Artists In Film | The Cowboy Prince in New Orleans
Charlie Umhau and i used to be neighbors back when we both lived in Richmond, Virginia.
it was a while before i realized the jovial wild-haired being, who always greeted me on the sidewalk with a grin and a wave, was the same one on Instagram commenting on and resonating with my wild and creative musings (and here is just one of the many examples of how the internet has brought the most remarkable people into my physical world).
though we really only had the opportunity to become friends and hang out for a short time before he moved to New Orleans, there was an instantaneous connection in our conversations and ways of viewing and loving the world. from our common ideas on rewilding, our mutual experience of feeling a little-bit different than everyone else around us, to answering the call of leading and living a life counter to what our society told us to live. such was the scope of more than a few late night talks over beer and underneath city lights and starry skies.
all coupled with the recognition of our lives being fueled by the art of our self-made themes, concepts and projects.
if you love it, it will survive
ride boldly ride
hope is a verb with it’s sleeves rolled up
writings from a would be beatnik
anywhere on the water is a place i call home
learning to let a little green into my life
not to mention, we both lived in proverbial castles, though his was a castille.
(you'll have to follow his Instagram to learn more about that and similarly, those of you who have not been following me will need to familiarize yourself with my documentation of #theknittingqueenscastle)
however this dwelling was not just in our minds, but in the real world too.
for we are both royalty.
The Knitting Queen meets The Cowboy Prince.
we’ve talked extensively in the way of how to be in the world as artists but also in what it means to be a part of humanity in general, within the boundaries of that desire. the balance of being in the world as individuals but also as a part of a larger body of others. staying true to inner drives of creation though not to the point of alienation.
i wish i could convey some of those conversations and ideas to you now, but the second-hand translation wouldn’t even begin to do them justice.
i will say however, with the deepest sincerity, that his way of creating and being an artist is unrivaled by anyone else i’ve ever met before, or since.
i have truly never encountered another soul like his.
his themes of resilience of the human spirit, strength, hope, and action are bold and both vocally and visually portrayed in not just his art but all that he does.
he is one of the few i feel i can truly say who not just create his art, but embodies and lives it, in every single aspect possible. through his painting, writing, sewing, pattern making, sculpting, drawing, and countless other trades and skills woven in between, each piece created, whether it’s wearable by body or wall, is steeped with symbolism and meaning.
i am going to be incredibly transparent and open when i say that i am not sure i have ever encountered an artist and art that has so completely intrigued and moved me.
in sharing this man and his art, vision and space with you, i so badly want to do it all justice through these photos and in my words.
but i think part of this project for me is realizing that i am unable to do that.
to encounter another art form is something that transcends secondary interpretation.
to see a print of an original painting does not move you nearly as much as seeing and smelling the real thing. hearing a recording of a song can hit you in the chest, but not nearly as deep and bone rattling as being at a concert standing in front of the stage, hearing the music come at you and feeling it in your body right then and there.
such is also the case, at times, with seeing photographs of things.
but my heart in this project, of photographing artists in their spaces and studios, has a few intentions behind it.
being that i first and foremost want to expand the understanding and thought process of what it means to be an artist.
secondly, that i want to simply blend and share an art form of mine with another’s and emphasis what a privilege that is. because i think often we are meant to mesh and blend our lives and passions with others more often than we perhaps allow for.
thirdly, i want to highlight some of the amazing people i’ve met over the years in all manner of places, doing such genuine heart-felt things and who truly treat their lives as their proverbial canvas.
last but not least, i am looking to stretch myself in my own ideas and understanding of what it is in me that feels alive and passionate about my various art forms through witnessing the fire and passion of others practicing theirs.
film is one of my favorite ways to create, to document. largely because of the intentionality and slowness and care i have to execute in the midst of it, but also because it teaches me to appreciate imperfections.
blurred edges. out of focus planes. light leaks.
some would argue that these are the makings of a bad photograph, but i beg to differ.
because they are real.
they are raw.
they are capturing exactly what it was in front of the lens at the time, unapologetically, with no filter.
i can achieve certain elements of that in digital photography at times, even with my iPhone on occasion (for every single photo on my instagram feed is shot and shared from my iphone because i have always been somewhat of a purest in that way— feeling as though sharing my DSLR images on a platform originally meant for phone snaps was “cheating”.) but i cannot tell you the last time i didn’t actually take 15 shots to get the one that i wanted, or shared a photo i hadn’t edited in some way.
in film i can’t do that.
i only have 36 frames on a roll of film (sometimes even only 24 or 12) and part of my self imposed limitations with this project was to shoot only one roll of film for each session and to share the photos afterwards as-is, without any touching up.
i have found that it is within limitations that my best, and most loved, work is created. the shots i probably never would have gotten had i been given all of the luxuries and conveniences of digital technology.
of course there is also a certain heightened love and appreciation for that which is scarce and in small supply.
not to say that these are incredible photographs, publish worthy, jaw dropping.
accept, well, to me they kind of are.
they are once-in-a-life-time.
because that’s what a photograph is: a millisecond captured of an irreplaceable moment in time.
they are the result of my rawest and most vulnerable kind of image making.
i have to overcome a lot of insecurities and self doubt in creating these photos because i am not proficient in film and am not as practiced at documenting with it as i am with digital (which is my paid profession).
and i think that is what i find most precious and special about these sessions: that these artists are extending to me a similar kind of vulnerability.
they have welcomed me into their most sacred space, the place where they create and put out the art that they just can’t help but do. the things they go to bed thinking about, dream of in their sleep and then wake up with in the morning still on their minds.
because they have to create.
they were made to do this specific thing, and they don’t know how to not do it. as an artist who holds the spaces in which she creates as very reverent and sacred, i know all too well how meaningful it is for someone to be willing to share that with others.
with all of that being said, i am going to let these blurry imperfect photos not speak for Charlie and his art, but at least start an introduction for you.
if you would like to hear more of Charlie’s own voice and witness more of his process in creation, i highly encourage you to follow his instagram account: @thecowboyprince. it is one of my favorites to keep up with.
(and be sure to read the captions, because that’s where most of the magic lies…)
if you enjoyed this Artists In Film essay please check out the original one i put out!
keep an eye out, because there are more essays in the works!
especially with the impending Wild + Wonderful American Road Trip that i am embarking on next month.
thanks for reading friend.
this project is one that is incredibly close to my heart and it means the world that you paused for it.