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July 19th, 2022

Cave City - Part Two

After wrapping it up at the Wigwam Village and photographing other motel signs like Cave Land Motel and Star Motel I found a motel called the Travel Inn with a beautiful, oversized sign. I stopped along the side of the road to photograph and heard a voice talking to me.

“Want me to pose for ya?”

“I’m just passing through documenting old motel signs and such”

“You should talk to the owner. You should ask him before you take pictures”

This has happened to me literally three times. Out of those three times, one couple were completely shitty and threatening over a “no trespassing” sign that wasn’t visible from the road. The second was at a local dive motel where the owner ran me off because he just didn’t want me there and now this. Any other encounter has been met with curiosity and usually an exchange of information so photos can be shared. I went into the motel office and waited for the owner to come out. The office had warped linoleum flooring with a small refrigerator with canned soda for guests. Beside that was a small rack with generic convenience store snacks and lots of houseplants scattered around.

The owner made his way out from the back, so I introduced myself and while I was initially met with some hostility, I think I finally got it across that I just wanted to take a picture of a sign. That was it. I’m not here for human interaction, I’m just here to take photos of the cool, old shit your city still has around. I finished taking my photos and finally made it to the motel.

The Horse Cave Motel is a $60 stay ($66) with taxes directly off the main highway. A mile or so outside of Cave City, not more than a 5-10 minute drive to be back in the center. Mid Century without the luxuries of a normal stay. A fridge, bed, small TV, microwave, desk and folding chair. Considering I was initially going to sleep in my car in either the park or nearest Walmart parking lot until the heat was going to be nearing 100 degrees, this was a welcomed substitute.

The owners were an older Indian couple. The wife was handling the desk in the evening and the husband was working the morning shift. They were both extremely hospitable and welcoming, checking to make sure I had everything I needed any time they saw me.

After checking in I decided to check out downtown Horse Cave and photograph their downtown area. I had initially planned on visiting the Hidden River Cave and American Cave Museum as it was only a 2-3 minute drive from my motel but I made it there just as they were closing and knew I wasn’t going to have time the next day before heading back home. I walked around and took some photos before leaving to find food. was hoping to find something to eat between Cave City and Horse Cave but the only restaurant I saw was closed.

My original intention was to pack food and bring with me, but the weather permitted me to make this trip with a little less planning than I hoped so I ended up driving 30 minutes to get Taco Bell and bringing it back to my room. I ate, showered and spent some time sitting on the 2x4 bench positioned outside of my 2nd story room. Even though it was still extremely hot and humid, the air felt nice after my shower. I sat outside and waited for the sun to set so I could go take my final photos for the night, the Wigwam Village neon sign at night.

I packed up one last time, drove a few miles down the road and got the photos I set out for. On the way back I struggled to light a small joint I brought with me. Hoping to have it smoked by the time I got back to the motel but having to relight it every few hits, I ended up driving back to downtown Horse Cave and finishing all but half it in a laundromat parking lot with a great molded lit sign.

I drove back to the motel and decided to sit outside for a bit before laying down for the night. On my right side there was a larger man, a trucker sleeping for the night. He’s on the phone with someone, pacing back and forth. I can’t hear too much at first but the longer the conversation goes on, the louder he’s getting. He’s pissed at someone at he’s going to beat their fucking ass if they’d show their face. Meanwhile, there is a long-term motel resident on my left working on his car. His bass keeps getting louder as he’s working. He might just be trying to drown out the angry trucker, but the owner was much more concerned about his bass being turned off.  I sat there for too long, being too high just waiting for what was going to happen next. For the record, I never felt unsafe at this motel and enjoyed my stay.

I got an early start the next morning. I packed the few things I brought with me the night before and loaded the car before taking a few photos across the street. I checked out of the motel, turned the keys in and headed back to Mammoth Cave. I was driving around waiting for my next steps to open when I found a beautiful overlook. I parked and sat for a bit. No one was around for miles it seemed, so I finished the rest of the joint in the car before getting out to photograph the overlook for a bit. Mammoth Cave has a lot of beautiful features above ground that I would love to travel back and explore when it’s not as miserable outside.

