Around this time ten years ago I had been living in LA for about a month searching desperately for an internship, blind to the dwindling months of year and a half long college relationship that prompted me to come to LA just to extend the relationship a few months more, and maybe figure out what I was doing with my life. When people ask me how long I've been in LA I never count this time period. Three months in LA and then it was over. I did one solid internship, a month of being a 2nd Assistant Camera on low-budget film you can check out on Netflix co-starring Steven Weber just months prior to his debut on the short-live Aaron Sorkin show "Studio 60" (perhaps made further fitting considering I'm just wrapping up a binge watch of "The West Wing" as I often put on things in the background while I edit photos and video). At the time I felt LA was not the town for me and headed to go live with my folks in South Florida.
My parents had been in Delray Beach, FL for a few years at that point. I had spent time visiting them but really didn't know anyone. I was starting over, though I knew it would only be a pitstop along the way as I was already applying to Grad Schools in hopes of continuing to move forward in my career. Once down there I applied for a slew of jobs. I answered an ad on craigslist about a retail job that was described as "Hot Topic for Adults". I answered the ad with no retail experience, but citing my years as DJ in the Goth/Industrial scene. I got called in for an interview to The Fetish Factory and was hired almost immediately in time for their Halloween rush.
Because I didn't know anyone in town I almost immediately looked to befriend some of my new co-workers. I got some tepid responses at first, but to be fair I probably came off about as desperate as a teenage virgin boy in any given 80's coming-of-age comedy. The first person to reciprocate my platonic advances was a beautiful, friendly, Cuban girl with yarn dread falls named Ty Mendez. Ty invited me out to grab drinks with her and several of her friends including my other new co-worker Timb, who just moved to LA earlier this year. My friendship with Ty would leave to almost all of my other friendships in Florida. We regularly hung out in various social situations whether it be drinking in her apartment, attending Fetish Parties, or kicking it with our friend group.
Less than a year after I moved to Florida I was headed back to LA to attend Art Center College of Design to get my MFA in Film. Of all my new friends it was probably the toughest leaving Ty. During breaks I would go visit Florida to see my family and we would hang out. Many years went of this and as I graduated school and started working the trips became more infrequent. Eventually Ty and Thomas (her boyfriend at the time and now husband) moved to the left coast (some say the best coast) to Seattle. I was pretty stoked because a trip to Seattle would be much cheaper than a flight to Florida and I could visit somewhere I had never been before.
I went to Seattle for an entire week to visit Ty. At the time I was just getting back in to photography and was obsessively shooting on my iPhone. I decided part of my trip would be an entire book of iPhone photos from Seattle entitled: We're Not Fighting - Dreaming In Seattle. Ty served as the cover model and appeared throughout the book. I highly recommend you check this book out as you can do so online for free and see where my photo work was just a few years ago.
Fast forward to the last year since I've been doing this website, especially all the model sets and one of my main goals has been to photograph again with my decade-long friend Ty. We came close several times just missing each other during trips back to Florida including back in December while I was there for Art Basel. A few months ago I found myself in Florida for my parent's 40th Wedding Anniversary. I was supposed to be gone almost the entire time slightly further North in St. Augustine, but my folks needed to come back slightly early to take care of some kitchen remodeling. I decided to hitch a ride back with them and take advantage of the situation. During this time Ty and Thomas had moved back to Florida a few hours away in Orlando. The stay would be only a few months long as they have recently moved back to Seattle but on a Friday just after finishing a shoot with another Florida girl (to be posted here soon) I called Ty and asked what she thought about me coming up to Orlando to hang out for the evening and shoot some photos together in the morning. Ty was very ecstatic and our plans were set.
I arrived the previous evening in Orlando where we headed to a bar for some time to catch up. The next morning I did some research and found a nearby historic graveyard. Ty has been involved for several years with roller derby in Seattle so we decided to do a shoot with her as her derby girl persona, Vampira Bitely. The shoot was really killer and it was so great to shoot with one of my favorite people and longest-running friends, the gorgeous Ty Mendez aka Vampira Bitely. Enjoy these photos 10 years in the making and made possibly purely by kismet.