Don’t mind me and my goofy face… I want to share why this is my favorite shirt. And I want to share why music is so powerful and important to me. There definitely a list of musicians that have changed my life in many ways… but Ray LaMontagne and his work are very special to me. I was first introduced to his work by a sweet girl I had a crush on in a music appreciation class in college way back when I still had hair. She gave me his first album on a burned CD. Remember those? I remember liking it, but I didn’t quite get it because at that point in my life my musical horizon was very narrow. Anyway… I just want to share the songs he’s made that have been most important to me in my life, and why they have been. 1.) “Empty” - this song pulled me through the first difficult time of my life, when my mom nearly died, and I felt like it was my fault. A never ending headache turned into doctors stupidly stacking her on 15 or so different prescriptions… resulting in my mom trying to take her own life. I listened to this on repeat… sometimes all day long because it was how I felt… and knowing someone else out there understood that made me not feel alone. 2.) “Let It Be Me” - My mom finally got better, and probably most of the credit for that goes to my dad… I flunked out of college and moved back home. I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. And this song… the first time I heard it… I cried instantly. Every single lyric fit my life to the T. So again… knowing someone out there understood where I was at… was beyond comforting… it was like therapy. 3.) “I Still Care For You” - this song helped me get over an unhealthy relationship, but I also think it helped me grow. I became a truck driver… and listened to this song, and this album constantly. 4.) “Burn” - I finally moved to Nashville, and this was the very first Ray song I ever learned to play and sing on my little guitar… (that I never talk about because I’m not a musician on that Nashville level). This song was very difficult for me to learn… but I did it. And it’s so genuine, and gritty, and real… just pouring out your heart on the floor… it meant a lot to me to even be able to scrape my way through it from beginning to end. 5.) “Like Rock & Roll and Radio” - This was the second song I ever learned by Ray. And the only one I ever played out in public in a venue. That was a bucket list thing for me… and after I played it, a man from Tibet came up to me and told me that he truly appreciated how genuine I was, how heart felt I sang, how I really gave it my everything… and I cried right there because all I ever wanted to do was give to someone what music gave to me… even if it was just one time. 6.) “Wouldn’t It Make A Lovely Photograph” - I’m sure you can’t tell at all where this is going… When I first moved to Nashville I knew that I wanted to do something creative with music and art. I would have loved to have been a singer songwriter… but that just wasn’t in the cards for me. But then I got a camera by accident… so last December I find myself in a hospital as my dad is having some serious surgery… and at his age having to go under is scary. I was 7 months in as a full time photographer… and I’m listening to Ray’s newest album… and the very last bit of the very last song… he belts out “Never gonna hear this song on the radio… but wouldn’t it make a lovely photograph”… and it absolutely wrecked me. Ray LaMontange just gave me reassurance… in such a specific way that it’s ridiculous. I’m doing what I’m suppose to be doing. I’m pursuing the right passion… and it’s hard as hell… but I know it’s the right thing. And not only has he helped me through the hard times, given me hope, let me know I wasn’t alone… he’s also encouraged me and built me back up. This all probably sounds insane… and I’m not sure I’d ever want him to read this “crazy fan blog post”… but if I ever could thank him… I don’t even know how I would. So long nonsensical story short… music is much more than entertainment to me. It’s likely the reason I’m still alive. It’s one of a few reasons I still believe in God, in people, in hope… and love. I hope you all are well today. Thanks for reading. I love you all.
For the second time I have had the honor of photographing an engagement ceremony within the local Coptic Christian community. Coptic Christians originate from Egypt and have been in the Nashville community for quite some time now. I arrived at the bride's parent's home mid afternoon. I believe the a/c unit was out... everyone was hot, but you wouldn't have known it by the smiles on their faces. Three priests performed the traditional ceremony completely in Egyptian. The priests put the ring on the future bride and groom's finger's halfway, and then the couple finishes putting the rings on each other. It represents God's involvement in the relationship. Each priest read from text aloud, then the entire family would sing verses in Egyptian in unison. It's quite an experience, even the second time around.
With all that's going on in this world lately that is so ugly, and spreads fear within us all... tries so hard to divide us... all the hate, violence, disagreements and arguments... love... in every form... is the same. No matter the language, religion, culture, race, country of origin, or age... love is the same. To be the outsider in a room of people... being taken care of the same way my own mother takes care of guests... it all just speaks volumes to the universal power of love. If love is able to unify couples, families, and friends... there's no reason it can't do the same for cities, nations, and even different religions.
