Sunday, February 2, 2020

Walking back...

Well dear reader, here I am again. It has been an incredibly emotional week. I have been all over the place mentally, which leads to a physical exhaustion. Thankfully I have had no sleepless nights. If you don't want to read the rest of this post, I will put a TL;DR at the end. If you're curious and want to know what I am going to write about, please read on.

I am an emotional person. I do a lot of things out of an emotional response. I am also a passionate person. I write a lot of things as a passionate response. Sometimes my emotions and passions spur me to do things without fully processing the whole picture. It is who I am. Always have been, always will be. I make no apologies.

This past week has caused me to really evaluate myself and the work I do in photography. I still stand by the work I have done and shared. I feel no reason to be ashamed. What I have realized is that quitting is not the answer. Giving up something that I am passionate about, something that I can be proud of, and something that does so much good for my mental health does not seem like a good option. So, do I want to make this all about me and what is good for me? While that is very important, it is not the only thing I have to consider.

I don't want to ask the same questions in this post as I did in my previous post. Nonetheless, the questions are still valid and I encourage to go read them if you haven't already. I have asked myself these questions all week. I have tried to see through a different lens. But my answers come back the same.  We have to live our lives within our own moral compass. Mine is based on my belief in God and in what I believe the Bible teaches. The Bible allows for Christians to have differing opinions from each other. We do not all have to have the exact same comfort zone. But is that all there is?

 One question I did not ask myself is this: Can I do anything that would protect my neighbor from what may be a stumbling block to them? The answer is no. I did not consider this.  In hindsight, I probably should not have made my pictures so readily available for viewing. We all have a choice as to what we click on, what we look at, watch, or read. There are things I won't click on, but you will. The opposite is just as true. Just as what may be a stumbling block to my neighbor might not be a stumbling block to me. Where do we go from here?

 I think the answer would be that while I can (and will) continue to work within my own moral compass, I will not put my work in such a place where my neighbor cannot help but see it. In other words, I will still shoot what I shoot, I will still put the pictures on my website, and I will still post some of them to my photography Instagram account. What I will not do is post my pictures on Facebook, or links to my pictures on Facebook.  People can choose to follow my photography account, they can choose to browse to my website. True, they can also choose to click the links I post, but ultimately that is their choice. What I am doing is making the choice to not see my work a little easier. By taking this route, the choice is out of my hands. No links, no advertising. Unless you choose to follow my photography account or choose to navigate to my website.

And so, my journey continues. I will continue to shoot pictures. I will continue to create concepts that intrigue me, and to find a model that will work with me in capturing these concepts in photographs. I will not guarantee that every concept or picture will fit within everyone's comfort zone. That would be impossible. I will shoot through my own lens. I will work harder at evaluating a shoot, but I will not apologize if it is not exactly what others think it should be. My conscience will continue to be my guide.

This week has been difficult. But when I came to the decision not to quit, and when I talked with my wife about it, a weight was lifted off my heart and my mind. Discussions will continue regarding this subject. It can be controversial, only because we all have differing opinions of right and wrong.  But I feel at peace. And I like this feeling a lot.

Rod


Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Walking Away

Dear reader

As I start to write this, I have no clue what the title will be or how long this will be. But isn’t that true of almost everything I write? The title is the last thing to be written and I write until I am done. One thing I do know is the subject of this article. Photography. No, this is not going to be a technical manual. It is not going to be a how-to guide. This article is going to be deeply personal, for that is the only way I know how to write. For those of you who don’t want to read the whole article, I will put a TL;DR at the end.

Any of you who know me and have been following me on the different forms of social media over the years will know that I wear my heart on my sleeve. I have never been scared to reveal little bits of myself through my writing. I have never shied away from sharing the different paths I, along with my family, have been on. Cancer, depression...those are two of the longer paths. What does this have to do with photography? Hopefully that will become more clear as I write and you read.

Roughly 6 months ago (that would have been the summer of 2019), I took a step into the world of fashion photography. Along with that came editorial photography, lifestyle photography and a bunch of other sub-genres that I am probably forgetting. What these all have in common is people. I started to take photographs of people. Specifically, I started having photoshoots with models. As of this writing, I have only shot female models but my first male model photoshoot is tomorrow.

