Art is amazing. Art saved my week.
On Tuesday of last week, I was down in the dumps - way down. Tearing up at stoplights for no good reason down. The reasons? I’ve been on the hunt for a new job since mid-February and haven’t found one (I have been rejected a whole bunch, though), and, more immediately, my favorite basketball team, the Boston Celtics, just lost in the playoffs (in pretty crushing fashion). While I could probably write about 3,000 words on this Celtics season, specifically the playoff run, I’ll spare you the details. Just know this, I and most other Celtics fans expected this team to compete for (and win) a championship. They did not meet those expectations. So I was bummed. I spent all morning thinking about the loss and how to fix the team moving forward (as if I have some say in the decisions). By the afternoon, I had worked myself into a pretty shitty place.
I had an appointment, which helped to distract me from the Celtics stuff - but afterward, as I was driving around the Westside of LA, I was hit with an avalanche of emotion, not just about a basketball team but about myself. Undoubtedly, I had been using the Celtics to distract myself from the sadness, frustration, and disappointment of not being able to find a job. The Celtics’ success meant I could focus on them - live vicariously through the team. Now I didn’t have that, and I just had to deal with the reality of my situation. Things got dark quickly from there.
I was driving down Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, easily one of the prettiest streets in the city, and everything I looked at felt drab and ugly. When I’m in a groove with my art, I can see photos all around me - even if I don’t take them. On Tuesday, I felt like there wasn’t a single damn thing to photograph. Joe Biden could have walked into the middle of Ocean Avenue and kissed Donald Trump on the lips, and I wouldn’t have thought there was a photo opportunity there - all because of a basketball game. That is psychotic behavior.
I continued down Ocean Avenue, hoping, praying to the photo Gods, that inspiration would hit me.
Eventually, I ended up beachside. I parked at a meter and got out. I went to pay for parking with my card, and it wasn’t working. I returned to my car to check for coins - only one quarter. I put it in the meter. Seven minutes is all my 25 cents got me. Better than nothing, I shrugged to myself.
What happened next is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
I immediately felt like I was in a “flow state.”
The first image I saw was a classic SoCal lifeguard station, palm trees, and a sailboat in the distance. I looked down and saw the geometric pattern of the fence and knew I had to try and frame the various elements in different squares of the wall. I knelt, found the focus, and fired away. After a few tries, I got it. The sailboat was framed within a square between two California palms, with the lifeguard station in another fence square.
I made my way down the sidewalk, looking around for compositions. I heard a commotion in the parking lot between me and the beach - there wasn’t a photo there, but bringing my attention down into the parking lot led me to my next - and I think my best - image. Three skateboarders were slowly pacing back and forth on their boards. Between them and me was a tree with these beautifully curved branches that captured and separated the skateboarders as they passed through the frame. I must have been snapping shots of them for 3-4 minutes of my 7-minute meter. Eventually, I got the shot.
I could have spent 15 minutes voyeuristically watching and shooting that scene, but I had to move on. I turned around and began to make my way back towards the car. As soon as I turned around, I saw my next image - two yellow diggers lovingly embracing between shifts. I hurried over, framed it, and snapped away - got it.
Turning to my left to return to the car, I saw another great shot - a bright red pickup truck, older, probably late 90s, early 2000s sitting alone, perfectly placed between two trees. I lifted the camera - framed it in the bottom third to get the trees and the crosswalk as leading lines - bang! Another one goes down!
Seven minutes. Four photos that I love.
Those seven minutes in photographic heaven completely changed my outlook on my day, my situation, and the world around me. I could see the photos again and continued to see them all the way home. When I walked through my apartment door, I had a smile on my face, and I was ready to move onward and upward.
Those seven minutes served as a reminder of how important it is to keep making art. It’s something that many people I care about have said over the last few months, but feeling it like this was something exceptional.
I’m still disappointed that my Celtics are done for the year and that I’m still between jobs - but my art showed me that I could be disappointed without dragging myself down. I need to pick up that camera and go to work.