If you want to skip reading a diary, the moral of the story is to live laugh love and expect more photography and video in the upcoming warmer months. 

H’okay so here it is - the newsletter absolutely no one asked for but a newsletter that is here anyway. Don’t worry, it’s not one of those  email type newsletters. It’s more like a newspaper you pick up at your local coffee shop for 99 cents. It doesn’t know where you live and it only exists when you seek it out. The best part is, it’s free. Unless I take it to Patreon and then you, my one and only fan reading this, are sh*t out of luck. Sorry mom!

First things first, the bathroom darkroom has been set up. Well, its parts and pieces are currently scattered and stored in various places of our very tiny apartment but it’s accessible, it works and it’s been really special to have this closeness and time with my photos. I’ve always loved the technical aspect of this craft. I also find that to get what you truly need from your local processing shop, you need to spend a lot of money on the scans. The basic scans are great for quick memories like disposables but I knew I wasn’t seeing my photos at their highest potential. I wanted to see every crystal. I wanted to feel that depth that comes from a photo that has all the elements of a fine art painting. 

The darkroom is not a permanent set up and it’s a bit of a workout to get everything going but I can do a full darkroom session of 15 photos in 3 hours. You heard right folks. That’s almost a half day of work for just 15 photos but trust me, it’s worth it. This grants me time I don’t normally give to myself which is time spent away from my phone where all I am doing is thinking about chemistry, temperature and countdown. The reward? Watching as I pull the lid off the drum revealing the exposed photo for the first time on a paper that once had nothing. A paper I couldn’t even truly see in the light of day. A paper that was kept hidden under our bed and until now had only existed in darkness. There in my hands is the image burned on gloss, a tangible relic from the past. It makes me revisit that day in time and that person. It makes me remember and most importantly, it makes me feel something worth hanging onto. I want you to want to go on a date with my photos, to fall in love. Not necessarily with the photos themselves or even the subject in the photos but that feeling that it gives you. How is has, for a brief moment, heightened your senses. 

It’s been a lot of trial and error to get here but needless to say, I feel whole. I may be loading photo paper into a Jobo drum next to my toilet but I am an artist baby! Give me the pain for my art. The suffering isn’t eternal. The goal is to eventually upgrade to a studio/office space with a designated darkroom that lives there forever and ever and isn’t a bathroom.  

Second, I am working on & concept a digital space for food & product photography. I’m still toying with a few ideas on what that means mostly because it requires questions I don’t have all the answers to. Is it an extension of JVMP as it’s always been or does it exist entirely in a different world? Or is it more simple than that? Why can’t these photos exist in the same place? The truth is I don’t necessarily want another space. I feel at capacity and maxed out currently with the accounts I do manage. I did not expect to become a candle stick maker either. I also admit I don’t really understand the  terrain of Instagram and TikTok at the moment. I debate whether I should use Tiktok as a platform but that’s normally during a very anxiety infused insomnia session. 

One of these anxiety session fueled by a weekend alone at the apartment was the term Olive Juice for the potential name. There’s an old New York vibe that has been making its way into my food & product photos and it’s planning on staying. My style, once bright and saturated, is shifting to an antique and documentary style based off vintage food & product photography of great artists such as Irving Penn and Romulo Yanes of Gourmet Mag. To see things simply with elegance and have them unfold organically. When I think of them, I think of seafood and martinis. We will see if I find something that sticks or if I settle with keeping everything local on @sammykeller. The real question is - why does any of this matter? No idea but categorizing photography and giving it a personality gives me some agency and sense of control so I will take it. 

Third, the avoidance I’ve had on Instagram in sharing my photoshoots, my personal life, my mental health, politics and world issues is because this has been an extremely educational time for me where I am avoiding any type of reactive posting and anything that comes off as performative. 

I’ve been really protective of my world lately and living in the present. Health is slowly becoming a priority again, especially after the passing of our close & dear sweet friend Miles. Loss changes your DNA. I don’t have proof of it but each time we say goodbye, I feel myself forever different. Loss can bring us to a better version of ourselves which is one of the view rays you get during the lifelong grief that follows. I’m still on the beginning of thit health journey but don’t get me raving about the magic of mushrooms, water and my skin care routine. All this time not having participated in social media, watching from a distance, has made it difficult to return in the ways I once had (ie. posting photos of myself, sharing overly long captions about my work and mental health and the world (especially when I have this perfectly fine blog space I am paying for). 

I also realized I have a huge obligation to my subjects to not use their imagery for personal feelings although this varies from situation to situation. I have to relearn to share myself, to put myself out there again and that is a little bit scary for me. 

What became really apparent to me is how much of my identity had been entangled in social media and once I stopped using it ritually, I didn’t really know who I was… I discovered things like some of the words or photos on my captions weren’t pure at all. They had a glaze of intent that deeply troubled me.  So I worked on my lighting, on composition, on limiting my camera equipment on set, breathing, taking my time. Something I didn’t share with many was that I went through the beginning phases of applying to Parson’s MFA photography program but it become apparent that I was not in a position financially and I did not have the time to have my career while simultaneously going to art school to refine my skills. I knew then that the refining would have to be self sought and self taught. So I’ve been finding ways to challenge myself while simultaneously creating classrooms where I can test this knowledge. That’s been including the darkroom, the Big Shot Polaroid to 6 x 9 adaption and the 16mm Bolex motion camera. I am still in the deep throws of learning but I am ready to show some of what has been made as the goal of these sessions is to show humans. I coined the term Emotional Art during one of my “study” sessions. Art created through emotion responses is a visual therapy and reminders that we are real. It eliminates the fear of doom and dissociation by containing displays of authentic moments. It’s art where you’ve “formed a relationship with a moment”. 

Well that’s all for now. I reached my 1100 word limit and I need to go breathe fresh air and soak in the sunshine. 

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