For being such a coffee addict... I rarely if ever post photos of the coffee I love. Here is my very first coffee as a 30 year old (And also props to the Barista Parlor crew who gave me some chocolate as a birthday present... they've got some great employees). I've been in Nashville since the first week of December, 2009. I came here as an ex truck driver, a wannabe musician, and an art student/college dropout. I came here broken. I came here searching for a purpose to living other than taking up space. I came here clinging to the hope of finding something that mattered. I came here... with only the support of a few Nashville friends that I barely knew. Even my own family at first was freaked out in the beginning (and I don't blame them... I had no plan of any sort). I came here with anger inside. I came here without confidence in my talents or abilities. I came here without any idea of what my future would ever be. And now looking back I'm so thankful that nothing I ever planned for my life came to fruition. I could never have imagined being as fulfilled as I am now... with the friendships I'm surrounded by, and all the love and support and encouragement in the world. I love you all so much, and I wouldn't be here without you. The reason I'm sharing this photo with you... is because I remember the day I quit truck driving. I was nearly ran off the road into a bridge by a man not paying attention driving his pickup truck. He came over into my lane and I had to hug the shoulder... and I was hauling 47,000 pounds of HAZMAT... which happen to be containers of acid. I came inches from clipping that bridge... and I would have most certainly died in a very unpleasant way. My forearms were sore for a bit after because I squeezed the steering wheel so hard. I pulled into a truck stop about two miles away... called my company... and told them what happened... and that I couldn't do it anymore. They were super nice... told me to chill out and regroup, and then just bring it home. I remember the cup of coffee I had right after. While drinking that coffee I decided that I would move to Nashville the next day. Unfortunately I don't have a photo of it. But it's nice to think of how much my life has changed around me, how much I've changed myself, how many friendships have helped me grow... between two cups of coffee separated by 6 years, and 75 miles.
"Digital. Black. Stong. Woman." - Made from screenshots of all the Instagram posts giving credit to my photograph taken of Ashabi Owa.
Today is "International Women's Day." I can't help but think about how much as changed since I took this photograph of my friend Ashabi. This photo has traveled around the world multiple times. And because of that I've seen strength, encouragement, and understanding. But at the same time I've seen hatred, misogyny, racism... and ignorance. I still have a lot to learn... but I'm very proud to say I'm a feminist, and for a variety of reasons. I've heard more stories that have brought me to tears than ever in my life before... and to know that these things happen on a regular basis to women simply because they are women infuriates me. There's a reason I say "feminist" and not "humanist". And yes I agree all people should be treated equally, men and women a like. But WOMEN have a history literally centuries deep in the books of being second class to men. So for you... 25 year old white guy at the coffee shop wearing loafers... I feel you think your heart is in the right place, but you are just wrong. You can walk the streets alone at night, and maybe your biggest concern is being robbed. A woman however... has to worry about much more frightening things happening to her. Women shouldn't be put on a pedestal... they should be looked eye to eye. They shouldn't be objectified, they should be treated as a human being. They shouldn't be sexualized, they should be respected. They shouldn't be ogled, they should be admired. They shouldn't be defenseless, they should be protected.
Some say, "oh well she should have known better than to put herself in that situation." Maybe there's some truth to that... but there's more truth to the fact that any f#cking man should know not to rape, abuse, or belittle any woman... no matter if she's drunk or not.
Anyway... I know I have a lot more to learn. But today I just want to give a shout to all the strong women out there that get up everyday and kick ass regardless of what any ignorant man says or does.
"I heard about trafficking as a kid, and just kept learning more about it. I was really hungry to understand how something so atrocious could be happening in the world today and nobody was talking about it, nobody was doing anything. As a kid it didn’t seem real or true. I was sheltered and grew up in a free country where you don’t have to face the reality of modern day slavery if you don’t want to. Having that seed planted really young, I remember committing to myself as a 13 year old that I was never going to live a life so selfish that it would prevent me from doing something. I promised myself that, and I still have the same heart that I did then. But even things like that on a practical level... just being justice oriented and seeing oppression of certain people groups... it makes my blood boil. I want to do something, and I want to love those people. I’m just really passionate about freedom, always have been. But I don’t know how to explain the extent of the passion and the draw that I have towards it, other than just to say it’s a calling that I’ve had in my life since I was pretty young. And you know regardless of what people believe spiritually I think that everybody recognizes a sense of calling as humans, like where we find purpose and when we have a draw towards a certain thing that we clicked with, or that we connect with easily that makes us come alive. There’s a lot of things I’m really passionate about. I have a lot of hobbies I invest my time into that I’m really passionate about and make me come alive. But amidst them the only one that to me has an eternal impact is fighting for the freedom of people and souls. So I just think there’s nothing more fulfilling that I could do with my life... so I’m just drawn to it."
