Peaceful rally at Auditorium Shores for Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke. Austin, TX
There's something I find very fascinating about politicians. Whether outright awful, boring af mediocre, or our next hero who will save our state, our country, etc., I find it enamoring how influential someone in such a position can be. Beto O'Rourke certainly swings on the far side of that spectrum toward border-line saint in many people's eyes. In fact, this past Sunday night at Auditorium Shores here in Austin, in one of the largest single-candidate rallies this country has seen since 2016 (according to The El Paso Times), there were 55,000 people uniting at the Turnout For Texas rally to celebrate Beto and to show their support for all he is wanting to achieve. You tell me how that isn't captivating, from the outside looking in, to see such massive unity, essentially, for one person's ideals. Ideals many of us can and do agree on.
There's strength in numbers.
Most of you know I see too many flaws in our political system to even bother anymore. I've expressed that thought many times. However, that doesn't mean I don't believe in people. While he wasn't perfect, I am very proud to have had Obama lead this country for 8 solid years, entering office after one of the biggest shit-shows in political history (certainly in my lifetime). As our leader, Obama was eloquent, headstrong, and willing to shoulder the weight of the entire country many times over. While I did not agree with everything he did, I did for the most part agree with his overall view of the bigger picture. Something we fail to do too often is to look beyond the smaller bits. We fixate on the daily minutiae of life without realizing these moments are simply smaller collective sections of a much bigger painting happening all around us. Take a step back. Think bigger.
It was super sweet to see these two cuddled up like this.
I've struggled with our political system for many years seeing many flaws within it but, admittedly, I've never seen any solutions. That's been tough. So, I often refrain from the discussions, the participation in a super outdated system, and simply watch the entire thing unfold as it will. Like a Nat Geo photographer watching animals hunt each other down, often eaten alive in agony or starving to death from failure. I wanted to believe in Bernie, I really did. And we got to see his path trampled on and saw him effectively tossed out of any possibility of changing this wacky country in favor of another candidate regardless of what the people wanted. It's getting harder to believe.
I fucking love neon and Austin keeps surprising and impressing me with this art.
Now we have Beto. I've watched Beto's popularity rise ever quickly in my city, my state, and in my social media feeds over the past few months. Eager to take the high road by denying super PACs and relying solely on the individuals throughout Texas, Beto has spent much of his time traveling through endless counties in Texas meeting as many people as possible urging them to register, vote, and help propel his beliefs for a better country into office. The power of speech is incredible and a good orator can enact some rather influential change. People are getting fed up with the prehistoric thinking of the privileged looking out for the privileged while casting the rest of us aside. People are pushing for change, for inclusion and equality. And people like Beto are exciting us all to do just that.
My favorite photo of the night. I'm a sucker for love and romance.
I initially wanted to attend this rally to see what kind of turnout this would be and snap some photos along the way. It would be my first large scale activist event in Austin since the Women's March of 2017. I did not expect to see this many people gathered across the same lawns I walk my dog through. The same quiet, peaceful space I run through to clear my head was now flooded with tons of people showing their support for Beto and all he stands for. Surprised is an understatement. The energy was palpable. The cannabis, plentiful. The support, undeniable. I had the opportunity to listen to O'Rourke speak in public to a crowd of thousands of people in full attention. I happily spent most of his speech watching the people facing him. Their cheers. Their quietly hang on to his every word. The kids bored out of their minds and their parents adamant to have them be a part of history by staying til the end. Watching their eyes light up with belief, support, and hope.
Hope was written all over her face, so deep in her eyes.
Hope was stricken on everyone's face as Beto spoke throughout the night. As I scanned the crowd of strangers before me, it was everywhere. On the young, the old, on female, on male, on child, on damn near everyone I could see. Halfway through his speech, I put my camera down and turned around to give him my full attention. To allow his thoughts in and let my mind process the words as well as the intent behind them. In his voice I heard what I see in so many of his supporters...I heard fire. That fire that Beto supporters cheer with. That fire they create signs and shirts and murals with. That fire they use to fuel their tireless volunteer efforts in his campaign. It is all the same fire in his voice when he speaks. It's eerie, man. In the best way possible. I really couldn't put into words what it felt like. You just had to be there.
I want to believe in Beto, in his words and promises. I want to believe in the 55,000+ in attendance this night, and in the countless others all across Texas and the U.S. I want everyone to prove me wrong. To show me that hope can turn into faith and that faith can turn into change. I believe you can change this place for the better, Beto. I hope our system will support your plans to uplift our society, our state, and our country. Our people wholeheartedly believe in you. And I certainly believe in people's power to improve our machine and not just those people in office. Eventually, the common people will grow tired of the outdated ways in which we operate our country, just as they are tiring of old patriarchal ideas, and demand and enact positive change once again. As we so often do when we are pushed to our limits. Word to #metoo.
So while we may live in a movie simulation where a famous celebrity with zero political experience--and the most childish Twitter fingers I've ever witnessed--can be our president, we can also have good characters in this story of the United States like Obama, Bernie, and now Beto who can continue to improve our lives and have just as strong of an impact for the better.
