“…Only Human.”

“Another terrorist act occurred tonight. More innocent lives were stolen from us. More religious differences were brought up. More political injustices were mentioned. More grieving was done. More questions were asked.”

“I find it interesting that during times like these, I myself am asked questions; by my peers, family members, acquaintances and ‘followers’. Perhaps this is due to the fact that I am extremely outspoken after such events. Perhaps it’s because I happen to have a way with saying exactly what’s on my mind, and for whatever reason some people happen to listen. For whatever reason, the questions do come. One of these questions I find myself answering is one that always (in one form or another) has been asked on more than one occasion. ‘Why do you seem to mourn certain cities/victims and not others?’ I shall try to answer it now, in the best way that I can…”

“I am only human. As such, I live day by day as a human…it is the only way that I know how to live. As a human I have only one heart and one mind to offer, and along the course of my life I ‘give’ my heart and mind to other humans. I have met new people every day of my life, everywhere that I have gone. Acquaintances, friends, colleagues, lovers. People in passing, people in restaurants, people at work, people on airplanes, people through other people. Every person I come into contact with in every city in every country that I visit on this earth becomes a part of my life in one way or another. Often times these encounters affect me, and in turn the people and places I meet and see are, in a way, affected by me. In essence, I leave a piece of me everywhere I go, and I take a piece of everywhere with me to my next destination.”

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(Patan Durbar Square, Kathmandu / In 2011 when I was there & 2015 after the earthquake)

“So when Twin Towers that I had been in in NYC are hit by airplanes flown by terrorists…I feel it. When suicide bombers detonate themselves in a subway system I traveled in in London…I feel it. When gunmen go on a killing spree on streets that I’ve walked on in Paris…I feel it. When an earthquake destroys temples in which I’ve sat in Kathmandu…I feel it. When a bomb explodes at a marathon in a part of town I’ve taken photos in in Boston…I feel it. When a madman drives a truck into a crowd of nearly 100 people on the same promenade in Nice my parents and I spent my father’s birthday on…I feel it. I’m human, so when lives are lost and destruction occurs in cities that I’ve visited and made memories in, it hurts me.”

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(Nice, France / In 2010 when I was there with my parents, and after last night’s terrorist attack)

“But…being only human, I cannot meet EVERYONE on earth. I cannot be in multiple places at multiple times and share the experiences and cultures that every city in every country has to offer. I do not feel as strong a connection to people/places I’ve never seen as I do those I know and have made a place for in my life. Does it pain me to see other cities of the earth destroyed? Yes. Am I hurt when innocent lives are lost in countries that are not my own? Of course. But I may not write about it and I may not share my feelings on it. This is simply because I have nothing to write and nothing to share…not because I DON’T CARE.”

– F

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Filed under Hear Me Roar, This Thing Called Life, Why I Do What I Do

“The Greatest Of All Time…”

“In 2004, while living in NYC, my friend Gerald Bunsen called me up one weekend and asked if I was available to work security for a photoshoot (I had moved to NYC to pursue acting, but because of my size and character I often found secondary work as a bouncer and private guard). He wasn’t available to make it and needed someone he could depend on to replace him. ‘Of course,’ I said, ‘for who?’…’Muhammad Ali‘, he replied.”
“The photoshoot was for an adidas ad campaign. The team I was on had one job: to escort Mr. Ali from his hotel room down to the street where he would shoot in a car with a few children, then back up to his hotel room. During a meeting that was held before all of this happened, we were given details on how things would progress. Mr. Ali never spoke aloud to us, there was a gentleman with him (whose name I didn’t catch) who spoke with him directly, listened to his replies as they were whispered to him and then relayed the information to us. The photographer asked how long he’d have to shoot, Mr. Right-Hand-Man told him he’d probably have 5 minutes at the MOST to squeeze off a few shots. The photographer wanted more, Mr. Right-Hand-Man said that’d be impossible. When we walked outside I immediately saw why.”
“The second (and I mean literally the SECOND) we opened the front door and set foot on the sidewalk, Mr. Ali was recognized and surrounded. People smiled, laughed, cried, reached out to him, touched him, chanted his name, held out things to be autographed, held their children out to him to be kissed. The security team and I spent the next few minutes (Mr. Right-Hand-Man was right, we had less than 5) holding people back, keeping people calm and witnessing the madness. Although I had met a lot of celebrities while living in NYC, I had never met one as traffic-stopping as him. His presence alone captured the awe and attention of those around him. His smile was addicting…his silence was deafening.”
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(photographer: Unknown)

