Madness That is Bliss

The paragraph below is what I wrote after reading the responses to the “Faith & Creativity” stories that I asked you to share with me. Please keep them coming. What follows is a stream of conscious writing: My apologies to whomever reads this. Sometimes you just have to.....

When I am happy I do not create. When I am blue, spirits haunt me. I need a tank of fuel to create. Fueled by spirits of the bottle, madness of the psyche, motivation of my heartbeat. I sit next to the crazy girl in the bar just to listen to her talk, “Set fire to the world, envelope please, another scotch & soda barkeep” she says. I love every breath she takes. Just listen to her. It's like jazz. I steal every idea she spews. She looks at me and says “I hate people." Next she asks me the same damn thing, “Do you hate people?” No, I just like like it when they don’t ask too much of me. I am not a joiner or a loner, just a seeker of the divine. Maybe I am the divine. I think I could have been a prophet if I would have just listened more to the voices, but I didn't. The voices, the ones that speak between levels of consciousness. I drift awake, drift asleep, they speak, they whisper, they thank me for my hospitality. We need the room, you provided the space. They thank me for the fuel that I provide. They ask for another, I pour a drink, down it, then another.

Recognizing those crazy moments of madness, that is bliss. That is what pure consciousness must feel like.


Faith & Creativity ~ Share Your Story

Share your story with me.

I would like to hear about how your faith has shaped, formed, moved and inspired your creative practice. Or how your creative practice has opened up the world of faith, spirit and connection with the Divine in your life.

Start off by e-mailing me at jecraig@mac.com after that we can Skype or have a phone call.

Why do I ask? Looking to find people who I can connect with, write about and hopefully photograph their stories to help others along their own journey.

Please pass this post along.


100 Straight Miles

I drove 100 straight miles today on the Ohio turnpike. 100 straight miles, no turns, no hills or no valleys in the roadway. The plains of pasture-land blended with blue skies, fluffy clouds and the graying horizon. This is what pure consciousness must feel like.

Grandeur without measure, glory beyond belief, 100 miles of straightness. The road was quiet. I barely passed a car or truck the entire trip. At times I was lost in the void of what is real. My wife and daughter both asleep. 100 straight miles of quiet. This is what pure consciousness must feel like.

I dreamed of walking 100 straight miles. Just myself, my breath, my feet and a journey without need of discovery. What would it be like to walk 100 straight miles in quiet? A walking meditation with no purpose, only to experience. This is what pure consciousness must feel like.

These thoughts, however obscure, ran throughout my head. My journey has changed in life. I needed to ask myself some questions. Those are always the hardest ones to answer. Sometimes you just don’t know. Then again sometimes you need to answer those questions.

I walk.

I am giving myself the month of March to go for walks, lots of them.


Weekend Workshops & Book Recommendations

Thank you to all for attending this past weekends workshop. Below are a list of book recommendations that can help guide you along your photography journey.

Remember photography is to be experienced with a camera in your hand. Reading books and blogs (including this one) is only a smattering of information. Go for a walk and create something new...

Book Recommendations

Understanding Exposure
by Bryan Peterson

Learning to See Creatively by Bryan Peterson

Zen of Creativity by John Daido Loori



Current Reading: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Marakami
Current Music: Consequence of Chaos by Al Di Meola
Mood: Needles & pins all over...
Smells: Coffee & left over spaghetti
Sounds: Humming heater & panting dog
Temperature: 7 degrees feels like -2 out there.
Thoughts: New biz-site coming soon(ish)


Is The Internet Changing The Way You Think

Finished reading “Is The Internet Changing The Way You Think?” edited by John Brockman, 150 of the world's top thinkers answer this question.

Brockman doesn't seem to be interested in my view on this subject but I wanted to share my thoughts with you.

At first glance the easy answer is how the Internet has changed the way I live, not how I think. I sit a lot more. I opened a business without the need of a brick and mortar storefront. I have a lot more free stuff.

I think the same as I did before the advent of the Internet.

I research, read, receive daily news, watch TV, run a business, listen to music, network, meet friends, catch up with old friends, dream, travel, and purchase useless stuff...lots of it, all before the Internet.

Still I have no idea why the Internet is a capitalized word? Is "Internet" a proper noun?

I Googled that question to discover that it is a proper noun because there is only one worldwide Internet.

When thinking about that question my answer came to me.

When I am plugged into the net I am smarter. When I am disconnected I am dumber. Simple but true, my universal knowledge has expanded but my mind has not.

The ability to act, live, take action, to discover without needing to ask the Internet-machine first, that is thinking.

I am feeling reactive today but hey, that is just my thoughts….


Story within a Single Frame

Facing my uncomfortable zone. My one hour street photography project continued this past Friday. After having lunch with a fellow photographer and discussing my fears of street photography, I took off into the cold streets of Pittsburgh to shoot.

Shoot intentional; this is the advice he gave me. It was the second time I had a conversation with him on the theme of shooting intentionally.

For an hour I walked with camera in hand feeling uncomfortable, awkward and slightly nervous. My photography career has been broken into two major styles of photography, people and non-people. Photographing people is the easy part of my career. I direct, they listen. I have control. Non-people (landscape, nature, ambient, abstract) is also easy as long as Mother Nature does her part. Find a location, set up the tripod and wait for the splendor and glory to compose herself for the shot.

Street photography is the third leg to my photography. Photographing life without interacting or being invited, without a predetermined event to cover. Last year I documented the G20 Summit that was held in Pittsburgh. After that I thought how easy street and photojournalistic photography was.

