The Sartorialist's Visual Life

The Online Photographer this morning ran a piece about this video from Intel's Visual Life series, featuring Scott Schuman from The Sartorialist. I can't say I was familiar with Schuman before, but listening to him talk about his work and see how he works, it really resonated with me.

About a minute and a half in, he says this:

I feel very lucky to get to have part of my day leading a visual life. It takes X amount of time every day just to make the blog work, just to get everything going and get all the business of it done, but then the real joy of it is having those four or five hours a day to go out and just be in the world that you're in, see it, keep your eyes open and really relate to what you're seeing, react to what you're seeing.

Hearing that, it just clicked with me. That's exactly how I feel when I go out shooting, especially when I shoot street. There's a feeling of presentness, of groundedness, of connection and, yes, joy. Of just being thrilled to be in the world and get to see it and be a part of it.

It's also got me to thinking about my own approach to photography. The interesting thing about Schuman--and what makes his site so popular, I imagine--is that he's not focusing on photography; rather, he uses photography to focus on fashion. It's exactly that kind of particular point of view and direction that makes great artists interesting, and it's something that's definitely lacking from my work.

I've always suffered from a lack of focus. I'm interested in a lot of things. Even just within photography, there's no one subject or style that I like, no unifying theme to my work. I think that's a big part of what's holding me back artistically.

Jason Michael Jasongawa

The teachers at Jason's day care have been focusing on getting the kids to learn their full names lately. Jason is a pretty bright kid, but in this he's at a bit of a disadvantage. After all, a five-syllable name is too much for most adults to handle gracefully, and to be saddled with it at the age of two, well, it ain't a cake walk is all I'm saying.

Fortunately, though, Jason loves new words and loves to talk, so he seems to be having fun trying out his last name. Combined with his recent discovery of birthdays and the birthday song, it's made for some pretty cute scenes:

Two Years

Dear Jason,

When I wrote to you a year ago, I said that you didn't know what birthdays were yet. I think you have an inkling now, since you've been to six birthday parties in the last month alone, including your own. You tell people "Happy birthday!" when you get to the party, and you know to expect cake. At your birthday party you ate two cupcakes, and you had a third after dinner.

It's been a full year for you, and for me. You had your first trip to the hospital in September, for your ear tubes, and I learned that I could worry more than I thought possible. In October you had your first trip to the dentist, but only because you almost knocked one of your teeth out when you fell on your face. And in May you had your first stomach flu, which I think may have been almost as upsetting for me and your mom as it was for you.

It hasn't been all bad stuff, of course. You had your first Christmas in Big Sur with your Nana and Abba. You had your first trip to Virginia to see your Grandma and Grandpa. You went to your first baseball game, which you liked. You went to soccer class for the first time, which you didn't (and don't) like. You've really started to love the pool, and you're almost swimming on your own now. You're so brave that it takes my breath away.

You've always been independent and full of energy. You've only become more so this year. Sometimes that means you're squealing with joy as you play with me or your mom, or your friends. Sometimes it means you're screaming at the top of your lungs and kicking your heels against the floor in a full-on temper tantrum. It's given your mom and me the opportunity to really learn how to be patient. You've made us better parents. You make us better people.

As I write this, you're off at SeaWorld with your mom and your Nana. I wish I could be there with you--I know you're going to have a great day. I can't wait to see you when I get home.

I love you.

Double Rainbow

Have you seen the double rainbow video yet? It seems to be making the rounds; in the past few days I've seen it mentioned at least six or seven times on Twitter, Facebook, and various blogs. You've seen it, right?

OK, if you haven't seen it, take three and a half minutes and watch this:

If you're like, well, just about everybody, your immediate reaction is to laugh. The phrase "rainbow-gasm" might come to mind. You might idly wonder whether the guy is on drugs. And, yeah, it is funny, and I was thinking all the same things, but I'd like to take a second here and ask you a serious question.

Have you ever, in your entire life, been that happy about anything?

I have known some truly joyous moments. I remember the swell in my chest when I saw Juliette walking down the aisle toward me. And sometimes when I look at Jason, I'm so happy it feels like light is going to shoot out of my torso like a weird, Japanese-man version of a Care Bear Stare. For the life of me, though, I can't recall a time when I was so overwhelmed with excitement and beauty that I completely lost my shit. It strikes me as kind of sad.

For that matter, I don't think I've ever seen anyone I know be that happy, or even heard anyone talk about having been that happy. It's not even surprising to me, either. Being so thoroughly overjoyed and effusive just isn't socially normal. That's why it's funny. And even at that, we're only able to laugh at it because of the separation provided by the fact that it's a video. If you saw someone freak out like that in real life, you'd probably be uncomfortable. I know I would be.

Stop and think about that for a second. What does it say about our collective priorities and values that we'd feel weird about someone being really, really happy near us? Isn't that at least a little bit messed up?

I wish I were the kind of person who could get so worked up over a rainbow. I'd love to know what that feels like. I don't know if I ever will, but it seems like the kind of thing that might be worth working toward.

Dear Juliette

Dear Juliette,

I just wanted to take a moment, here where everybody can see it, to tell you that I love you and I'm glad you're the one I get to partner with in raising our son. I couldn't do any of this without you. Happy Mother's Day.

Jason has something he wants to say, too:

Bust a Move

Jason started figuring out how to dance a while ago. Until recently he really only had one move: bouncing up and down. That's probably because that's mainly what Juliette and I do when we're showing him how to do it--bounce at the knees in time to the rhythm, sometimes adding in shoulders or arms. It's very cute when he bops along, especially since he invents his own highly syncopated beat.