From the park I began heading toward the tourist strip but stopped in downtown Cave City first. “Downtown” isn’t the best descriptor and I only use it because they did have a small post office there. A small strip with a restaurant and bar and a couple of antique/junk stores. From there I attempted to visit Guntown Mountain. A favorite sight that can be seen driving along I-65. A roadside attraction from the 60’s featuring a Wild West town with gun fights and interactive shows. This place has gone in and out of business countless times and I couldn’t get a definitive answer on whether it was open at all before my trip. On my way to MMNP on Sunday they were open, and people were visiting but Monday when I was there, they were closed. Knowing that they are open at least on weekends now is enough to make me plan a second trip up to further study and document the remaining businesses along this strip.

Dinosaur World is across the street and my next stop. Opening in 2003, Dinosaur World was built by Christer Svensson with two other parks: one in Texas and the other in Florida. This attraction features 150 life size foam and fiberglass dinosaurs which are strategically placed along trails and staged with native vegetation. The scenes are very well put together which made it fun to photograph, especially since it’s out of my normal realm. There is a museum which has lots of dinosaur facts and trivia and a large gift shop with tons of real and replica fossils, teeth and more.

After leaving Dinosaur World I had a few more stops to make. I wanted to head back toward Big Mike’s Rock Shop, a rock and mineral shop a few miles away. They had a great yellow sign and if the opportunity presented itself, I wanted to photograph it again. On my way there I made multiple stops at random gift shops like Tom’s Tee Pee’s and Wild & Wonderful Gifts. I passed the KY Action Park which appeared to be abandoned but shared a parking lot with the Jesse James Riding Stables. My initial intention was to get a photograph of the derelict bumper boats but as I walked around, I found broken down bumper cars and more. The woman working the counter at Jesse James was more than accommodating in allowing me to park my car there and walk around.

From here I started driving toward Bowling Green and my last series of planned stops along the way. A note about Cave City and other cities like it. I adore the towns that once were and still strive to hang on and remain relevant. I also understand my surroundings and the areas that I currently explore, but it’s extremely disheartening to walk into a gift shop looking for a kitschy gift and be met with walls and counters and display cases full of racist and/or political merchandise. There are plenty of cheesy gifts to stock in a gift shop that don’t revolve around backwoods mindsets but some of these places make it apparent that “Trump 2024” and “owning the libs” aren’t personality traits.

By the time I made it to Bowling Green the temperature was nearing 100 degrees. I found some free street parking downtown and walked a few blocks before finding a Starbucks (my first cup of coffee in 2 days) and planning the rest of my drive home. There were only a couple of stops along the way that I was trying to make, and the weather seemed to be holding up nicely. My two remaining stops in Bowling Green were the National Corvette Museum and the Aviation Heritage Museum. I had little to no desire to pay entry to the Corvette Museum and the photos I wanted to take were located all on the exterior of the building. I circled until I found my angles and then quickly headed toward the aviation museum. The aviation museum was kind of lackluster. 8 decommissioned military aircraft circled around a park in a neighborhood. I would be upset if I paid to visit, or it was far out of my way, but neither were the case and I continued driving back home.

My last stop was past the Tennessee border in Whites Creek, a gas station/firework store aptly named “Sad Sam’s”. Sad Sam is emblazoned on the front of the building as a weeping neon clown. Inside, coolers of beer, fireworks and the Gadsden and Confederate flags ironically plastered on foreign made trinkets. I briefly parked and photographed the sign and some curiosities across the street before finally making my way home.

I don’t to the best job at listening to my body and do an even worse job of taking care of it most of the time. The timing of this trip coupled with the heat wave made way for a touch of heat exhaustion which took a few days to recover from. After rehydration and some rest, I was able to fully recover just in time to test positive for Covid.

