A Fading Image of Los Angeles

A Fading Image of Los Angeles

An essay on my recent trip to Los Angeles.
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If you know me well enough, you can understand I appreciate black and white photography more than any other art form in the world. If you know me even better than that, you can understand I appreciate colour more than anything that has been reshaped from stardust and regurgitated into a living—or dead—thing on our home, Earth. If you know me well enough, you know me as the word I hate using to describe myself: an artist. And it’s true. For better or for worse, I am an artist. Not merely the “picture maker” I say I am, but more of someone who wants to recapture the imagery better than the eyes ever can. A darker, yet dreamlike quality that provides a new landscape (oh, the irony…), making the most simple of things appear complex and new.

In this understanding of what the goal of my art is, you understand the aesthetic value of the things I create, but deeper down than just the design and look of my photographs. I try to grab the viewer of my art with more than the beauty of a subject or by forcing them to take a look at my portfolio. A body of work which I aim to use to provide and explain my skill set without the use of a single letter of the alphabet; an experience. To show my diversity as a photographer, as well as highlighting the specific areas of the art that I have grown fond of and execute with almost-perfect mastery...

Which leads me to the portrait: the most interactive and personal style of photography dating back to the earliest forms of photography. People wished to capture two things: themselves and the people around them. But why the human being? Why not the ever lurking things that surrounded them and the places they called home? In my experiences with photography I have found the portrait the most personal, the most creative and perhaps one of my favourite styles of photography. We never perceive ourselves as others perceive us, and photography allows a side of ourselves to be exposed into an everlasting moment and highly displayable visual art. The art of photography is thoroughly questioned due to its ease of access and easy development of skills within the field, but like any art, photography is also very subjective. I find myself viewing new and evolving forms of photography and asking myself “Is this art?” and “Will I ever add up to this?” I had spent more time questioning the motives of other artists instead of focusing on the more important part of my artistic process — the actual creation of images.

In my first experiences with photography, I wanted to take pictures of everything I saw. Signs, people I was with, my record player. I drew myself to a certain subject the most: people. With every medium I could possibly get my hands on — disposable cameras, the camera on my phone, VHS still cameras, Polaroids, Photoshop and finally, my loving DSLR — I investigated techniques to develop my own unique aesthetic and techniques for creating great images. With my love for the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, I developed a sweet liking towards monochromatic pieces. At first they reminded me of the black and white sheet music so familiar to me in my ensemble days and my all nighters where red eyes and no sleep were my only concern owards my beautiful compositions.

Outside of my photographs, I believe my other art—which I guess you could say you are experiencing now—is my ability to try to rearrange the thoughts in my head into actual words comprehensible by the world. When I was younger, my passion was writing. Even before I dwelled in the worlds of music and visual art, I had always loved writing. My peers loathed it, but I always found solace in being able to communicate new (or at least what I believed to be new) ideas to the world, the world being my teachers who skimmed—or maybe even read—through to give me the passing grade I ached for.

With this, identity has probably been the biggest struggle as a photographer and writer. I am always faced with the question of who I see myself as, as well as the questions presented in the sorting of my identity as a being. Although I find myself constantly thinking, and at times stressed, I know one day I will wake up in my cold bed and know for sure how I want to create, apply and showcase my art and where I want to be as a person, even though I find myself evolving by the second. I, patiently, am still waiting for that day.

In connection to art, during my recent visit to Los Angeles, I visited the J. Paul Getty Museum, which contains paintings, photographs and manuscripts from the 16th century to the late 19th century. From Rubens’ The Entombment to Van Gogh’s Irises, the museum contained and endless amount of beautiful and priceless art. Only the brave can experience it all in one visit. But even then, a risk haunts a challenge. Though I thought it would be a way to distract myself from the congested city, I found the museum just to be in the spirit of Los Angeles: busy.

Between my cheap nylon duffel bag and underwhelming airline food, I found peace in the artificial lights that drove my creativity through the roof during my visit to Los Angeles. Of course I loved being around my friends and the family of my friends, but the quietness and the freedom to work as I wished is something I would not trade the world for. Being Los Angeles was not my place of residence, I was ticked at the thought of not having my messy desk next to me. Despite this, I know as my creative work progresses throughout the next couple of months, years, and even decades perhaps, I can expect to see a certain amount of change. But even though I want to change, I constantly find myself gratefully stuck in the rut I was meant to be in. Is it for the better or the worse? Patience is not one of my virtues, but I can surely attempt to make it one.

Cover Image Credit: yvan sanchez

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.

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To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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This One’s For Africa

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Read through to the end for an amazing Toto reference.

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It's now been a week since I stepped foot on the African continent for the first time in my life. I first visited Johannesburg, where my dad and I spent a day on an 'apartheid tour.'

This tour consisted of visiting Shanty Town, one of the poorest communities in South Africa. The living conditions were indeed different. They had to steal electricity through homemade wires connected to the telephone poles. They had only a few porta potties for ten families to share. They had several spickets to obtain fresh water from. There was no heating in the houses, which were made from pieces of painted aluminum.

Such inconvenient circumstances have come from years of oppression towards black people in South Africa. It was incredibly sad to know that these problems still exist and that apartheid only ended so recently.

On the other hand, the people showed very little anger. Despite their living situations, the people of Shanty Town were so kind and welcoming. Everyone we passed smiled and waved, often even saying hello or asking about our wellbeing.

It brought some serious warmth to our hearts to see their sense of community. Everyone was in it together, and no man was left behind. They created jobs and opportunities for one another. They supported each other.

The next part of the day included a tour of Nelson Mandela's old house. We then made a trip to the Apartheid Museum.

Overall, Johannesburg did not disappoint. The city contains a rich history that human beings as a whole can learn a lot from. Johannesburg is a melting pot that still contains a multitude of issues concerning racism and oppression of certain cultures.

After two days in Johannesburg, my family made our way to Madikwe game reserve, where we stayed at Jaci's Lodge.

The safari experience was absolutely incredible. Quite cold (it's winter in Africa right now), but amazing enough to make up for the shivering. We saw all my favorite animals: giraffes galore, elephants, zebras, impalas, lions, hyenas, wildebeests, rhinos, you name it. While my favorite animal will always be the giraffe, I don't think any sighting could beat when two different herds of elephants passed through a watering hole to fuel up on a drink.

Finally on June 1st, I flew to George to start my program with Africa Media in Mossel Bay. On Sunday, we went on an 'elephant walk.'

The safari was certainly cool, but that makes the elephant walk ice cold. We got to walk alongside two male elephants - one was 25, the other 18. They were so cute!! We got to stroke their skin, trunk, and tusks. They had their own little personalities and were so excited to receive treats (fruits and vegetables) at the end of the journey.

My heart couldn't be more full. Africa, you have become my favorite continent. And it sure is going to take a lot to drag me away from you.

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