Let me preface by saying that I’ve never done any hard time in a federal or state correctional facility. Hell, I’ve never even been convicted of a misdemeanor. I’ve actually been living a fortunate adult life by having a decent paying job, living in safe neighborhoods, being surrounded by an amazing group of family and friends who supported me through no matter what, and marrying a gorgeous, caring, supportive wife that loves me for all that I am. But there was this huge void in my life, something that I once possessed but was now dead. But the reality was that this important part of me was never really dead. It was just forgotten. It was locked away somewhere deep inside the bowels of a dirty cell. That part of me had been screaming for help. But the voice was silent, and the screams were merely thoughts. Thoughts I didn’t even acknowledge. Fuck man, 20 years is a long time. Thank God for my wife.
I was around 6 years old when I would draw pictures of Death Star battles with Tie Fighters and X-Wings zooming in and out of each scribbled page, creating massive explosions and bits and pieces of rock and ship scattered throughout, coupled with live sound effects that I would produce with my very own mouth and prepubescent vocal chords. I was also obsessed with ninjas during this time so I would sketch these finely choreographed fight scenes inspired by Sho Kosuki’s bad ass ninja movies and kung-fu theatre of the 1980’s. As my skills developed into my early teens, I started drawing detailed portraits of pop culture icons at the time like Magic Johnson and Tim Burton’s Batman. Even though I was a shy little dude, I loved to share what I created and eventually gave my drawings away. That was MY Instagram back in the days. Giving something you created and experiencing the reaction you get from it was the best part. Creating art was my jam. I remember it being so hard to put down, but when I had to, I couldn’t wait to pick it up again. It’s the greatest of escapes, the ultimate therapy. When I turned 16, though, that’s when everything changed. I was in high school and wanted to be an adult. Too fast. Too soon.
The first thing I wanted to do after I got my drivers license was to get a job. I couldn’t wait to start earning my own money. My dad, who migrated from the Philippines with my mom, was an extremely hard worker and worked 2 full time jobs just to put food on the table and keep a roof over our head. “Get good grades, and get a good paying job,” my parents always said. Since I only listened to my parents about 50% of the time, I tip- toed around the good grades part but I landed my first job at 16 and have been working ever since. I then became Jax, formerly known as artist, to pursue the “American Dream” aka “My Parent’s Dream” and eventually land a career in becoming a nurse, accountant, real estate agent or engineer. I never felt forced to do any of this, by the way. My parents never held me at gunpoint. I just did it because thats what I thought adults had to do to “live” and live responsibly. Ironic, because a huge part of me started to die after this and I never even knew it.
In my 20’s I was living on my own, working for a big company and living the single life. Basketball, beer, running and working out ruled this decade for me. Creating art was just an afterthought. I remember drawing just a couple of pieces, a portrait of my Niece and profile sketch of Frodo and Arwen from Lord Of The Rings. It felt amazing to draw again but it was just a thing I used to do and pretty much took a back seat to everything else. I had no idea, but I was lost.
Fast forward to my 30’s where I meet Lora Carpenter, the unlikely white girl who dug The Pharcyde (90’s hip hop group) as much as I did, the person who still went on a second date with me after being the butt of every joke for every comedian who took the stage at the comedy club on our first date that night (we were seated in the front row). Yup, Lora Carpenter, the courageous woman who said yes to spending the rest of her precious life with yours truly.
One of the early conversations we had when we were dating was about art. She had a huge appreciation and talent for art. She also drew, painted and did some photography. Just talking about art with her made me feel alive and excited. I was inspired to draw so I sketched a portrait of her dad. I’m not gonna lie, I did it to score a few points, but it felt awesome to share my art with someone again.
But photography is not art, is it? Lora was the first person to convince me that photography was more than just capturing memories. Photography was art. I remember the first time watching her take photos and being so intrigued because she got down really low to capture some shots and put the camera in some interesting angles and perspectives. Man, I never knew you could “create” something with a camera. It changed me forever. Photography became my new art, my new creative outlet. I felt a surge of energy. I could shoot for hours. It put me back in a space where time was nonexistent. Feelings, emotions, and fatigue were not a factor. Just focus. Shoot. Create.
Lora played a part of every major step in my photography journey. She introduced me to the art of photography and taught me basics like composition and the rule of thirds. She got me to try Instagram. What was so cool about Instagram is that I saw it as an opportunity to share art, just like I did when I was handing out drawings as a kid. She was responsible for adopting our first dog Fugee which led to our Dog Photography account @thefugee. And on Christmas of 2015, she bought me a Sphero BB-8, my first Toy Photography subject.
It’s crazy how these little decisions people make could greatly impact someones life. These “little” choices my wife made got me out of a hole. 20 years is a long time. Thank God for my wife.