No Photos Please 

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“Sometimes I don't. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don't like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.”  -Sean Penn in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Moments seize to exist when we’re locked in on the glass in front of us. It changes our attitude and behavior on levels we thought we could never reach.  We are mesmerized by something that gives us instant gratification, yet never-ending self-hatred and pride.  How did we possibly survive without something smarter than us in our hands? 

Social Media has changed the entire game when it comes to business development and marketing, but it lacks something authentically.  We provide a profile of ourselves all over the inter-web for the world to see, which takes away how individually amazing people are.  Sure, we can get a glimpse of the tremendous life they live, but how much of that is real? We’ll never know…  

This all comes down to capturing the moments.  We don’t savor them anymore because everyone wants to capture the best moment possible. This is how we become famous.  We don’t actually care about the moment, we just care about how good the moment looks on a screen in front of us. 

I look at all the social media I use, and I want to get rid of it all.  It’s attractive on paper because we know our stress levels would decrease significantly, and we will be at peace.  But, we can’t do it.  There’s too much at stake.  We’ll have a fear of missing out on seeing the moment…

I’m a huge fan of photographing. I can say it is an awesome thing to pick up because you have the ability to see another perspective through the glass.  Capturing moments in one shot is a powerful thing, but sometimes it is better to just stay in it.  

Let’s stop taking video and photos at concerts, let’s relax with all the snaps back and forth, and let’s stop creating ten different group chats with the same people.  The conversation will be worth more when you see someone face to face.  What’s the damn point of meeting new people if you already know everything about them? If you want to get to know someone, don’t stalk their online presence beforehand because when you see them in real life, there won’t be anything to talk about.  

Our profiles have absolutely no sustainable value because they aren’t real.  Those moments are completely lost with the tap of a screen. Try and live these moments out by truly remembering them with your heart and mind.  Go pitch yourself to a stranger at an art show, rather than pitching it to nobody on the web.  The gratification will be instant, but not sustainable.  

We complain about not being happy… Well, I wonder why…

You miss out on the little things in life because there is so much worry behind the fakeness of ourselves. If we truly are an authentic species, then we ought to live like one.  Get off the phone and go explore because “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and take a look around once in a while, you could miss it.”  

I truly believe, as a photographer, my photos decrease in value once they are thrown up online. Why? Because the online world doesn’t care about anyone else except for themselves.  It’s the sad truth, and there will always be the online world, but why not change the way we use it.  Instead of taking pride in everything we do, let’s help others like the small percent of people that are doing it.  

One last note:

If you are a photographer, take your time.  Don’t capture every moment you see.  Wait for that perfect moment to take the perfect shot.  And for all the social media users out there, relax with the posts. We don’t care about every moment you have…only you do.  For all the people who want to get away, delete social media from your phone.  Your life will be a lot easier without it. 

 

The Man On a Hike 

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Sweating profusely and climbing a never-ending, slightly inclined road, to a place where a man left all his wealth behind, I was out of my last breath when a man caught up to my pace. He greeted me with a “hello” because he obviously assumed I was an out-of-shape American.  Yet, he was a tourist, in his own country.  I wish I could remember his name, or where he lived, but he told me he was an Italian exploring his own home.  He saw me struggling, so he decided to catch up to me to be with me. A brother and a friend, he was.

This place was the hermitage, the hidden caves of the mountains of Assisi, Italy.  This is where Francis wound up after leaving the safe environment with his loving family.  It was a testament to the devout faithful and the lost souls of the world.  He gave his whole being to God in a time where people were fighting religious wars with each other.  Instead of killing for his religion, he sought peace.

He was a short man with a rucksack and a notebook in his hand.  If I remember correctly, I’m pretty sure he had a walking stick as well.  He couldn’t have been more than 30 years of age. He was backpacking through Italy because he wanted to explore his homeland and connect with the people in it.  We shared a full-hearted conversation, which filled me with joy.  I felt this beautiful presence resting a hand on my shoulder, but it wasn’t some stranger.  This man was for sure with me on my journey through this quaint little town, but it wasn’t until now that he had made an appearance.  We walked, shared our thoughts, and we became friends.  Vans filled with tourists drove up the hilly road towards the end where the hermitage was.  We kept on walking and talking.  We were getting to know each other, yet, I felt we had already known each other.  We were just keeping each other company. 

