Sunday, February 26, 2006

Holding back the years

Holding back the years,
Thinking of the fear I’ve had for so long.
When somebody hears,
Listen to the fear that’s gone.
Strangled by the wishes of pater,
Hoping for the arm of mater,
Get to me sooner or later,
I'll keep holding on.
Lyrics by Simply Red

How long is life? For me 1,450,656,000 seconds have passed by.... another year or so Ill be up to 1.5 billion! There is a perceptible increase in the speed of life as you grow older... It seems exponential and there is nothing I can do about it to slow it down. I can only move my ass faster, keep up with it... complete the things I have always dreamed of. Unlike the song I have not wasted any of the years, they have been full of many lessons and memories, I have not wasted any tears, they have all been necessary. So I keep movin on!

Saturday, February 25, 2006


2005 took many things away from me that I took for granted. Several friends passed on to the next level of existence, I lost a job that I had put my soul into and thought would be mine for life. The lesson learned was that all things don’t last forever and that change while sometime difficult almost always leads to something better. I walked away from 2005 promising myself two things, First, I would find away to tell the people who make up my life that I love them. It’s not easy for me sometimes but I realized that one of the reasons I took photographs of people was I wanted them to see what I see, I wanted them to see what I loved about them. Second, I would release my fear and put myself my photography out there and share it with the bigger world. My good friend Reggie Ball once told me that he thought I had a fear of success. That truth was hard for me to understand and hear, but after this year of loss I realized I might not get the chance to do this.

One day I was looking through some websites and I found a link to a blog by a brother from New York, Ocean Morisett. My head exploded with one of many epiphanies that have happened in my life. Its not like his was the first blog I encountered but here was a photographer who was putting his work out for the world to see with thoughtful supportive dialog about all sorts of things happening in his life. It was the way forward, like a path opening before me I began to start my journey. I have stories to tell of amazingly human moments, which I have captured, on film. Tonight I want to set that a side and honor someone whom I have never met but feel connected to in so many ways.

Epiphany: So Ocean thanks for coming on to the blog!

Ocean: thanks for having me?

Epiphany: I have to make an admission right from the start... when I crossed over your blog “brothaluva café” it was the reason why I started my own!

Ocean: Really?? Well I'm honored and always happy to inspire!

Epiphany: There mix of images and the thoughts behind them was totally intriguing to me! Your blog seems to be a real mix of images and politics and just everyday life...what inspires your photography?

Ocean: I thought it would be a good way to present some of my images that might not otherwise be seen! My photography is inspired by the everyday. The things that go unnoticed. There’s so much beauty in the world and through photography, I can be a part of it.

Epiphany: Yes I agree you carry your camera all the time?

Ocean: LOL, no, I don't. But as you may know, it's when I'm not armed with my camera that I see so much that I want to photograph! My relationship to photography and the camera is like a love affair... sometimes I love it, and sometimes I'm frustrated and don't want to be bothered.

Epiphany: Yes happens to me all the time too! ...Could kick myself on some of what I miss out on... Many of your images have a political bent.... are you politically active?

Ocean: Not consciously political, but who knows what's brewing underneath my surface that comes to light through my photos. It's always a marvelous discovery for me... almost like therapy! Full of revelation.

Epiphany: I can dig that.... I really love your images of Cuba... it seems unusual for an American to go there when did you go?

Ocean: Thanks. I went to Cuba on two occasions. The first time was in 2002 and the second time was in 2003. I went with 12 other photographers and artists from around the country to teach a photography and arts workshop to Cuban youth. It was a rewarding experience! I fell in love with Cuba and the Cuban people. I hope to visit someday soon. Cuba is also the safest place I've ever been to in this world!

Epiphany: Yes your images really captured the essence of what life is like there... Ok one of the images on your blog is called "Hercules with knifed watermelon" Is there a story behind the image?

Ocean: Well, I simply wanted to create an image that spoke to the stereotypes that exist for black people and their love for watermelon. I recalled the old images and caricatures of the blackface man with the big red lips, grinning widely and eating watermelon. I wanted to put an end to this stereotype, so that was the thinking behind this image.

Epiphany: It seemed almost as if you were trying to dispel the stereo type in the title.

Ocean: precisely. I didn't feel the need to go all out with the image. I think subtlety is best and that was the goal with the photo. I figured people would get it.

Epiphany: Yes ...its very clear and compelling... Another image which really got to me is "In the spirit, I AM” The article which accompanies it speaks about a time you were depressed.... has photography allowed you to work through life from time to time?

