20 things you might not know about me
I have had many requests to complete the “20 things you might not know about me” challenge, so here we go… Completing this was a bit tougher than I expected, but I had a lot of fun writing this.
I’m married and have twin boys
I married my high-school sweetheart in 1992, she is my soulmate and I don’t think I could ever find anyone else who would put up with my B.S. so she is stuck with me. We have 23-year-old fraternal twin boys who are amazingly kind and have huge hearts. I honestly could not be more proud of my kids, they are great guys.
For many years, we worked with my sister in her catering company and have worked hundreds of weddings as DJs and caterers. When we started planning our wedding, it was decided early on that we didn’t want our guests to be bored while we had our photos taken, so we hired a juggler and magician to keep our guests entertained. The end result was the wife’s family mentioning more than once that our wedding was like a three ring circus – mission accomplished.
I’m almost completely blind and use a guide dog
A car accident in 1999 left me with 5% low functioning vision in one eye and no sight in the other. I lose perception of detail at about one inch, so my life is basically a series of light and dark blurs. I can still see color, which to my understanding is very rare with my type of injury. I resisted getting a guide dog for 18 years and either just ran into stuff or used my white cane to get around. Last October I was given my first guide Fauna who has been a life-changing addition to the family. This is the first time since the accident that all the toes on both my feet are healed and I have no injuries on my legs from running into things. She gives me a feeling of independence and earlier this year I took my first solo journey from Denver to California.
I worked in the videogames industry for many years
I was offered a job at Atari as a game tester while I was in college. I worked my way up the ranks to Senior Product Manager level eventually working for Accolade and Mattel Toys creating and releasing a total of 35 games to market for various consoles and PC. Given my time in the industry, you might think I have a huge collection of retro games, but to be honest my collection is very small, mostly centering around games I worked on and some really cool Hot Wheels prototypes. I still have a bunch of old game design documents for projects that were never released as well as other collectible goodies.
I miss playing videogames, especially first-person shooters
My parents bought me a refurbished Atari 2600 console in early 1978, since that time I have loved everything videogame related. I fondly remember saving every dollar I could scrounge up to buy Activision’s River Raid and playing it every day until I got a high enough score to photograph the TV with my Polaroid one-step instant camera so I could send away for a River Raiders patch for my jeans jacket. I owned every game console working a paper route and saving up for the next cool game or console to come out. My love for games never died down, which was the catalyst for eventually scoring me a job in the games industry. In the early days at Atari, when I wasn’t creating the games, I played mostly first-person shooters like Wolfenstein, Doom, Doom 2, Hexen, Duke Nukem’ and later Quake and Quake 2. I loved the anxiety-generating multiplayer component to these games and played them every chance I got. I was a camper from the start in these games, loving to jump out and score that cheap shot to rile up my opponents. It was this “skill” that earned me my nickname “Tahcheapie”.
After the car accident I was left with so little vision that I could not see objects moving on the screen or read in-game text. This made it impossible to play or work on games. This perhaps hit me the hardest psychologically, because so much of my life had always revolved around games to that point. I loved being able to create a product that people could play and enjoy.
To this day I still miss being able to play the cool new games that come out. I never got to play the Battlefield, Grand Theft Auto or Modern Warfare titles or the Star Wars first-person titles.
I have degrees in photography
After the car accident, I returned to school and completed degrees in studio art photography and fine art photography. I spent years learning to rely on the rules of composition rather than visual detail to create images. I learned to use the tiny amount of light perception I have left to create images which represent the way I see the world. In my photos, shape, form, light and shadow play a larger role than the detail in the image. I create images based on what I can see and rely on the camera to capture the detail for the viewer to enjoy. I then work in photoshop and edit at the pixel level mentally stitching the image together as I work. I started using photoshop when version 2 was released (not the creative suite…the original version 2… yes, I am old.)
I’m terrible at art
I had to complete a class in physical media for my degree in photography. My choices were drawing or watercolor painting, both of which were intimidating to say the least. I chose drawing which taught me the basics of graphite, ink and other mediums. I dreaded this class because I knew that the lack of detail in my vision would create issues for me. I ended up focusing my efforts on recreating the shape and lighting of the objects we were instructed to draw, then added in my impression of what the details would look like if I could see them. This class provided a pivotal moment in learning to see light for me. I learned to appreciate how the light fell on a subject and how to recreate the shadows with different media like graphite, charcoal and ink.