July 19th, 2022

Cave City, KY - Part One

A trip close to two years in the making and a strange destination for a multitude of reasons, embarking on the four-hour drive to Cave City, KY was almost a bildungsroman of sorts for someone approaching middle age, if that’s even possible. Per my past post I am aware that I have no concept of elapsed time and constantly feel younger than I am so as I pulled out of the driveway, finally leaving for a trip I never thought I’d complete, I felt like a teenager. Almost like I was doing something wrong or leaving home for the first time for my first solo trip. There was excitement, but more than excitement was a sense of scripted freedom. Scripted in the sense that my stops were planned with a loose itinerary of stops to photograph along the way. This wasn’t a vacation by any means. This was an assignment.

In an attempt to capture as many roadside curiosities as I could, I navigated back roads through rural Tennessee into Kentucky. This usually proves to be beneficial as I normally find some good stops along the way, but this route ultimately gave way to 30mph curvy backroads with nowhere to pull over even if I wanted to. It did put me through the city of Carthage before crossing the state line. The highway I was on put me through what I believe to be their “downtown” area which was in complete disrepair. I would have stayed and explored more but I was on a schedule and couldn’t squeeze it in. I did however, come across the town of Red Boiling Springs, TN and that was a quick, easy stop to make.

Some of these towns don’t appear to have a single person living in them and when you do see someone, its automatic horror movie vibes like you’re being poached from behind someone’s screened in porch. I say this only in jest as most people I encounter while out shooting either leave me alone or are just curious as to what I’m doing. It’s not often that I run into anyone going out of their way to be a dick.

I saw exactly one passing car in Red Boiling Springs but had that feeling like I was being watched the entire time. I’d be curious too if some strange person rolled up and just jumped out of their car and started taking pictures of weird shit. You can ask me questions, it’s okay, but I’d honestly just rather we didn’t interact. I’m just here to document your town.

My next stop was my destination, the once booming town of Cave City, KY! The last time I was in Cave City was Thanksgiving weekend of 2001. My then two best friends and two others took off for a weekend at Mammoth Cave. We loaded up in his Chrysler minivan with bottles of blackberry brandy and peach schnapps and next to nothing else. I personally don’t even remember eating while we were gone. We were just dumb high school friends who got ahold of some liquor and wanted to get drunk and have fun. I don’t remember much about the town, just the motel we stayed at and visiting Mammoth Cave National Park the next day. I guess this was the beginning of my memories being muddled by alcohol.

A ghost town by definition, Cave City strives to thrive but the people who live and work there have adapted to some unconventional ways to generate cash flow while other areas which have been closed and reopened throughout the years are once again reopen with new and updated attractions.

My first stop in Cave City was the Mammoth Cave Wildlife Museum. A main point of personal interest as a campy stop that I really wanted to photograph. First opening its doors in 1969, the museum features more than 1,600 preserved animal specimens from all over the world. The tour begins with a massive, preserved butterfly room that includes moths, beetles and other insects and then leads to the Musk Ox, the only feature in the museum that can be viewed for free.  



After leaving the museum I haphazardly rushed over to Mammoth Cave National Park to try to jump on a tour, knowing that I can view tour departure times online but choosing to ignore this fact until cell service was nonexistent. I made a stop as I entered the park so I could take what would end up being one of my only “tourist” photos with the MCNP sign. A couple was struggling to setup their phone, so I asked them if they wanted to trade, I’ll take theirs and they take mine. From there it was straight to the visitor center to see what tours were available. The best tour for your time and money appears to be the Historic Tour, and from the standpoint that I set out to photograph it, was the perfect tour for me. It set off in 45 minutes which gave me time to check out the gift shop because I must buy stickers to show everyone the cool things I’ve done but then have a mild panic attack whenever I use that sticker and realize its permanent. It also gave me time to go to the car and use my vape pen to get nice and elevated before my tour began.

The Historic Tour comes in right at two hours and covers two miles. For $20 and being able to support the National Park Service, it’s an amazing deal and opportunity. The tour begins at the historic entrance, descending 160 stairs into the massive entrance. Once you’re inside you walk to the Rotunda, the sixth largest room discovered in the cave and begin and end your tour here. From here the tour weaves through passageways and landmarks while park rangers tell stories at stops.