Ocean: Photography for me is a form of therapy. I use it to investigate my emotions as well as to document my experiences in my life. That was a period I was using self-portraiture to reveal and explore my depression and angst. I found that there was/is such great beauty in depression that to create art around it seemed only natural. Now I will have these images to look back and reflect on a tough period in my life, and also to compare where I’ve been emotionally to where I am now.

Epiphany: I find it to be much the same.... it can be very cathartic for sure.... I love your muse cube site... some of your nudes really have a sensitive almost romantic touch to them....

Ocean: Yes, that's always my goal. The Internet is inundated with porn images that exploit black men. I want to use another angle and show the beauty and because I'm such a sensual person, the images come across that way. I always photograph from within, and I'm very much in every photo that I take.

Epiphany: It really shows... Some of your images seemed to be framed with in a circle... when I first viewed them it almost seemed voyeuristic like peeking through a peephole.... was that your intention... or have I got it wrong?

Ocean: That was exactly my intention. The men are beautiful and sensual. Some people are not in touch with this feeling, or don't know how to approach this. I wanted to photograph as if someone were observing from a peephole---too afraid to be "with" these men, but beholding from afar, or in this case, a peephole. The circle is also a personal style of mine that I use sometimes.

Epiphany: Good I’m glad I got it! I love the way they add that additional meaning/feeling to the image... You do nudes, documentarian, nature, architecture, and sometime images in very soft focus which provide a mélange of colors just for color sake... is there one of those categories you specialize in or would most want to be remembered for?

Ocean: Ocean: I want to be remembered for my intentions--for what I set out to do which is ultimately, to make a difference in the world. To bring to light what others may miss or misjudge altogether. I enjoy all of what I photograph, but I must say that my images that involve people, whether photojournalistic or fine-art (nudes) are my favorite. I love the connection I have with people.

Epiphany: That’s really a beautiful answer...

Ocean: Thanks?

Epiphany: You have me struck right now actually.

Ocean: LOL That’s a good thing, I hope!

Epiphany: it is…

Ocean: take a look at my photojournalism site when you get a chance at you'll really get a sense of who I am.

Epiphany: Your work in capturing the black gay community and your work to fight A.I.D.S. really shows your love for them.... I have documented the people in Detroit for almost 20 years... because I felt there was such a compelling story to tell, do you think there is a story that needs to be told?

Ocean: I am passionate about my community. Yes, I LOVE my community and have a commitment to document what we do and how we love. We all have stories to tell, and stories that we want to bury. Whatever the case may be, it should not be overlooked. I am here to bear witness and to be the documentarian, so that future generations know that we were here and we loved. My current project in works is called " MUKURU" in which I am interviewing and photographing black gay male elders. It seems to me they are an "invisible" community. I am interested in their experiences with being black and gay and have found out some very interesting and profound things so far.

Epiphany: Wow! That sounds exciting actually... at 45 I have begun to see that being in the life is very much about youth culture and have wondered what’s next... seems there is no hand book for being in the life and growing old... I hope your work sheds some light there.

Ocean: but I've discovered that there very much is a life outside of the "scene". At 36, I look forward to growing old and being gay. As long as I have love in my life, I'll be alright!

Epiphany: Do you have love in your life now.... does love in your life always mean another man? I find that some of my friendships have been very intense and find much love there...

Ocean: I have love in my life now. I was in a 13-year relationship, which ended in 2003. After two years of being single and exploring the "scene", I'm happy to say that I have found a man who I am in love with AND HAPPY with. And he loves me just the same. I have a very small circle of (true) friends with whom I also share love. I'm very fortunate in this regard.

Epiphany: Awesome... it’s harder to find as you get older... you’re very fortunate...
Ocean: I don't think so. I think love is there for everyone, but it doesn't always come in the package that you expect. You simply have to be OPEN.

Epiphany: We have never met in person and what strikes me is that after viewing many of your images and reading your words I feel like I have known you for years...

Ocean: LOL...thanks...nice of you to say.

Epiphany: We are both photographers... but do you think this blog concept bears the soul so well that anyone could kind of get there?

Ocean: If I understand you correctly, blogging is a great concept, but it takes a lot of work to maintain. I haven't had much time lately, but I do hope to post soon. Blogging is a medium anyone can and should use. We all need an outlet.

Epiphany: true... and yes you owe us some posts?...

Ocean: LOL...yes very soon!

Epiphany: I want to ask you about cultural representation.... as a photographer or an artist I sometime struggle with some of the things I you think it matters who should or best captures a particular culture?

Ocean: Naturally, I think if you are a part of a particular culture, that you have come up it, and that it's in your blood, you would capture it best. It's easy to be an academic or an artist with a passion for a particular culture and create aesthetically pleasing images or words, but I feel like something will always be missing unless it's in your blood. But ultimately, it doesn't matter who creates art or writes about other cultures. It’s an exploration that's available to everyone.