In the last couple of weeks he's shown us that his repertoire is expanding:

(Just in case anyone is curious, that thing on his belly is a band-aid that he had been playing with.)

Jason and the Baby Elmo Book

Yesterday after picking up Jason, Juliette decided to stop in at Babies 'R Us to pick up a few things. When she got there, she realized that we still had some money left on a gift card that we'd gotten for Jason's birthday. "Jason picked out a couple of things he wanted," she told me, recounting the story to me when I got home.

Now, I wasn't sure quite what to make of that statement at first, since, after all, Jason can hardly talk and while he certainly does have desires and ways of making them known, he's never actually picked anything out for himself. But it turns out it really was true, as Juliette explained to me. When they were walking through the aisles looking at the toys and books, Jason actually looked things over and saw some things that caught his fancy: a two-pack of spiky rubber balls (one large, about 7 or 8 inches in diameter, the other small, about 3 inches), and a book that had Elmo on the cover.

The rest of the way through the store, he clutched his new prizes to his chest, both at the same time. When they got out to the car and Juliette opened the package of balls, he took both of them and the book and tried to hold onto all three all the way home. He could hardly get his arms around all of it, but he was clearly delighted. Then when he got home, he marched all over the living room and kitchen with his arms full, proclaiming "Ball, ball. Ball, ball." Occasionally he'd drop one and have to stop to pick it up, no mean feat for someone whose wingspan is only about two feet. It was apparently very cute, and I'm sorry to have missed it. Fortunately, Juliette did turn the camera on while she and Jason read the new book, so I got to see that. And so do you:

One Year

Dear Jason,

Today you turn one year old. You don't know what birthdays mean yet, but your mother and I are both amazed that it's already been a whole year since we met you. In some ways it feels like you've been here our whole lives, in others it still feels like you're brand new. Except, you're already so different from that first day. I remember how calm you were at first, just looking around, taking it all in. You squeezed back when I held your hand the first time. I held you a lot--you fit in one hand pretty easily on that first day.

Your hands are a lot bigger now. You're a lot bigger. And you smile and laugh and shake your head "no" and wave "hi" and run around and make me and your mom chase you all over the house. You're quite a charmer. You love people. You had your first birthday party a couple of days ago and you had a great time. And everybody else had a great time, too, watching you run and play and yell. I made everybody record a little birthday greeting for you--one of these days you'll watch it and think "Man, he really didn't mind making people embarrass themselves, did he?" (I didn't. I'd do it again for you, buddy.)

Everybody kept telling me how beautiful you are. I obviously think you're the most beautiful baby I've ever seen, but I used to wonder whether it was just parental bias, and maybe everybody was just saying it because that's what you say to new parents. But people keep saying things like "I know everybody always says 'Your baby is so cute' but, seriously, your baby is just gorgeous, I mean that." And total strangers will stop us in airports and malls to tell us. In fact, that happened just the day before yesterday when we were at the Obon Festival in Salinas--some lady I'd never seen before came over to tell us that you were just so beautiful that it gave her chills. Which, actually, I thought was kind of a weird thing to say, but it does go to show what effect you have on people. And you were looking extra cute, wearing the jinbei that your Uncle Ben brought back from Japan last summer.

I still can't believe how much you're learning and growing. Like when your Auntie gave you the toy phone for your birthday, you put it to your ear and said "Hi." You were holding it upside down and backwards, but still, how'd you learn that? It doesn't even look like my or your mom's phone. It seems like all of a sudden you're doing all kinds of things like that.

What do I want to say to you on your birthday? It's so hard to sum up what I'm feeling in just a few words. Mainly, just that I'm so happy to know you. You've been such a joy, and knowing you and watching you grow has taught me so much. I hope that being near you will help me be more like you, because you're charming and social and active and absolutely fearless. And so inquisitive--you want to see everything and touch everything. And put everything in your mouth. (I could probably skip that last part.) And watching you have that curiosity reminds me of that same feeling in myself, that I used to have when I was a child. Everybody talks about "the wonder of a child" and how being a parent brings it back to you. It's true in ways I didn't realize just hearing it. These are the things you do for me.

Today you're going to go swimming with some of your friends, and on Saturday you're going to have a second party with all of your San Diego friends. I hope that your first birthday is lots of fun for you, and that the next year and all your life bring you health, wisdom, and happiness. I love you, buddy.


The Good Stuff

It's been four weeks since my last update and things have been pretty hectic. I've been putting in a lot of hours at work, and Jason hasn't been a very happy camper when I've been home. Between teething and ear infections and colds and everything, he's had kind of a rough few weeks. It's seemed that way to me, at least--he's been pretty fussy. Plus, with his newfound mobility, he's also gained new reasons to be frustrated--namely, that I won't let him do whatever he wants. Like when he wants to investigate the electrical outlets, for example, or when he wants to pull lamps down onto his head. And with that new frustration, he's figured out how to throw temper tantrums.

At times this whole parenting thing can be really trying. Sometimes I feel like I want to tear my hair out, others, I just feel really tired. So it's nice to be able to capture those bright moments, to be able to play them back and relive the bliss that the good times bring. Which brings me to the main point of this post: a video.

Jason's favorite toy is the little phone-shaped rattle that's part of his music table. He carries it around with him as he explores the living room, managing to push it on top of the stuff he's climbing on, or under the couch. A couple of weeks ago I was playing with him and showed him how I could make the rattle jump by slapping it with my hand. It was, as you can see, a big hit.