Spy Photography’s Journals

I had such a good response from my very personal very triggering journals that I decided to share some more journal entries focusing mainly on my band photography. And because it’s related to my band photography you get to see some pretty pictures.

Sunday, July 2nd, 2017

I’ve been rapid cycling. Yesterday was probably my 80th attempt at giving up my photography in two years. Thinking about it at least.
But then I remembered I’m seeing Sorority Noise in September and became excited about photographing them. And Speaker might next send me to Grinspoon. So I’m starting to remember why I wanted to be a band photographer in the first place – to both see and photograph my favourite bands live. Somewhere along the way I lost sight of that direction and saw it as a monthly attempt at getting the most hits and likes on social media. Tim Rogers was right – it is toxic.
It’s good to have another long break though to spend some time watching Stan or Netflix, play video games and work on upgrading my PC.

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

I’m always beating myself up over everything.

In order to explain such a statement properly I’m going to have to talk about the second last gig I shot. Getting to shoot Grinspoon came upon pretty suddenly, although I did apply to shoot the show in the first place I didn’t think I will get approved. The last show I shot for Speaker TV was The Living End and that was only because I was piggybacking on the end of two other photographers who didn’t end up on the list but were approved by their publications. I had no such approval but I kept quiet, didn’t once utter I had official clearance so technically I didn’t lie about it. I had traveled from Sydney to Wollongong with a heavy bag full of expensive lenses – I wasn’t going to cloak that. If I didn’t get my camera in I would rather have walked out, gone to a pub and sulked rather than cloak $4000k worth of equipment.

Phil Jamieson from Grinspoon at Enmore Theatre, July 7, 2017

Phil Jamieson from Grinspoon at Enmore Theatre, July 7, 2017

I wasn’t really prepared to shoot Grinspoon when I was approved but I did feel confident about it. The day of the show I felt pretty positive when I cleaned my lenses and packed them away in my camera bag but that night when I was walking to the bus stop out of nowhere I had trouble breathing. ‘What is this?’ I thought. ‘Is it anxiety – from where?’ I kept feeling anxious as I went onto the bus. I tried to analyze the situation in my head. I was going to Enmore Theatre in Newtown, a venue and area I was really familiar with. I normally felt this anxious before a gig if I had to go to a venue I’d never been to before in an area I wasn’t familiar with. This didn’t make sense. If that wasn’t bad enough certain elements within my environment that should be static started moving around and going in and out. I felt like I was on some sort of drug. Was this what they call derealisation?
My nerves continued even when I got inside Enmore Theatre but eventually they dissipated as my central focus was put on photographing the opening band. During Grinspoon I was stressed out over missing all the best action shots. It was hard to find a good spot to shoot from because there were these machines lined up at the very front of stage that spat out confetti and smoke. The effect looked nice but they were dangerous for me to get too close to.

If I’m to be completely honest I’m really disappointed with how the photos turned out and I’m confused to as why people really like them. I missed all the good action shots and I should have chosen a wider lens as my main instead of flaunting my 70-200mm wonder lens. But it was a learning curve for me and I will get my chance to do better next time.

The next gig was Pete Murray and I was even less prepared because I forgot I applied for it at all. The whole night I didn’t feel like any of my photos were in focus and I had to keep adjusting my settings. Then when I got home and actually looked at them on my computer the shots I thought were blurry were actually quite sharp and in focus. I had the same problem at Grinspoon – I thought hardly any of the photos turned out after I took them, and to be honest a lot of those photos ended up being in focus too.

So, this is my problem. I keep thinking I’m taking horrible and under focused photos when I’ve done the opposite. It’s frustrating for me because when I think I’m taking bad photos I basically give up taking any more. Like at Pete Murray I didn’t make many attempts to get a shot of the band from the crowd because I thought hardly any of my photos from that night turned out.
I just need to be a bit easier on myself because beating myself up over taking poor photos can ruin my whole night.

PeteMurray_EnmoreTheatre_04

Pete Murray at Enmore Theatre, 29th July 2017

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

 The next gig for me to shoot may be New Found Glory from the USA. I got the e-mail from Speaker TV about it yesterday. I have a bit over a week to prepare. I need to remember to remain confident, just not tire myself out too early or drink too much; that will be easy as most alcohol in music venues is rough on the palette, worse on my stomach and overpriced. I might check out some live photos on them as well as videos to see what lenses I should use. I’m expecting there’s going to be a lot of jumping around. I have seen NFG once by accident really. They were a support act for a band I was seeing. They were good and they didn’t have crazy energy so it should be a pretty easy show to shoot.
I want to review the show as well. I have plans to start up my own arts and entertainment site – reviews, opinion pieces, articles about the culture surrounding music, gaming, films etc. I’ll keep the name to myself until it goes live.

I’m going to have to make a list of all the bands I’ve applied to shoot to remember that I did and so I get no overlaps. I think I have Hawthorne Heights this month as well as You Am I. I’m more excited for Alex Lloyd and Sorority Noise in September and even though AFI is the night after Llyod’s gig it would still be good to go. I meant to receive my long waited copy of Destiny 2 on September 6th too. If I get approved to shoot Alex Llyod and AFI then I’ll have to wait at least a week to play it. It suits me fine. Alex Lloyd’s music holds a special nostalgia for me and it will be great to see him live, even if I have to take photos from a balcony at the back of Leadbelly, because there’s going to be dinner tickets which means I can’t get in the patrons way that paid $112 for a ticket. The biggest challenge in photographing both Alex Llyod and AFI will be in the fatigue that will follow as my chronic fatigue has proven to become quite a problem for me.

My Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS is being delivered to me too. So by the end of the week I can have a play with that. We can see how good its image stabilisation really is.

Right now I am content to continue reading Alex Rider, applying for both writing and photography jobs, writing blogs, working on a screen play, exercising, watching Skins on Netflix and maybe playing some Iron Banner in Destiny 1.

