Within a generation of Millennials who are looking to find a modicum of fulfillment while striving (struggling?) to make it in a world where values are dictated by the technology they helped pioneer, Shaun Rodriguez continues to put one foot in front of the other on his first mile down a long road of discovery. While some are tapping figurative gold mines via social media outlets and post likes, still many more people are taking the rustic path and plowing ahead with nary a backward glance at making a creative living. To those, the passive naysayers who suggest that art is just not a realistic way to achieve that fulfillment Shaun says, “(for me) It’s a trap. If I make concessions with my art, I’ll never get off the ground.”
Shaun’s last big concession was as a New York City EMT on active duty during Hurricane Sandy and beyond. “I was the last class to graduate (that year) from Montefiore. You want to be a superhero and save the world.” This outlook didn’t last very long when put up against the realities of the job. Strike one: the politics behind healthcare were less than altruistic. “They don’t see you as a person they see you as a number.” Strike two: “As an EMT, you never see people at their best. The longer you work, the colder you become. (of his co-workers) You’re seeing people dying and you’re writing on (a) form with a blank face like nothing is happening.” When he finally came face to face with his own mounting apathy Shaun called it quits, turning back to the artistic spark he kept suppressed. As penance for attempting to leave his ideal life behind, he chose subsistence – odd jobs for mediocre pay – over stability to push forward artistically.
After buying himself a Nikon D3300 DSLR camera at the very beginning of 2016, it seemed like he was ready to rock – but he stalled for over six months. “It was intimidating. I was so used to digital snap-and-shoots that I didn’t want to succeed and fail at the same time. (I was) afraid to walk through that door.” Since then, there hasn’t been a door that hasn’t opened to him whether for turning the knob or simply picking the lock. Walking right into a Men’s Fashion Week event on a whim, sans press pass or credentials; taking a grassroots approach to create photo essays on the homeless; painstaking night shots of the city to capture that elusive “Old New York” feel. They all add to the truth of a man determined to do it – and do it well – his way. Candidly speaking, the way this guy is going, his second mile may just be his victory lap. See his latest work here.