2018 retrospective

It’s time again to write about the year that’s passed, and let me tell you, there’s no better way to chronicle thoughts succinctly like writing out what you’d like, having it deleted by the tumblr mobile app, and having to start again.

A year ago I resolved to:

-make something photographically worthwhile for each month of 2018. This, I failed at, but it’s a good resolution to carry into 2019– and, for the record, I did make a lot of work.

-travel more. I don’t know if I explicitly achieved that in 2018, but the opportunities and things I invested in over this year did afford me the ability to save money. I traveled to two places I’ve never been before– a part of rural Pennsylvania, to see my friends get married in July, as well as San Francisco and Los Angeles, to see other friends get married in November– so I’m not discounting that.

-maintain a healthy work life balance. I failed at this, hardcore. While I’m glad 2019 is presenting itself with more opportunities to succeed at this, I’m more than a little sad at how bad I was at this. In April I took a job that I thought would give me more time to myself, and it ended up running my life. I feel like this is a common misconception and I feel like I’m not the only one to have been surprised like this.

That being said, my only expectation in this arena is to enjoy 2019 more than I enjoyed 2018, which is half substance and half attitude. I’m looking forward to what it has to offer.

But, first, I want to look back.

I took the above picture right before taking another picture of my mom last Thanksgiving. January was the first time I could process images from the end of 2017. I had forgotten how hellish a holiday season spent working retail/foodservice could be, and am way grateful I missed it this year (mostly). I found a respite at the end of the year and took this photograph below on January 1, 2018:

In 2018 I said goodbye to many things, including my long hair. I also processed these photos: my parents from June 2017, and the photo of the beach sand at Asbury Park from October 2017.

I love this picture of the baseball field, I do. It makes me think of an anglerfish. This was taken in the later stages of my working without properly metering. In 2018 I got a light meter (thank you to an anonymous benefactor) and a cable release, and used my tripod more than ever. 

The baseball field also serves as a holding place for a pretty sad point of my life. The photograph of the sand gives me a similar feeling. They are earmarks for a mood, a state of being.

A lot of January and February looked like the photo above. In early February I caught a bad case of the flu and spent a week in bed. It ended three days before my twenty-third birthday.

On my birthday, I travelled to Philly for less than 24 hours, drank beer, ate pizza, hung out with Rachel, and took some pandering 35mm photos. I had loosely resolved to take more 35mm pictures in 2018, and I achieved that almost wholly by accident.

I learned how expired film works and enjoyed a rainy, foggy couple of days.

The following weekend, I went home. A lot went down that weekend. I was worried I wouldn’t come home for a long time after that weekend. I took the below photographs while picking up dinner for my family, from Wheaton to Silver Spring, along Sligo Creek parkway. I then had a lot of wine.

Then the next morning I woke up, took these, and went back to New York.

March and April passed largely without consequence. Obvious milestones include cutting all my hair off and accepting a salaried, immersive position at the restaurant where I’d been working for the preceding year and a half. I took that job on less than it took me on, completely swept me up in the patterns of managing a store– scheduling, payroll, the whole nine yards. I learned a lot but was ultimately grateful to have left.

Before they offered me the job, I went home again. Are you picking up a pattern? I so, so rarely make work in New York. That will change this coming year.

I’m proud of the tree photograph (above). This is the tree right at my parents’ driveway. It was sort of an afterthought to take the picture but I’m glad I did. I want to do more with movement, wind, and particularly how those two interact with night as its own subject. I also want to encapsulate that creek that I grew up alongside more solidly than I have in the past.

And a nice one of Cait for posterity.

Right as they offered me the job I embarked on my own handcrafted spring break. I maintain that I’m glad I took this trip because it was one of the longest breaks I had, the whole time I was a manager. I haven’t been back to Richmond since; I hope to be back in 2019.

Above is the place where the tree I photographed for my thesis once stood. That tree was removed sometime in 2017, and I took this photograph of the new tree in April.

And shortly thereafter, I took my most recent trip to Philly– I’d like to go back there soon as well.

May, June, and July all shrugged into each other. I was working harder than I ever have before, for a cause I cared about less than anything I ever have. 2019 will hopefully have effectively none of that.

I went home briefly for Father’s Day in June and humbled myself with my mom’s ability to grow a garden that makes me homesick just thinking about it. I wondered why I was taking pictures of plants and shit in the garden, but the point, as is usually the case whenever I take a picture, was to have them to look back on. 

