Finding Creativity In The Chaos

Finding Creativity In The Chaos

By February of this year, as an aspiring (*fledgling*) part-time commercial photographer and all-around weekend warrior, I was looking forward to an action-packed spring of photo shoots, bike-packing trips, and family adventures all across the country. At one point, I recall a conversation with my wife wondering how we would fit it all in -- some weeks and weekends were already double-booked and we had only begun to start planning. Then the Covid-19 pandemic became a reality and, like for everyone else, my life dramatically changed and my calendar was wiped clean.
 
During those initial weeks of the pandemic I was pretty bummed out about all the canceled plans and friends and family I wouldn’t get to see this summer. I thought a lot about what I could do to remain creative, cultivate varied and meaningful experiences for my family at home, and continue engaging with friends and professional connections. While most of the rest of the US was still in the midst of a lingering winter, we in central/southern Arizona lucked out with beautiful weather, motivating my family to remain active and outside. Moderate temperatures and minimal precipitation yielded perfect conditions for loading up the Xtracycle to explore Phoenix’s extensive canal pathway system, heading into Arizona State University’s deserted campus for evening picnics in the plazas, or simple cruises close to home where we looked forward to seeing nuns from the neighboring convent imaginatively spending their new-found free time.

 

 

Creatively, I wanted to keep moving as well. My drive to photograph only seemed to expand during this time. Early on, I read a few articles that questioned how much of our experience during the pandemic would be remembered -- this new “Big” historical event (think WWII, 9/11, etc) we were living through. The articles speculate that we won’t remember much, at least those of us spending most of our time at home with repetitive daily routines, away from the front lines. Photographs, though, can help us remember. I dusted off my medium format and 35mm cameras and started photographing my family and teaching my kids how to use them. Truly slowing down to live in the moment and appreciate the process; enjoying the physical artifacts that come of it. 

 

 

 

Additionally, inspired by portrait projects from a few prominent photographers I admire, I started making portraits of friends during the lockdown/quarantine. From my neighbors at home and nuns out and about in my neighborhood - to my buddy Nate running mobile deliveries from his bike shop in Tucson - I attempted to capture the essence of their situations. Giving me a reason to hop on my bike and pedal around town, these encounters unexpectedly turned from snapping a quick few photographs to lengthy and much-needed conversations (at a distance, of course) about the state of the world. My only regret is that I didn’t try to get even more.

 

 

Now collective interest has largely shifted from the pandemic to the murder of George Floyd and the spotlight it cast around the systemic racism and pervasive police brutality in our country. I find myself again refocusing my creative energy and realizing that I need to be listening and learning; I need to be doing more to focus on equality and inclusion. One of my initial efforts is to contribute financially to the BIPOC Adventure Grant from Bikepacking Roots. The program seeks to “reduce barriers to bike adventure for BIPOC individuals. These barriers include finances, equipment, confidence, backcountry experience, backcountry camping skills, physical access to bikepacking routes, and more.” To that end, I have created a storefront on jweinberg.darkroom.tech to sell prints some of my favorite photographs. All profits from print sales will be donated to the BIPOC Adventure Grant. I have never tried to sell prints before, but hope this effort will resonate and I’ll be able to make a meaningful contribution to this important program. If you are interested in checking out the growing collection of my photographs available as prints, head over to my site here: jweinberg.darkroom.tech

 




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