Epiphany: That’s true.... it is ground that I am still exploring and working through my self to some degree I do think that an honest approach is the best way.
Ocean: True and as long as the intentions are not to exploit...

Epiphany: What’s on the horizon for Ocean?

Ocean: I'm always pondering what's on the horizon for me. LOL. I'm not quite sure! I am moving towards multimedia, and exploring this with my elders project. I want to combine images, words, video and music all in one piece. It's ambitious, but I have a lifetime to explore and while I here on this earth I will do just that! Art can be pretty intimidating, especially for me. I'm a self-taught photographer and have only been (seriously) shooting for 5 years and have a lot of growth and exploration to do. So whenever I approach anew medium or project for that matter, I tend to suffer from a little self-doubt, but I always feel the fear and do it anyway! Now that's bearing my soul! LOL!

Epiphany: Yes it is...!!!! Well I can hardly wait to see the result!!!

Ocean: Stay tuned, and read the art papers! LOL!

Epiphany: So Is Ocean your real name...or professional?

Ocean: Ocean is my great grandfathers name that I've adopted and use professionally. Pretty much everyone calls me Ocean now. I certainly feel like the ocean too-- mysterious, deep, vast, etc.

Epiphany: Yes I was going to say calm comes to mind yet still so much to be explored.... very nice!

Ocean: Thanks

Epiphany: Well I appreciate you stopping along your journey to talk with me... you have had a very positive influence on me in as much as I have begun to open myself up in this blogoshere!

Ocean: well your blog is an inspiration to me, and I hope that it serves you in a positive way! It's been a real pleasure chatting with you Chris!

Epiphany: Thanks man! One

Ocean: Peace! Light! Creativity!

There are three ways to see more Of Oceans work:

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Out of Africa: Abdi Osman

My move to Canada has facilitated my view of the world to something much larger then my previous concept back in the USA.
I have had the opportunity to meet people who are from all over the world. If you know me, you know this has me in my element. One of my new friends is a young man Abdi Osman who is originally from Somaliland in east Africa. We met though our common love for photography. Abdi has a very diverse approach to his subject matter, Architecture, Nature and best of all his portraiture. As you can see above he has also allowed me to photograph him... Abdi has a sense of composition weather he is behind or in front of the camera lens. What we have below is only a few of his extraordinary images! This is the first of several interviews with photographers who I admire. Enjoy!

Epiphany: Well thanks for coming on to the blog today... I have really appreciated your photographs for a long time... you seem to have a few different focuses in your work. Architecture, nature and your portrait work in Africa... which do you like to do the most?

Abdi: l'm more into Architecture, but lately l have grown an interest in portraits.... don't ask me why, lol

Epiphany: you have been all over the world, what was your favorite building to shoot?

Abdi: l don't really have a favorite building par se, but older building interests me a lot more than modern architecture in terms of my work.

Epiphany: I notice in your building photos that you favor doors and sometimes windows. Is there something about these that interest you?

Abdi: hmmm..... Actually l see a lot in both, they sort of remind me of our eyes...they can tell a lot about the building or the original occupants. In parts Africa doors symbolized status and in some of the oldest architecture you'll be able to see extravagant carvings. Depending on where you visit in Africa, there is a story or history behind every ornate door. I see them more like "the eyes to the soul"

Epiphany: Amazing! Speaking of Africa, It is those pictures I really like the most... Specifically the pictures of the school children. Where did you take those and how did you get hooked up with that school?

Abdi: Those photos were taken on my trip to Somaliland in a city by the Red Sea called Berbera. I was there doing some HIV/AIDs research at the local hospitals, and while I was in Berbera.... l just happened to stop by the school on my way to the beach where l came across the students and their teachers.

Epiphany: Was it easy to convince them you wanted to take pictures?

Abdi: It's funny because they actually volunteered to have their photos taken. They also reminded me of my childhood.

Epiphany: Wow! That’s great? Your pictures of the kids are very gripping, there seems to be a connection between you and them... is it just that they remind you of your child hood or was there something more?

Abdi: They reminded me a lot about my childhood and l also wanted to come and share pictures from my homeland with friends and family. Also to show that there are still people both young and old still living there that need our help, as you maybe aware that Somali is the only part of the world that does not have a recognized government.

Epiphany: Well documenting the culture is the first step in recognizing the people there.... do you feel there is a political component to your images?

Abdi: Yes...l must say that my intention was also to show my viewers that life goes on and Somaliland has a functioning government that is recognized by its citizens.

