On Being The Underdog

Michael Carrillo at Sonic Ranch Studios in El Paso, TX during the recording of Deer Vibes' first LP

After finally calling out a local San Antonio magazine/blog on IG for using photos of Deer Vibes without any credit or permission for the past few years, it had me reflecting on a few things.⁠

One of which is that I’m an underdog in San Antonio, in photography, and in the wedding industry. The mainstream of anything always feels too easy, saturated, and not authentic. I’ve never felt a part of it and have never been accepted. But when push comes to shove in certain situations, I love the fight.⁠

When I got into photography back in 2010, I photographed bands. It became my way of staying connected to music when I was no longer in a band and unable to express myself. A camera gave me the opportunity to merge two different needs.⁠

One of the bands I photographed, was Deer Vibes. I’ve photographed them since the beginning. I even was photographing Mikey Vibe before Deer Vibes was a thing and I kept encouraging him to create that band. At one point, I was the second(ish) bassist of DV for a year and a half but had to leave due to my photography business being my priority.⁠

I have so many feelings that have come up. Stuff like the fact that I recorded DV’s very first EP in my dad’s apartment.⁠

One last feeling all this gives me is that I enjoy re-visiting forgotten work that hasn’t been shared before. It takes me on an entire journey emotionally. The photo above is of Michael Carrillo aka Mikey Vibe at Sonic Ranch Studios in El Paso, TX when Deer Vibes recorded their first LP. I came along to just document it all. And this is a photo that hasn’t been shared until now from that period of time.⁠

My First Productivity Retreat

I just returned from a day and a half productivity retreat. Me, my wife, and some friends rented out an Airbnb and spent the time just working. I only checked email, DM’s, texts, and notifications for possible urgent matters. Other than that, I solely focused on working on my business.

I began working on things I hadn’t had time to work on this year. It felt so good and relaxing not being bothered and accomplishing something.

I highly recommend doing a work getaway like this for those who struggle with working from home. Ideally, I would’ve liked to make it longer, but this was a really great trial run.

Here are a few photos I took.

productivity retreat
productivity retreat
productivity retreat
productivity retreat
productivity retreat

2020 Reflections

Right on queue, the new upcoming year hits me with emotions… Feelings of frustration. Feelings of un-worthiness. Feelings that I’ll never achieve anything in life. Yet at the same time, I get feelings that I can do what I put my sweat and heart into. It’s a constant mental battle with myself that I face every single year.

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These past few years I drifted away from minimalism. And I’m making it a point to revisit the positive feelings that minimalism gives me. Minimalism allows me to focus on what actually fucking matters and gives me permission to give a big “fuck you” to all the rest.

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At the end of the day, I’m an artist struggling to make sense of life. Weddings or not, it’s the truth. I have so many responsibilities both to my family and myself. I battle them internally all the time. And every year I’m face to face with them. I want to do good to others and myself.

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I’m excited to be detaching myself from the world in a few days. No social media or my phone. I’m going to take some time to do some self-reflection.

How Bullies Affected Me

At lunch today, my son mentioned not being the popular one at school. I told him I never want to be the popular one because it was the popular kids that bullied me or beat me up.

Afterward, I mentally dug through my head to realize that those times helped turn me into who I am today. I love being the underdog. I love going my own path. I love breaking the rules. I love standing out. I love saying fuck you to authority. It’s why I listen to the loud, crazy, unpopular music I do and why my photo-style of being VIBRANT yet dark isn’t popular. It’s me. It’s who I am. Fuck the trends.⁠

So thank you to the kids in middle school and high school that put me into a corner to punch my stomach. Thank you to the football jock who slapped my face with a handful of icy hot and left my face with a hand print for the entire day. Thank you to the bullies who convinced teachers I started shit and got me in trouble. Thank you to the kids that stole my money and forced me to give them the answers to homework. Thank you to the jock who tried to touch my penis without permission.⁠

These “popular” people helped make me who I am today. They helped me to become a compassionate person. I don’t search for popularity. I search for reason, purpose, and self-expression.

Liquor City

This is a quick story about Waco, liquor, people, loneliness, happiness, local businesses, and nostalgia.

We leave Waco and move back to our hometown of San Antonio in just a few days. We’ve been living in Waco for 2 years now, so I’m excited to go back to the city I call home.

Since I knew we’ve be moving back someday, I didn’t want to make friends.

It didn’t make sense to me to invest in creating friendships in Waco. It was already difficult because I was on and off the road a lot for work or visiting family and/or Ethan. That doesn’t mean I didn’t try to though. I tried apps and websites. I even met up with someone from an app who also was temporarily living in Waco. I thought our hangout went well, but then I got ghosted. People are weird. It’s also strange and awkward trying to make friends when you’re 35 years old and living in 2019.

One thing I’m known for is my love of beer and whiskey. And just down the road from our Waco apartment is a local store called Liquor City. Throughout the years I’ve bought a lot of PBR, Lone Star, and various whiskey from this man and his wife. All the whiskey bottles we used at our wedding for flowers came from this place.