“When we arrived back at the hotel room, everyone shook hands and began their goodbye’s. Mr. Ali was seated at a giant desk, signing autographs and photos for some of the assistants, staff and security team. As I was still a fairly timid newcomer to the whole ‘NYC scene’ and my job was done, I thought it best to simply leave. As I made for the door, my eyes caught Mr. Right-Hand-Man’s eyes. ‘Would you like an autograph before you go?’, he asked. I was never one to ask for autographs, I always felt that having someone’s name on a piece of paper or memorabilia could never fully describe the experience of meeting that person. And although I had a cell phone on me, technology had not yet caught up to where we are today, with our selfie skills and multi-megapixel phone cameras…so taking a photo would’ve required entirely too much time to set up. I couldn’t just let this moment slip by however, it was Muhammad Ali. ‘No thank you,’ I answered, ‘but is it possible for me to just meet him?'”
“Thirty seconds later I was sitting in a chair next to the Greatest Of All Time, introducing myself, shaking his hand and smiling like a 10 yr old. I never once heard his voice, I didn’t need to. Sometimes you don’t need to hear someone tell you about the years they’ve lived, the accomplishments they’ve achieved, the struggles they’ve overcome and the world they’ve changed…sometimes you can just tell.”
“Rest in peace Mr. Ali.”
– F
PS. This is a photo from that weekend…I found it online after some pretty heavy Google searching.

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Filed under A-List / B-List / No-List, New York City

“Gaia, Roy, And The Challenge…”

In the past, I’ve shot couples that were comfortable in front of my lens because they were intimate, and I’ve shot models that were portraying couples that were intimate.

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(Photo: Fidel Amos)

This photoshoot presented me with a tiny bit of a challenge however.

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(Photo: Fidel Amos)

The two people I photographed were not professional models or a couple…they were simply friends that I asked to come and shoot for me.

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(Photo: Fidel Amos)

It’s wonderful to see the “progression of comfort”. In a few of the photos one can notice a slight hint of nervousness or an adaptation to the scenario.

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(Photo: Fidel Amos)

Over the course of the day however, that level of comfort opened up, and it shows in the remaining photos…

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(Photo: Fidel Amos)

Thanks for helping me out Gaia and Roy.

– F

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“Hip Hop…Hooray.”

(Note: Webster defines Hip Hop as ‘rap music; also : the culture associated with rap music’.)

“When I first arrived to the U.S., Hip Hop quickly became my favorite genre of music. I had grown up in Germany and Italy and was therefore naive to most of it, American music was hard to come by overseas. I had also just entered my teenage years and could relate to most of the lyrics in most of the songs. Although I hadn’t grown up in the lifestyle that was often rapped about (drugs, violence, drug-use and life in an urban city), I could associate with the culture of it…fun, freedom, non-conformity and the expression of oneself through music and other forms of art. For many years recently, however, I’ve felt as if Hip Hop has changed into something that I no longer understand. It seems to be flooded with money, exorbitant living, disrespect to opposite sexes and races, and a bevy of one-time, one-hit, one-good-song artists. Not only has the music scene changed completely, but the culture associated with that music has also become unrecognizable.”