Epiphany: Well your images do show that! Would you like to go back to Africa? If so where?

Abdi: Yes I would love to go back to Africa again......most likely Ghana or Morocco.

Epiphany: That sounds great! Will you be taking your camera?

Abdi: Of course?

Epiphany: What do you want to do next with your photography?

Abdi: I'm actually in the process of producing a photo book on social issues facing the Somali Diaspora in Canada...l will keep you updated.

Epiphany: Wow that sounds interesting, if someone would like to see your work where can they go?

Abdi: they can visit my online gallery: Http://

Epiphany: Are these images available for sale?

Abdi: some of the images are available for sale

Epiphany: Can people write you to inquire?

Abdi: Oh Yes!

Epiphany: hahahaah how?


Epiphany: Great! Well thanks for coming on... I really appreciate your work and I can’t wait to see what you have in the future! any last words before we go?

Abdi: Thank you for having me Christopher... Your readers can check out my website and feel free to make comments?

Epiphany: Absolutely! Thanks!

When You Don't Know

Every once in awhile as an artist you cross paths with someone with whom you have a creative simpatico. I had that opportunity when I met Tony Manson through my friend Lasaunji. Tony is a fine brotha from Detroit who has not only written and self-published his first novel "When you don’t know" in 2003 but is currently working on his second! I was happily able to help facilitate the first book by providing the image for the cover and to provide the design and final typesetting as well. The photograph is actualy a picture of Garth, who had been Lasaunji's Boyfriend, it was perfect for the cover and with some courage he gratiously let us use it for the cover! I caught up with my friend the other day after several nerve-racking try's via temperamental computer equipment!

Epiphany: Well thanks for finally coming on LOL...

TM: right! LOL

Epiphany: So Three years ago you came out with your first book, "When you don’t know"...what was the book about and what motivated you to write it?

TM: Because of my interest in gay, especially black gay love stories, I felt I had a story to tell as well. Besides, I felt that all the stories that I was reading only took me up to a certain point. I wanted others to know and understand that love is love… no matter whom it is with. I wanted to get past the Disney image that I was receiving when it came to black gay love. The book is about a young black gay man in Detroit set in the early 80's.

Tony Manson at Half Past Three in Detroit with the debut of his first novel

Epiphany: Well you were very successful in doing that! Did the book have any semi autobiographical influences?

TM: Well......I have been asked this question before.....LoL. Peyton, the main character, is only 40% of me Tony. I created Peyton and of course your own imagination plays a part of developing him, Peyton. But Peyton is not totally me......LoL.

Epiphany: Peyton was a character that I think a lot of people could identify with...he had a certain innocence about him... When you were writing was it hard to pull out experience for him from your own experiences?

TM: No. I didn't want Peyton to be a typically "gay character". I wanted people to understand that the guy you see in the cleaners or at a light that you don't suspect as being gay could be, but that doesn't make him less of a man or person. I was never one to run with a crowd or be taken as being gay. So it was exciting showing the dealings that "we" could do when no one knew what was really going on. I told you I have a good I just turned some of my escapes around .....LoL.

Epiphany: Ok kewl!!! Yeah he was just your average kewl dude... Who was the love of Payton’s life? and do you believe they were soul mates? More importantly do you believe we all have a soul mate?

TM: Everyone says we have a "soul mate" out there.......but I wonder. If we do....timing is the key to it all. If the theory of soul mates is true.......I would say I lost mine a long time ago, before I ever knew that that's what he was. I mean I did use him as a standard for all those that came my way later. But I really think that my soul mate hasn't crossed my path Now for Peyton, Ishmael, better known as "Ishie" was his soul mate. They had a love and bond that was created without just happened. And that is what its all about.........accepting and not tryin to change

Here is a snippit from the book:

"Did you enjoy yourself tonight Peyton?"
"Yes, I did and I want to thank you for inviting me.
Thank you Ishmael" I said. "But I know that's not what you wanted
to talk to me about, is it?" I was pacing the balcony with my hands
locked behind my back.
"A couple of my buddies found you very attractive, but I told
them I wasn't sure if you messed around. you?"
"What do you mean mess around?.....with men? I
gay?........Is that what you asking me?"
I stopped moving at this point.
Here it was, front street, damn.......what do I say?

Epiphany: Would it be proper to characterize this book as a romance novel?

TM: Yes, amongst other things. I say that because not only does Peyton feel love on different levels, and all it has to offer, but it helps create and shape him as a man. Peyton goes thru so many things alone but it doesn't make him crazy just more stronger against life.

Epiphany: How successful has the book been for you? who is your biggest audience?

