Most Americans' perception of reality will be rattled by time spent in Japan. The unfiltered sensory overload of Tokyo's busiest districts can be difficult to process and, at times, disturbing, but watching the sun rise over the city skyline the next morning will cure any culture-shock hangover. A short train ride to the outskirts feels much further away than it is. The landscape is placid and oddly resistant to the city's constant vibration. A day at the beach is a chance to breathe before diving back into the heart of one of the largest cities on Earth.
The man with his hands folded behind his back is 90 years old and walks faster than most people my age run. He vividly remembers when our countries were at war with one another. He took me out to lunch, showed me his prized American movie collection, and gave me a bag of his favorite snacks for the road. That day made me feel smaller than 2 weeks in the world's most populous city could.
I never knew how happy a bowl of spaghetti could make me until I was met with one after suffering from dawn to dusk hiking through the Bavarian Alps. The grass is greener, the air and water are cleaner, and the omnipresent sound of distant cowbells echoing off of mountains is oddly therapeutic. But, the climbs can still be punishing and are sure to humble any overconfident college students that take them on. Meandering through the Kruezberg area of Berlin was a welcome change of pace as far as my legs were concerned at the time, but I'll always want to go back to the mountains.
New York either makes or breaks people because the city favors boldness over everything else. The timid have little to no chance here, but New York can teach that boldness if you're willing to learn. As a photographer, if you don't get cursed at or flipped off at least once while you're here, you probably aren't trying hard enough.
Shooting for the Rutgers student affairs marketing team has done a lot for my development as a photographer. Even more importantly, I think it has brought me to appreciate my time in college in a way I never would have otherwise. I've met people and done things that showed me the depth of experience that hides behind the 120 credit requirement for graduation. Rutgers is a huge place, and 4 years is only enough time to see some of it.
The RUID Project
The RUID project is easily the most valuable work I've done as a photographer for Rutgers student affairs. It's the brainchild of my manager, Larry McAllister II, and our office's way of representing the diversity of Rutgers' student body. I think the project has been a great success in showing that diversity, not just of my fellow students' heritages, but of their minds. Reading each candidate's often very personal piece before each shoot was a privilege. Taking their photos was an exercise in understanding and respect just as much as it was in portraiture.
The ongoing series in its entirety can be found here.
New Jersey (Home)
Jersey is where I've lived my whole life. Sometimes it looks beautiful enough that it's bad reputation seems undeserved. Other times it looks like it's falling apart. Either way, the urban sprawl is growing at an increasing rate, and the area I grew up in is getting harder to recognize. New York's presence is definitely felt. After all, you can see the skyline from here on a clear day.