Twenty Twenty Two, trying to not fall into tired small talk cliches here but, dayum, this one went by in a hurry. I’ve read that the seeming time warp that comes with age is a matter of experience. Your brain has encountered most of the situations you’ve presented it with over the last year, so it has less to index and learn from. Been there, done that as they say. Your memory flushes what is deemed non-essential for survival. With a truncated hindsight view, the ride appears to be speeding up. All the more requisite to seek the non-routine and unfamiliar.

Team Steffen seems to have landed back into some sort of groove. With the work/school fronts returning to something more recognizable, we’ve been able to plan more regular escapes. Most importantly, the dropping of travel restrictions allowed us to swing some wider circles.

We kicked the year off with a last minute run to the mountains. The Smokies are a 4 hour drive from Cincinnati and an easy impulse hideout. Much like the Ohio River Valley, they are also immune to weather prediction. With white out blizzard conditions popping up on our secluded mountain vista, we had to run for it only to get walloped at the KY state line. But for a brief second, just before fleeing, we got a wintery farewell present to remember.

Spring break was spent circumnavigating Denver in a giant RV. Colorado Springs, Royal Gorge, Salida, Silverthorne, Estes Park, Ft Collins and back to the airport. We stopped at every stream, overlook, state park, and historic marker. Spent the night in some of the most beautiful surroundings imaginable. We even had Rocky Mountain National Park nearly to ourselves. I’m really happy to be dipping into the American West more in the last couple of years. I hope to return soon.

For our now semi-regular boys escape, Oliver and I decided try an urban setting with a trip to Chicago. We stayed in a part of town I’d never explored: Chinatown. It was an amazing experience, with complete immersion you’d never guess you’re standing in the American Midwest. Oliver ate his weight in soup dumplings and pork bao. Just one stop south of the loop, can’t more highly recommend checking this neighborhood out.

We were slowed down this summer with some medical requirements but still found time to fill as many of the cracks as we could with dragging our camper around the Midwest. Potato Creek State Park outside of South Bend, Indiana has become one of our favorites.

My sisters and I were dragged around Virginia by our mother. That woman has more energy than her three children combined. We saw all the settlements, graves, battlefields, and gift shops of the south. I convinced them to stop for at least one “ye olde alehouse.” I can now add George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to the “rooms I’ve stood in where famous people exited” – coffee table book to follow.
We rounded out the year with a Xmas gift to ourselves, a week in New Orleans. A city like no other, we took in all we could handle. Oliver ate ten consecutive meals of fried shrimp po-boys and has never been so happy. Got to check trad jazz Mecca, Preservation Hall off my bucket list.
This year was another of building upon old plans and making new ones, learning new tricks. A juggling act of various creative endeavors to create some sort of cohesion. I’m glad to have made some time to jump back into drawing again. It fits well with the silkscreen gear acquired during the year that we do not speak of. Sat in on a class offered by the amazing DIY Printing to knock some of the rust off.

I’ve started a new sandbox with fellow frustrated music lover, Michael Kearns. We’ve formed Amalgam Photos, a loose cooperative of like-minded creatives hoping to pair photographs and words in an interesting way. We’re hoping to rekindle a sense of community and collaboration in our lives in a natural and unstressed way. No assignments or overlording editorial pressure, an outlet where your work is your own. Care to join us?

I’ve found the emphasis on my photography has shifted in the last few years. With concerts just starting to come back online, I find myself in no hurry to jump back into the pit. To be honest, I’m not sure that had much to do with the shutdown but more to do with the time I had to reflect on what I was getting from it. I live for music. Concerts have been an immeasurable part of my life. I would not be exaggerating to say that you could measure in years the time I’ve spent blowing my ear drums to hell in a gritty club. I was really hoping that once the restrictions were lifted we might find ourselves in a better place, glad to be back at work, more appreciative of the life we are making. Instead I found the bottom line is now even lower, the contracts more prevalent and intrusive, the pro photogs pushed to back of house soundboard shoots, or replaced altogether with hashtagged fan cell snaps. We’ve been overrun by mediocrity and the shysters have milked all the joy from it. Outside of the occasional collab to support friends, it’s time for me to move along.

I now find myself back to a familiar path. Shooting what catches my eye, following my gut, and letting the patterns present themselves in hindsight. It feels right. In a world so absurd, fame and fortune seem like a stupid goal. I’ll side with curiosity and where that leads.

So here’s to another year of ebb and flow, sauntering towards a constantly moving target. And that’s fine with me. I’ve become comfortable in the chaos and recognize that I’ll land on my feet. Improvisation shouldn’t be anxiety fuel. Best to trust in yourself.

Happy New Year y’all! I hope you find what you’re looking for.