TM: I am very thankful for the success of my book. In saying that, I have been told by a lot of people that they have either felt that way or now understand when someone they know goes thru it. I would say that black women has been my biggest audience. They relate to the sensuality and intensity that Peyton and others feel. It lets them know that love is matter who you with. The same feelings flow....some might not like that, but it true.

Pride 2003 and a chance to sell the book!

Epiphany: Wow! Sort of the E.Lynn Harris effect.... Its interesting you bring up women ...I’m in the process of putting together a little something about "Judy's" or more incorrectly fag hags... those girls we just love to have in our lives.. why do you thing gay men have these important women in their lives? why do they so easily identify with us?

TM: Because we go thru the same Women like this exist in gay men lives because they appreciate the truth we say. A straight guy ain't going tell them things to make their life better, for some other guy, come on. Most are to busy tryin to break their spirit as they work on the next one. And as for us.....they are the only ones that don't judge us when we say how hot or fine that brotha is....majority of the time, they see it too but know they can't they rather know you got

Tony and Garth, the model on the cover

Epiphany: So I hear there is a new book in the works..what can you tell us about that?

TM: know the sayin behind every good gay man is another good gay man makin sure he keeps steppin........lolol, well that's what I need in my crazy life so I can get this damn book finished! I mean I am more than half way thru, actually 3/4 finish, but I just havin been feelin it the way I need to tie it all up. Motivation is a wonderful But actually the book is titled "Chasing Me". Its about a brotha named Chase, who is mixed, black mother and white father and ends up a gay male dancer. He ends up running with this crew od drag queens and ends up dancing from a dare. As he grows older, things from his past come back to haunt him...and its turns out not to be all

TM: It is also set in the 1980's

Epiphany: sounds interesting...but that’s two books set in the 80's...did you like the 80's...I know I did!

TM: Yes.......very much Well I relate to that time frame and seen a lot of things during that time. For me, it was the last time I really had fun. Not to mention that was my "comin out " time period as well. Men were men back dl crap

Epiphany: yeah the 80's were seminole for me too, and I agree the internet has certainly fucked things up with the gay life more more meeting people at bars...its all on the net where it is safe!

TM: And that ain't really........cause majority lie and say things they know ain't true but think you will never find out.....who zoomin

Epiphany: Thats so true... I say bring back the 80's!

TM: You got my

Epiphany: So I get the opinion that Tony is going through a little person reorganization.... What’s going on in your life!?

TM: Yeah man......I guess you can call it my "mid life crisis". I told myself one day that if I wanted to change things in my life.....I couldn't keep doing the same dumb shit, because I would keep getting the same results. Change is a wonderful thing.....believe me. And accepting it is even better. Don't get me wrong, I am not bitter at this time, just thankful that I didn't settle just to have someone as so many do. If it is meant to be......I will be in the right place on that right day when we discover each other. But you know, if it never happens again.......I can sure thank God for the times that I did have......yeah boy. I am just at a point that I have to focus in on Tony and not the job, family, or friends. As I said I am looking for different results in my life, and the only person that can change things is me.

Epiphany: Yes this is true..I been there man... Hang tuff it will get better!...

TM: Its got

Epiphany: Well before I let you go I have to say the first book is awesome and the world needs more black gay writers putting out the stories yet still untold! Can my readers get your last book and how can they contact you for a copy?

TM: Well......I am in the process of changing everything and starting a new, all the details haven't been tied up yet. I have books they travel with me all the Right now you will have to help a brotha out until I can get it together. My mailing address is: Tony Manson 12603 Riad St. Detroit, Michigan 48224 All order placed will be filled and sent out ASAP. A money order for $20 will cover the price of the book and postage

Here is the link to Tony's Yahoo group:

Epiphany: Ok great! Yeah any help I can give...I’m happy to call you a friend...and that’s what friend’s do.... Well thanks for coming always its a pleasure to talk to you man!

TM: You know we like Chuckie.......friends till the end. Anything I can do you know you got it. Take care and God Bless Cushy

Epiphany: Thanks man!

My Judy!

Soni and I at the KICK! five year anniversary awards program

For those of you who dont know, a "Judy" is a gay guys best girlfriend. lasaunji (Soni) Colston has been my Judy for over 21 years now... and through experiences we have built a lasting bond that to this day helps me get through life! I wanted to spend some time talking to Soni because as my friend she fills so many of my memories and photographs and as such she opens up many parts of my life's story. While I certainly have more than one Judy, Soni is my first and therefore has a special place in my heart!

Epiphany: Ok well thanks for coming on the today. So do you remember the first time we met?

Soni: Ummmm, was it at McNamara?

