Xemnas Keyblade
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Updated: Feb 7, 2022

In June of 2016, I posted on twitter asking if anybody was in need of a photographer for any reason at all. I would have taken any opportunity that arose, but somehow I attracted one that lead to the most ideal type of collaboration possible, a friendly, respectful, and long-term alliance. I got a reply from someone named Dan who was honestly already a prevalent hope in my mind when I had tweeted it because I was slightly aware of his recent prominence in local music. It was a real magnetic experience to have him in particular be seeking a photographer, as his band was just about as new as my photography was. A few days later, I showed up to a Furnace Creek show in Dan's basement in Warwick and I was very confused. How do all of these people know each other? How often do these things happen? How do I shoot in such low lighting? Drawing attention to myself by using flash just was not an option yet.

I did it, they liked them, and asked me to continue to shoot for them. I was 16 and already acquiring a real continuous client, I still get so hyped about that.

That Halloween, they played a show at a barn loft called The Elephant Graveyard. This was a brand new atmosphere that I totally did not yet feel connected to but wanted to grow comfortable in from seeing how much fun everyone was having. People moshed, crowdsurfed, and literally hung from the rafters during Furnace's set. The DIY scene was admirable and enticing and I felt like this was pretty much the coolest group of people around. My image-making purpose motivated me in the beginning to keep showing up and to stay a while. People also seemed to like, really really love Furnace Creek, so I became increasingly proud to be doing this "job".

The following spring was when I began to feel slightly comfortable enough to show up to shows alone when my usual friends were busy. People around here are always so welcoming and make it a point to actually connect with new faces just because they want to, because they care about their audience. Being exposed to that attitude that "everyone is a friend simply because they're present" during that time of my life shaped a lot of my positive maturation. It was the beginning of seeing that outside of high school the social world is a single gray area. It set the first example for the types of people I felt that I should begin to consciously surround myself with, not just falling into whoever is convenient.

In the summer of 2017, this still mysterious-to-me Elephant Graveyard place was closing, they threw a farewell show & Furnace was on the bill. These people had had some of the best times of their lives there, they love each other and they love the idea of where they'll jam next. It was obvious that everyone wanted to exert every possible particle of energy they had during this show to make it a special one. At this point, I couldn't help but still felt like an observer, but I was so happy to capture it.

By the winter that I had begun college, I also began to feel more like a permanent piece of the collective. I could relate to the giant smiles on everyone's faces because I was in the same ease of mind and flow as they were, helping us all to accurately remember it.

I slowly entered the New Paltz music scene immediately after returning to college for the second semester of my freshman year. A club hosted a show on campus where I started a conversation with a girl who was standing nearby and seemed to be there alone. I felt the strongest pull to talk specifically to her. We went to a party together soon after, then our first NP house shows (as many as we possibly could), and many weekly open mics. We met new people together and planned to be roommates the next year. Mathilda became my best friend on campus and we have accumulated many many hours of dancing and moshing at house and campus shows there together.

Their next show was at the first ever Battle Candle Music Festival in Warwick created by the local Interactive Noise Collective.

We don't take an annual outdoor music festival on a lake in our hometown with food trucks, art vendors, and roughly 30 bands in one day for granted. It's impressive.

I started branching out and shooting some bands at school and joined the New Paltz Music Collective, a club that books gigs on campus like the one that I met Mathilda at. So much of my fun and newfound comfort in college was a result of music-loving friends and exuberant times at those events.

In January of 2019, Furnace Creek played at Crossroads in New Paltz which I took as a huge night of reflection and connection, I cried a bit. In addition to all of the regular college friends that I was used to seeing at shows, a lot of Warwick friends came out to see them. I was in the presence of the band that first exposed me to this lifestyle, and all of the friends that I had made in both towns due to that one spark a few years ago. It was like the closing of a full circle and the opening of a new one. It helped in this context that Crossroads is small, so not only was I surrounded by these people I love, but we were packed tightly together. I don't have images from that night, so here's another from the June 2016 show to symbolize the full circle experience.

Oh wait, here's one taken that night by Mr. Matt Moment of my best pal, Ryan, who's been at almost every one of these shows with me.

We finally got to work together on something new: portraits. Both in the beginning and the end of this past summer (2019), I got to spend time with Dan, Mark, Ian and their newest member, Justin, to make some super special images. As a newer realm of photography to me, finally doing "branding portraits" for them was such a blast. We just kinda bounced around town and talked. I love having to figure out how to get people's personalities to genuinely shine through, the only way to do that is to hang out. Furnace is lighthearted and clever, casual but meticulous, and freaking loves their community. I mean, they consciously wore some their friends' merch for these shoots, and they take pride in having gotten such a variety of friends to sing harmonies, play instruments, make promo art, etc. etc. in contribution to this album so that it's a shared piece. It's like their version of DIY is Do It Yourself With The Help Of All Of Your Friends.

I always think about the chain of events that that internet exchange has lead to, it's hard to guess how long it would have taken for me to discover the music scene if it were not for this ongoing connection with Furnace. With their album just emerging, they have not even yet reached their ***prime***, they're just getting started after a very long build up of suspense. My level of excitement about being involved in projects like this has only gotten stronger. I'm thrilled to finally get to watch the love pour in on this record. It's one that really deserves to be listened to in order, it's a narrative that covers a long timeline of mixed emotions, it's definitely not background music.

I guess my thesis statement is that I recognize that lots of my personal life and "business" goals have been and will continue to be fulfilled largely thanks to these boys for having early and lasting confidence in me. They gave me room to experiment in the learning process and I've never felt judged. Even if it doesn't seem like it because the branches have reached so so far out, this was the root! And even better is that you can find a music scene pretty much anywhere and feel that same comfort, kinda like McDonald's.

Last step: January 2020 album cover shoot with the models being my friend, Miranda, and Justin's brother, Kenny posed like statues with the feminine figure reaching for the heavens pasted onto purple and gold clouds- Warwick's school colors (overall cover made by James Paris). The album's concept is about the phrase that people throw around a bit negatively about young adults being "past their prime" after high school or college, believing that they somehow have the power to pinpoint when themselves or others have reached their life's peak. Furnace says we're constantly reaching new heights until our last days. Nice, nice.

I'm so proud of what you took your sweet time to create.



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