“I used to wonder why my parents (and the generation they belong to) still listened to music from fifty years ago when so much more has been released since then…I understand now. To continue enjoying the culture that I found so dear to me, I find myself holding onto the music, clothing styles and social scenes that I was a fan of years and years ago. As a New Yorker, that was easy to do…I simply had to look up the music or crowd I wanted to mingle with and then go to that location. Now that I live in Italy…it’s not so simple. Most of the city (and the country, for that matter) doesn’t listen to Hip Hop. It’s true that there is a very large selection of American music around, in locales as well as on the radio, but for the most part it’s music that I don’t listen to. In the rare instances that I do find a place where they’re playing the music that I enjoy, the culture of that music is missing. The crowd remains completely, well, Italian. The Italy of today is exactly like the Italy I grew up in 30 years ago; Hip Hop-less. Or so I thought…”

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(photo: Samuele Storari)

“Two weeks ago I stumbled upon an event here in town. It was billed as ‘the newest Hip Hop night to hit Verona’ and cleverly titled ‘Hipology’. I was asked to be the night’s photographer, and I was looking forward to it because I was told ahead of time that my favorite local DJ (my good friend Carletto) would be there. So even though I could trust the music would be solid, I wasn’t truly aware of what the scene would be until I got there. Some of the nights out I had experienced during my first year here in Verona were filled with my kind of music, but as I mentioned before, the environments had been different. I wasn’t entirely prepared for what was in store for me, but I can safely say that I wasn’t disappointed in the least!”

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“It was as if walking through the doors of the establishment was the same as jumping in a DeLorean and going back to 1995. Not only was the music exactly what I knew it would be, but he ambiance fit the bill as well. The attire was a recipe of 90’s dress code and NYC/LA outfits, with a pinch of the stuff ‘kids wear today’ thrown on top. Hairstyles, accessories and shoes were picked to match…with the occasional gold tooth and nighttime sunglass-wearer thrown into the mix.”

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“Everything about the place screamed Hip Hop! The dance floor was packed, and counting the number of dance battles took two hands instead of one. Three separate DJ’s spun a never-ending supply of ‘that’s my jam!’ songs, interrupted only by a mid-party pause featuring a handpicked selection of some of the local b-boys and fly girls. The line outside was long, the bouncers were big and the VIP tables were perfectly typical: at first too empty, then before you could say ‘I’m on the list’, too few.”

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“Finding Hipology not only proved that there is in fact a Hip Hop scene in Verona, but it gave me a taste of an Italy I had never seen. Black, white and mixed people were everywhere…there were no groupings of different creeds, colors or races. And even though Italian and English were the main languages spoken, many others had come out to play…giving it that NYC, melting pot feeling. I was happy to see a room full of multiracial friends, as well as multiracial couples, enjoying the night carefree…it made my job as a photographer not only easier, but more enjoyable personally. I’m certain it’s a bias, preferring to shoot environments filled with mixed race individuals, but I can’t help it…I am one myself.”

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“Like the party flier said, the entire event mirrored the Hip Hop culture that I had adopted and made my own while in New York for fifteen years. No one was afraid to flaunt their own style, and those that were afraid flaunted it anyway…even as far as the race of friends you hung with or the person they called their own. Their people were their people, and their music was their music…period.”

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“The only thing that mattered was Hip Hop.”

– F

* All photos by me, except the first *

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Filed under La Bella Italia, New York City, Nightlife

“To Be Human…”

I was seated at a restaurant in the center of Verona one day, enjoying a meal alone in Piazza Bra, when a middle-aged man quietly approached my table. He was dressed in plain clothes; a short-sleeved shirt tucked into his workman’s pants, black boots on his feet, an old ball cap lazily placed atop his head. He began speaking in a language I could not understand, all the while pointing at the tiny, customarily-served ramekin of Italian olives on my table. I presumed he was asking for permission to eat them. I passed them over and watched as he began to place them into his mouth one by one, savoring them. My mood that day was pleasant, and seeing how I had some time to kill and no company to keep, I pushed the chair across from me out from under the table and pointed at it, offering him a place to sit. He looked at it, sat, and resumed eating…slowly, methodically.