The weather outside was in the high 90’s with the humidity not far behind and the cave consistently remains in the mid 50’s. As we made our way closer to the entrance the air become freezing at the hot air was pulling cold air out of the cave creating wind strong enough at some points to blow your hair.

Mammoth Cave is the longest known cave system in the world and goddamn fascinating to walk through something so intricate that took millions of years to create. Places so cut off from the outside world that even for a national park, few have ventured to see. Places where early settlers used the cave for refuge; to survive. Evidence of humans in the cave dates back 5,000 years however most visible evidence now are names and dates candled and carved into the limestone and saltpeter vats from mining for the war of 1812. The lighting that’s been installed creates ethereal shadows that stretch along the walls and ceiling and the reddish hue is reminiscent of a Martian landscape.

After finishing the tour and taking time to watch and photograph a deer that was eating near the entrance, I made my way toward the city of Horse Cave where my motel was located. A lot of what drew me to Cave City was how bustling the town once was, hitting its prime in the 60’s and 70’s, the motel signage that litters the main highway every few miles is a true testament of the traffic that once came through here. A lot of motel signs that I wanted to photograph were located along the same 5 mile stretch between the turn to get to the park and my motel, so I was able to knock quite a few things from my list on my way to check in. One of my most looked forward to places to photograph was the Wigwam Village #2. The vision of Frank A. Redford and built in 1937 it was one of 7 Wigwam Villages spread across the country and one of only three remaining today, each wigwam features a bed and full bathroom. The main Wigwam is 52 feet tall and consists of 38 tons of concrete and 13 tons of steel. The structure used to contain a restaurant and gift shop but with the completion of Interstate 65 diverting traffic away from the town the restaurant closed in the mid 60’s. The gift shop remained open however when I visited it showed no signs of being open anytime recent. I tried to book a wigwam for my trip up, but they were booked out pretty far in advance. Regardless, I was able to stop and photograph the main wigwam and neon sign out front. This was a main stop, so I photographed this sign in the evening, morning and night to capture all different light.

June 23rd, 2022

Self Awareness, Discovery and Loss

When I decided to add a blog to my page, I had ambitions of regular updates and using this space as both a place for new photos, and to continue my journey of mental self-diagnosis. Since that attempt life has been turned upside down multiple times and finding the time to relax, let alone sit down and have time to write has been next to impossible. In the 4 months since then, there have been tears of sadness and a few mixed with joy. There has been growth, love, loss, devastation and a crushing sense of defeat.

I started therapy in February. I stopped therapy in March. I love the idea of virtual sessions because human contact, but once a month isn’t frequent enough for me to get the answers that I’m looking for; to give whatever is wrong with me a name(s) so I can further learn how to cope and maybe not hate myself as much as I do. My therapist was great and easy to talk to, but if that’s a path that I choose to stay on (and I hope I do), I need more frequency and the answers would probably come quicker with more consistent, in-person visits.

My 38th birthday was toward the middle of March, so Brittney and I took our annual drive to whatever city or town I found to explore and photograph. This year I chose Manchester and Tullahoma. We’ve been through multiple times and hiked Old Stone Fort Archeological State Park at least twice, but this drive was to find an old gas station sign that I photographed in 2019 and then just drive around and make photos. I haven’t had a birthday that great in a long time. I was able to revisit some old photos and recreate them in better conditions and with better focus & direction and I was able to do it with my best friend.

The next morning, we were awakened by the news that Brittney’s mom, Mary had unexpectedly passed. Brittney was obviously devastated and seeing how bad she hurt when she told me is something that will stick with me for the rest of my life. I don’t ever want to see her hurt like that again. We’re two months post and my eyes still well up everything I think about it. I’ve always prided myself on my relationship with my in-laws and not being the stereotypical partner who hates them. They loved me as their own and I look forward to every visit to Ohio. I not so secretly could see us relocating there one day. I love the area, and I love the concept of an actual working family who mostly live in close proximity who get along and want to hang out with each other.  I hate that her mom will be missing from our visits going forward. I hate that Brittney can’t call her. I hate that her family has to go on without her. With unanswered questions and unresolved emotions.