I had the honor of interviewing this wonderful woman in between international trips. She goes to very dangerous places in the world and helps very hurt and abused people find a better life from very dangerous and oppressive abusers. She is what I would call a wonderful example of a strong woman.
I'm currently in a hospital as my dad recovers from a surgery (everything went fine by the way..) but last night my dad sent me a text letting me know where very important things would be located in case something happened. Things like life insurance policies, keys... etc. At first I thought he was joking but he wasn't. My dad is almost 65 years old... and that's weird to think about because to me he's just my dad. Since August of 2014 I have lost 10 people in my life. Some friends, some family... all extremely loved. The youngest being 25 years old, and the oldest being 85. So reading this text actually made me really emotional for a moment right in the middle of Lipstick Lounge in East Nashville for a friend's birthday. (I totally nailed Creep by Radiohead btw) You're probably thinking... "what the heck is the guy going on about?"...many of you on this page are pursuing what many times in your life people possibly told you was impossible... just an irresponsible dream. Foolish. Stupid. Etc. That you'd never make it... that you should just do something that makes sense... finish college... get a real job... settle down and get married... 401k... health insurance... mortgage... blah blah blah. Well that's all great for many people... but not for us right? Your number one reason for being a musician/artist/creative probably isn't money (yes money is important I know). I didn't choose to be a photographer for money. I didn't even choose to be a photographer because it's my biggest passion. I didn't choose this because it's fun, or because I get to travel... or because sometimes I get to photograph pretty women... (if that is your reason you're probably an idiot). I chose to be a photographer for the sake of my sanity. For the pursuit of true happiness, fulfillment, and my attempt to help others with what I feel are my best skill sets. Working 9 to 5 jobs just doesn't do anything positive for my mental health, my soul, my growth as a human... and with the jobs I've had I never felt like I was helping my fellow man. So don't wait till 10 people in your life pass away... and don't wait till you do the same... live your life. Grab opportunities that make sense for you. Do things you love. Help people around you. Work hard! Pay people when you can, do things for free when you can and they matter. Make cool sh*t! And for crying out loud if you're not happy do something about it. Just thinking positive about yourself, and treating others well will get you so far... especially in Nashville.
Here's one of my favorite photos I have ever taken. Ever. It's still special to me even over a year later. Not only because James is my friend... but also because I didn't start the day with anything like this in my head.
Days like today... really make me wish I was a huge and famous celebrity photographer/musician/actor/artist whatever. Just the thought that a single post online could be seen by millions of people is something I'm envious of in this moment. This little boy's name is Braydon. He just turned 3 years old, and he has a rare form of Job syndrome, also known as hyper-IgE syndrome. Basically his skin is constantly covered in painful sores and itchy rashes. I recently was asked by a friend to come out to a car show benefit and volunteer my photography to help. The car show was to help raise funds to assist in all the medical bills the family is dealing with trying to help little Braydon live a happier and healthier life. You'll notice he's wearing little superhero themed velcro sleeves over his arms... that's so he can't scratch his skin raw... because it's just a constant itch and pain this little boy feels 24/7, and because of this he is constantly susceptible to infection. Braydon loves cars... it was such a cool thing to see this little boy so excited and happy that day seeing all these awesome cars everywhere. Joy is a powerful thing... even when you don't feel good at all.
Now until December 31, I will be selling all prints of automobile photographs I took at Braydon's car show benefit. Profits will go to help with the family's medical and travel expenses. Not only do you help a little boy and his family, you also get some of my favorite photos to date. With Christmas right around the corner... what better way to buy a photo? I've always been a huge car enthusiast, but haven't had many opportunities to photograph cars that I truly admire and that actually benefit someone. Thank you, and love to all of you.
Purchase prints: http://johnbrownphotography.pixieset.com/braydonsbattle/
| IT ALL STARTED WITH ELVIS |
Shelby first moved to Tennessee about 4 years ago from a small town in Connecticut to live with a best friend. She made it to Nashville shortly thereafter and was hooked. “I got a retail job downtown and I’ve been stuck here ever since.” She’s a talented painter, model, and swing dancer. The first thing you notice about Shelby Rossi when you meet her is her appearance. Never have I met someone so passionate and refined in style. Her life breaths and bleeds from another era. From the retro styled hair to the vintage heals to the wicked cool tattoos. You see her and just expect a Cadillac with The King behind the wheel to pick her up at any moment. Shelby is a bold and beautiful statement of what nostalgia is all about.
“It started with Elvis. My dad loved Elvis. My mother loved Elvis, and everything 50’s.” Growing up with older brothers that taught her “not to take shit”, and having a grandmother that taught her to take pride in her womanhood and appearance, Shelby has a very unique mixture of womanly class and tomboy qualities. With interests ranging from cars and tattoos, to music and vintage style, her life is a visually stunning masterpiece.