No rest for the talented. Give me a break! I was really depressed about this before, so now I’m feeling overconfident and a bit arrogant. I’m not very good at balancing my emotions. Extreme highs or extreme giving up – that’s the best you can expect to get out of me.

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Videogames and Regression

I’ve categorized regression in autism into 3 severity types. Type 1 happens when an autistic person is under a lot of stress from a significant change in their environment that causes them a lot of distress which makes them regress into an earlier child-like state and they may preoccupy themselves with an activity that makes them feel safe and comfortable, and returns them to a state of order in an otherwise chaotic situation.

Type 2 is what I have dubbed ‘The Second Regression’ in the past which is a more serious and long term form of regression. It’s usually referred to as cognitive regression or a shutdown. Shutdowns in autism have their own terminology and have their own spectrum of severity and it’s something I won’t get into now because it will just deviate from the original point of me writing this post. This Type 2 regression usually happens when an autistic person pushes themselves beyond their own limitations and can result in a loss of developed skills. Since doctors don’t know much about this condition and even go as far to say it’s psychological hysteria they can’t do a lot in terms of treatment. Instead, the autistic person must re-learn all these skills over again. When their family members notice they’re a bit slower in communicating their thoughts, social understanding and basic skills they may have no choice but provide some accommodations for their struggling child, sibling or spouse.

Type 3 usually happens when a baby is 18 to 20 months of age and begins to show symptoms of autism for the first time. They may have already developed speech and hit their milestones on time or early but for reasons not clear to scientists their skills begin to regress.

I’ve gone through Type 2 regression around four times so I’m hesitant to push myself when I begin to feel anxious. I don’t ever want to feel helpless and dependent on others while trying to re-learn lost social and life skills which I’m all always trying to build more of. Recently though I experienced Type 1 regression for maybe only the second time. They may have been more but I feel so socially developed for an autistic person that this little set back really made a huge impact on my self-confidence.

It all started when I found out that my house’s lease was being terminated and my sister whom I was living with at the time had previously been looking for somewhere else to move, which I protested. But then we had no choice. We had to move. It probably took a week for my sister and housemate to agree to move to Katoomba but I resisted. I tried to find someone else to live with on Flatmates.com but after a few weeks of not really finding anything suitable for me and my small cat Lyra (not many places allowed pets) I started to lose confidence that I could move in with strangers at all. Eventually, I came around to the Katoomba idea but I was still anxious about it.

I was working in Western Sydney and I knew I had to stop working there days before moving to Katoomba. I’m also a gamer and around this time Quantum Break, a game I had been waiting years to come out finally did and I become wholly absorbed into the world of Jack Joyce, the main protagonist. I searched through every nook and cranny of that game world to uncover more of the story. It had become my new reality. Yes, time was breaking down and I had these cool time powers and Dominic Monaghan was my brother. There were these moments in the game called stutters and I guess I played the game for so long I started to see them outside of the game. There were TV episodes in between the levels or acts and I felt like I lived through every character in the show and game. When I was half-way through the game I started to take days off work just to play it, even after my flu symptoms started to dissipate. Then it was choosing playing that game instead of seeing Craig Nicholl’s from The Vines play a solo show at Newtown Social Club. I’m a live band photographer and go to quite a lot of gigs and consider myself part of the Australian live music scene so not going was even a shock to me. Craig also has Asperger’s syndrome so he’s probably the only person in the music scene I can relate to. My friend wasn’t impressed that I didn’t go to that gig. In truth I didn’t want to go out and risk getting sick again. I had already missed so many days of work it was impossible to catch up without risking a collapse. I’ve had chronic fatigue since I was 13 and last time I pushed myself I became close to passing out. It happened after I went to shoot a gig, spent two days editing the photos and went straight back to another gig. When things like that happen to me I become anxious about it ever happening again.

Another reason I was hesitant to go to gigs might have had something to do with feeling anxious and even suicidal at previous gigs I went to alone. The feelings lasted as long as I was alone and didn’t talk to the band members if I didn’t know them. Fortunately, at those gigs I did know some band members. These feelings were new and unusual and they may have also had something to do with my stress over moving.

When I was close to finishing Quantum Break a free Destiny update came out so I gave the game another chance and I enjoyed it a lot more. I was one of those year 1 players who got sick of it and vowed never to play again, but the loot and upgrading points were very rewarding so I stayed. I entered into a new reality, a futuristic dystopian world in which I and other players were the last hope of humanity’s survival.  I became my Titan subclass throwing fiery hammers, ground pounding groups of enemies into oblivion or helping my team mates out by erecting a void shield. I dominated the Crucible (multiplayer) for a short while employing underhanded tactics to defeat my enemies. I played for full days to slowly upgrade my light level so I could play the final challenge. But it was all cut short when Starfox Zero came out and packed up my Xbox One and set up my Wii U. Three days later I wanted to throw that game and Wii U into the Sun. I also played a bit of Alan Wake: American Nightmare on my Xbox One in between Quantum Break and Destiny or whenever I couldn’t connect to Xbox Live.

Next was Ratchet and Clank I think so I set up my PS4 and packed up my Xbox One. Around this time I was beginning to suspect that I had grown some sort of a psychological dependence on playing videogames. I would never buy so many games in a matter of weeks. Usually, I would play a videogame to distract myself from depressed and suicidal thoughts. So, it was a form of therapy for me. I discovered this when I was anxious about going to a gig and I found playing Batman: Arkham City calmed me down. Since then, playing videogames works better than any psychiatrist’s advice ever has.

Not only did I have a psychological dependence to play videogames I also stopped hanging out with groups of people. People would come over to the house all the time and there was even a birthday party but I just didn’t care about socialising. It may have just been another way for me to cope with my stress. But in my head I came to the decision that I just didn’t want to do it anymore.

