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I have had the craziest January so far. It started off with a bang and lots to do and motivation, and it quickly hit the skids with the death of one of my good friends on the 4th. I had previously posted about this tragedy and removed it due to the rude natured responses I was receiving during this extremely sad time. My friends death included the deaths of two young men in a tragic car accident, and with everyone searching for answers, they turned to defaming and ridiculing the life of a a man that was loved by his own grieving family and friends.
I find this to be a time to love those we still have with us, and refrain from passing judgement on those we know nothing about. In the mean time, I’m reflecting on the good memories I have with this man and his family. Believe it or not, I can tie him into my life photographically and I want to share those moments with you, because they are some of the most honest and memorable moments I’ve ever had.
My friends name was Darrel. His life story was probably one of the craziest I had ever heard. He came blasting into our lives some 13 years ago and we had never been the same since. Darrel changed the way we thought about people period. His appearance was that of a hard man, covered in tattoos as far as you could see, his furrowed brow and tight jaw always made you thankful you were on his good side, because he “looked like” he could beat your face in. But what was so amazing about this man, was that inside of that hard exterior was actually a man that loved God. He was soft on the inside and cared about people. He was loyal to a fault. Get on his bad side and you would know about it. He wasn’t perfect by any means, and I know he made his mistakes, but this mans life story inspired me to use him for one of my photography projects.
I had to do a photo essay on someone that I found interesting and I had to follow that person around for months and tell a story using only photos and brief captions. I instantly thought of Darrel. Anyone who knew him knew he was working his tail off trying to provide for his family doing tattoos and other odd jobs. He traveled all over the country and especially the state of Michigan doing random guest spots at different tattoo shops trying to make ends meet.
So I followed Darrel…and I learned a lot about him. I watched the stress bulge from the vein in temples as he clenched his jaws waiting for late appointments to show up. To those people, it was just a tattoo, they can reschedule it. To Darrel, it was the difference of dinner on the table or the gas to get home. I watched him draw out these designs for hours. He would sort through all of his flash and show me some of his older stuff and the stuff he was really excited about. He always had a new metal band he wanted to discuss with me or a concert I should have gone to.
My favorite part of this adventure was when I met up with him at his new location in Detroit, MI. He was from Detroit, so he knew all the ins and outs and where to go and was “at home” there. Me? I’m from the middle of nowhere in Northern Michigan. My town has less then 3,000 people in it. Detroit seemed a little daunting to me, but I knew I would have Darrel with me and that made me feel safe.
Lets not mention the whole 4 hour detour I took getting totally lost in the middle of the night, landing myself in the ghetto and almost crossing the bridge to Canada at 2 a.m. Darrel and Rachel both couldn’t believe where I was. This was the time before GPS folks. Ouch. When I did finally arrive to Darrel and Rachel’s I was of course welcomed to house of mocking (I just turned a 4.5 hr trip into almost a 9hr journey).
Darrel couldn’t wait to get started taking me to all the cool spots in Detroit. I was terrified but knew Darrel wouldn’t let anything happen to me. So off we went! Hitting up cool parking garages overlooking the city, going to Darrel’s favorite places to eat, which included this authentic Greek food place and Fishbones for his sushi rolls. He gave me the tour of the city, showed me around his new digs at the shop and then we prepped for his clients and we talked. A lot. He was never boring. And I felt awesome that I got to capture someone on camera that was so raw and so real.
Darrel death was sudden, misunderstood, and confusing. None of us know what happened. We just know he’s gone and he took two lives with him. I don’t want to remember him that way. His family doesn’t want to remember him that way. People are more then the mistakes they make. I write this blog not to worship a perfect man, but to remember an epic friend who was real and honest even in his darkest hour.
This of course will probably be the longest blog I ever will write. I just wanted to vent about someone I really miss. Please feel free to check out a chunk of the work I had done while capturing Darrel on my flickr page.