‘The Unwanted’ : Photographing The Homeless In Vegas

Over the past year, Thilde Jensen has made 3 trips to Vegas to work on her project ‘The Unwanted‘. The first trip she did alone and spent a month living out of a tiny RAV4 with all the seats ripped out and a small bed built so she could sleep on the passenger side of her car. The second trip I went with her and we lived out of a much larger and more luxurious Toyota Sienna minivan for about 3.5 weeks. This spring Thilde was one of twelve people awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship in Photography. We talked about it and decided that it made sense to make another trip back to Vegas to photograph the homeless again. Every trip she has made has opened more doors for her and the pictures she has gotten has been better and better. Our last trip spanned almost a month and it was by far the most intense trip yet.

Thilde’s work captures the raw intensity of street life in large format film. Rain and Lost in Syracuse.

When I think about our trips across the country and the time Thilde has spent pounding the pavement for pictures the word that comes to mind is ‘Hard’. I think there is a lot of people who think that anyone can take good photographs and that getting out there and doing the work is somehow easy. Thilde and I woke up every morning at 5 AM so that she could drive into town and be ready to photograph as soon as the sun came up. After dropping me off in Red Rock canyon to hike & freeclimb for several hours, Thilde would drive into Vegas and take pictures until the sun would be too high in the sky, and then we would break for lunch for a few hours. Every evening we would head back into Vegas to catch the late afternoon light for a second session. Our photography routine caused one day to blur into another. Our lack of hygiene and access to showers made both of us feel like we were essentially homeless and living out of our car. People in Vegas would start to make an effort not to look at us and give us a wider berth when walking by us and soon we began to understand how a lot of the people living on the street felt. The most shocking part of our journey was to experience first hand what I can only describe as the accelerated deterioration of our nation.

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In Dust We Trust : Burning Man 2016

Returning to Reno from the Playa this year Doug and I were high on life. This year had been the best burn yet and the desert had left us feeling raw to the bone. We had a bunch of food left over that we wanted to give to a homeless person. The first homeless guy we found could not accept any food as he had just had his last supper. He was dying of cancer and was headed to the hospital to be fitted with a feeding tube. Oh yeah, this is reality. Full of pain and suffering and death. Somehow after 10 days at Burning Man we had completely forgotten about the real world.

dancingflames

It hit us like a ton of bricks.

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Turning 44 – How The Hell Did I Make It This Far?

As I laid in bed meditating this morning in the arms of my beautiful partner staring out into the surreal snow covered landscape I was left with this incredible feeling of gratitude.

How did I get here, how could my life possibly be so good?

Was it luck, hard work, did the universe finally reward me for decades of suffering? It’s really hard to tell.

karl
I’ve decided to take a different path than my father before me. I’ve decided to do what I love to do and nothing else. It has paid off big time in quality of life.

I consider myself a depression survivor. In many ways it’s kind of like being a survivor of something more like cancer, but for people who struggle with depression most of American’s attitude is ‘just get over it’. Not only is this incredibly unfair, it’s also unrealistic to judge others harshly for a condition that they really have little or no control over. I read a statistic online that said 50% of Americans will struggle with mental illness at some point during their life. If so many people suffer from it then why is there so little support and compassion for it?

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Lost In The Net

net

I slowly approached the door feeling a strange combination of fear, shame and excitement. The house was a small one lost back in a bundle of old growth hemlocks far from the road. It was made from natural edged wood hand planed and lovingly put together. None of the angles were straight and none of the boards were square but it held a strange kind of appeal that most square houses did not. The door started to open and my heart skipped two beats.

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The Father That Almost Never Was

My son’s mother Marlo posted some old pictures on FB as a way to celebrate Father’s Day. One of the pictures was this one.

orion sick

 

It hit me like a freight train and out of nowhere I started to cry. How could a photo taken 12 years ago affect me so profoundly?

For those of you who have ever had a sick child on the verge of death, you will understand. Everyone else can just read this and wonder.

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How Transcendental Meditation Can Ease A Troubled Mind (aka How I Kept $2500 In My Pockets)

When I first met Thilde Jensen she encouraged me to try TM to help with my obsession and depressive nature. We have been together for 2 years now and committed to each other last summer. Meditation has become a daily habit for both of us, one that I hope we will carry with us to the end of our days. This is not a sales pitch for TM, honestly I feel like it’s a total scam, I am promoting the medical benefits of any meditation not just a single ‘brand’. Although Thilde and I have settled quite comfortably into doing TM, there are a lot of different styles of meditation each with their benefits and drawbacks. This is a story of my personal path.

enlighhtenment-maharishi

The TM style of meditation has been around since 1955 and seems to have changed very little throughout the years. The biggest change to the movement has been the price of the training. It has gone from being free to several thousand dollars for private instruction. So then the question becomes, why should I pay $2,500 for something that I can teach myself for free?

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How Suicide Leaves A Deep Rift Where Once There Was Love

Dez, Matt, Jops. It’s hard for me to even type those names without starting to cry. Three people I has so much love for made the same choice, to end their own lives. This article is not about their choices, but about the rift that it leaves in its wake.

dez2
Dez

 

Matt
Matt
Jops
Jops

 

What do I say about those that are gone? Why did you leave? Why didn’t you ask for help? What more could I have done. The questions haunt me year after year. As someone who has struggled with severe depression for most of my life, I know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed and lost in the world. Somehow I never gave up. Somehow I just put my head down and kept pushing on. For those that chose to give up, it is the emptiness in the ones they love behind that is so moving to me.

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