The little butcher shop and restaurant down Main Street in Fort Lee has a tiny parking lot and a minuscule sign that most passerby would miss completely unless they were trying to look for this hole in the wall. Prime and Beyond has been here since 2003, and easily rated one of the best steak houses in the area. With all the new commercial and residential development in town the past year, Fort Lee started their own little Restaurant Week to promote old and new restaurants. My wife and I made a reservation for a prix fixe dinner for two, at $30 each. My first worry about a low cost prix fixe from such a high end restaurant would be the small portions they would provide. Some of the best places serve an 8oz or less steak for over $45. Considering what we got on the menu, this was an incredible bargain.
It was April of 2011 when I opened up my daily news feed and saw Jalopnik.com asking for volunteer photographers to cover the New York Auto Show at the Javits Center. Being a typical car guy, and a pretty good photographer, I figured it couldn’t hurt to send them an email with my website (filled with wedding and model photography). I assumed they would’ve gotten dozens if not hundreds of email requests so I wasn’t expecting any replies. Soon after I got a reply from Ray Wert from Jalopnik and I signed up to cover the two press days.
I’ve been wanting to write this for a long time but my life has never given me the opportunity to do so until now. This is my story of how I became one of the most popular model photographer among the Asian community to how I’ve completely removed myself from my past indulgent and destructive lifestyle.
Growing up I was never popular for my social skills or fashion sense, in fact I was the most awkward kid. I wore ugly clothes carried over from Taiwan or over sized Costco selections, and had little knowledge of good hygiene. I was always the wallflower at parties with extremely low self esteem that would drive me to the corner and wish someone would say hi to me. On the flip side, I was gifted with an artistic talent, most likely passed down by my grandfather. Everyone at school knew I was the best artist, and I embraced that title with open arms.
From elementary school through college, everyone appreciated me for my talent, and wanted what I could offer them, from drawing to websites and eventually photography in college. As I got more into taking photos of people, the attention that I got from photographing attractive women either from the models themselves or from all of my audiences that praised me became a social drug/addiction. Talk about kids who are obsessed with “likes,” I was just as guilty of obsessing over “eprops” back in 2003.
Taking portraits of pretty women isn’t a bad thing to be great at, however as my insecurities continued behind the camera, I wanted to prove more of myself and show everyone else that I was better than them. This intensity to be the best came from a bad source, a place of wanting to be envied. It was easy to hide behind a great picture and let everyone send me praise. After a while, a pretty portrait became boring and I needed more intensity that got me more attention and notoriety. Making photos more sexy was the easiest way, after all, sexy sells right?
I started taking sexy photos not much later than I had started modeling photography, and the more I looked at women the more I became desensitized to it, which meant wanting more erotic and perverse poses and content. I started doing everything for my own pleasure, not truly respecting the women I photographed, nor did I care about any relationships they were in or if their family might run into the photos. I selfishly wanted to post everything for the world to see what I was capable of. I posted many photos out of spite to the world which I felt displaced in. I was fueled by a lot of anger and resentment. Maybe these feelings weren’t so far from those who commit gun violence today.
This addiction I had was easily fueled thanks to the Internet and social media, which I consumed for over 12 years without any consequences to my actions. I was free as a bird, no significant other to please or feelings to worry about. When others look at my life on social media, it really did look like the ultimate bachelor’s lifestyle. Women, travel, and cars. That was exactly what I wanted other people to see. In reality, it was lonely and I was always wondering who was the next hottest girl that could fulfill my desire to be liked or envied. They were transactions, splurging on the women so they can model for me. Money for sex, basically. It was a never ending cycle that did more harm than good in terms of my relationship with women. I would argue that a lot of women desire sexy photos of themselves for the exact same reason, self reassurance and needing to be fulfilled somehow, unfortunately it just isn’t the healthiest way to gain it.
Later in my years through a few roadblocks in my life I realized I needed to stop this addiction of surviving on social media attention and women wanting me for my photography skills. I had always promised myself that one day I would only photograph my wife when I got married. I was still a hopeless romantic at heart, however I never felt like I had a chance or reason to stop, so I kept doing what I was good at. The tug in my soul wasn’t strong enough to break me free. There was nobody to fight for. Addictions are impossible to tackle alone.
I am thankful for all of my true friends who weren’t drawn to me because of the women I photographed, rather because they enjoyed my time and personality and never needed to have conversations about who the next model I would be shooting or where I would be flying to. They lived in the moment with me. One day I met a beautiful girl who I could truly feel wanting to spend time with a nerd like me, listen to my life stories and wanted to always make me feel better. A long journey started with her and the Universe made it inevitable for us to be together through all the ups and downs. Throughout our friendship and through our recent marriage, most of the issues that were fought over were about my past. Being single for my entire life didn’t help when dealing with the first girlfriend that I also fell in love with. While the intimate photography wasn’t easy to give up, it took some significant arguments for me to realize how much these photos can hurt someone and the relationships they’re in. I’ve always wanted to make the world a better place, not the other way around.