But it all starts with you. YOU reading this right now. Take change into your own hands. Be the change you wish to see.
Meatbodies front man Chad Ubovich cranking out some trippy soundscapes. Austin, TX.
I forget shit. All the time. Like most ambitious creators, I tend to put too much on my plate at once to satiate the urge to dump my brain out of the mass amount of ideas that seem to never end (a gifted curse, I suppose). About this time last year I made a conscious effort to work on less at once so that I can finish more and put my best foot forward on all of my projects. Because of this, some things get sent to the back of the stove, some things get put in the freezer for future meals, and some things get left out of the kitchen all together and end up in a big filing cabinet. Like, who puts canned beans in their desk drawer?
Miranda of Austin locals, The Zoltars.
Jared with hypnotic vocal tones.
I have a small handful of concerts I have yet to get around to editing and sharing with all of you that I am finally making time for. First up was a surprise show I was able to cover for ArtIsHardTx. The show was Ty Segall with a pretty stacked lineup featuring The Zoltars, Christian Bland and The Revelators, Meatbodies, and Ty Segall to headline. Essentially, four bands I had never heard of. Sometimes you roll the dice and some of those times, you win big.
Christian Bland and the Revelators. Psychedelic at its nicest.
This dude had the coolest fit, hands down. Head to toe in fresh af threads. Peep the Nike boots.
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to capture many photos of Ty Segall that I was really happy with. Out of focus, low light, mic stands--there were a number of issues I had with my own work that I was rather unhappy with. The saving grace was one of the other acts, Meatbodies. Immediately upon hearing the name I thought to myself, "What a rowdy name." This band lived up to that reaction as I was treated with a hell of a show. This band is so fucking dope to watch live with so much erratic energy and stage presence that demanded you to dig deep and release your inner demons through hard-hitting melodies. I was absolutely FLOORED with this band.
Chad is such a killer performer.
From front to back these guys brought a musical spirit I hadn't seen in a really long time, which made it so much more exciting since it was a new band for me. While most of these photos are of Meatbodies, I have to say Ty Segall put on a fantastic set as well with just as much energy. I love seeing performers like Ty who seem to simply let the music take hold and completely lose themselves in their art.
Ty Segall in all his capricious glory.
I enjoyed every performer at this show as they all presented something unique about their sound. Meatbodies just had me moving more than the others and presented me with some amazing opportunities to capture some great moments. S/O to their amazing lighting tech--stellar work. Enjoy the remaining images below and be sure to follow all of these amazing bands across social media so you'll be ready to get tickets when they go on tour near you. Big ups to ArtIsHardTx for sending me to this show and hats off to all of these acts and the various psychedelic energies they brought to Stubbs. By far one of the most dynamic concerts I've ever seen here.
I had the opportunity to photograph a fashion show at MaryJae's recent pop-up titled "Queer Culture". Every month the ladies at MaryJae (Francisca and Jae) along with LaRae Infinityhost pop-ups at their establishment celebrating arts, music, and LGBTQ pride--all under the umbrella of smoke culture. As if MaryJae weren't already elevating a smoker's commerce experience with their shop, education, and hand-selected products, they have taken it one step further with these parties inviting everyone to come experience taboos in an environment free of judgment and shaming. When I got the call to photograph their first fashion show, I was on board right away.
Dat ruff doe.
Francisca, Jae, and I have been working together for almost a year now on various projects for their business, MaryJae Smoke Culture. These two have been schooling me on life from jump street and they don't even know it. Be it about cannabis, or running a brick & mortar, or relationships, or the perspective of owning a smoke shop as two queer women in a male-dominated landscape, these two have put me on game with every interaction we've shared since day one. This night would prove to be no different. Although I have queer family and have had queer friends in the past, there is still so much I do not know about what it means to be queer as I am not submerged in this lifestyle 24/7. I can say that this night was a ton of fun and helped me see this lifestyle with much brighter (and much more fabulous) light than I'm used to. Top all of this off with never having shot a fashion show before, making this an educational night for myself in many avenues.
The creativity in this one is dope.
The raffles at MaryJae are stacked.
These unexpected learning moments are a big reason why I urge people to step out of their comfort zones. Especially within their field of practice. As much as I learned about queer culture and fashion this night, I also learned a lot about photography. As a photographer (as an artist of any kind really), there is always something new to learn if you are open to it. I guess the same can be said about life in general. Being open-minded and admitting that you don't know everything allows life and people and experiences to fill in those gaps, enriching your life with every lesson learned.
Jae Graham putting this young woman up on game.
While there is still much for me to learn about queer culture, it is our shared love for cannabis that has brought MaryJae and I together, and it has bonded us in a way that is beyond any sticker or t-shirt design we could ever do together. I'm stoked I had the opportunity to make some images for these ladies, artists (including models), and patrons. Make time to visit this shop in the budding SoLa district of South Austin and for sure hit up one of their monthly pop-ups. I promise you'll leave with a smile and you'll have learned something new.