I won an award the other night in a community photography show and my first thought was to let her know. She championed my artwork and loved showing it off. During the time I was painting she acquired to different pieces that still hang on the wall. She always shared my photos and the one I received an award for was actually her last Facebook post. She loved her family and she loved bragging on them.

We left for Ohio three days later. The ride wasn’t as somber as I thought it would be but we were both tense due to lack of sleep and stress over the entire situation. Frankenstein can’t be left at home for extended periods of time so he was along for the trip, sitting in Brittney’s lap for 10 hours. Once arriving it became extremely clear to me that processing was going to be harder than I thought. I thought seeing her family in a way I’ve never experienced would make it feel real. It didn’t. I kept waiting for Mary to make an appearance and it never happened. I disappeared multiple times to quietly break down by myself, so my emotions didn’t make it harder on anyone else. I spent two afternoons by myself, driving around and taking photos. I’m happy I was able to take the opportunity to clear my head during all the chaos but still felt bad for leaving to go do it.

The next day there was a small gathering for family to say their goodbyes. Quiet and fighting back tears. Standing against the wall knowing I’m worthless in the situation because there isn’t one thing I can do to rectify it but at least hoping that would be what I needed to convince myself it was real. It wasn’t.

Mary was laying on a table, covered with a blanket and wearing a Purple Rain shirt. She looked at ease, like she was napping. As different family members came into the room and started to gather, a lot of sad tears turned into happy stories and memories being shared. People shared their goodbyes as they left and Brittney absolutely broke my heart saying “Love You, Mom” as she walked out of the room. In our 13 years together we haven’t experienced the loss of a family member, especially one as unexpected and sudden as this.

The last batch of photos I edited were from the day after we returned from Ohio. Brittney encouraged me to make stops along the way, and I did, and then had a full meltdown after accidentally deleting 20 or so raw photos from our last stop in Lexington, KY before making it home. On top of our MacBook not being able to handle the workload of my photos anymore, both USBC ports are worn out making keeping external storage connected is a scary task. We have a new computer on order that was supposed to arrive in May. We were notified that due to supply chain issues our system was on backorder and now expected at the end of June. I have a 70gig backlog of editing right now and it’s not even June 1st. It’s been hard not being able to edit while creating new work.

Fast forward to mid-June because I can’t focus on one thing long enough to complete it and my iMac showed up and as of today, I am completely caught up on my workload. It feels weird but ultimately makes we want to get back in the car and keep driving.

A trip I have repeatedly planned on put off finally happened. I went to Cave City, KY. A place I haven’t been for close to 20 years, maybe more, but long before I appreciated the scenery that I do now. I’m working on a blog post outlining that trip but it’s nowhere near being complete. What matters is that I held myself accountable and completing the trip that sparked my joy in wanting to travel and photograph these old places.

I’ve been thinking about attempting therapy again. I feel that each day I become more self-aware of my actions and mannerisms. The way I come across to people and the way I present myself. How sometimes I feel like two different people in how I act, almost like I completely mold my movements and speech to whoever is around me. I just need to give it a name. Anyone who has spent any amount of time around me can tell you that I suffer from severe anxiety and depression. Anxiety to the point that I hurt. Most human interaction sets me completely on edge. Exceptions are anything involving my art or job, excluding public speaking. A series of events that led to a series of events led to my current state of depression. These are the obvious. I need someone to sit and diagnose me and further give these things names. I have questions about borderline personality disorder. I have even more questions about adult ADHD and Autism. I have these puzzle pieces that I am desperately attempting to put together and when I do, I feel like it will finally answer a lot of questions.