Epiphany: No actually it was in the CPC HQ building at the GM Tech center in Warren in 1985 you and your brother came in with your dad one day... I kept thinking to myself... wow cute kids! It wasn't for another couple of years before we worked at Emmit McNamarra. I think it was during that time that I thought to myself, wow this is someone I'm going to be long term friends with! Then company fell apart we parted for another period of time until the day we both unknowingly move into 850 Whitmore in Palmer Park and then I said to myself, why does god keep throwing us together???

Soni: I do recall that meeting... I can't remember why we were there w/my dad that day though... Hahhaahhaa.. As for why god keeps throwing us together, fate made me your assigned Judy!! (smile)

Epiphany: I think it was then I knew you were going to be my Judy;-) Any memories of those days at 850?

Soni: Lots of memories at 850...Us at Bright ideas picking out our sofas... I think you still have yours. I gave mine to Treagen when he moved out 2 yrs ago. It's a little worn, but still going strong. (smile) The scary laundry room at 850 still gives me the willies... Me cooking and sharing cookies/meals and visa-versa. The big fight you and Perry decided to have that night, and you bringing stuff in my apt cause you didn't want him to destroy some of your belongings... Finally the overall feeling of comfort and camaraderie of having someone I knew in the building.

Epiphany: Yes I do still have that sofa… its in its old yet comfortable stage…. And yes that was the night Perry Moved out; you have been there through all of my drama!!! And good time too! At the time with you and Byron living on the same floor I felt a sense of family... which can be rare. Once in the circle you seemed very comfortable around the children as it were... have you always been accepting of the life style....?

Soni: The answer would be 'yes' because I've always been accepting of 'people' period. I'm not a judgmental person and I think that's a trait that makes people comfortable w/me. I have a fairly large circle of friends and I think being non-judgmental is what makes them gravitate to me. I think it creates the foundation of trust and loyalty I share with people that really know me. I look at the person, not who they choose to sleep with. What relevance does that have in my life anyway?

Epiphany: Back to Perry again I remember the day of his funeral at greater grace... you sat next to me and gave me a lot of support that day... Additionally we lost our dear friend Montrice this year, Has it been easy to become so emotionally involved with this particular circle of friends? Has anything come from the experiences?

Soni: Emotionally, the friendships have been easy. Life, on the other hand... Life and death are companions; unfortunately, you can't have one w/o the other. What I've learned from the transitions of my friends is the value of how precious the life and love I have around me is. (I have to let you know, you have just really taken me there...heavy sigh).

Epiphany: Life isn’t always easy I remember when I was laid off in 1995 you were able to get me in at Ford at the Ren Cen. Thus we were able to integrate our Judy moments at work again... I remember sitting at your desk while you fought with Ford dealers to quit calling you lasagna LOL “Uhh Sir my name is Lasaunji, that’s spelled L A S A U N J I! With all the things that have brought and kept us together over these 21 years, what do you think we bring to each other’s life?

Soni: Right! Folks always thought of dinner when they talked to me and still do actually. Ummmm, I think we have a push-me-pull-you kinda friendship. When one has been in doubt or feeling defeated, the other has always been there to encourage and offer that certain insight needed to help make it thru. I've also learned thru you where the VIA depot is in Windsor!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Epiphany: Yeah I have taken you down the path a bit... but your answers are great... and that last like... you got some jokes too, love it! I’ve always appreciated your pick up service in Windsor (For those who don’t know Windsor is the city in Canada across the river from Detroit… I would take the train from Toronto to Windsor and Soni would pick me up all times of the day and night to get me home!J

Epiphany: Ok "I" call you Judy but there are other names like fag hag that reflect our kind of relationship... Why do you thing men who are in the life have such close friendships with women?

Soni: First of all I don't take to kindly to "fag-hag" I'll go for the fag part, but I'm far from being a hag!!!! Growing up the stereotype is go to Dad for encouragement after you get in a fight and go to Mom for your kisses and bandages. I think men in the life are more in tune with their emotions and the facade of being 'oh so tough' is not an issue. Gay men realize there is nothing like having a best girlfriend to share with. Straight men could learn a lesson in that.

Epiphany: You got that right, its weird that straight men can become quite jealous of that unique connection! On another tangent do you think we have more drama in our lives then straight people?

Soni: No, I wouldn't say more drama, just more elaborate drama!!! :) It comes w/more theatrics and seems to linger on and on, and on...