I did want to go to Good Game Live though but I felt nervous about meeting fans of Good Game Pocket show, the ‘Pocketeers.’ I’m not really good at meeting people and becoming friends. I’ve been bullied and trolled by people who were meant to be my friends so I was hesitant to go. When I sort of told one of my friends she made it sound like I wasn’t making an effort. We had a big row, a big big one. She told me I was making excuses even for my PTSD and this is from someone who has a mental illness themselves. Emotionally I couldn’t deal with it and I didn’t know how to handle the situation so I did what I always do when I hit a social brick wall – I tried to get her out of my life but she kept trying. Through my sister I realized she missed me and it was something that never occurred to me. I don’t often miss people. I can spend 6 months without seeing people and as long as I’m preoccupied with an interest it’s enough for me. I did try to make an effort to hang out though. I was going to go to a gig in her town and asked to stay the night but I was never really given an answer. I deliberately didn’t go to two gigs I knew she’d be at. Although, I had no real motivation to go. This was You Am I and Davey Lane – they were usually unmissable gigs but I just kept playing Ratchet and Clank and Modern Combat 5.

It took about a week but things are good between me and my friend again. I think. I’m not very good at keeping friends.

Then Uncharted 4 was released and yep I bought it day one. Now I was Nathan Drake, a thief/ adventurer in search of pirate treasure. Once again I was completely absorbed into the story and became so accustomed to the combat it began to feel like muscle memory. I would shoot one bad guy, take his gun, grapple to a rope, swing on that rope to another ledge, shoot another bad guy while still swinging in the air, land on him and take his gun and continue the process until the area was cleared of enemies. I felt so athletic while playing it even though I had barely gotten up and gone for a walk. I never wanted to stop playing it. I wanted to stay in that world forever.

I might have spent between 6-10 hours playing it daily and completed it in four days. I’m not the best player but I thoroughly enjoyed my time playing as Nathan Drake. I enjoyed the cinematic driven story so much that when I played DOOM on my Xbox One it felt boring but I eventually got comfortable with it. It was hard to feel like I was in the DOOM world so I tried to read up as much of the lore as I could but the days til I moved were getting shorter and I had to stop playing DOOM and pack my Xbox One into a moving box. I also really wanted to see Dallas Crane and I felt I had to completely put away my game console so I could be sure I could go to that show. I put N.O.V.A 3 on my phone and played it before the show. The A.I that was supposed to help me was buggy AF though so I eventually gave up on it. But I am glad I went to the Dallas Crane gig. I got to hang out with the guys, talk mostly about videogames with the drummer Steve and take some good photos despite having no confidence of my skills after months off photographing bands. I even forgot the differences between fast and slow shutter speeds.

Then I was going to go see Olympia two or three days later, so I hastily edited the Dallas Crane photos, ignored the support act photos and was off to another gig. Then some more symptoms showed up. I completely lost my appetite yet still felt hungry; I just didn’t want to eat. The kitchen was a mess because of the move so that may have been one reason why I couldn’t eat.  I ended up surviving on Shapes and crackers. My sister was convinced that Olympia went to our church when we were kids. I didn’t really believe her.

The night of the Olympia gig I had some anxiety about getting in at all because my sister had my ticket but it passed and I met up with my sister (not the one I lived with) and we got together to excitedly talk about a house that we were approved to rent. I ate a meal for the first time in days and I was looking forward to seeing my friend Pat at the gig who plays bass in Olympia.

I was distracted and unfocused at the gig. Maybe it was because I kept talking to my sister when I’d usually be alone and hyperfocused on what was happening on stage. I yet again had zero confidence in my ability to take photos but I eventually remembered what a slow shutter speed does to photos taken in low light, so I corrected that. It was a good night. I got to talk to Pat and meet Olympia and my sister asked her if she was the same person that went to our church as kids, and she was and it was kind of strange but nice. I was an extremely quiet and weird child and I’m so different now that it felt good that someone knew me back then. It’s like that child actually did exist. I didn’t really have much to talk about because I had been playing videogames obsessively for the past month and being around a 35 to 40 something year old crowd I didn’t want to make myself seem any younger by mentioning that.

So, despite all the stress and weird regressive symptoms and anxiety about everything and near starvation I still had a good time and took some great photos and just got to do what I had been missing out on for months. It was enough for me to want to do it again. A couple of weeks ago I had feelings of giving up on my photography because I just couldn’t get out to the shows, and also those suicidal feelings. Every now and then I think about giving up on my band photography anyway.

I hastily edited my photos of Olympia too because I planned on seeing The Matches that night. The Matches were amazing and energetic as usual but I didn’t feel like I belonged in that scene anymore. And that was once my scene. There was a time when everyone knew about my photography and at least two people at that gig knew me. I met the guitarist of The Matches but it didn’t go as great as it did at Olympia.

I’m in my new house now and I haven’t played a video game for about two weeks, maybe more. I’ve been watching a whole lot of Good Game Pocket and following gaming news. I’m waiting for a gaming monitor to be delivered and DOOM is sitting on a desk of dresser drawers in the lounge room waiting to be finished. I don’t think I’ll become dependent on videogames again, not to the extent I was. I think it all had to do with the stress I was feeling over moving. Sure, I’m going to be picking up a controller when I feel deeply depressed or even anxious but I don’t think I’ll choose it over going to a gig. I’ve been trying to work on my social skills – AGAIN! Sorry, but this is like the fifth time. I pretty much know what to say to people but don’t say it. It’s going to take time and practice but it will happen. The nervous impulsive speaker will return.

I still enjoyed my time playing videogames. I felt like a gamer for the first time. I’m not saying they’re as broken as I was. No, they seem to be able to balance playing games with work and socialising in a way that I never could. I’ll still continue to play games but I won’t have much money to buy them day one or pre-order collector editions ever again. They’re still the best therapy I can ever get and the only way I can make friends, outside of the music scene of course.