I’d also like to know how absolutely nothing feels real. Absolutely nothing. Maybe a simulation theory but more of just a there is no fucking way any of this is real. I am not a living being surviving on a rock that happens to be in a certain special radius from its star to facilitate life and I’m sure as shit not stuck on that rock with religious nut jobs and MAGA lemmings who blatantly choose to ignore things like science and their flagrant racism that hides behind the guise of whatever *think* Christianity is or is supposed to be. 

I’ve also been thinking about death a lot and I’m not sure if I can explain how. I have no concept of time elapsed. I do not believe that I am 38 years old. It’s just not possible. I’m not 38 and my dog didn’t just turn 13. I’m sure things discussed earlier in this post help with the surge of thoughts but dying scares the absolute shit out of me. Fucking wild that little ol’ depressed me who spent more time that they’d like to admit thinking about the big “S” would be so terrified of death. Partially because those I choose to keep close to me are few and far between and there is no life without them. Partially because the thought of dying myself because even as an Atheist, I can’t help but wonder if when it happens if it’s lights out for good or do I wake up in an alien land watching alternate universe me absolutely suck at playing video games? As an artist I’m allowed to feel this fucking crazy, right? This means I’ll be super famous after I die. 

January 13th, 2022

Wanderlust & The Great Depression

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I would consider a substantial factor in my depression is the need to create, on my terms, and the inability to manifest this for myself despite years of working toward the same goal. Photography has always been my “go to” for creation, expression, therapy and more. I have worked in other mediums; painting, sculpting, video, illustration… but photography, being able to capture something because it meant something to me in a fleeting moment and share it with an audience and hope that maybe, just one person will see it exactly the way that I did and feel the same way. THAT’s my fucking passion.

I had, what I would call, a rapidly growing career as a music photographer back when I was living in Southern California. I often wonder how many of those opportunities came because of my position as a music buyer for a large retail chain at the time and how many of them were based on my actual talent (much like I can’t accept the fact that someone just genuinely likes what I do and wants to support me because of my talent, not because they feel bad for me or feel obligated to support me).

I was working with dozens of different record labels and clothing lines, I had full access to more or less every show/concert/event that I could dream of and worked with artists I considered my idols not years before. I had work published in magazines almost every month, had features on Buzzfeed, which was very different back then, and even had one of my photos on a giant screen in Times Square. How can I say that I was kind of a big deal in that time and place in my life without sounding like an asshole?

Toward the end of my time in California I started working with models, mostly nude or risqué in the vein of now defunct FRONT Magazine from the UK. I was adding as much diversity to my portfolio as I could and had absolutely no trouble finding models willing to roll with my weird ideas, so I continued to grow and add to my body of work.

In moving back to Tennessee, I had huge aspirations of bringing my portfolio and style of work to a new area and continuing to build myself until I could just take photos for a living. What I got instead was a severe lack of models to work with coupled with zero interest from musical artists who would rather have their brother’s sister’s girlfriend take some photos instead of paying for quality work and no responses from all record label, artist management, etc. inquiries. I had essentially left the most beautiful state in the country, fucked myself on any available and willing work and just quit. I fucking quit and walked away from taking photos and started drinking more and just got more depressed. This was back in 2013 and apart from just a handful of photos, mostly taken on film that got severely damaged, I barely photographed anything again until 2016.

With 2016 came two large changes. I got to marry Brittney, my best friend, and after years of going without, I got my license back (another long drawn-out story for another time). With both of my “pro” cameras being either broken or obsolete at this point, I purchased what I could afford, a Canon Powershot, which with over time, I was able to manipulate the settings on to replicate manual settings on a DSLR, letting me take full advantage of what I had. While I still wasn’t in possession of a car, relying on rentals and borrowing family vehicles gave an opportunity to be mobile, at least occasionally and I began the framework of my current style.

Between late 2016 and early 2018 we racked up more credit card debt than I’d like to admit by travelling all around the area. We had been immobilized for so long that we had an entire new world to go explore so we would go out of town for a night or two what seemed like every month. While these trips weren’t necessarily centered around me taking photos, I always got my fair share. Every trip and every photo helped to continue developing my “look”.