As I got into this genre of photography, I discovered that I had some talent. Maybe not much, but it was there. I also unlocked a passion for something of which I have never felt before with any hobby I have tried. Talent and passion...what could possibly go wrong? So through different methodologies I studied to improve my craft. Composition, lighting, camera settings...you name it, I studied it. I learned from a lot of different people, models and photographers alike. And continued all the way up until this very day. I am just as passionate about it today as I was 6 months ago. Maybe even more so.

Photoshoot after photoshoot, I created art. Along with the models I worked with, I created something magical for both them and myself. Not every picture was as good as I wanted, but I learned from the mistakes more than I learned from the successes. We created art. The whole process was an adrenaline rush. From coming up with a concept, to finding a model, to planning the shoot and all that it entails, to post production...what a rush. I felt so alive. I dare say that the past 6 months have transformed me into who I really am, who I want to be. I want to be happy, positive. I want to use the talents God has given me and celebrate the beauty he created. My brain has a creative side to it, and this was an amazing way to use that creativity and keep my brain healthy.

Two days ago, I made the decision to walk away from it all.

WHAT? But...you just said all this stuff. It was positive…and, well, positive! .I can hear you all saying this and asking me Why?

What I discovered over the past few days is that it is seemingly impossible for a Christian to work in this field. It is seemingly futile for a Christian to take pictures of models. I have run into what seems to be an insurmountable hill. Please, do read on.

(Disclaimer: I am NOT pointing fingers. I do not blame anyone for anything.)

People have opinions. Beliefs. Convictions. And I will always respect those, especially when they are different than mine. When I started into this world of photography, I set boundaries. Personal boundaries that I would not cross. I know what I am comfortable shooting, I know what I am comfortable sharing, and I will never be ashamed of the work I did. Never. I have nothing to apologize for, no one to apologize to. I will defend my work until my dying breath.

But.

There is always a but. But how can I continue to shoot if I have to constantly look over my shoulder, wondering who is going to be offended by my work? How can I work within my own comfort zone while also trying to fit everyone else’s in? How can I create my art when I have to wonder who is going to judge and condemn? Now, don’t get me wrong. I understand that my work is not for everybody. Many will not like the pictures I take. And that is fine. All art forms are subjective. I personally loved the banana duct taped to the wall. Brilliant!! One definition of ‘subjective’ is placing excessive emphasis on one’s own moods, attitudes, opinions, etc. There are no facts, only beliefs and opinions.

Let’s be perfectly clear: I do not care if you like my work or not. That is your right, and I respect that 100%.

Let’s be perfectly clear once again: Just because you do not like my work, does not make it wrong. Read that again.

As I said, I set my boundaries of what I would and wouldn’t shoot. My criteria for these boundaries was based on my personal belief system, and what I think is acceptable in my life as a Christian. That is fair, is it not? I thought so, until it was pointed out to me that I cannot do something. I have been told on different occasions (not many, but still…) that I cannot take pictures of women. I cannot take ‘sexy’ pictures of women. I cannot take pictures of ‘sexy’ women. So I’m confused. Can I only take pictures of the ugly ones? That seems harsh and judgy. Who determines beauty? You? Me? Interesting. Or is the point that I cannot take pictures of women (or men I suppose) in certain clothing? How much skin can be seen? Knees down, elbows down and neck up? Who determines this? And is it different for male models than for female models?

My point is that we all have different boundaries, different comfort levels. I agree that, as a Christian, there are certain boundaries I cannot cross. I am sure we would even agree on some of those boundaries. But I ask you this, dear reader: who draws that line between right and wrong? I struggle with this. Christians will say to use the Bible as our moral compass. And I agree with that 100%. And I have no problem whatsoever defending my work according to that compass. Others will have no problem condemning my work according to that compass. Do you see where my dilemma is? Who is right? Who gets to decide if my work is right or wrong?