Epiphany: And on and on and on! LOL There are so many memories of really fun and sometime funny moments… Especially at the million parties we have been to... my mind especially remembers G (Soni’s BF at the time) finding the Gmoney 2000 (a rather large yet realistic latex toy, don’t ask!;-) and while shaking it around drawing a comparison to him self that made nearly every man in the room sweet and nearly faint LOL! You've always dated guys who have been really kewl.. Is that a factor of who you are?

Soni and her man G and I at the annual white party!

Soni: Hahahahahhaha… The infamous or should I say famous G-2000!!! Well, Cushy, I'd like to think so (smile) Until recently, I prided myself on being a good judge of character regarding whom I've dated. Every now and then though a wolf in sheep’s clothing may slip in. But I digress; the guys I date know fairly quickly, that I have a diverse group of friends. Quite honestly, the typical initial reaction is curiosity, which usually after meeting the gang quickly turns into fond affection.

Epiphany: What is one or two of your favorite moments???

Soni: Since you've put Perry so heavily on my mind, one of the best times was the night I went out w/you and Perry to the club Zippers. I too, was enchanted by Perry's ease and fluidity on the dance-floor. He hands down the best dancer I'd ever seen. You took a picture of us dancing that night. I think that was one of my 1st experiences at a gay club.
The other, was you and a whole slew of our friends, straight and gay going to the Off Broadway East were they had male strippers. The music was bumping! Talk about letting the music just take you. I think that's the night I was introduced to DJ Blackcat (another of our friends that has transitioned). One of the things I remember most was how our friends kind of made a barrier between G and the crowd as if to say, “do not even think about approaching this piece!” The body gestures were subtle but it was obvious, our friends were not allowing anyone to approach him. That was such a good night and good time in my life.
The Gang at Off Broadway East!

Blackcat, Soni and Montrice

Monty and Soni durring a better time!

Epiphany: Well you and Perry did have a special bond; he was enigmatic for many of us… and hell yeah, all those guys looking at G at the club, if it hadn’t been for us he would have been devoured. We had to protect your man! LOL
OK last question...and closing statement... 21 years... my Judy...any regrets;-) lol?

Soni: Yes (you weren't expecting that answer were you?) That I haven't been to Toronto to visit yet........

Well we really need to take care of that don’t we! You need to come for Pride or Caribana!
I want to thank you for sharing your candid thoughts, I think that you have played such an important and integral part of my life and I love ya for who you are and for being there in my life...even now with all the miles between us we still manage to keep a close tie! They say friendship can be for a reason a season or for life... I’m happy to have you for all three but mostly the later!

Right back at-cha!! OOXXXOO ~ Soni X

Soni and Kieth Boykin At KICKS! Fifth Anniversary Awards Program

Soni and I at a fund raiser for our friend.....

Saturday, February 11, 2006

What Remains

I got a call last week from my friend Karyn in Detroit... She wanted me to know that Gayle Hamilton had passed away, she was in her 50's didn't really say what she passed from. A whole chapter of my life that had been closed for 10 years was ripped open and brought fresh in a few seconds time. Gayle was the mother of one of my old boyfriends Perry... She was at the apex of so much history and drama in my life. My relationship with Perry often put me at odds with his mother, Perry clearly loved her and wanted a relationship with her and she routinely slamed him for his lifestyle choices. While I thought I had perhaps gotten past all of it, it was not true and here it is a week later and I feel like I have to share some of this in hopes that it will have a cathartic effect for me... and let me apologize if this is too personal

I remember the August night in 1992 when Perry had approached me at the club. I had been starring at him quite some time as he and his friend had cleared one end of the dance floor. They were ball rooming very quickly and perfectly to the house music beats booming that night, and I was sitting in amazement at the sight. I had seen ball rooming before but never quite like this… It was as if they had been dancing their whole life, never missing a beat! Dips, spins fake fallbacks… More over it was the look on his face, which really got to me.. He had the look of freedom on his face the look that everything which could have bothered him was gone and he was in a space of total joy!”

“He came up to me eventually our tables being next to each other. He immediately turned and handed me a piece of paper, with his address… told me that he thought I was cute and that I should just stop by the next day… A spring up and he was back up on the dance floor…. “Ya you’re cute too” I said quietly to my self….

The next day I drove over to his house, which was a block off of Palmer Park, on Dakota. He lived in an upper flat, above a woman who spent her time in Florida… I could tell cause there were stacks of mail in one of the doors… I rang the bell but I got no answer and after a couple of tries I began to turn around to leave when I came face to face with Perry walking up the steps. Our faces mear inches away from each other’s “I could kiss you now or we could go up stairs” he said as he passed me his key…. And it was at the top of the stairs that did just that… He was presumtive and it excited me for some reason.