The actual photos weren’t the only hurtful reminders of my past life. The stories behind the photos were just as significant. All the gifts, dinners, flights that I offered to women would make any one person feel insignificant, small and unimportant. There lies the deeper issues than just some sexy photos, and I never felt them until I lived through someone else’s shoes. I never want her to feel second place ever again.
Once I began to realize how a decade of my actions were destructive to me and my relationship, I started taking steps to move forward and start a new and healthy lifestyle. It was only possible with the encouragement of my significant other who loved me enough to tell me I can be strong. I had to learn that her feelings were more important than that of the women I’ve photographed and the rest of the world. I removed my Instagram account of 15,000 followers. I removed all previous model blog posts. I deleted my Facebook modeling page, and I deleted my archive of all women I’ve photographed intimately. I can just hear thousands of male hearts melting. I did all of this with no regrets because I am filled so deep with the true love and affection from the only woman that I will ever want it from, my wife Olya.
I write this to all of my readers proudly and encouragingly. Please learn to respect everyone around you, be kind and have courage. Now I can truly move forward and make the world a better place.
A final note to the women in my past: May your current and future relationships be genuine, healthy, and honest. While I will no longer contact you or provide professional services to you, I will still give you my respect and I urge you to do the same for me, my wife, and my relationship.
This weekend was my second annual New York Air Show event. While I only had my Canon 70-200mm to capture planes far up in the sky, the 21 megapixel sensor from the Canon 5D Mark III allowed some safe cropping buffer. My favorite part of the show was the F-22 Raptor, showing off the most advanced flight maneuver capabilities in the world. The thrust vector engine allowed impressive low speed turns that would otherwise stall any other jet. I’m pretty sure it could out maneuver a lot of stunt planes too. The most exciting part was hearing just how loud the engines were, which also translates to how much power 70,000 pounds of thrust feels like from the ground. Fighter jets have always been awe inspiring to me, and will never get old even as an adult. Maybe next year I will try low shutter speeds with tracking, and rent a super telephoto lens!
This has got to be one of my biggest pet peeves, and bothers me every time I travel. Maybe I’m the only one who thinks this is more efficient.
After four years on the same system, it was finally time to upgrade. Editing photos and video is fun again!
Antec P182 Tower
OCZ GameXStream 700W PSU
Intel Core i7-3930K
ASUS Sabertooth X79
CORSAIR H60 Liquid CPU Cooler
MSI N560GTX-Ti GeForce GTX 560 Ti 2GB
CORSAIR Vengeance 32GB DDR3
OCZ Agility 3 120GB SSD
(2) Dell UltraSharp U2412M
View the rest of the photos on my Facebook
Dear ladies and germs, this will be my very first international volunteer trip! I am heading to South Africa to tell the story the women and children of Kwazulu Natal. The core purpose of Zimele is to teach them skills that will help self sustain their community, instead of relying on outsiders to fund and provide for them. As one woman said, “I’d rather you teach me to fish, than to give me fish.” Just as critical is allowing the women to build confidence and respect.
My first goal is to teach the community how to use their computers for education and business, as well as teaching them basic photography skills with the digital cameras that have been donated to them. They will be tasked with telling their own story with the cameras. This is a significant step in empowering women.
My second goal is to tell my own story through my photography. I am most excited to share the beauty and hardships of life in poverty of South Africa. You will not see endless sad photos from me, instead, I will tell stories of success, joy, and a bright future for this community.
Along with your monetary support, you will be providing me with encouragement to know what you support what I do. I am providing the funds for my own trip. 100% of your donations go straight to Zimele.
I will set a deadline for the fundraiser to be May 12th, the date I fly out to South Africa!
Show some love! El Bob thanks you for every donation made!
We all have certain movies we fantasize about playing the same role as the hero, for guys it would be a wide variety in an action movie from special forces to martial artists to professional drivers. The hero usually has an amazing ability to never die, can kill anyone with their bare fists, and of course, drive any car and perform stunts without beading a drop of sweat. While you watch the movie, some of the times you really want to believe you can do those things too, and the majority of the times you realize how ridiculous and blown out Hollywood makes it all. Then there’s Drive.
Drive might be the complete opposite of over blown Hollywood stunts, CGI, and sexy heroes. The nameless Driver in the movie is anything but charming. Awkward introverted personality with a deep dark secret. The movie is mostly slow paced with chunks of action scenes that kicks your heart rate into 0-60 in a split second. What I love about the movie is how it romanticizes pure driving. You typically associate cars with guns and women in movies – and yes, Drive has guns and girls too – but it really emphasizes on just the drive.