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(photo: Fidel Amos)

 

Somehow I felt very natural having him there at the table with me. I felt as if we had been friends for years. I felt as if we had made an appointment earlier in the week to have lunch together and he had just now arrived to join me. I felt as if the logical next stop should be to call my waitress over and order him something to eat…so I did. A few minutes later she returned with the bottle of water and dish I had asked for and placed it on the table. His gaze fell to the plate before him and his eyes narrowed. He looked at me, his face showing signs of confusion. I made a “for you” gesture towards his meal and smiled slightly. He looked down at his plate again and suddenly began to cry. He covered his mouth as if to hold in emotions that had been longing to burst free for hours, days, months. I looked away for a moment, giving him time to experience those emotions…not knowing what to say, not knowing what to do.

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(photo: Fidel Amos)

 

He then began to eat. As he ate he told me of his past, his troubles, his worries, his present situation. He shared his life with me. He poured his soul out to me. A stranger, but not a stranger. A friend, but not a friend. I didn’t understand a word he said…but I understood every word he said. As if understanding that I understood, he stopped sharing. For the next ten minutes we sat in silence. For the next ten minutes we were simply two people enjoying a meal, enjoying each other’s quiet company.

After a while the waitress returned and I asked her for the bill, adding a little extra so ‘my friend’ could enjoy dessert when he finished his meal. I gathered my things and stood to leave. He looked up from his meal and raised an eyebrow, curious. I told him that I had to go. He seemed ready to object, as if asking for me to stay so he could thank me in some way. I told him he didn’t need to…my God was good to me, so when I could I returned the favor to others. He stretched out his hand, so I did as well. We shared a handshake. We exchanged foreign goodbyes, then I left.

I left because I wanted him to enjoy a few moments to himself, because I wanted him to savor the rest of his meal in peace, because I didn’t want him to feel obligated to thank me for the dessert that I knew was coming, because I wanted him to take his time, because I wanted him to be human again…

 

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(photo: Fidel Amos)

 

– F

(I’m not sure why I stole a few photos of him during this experience. Probably because it’s what I do. Or more likely because I don’t ever want to forget that day…or him)

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Filed under Diary Of A Traveling Photog, The Good In Mankind

“All Cops Aren’t Bad…Just The A**holes.”

“The problem with a lot of the statements/comments I’ve read lately regarding police officers, federal agents, private security employees and various other areas of employment involving ‘positions of power’ is that they’re ‘blanket statements’. Too often people are so quick to say ‘All cops are bad’. Unfortunately blanket statements are used in all types of situations these days, especially via social media…where an image/video can spread like wildfire before the truth of the event actually unfolds.”

“I try to avoid making these types of statements because I’ve traveled the world and have had the opportunity to meet different types of people of various races, religions and backgrounds. I’ve learned not to assume that the attitude, negativity and bad behavior I receive from one person will be the same attitude, negativity and bad behavior I’ll receive from other people of that same race, religion or background. In other words, what people look like and what they do for a living doesn’t amount to the type of person they are. The type of person they are is determined by exactly that…the type of person they are. Some of my dearest friends are police officers, security guards, federal agents, and bouncers. They’re not racist, bigots, biased or violent people. They’re confronted every day with situations that test their will, resolve, patience and survival, yet they behave in a manner which coincides with their character. They’re not good people because they’re cops, agents, or security. They’re simply good people who happen to be in those jobs.”

“The men in the video below for example are, for lack of a more politically correct word, a**holes. Again, I don’t know the logistics of the situation, I’m simply making an assumption due to what I’m seeing in this video. Could they be two great cops that are treating the cameraman in this manner because the cameraman is a scumbag they know from ‘around the way’? Sure. Could they be two cool dudes that were just told to act this way by their overbearing superior? Yes. If they are in fact just a**holes however, they’re not a**holes because they’re cops, they’re simply a**holes who happen to BE cops. If they were teachers, farmers, construction workers, or McDonald’s fry-guys, they’d probably STILL be a**holes.”

