Moments of Escape & Solace

Photography is about freezing a moment in time, creating a memory that you can share by showing others. There’s a lot of blanks to fill in, and I’m always happier to leave it that way. 1 Some of the answers can remain unsaid, others cannot be said.

About three years ago, I got to have some of my photos exhibited as part of a group project. 2

I was nervous when the exhibition night rolled around. I think I was actually shaking with anticipation. I hadn’t had my photos on display since high school, maybe nine years prior. It felt good to have my work up on a wall in a gallery for people to see. And we had sponsored drinks and snacks, so that made it a bit easier to pass the time. Turns out, only two friends showed up. 3

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It’s odd going back and seeing what I focused on.4 Looking at the pictures now, the set of them definitely reflect the lonely and isolated feeling I had at the time. The rest of 2014 would be a roller coaster as well, but that’s another story….


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We also had to write a didactic panel to go along with our work. This was the scariest part for me. I like to let my photos speak for themselves to the point that I won’t even give them titles if I can help it.


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This project was initially a foray into exploring the use of black and white photography in New York’s urban environment, but a funny thing happened on the way to the darkroom… Manhattan’s unrelenting hustle and bustle, brusqueness, and confinement led to exhaustion and a need to escape. I found myself searching for open, natural, and quiet locations; trying to find a small measure of peace and solace. Whether it was New York’s parks where one could almost (but not quite) leave the city behind, to the edge of Long Island on the beaches of Montauk, or far up in the Catskills in the rolling, foggy mountains, I needed to be away from everything in order to read, write, or relax. In Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino describes the concept of the city as “the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together.” These photographs are an attempt to illustrate respite from that inferno.

That was me in that moment, three years ago; it almost sounds like someone else, or at least it doesn’t sound like me now. No better or worse, just different. I think I was still coming to terms with everything I had gone through in the first year or two in New York. It was quite the tale of two cities, and this was the cap on the end of a particular phase.

  1. That’s the point of art, everyone can interpret it in it’s own way.

  2. Moments seems defunct now, which is too bad. I think I was a little advanced for their target audience, but it was a lot of fun going through it with a group, discussing our work, and having an assignment or goal every week or so to go out and work on.

  3. So heads-up if you miss out on something I do: it might take years to catch it again!

  4. Pun intended, ha!

Five Years


I moved to New York five years ago today. That wasn’t the plan at the time, but that’s when I drove up here. I didn’t know how long it would be for. Maybe a week or two and then I’d continue on to Pittsburgh. Maybe I’d be able to stay for a little while longer. I certainly didn’t see five years happening. It was 2012, after all, and the apocalypse was scheduled for December.

I had spent the past 12 or so years trying to get back to DC. It was my favorite location while growing up, which I had only learned after moving away. When I ended up back there, it wasn’t what I wanted anymore. So I was directionless. 2

All my life, I’d considered myself a city-person. Primarily growing up near DC and just assuming everything was like that. The hustle and bustle, the national museums and monuments, the center of attention, and everything else. Moving around constantly led to that also. I never identified myself by what age or what grade I was in, it was always by where I was living. I was in Georgia when we got Sugar. I had my First Communion in Alexandria. 9/11 happened when we were in Maryland. Five years here, five years there; that was always the longest time in any one place: five years.

New York was always too big, too crowded, too busy, too much. Somehow it held a semi-dangerous reputation in my mind, probably from movies or tv in the ’90s. When I was looking at colleges, New York was never close to landing on my list. It was mostly DC, Pittsburgh, Boston, with a few smaller cities thrown in for good measure, but not real consideration.

Sometime along the way, New York lost its dark, foreboding status in my mind. DC was the green light across the water that I couldn’t quite reach, but New York became the true beacon of hope that I could get to. And that’s all I had at the time: some distant sense of hope — a faint glimmer in the dark. And I was in a -DARK- place before making the journey. The drive north became my last ditch effort… just a Hail Mary throw towards three friends in the city. 3

Somehow it all worked out. Not instantly, not along any clear path. I walked miles per day around the city going to interviews I had lined up and stopping anywhere I could think of in-between. I camped out at the different library posts to get applications set-up and sent out.

Living in New York has crossed the entire spectrum of possibility. There’s been amazing days and horrible ones. Some of the worst days in my life where I barely lived through things I never thought would happen to me, all easily made up for by having a vast majority of the best days of my life. A friend and I joked that we were living in a sitcom and were trying to identify which episode by what we went through each day. Here’s the rooftop party episode. There’s the heartbreak episode. Here’s the random live musical episode imposed by the Powers That Be at the network.

Five years on, and moving here might’ve been the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. Everything I’ve been able to see and do. All the people I’ve met and new friends I’ve made and memories I’ve lived. I’m alive here here in New York and I wouldn’t change a thing I went through to get to this point. Here’s to five more.

  1. This is a living document that I’ll edit and update and expand. I wanted (or needed) to start my blog with a milestone and this seems as good as any.

  2. A large part of that was the devastated economy at the time and empty-handed job hunting. Another part was nostalgia that didn’t match up to the reality of returning there (You Can’t Go Home Again, as the saying goes); another part was that none of my friends were around.

  3. And it felt like, at the time, the last three friends I had anywhere.