I was alone in this small town.  My friend and I chose to use our 11-day vacation to backpack through Italy stopping in a few places.  We flew into Venice first where I almost had to walk around with a half-shaven beard when my electric razor died on me.  Good thing my buddy had a disposable one.  We stayed for a few days and then moved on to Florence.  We finished a bottle of wine and ate some salami up on top of the hill overlooking the city.  We left for Rome the next day.  This was where we acted like tourists and hiked 20 miles throughout the city observing the mind-blowing history that had taken place there centuries ago.  It was a long trip with my friend, but we ended up going our separate ways after that.  I went North to Assisi, and he went south to the beaches. 

I stayed in an AirBnB at the top of the village.  A young man and his family lived in the house above me.  He rented out the downstairs part, a studio with a bathroom.  It was a small, renovated cave, and he left me a basket of fruits and croissants both mornings with a note inside. He had a little girl and a newborn, and took care of them and his guests. I wasn’t completely, but I felt like I needed someone to converse with.

We reached the top of the hill.  I was gassed.  I needed to refuel with water and rest.  We both walked through a walkway that led to a couple of small structures.  They were shrines.  There were two benches at the end of the walkway where it opened up.  We sat and caught our breath.  The man I walked with sat next to me and pulled out his journal.  He wrote in it, and then he looked at me.  He then asked me if I would write my name in it and write a little note for him.  I saw that he had several notes from other people.  I asked him why he had so many, and the gentleman told me whomever he met, made a connection with, and shared a conversation with, asked them to write a note for him, so that he could cherish the messages at a later time.  We shook hands and we explored the mountain without each other.  I walked through the second structure ahead of him and I turned back to see he was gone.  I never saw him after that.  I reached every area which could be explored, but no sign of the man that I had just met..

I spent an hour up in the mountains, and then I went down the hill again stopping at a small restaurant on the way to eat. I ate alone.  It was empty, but my heart was full. 

 

A Day In Auschwitz 

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We left Krakow, Poland on a bus around 11 a.m. Our program directors told us that it would be a long and tiring day, so we will not be eating anything until we got back. Plus, we most likely wouldn't have an appetite. I didn't talk much to anyone on the bus, and I don't really think anyone wanted to. We didn't have much of an idea of what this place was going to be like. I read about it in history classes throughout school, but it wasn't really a big deal. I never knew the true meaning of this historical event until I stepped foot into the hellhole that is Auschwitz.

We arrived about an hour later. The whole parking lot was full of buses with tour groups. I had an unpleasant feeling in my stomach. There was a large crowd standing in front of the main building waiting for their tours to start. I was already starting to realize what it meant to be there. I was about to embark on a mind blowing journey through the lives of people who were awaiting their death. The place surrounding the camp seemed so nice, yet hundreds of Jews stood where I was standing about 70 years ago waiting for their worst nightmare.

We were split up into several groups. First, we walked under the entrance gate of the camp. The tall and expanding fences stretched out all around us. We entered into several of the barracks. There were many displays of clothing items and other belongings left over. We went through several of the buildings, and our guide pointed out different ones that were used for experimentation, imprisonment, and killings.

The gas chambers were the worst part. We walked through first gas chamber, which was used for mass killings. We also went down into one of the crematoriums where people were burned alive. Some of my friends burst into tears. No one said a word. The only person talking was our tour guide.

After our first tour, we hopped back on the bus and went to the larger complex of the camp called Auschwitz-Birkenau. This place was in ruins. It was much larger than the first complex, but there were almost no buildings left. Besides the main entrance, the chimneys of the barracks were the only things left standing. It stretched on for miles. This is the place where the trains brought the Jews in. This is where the selection process occurred, and this is where drunk officers laughed as they sent thousands of innocent people to their death.

We walked a total of two kilometers at the Birkenau complex. It was an empty place that matched our empty hearts. As we reached the back of the complex, there were two crematoriums that were in ruins. Our tour guide told us something that I will never forget: the black dust remaining all over the ruins were the ashes of thousands of people that died there. We were all standing on those ashes.

They don't know the exact number of deaths at this camp because many of the records were destroyed. Approximately 1.5 million people consisting of Jews, Poles, priests, Russian POWS, political prisoners, and others died here at this place. There could have been many more.

The German's believed these camps would stay for a long time. They built them, so they could last for decades. The houses that surrounded the camp were for the German officers that worked there. Every day was a regular day at the office. They went in, divided families, and killed them. And at the end of the day, they returned to their warm and comfortable homes with their families by their side.

The inhumanity that happened at Auschwitz was terrifying. People will never truly understand what happened at this place unless they go and visit it. Reading about it in a textbook is not enough. You have to see it. Auschwitz is a place that will rip open your heart and fill it with hatred and sadness, but it is well worth it.