a decade—and (I'll admit) my first time using an external flash and transmitter ever. I was so enthralled by the experience that I've decided to add a flash and transmitter to my gear kit. All my reasons, in the past, for rejecting them now seem nothing more than silliness and ego. Here's what I've chosen:
The Canon Speedlite 430EX III-RT Flash ($299)
The ST-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter ($247.99)
As many of you already know, buying gear can be a challenge for me—a $14/hr day job plus student loan debt have certainty seen to that—which is why I keep an Amazon Wishlist.
I'd be most grateful if you can give, or, knowing someone else who appreciates my work, can pass along the encouragement to support. (After supporting in Orlando...) Trying out the new gear was quite the joy! Even sharpening my focus enough to drown out the rest of the weekend's concerns for a few minutes.
I trust that you like the pictures included today—both David and Dillon were pleased. They demonstrate my first attempts with flash equipment. More than that, I think you'll agree that Dillon most definitely has not lost his touch...