Perry was definitely more effeminate than any man I had ever went with, yet he was assertive in a masculine way which was part of his allure. We spend the next month dating …I stayed at his house every night…we would kiss, we would lay up in each others arms all night but we never had intercourse?” It was nice but frustrating to me because I knew he had the same feelings for me and i was ready for it.

It was about a month in that we had our first big fight. I thought there was something wrong because we were not having sex and he could not explain what was wrong... I thought it was our last fight as I left and didn’t see him for almost 6 weeks… a mutual friend and I were talking, Perry did not have a phone but it seemed odd that one fight would end what was so hot and heavy a beginning…

“Well Perry's been in the hospital “ my friend said, “He’s got phenomena…” It was then that I went over to the house where he eventually let me in. He tried to play off being ill till I found a medication bottle of AZT “What's this I asked…” “Well if you’re so smart you tell me…. He shot back!” “Well I think it would be better if you told me I said in a more demure tone.”

I walked over to him as he began to tremble, tears now flowed like huge single buckets from his eyes “I…. I have A.I.D.S. Ok? I’m going to die…” With this my brain exploded into a thousand instant thoughts and fears, luckily my heart guided my actions and I hugged and cried with him for what seemed like an hour “it is ok. and it doesn’t matter to me!” When we pulled it together some hours later he told me that he had been sick for quite along time and that the young man who had infected him had passed the year before. It was that moment, that very moment that I realized that Perry had been trying to protect me from himself… He loved me enough to not cause me great risk… yet he loved me enough to try a relationship, any kind of relationship… This sequence of events was destined to happen, and as painful as it was it seemed right.

By then I was in an apartment across the street in the park… and I simply insisted that he move in with me..I wanted to have what time he had left to be with me, I was in for quite a ride… We had two really good years together and It was through Perry that I met Karyn and her freind at the time Kieth. We would meet up at the club together, do dinners and just generaly socialize. Durring this time we had increased each others circle of friends as you would expect any couple to do and times were good in a very normal kinda way.
Karyn just ready for a concert that she an Perry were headed off to, you can see a picture of Gayle on the book shelf next to her, Perry worshiped her and much to his dismay and pain she despised him for being gay....

Perry and I at Lasaunji's apartment down the hall for a sunday afternoon swaray!

We had some small scares along the way but at the time there wasn’t any combo drug regimes and the illness finally took over in a slow spiral…towards the end we ended up apart after several stupid arguments. Looking back it seemed he didn’t want me to go through this with him.

These are the last pictures I have of Perry, he had started to really get smaller and I find it interesting that while he has the look of acceptance in these pictures, I have a look of fear... Perhaps I am reading to much into them.

He had invited me to his last birthday party, a small gathering of friends at a restaurant in Dearborn…I went wondering what he would look like, and what would I say… He was so thin and gaunt yet the life in his eyes was not diminished… we chatted during dinner which was pleasant, he asked me to help him to the bathroom after dinner, I held his hand as we slowly made our way, by then he was using a cane. I waited in the bathroom for him to finish, and as we were about to leave, he pulled me around and hugged me, “you know I love you don’t you?” “Yes I do, and I love you too” I began to cry... “Nope no tears! Not today it’s my Birthday!” To which I said ok…

Three weeks later he was dead…his mother returned the gold heart and crown ring I had given Perry a couple of years prior after the funeral and I began a very profound period in my life. She thanked me for taking care of Perry over the past few years and always being there... I felt conflicted as I wanted to tell her that she was the one who really needed to have been there all along... but I kept it to my self... The fact that she gave me the ring back was redemptive and the day had been hard enough. The week after Perry passed I went to Herman Kiefer to get a long over due A.I.D.S. test which came back negative, the fine looking young brother who gave me the news extended empathy to me as I quietly cried at the news. Did he know what I had been through? Did he understand the selfless act of love that had been given to me?

I was not in a relationship for a long time after Perry passed away, for the longest I couldn’t bear the thought of getting close to another man for quite some time! I have since come from under my grief and begun to live my life again... yet I still haven't found the one. What remains? Just my photographs and my memories....

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Two Harry's in One

Tonight I thought I would talk about the use of shadow in my photography. This is an image of Harry in the stair well of my old apartment building in the west village of Detroit. It was about 5:30 in the afternoon and the sun is coming through a window that had a light frosted surface. When I was composing the image I was struck at the shadow he was casting. Not one harry but two, infact some of the definition Harry works so hard on which was lost by the light was recaptured in the shadow on the wall. The horizontal and lateral frame of the window pains are cast across the front of his body and thus carrying the additional definition of his chest. This technique proved very successful and I began to use this more an more in my images as a way of subtly adding dimension to my models.