Nightmares Coming True: Fear of Change in Autism

I’ll explain that title later.

Change. It’s a simply thing really. Something we all have to go through. We face it so many times every day that we barely have to think about it. It just happens. But for some people it’s a constant torture on the mind. If you have a basic concept on autism you know people with it are very rigid thinking, keep to a very strict routine that if broken may have them wailing like a banshee, or in high functioning people, makes them react loudly and violently in tears or in threats or their body and mind just shuts down. And that was just when Syfy changed the time and day they showed Stargate SG-1.

Change is very serious concern for those with autism and indeed this person with autism. By now I could consider myself completely overcoming autism if it wasn’t for the fact that I can be paralyzed in fear by sudden change. I know how to have conversations with people. I can do small talk. I don’t always make eye contact and I can still interpret things in very literal ways and have an incredibly logical mind.

Now to explain that title. Change does feel like a nightmare coming true. For those scared of change it’s always on their mind; it has to be because it feels worse when they didn’t prepare for it. So, they learn to always plan in advance for any surprises. In this way emotional reactions can be controlled because they play out scenarios in their head and in the comfort of their sanctuaries (their house, somewhere they feel safe) they can work out the best way to react to a new situation.

Recently, I’ve had to deal with change mostly by force. I had to start work in Western Sydney. My disability job operator met up with me at a train station and took me to the facility. The next day I did it all by myself. It was scary but I adapted and now I think Western Sydney is better than my own area. It’s quieter at least.

After I was able to do this by myself I thought I should be able to go further. So, I’m planning a trip to Melbourne to see my favourite band Dallas Crane. I’ve got AAA passes for me and my sister so I know I’ll at least be able to go to the show if tickets sellout. But I’m still trembling inside. I hate airports because I’ve never been to one before. By now I know everything that I should expect to happen there because I’ve been preparing for it for years but I haven’t stepped foot in one yet.

A few years back my family went to Portland and I didn’t go because a few days before the flight I didn’t want to go, even purposely kept myself sick so I wouldn’t have to go. Most people blame my mum because she actually asked me if I would be able to cope, but the thing is my sister in Portland really had to go to every effort to make me feel ok about going in the first place, and anxiety creeps up on you. Even when you put a show of strength it’s always there and the smallest thing can trigger it. So, I don’t blame my mum. I thank my mum for being the only one who understood what I was going through. I wasn’t ready to fly to Portland. I didn’t want to anyway. Another thing people need to learn is autistic people aren’t usually interested in the same things as other people and they can’t feign it at all. At the time I didn’t like weddings. I didn’t like the fake sentiments that people would show at them. And BBC’s Sherlock agrees with me.

The second time I was meant to catch a plane was to see another favourite band of mine, The Ape. I was all excited until my sister told me all about going to the airport and catching the plane in an attempt to calm my nervous. It didn’t work. I felt so anxious that I could even hold my head up and then I went to lie down on the couch and shook for a little while. Then I couldn’t even get free tickets to the show and it was over.

This time I’m not exactly anxious about the airport or the flight, yet. I am anxious about plane tickets being bought. I’m anxious about having to go on my own. I’m anxious about not being able to go and letting the band down. I’m anxious about letting myself down. I could easily ditch the whole idea and feel better again, but I would feel like a failure. I would still have not overcome this obstacle. For many years I’ve been building up on my social and what is called life skills. This is the next step and I know there are people who do this all the time. But they’re not autistic. And for those who are either get or have had help to get them to that point. It’s bad enough I’m beating myself up for letting myself and other people down that I don’t have to feel depressed over the fact that this is such a simple thing for someone to do.

So change sucks. In fact, lately my eating routine has been completely thrown out of whack that I’ve lost my appetite but still have hypoglycemic crashes. When I’m hungry I feel sick but don’t even feel like eating. That’s something else I have to deal with on top of this. My head is in such a mess that I don’t even know how I can begin to start organizing it again.

My last panic attack was when I had to go back to the location where I was almost mugged which began my 4 year PTSD. It’s not as bad today, well, I thought it wasn’t til I went back. I started to panic, feel restless and agitated and wiped away my tears in the rain. So close to home but so far away. And I did beat myself up about being unable to do something so simple. But then a voice in my head reminded me I have PTSD. It’s why labels are so important to me. I feel like less of a failed adult because of all these diagnosis’s I have. For example my ADHD usually makes me feel stupid. I can barely remember anything. I can barely focus on anything. Sometimes something ignorant slips out of my mouth. Lately I’ve been beating myself up about my mood disorder. Bipolar maybe. I don’t know. Doctors don’t care enough to do the assessment. So I can’t get the meds. I don’t even want the meds. Medication is nasty stuff. I learned my lesson after taking Ritalin.

I suppose when I meet a new person that I really like I don’t want them to know about all my problems but I know in time they will eventually be seen. I guess that’s what I’m just concerned about. And the whole change thing. And the fact that I don’t even know when and how much to eat.

And now I’m depressed. Again.

Life Goes On

Here’s an update of sorts on my life. I’ve had way too many thoughts to come up with a single subject to write about this time.

Lately, I’ve not been doing much aside from playing Mass Effect 3 for a few hours a day. On Sunday I clocked over 4 hours which to hardcore gamers is nothing but to someone who likes to divide their time by doing a variety of tasks I was beginning to feel a bit…non-functional.

You see, I have this problem where I can get stuck on doing just one thing and then forget to take care of my basic needs, like buying food and making my own healthy meals. I showered today, right? Yes. OK, good.

So, as I was saying I’ve been playing a lot of Mass Effect 3 and getting pretty far with it. It’s always surprising when I’m actually good at a game. I’m expecting to get so stuck soon that I’ll just quit the game in a fit of rage.

