Friday, February 13, 2009

Opening The Big Black Box: Being Inspired by Worm Carnivale


Opening The Big Black Box: Being Inspired by Worm Carnivale
Originally uploaded by lorenzodom

Lately, I’ve felt as if I’ve been stuck in a big black box.

Last night, that box opened up a little for me.

For I went to visit Worm Carnevale, a 26 year old photographer who now lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, after recently migrating here from Delray Beach, Florida six months ago.

For a few hours, we talked about why and how he got to be here in The Big Apple.

Overall, his enthusiasm reminded me of my own journey here to New York City 15 years ago, when I was 26 myself.

I too had that certain twinkle in my eye, and often felt high, if only because I was living in New York City.

I too was fired up to make a fresh start.

And, I too had been motivated to make the move because I had come to the conclusion that there is more to life than simply making money and then spending it.

*

Born and raised in Delray Beach, Florida in 1983, Jae Basch took on the persona of “Worm Carnivale” after being inspired to pursue his newfound passion for photography when he was at a local party and started flipping through Heaven to Hell, a book of photographs by David LaChaplle, a fashion, advertising, and fine art photographer and filmmaker who is well known for his gritty, surreal, and often humorous work.

“Yeah man, I was looking through this book and I was completely blown away by how much LaChaplle’s style mimicked those dreams I had been having since I was a child. That’s when it occurred to me that this was my next step in life, this is what I had to do.”

Worm explained that he had been working in commercial real estate for five years and had grown tired of the empty feeling he was left with at the end of the day. “For a while the money was great and I was living large, but there was still something missing, because I wasn’t being fulfilled. Then a year and half ago the market took a turn, real estate started to tank and I was prompted to ask myself ‘What next?’ That’s when God spoke to me as I was peeling through Heaven to Hell. That’s when I knew I was destined to become a photographer.”

Shortly after his epiphany he made the decision to just jump right into it. “Two weeks later I began to buy photo equipment. I had no clue what to do, so I just started doing it—learning by trial and error, internet research, and picking everybody’s brain.”

300 photo shoots and a year and a half later he found himself here in Brooklyn, a bohemian artist making the most of his youth, exuberance and homegrown values like hard work and dedication.

“I’m proud of my Italian heritage. I grew up in a loving household of all women, my mother and my sisters. Our mother and my grandfather, Bob Carnevale, both instilled deeply religious and sound morals, and a love for our family that involved pasta and big meals every Sunday. They also instilled the belief that one should be open-minded. Maybe that’s why I haven’t exactly followed the beaten path.”

To get to New York, Worm had to first drop out of high school and eventually go back to school at a community college to get his high school diploma. He initially left high school because he found that he liked working, writing graphic design code for a dot.com company, far more than he liked studying.

He was so successful at programming that he was lured over to a client real estate company to write code and be their tech support guru. After a year or so of fortifying their technology it was suggested that he could make more money applying his talent to the business side of the company.

“I did end up making more money, but once again, at the end of the day I just wasn’t fulfilled. So, now here I am, living day by day, penny by penny, just making enough to barely pay the bills, but at the same time I’m far more fulfilled than I have ever been before.”

*

Reinforcing this truism, I happened to read an article this morning on CNN.com, about a couple who have hit hard times in Florida, forcing the wife to move away in search of work. As a result, she was reminded of all the truly important things in life, including the fact that money mongering was not one of them.

At one point she was making $95,000 a year, but then she was laid off. This led to depression and tension with her husband. Eventually, she decided to seek work, alone, 1200 miles away.

So, “she paid $250 in cash for a 1991 Nissan and moved into a utilities-included apartment, where she slept at first on an air-mattress with borrowed sheets. She combed through the free furniture listings on Craigslist, and scoured Goodwill and cheaper outlets for good deals. She found a couch and chair for $25, and artwork for $7.

‘You have to be at the bottom to find out what your strengths are,’ she says of her resourcefulness. ‘Pure determination got me here, and I'm really proud of it, too.’"

(Long distance love and life lessons, CNN.com, February 12, 2009)

*

Throughout our conversation Worm liked to support his thoughts with quotes from people who inspired him like Martin Scorsese, who he had once heard advocate the importance of shameless self promotion, especially when you’re just starting out.

Worm also told me about a popular quote from Jim Jarmusch that inspired him, “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination...And don ’t bother concealing your thievery—celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: ‘It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to.’”

However, the quote that most inspired me, and that opened up the big black box I’ve been stuck in, was from the late and great comedian, George Carlin, whose irreverent words of wisdom have long enlightened millions, if only by e-mail.

Worm told me that he was most inspired when he read that George had said “The key to my success is that I never stopped working,” that is, at least until his heart stop working on June 22 last year, when he died of heart failure, leaving this world to join that big comedy club in the sky.

Until that fateful moment, he had had a prolific 50-year career on earth that testified to his work ethic—one which included 130 Tonight Show appearances, 23 albums, 14 HBO specials, three books, and one Supreme Court case. (For more information read, George Carlin’s Last Interview, Psychology Today, June 23, 2008).

Like Worm, George too was a high school drop out, but somehow, despite not following the prescribed path, he ended up being one of the most influential stand-up comedians of the last fifty years.

Listening to the genuine enthusiasm in Worm’s voice as he spoke about who and what have inspired him, piqued me in such a way that I suddenly felt as my black cloud was lifting; as if the big black box I've been brooding in suddenly opened and let a little light in.

For I was reminded of my own work ethic, one that likewise has compelled me to create incessantly, to write hundreds of essays and a million pieces of verse over the last ten years, as well as take and edit over 28,000 photos over the last three years.

Thus, I suddenly realized that my woes were grounded in my recent spat of apathy.

With the onset of winter and the completion of my first solo show and the publication of a number of books, I simply stopped taking pictures and wrote very little as well in turn. As a result, I’ve felt sad more often than usual the last couple of months, and thus I’ve done little to hone my understanding of the art of happiness.

But then, being inherently restless as I am, after this grave hiatus I began to think “What next?” That’s when I got the idea of creating portraits of fellow aspiring artists and posted an ad online. And that’s what brought me to a small hole of a room at the edge of Brooklyn last night, so that I could have a conversation with Worm.

*

I suppose than, that it is no wonder that I noticed that there was more sunshine than usual streaming through my bedroom window this morning.

Perhaps it is a sign that things will always get better, if only we keep trying, or rather, if we only keep working without worrying about who or what or when will come our next source of inspiration.

Because last night I was reminded why it is important to just do itfor it shall come.

"Inspiration is for amateurs. I just get to work."
Chuck Close


Check out Worm Carnevale’s work at www.wormc.com

1 comment:

BonnieRose said...

such a wonderful post. I blogged about you. see my blog at www.alifeunrehearsed2.blogspot.com
Your words and your thoughts matter.