I’ve shared a few conversations with him through the years. He’s told me stories about when he lived in India and overall how important family and hard work is to him. I told him our story and he told me that even in bad or difficult times that it will all be worth it. For family, you have to do what you gotta do and make it work.

So I didn’t make any friends in Waco, but for these reasons, I made it a point to photograph him and his wife yesterday. I appreciate kind and hard working people with a small business. I plan on mailing him prints.

Snapshots From A TPR Event

These days when I’m in San Antonio, I never really know how to feel about how to spend my free time. I was in San Antonio a few days ago and wanted to take a nap after my shoot. As I laid down, I got a text from my best friend Mikey saying I should hang out with him at an event he was performing at. And because he’s my best friend, I put my boots on and met up with him. I’m glad I did.

He was performing for a Texas Public Radio event and the event was great to be at. They had different speakers tell a story about their lives for 7 minutes each. I cried for about half of them. In between talks, Mikey performed his Michael J & The Foxes stuff.

These are some of my snapshots from the night.

My Happiness and My Fear Of Buzzwords

I’m gonna be honest. Today, I deleted some of what I was planning to post because I began questioning how I’m being perceived online.

There’s a lot of buzzwords going around these days. A lot of them bother me. It makes me think about being younger when kids would call names. Skater because of how I dressed even though I didn’t skate. Emo cause of some of the music I listened and still listen to even though I don’t understand why being emotional is a bad thing. Nerd because I wore/wear glasses. These are all generalizations based on perceived looks.

And the buzzwords I’m concerned about these days with regards to myself are personal brand and influencer.

I have no problem sharing how I feel online. I do it because I feel most people don’t do it. However, I feel that since I’m a wedding photographer I feel like I should not share so much of my personal life online regarding my wife and my stepson. I don’t want people to think I’m doing it for “branding”. And now that I’m trying to go into the world of sharing educational stuff for photographers, I’m afraid of someone calling me an influencer sometime in the future. In fact, I got my first email last week from some company saying they wanted to help me become a better influencer on Instagram after they saw my Instagram profile. I deleted the email and didn’t respond.

These are just my current thoughts I wanted to add to this post because I’ve been thinking a lot about my emotions. They’ve been through the roof the past month since I’ve been stuck in Waco with a slow wedding season.

Last week, I arrived in San Antonio to stay for a few days. And it’s almost certain that every time I visit San Antonio, I go visit my best friend at his bar. After feeling like I was beginning to lose my mind, it was nice to be there.

I was thinking about how funny it is that I used to hate San Antonio when I was young. The problem was though, that I was inviting infectious people into my life. I was going through a lot of trying to find myself. And you can’t find people to accept you for who you are if you don’t even know yourself.

While I was at the bar with my best friend, I realized how much I enjoy documenting things or people I love. I no longer can imagine living anywhere else other than San Antonio. I can’t wait to move back. A lot of what and who I love is in San Antonio, but I know that at some point I’m going to have to move past that. We all get old and things are unpredictable in life. I can’t rely on it all.

These are a few snapshots from that night. They aren’t amazing pieces of art, but they document how happy I felt visiting after being away for a month.

Today I Turn 35 Years Old

If I were to travel back in time and tell my younger teenage self that I’d live to be this old, my younger self would laugh and tell myself to fuck off. Lol. When I was young, I struggled with fitting in and finding my place in this world. I used to think about suicide when I was young, which is why these days it trips me out that I’ve made it this far in life.

I’m no longer suicidal. Those feelings stopped in my teenage years when I started playing in a band. As always, I never really know where I’m going when I’m typing out personal stuff. I just let my thoughts flow and don’t judge them.

But if I had to sum things up, it would be that I never imagined I’d make it to be 35, married with a stepson, still pursuing something creative, and not working for “the man”. I’m living a great life and I’m so grateful for all the things that happened in my life from when I was a child up until today. It’s shaped me to be who I am and to be honest, I’m proud of myself. Is that weird?

But if I had to be even more honest, it would be that even though I’m now 35, I still don’t have life figured out. I feel that no one ever really figures it out. You just figure out the small things along the way and correct course along the way. The important thing is to live your best life, be grateful, do great things, and remember that it’s okay to not have everything figured out.

How I Got Into Photography (The Short Version)

How I Got Into Photography

I’ve begun to start to talk more about my start of becoming a photographer lately because I’m no longer ashamed of myself. I’m also finding that people find my story intriguing.

A really long story cut short, I wanted to be a rockstar.

In my early 20’s, I had a band that toured and got offered a contract by a label. We turned it down and broke up circa 2005. I then felt lost in life for a few years and went through a deep depression.

Throughout my depression of trying to find myself, a friend recommended I pick up a camera. After I shot my first roll of film I became obsessed, because it was another form of creating something. I also felt I was good at something else other than making music. I would go out to a dive bar and photograph bands to connect with the music lifestyle I left behind while still expressing myself through creating photographs.

This photo is from 2011 and a part of that journey. This is how I literally learned how to use a camera. In these environments. Every dial, switch, camera technique, flash technique, etc, I all learned here. This is my roots.