Something interesting to note about playing through ME:3 is that during the dialogue scenes where you get to choose what Commander Shepard says and decide where the game gets to go, I’ve not only been learning that my decisions have some real consequences but I’ve also picked up some extra social skills along the way. I’ve noticed how Shepard does take care to speak warmly to people even when you just select ‘goodbye’ as a piece of the dialogue. He doesn’t just say ‘bye then’ but will gently reveal that he’s going but will try to reassure the other character he still cares about their situation. If it was left up to me I’d probably just say ‘bye’ and leave it at that. Another thing I picked up which could help me with my erm, defiant reactions, is that I’ve learned not everyone will be pleased with the decisions I made within the game even if a few others might. For example I helped a race called the Krogan get more power by having them cured of the genophage; it sort of limited their growth as a species. The Salarians weren’t impressed with that. Even my own General Hackett wasn’t impressed that I freed a creature created by the Reapers, our enemy. Maybe I was a bit naive in believing her when she said she’d help fight them. At least I didn’t free a psychopath or work with a ruthless gang just to help win the war. However, I think I made a bad call not letting the Grissom students join the fight. Fortunately, I have saved my game on several slots and I can replay the mission to see what having the students fighting alongside me will be like.

Yep. A video game is teaching me social skills. Add it to the list of emotional family drama shows and science fiction which have also helped me develop socially.

Ever since I came back from seeing and photographing The Ape I feel like I’ve lost the spark of life. At least I had been. I don’t do very well with transitioning from one thing to another and once it was over it was over. I really wanted to meet them and my anxiety seemed to resurface at the moment the opportunity arose. It was a fine mix of social anxiety and avoidance that made me decide neh, I don’t want to do this. I was so set on going to Free Comic Book Day the next day that I thought it justified making a quick exit. Plus I had to work on the photos. Enough excuses, kid.

Then I felt incomplete and for several days just wanted to go back to try again. But I have to wait a really long time to get that chance again. My main aim of the night was to take certain type of photos of them, particularly what I call ‘rock moves’ which I kinda aced, but I missed out on few good shots, mainly because my lens wasn’t wide enough and the one lens I needed I decided to leave at home.

Leading up to the gig I had this whole theme of loneliness surrounding me. I had been struggling to talk to other MARVEL comic book fans and knew that I would literally know just one person at the gig who I also couldn’t go up to talk to. But fans did start talking to me. I had never realised that just hanging alone by the stage with a drink would make me appear to be so isolated. I guess I do look that way but I’ve got one aim: take the best photos at all costs, and that is what I accomplished that night. I even spent two days post processing the photos and was glad I sacrificed all that time to produce some pretty damn good looking photos.I kind of wonder at times whether using flash was the right call. The Ape’s lighting has always been challenging to work with and when I used the flash I barely noticed it. Actually, I think I was too over focused. I barely noticed anything going around me.

It took me awhile to get back into my interests or to even want to keep living my normal life. There’s a lot coming up but at the time I didn’t want to do it. I basically have two functions: zero motivation or extremely excited about my life and everything. So, I may just have been lacking motivation again. Then I made the decision to start playing Mass Effect 3. I didn’t think I could even get past the first cutscene because it was so damned long and then there were so many options I felt like pulling my hair out. But I was able to focus for a bit longer this time and carefully selected how I wanted my soldier. I’ve clocked about 15 hours of gameplay so I’m pretty happy about that. I even want to play a few more games.

I was still having trouble motivating myself to keep going to gigs and taking photos, mainly because it was hard enough to get the clearance to take photos. I can’t always rely on one helpful band member to get me in to take photos. So, I resigned myself to the fact that I’m probably just going to have to risk taking in my camera to Dallas Crane and I no longer felt like going. Then the support band, Greta Mob said they could get me in and ask me to take press shots of them. Nervous, excited and so very ambitious I decided to take them on. Then, I hear back from Pete Satchell from Dallas Crane. Sure, we could get you in.

Now the spark has returned to me, though it does wane at times. I’m pretty good at thinking the worst about a good opportunity. For now, I’m just waiting to see what happens on Saturday. I’ve kind of put myself into quarantine to keep me hidden away from the masses of sick sniffling and coughing people who carelessly spread their germs on someone who can’t affect to get sick.

Still, it’s hard to get through each day. Not long ago the only thing that could bring me happiness was the prospect of playing Mass Effect 3 for a few more hours a day. Could be depression or it could be that I don’t really care about anything except going to this gig. I was like this with The Ape, although with less anxiety. I was looking forward to Free Comic Book Day too. Then on the day I had extreme anxiety and then depression (thanks beer) but you know, I got over that. It might have taken a week but I got over it. I was a little ashamed of my behaviour that night and some thoughts I had that were just ridiculous to have because things turned out to be the opposite. Life goes on. And can I be any more vague than that?

But I do have things to look forward to. Tomorrow night (or tomorrow – depends on my patience) new Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D premieres and it’s the season finale. I also have my S.H.I.E.L.D Origins comic book to read. Are you detecting a pattern here? Plus I’ve got new Big Bang Theory to watch as well as a few re-runs of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Tomorrow I’ll add Parenthood to the list. Yeah, don’t ask. Two characters have Asperger’s syndrome in it – we could be best friends! They make me feel normal, like Sheldon Cooper does. Ray Romano surprisingly makes a good autistic character.

I seem to be the kind of person who has to constantly give themselves things to look forward to do to keep my motivation going. I think it’s got to do with my ADHD. My mind is often struggling to focus while my thoughts are racing so to give myself some few minutes of stability I will just come up with a variety of things to do. When I don’t do this I get bored, under motivated and become easily depressed, empty, longing for something that I can’t see. I jump at any opportunity when my mind finds that focus, even if it’s just for an hour. And I’ll stick with it until exhaustion.