My drawing teacher Rebecca Ramos was responsible for helping me to discover a new way to create art. She taught me to embrace what I could see, rather then lament the fact that I could not see the way everyone else did. This led me down a road of creating art that is unique and allows me to share the way I see the world with those who are fully sighted.
I’m an advocate for legitimate service animal use
We have all seen people in the grocery store with those little snappy dogs wearing service animal vests purchased off the internet. Now, before I go further, realize that as a service animal user, I fully understand the important role of service animals in today’s society. What I disagree with is someone who can’t bear to leave fluffy at home and buys a vest and official looking identification card off the internet so they can pass their ill-trained dog off as a PTSD or emotional support animal. I also disagree with these people acting like their fraudulent service animals have the same rights as my guide dog. Lack of education on the part of businesses make this situation worse and only empower those with fraudulent service animals, leading to people bringing peacocks, squirrels and pigs onboard planes claiming they are emotional support animals. The only thing these people accomplish by toting their faux animals around is making it tougher for those of us who use legitimate service animals. The pervasiveness of phony service animals makes people more suspicious, including a woman following me around the grocery store the other day tattling to every store employee who would listen to her about my guide dog Fauna being in the store with me.
I know this won’t change anytime soon, because so many disabilities are invisible, and this allows those who are not disabled to game the system with little more repercussions than a slap on the wrist. It seems so simple to create a card or identification system to allow handling of service animals in public, but the reality is that once this system was put in place there would be internet doctors selling prescriptions for service animals within days of the legislation being signed.
I’m a photographer but I don’t sell my work
I get this question so often! Yes, I’m a photographer, yes, I exhibit my work, but no I do not sell it. You cannot buy my prints online or anywhere else for that matter. I donate limited edition prints (I limit all prints to no more than 25, and most are 10.) to charities. The only way to get one is to be lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. I want all the proceeds of my work to benefit others. I do try and post here on the blog when a print is going to be auctioned off.
I love all types of music
Really, I do. I listen to everything from classic rock to EDM including metal and country. The only genre I don’t listen to regularly is opera (though I do understand and appreciate the genre.). When I was in college, my wife Carrie and I hosted a weekly radio show which mixed metal and old school rap. We were on the air for years and had an amazing and rabidly loyal audience. Unfortunately, the social climate in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time were not happy about these two genres mixing. I had to deal with death threats and physical harassment because the groups opposing my show felt metal was only for Caucasians and rap was for another (I think that is about as nice as I can say this and I am sure you can figure out the full context.). Later the two genres collided with a much more favorable result, but during the early years it was a bit tough. Towards the end days of my show I was being escorted to and from my car by local police, and that was when it just became too much for me.
In the last year I have been to EDM, country, rock and Metal concerts. I love the energy of live music – I always drag one of my kids or a friend with me where I love to be near the front or in the pit. When I am writing, I always have music on because it helps me to focus on the task at hand.
I’m terrible at asking for help
Ever since my accident, and subsequent loss of sight, I have found it very difficult to ask for assistance from others. I have gotten better, but for example if I am in a store to buy a specific item, I will wander every single aisle until I stumble upon the elusive item rather than ask for directions. This skill comes with time I understand, but as of right now it is a tough thing for me to do. I am very blessed to have friends and family that understand my vision problem and feel comfortable enough to joke with me about it while at the same time I know that I could ask them for anything and they would be happy to help me out.
I love politics but I don’t talk about them on my social media
A political science class in college sparked my interest in politics, and I have loved them ever since. I find the current divide our country is facing nothing short of fascinating, I won’t talk about my political leanings, but I do vote in every election and I research the candidate I support. I treat politics like religion, I firmly believe that you have every right to worship who or what you want and support who you want politically. Other than the odd funny post however, I choose not to discuss it on my social media platforms, or even at the dinner table with friends. I fully understand that the current climate has led to fatigue in politically-related issues and people just don’t want to talk about it. My social media is clear of political ramblings because I believe that you can go just about anywhere 24/7 and get your fill of the days events without me adding my voice into the mix.
I’m a gun owner, yes really
I’m almost totally blind, and yes, I own a gun. I believe that I have as much constitutional right to own a gun as anyone else. I have a lot more about this topic in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!
I live in Colorado and don’t go to RMNP as much as I should
Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) is one of the most beautiful places in the world, hands down. The park is located a little over an hour from my house, but I find myself not able to make it there as often as I would like. There is always something awesome to photograph there and I appreciate every time I get a chance to go.
