Story Behind: Death to Yesterday

Despite it’s morbid and depressing ambiance “Death to Yesterday” is actually one of my most motivating and inspiring pictures I’ve ever created.  At first many people that have seen the photo in person tell me it really disturbs them but then I tell them to take a closer look.  The reason is not everything may look as it seems.

This photo has such a history behind it from how it happened, what inspired it and what the meaning is that it’s very emotional to tell.  It was the photo that started it all.

The Back story

To make the back story short without a lot of gory details this story started on a bad note.  It started May 30, 2006.  I had just discovered MySpace when I was attempting to hire a model for a photo shoot.  She had a MySpace account and would only accept inquiries through it.

Once I created my account I realized I could find people I knew.  One of the first one’s I pursued was my dear friend Paul Knox.  We had a long history together, friends from the moment I moved to Florida.  I have a hard time recalling a childhood memory in Florida that he wasn’t a part of.

I found what I thought was his profile but the photo didn’t match.  I didn’t know at the time it was Borat, but he did have a striking resemblance to him so I said Hi.  A day later to my surprise it was Paul.  I was so happy because it was 10 years since we saw each other or talked for that matter.  I was supposed to go to MIT following High School and I forgot to get his number and we lost touch.

I told him that we really needed to get together and recap the last decade.  He agreed so I asked him what day and time works for him.  I waited for days for a response but never received one back.  On June 2 I wrote Paul back asking if I said or did something that angered him, but again, no response.

Then on June 3, 2006 I see another friend of mine post a comment on the news feed that Paul died.  My heart dropped to my stomach and I instantly doubted it.  Then I thought why would she lie?  So I went to Loyless Funeral Home’s website and sure enough, there was his obit.

Well at graduation we said that we would meet again in 10 years at our reunion if we didn’t see each other before then.  The day of his funeral was our 10 year graduation anniversary so we made good on the promise but not in the way I hoped for.

From that point on I was crushed.  Paul told me how to laugh in the face of my problems.  He saved me from killing myself in 8th grade.  He made me live when I wanted to die.  Now I find out that he was so miserable he killed himself.

What came next was the “would of, could of, should of” back and fourth mental torture.  I stopped living and blamed myself.  It was around that time that I started to get this dream.

The dream

This dream was a reoccurring dream.  It showed a person lying over a grave in complete despair.   They are mourning so badly that most people look and feel death inside them despite the fact they are living and breathing.  Beside them over the shoulder is a spirit of the person mourning, comforting them by touching their shoulder.

The mourner is so obsessed in sadness that they don’t even realize their spirit is comforting them at all.

I had no idea what it meant until around 2010.  When I finally realized it was my friend trying to comfort me once again from the grave through a message I snapped out of it.

“Death To Yesterday” means to not cry over yesterday.  You can’t change it now that it’s over and there is no guarantee the outcome would have been any different if fate has it’s way.  The person mourning was me.  I was wasting my present and my future trying to hold on the past.  I failed to see that my past is very much alive and healthy, there to help me through as long as I don’t forget but stop obsessing over it as it was counter productive.  My memories are there to lift my spirit, bring a good smile to my face and comfort me all of which nobody can take from me.

So my friend may not be here in person, but he is now in spirit.  He’s closer to me than ever and once I realized that I was a whole new man.

The shoot

I knew something major was going to happen to me I just didn’t know what it was but I figured taking this vision or dream Paul sent me was the key to that success.  At this point I opened a Model Mayhem account and displayed some of my portraits.  One of those photos was my Coca-Cola Pinup.

Out of the blue a woman named Willow saw that photo and wanted to shoot with me on vintage shoots.  I was down with that so I ran off the idea to shoot an Audrey Hepburn style “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” shoot.  She agreed and we were going to meet at Yesterdaze to rent a costume.  I ran the idea of “Death to Yesterday” by her and she loved the idea and said she had a few dresses for me to see that may work.

A few Saturday’s later we met up at Yesterdaze to rent those costumes which we did pick out by the way.  As we went to our cars, she told me she brought the dresses for the “Death to Yesterday” shoot.  When she showed me these amazing outfits I knew it was perfect.  Willow told me that the white one was not her’s and therefore she had to give it back within a week or so.

At this time we were just down the street from the cemetery I intended to shoot this at so I asked her if she wanted to shoot the mourning one first since she would have to give the dress back.  She said she had no makeup on but it didn’t matter someone in that deep sorrow wasn’t going to look like a superstar model.  So we went to the cemetery and shot part 1.

I told her we would have to make arrangements to make the ghost part.  She said look, I am about 6 miles from your place so why don’t we shoot it there before I go home.  I agreed and the ghost was going to be shot in the studio.  I took measurements at the cemetery to get the right effects and we set out to my studio.

After we shot the ghost photos it took literally 20 minutes to edit or less.  The whole shoot with travel and shopping took less than 3 hours.  She was blown away by the photo and so was I.  She said it was the fastest shoot she’s ever been on and never had anything so powerful.

From this day on we became great friends, her and her entire family so I gained a lot out of it.

The Aftermath

That night I published the photo to my Facebook Fan Page and my MySpace.  By the time I woke up the next night I had over 2000 likes on it.  A week later I got an e mail from a gallery curator in New York who mentioned they were opening a gallery in Hong Kong and wanted this photo to be a part of the opening.  I couldn’t say no.

Within a few months I became an artistic photographer who’s first show was an international show.  I participated in shows before but not for my art but my landscapes.

I now had a new passion!  I had a new way to express myself and deter my depression and anger.  I could change lives with stories and expose people to the balance of good and evil.

Today that photo started the “Dreams, Nightmares, Fears and Fantasy” collection which is about to enter it’s 5th volume.  I never again had that dream and people who hear the meaning behind the photo are touched and have bought it.

To see this photo visit the gallery “Dreams, Nightmares, Fears and Fantasy” on my website here.

Dedicated to my friend paul knox 1979-2006

  Jason Dowd  /    February 5, 2015  /   Jason's Journal  /   0 Comments
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