And after Dallas Crane there’s WAITS to see who are made up of ex-members of After the Fall including my buddy Mark, so I can actually talk to someone at a gig again. Then there Charles Jenkins and the Zhivagos. Such band members include Davey Lane and I’m always going to go up and say hi to Davey.  During this time I should also get more prepared to go to Portland. At times it’s the last thing I want to do but it could be a good experience for me. Also, I get to see one of the more likable members of my family. I’m kidding of course. I do miss my big sis though. And I want to become best friends with her pug.

I’ll miss seeing my Australian bands. That’s why when I’ll return I’ll be seeing The Used and Taking Back Sunday. Heh. I’ll at least get to see Darren Middleton again. I just love Australian music more than any other type of music. I still love my welsh rockers Funeral For a Friend and Thursday/Bayside/Jawbreaker/Cursive/Anberlin/etc who all come from the US, but my loyalty lies with the Australian music scene. People in my family have been hinting to me falling in love with Portland so much when I’m over there I will move there, but I won’t. I want to move to Melbourne, or Wales. Or Canada. Nah. I’m not that obsessed with Stargate anymore.

As I’ve been getting older my music taste has been changing so I’ve been going to a lot of gigs where the music and music scene is quite new to me. Sometimes I neglect to listen to the bands from the old scene. I kind of feel a bit left out about not knowing much about the history of the Australian rock scene or most bands people talk about. I can make more sense out of Star Trek than I can Rockwiz, but I am learning. At times I feel like I’ve missed out on a lot, but then I’m glad I never just stuck with one genre or sub genres throughout my life. At different parts of my life I’ve been pretty obsessed with a variety of music. As varied as emo/punk/hardcore is. I also like folk music and recently I’ve been getting into You Am I, Dallas Crane, The Gin Club, etc. I still listen to bands like The Used with a sense of guilty pleasure and I listen to bands like Jawbreaker, Refused, Thursday and Brand New as though I’m experiencing something incredible few people have, because I hardly know people who listen to them anymore. Basically put those bands make me experience far deeper emotions than most of the Australian rock bands can. Scientists say that we always feel nostalgic about the music we listened to as a teenager and because I’m autistic and a few years emotionally delayed my teen years were experienced more in my early to mid 20s. Some of those songs made up the soundtrack of what was happening in my life at the time. At least two or three were break-up records.

I’m an analytical person and much like Data from Star Trek or Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory study the behaviour of people to get a better understanding of them, I’ve decided to focus on the different demographic of music fans and how it manifests in them, i.e teenagers probably get the most obsessed. They have posters on their wall, frequent fan forums, wear the band’s merch and learn pretty much all they can about the bands. I’m partly still in this demographic though I’m not really into the hero worshiping thing like they are. I’d rather have a drink with a band than get an autograph. I’m over collecting 10,000 set lists too. Then, I wondered how the older fans (40+) differed from this. I’m still conducting my research so I don’t have much to put forward yet. But in time I might be more capable of articulating my thoughts on this matter. One can speculate they spend less time in fan communities and being obsessed and their love of the band is pushed to the background as they work, raise children and whatever else they do. And gigs are a place they can unwind. They stand back in the crowd and watch from afar. Unless they’re my best friend. But I’m basically looking for a general picture here and not the exception to the rule.

Moving on.

It’s disappointing to me that the bands I used to always see and photograph have become difficult to get photo access to. Anberlin are playing one last show ever and I probably won’t get to take photos. I’m seeing Taking Back Sunday and probably won’t get to take photos. All I really need is the Dwarf to send me an e-mail asking people to apply to take photos at those shows and I’m in. But at least now I can rely on The Ape, Dallas Crane and You Am I to get me into take photos. And depending how much Matthew Davies wants to help me I might get some photo access to Funeral For a Friend.

So, life goes on. It goes to Portland, returns to buy video games and read more comic books. It goes to more Australian gigs (and a few overseas ones as well) and takes photos. It reignites and loses the spark to enjoy everything that comes its way.

Eventually it will get a job and on some medical treatment plan.

The Trials and Tribulations of an Autistic Band Photographer: Part 1: Meeting the Band

Firstly, don’t give me any of that person-first language garbage. If I want to say I’m autistic I’ll say I’m autistic. I actually have autism and you don’t – so leave it.

Now that’s all over with I can continue. I’m not going to describe every autistic symptom that affects me as a band photographer; instead I’ll just focus on my lack of social skills.

It seems like such a small issue but people with autism can become very depressed about not knowing how to speak to people. Some focus a lot of not being able to get a date but for the moment I don’t even want to try that, because I struggle to get along with people at all. I’m not sure if I like anyone that way. I’m so blinded by my own rage at people and myself about getting into arguments or feeling like everyone is trying to manipulate me, that there’s not a whole left to find out I can feel that way for people at all.

One of my major problems is being able to meet and talk to the bands I love the most. I was even told it was such a small nuance and it is but I have to work really hard just to achieve something other fans can just go up and do without even thinking about it. They want to do it so much that they bound up to the band. Then there’s me. Sometimes I’ll ignore the fact that I want to go up and say hi but something is holding me back. Other times I’ll be torn apart by it, usually much later on in the night and after I left the venue.

Ever since I was 18 or 19 and I still hadn’t made any friends of my own there were a few people from bands who I considered my friends. I met the singer from Funeral For a Friend that way. It took years to have a conversation with him but I never gave up and now I know him, and I do not take such a friendship for granted. Then I started to become friends with their fans and didn’t care so much about meeting other bands. Recently I’ve started to feel alone again and have tried to meet bands again. Sometimes it works and sometimes it just feels like the most impossible goal to reach.

