Happy Birthweekend

I’m in the air somewhere over New York state now feeling very relaxed and satisfied. A nice empty plane means I can stretch out a little and just chill for a while on the way back to Chicago.

New York was wonderful as always. I think it’s my second favorite city after Paris. There’s such a great energy here. Very inspiring. I feel so comfortable here as well. I was talking with my friends last night over dinner and I know a lot of people think that NYC is some kind of eat you alive place – don’t get me wrong, you do have to have your act together here – but at the same time, if you have talent, drive and ambition, you can feed on the competitiveness. You have to play up to New York. And I like that.

This trip was actually the first time I’ve been here, with the exception of a few layovers, where I wasn’t here to work. Usually I come here and end up doing the daily rush like I live here, but even though I did have a little business with the photo portfolios, it was pretty much all pleasure this time.

After our amazing Saturday of photo exhibits, Central Park, great food and burlesque, we took our time getting up on Sunday. Mark cooked us another delicious breakfast and we headed out for a leisurely walk before Cheree had to be at NBC where she’s an editor. It was another nice day and as we walked through one of the public
gardens along the West Side Highway that are maintained by volunteers. One of the guys was working on planting one of the rows and he took a break and took us around and told us what everything was.

That’s what I like about days like that. You just never know what you’re going to end up doing in NY, Sometimes it’s nice to just float downstream.

So I took some photographs of the flowers. Subject matter I haven’t photographed in years. Ironic though because my first nude photographs I ever took were of flowers. By this I mean I wanted to make sure before I photographed a nude woman that I was a good enough photographer to do justice to someone who would be so generous with
her body, and so for a whole year, I practiced on flowers and stems. Figuring out lighting and composition and learning the curves of nature.

That was about 15 years ago. And here I was in NY trying to do the same thing again.

After our walk, we took the subway down to 30 Rockefeller and Mark and I decided to be tourists and go to the top of the building and look out over all of Manhattan below. It’s funny. I’ve been coming to NY for something like 15 years and that was the first touristy thing I’ve ever done. But it was fun and I took a lot of pictures up there as well. And even though it might seem like going to the top of 30 Rock is not as cool as going to the top of the Empire State Building, much like being in Paris, if you’re on top of the Eiffel Tower, you can’t see the Eiffel Tower. So I got some nice pictures of the Empire State Building from half way up it’s length.

After that we headed out and had a little dinner at Toast on Broadway near 125th on the Columbia campus. Nice little college bar/restaurant. Perfect and casual.

This morning it was pretty much back to reality for all of us. Mark headed to midtown to Madoff Productions, where he edits for a great director, doing a lot of work for Ralph Lauren and Victoria’s Secret among other clients. I proceeded a little further south to Lois Greenfield’s studio where we got to spend more time catching up with her and Jack. Her studio is one of those places where the positive energy is so inspiring, you can’t help leave with the smile on your face and new ideas in your head.

I got a chance to show her my new book before dropping it off and everyone really liked it. It’s a very different book than I’ve ever made before. It’s a very broad stroke of my work. Fashion, nudes, travel, and as I mentioned before, my writing as well to give it more of a flavor of who Billy Sheahan is. There are so many photographers out here trying to get their books noticed that it seems the more I
can Billy-ize mine, the more noticeable I will be. We’ll find out soon enough.

It always interesting to have Lois look at my work. Her eye is so good and she sees things that sometimes I don’t even see in my work. One of the things she loved in the fashion section was my use of shadows. And we talked about how to create new work using only shadows. It was a great inspiring moment.

She loved the nude work as well. She thought it had a glamour to it that might attract the eye of a magazine like Vogue. I felt the same way, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed.

But the travel work elicited perhaps the most interesting comment of all. She said, you know, you’re not a somber person, but your travel work has really got a sadness to it. Looking at it after she said that, only then was it obvious how right she was. I’d never noticed that before, but it’s true that a great deal of my travel work has a sense of isolation or a feeling of a single individual alone in a larger world around them. I never considered my travel work to have such serious overtones to it, but the images I selected for this book do seem to have that sense about them.

I wonder what that says, both about where I was when I created those photographs and even now having selected them for this book. Traveling is such a joyful experience for me. In fact any time I’m creating a photograph, whether traveling or in my studio is when I’m at my most happy. Fascinating.

It was a rare opportunity to talk about my work with a photographer who has been an inspiration to me for about two decades. She’s a great friend, as is Jack, and our friendship and her advice and guidance mean the world to me.

A retrospective of her work is in the beginning stages of a museum tour after a great opening in Florida over the winter, and I hope she gets to exhibit in Chicago and I can host her for a change.

As always, with every trip I take, I learn as much about myself as the places and people I meet and visit with. Combining that with my birthweek this year made it even more special. In one of my carry on bags is packed the single candle that Candle 79 put on my desert on Saturday night. I have felt this year has been a bit of a rebirth for me in a lot of ways. So maybe I was celebrating a first birthday of sorts this April 29th.

Many more to come.

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