The Summer of 1994 was not a particularly good time for me. I was twenty-one years old and though I certainly had my share of fun, I was dealing with a lot. I had a lot of questions about my future, issues about personal identity, shifts in several of my close friendships, fears about what to do beyond the impending final year of college and a hefty measure of depression which really zapped my creative and personal energy. The two things that usually proved to be good medicine for me were long drives and long walks... alone. This was before everyone had cell phones, WiFi and iPhone apps to post their whereabouts and details on what they were eating, drinking or seeing at any given moment. Once I left the house (failing a chance meeting with a friend or a visit to a pay phone) I was completely and utterly with myself... and sometimes with a camera or sketchbook.
On this particular day, with my Yashica and a roll of Tri-X Pan in tow, I hopped into my cherry red 1987 Chevy Blazer and took off for the almost eerie weekday silence of Peapack-Gladstone. I remember feeling very dark because I wasn't really able to focus on drawing or painting anything. Basically, everything I tried to render or compose ended up being a complete mess. Rather frighteningly, my perception, sense of space, proportion and color had all been stunted for a couple of months. I remember telling close friends that I "felt like my hands had been taken off me" and I was determined to break this cycle. I had always liked photography and found that when other materials and methods failed me, I was able to compose through a lens with relative ease.
Seventeen years later, I have complete recall of the way the shade on the sidewalk felt as well as the intensity of the sun's heat once I stepped out of the shadow of the row of stores. I can feel the heaviness of the New Jersey Summer air and the thickness that comes when there is no movement in it whatsoever. I also have the same feeling now that I had on that day for that gorgeous vintage Rexall Drugs sign. My statement about that orange gem always was "If it goes missing, I don't know a thing about it!"
As I crossed the street to shoot the photo below, I remember thinking that I had entered a 1950s time warp with the only thread to the 1990s being the large sign that says "FAX" in the window of the Copper Kettle Deli.
Taking a step back and looking at the world through a lens proved a wonderful method of therapy. It helped me keep my eye nimble and sharpen my sensibilities while I worked to get other pieces of my life in order. That Autumn, I returned for my senior year at Parsons with my attitude and energy lightened considerably. Upon returning, almost immediately I found that my work got the blast of energy that it desperately needed, most notably with the use of color.
Sometimes a separation from something we love is necessary, but a reunion is far better.