I do know some band members and have great times with them but it’s getting so much harder now to meet new people. I’m no longer in a music scene I feel comfortable with. The emo/punk scene was just so familiar that you knew that even if you didn’t know somebody you soon will or that you would probably get along because we all listened to the same bands, and we all dressed like each other. It was the whole all ages thing too. I could rock up to an all ages gig alone and end up talking to about 10 people while waiting in line.

Now I go to a gig alone and I stay alone, unless I know someone from the band. Last time though I did have some middle aged fans taking pity on me but I felt too uncomfortable about the age gap. Sometimes I don’t realise how young I still am and look.

Although I can get really down about this and just feel like it’s an impossible task to accomplish and that maybe the band members don’t even like me enough to want to say hi, I still want to try, to work on it so that one day I can meet them and talk to them. I don’t think anyone without autism or social anxiety can ever understand how lonely and depressing it gets for us who literally don’t know what to say to people, unless we’re impulsive and thus say something embarrassing which we will regret or talk about a special interest which people may find odd or immature, or give us the ‘nerd’ label. The depressive episodes that focus on these facts can be horrendous. I used to want to step into a busy street and quickly end the pain. Now I just play suicidal scenarios over in my head. At least I know now that my thoughts are false and my depression won’t last forever. Then I become manic and act like I already know the people I wish I knew and that I’m always going to be capable of talking to them.

The only time I’ve been able to go up to a band member and talk with ease was when I was taking Ritalin. But the last time I was on Ritalin I felt I was talking too loudly and speedily and was so very intense. I don’t think taking speed should be the answer to my problem, though sometimes I think it’s the only answer. And by ‘speed’ I’m talking about actual speed, not Ritalin.

I could always go on a longer acting dose of Ritalin which means it won’t all go into my bloodstream at once but take its time. I would really love to have my symptoms more under control but with a under medicated mood disorder it just might make me even more depressed.

I am depressed right now. I went from depressed to angry to more euphoric to highly anxious and again to depressed. So I will just have to recover again.

I’m just getting sick of missing opportunities of meeting or talking to band members when I go through so much just to get to a gig. I’m always anxious weeks before I go to a gig. I don’t drink until that night too and drinking can sometimes trigger a depressive episode in me. But when people talk to me I kind of snap out of it. When depressed I end up drinking a lot even though it just makes me worse and something must happen when I start hearing music and taking photos of the bands because I begin to feel better, sometimes even becoming hypomanic. But because of the shifting around of moods and the stress I go through from them when it comes to going up to a band member and having a little chat I can’t do it, and I like to blame it on my moods. I tell myself it’s ok if you don’t because of what you just went through. It’s understandable.

These days my social skills are a lot better than they were before. I can talk to strangers with ease so can talk to other fans if they come up to me. But when I watch them easily go up to the band and talk with them with their hopeful faces about getting something signed I feel jealous. I suddenly remember who I am and what I have. I’m always going to struggle to do that one thing they decide to do on a whim. “Hey, let’s buy some merch and see if we can get it signed!” “Okay, great idea!” I could always go get something signed myself but I don’t tend to do that anymore. I don’t see the point apart from an excuse to meet a band member. Anyway, once those moods hit they will take anyway any confidence I have about going up to the band. Last time I was just under prepared and highly anxious.

I don’t want people to pity me, I just want to be able to talk to the bands without having to worry about it, like most people can. It takes years and years of effort with several photo galleries under my belt just to have an average conversation with them, in the stuttery and impulsive way I have conversations with people, drunk while on stimulant medication. Or maybe just drunk now.

Such a tiny thing sparks such depressive feelings, even suicidal ones. If I didn’t care about it I wouldn’t try and would be fine, but the fact is that I do care about it and will keep trying until I succeed. I’m well known for my intuitive problem solving skills and the many ways I’ve thought up about just achieving a simple two minute chat with certain band members would make you laugh.

When Some Things Are More Important to Me Than Other Things

I’ve stopped caring about Autism Awareness Month. I see a new article plastered all over my Facebook news feed each day, sometimes several in a day, and I just don’t feel that fussed about clicking on the link. I may just be feeling let down about the lack of feedback on my last blog. Maybe it was too long and didn’t explain autism enough. Maybe it wasn’t what people wanted to read. Or maybe it’s because I no longer want to reach out to the people around me because they seem to be understanding more than I had thought. Whatever the case I’ve completely turned off from autism acceptance or even bothering to keep reading other people’s posts about it. How do I keep writing posts for Autism Acceptance Month when I just don’t care? So this next post will be about my fear of chan…on second thoughts, I don’t really want to do that.

I haven’t really been caring about much lately. I keep avoiding going to gigs even though I really like those bands. It’s just makes me think: is this really what I want to do? If so then why am I not even the slightest bit motivated to go out and take a few photos? Why do I cringe every time someone suggests I take photos?

My camera is currently inside a box covered by several other boxes, for safety reasons but I also think there’s more to it than that. I think I’m bored and looking for something new and novel to do. It happens to those with ADHD. We hate to just stick to one thing because repetition can make us feel underwhelmed. We like excitement and challenges, not just the same old same old, day and day again.

But I also haven’t been taking photos of bands for about four months now so instead of growing tired of it I think I’m just in a kind of inertia. I’ve lost my flow as a band photographer. I probably still have the skills but I’m just under prepared. More under prepared than just not organised, but it’s like if you haven’t driven a car in 6 months. You get a bit rusty, start making mistakes, don’t feel as comfortable behind the wheel, or something like that. I don’t drive at all but I can imagine it’s like that.

If I don’t do something in a long time especially something as specialised as band photography then I just don’t remember enough of how I was to know that I’m very good or all the tricks I developed to deal with the chaotic sensory environment.

It’s more than that though. It always is. My on/off depression and ever present anxiety affects how I see myself and relate to the world around me too. I’m dealing with some heavy things that even missing out on my favourite band or artist matters little to me. Unless it’s that band I’ve mentioned several times in this post.

