Decim8

I’ve been getting a bunch of “likes” on Facebook regarding a series of abstract, glitch art photos posted recently. These glitch photos were created or rather destroyed using my photographs processed thru the “decim8” app for iOS. You can take photos directly from the app or use existing photos from your camera roll. The app comes with 25 effects to choose from or you can combine and randomize effects to create your own named presets. Below are some examples of what I’ve created by destroying one of my favorite photographs via “decim8” by Kris Collins.. Also checkout the decim8 Flickr page.

Decim8 by Kris Collins:
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“Along the High Line” – Original photograph of the IAC building designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry as seen from the High Line park, captured by yours truly.
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“The Corporate Hive” – Above photo, destroyed and reconstructed via Decim8 app for iPad:20130724-134828.jpg

“The Crystal Cathedral” – Not to be confused with the monstrous mega church in Anaheim California, this is the same above photo using different effects:20130724-140542.jpg

Two to Tango

A few weeks ago, I had the distinct privilege to shoot at the exclusive National Arts Club located in the historic Tilden Mansion at 15 Gramercy Park. The National Arts Club was founded in 1898 by Charles DeKay, an art and literary critic of the New York Times to “stimulate, foster and promote public interest in the arts and to educate the American people in the fine arts.” It’s also one of the first organizations to embrace and promote new media art forms such as photography, film and digital media. As a native New Yorker with humble roots, it gave me a minor glimpse of old New York wealth and splendor that I often forget exists.

The photos here are part of an ongoing web project for acclaimed Argentine tango instructor Jon Tariq and his partner Della Lam. Shooting at the NAC was a pleasure for all of us, but it was not without some challenges. The first was shooting in a space that was sight unseen. Scouting a venue is essential before a shoot because you can measure up the place and think about composition, lighting, etc. However due to the exclusive nature of the club, we couldn’t have access until the day of the shoot. Another challenge was setting up my 2 speed lights without the luxury of light stands. Stands and tripods were absolutely prohibited. Fortunately, my wife assisted me and became a human light stand for one speed light and left arm for the other.

Challenges aside, we captured some pretty cool photos that evoke tango in its old time glory. More pictures can be seen at the Tango With Jon website

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Untouchable

My first self portrait with the Nikon D7000 and my two speedlights. ISO-200, 50MM f/1.4 inspired by Eliot Ness and the Untouchables

Steve Maya, Self Portrait

Steve Maya, Self Portrait

Meeting With The Holy Man

Before departing Gondal for Rajkot, we had one last thing to do. We went to see an ascetic(sadhu) in residence at the temple dormitory. He was a distant relative to a woman in our party. Since the sadhu was unable to see or talk to her because she is a woman and a relative, my friends were chosen to visit with him and I was fortunate to tag along. For those of you who don’t know, the sadhus undergo years of intense spiritual grooming before donning their saffron colored robes. Part of this is learning and living by the “Panch Vartman” or the five principal vows. They must be detached from or without lust, greed, taste, pride and affection. Therefore they cannot look upon or speak to women, attain wealth, touch or handle money, eat food mixed with water so it is tasteless, be humble and completely detach themselves from their relatives. It is believed that through meditation and these detachments, one can achieve enlightenment.

Three of us entered the dormitory and were ushered into a small makeshift office under a staircase where we met the sadhu. He recognized that I was not Indian, so he spoke to us in English. After we introduced ourselves, he knew that we were there to check up on him on behalf of his family back home. Out of respect to him and his vows, my friends did not mention anything about his former friends or relatives. He was gracious, a little surprised and amused that my wife and I were surviving well with the food in India as first time visitors. The chit chat turned into a spiritual talk. He encouraged us to focus on our “Atma”(soul or higher self), to meditate and see God in all things. He advised us to avoid distractions such as technology,alcohol, music, eating meat, etc., pretty much all things I thoroughly enjoy. Even though everything he said made sense to me, I find it extremely difficult to follow his advice. I know one day I will have to try.

After the talk, we thanked him for the words of wisdom and received his blessing. I asked him if i could take his picture and he obliged. He in turn offered me some postcards of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the present Guru of BAPS, writing on a blackboard in Gujarati. I had the writing in the postcards translated later and saw that it was a summary of the spiritual talk he had with us. My friend tried offering him a few rupees but he deferred to his assistant (not a sadhu) who collected the offering for the temple. The below photo is one of my favorite memories of India.

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Akshar Deri

After experiencing the Aarti, We proceeded to a chamber below the Mandir where the cremation shrine of Gunatitand Swami is located. Known as the Akshar Deri, it is a popular site for pilgrims to come and pray. In this photo, pilgrims are praying while circling the shrine in a clockwise direction.

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Morning Aarti

I spent a few days zig zagging across Gujarat with my wife and friends visiting various mandirs(temples) of the “Bochasanwasi Shree Akshar Purushotam Swaminayrayan Sanstha”(or BAPS for short). BAPS is a major organization within the modern Swaminarayan sect of Hinduism. We visited these mandirs as guests with the family we were traveling with. It was a sort of pilgrimage for them to pray for their recently departed. Despite the purpose of the long trip, I was happy to have been invited and document this part of India that few westerners ever get to experience.

The experience at the Shikharbaddha Mandir in Gondal is one that I will not soon forget. We stayed at the temple’s guest house for a night (an “experience” my wife will not soon forget!) and rose early in the morning for the first Aarti at 7am. With camera in hand, I was reluctant to take pictures because I didn’t want to offend anyone. The main temple is divided into 3 areas separated by waist-high gates. The front section is reserved for the ascetics only. The second section is for men only and the third, for women. A man approached me, pointed to my camera, made the universal sign for “take pictures” with his index finger and motioned me to follow him. He invited me to sit behind the ascetics before the central shrine of Purushottam, Akshar. I then heard the sound of this song performed live with children and adults in the temple singing along and I have to admit, it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed.

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