In February of 2018 we were able to purchase a car, and this changed everything. A rare treat of being able to go out shooting became weekly drives along backroads looking for anything that caught my eye enough to pull over. I became a pro at weaving in and out of traffic, both in a vehicle and on foot, to get a shot. I became drawn to old signs, architecture, unique landscapes, and a lot of things that most people would normally pass over, if they stop to look at all.

I began to show my art in public for the first time since CA and I partnered with the Murfreesboro Art Crawl’s bimonthly events. I loved showing my art in public because the simplicity, colors or oftentimes nostalgic value attracts viewers and conversation, but my style of work is also an acquired taste and not something that many of these viewers didn’t want to take home and display on their walls, leaving me with hundreds of dollars spent on prints and framing that are now sitting in a storage unit not being seen by anyone. Nevertheless, I continued to show my art and attract viewers. I started doing more events at different venues and making a name for myself within the community. My unique style even found a permanent home at a local St. Thomas Hospital center where I was severely underpaid for 3 of my images to be displayed, but paid, nonetheless.

With some print sales and money saved and hustled, I was finally able to upgrade back to an DSLR which removed any limitations I was previously facing. When I was shooting music, my dream camera was monetarily out of reach, but 15 years later, extremely affordable on eBay. Coupled with a 2ndhand lens that’s just as old, I was able to take full control over the photos I was creating. I’ve always said that the camera doesn’t make the photographer, and with technological advances in smartphones and other devices with image capture it stands truer than ever, but I always had that jealousy in the pit of my stomach for these new photographers on the scene whose parents just bought them the latest model body and lenses on the market, yet they have no fucking clue what they are doing. Looking back now I should have been proud of the feats I accomplished with my out-of-date equipment at the time. Now I am just happy to have a working camera and the ability to photograph what’s around me. That being said, I have the constant stress of something happening to my camera or lens because I have no backup and would not be able to replace them for some time if something were to happen. Even worse is the bottom of the line, cheapest we could get MacBook is beginning to struggle with processing my work load on top of other, outside processes it normally handles.

I took this time and opportunity to continue developing my style and finding new ways to see things. I wasted more money on prints and framing but pushed myself and was doing events every couple of weeks. My work was starting to get recognized and I finally thought I was heading where I wanted to be and then things started getting weird and my events began getting cancelled and then we all know the story of 2020. I did a lot of things in 2020 that I wish I never would have, but I also did a lot of things in 2020 that I’m extremely proud of. 2020 brought a lot of stress, heightened anxiety, and worsened depression alongside a burst of creativity that I haven’t been able to escape since, at least mentally.

Ever since my photography turned from music and nudes to roadside attractions, signs, and architecture, I began planning extensive photo trips, down to the places I’d sleep, total costs, mileage, etc. For a brief moment in my head, it makes sense and sounds achievable. Like something I can sell prints and crowdsource. I plan. I fail.

I make up these insane, dream like scenarios and become gutted when they never come to fruition. If I close my eyes hard enough sometimes, I can really pretend that I’m there. That things are different.

I’ve planned trips for Joshua Tree, Palm Springs, the California coastline, National Parks and everywhere in between with the ultimate dream of driving Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica. All these meticulous plans I’ve invested time in have just been thrown away because the reality always sets in that it’s just not going to happen. I will lie in bed in the mornings and bawl my eyes out over this and I feel pathetic because I never should have gotten excited about it in the first place. It’s a stupid dream that I need to quit chasing. Not like I’m going to stop taking photos or anything, I just need to come to terms with the fact that I’m probably never going to see and photograph the places I want to see before I die. Most recently, I just wanted to go spend two days photographing Cave City, KY. Mainly Mammoth Cave National Park and all the amazing, kitschy, tourist trap attractions surrounding it and I can’t even pull that off. Another trashed plan, always out of reach.