The next gig is a paid shoot so I’ll give it my all and I’m sure I’ll do great. I might actually get that spark of life ignited inside me again and might be more enthusiastic about shooting the next gig. To be honest though after I see The Ape on the 2nd of May I’m not planning to go to anymore gigs until mid-August and no band has even announced a gig for that time too.

It’s not like I’m just sitting around doing nothing though. Actually, I’m starting to feel just like a person with autism feels when they get absorbed into a special interest. Outsiders would call it an obsession because to me they just don’t get that passionate about many things, but to those people with autism the interests just become our whole world and we may forget about what’s going on in the actual world and hardly care because these interests just bring us so much happiness. They’re like a drug. And we also become experts in whatever area the subject is in very quickly. They don’t call us ‘little professors’ for nothing.

My drug of choice has been focusing more on Marvel comics and Marvel films, especially since Captain America: The Winter Soldier was just released in cinemas which I’ll see pretty damn soon. Going to the movies costs a lot in the city. And then there’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to see sometime next week too.

So, I’ve been selecting certain comic books to read from my house mate’s humongous collection. I’m disappointed by the lack of Captain America comic books but I can get my fix with some New Avengers graphic novels. I’ve read a couple of Amazing Spider-Man graphic novels and I’m now planning to re-read Civil War again because it’s amazing, and then going back to Avengers: Dissembled because I have some Cap comic books from that era.

I have spent many months collecting Marvel Fact Files too and read 10 in one week. That took a lot of effort. Fortunately I had very minor depressive symptoms during that time and was pretty high on life.

I’m also trying to watch as many Bruce Timm Batman animated series episodes as I can manage. It was my favourite show when I was as young as 8 or 9 and I think it made me stick with Batman for all these years, despite being mostly a Marvel comic fan, but I’m open to more DC super heroes now.

I miss playing Batman: Arkham City only because I got stuck on one level and rage quit, but I suppose I can go back to it. I still think about Mass Effect 3 too. I just don’t like playing video games when people are around me because it throws me off my game. No offence to other people but I’d rather be alone.

I’ve started on my sci-fi story too but the structure isn’t right and I know I that shouldn’t bother me now. I should just keep writing. But before I could just write in a single stream and keep the structure perfect. It’s a fun story to play in my mind so I’m hoping it translates just as well on the page.

The band I’m most forward looking to see and photograph is The Ape and because of the narrow focus I get for certain things they are all I can think about, which is probably why I can miss out on seeing Tim Rogers because everything is just a distraction for me at the moment. There are good distractions that make time pass faster but there are bad ones that make me care more about another band instead of the one I’ve been waiting so long to see.

I’m not obsessed. Much. If I’m obsessed about anything it’s seeing Captain America: The Winter Soldier and just Steve Rogers in general. Andtheape. Just don’t tell them.

So, I’m basically all about Marvel comic books during the day and watching science fiction at night – I’m re-watching all 10 seasons of Stargate SG-1 all over again, – blowing my money on highly priced movie tickets to see my favourite Marvel super heroes in action, reading The Hunger Games trilogy to get the structure of novels down and working on my own sci-fi novella, and hopefully remembering that I’m seeing The Ape in May. I need to stop avoiding going to gigs because…I don’t even know anymore. Maybe it’s anxiety. Maybe I just haven’t been doing it in so long that it’s no longer a part of the routine. And maybe it’s got a lot to do with how I felt when I went to see AFI on my own. Whatever the case I hope this one gig goes right for me.

Here’s the problem with having autism and ADHD. One of the problems. If I just had intense focus in one subject I could become an expert and base my whole career around it, but because I have ADHD and get interested in a lot of subjects, I will jump back and forth between each one, several times a day, gain some new interests as well as revisit old ones, and I’m not spending enough time on one so I’m not becoming as knowledgeable as I could be and if I was trying to reach a goal, like publishing a novel, then it becomes almost impossible to stay on task. There are distractions, in the environment and in my own head too. So, people look up to me like I’m this brilliant genius destined to succeed but the truth is no one can achieve so many things at once, especially if they have ADHD and have to manage their often disabling symptoms on their own, without the aid of medication too.

So, I have the worries about my ADHD symptoms to contend with while I spend time on my interests with the little window of focus and motivation I have.

Then it’s back to worrying about my trip to America as the day of the flight draws closer. I get moderate-severe anxiety over the mere mention of the trip, so it’s no wonder I’ve turned back to my special interests to keep me distracted.

It can be very hard for me to get excited for something other people all get excited about, like say a wedding which I may or may not be going to with the whole family when I go to America. That’s the curse of the special interest. I struggle to describe my feelings for them in words. Nothing I say will can accurately describe the state of euphoria I’m in when I spend time on them. All I can say it they are all I care about when I’m spending time on them or constantly thinking about them and they actually make my life feel like it’s worth living.

I probably seem really self-absorbed right now but at least the people around me can forgive me for that. I’m just hoping I can still manage to feed myself and keep myself looking presentable, as well as getting enough sleep so my moods and ADHD symptoms don’t get too hard to manage. It does get to a point that I get so absorbed into a special interest that I will neglect to take basic care of myself. I’m literally envisioning myself now as being sucked into the interest, which right now is The Marvel Universe, so that we are no longer separate entities but have become one.

That’s it, young lady. No more comic books for you!

I’m not even sure if I can correctly explain why I’m acting the way I am because I don’t understand it myself. All I know is I am obsessed about certain subjects and I’m putting all my attention into them to the exclusion of all others, and probably have failed to empathise with people because of the amount of intense focus I’ve put in just a few subjects, which by the way, bring a type of ecstasy for me that you just can’t replicate.

I might try later to completely explain what having a special interest feels like to me, in my staggering poetic language too.