“I feel like my style is who I am, and when you see me you know exactly what I am about. I love the class, the visual. I love the 50’s style living room. The women that took pride and dressed up everyday. The beautiful dresses. The memories. It’s what I grew up with, it’s what I remember. There are times when I don’t dress like this and put on a slayer shirt and pretend to be normal, or go out in jeans and sneakers, but there’s always a part of me that loves when I do go out and wear heels. I feel like it’s an alter ego, and I feel more confident.”
Working downtown has really grown Shelby’s love of the city. “My hometown is small and sheltered. I graduated with 80 people and you know everyone. Here you can go a month without seeing the same person twice, or you can run into them every night. There’s a sense of community here that I love. And everyone is so different. Everyone embraces each other, they want to get to know each other. And working downtown on broadway I get to meet a lot of people that I would have never met back home.”
I had never really met someone like Shelby before. I try to live by the rule of not judging a book by it’s cover, but I will say there is a wonderful quality you may not expect about Shelby. Her style is striking and her tattoos proudly visible, yet Shelby is quiet, modest, full of humility, and what I would describe as truly wholesome. She has a very kind heart, and cares deeply for her friends and family. She is someone I’m very proud to say is my friend.
| NOT A SINGLE COMPLAINT |
I met Shelby in the summer of 2012 because of friend of another friend of a friend. (Seriously… Facebook is just ridiculous.) I instantly knew that I had to have her on camera. So we made plans to have a shoot. Set a date on a weekend and made it happen. We started the day with Steak & Shake. With the outfit she had on she made the place look modern. After breakfast we drove aimlessly around Tennessee. This is one of the longest shoots I’ve ever had, and I’m still amazed looking back at how well it turned out.
I was driving a very tiny, none air conditioned pickup truck in 90-degree heat. We had no idea where we were going. I recall Shelby having to change outfits in the most unusual locations, and even with all this… the heat… the uncomfortable ride… the lack of privacy… this wonderful lady had not a single complaint. And honestly I think if I ever asked her to do it all over again she would. (Thankfully now I have a/c. Cheers to you Miss Shelby.)
So after this 12 hour adventure all over Tennessee, we called it a day. And this ended up being one of my favorite shoots ever. I’m forever thankful and still love sharing these gems with others. Because when I do the common reaction is pure joy and amazement at Shelby’s beauty and vintage style.
So please enjoy. And thanks again Shelby.
MORE THAN JUST SCREEN PRINTING
Matthew Blinco and Derek Evans allowed me the opportunity to come behind the scenes of their philanthropic apparel company located in East Nashville. I had never met Matt before but owned a Project 615 t-shirt. I tagged their shirt on Instagram anytime I wore it on shoots, and here we are! I can’t say I’ve ever experienced anything like that day. Driving over there that sunny afternoon I really didn’t know what to expect. All I really knew before hand was Set Free Ministries is home to 40 or so homeless men of diverse backgrounds. Project 615 shares space with Set Free Ministries in a beautifully warn and aged church just a few blocks from my home. The moment I arrived I was greeted with a smile and a handshake and a “How’s your day going?” and showed me where to go. Matt gave me a brief tour of the property, told me about Set Free Ministries, and then took me downstairs to watch a couple of the guys make shirts. Both of them are employees of Project 615 and were rehabilitated through Set Free Ministries. They both have very unique stories of where life has taken them. Everyone there was so welcoming and pleasant to talk to. Even the intern Tayler seemed really happy to be working there. And just as the tag on the shirt says:
“Profits from this shirt go towards rehabilitating the local homeless in Nashville, TN. Project615.org Matthew 25:40.”
Be sure to check them out and buy a shirt and wear it proudly.
A FRESH START
Set Free Ministries in East Nashville is home to roughly 40 homeless men. All with different backgrounds, stories, and personal struggles. Set Free Ministries gives them shelter, food, and purpose. They have bible studies every day multiple times. They live together, study together, and work together. The Wednesday I came to attend their church service I ran into David. Super nice guy, with probably one of the coolest mustaches I’ve ever seen in my entire life. I asked him how he was, I think his answer was “Blessed and forgiven.” David was kind of the go to guy from what I saw while church was in service. He for sure had way more energy than I did, even though I had previously just downed two cups of coffee at Ugly Mugs. I didn’t get to hear much of his story since he seemed to have responsibilities while service was driving on. I also met a guy named Keith who lives and has gone through the rehabilitation program at Set Free Ministries. He is also the new preacher at the church. Had a beautiful message about salvation and the power of Jesus. I love how he pushed and challenged everyone to grow and persist in their walk.