A lot of these trips have a common theme of the desert, something I should have spent a lot more time in while living in CA. I ventured out to Menifee and Temecula, but never as far as I wanted. I’ve driven through New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Texas. I’ve travelled all around the country but at a time in my life where I didn’t appreciate the things I stop to photograph now. I get angry with myself for being so wrapped up in being a music photographer that I failed to see everything else around me. I know that I would capture it completely different then, and in a way that I would absolutely despise now. The desert though, I don’t know why I’m drawn to it so much. It’s a magical fucking place and it lures me like a siren. So many trips planned. So many plans thrown away.

I didn’t shoot much last year. 2021 was a year of growth for Bats Breath, the small business my wife runs. We work great as a team, but we pushed ourselves to the absolute limit last year so as we grew the business, I didn’t have much time for taking photos and neither of us took any time for us. I didn’t realize it at the time but taking that time away from shooting affected me more than I initially thought and going into 2022, we’re not only making it a point to slow down but ensuring that I have time to go find new places and things to photograph locally. I’ve already taken more photos this year than I took all last year, so I feel that I’m off to a good start, but the need to go and photograph all of these places that I dream about and inability to do so absolutely crushes me inside. I want to share my art with the world. I want everyone to see it like I see it but it’s something I’ll only ever see through someone else’s eyes.

January 3rd, 2022

Introduction

Image of a long concrete pier stretching out into Lake Erie. In the middle of the pier are lights to illuminate the concrete flooring at night. People are scattered throughout the length of the pier taking in the view of the lake.ALT

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I’ve sat down and tried to write this countless times and countless times I’ve been left with nothing more than a jumbled mess of random words littered on the page. I feel that if I’m able to keep up with it then it could have some value to me; something to help me better understand. I keep telling myself that this time will be different, but the very answers I strive for are the ones I purposely and subconsciously find anything else to occupy my time with. I would consider this to be the collective 6th worst year for me and at this point, all I feel I know anymore is defeat.

Each time that I’ve sat down and attempted to get these words out, I ended up walking away because telling these stories in chronological order was the only way that made sense and I couldn’t make my brain stop jumping to different time periods in my life. As each attempt before this one, I’m sure this will end up a jumbled mess. I’m sorry if you have a hard time following along if you choose to.

Instead of working chronologically, I’ve decided to write whatever I feel like. This story is one that will tell itself over time.

Seeing as though my art has always been an escape for me and even more so, an incredible therapeutic outlet, I find it appropriate to combine these words alongside my photographs. Photography has been a passion of mine for most of my life and even though I’ve walked away from it a few times, have always found my way back. When I get inspired, I start seeing the world in intersecting lines and different hues and I know that doesn’t make sense to you, but I can at least show you what I’m seeing, the way I’m seeing it.

So..I guess we’ll start here. I’m Mike. I’m 37 years old. I suffer from severe depression and anxiety amongst other problems that I am working toward identifying. At this point, I’m searching for a diagnosis more than a cure. In 2015 I was diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease (you can learn more HERE) which causes a ton of inner ear problems for me, including unbearable bouts of vertigo. The kind of dizziness that I feel most don’t comprehend, and due to this disease, most medication with a side effect of dizziness will fuck me up. Unfortunately, a lot of medications prescribed for mental illnesses come with this side effect and will send me on a vertigo ride that I would rather die than experience again.

For now, I utilize the outlets that I currently have available which are staying both as busy, and as high as I possibly can. Weed’s been the one medication that has helped me and of course, living in a red state makes it incredibly difficult to come by at times. My states leadership is too busy working to take rights away from women while conspiring with their KKK friends and family to ever make a positive change here that benefits anyone other than wealthy white men, even though legalizing even medicinal marijuana here would have countless monetary benefits for the state.

The current political environment has a lot to do with my current mental state, but I don’t think we’re there quite yet. For me, this is more of in intro to see what route is going to work best for me and what direction will be most fluid in getting my thoughts outside of my head. Again, as much as I would love to make this chronological and easy to follow, it more than likely won’t be. What it is though is something I’ve been needing to do for a long time. Me, as open and unabridged as I can allow myself to be. These are the things that shaped me into who I am today and how I see the world.