(Click to watch video via YouTube)

(Click to watch video via YouTube)

“Of course, there will be those of you that disagree with me. Like I said, everyone has had different experiences in their lives and everyone is different than I am, thus everyone won’t think the same way that I do…some people just hate uniformed individuals. There will be those of you that say having a gun, a badge, a siren and the daily duty of dealing with criminals MAKES you an a**hole…but this is an observation I won’t agree with. I was a bouncer for years in NYC. Did I talk a little more trash because I knew the nightclub or my fellow boys in black would back me up? Sure. Did I expect to get to the front of the line at certain spots because of who I was and who I worked for? Of course. But deep down inside I was the person that I was, with the responsible mindset and moral integrity that I had. I never beat someone to within an inch of their lives or worse because I could get away with it, because deep down inside I simply wasn’t the typer of person that would do that…regardless of the power behind my position of authority.”

“I know my words here won’t be world-changing. My thoughts on this matter should be taken simply as they are…my thoughts on this matter. If you’re the type of open-minded person that might learn a thing or two from people other than yourself however, here’s the one seed I’d like to plant: take people for WHO they are, HOW they act and WHAT they do. Exterior appearances can be deceiving. They can lead you to believe something untrue about someone. They can also cause you to miss out on knowing some of the best people on this earth.”

“Try not to see your fellow humans as the clothes they wear, the jobs they have, the car they drive or the entity they pray to…try to see them for who they really are.”

  • F

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Filed under Controversy...Ya Gotta Love It, Globetrotting, Really America?, The Good In Mankind

“Shooting Myself…” (Photographically)

“The first time I became a ‘paid photographer’ was almost a decade ago.”

“Technically, I had taken photos well before that, having been bitten by the bug in college and shortly after becoming ‘that guy with the camera in your face’ during vacations and road trips. But it wasn’t until about 9 years ago that I was actually paid money to photograph something. I started small (as I imagine most shooters do), with events, parties and red carpet affairs…all very easy to find in NYC. Before long, however, and with help from friends in high places, I found myself with access to fashion shows, VIP happenings and the occasional star-studded wedding.”

(photo: Fidel Amos)

(photo: Fidel Amos)

“A year or two of that kind of photography put decent money in my bank account, but I found myself wanting more. Not more in the sense that I wanted to do more volume, I simply wanted to do the kind of shooting that held a little more substance. I didn’t just want to shoot more photos, I wanted the photos that I shot to mean something…I wanted people to FEEL what I was shooting, not just see it. It had become evident to me that I enjoyed taking random photos of people on the street much more than models on runways or celebrities at functions, so I began putting my focus into portraiture. I remember reading that a certain photographer had prepared for taking portraits of others by practicing on stuffed animals. For some reason though that sounded strange to me, as shooting a non-moving object hardly seemed challenging, so I practiced by shooting photos of myself.”

(photo: Fidel Amos)

(photo: Fidel Amos)

“I can’t honestly say that I took away much from that (other than the fact that being on the receiving end of a lens was more intimidating than I thought), but it did teach me one very valuable lesson: you can’t lie to a camera. Sure, you can make yourself up or undress yourself, you can pose differently or hide certain physical characteristics or imperfections by keeping them out of frame. But in the end you look like what you look like, and you are who you are…there’s no changing that.”

(photo: Fidel Amos)

(photo: Fidel Amos)

“Of course, this was a decade ago, not everyone and their grandmother’s had yet gotten their hands on Photoshop and various other applications that can make just about anyone look like just about anyone else, but that’s not really what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the photo the second you take it, while it’s in the camera, raw for the world to see. Paul Strand, an American photographer and filmmaker, once wrote: ‘It is one thing to photograph people. It is another to make others care about them by revealing the core of their humanness.’ In the end, he’s right, we’re all just humans….and that’s what I try to show in my photos. True, I’m no master photographer, I’m still learning every day, with every person that I shoot.”

(photo: Fidel Amos)

(photo: Fidel Amos)

“But after adding a few years of portrait-taking to my resume, after having photographed hundreds and hundreds of people in the streets, homes and jobs of various cities in countries around the world, I can safely say that I’ve learned a lot more about what it is to be human….and what it means to photograph that humanness.”

“That’s why I take photos.”

(photo: Fidel Amos)

(photo: Fidel Amos)

“….and that’s why every now and then, I still shoot myself.”

– F

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Filed under The Story Behind The Shot, Why I Do What I Do