Since 2020 hit with a bang, I’ve been doing the majority of my thinking on how to enact change through my own resources. I don’t have many. But I have some.
This world is botched and I don’t want my son, Frankie’s, corner of it to be as botched. I got hit by a drunk driver a few weeks ago, and it resulted in a concussion turned traumatic brain injury. But my TBI was kinda cool in the sense that it crystallized all of my disparate/crazy ideas into one single plan.
And the newfound sense of peace, determination and focus I now have is very much rocking my world.
Care to join me on a lil’ mental stroll?
A lot of conversations in the current climate are concentrated around theoretical solutions, and to an action-oriented/annoying person like myself, that can feel kind of futile? I am extremely, down to my cells, interested in justice, humanity and truth. I’d say those things are the motivating forces in my life. But I’ve felt lately that I wasn’t sure how to turn all these thoughts and feelings into actions that made sense in regards to my skills, experience, etc.
I feel differently now. During my 24hr panic attack, I was stuck under 5 blankets, sweating through my t-shirt. In too much pain — physical, mental — to make it to the door to get my dinner delivery. It took me all night and half the morning to make my way out of my bed to get to the bag at the front door. I can’t really describe the mental state I was in except yeah — traumatic brain injury sums it up.
Don’t get sad! This was actually a very cool little blanky pile in the end. In my fucked-up brain, it made sense to me to make a little therapeutic sauna to sweat out my demons. It worked!
And even in the middle of my sweat sesh, a “business” or “ethical group” plan began to emerge. I started to brainstorm, pitch and secure a new client during this all. WTF on my priorities all around lol, but I guess it shows I don’t take shit laying down. Or I do technically, but I’m still trying a little. I’m optimistic I guess, or dumb; either way it’s worked well for me in life.
So, I feel this way. What’s the plan?
I basically want to change Union, my own business, into a collective.
This is kinda cool because my grandpa (mom’s dad), Dean Clowes, was the labor advisor for Kennedy, deputy director of the AFL-CIO African-American Labor Center in New York, and assistant director of the United Steelworkers in Baltimore. We don’t know much about him, so it’s kind of neat to share that interest in labor rights with Pops.
Anyway, what I’m thinking is that:
1. The wedding industry bums me out a bit, in that it seems dumb to just focus on 3 major life events for people. I kind of want to make a new creative collective that celebrates different types of unions. I think there are a lot of people like me who want to celebrate life generally and on a more “minor” level. Life is the occasion, you know? Maybe you just want to remember right now, for no other reason than that? There’s something nice about that idea to me.
2. I want Union to be a diverse, inclusive, alternative to the photo/video “lifestyle” market basically. We’d cover unions of all kinds: people, places, ideas, etc. All-inclusive creative direction, photo, video, hmua, florals, food, etc. Everyone gets their fair fee.
3. Instead of the end of the trajectory for a client being engagement, wedding and eventually pregnancy, I’d like to use the collective to celebrate all moments in life. Sure, weddings, but I think especially after Covid hit, people have shifted their priorities. Any get together is special now. And that’s so not a bad thing in my book. I think there’s a mission-based and business-based opportunity for something unique in the space.
4. The collective aspect will be that it will be a union itself of sorts, with the added benefit of being mobile and distanced, thus viable into the apocalypse lol.
5. I’d like us to be able to produce multimedia art for clients that commemorates a time, and
6. I’m changing my pay structure. I’ve never really been one for exclusivity. Now going forward, I’ve been clear with my clients that if they’re able to pay the full fee, they are subsidizing lower-income clients’ fees. It’s actually working and is super heartwarming to me. This way, I can waive or lower fees for others who need it. I think the people who we would want as clients aren’t necessarily going to all fit into the upper income brackets or even have the opportunity. It also weeds out wealthier clients who don’t subscribe to the ethics/mission.
7. Union will have different, adaptable members, and we’ll do work for clients who match our ethos, but also produce our own branded, printed magazines and other things. Delivered final product that’s maybe a little off-the-wall?
So, there’s a lot to do. But, the first two orders of business are:
1. I’ve started a very — like very — small-scale economy reboot program. We’re mobile but are starting in Oregon. But I feel like it’s at least something. My idea is to create a series of free or extremely affordable promotional photo/video/multimedia services, supplemented by my clients not struggling in the current economy. I would give unlimited license so they could use the photos/videos/whatever to promote themselves how they liked (social media, website, etc) and I could as well. And the fun part for me but mysterious part for everyone else will be I’ll never spill the beans on who’s paying and who’s not. I wonder if that mystery says something about our society? I think it’s a leveling concept that feels refreshing right now. One local client is on board. Looking for more collaborators and clients for this project, even during this:
2. I’m leaving on a (distanced) road trip October 1–14 to shoot a series of documentary and editorial projects based around a couple of people I know who are very interesting to me. None of the “maker”/”artisanal” variety: idk it bums me out, man. Nothing precious. Real-ass, weird, cool people. I’m hoping to collaborate along the way and start working on some new projects as a collective. I’ll be in OR, ID, UT, NM, TX. Already have documentary subjects in OR,TX. Looking for collaborators and subjects ID, UT, NM.
Why am I putting this out into other people’s eyes? Idk but I feel a strong pull to share what I’m doing now. Maybe just to document this phase in my life. I’m trying to listen more to those kinds of feelings. So maybe it will help someone or be comforting to see someone pull themselves out from rock bottom lol.
But if you want to be a part of Union, it’s @unioncamera. Pretty much everything is under construction, but Instagram would be a good way to reach out if you’re interested in being a part of the group or a client :)
Back to our stroll.
In my life, I operate by a code. I see a lot of problems in this world stemming from people not having a consistent code. I see part of my blanket sauna situation as a reaction to me breaching my code. I really don’t take my code lightly.
I’ve kinda been looking my whole life for a place where people operated by a similar mission. A business even. But is that mutually exclusive? I’m beginning to think not.
I’ve tried to find a place like this. A lot lol. But it hasn’t worked out, I’m seeing, because I think my path is to create that community for myself. Out of nowhere?
Wanna know my secret code? Come closer.
Hey my dude it’s pretty simple really: I try my best to adhere to a harm reduction/proactive mindset. In other words, I constantly ask myself, am I making this decision based on stupid shit? Or is it going to do more harm than help — either to another or myself — if I take this action? Most importantly, is this action going to produce positive effects in a real, action-oriented way? If it’s stupid shit, I bail. If it’s harmful shit, I bail. If it’s only theoretical, I bail. It’s a straightforward and positive way to be compared to the alternative/AKA my instincts. So it’s not easy. But it is, begrudgingly, worth it.
If this sounds like your code, maybe we can be friends? Let’s shake some shit up.