Let me ask another question: who is the decision maker as to what clothing is appropriate for a model to wear, and what is inappropriate? Or better yet...who decides what is appropriate for me to shoot and share? After all, the model may be comfortable in something others would condemn as being not modest enough. I may be comfortable shooting it and sharing it. But you may be uncomfortable looking at it. Who decides if what I did was wrong? Your level of uncomfortability? My comfort level? This is tough, isn’t it? After all, none of us are the judge. We don’t sit on the jury. And we certainly don’t fill the role of executioner.

Dear reader, this is why I have walked away from photography. There are too many dilemmas that make it impossible for me to continue. For I cannot be me, I cannot use my creativity to create my art if I have to be held to someone else’s moral compass. It has been suggested to me that I start over under a pseudonym and not share my work. I suppose I could, and I have not totally discounted it. But to me it seems I would be hiding what I do. This is a personal struggle I have to work out.

So this is my heart on my sleeve. I am heartbroken that I have to walk away from something that has done me so much good mentally. I could write a lot more about my mental health and all of that, but I won’t. If I can find a way to come back to the work I was doing, I will. But it will be on my terms, and nobody else’s (aside from my wife). Right now, I do not see a way of coming back. Maybe that will change. I told my wife during one of our many discussions on this that IF I do come back, the only people who will know are those I choose. And I will have to be extremely picky. I will need to protect myself from another heartbreak. I don’t want to have to go through this again. I do not expect you to understand. A few people have seen what effect this has had on me. I don’t think they like what they see. And frankly, neither do I.

Rod

TL;DR Stepping away from photography because I can’t work when I have to be confined to moral compasses that are not my own.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Needing Life

As I go through my WIP folder, I discover poems that were completed long ago. These poems, if deemed ok in my opinion, will be posted here. For the ones I deem not acceptable, they will never see the light of day. As always, I hope you enjoy my poetry. If you do, please subscribe to get the latest updates. If you don't, so be it. 

Rod Kok
May 8, 2019

It used to be easy
to believe, to trust,
to dance with sunbeams
as they radiated enthusiasm
through the window
to my soul.

But somewhere
on this forked road,
light stopped penetrating,
casting shadows which bled
into darkness.

I am overcome
by a mist, a cold embrace
drawing me down
to its passionless depths.

I am cold and shivering.
I feel naked and alone.
I am scared.

I need your heat,
your love, your caress.

I need life.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Escape

I wrote this a few years ago, and let it in my WIP folder. The message today is every bit as real as it was then. Nothing has changed.

Rod Kok
May 6, 2019

A battle is raging,
a war is being fought.
Two foes fight
over one weary soul.

An epic contest
between Right
and Wrong,
my head is in conflict
with my heart.

Desire wields
a sword,
honed on a whetstone
of Passion.

Wisdom parries
what surely could be
a mortal strike,
while Reason’s voice
is faintly heard.

A blow is struck,
not by arrow
or blade,
but by Words,
penetrating through
the vigilance of my Heart.
Circumspection leads
a counter-attack,
prevailing to gain an edge
for Right.

Conscience interferes,
creating diversions
wherever a foothold
can be found.

A battle is raging;
my head and my heart
each claim victory.

But Conquest has not arrived,
so this fight goes on.

Deep in my soul,
Lust is wrestling Purity.
Damnation pulls Salvation
to the precipice,
only to be denied
by Sacrifice.

I am weary;
I grow tired of
this confrontation.

I grow weary;
I pray for peace.
I pray
for escape.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Epic Sigh or, This is how I feel about me

Here is my latest poem that I am willing to share. I wrote this after a session with my psychologist. No, she doesn't make me feel this way but she sure does make me think. And that is a good thing. Mostly. Please enjoy the poem.

Rod E Kok
January 28, 2019

I lack truth.
Seriously, I do not have
a clue.
Am I supposed to have
all my sh*t together?
Because I don't.
I don't even have sh*t,
never mind having it
together.

Insert an epic sigh
right here.
That is me,
evaluating.
Ruminating.
I do not like
the returns on this path.

I have been told
(yesterday even!)
that I am too hard
on myself.
Yeah, character flaw
and all those other
evaluative (judgmental)
adjectives.

I get it.
But seriously.
Am I really supposed to have
all my sh*t together?
Because I don't.
And probably never will.