My dad is doing the best he’s done in ages. I’m proud of every stride he’s made in terms of self-care, and understanding in areas where he’s stalled. I feel a tug at my heart every time he sends me a letter and I can remember when his handwriting was barely legible, because of the seizures, because of the medication. I got him a stationery set for Christmas, and if he’s reading this, he’d better write me a dang letter. 

I felt extra grateful for my parents on this visit. I always do but this year was big for them. They renovated the basement, they cleared out a LOT of old shit. They are in the process of selling the old house I grew up in. They started seeing therapists individually and together and, while rocky, the path they are both traveling is one I’m proud of them for. The unbreathable DC humidity hung heavy in the air and set my backyard ablaze in warm summer colors, swaths of yellow and green that I yearn for.

The next month I came back home for my mom’s 65th birthday and to watch two close friends get married. I drove back through rural Pennsylvania, imagined myself my own Sally Mann, drove faster, breathed deep.

Right before this, my uncle Nick, who I’d never had a proper conversation with in my life (that I can recall, anyway), sent me an email. He asked my mom if he could ask me about film cameras, and instead he introduced himself and told me everything I’d missed– and apologized that I’d missed it. Nick and his wife Talena breed Great Danes in Upstate New York. We’ve been friends since.

And then a dearth of art and expression, as is the norm.

Right at the end of August Cait’s mom got us a hotel room in Atlantic City and we drove back through Cliffwood Beach. Caiti took this picture of me: 

…and I took this one of her right before/after:

I spent September the same way I spent most months this year: working, miserable. I was getting up at 5:30am regularly, I was thinking about “The Grey Funnel Line” in the shower and dragging myself to Dunkin’ Donuts every morning. When I quit my job in the fall and told the Dunkin’ cashier who had made my coffee every morning, she said, “you can’t leave, I love you.” I was not loving myself at this point. I was dragging, hard, and it showed.

Summer finally ended, gracelessly, and I travelled to Virginia again to get together with (almost) all of my family for my dad’s 75th birthday. I met a nephew I’d never met before (Nico), and visited with three other nephews, and the rest of my family, who I don’t see enough.

October staggered along as the slower months of this year did, without much to mention. At the end of the month I saw the (remaining) Beastie Boys at Kings Theatre, where they introduced and talked about the book that came out. I spent Halloween night handing out candy to kids for a few hours and then selling almost no ice cream for the rest of the night. I bought a Darth Vader mask for $10 at CVS, and when it had sat around the store long enough, one of my employees asked if she could take it home for her dog. I said yes, so long as she sent me a photo. (She did.)

November followed suit. I grew desperate, decided it was time to quit my job. I felt unable to get out of bed, more often than I’m proud to admit. In the midst of all this, Caiti and I had our first Thanksgiving away from family– she took this picture of me making stuffed shells:

The following week, I went on a magical trip to California.

I went to photograph the wedding of Dan and Erin, two brilliant creators who I’ve known for years. Erin runs The Overgrowth (linked above), a comprehensive creative and branding studio, for which Dan illustrates. I knew them both as poets, in another life, and still feel ridiculously touched to have them as friends.

The next day a family friend drove me down the coast, to the Sutro baths, and I felt floored by the sun, the sea, and especially the wind.

I then spent a sleepy day in LA with Justin, watching him play baseball, and the next morning, en route to the airport, I got a new job offer. This allowed me to quit the restaurant, start training immediately, and bring myself home for Christmas. I photographed more at my parents’ house, of course, and am currently preparing for my biggest trip of all, a solo excursion to the UK for eleven days.

Wild shit, if you ask me.

While I may not have kept with every single one of my resolutions in 2018, I did make some benchmark achievements: I have upwards of fifty images here, which is more than I had in 2017. I made blog posts and wrote about what was on my mind, in terms of my pictures, and in terms of my life. Even if I had to drag myself across state lines to do it, I made the work. In 2019 I’d like to figure out what it means, while also making more work, especially in more places I’ve never been. Tomorrow before I leave the country I’m going to hang a Stefan Marx drawing of an airplane on my wall and use it as my compass, with no other expectation for myself other than to make the work, and give it my all.

Thanks everyone for the constant support and encouragement. I can’t wait to show you more stuff in the new year.

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