I was wrong.

Shooting an event is shooting an event, but having the ability to see a story within a single frame is a skill. A skill that I am committed to developing.

After giving up I duck into a coffeehouse to warm up. From my table I took the above photo, a happy accident.


Turntable vs. Digital Algorithm in The Sky

Thursday morning at around 3:00am I am awake , yet again not able to sleep. I grab my iPad and start browsing, trying to connect myself to something of interest. Truth be told not much but sleep interests me 3am.

I hyperlink my way on to a page about record players. Note: to anyone who may be under that age of 29 reading this: a record player (a.k.a. turntable is the proper name) is what came before mp3, cd’s, tape decks but after live musicians and sheet music. A turntable plays big black vinyl discs with grooves that produce analogue sound waves. Not the flicker of sounds produced by zeroes and one (a.k.a.) analogue single converted by a computer then compressed into a digital sound wave as to be re-dubbed as digital music.

Torn, between yesterday and today, I love the convenience of all things digital. I miss the quality and stillness of the physical item. The idea alone of not having to find a place to keep a collection of, well...anything is great. Be it records, books or better yet photo negatives, put them all on hard drives and let me pull it up through a computer search when needed.

There I sit with iPad in hand complaining to myself about quality of digital vs real. For years now I keep thinking about getting a turntable. Then the question comes up, what selections of musics are worthy enough for me to repurchase them on vinyl? In the late eighties I walked into a used record store and sold my vinyl collections of LP’s, numbering somewhere over three hundred, to be traded in for cash so I could turn around and re-buy a lot of the same music on cd’s.

First, let me select music “worthy” for re-purchase. Bach: Unaccompanied Cello Suites performed by Yo Yo Ma, definitely first choice. Next, would have to be “The Right of Strings” by Clarke, Di Meola and Ponty. There is not a week that goes by that I do not listen to those two selections of music. I do feel that I should own the entire Beatles collection on vinyl but will probably not purchase them. “Born to Run” by Springsteen, U2's “Joshua Tree”, “Hejira” by Joni Mitchell would be a definite purchase and some Indigo Girls and Ani DiFranco for my wife would be a must.

The next question I ask myself, would I sit to appreciate the music? If the quality is better I should take the time to enjoy the listening experience. If it's only background music to fill up the silent space in rooms that does not deem itself to be worthy. Could I see myself sitting in a chair sipping Pinot Noir listening to the complete Cello Suites? Yes.

I need to find out who sells turntables and where I can get good quality vinyl. No problem there, type my question into the search engine box and hyperlink my way towards purchase.

While writing up this rant I am listening to Pandora (internet radio). Note: to anyone over the age 39: Pandora works like this: you select a favorite artist (currently, for me, its Elvis Costello). Then the digital algorithm in the sky goes on to play the artist of your choosing and pairs it with other similar artists, which you may like. If you like the selection you give it the thumbs up or if you wish to never hear that particular song again you give it the thumbs downs.

This is where things get maddening for me, I do not want a machine or an algorithm making decisions for me. What is the experience of music if you have no control over what is coming next? The real problem is that I love Pandora and the decisions it makes for me.

I lost the connection of falling in love with music that I felt in my youth.

Going into a record store and browsing the aisles of albums listening to what is playing on the store turntable; that is how to discover new music, while waiting for the tattoo hot chick behind the counter to come over and recommend something new for you. That is how you get into new music. Not by an algorithm in the cloud preselecting music for you.

Music is to be discovered, not stumbled upon.

Definitely getting a turntable.

Strange days indeed...


Go Suck at Something Else For Awhile

In photography I am more interested in my flexibility to change form than I am at mastery of a definitive style.

During a conversation with a fellow photographer I received critiquing about how to improve my seeing-photography skills. In a nutshell it was go towards what scares the hell out of you. For me, that is getting close to the unknown subject.

What I learned was that my ability to see has become boxed in. The other day I went out to shoot "street photography" and I ended up shooting landscape photography that happened to be out on the streets, rather than in the woods or atop a city skyline.

In truth the work was a failure with a lucky success. I failed because I did not shoot what I wanted to photograph, especially in my minds-eye. I would have rather came home with bad street photography, which I can grow upon, than a good set of accidental landscape portraits set in a city background.

In the summer of 1987 my parents took me to Beale Street in Memphis, TN as a graduation present from high school. I was, still am, that kid mystified by music. The memory or moment that changed me forever was when I was standing in line, waiting to get in to an R&B club, when an older couple remarked “who does that little white boy think he is wearing a Miles Davis t-shirt”. Truthfully I had no idea who Miles was. To me the shirt was pop culture. I could have easily been wearing a Che or tie dyed Bob Marley shirt.

That moment of being uncomfortable excited me to explore all avenues of music, in turn all avenues of photography.

My iPod is filled with music that interests me, not all music that I particularly enjoy. I keep going back to what I can’t understand but nonetheless intrigues me.

That is the photography lesson; being good at something boxes you in. I would venture to guess once your boxed in you are no longer as good as you once were.

I am going to go out and take a lot of bad street-photos until a get a couple of good ones . Than I’ll go suck at something else for awhile.

Thanks to Miles Davis.

Updates & Links

February 12th Workshop: Register (HERE)
Published in Whirl Wedding Guide (HERE)
Wedding Wire Brides Choice Award (HERE)
The Knot Best of Wedding 2011 Pick (HERE)
Winter Street Photography Slide Show (HERE)