It’s been a while - medical school keeps me busy. But I finally had time to get around to editing one of my summer projects. I’m happy to share a collaboration between and one of my medical school classmates, Cyrus! Also featuring Amber Quinones and Julie Ni!
cw: mental health, ideation
This year was my most challenging one. For months, I descended almost irretrievably into a dark spiral of depression. There were times in which I questioned my own humanity, convinced I was some horrid creature merely masking as human. Paranoia attacked my sanity and safety, even in the brightest of days and in the company of friends. And in my deepest spirals, I contemplated whether the next day was worth living.
But I'm here. And there have been triumphs. This year, for the first time, I printed personal photography prints for a benefit auction, and raised over $200. I have the beginnings of an original musical. I've collaborated even more in film and photography. I finished a masters in Community Health and started studying medicine, pursuing a program in Narrative Medicine. I've seen more of the world, including the Galapagos and Cuba, inspiring me even more to fight against imperialism, colonialism, and rampant capitalism in all its forms. I've met new colleagues and friends who inspire me tremendously. I've laughed more than I can remember. I've discovered the amazingness of a show that is Terrace House. I've picked up painting and sketching. I have grown.
I stand today, still here, with an eternal, unquenchable gratitude for the people to who, through no small effort, I owe my life. Many of those know who they are and have already been thanked. I will carry a bit of them with me, always. But at the end of 2017, I cannot help but, thank the many masses of you who, knowingly or not, are also reasons I am here today, whether it was through dancing, coffee chats, social media interactions, or a simple, smiling hello.
Part of doing 1SE's for five years (compilation pending) is the sobering recognition that our days, despite our careful curation of our public selves, are filled with both the mundane and interesting, the exuberant and the sorrowful. Even when life sucks, those days exist, and I still film them. This realization grinds against our societal conditioning to always 'have our shit together,' but in a way, it is also liberating. The candid acknowledgement, even appreciation, of the spectrum of experience is, after all, what makes us human.
I have found that healing is not always short, nor is it linear. At times, our healing may even injure others. It often resembles that Japanese game show where contestants race up a staircase greased with soap. We're in such a rush to get 'better,' that we lose our footing and slip back down to the bottom. Even if we take our time, we can still fall flat on our faces and slide back into the darkness, dragging others with us. But we can, and will reach the top, one aching step at a time.
Reach out in times of struggle, collective healing is powerful. There are psychiatrists, social workers, mentors, professors, friends, even strangers. Despite the crushing isolation that one might feel, there are always those who will help, even when it is most difficult to do so.
-- those are also the ones, I've learned, that you should hold on to dearly. For those are a rare breed of friend that are irreplaceable in this world.
I originally set out to write more to accompany this video, but I've decided to reserve those thoughts for another time. In any case, my thoughts invariably distilled themselves into the same, simple thoughts:
Be kind to those around you. Listen - critically, but always compassionately. Apologize, then change. Acknowledge anger, but forgive generously. Accept, then let go. Recognize imperfection, but strive for improvement. It is okay to be broken. It is okay to cry.
Thank you to all who have been a part of my 2017.
I move forward, driven even more passionately to educate myself, dismantle oppressive systems, alleviate suffering, serve the people, tell great stories, and to build communities of love, creativity, and healing.
I live on, a bit more broken,
but ever more loving, ever more kind,
ever more human.
The Philadelphia Magic Gardens is indeed a magical, chimera of a location. Nestled in a tiny lot in the Philadelphia, the garden is a remarkable feat of public art, filled with debris, art, and other knick knacks combined together in what I can only describe as a 3D-mosaic playground. It was a joy to wander in this space with my friend, Nikita, who graciously let me fit this week's challenge into our city explorations as a subject for my 10 shots.
Prompt (Story): Tell a story using a mirror.
I imagined this mirror as a 'looking glass' into the past. For me, the photo evokes the memories of once great river rushing through a now water-less hill.
Technically speaking, I shot this by putting a waterfall behind my back and using the mirror to create the illusion that the water is in front of me.
Week 1 Prompt (Story): The rule of thirds is the first compositional rule most photographers learn; but most don't know why they learn it. The rule of thirds is amazing for telling a story. Tell a story using rule of thirds.
Horizontally, I've broken the rule of thirds, and instead created thirds with the sea, land, and sky to create equal weight between them, suggesting that nature is in balance. Vertically, the shelter is on the guide line but the man is walking away from the guideline, suggesting that he's on a journey, which, results from a step away from balance, or the status quo.
Week 2 Prompt (Technical): Straight out of the Camera. No Photoshop. Shoot a compelling image and post it without edits. No cheating! (Be sure and save the image file for the end of the challenge!)
Lighting and color theory are aspects of filmmaking that I've largely underrated and am still trying to master. In most of my work, I've relied on post-production to create the look that I need, but it's often time-consuming, and ultimately, can't make up for poor direction. One of the struggles I had starting out in film is that I kept asking myself, "what else do I need to start making great visuals? What lens, what camera, what dolly, what slider, what else, what more?" The trap, of course, is that I ended up making nothing - and paying a lot. In this week's photo, I took some time to give some love to basic lighting techniques: separation of subject and background, key light, fill light, rim light, color. If I couldn't "fix it in post," then the challenge was being intentional enough to get it right in-camera.
In creating this image, I've found that the path to visual storytelling just requires a bit more confidence in the creativity that already exists in my brain (it's also free). Also self-portraits are hard.
Week 3 Prompt (Artistic): Your inspiration this week is land. This could be a landscape, or an image inspired by the land in some way.
I'm late. The week this was due was so tough, that I'm resorting to going back into the catalogues to find a picture inspired by land. So here's a picture of me simba-ing a piece of ice in triumph of still being here, alive and hustling.
This week, I went to my first Temple Story Slam. The event, held at the med school, used a similar format to other live storytelling platforms such as The Moth. The goal was to showcase "stories that bind us and remind us of the incredible things we do and see and feel in and around Temple University Hospital and across Temple Health." 12 members of the health community, ranging from students to attending physicians, shared five minute stories with the audience.
This open letter of support for performers of Stanford Kayumanggi's PCN was originally published May 6, 2017. I ended up liking what I wrote and thought I'd archive it here.