I was born in Santa Cruz, California and spent the first 15 years of
my life deep in the redwoods in a small town called Boulder Creek. It
was pretty much just me and my dad growing up, he was a single parent doing what he had to do to make ends meet. We always had a roof over our head and food on the table but sometimes that roof was a friend’s house, and sometimes that food wasn’t exactly what we dreamed of. I spent a lot of my childhood hanging out with my father’s friends - my “aunts “and “uncles”. A lot of them were bikers, hippies, travelers, and free spirits. I saw a lot of things at a very young age that would put most parents in jail today, but I grew up very fast and figured out a lot on my own. My dad did a damn good job of making me a man and teaching me that nothing is handed to you in life, you have to go out and get it.
I moved to Chicago when I was 19. I had never left California in my
life, never really seen snow, and didn’t know a single person before
moving there. Chicago made me tough, Chicago made me realize what and who is important to me. I will always have a special place in my heart for this city, but after 10 years I needed a break. So, for two years my partner and I traveled the country in a 1976 Midas Frolic camper trailer. We sold everything we owned, saved some money, and worked odd jobs throughout 42 states before finding our home just outside Birmingham, Alabama.
Finding Faith kind of fell into my lap one day. I had got into
photography when we were living on the road, just as a means of
documenting our travels. When we settled in the South I had that same camera and i would take it on my daily adventures around my new home. When you move to a new place, you feel the need to explore your surroundings and get the lay of the land. I’d jump in my 1996 Honda Accord, leave the house in one direction and just see where it went and who was there. I’d find myself in some really interesting places. Most of them I had no reason to be in, but that’s kinda how I like it. I’ve always been that way, whether it be on a skateboard in some unfamiliar city far away from home, or on a old Harley that my friends and I built, riding to across the country to California and back. Those are the memories I’ll hold on to forever, so when I settled in Alabama I wanted to make some new ones. This time it was me meeting the people in my community and listening to their stories and seeing what I could learn from them. The camera just happened to be there.
My relationship with each human I encounter is always genuine and
true, these people are my friends, my buds, or sometimes just
acquaintances but I always try and leave a lasting impression. I
started listening to stories from the people around me and it reminded me of my early childhood in the woods of Northern California. A lot of people just making do with what they had, and for the most part completely happy about it. The South is different though, it was very much a culture shock for me. The language is different and the social etiquette is a little different and sometimes set to a higher standard. More of a standard of mutual respect, and I actually kind of like that. Real people treating each other how they want to be treated. Sometimes I run into a person on my adventures that’s a little skeptical of me and that’s fine. They usually have a lot of
questions about me, and my camera and my “ Yankee accent ”, but I
look them in the eye and talk to them just like I would anybody else.
Sometimes we become friends and sometimes I simply shake their hand and never see them again. I’m stepping into their world and
introducing myself, so I don’t always have to feel welcomed, even if
it is 7 miles from my front door.
I’ve always been good at noticing patterns, trends and consistencies
in life. A lot of people I met in my daily travels were living in
poverty and doing what they had to do to make ends meet, (and
sometimes not meeting those ends at all.) But unlike the Northern and Western states I’ve lived in and traveled to most of my life, most of
the people I’ve met in the South say they owe their lives and what
little they have to the good Lord. Time after time, I met people with
next to nothing but their attitude for the most part is pretty
positive. God or some sort of faith usually has something to do with
it. I noticed this pattern in more and more people I met along the way
and it began to fascinate me.
I didn’t grow up with religion, like at all. My dad never once talked
about it with me and the only things I really knew about God were from the couple times I went to church with friends. I never really thought about religion or God until I got into my teenage years. My mom passed away when I was 11, she was a pretty bad alcoholic. I remember going back to school after it happened, and of course a lot of kids were kind and shared their condolences, but I remember one kid asked me if my mom had “gone to hell because she killed herself with alcohol” . Growing up without religion, I didn’t really know what to say. I was confused that someone would even think like that to begin with.
I used to hate religion. Hate may be a strong word, mainly for the
extremists out there, like that kid in the school yard asking me that
question after my mom had passed, or the people that would come to the skatepark with their signs and loudspeakers, trying to save us from
our sins. Every person is taught religion, not one child is born
knowing they are a Christian a Muslim or an Atheist. Every person as
they get older makes the choice to question, lose or find faith. But
what I realized as I travelled the world or the 10 mile radius of my
house, is that religion isn’t necessarily about what you’re taught,
it’s about how you were taught it. A lot of people I meet in the south
have faith because it gives them hope and helps them get through some of the hardest times imaginable. For them, there is no judgement cast against anyone else, not even me rolling up to their home uninvited, with my beard, tattoos and wearing all black. This has opened my eyes to religion, it’s got me asking questions and learning a lot from the people of my community. I’m seeing everything in a new light and for the first time in my life I’m questioning my own faith and faith