Guest blog. Guest blog. Guest blog. I’ve never done a guest post before… What the heck do you write in one of these? Do I have enough interesting content to write about? Where do I start? Ugh. Here it goes, I guess…
As I sit here typing this, I’m realizing it’s been about a year exactly since I first met John over the phone. Then we finally met in person on the day of my first shoot with Puf. My wife & I had just embarked (the day before) on a 7-day adventure campervan trip from Denver to Moab. We stayed near Red Rocks to be able to wake up on Day 2, and head to the shoot. We even used the campervan in the shoot! Perfect props/setting!
In almost 35 years of life, I feel like I’ve lived many different lives. I’ve always been a creative at heart, and have always been happiest amidst creative projects, people & things. To think that I picked up my first DSLR only 4 short years ago, blows my mind. The amazing people, adventures & experiences that have crossed my path are what makes this whirlwind of a journey worth it. I’ve learned so much in just a year on the commercial side of things, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
Prior to leaping into the commercial world of cannabis photography, I was doing family portraiture. During that time, we left Dallas (home for us both for over 20 years), and moved west to Colorado Springs. Since we practically were living in downtown Dallas, we felt Denver was going to be too big for the slow down our souls needed.
Adjusting to the LGBTQ+ scene out in Colorado Springs was just that… an ADJUSTMENT. We had moved from the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, where we called the gay strip, The Gayborhood. What gay scene did you want to be in, henny? We had dance clubs, leather clubs, western clubs, ladies clubs, mens clubs, bear clubs… you name it, whatever day of the week, there. were. options. All for the queer community. As any big city is accustomed to.
In the Springs… there was literally ONE bar. Aimed at predominantly male clientele, or only a small demographic of the entire LGBTQ+ community. Being one of the only, if not the only gay bar, in the Springs made it the place to be. The Pride Parade really opened our eyes to the wide spectrum of individuals within the southern Colorado community & the beauty of each and every individual’s journey. Shortly after that Pride weekend, there was a tragedy within our community that really hit too close to home. A sweet Denver boy came out to a very loving and supportive family over that summer break. Unfortunately, that love and positive acceptance at home only went so far. The boy was bullied at school, and ultimately ended up taking his own life. This broke me. How can it almost be the year 2020, and young children are in schools telling other children to go home and hurt themselves, or that they weren’t lovable?!?! How is there not enough representation so kids aren’t continually taught to hate those they feel are different from them?!?!
That was it. I couldn’t sit and just let that go. It was then that I came up with the Coming Out Sessions. It was a photojournalistic project focused on the coming out stories of those within the LGBTQ+ community. I wanted to be able to showcase that we as a community were more than a box to check. We didn’t have to fit into anyone’s definition of who we should be. I wanted to give hope to those out there who felt alone, and provide resources to those looking for guidance.
We debuted the project to the world on National Coming Out Day, October 11, 2018. Shortly after, I started receiving messages from people all over the world, saying they wanted to be a part of the project, too! The interviews started out of my studio in Colorado Springs, then I would rent a conference room in Denver for a day for interviews out there, and I’d also fit interviews in while I was back home visiting family in Dallas, TX.
For the interviews, I would take 3 different pictures (smile, serious & your personality) of the interviewee, then we would sit and chat about them, their journey & a few other fun things. My wife & I would then transcribe each interview, allow one proof & then post to the website & IG as a part of the community archive. It was a beautiful experience getting to sit and personally interview 90+ volunteers for this project. An opportunity I am eternally grateful for & wouldn’t take back for the world!
But…. all of that go-go-go, didn’t come without its own detriment to my mental health. I really wish the story didn’t go that way, but I ended up having to put the project on hold indefinitely. Since then, the website still is (and has always been) an archive – www.comingoutsessions.com (…moving to www.comingoutsessions.org because mama can’t afford anything but WordPress at the moment!) I am also in the process of revamping the project to be a little more mental health-friendly (for myself) & participation-friendly (for everyone around the world still wanting to participate). Stay tuned for announcements on that here soon!
I was always told that I had a gift when it came to interviewing people for this project. My main priority was to create and hold a safe space for their authenticity & vulnerability. I was grateful to get to share that time and space with them. So, it’s no surprise that I decided to come up with the Smoking Out Sessions podcast. Pulling the authentic & vulnerability vibes from the Coming Out Sessions interviews, and sprinkling a little cannabis into the mix. My 2 favorite things! WEED & REALNESS!
So, flash forward to podcast day with John… Being a part of the podcast was not the original plan when I stopped for a visit this particular day, but what’s life without a little spontaneity, right? I wanted to get his advice on how to go about juggling 175,382 things at once, and maybe smoke a bowl. John had other plans in mind. One bowl later, there I was… the next guest on his podcast. And, here we are!
Check out my websites & IG pages:
www.comingoutsessions.com (soon to be www.comingoutsessions.org)
@o5creativelabs – all my photography work
@comingoutsessions – stay tuned for more info on how you can share your story with the world!
@smokingoutsessions – suggestions on who I should interview once this quarantine chills?