You watch the Driver cruise down the city streets alone, slow, with just radio chatter – not unrealistic for an evening drive. The simple visual stimulus of street lamps and street lines zooming past your windshield is enough for me to escape the world. This is probably how the Driver escapes his world.
When he meets the girl, his idea of a date is to ask her out for a drive. Inside the car, he is able to share his world with her by transforming what average people consider a hassle of driving, into an adventure, all without a single word being spoken. She is charmed by this. Here is a guy sharing his best moment with someone special and she is intuitive enough to understand and appreciate every moment of it. They proceed to go on dates, each time sharing a moment inside the car.
This movie best portrays my love of pure driving. Not necessarily being a gear head, nor a professional driver, but enjoying the road on a set of four wheels, and what better way to enjoy it than with someone else in the passenger seat? Unfortunately it is not a popular romantic idea, just like this movie isn’t a popular Hollywood action flick. I think it’s hard to convince a woman that all you want to do is to take her out on the road and just enjoy the drive, but for the right woman that says yes, I have found my bliss. I hope you can watch this movie too and feel what I feel.
While there are plenty of task apps out there for the iPhone, it’s not much of a reminder if you don’t remember to run the app on a regular basis to read what you need to do. The most effective method for me is to put it directly on the lock screen of the phone. How many times do you check your phone throughout the day and have to unlock the device? You will constantly see your list without having to run an app.
I take down the notes in Notes, save a screen shot, go to Photos and set the new screen as the wallpaper, and resize to fill screen.
This is a rare video that speaks directly to me, so I will share it with the rest of the world.
A video by fiilmaker, Andrea Dorfman, and poet/singer/songwriter, Tanya Davis.
HOW TO BE ALONE by Tanya Davis
If you are at first lonely, be patient. If you’ve not been alone much, or if when you were, you weren’t okay with it, then just wait. You’ll find it’s fine to be alone once you’re embracing it.
We could start with the acceptable places, the bathroom, the coffee shop, the library. Where you can stall and read the paper, where you can get your caffeine fix and sit and stay there. Where you can browse the stacks and smell the books. You’re not supposed to talk much anyway so it’s safe there.
There’s also the gym. If you’re shy you could hang out with yourself in mirrors, you could put headphones in (guitar stroke).
And there’s public transportation, because we all gotta go places.
And there’s prayer and meditation. No one will think less if you’re hanging with your breath seeking peace and salvation.
Start simple. Things you may have previously (electric guitar plucking) based on your avoid being alone principals.
The lunch counter. Where you will be surrounded by chow-downers. Employees who only have an hour and their spouses work across town and so they — like you — will be alone.
Resist the urge to hang out with your cell phone.
When you are comfortable with eat lunch and run, take yourself out for dinner. A restaurant with linen and silverware. You’re no less intriguing a person when you’re eating solo dessert to cleaning the whipped cream from the dish with your finger. In fact some people at full tables will wish they were where you were.
Go to the movies. Where it is dark and soothing. Alone in your seat amidst a fleeting community.
And then, take yourself out dancing to a club where no one knows you. Stand on the outside of the floor till the lights convince you more and more and the music shows you. Dance like no one’s watching…because, they’re probably not. And, if they are, assume it is with best of human intentions. The way bodies move genuinely to beats is, after all, gorgeous and affecting. Dance until you’re sweating, and beads of perspiration remind you of life’s best things, down your back like a brook of blessings.
Go to the woods alone, and the trees and squirrels will watch for you.
Go to an unfamiliar city, roam the streets, there’re always statues to talk to and benches made for sitting give strangers a shared existence if only for a minute and these moments can be so uplifting and the conversations you get in by sitting alone on benches might’ve never happened had you not been there by yourself
Society is afraid of alonedom, like lonely hearts are wasting away in basements, like people must have problems if, after a while, nobody is dating them. but lonely is a freedom that breaths easy and weightless and lonely is healing if you make it.
You could stand, swathed by groups and mobs or hold hands with your partner, look both further and farther for the endless quest for company. But no one’s in your head and by the time you translate your thoughts, some essence of them may be lost or perhaps it is just kept.
Perhaps in the interest of loving oneself, perhaps all those sappy slogans from preschool over to high school’s groaning were tokens for holding the lonely at bay. Cuz if you’re happy in your head than solitude is blessed and alone is okay.
It’s okay if no one believes like you. All experience is unique, no one has the same synapses, can’t think like you, for this be releived, keeps things interesting lifes magic things in reach.
And it doesn’t mean you’re not connected, that communitie’s not present, just take the perspective you get from being one person in one head and feel the effects of it. take silence and respect it. if you have an art that needs a practice, stop neglecting it. if your family doesn’t get you, or religious sect is not meant for you, don’t obsess about it.
you could be in an instant surrounded if you needed it
If your heart is bleeding make the best of it
There is heat in freezing, be a testament.