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There is a lot of personal meaning and relevance in this piece for me, and that strikes me as partly funny, given that the original shot it sprung from was utterly devoid of intent or foresight as to what it would be. By now, those of you that read these know the drill - I shoot on blank "stages" and fill in the blanks later when the models have gone. I had Mike Ryan, the model in this piece, dressed vaguely like Indiana Jones, crawling on a bench reaching for…something. I did not know what. And then this week happened. In case you don't know, besides slaving away at this, my passion (I hate that overused term), for days, weeks, as long as I can, I have a "day job" - this has not allowed me a wage in which to live off of, so the reality and the need to make money has always been, and it does at times feel like an anchor holding me back. And yes, I know this is not unique in the annals of human angst, but a particularly bad week at the day job really intensifies the misery of knowing what you want to be doing, what you should be doing, and having to relegate it to your "spare time." There is also the specter of mortality and time, chasing after you, siphoning off your youthful vigor, and with it, your hope and positivity. You can do what you can to keep yourself open, but there is a tangible effect to aging on your art, and if you're like me, a lifer, someone likely to never let it go and be content without it, the push and pull of your work life and your artistic life become, at times, like this week, unbearable. Rather than go into a thesis about this phenomenon, let's get to the image, and its intent. This is as much a self portrait as it can be without me actually being in it. I started it after the aforementioned bad day, and poured all that angst into it. The ladder here, unlike in previous images, represents the "corporate ladder" or the ladder of success, the day job for me. The plank he is precariously crawling on is my "art life" - it is shaking under the weight, it so far leads to know where, and runs in the opposite direction of the day job. In the distance, the red balloons fly away, the fading symbols of innocence and youth. The man in the shot is burdened with the weight of time in the large clock tied to his wrist, as he tries to hold onto the path of art, and with the other hand grab the wrung of safety of the day job, which itself it full of peril and obstacles - it is likely to burn you. There is no land, no topography to get your bearings, it's just a balancing act full of hardship set against the backdrop of eternity and nothingness. So, I guess it's been a heady week, full of angst, full of frustration, and a good dose of weariness too - this double life/job thing means I hardly sleep and as I get older that becomes harder and harder to do! But, like all hardship, something worthwhile usually emerges from it, and working on this one, like most of the others, was its own reward. The title is derived from a line in the Yeats poem "Saling to Byzantium" and it is an incredibly relevant poem for the plight of the middle aged and reflective. It is not only beautiful and deeply moving, it has been a fountain for me and other artists as well: I wrote a song called "Byzantium" recently, and now this piece, and the film "No Country For Old Men" grabbed its title from the first line of the poem! For a look at the original, unedited shot, please visit my Facebook page - I have started a series of before/after to show the digital "makeover" and where they started from! www.facebook.com/MichaelBilottaPhotographymodel: Mike Ryan

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