I’m jealous of you
If you can drive a car, play a videogame, ride a skateboard or bike, I am jealous of you. Most people take these simple things for granted, just like I did when I was able to do them. I don’t have the freedom to jump in my car and drive to Starbucks for a coffee or play the latest Battlefield game, take a moment and think about what it would be like if you were denied the ability to do those things tomorrow – it sucks. I have always wanted to learn to fly a plane, but I won’t ever realize that goal. If you have something that you have always wanted to do, take the time and the steps necessary to accomplish that goal before something happens in your life that will keep you from doing it.
I’m terrible at promoting my projects and work
Most artists spend more time promoting themselves than doing the actual work. I have a couple cool projects like Landscapes of the Body and Fauna’s Adventures, that have gotten come great attention in the press and on the internet, but I don’t spend much time actively promoting these bodies of work. I know, I should, I’m getting better about it. I’m actively working on a couple new photographic projects that will be announced before the end of the year, I am very excited about them. In my photography, I don’t tend to leap from one project to the other, I jump in with both feet and get the project underway before taking on another challenge.
I haven’t watched your favorite show, and I don’t know who your favorite celebrity is
I don’t watch a lot of television. I do like movies, but I think the interaction of the actors and the audience is lost on me because I can’t see their faces. You could put Johnny Depp and Steve-O side by side and I could never tell you who they were unless they spoke. I know people by their voices not their faces. I also think that my mind has a finite amount of storage space and I have to focus my storage on people I know instead of people I will never meet – if that makes sense? A lot of my visually impaired friends watch a ton of television, but I don’t. I spend my time on silly things like this or creating tutorials aimed at making people better photographers.
I hate to fly, and everyone drives like a maniac
I can see light and color, which means when I am in a car (especially at night) I can’t tell how far the car in front of us is and if we are about to hit it. I spend every minute in a car in perpetual panic mode because of no depth perception. I don’t know why I hate to fly. When I was traveling a lot for work, I had a few close calls with blown tires when landing and stuff like that, but nothing that was imminently life-threatening. I have taken the fear of flying courses and know what all the sounds are that the plane makes and understand the process when landing and all that, but I don’t enjoy flying. I tolerate it because it is the only way to get to cool places, but I’m still just not a fan.
I’m terrible at keeping in touch with my friends
I have people that I know from high school that I would love to take the time to get in touch with and catch up, but for some reason I don’t do it. Yeah, I’m getting older and I know that at my age my friends will start dropping off like flies, but it still doesn’t make it any easier to pick up the phone and call that person. If you and I are friends and I don’t call you or even email don’t think it is you, it’s me. I have grandiose intentions of staying in touch with people, but I gave them up long ago. Feel free to drop me an email if you know me, I will talk your ear off.
I am in a long-term relationship with sugar
I could give up all bread tomorrow (and have more than once) and not miss it. I could give up bacon and red meat easily, but sugar is one vice that I find nearly impossible to give up. I can eat Mexican or Italian food and be literally dying for something sweet by the time I take the last bite of my meal. I appreciate a good cobbler or tiramisu more than a beautiful steak dinner. I know how bad sugar is for me, and I know it will likely be the eventual end of me, but man, do I love the stuff. I don’t smoke so I guess it isn’t too bad a vice.
I love to speak about vision loss and mechanisms that I use to cope with vision loss
Losing my vision did a number on me emotionally. There was nothing that could have prepared me for the reality of working in the games industry one day and not the next. Most people lose their vision gradually as in glaucoma or macular degeneration – the process can take years. The progress of these diseases gives the patient time to at least come to grips with the reality of their situation. My injury was sudden and irreversible. With time I was able to accept my situation and eventually began to talk to others who were losing their vision which led me to sharing my story with others. It has been only in the last few years that I have been able to build up the courage to talk about how much I can and can’t see.
I have given talks at galleries, schools and retro game conferences, on vision loss and using art as a coping mechanism. The most meaningful speaking engagement I have had to date was at Heather’s Camp, a summer camp for blind and visually impaired children. I spoke about my time in the games industry and my photography, but when I opened the floor for questions, those kids were so appreciative and had some of the most heart-felt questions of anywhere I have spoken. It is something I will always remember and has changed my life and reinforced my decision to donate my time and photographic work to charities to make a positive difference in other’s lives.
There we go! 20 things you might not have known about me. I had fun writing this, and I hope you found it interesting.
Hey! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to contact me via my social media sites I would love to hear your thoughts on this or any of my other articles! Until then, get out and get shooting!
My Photography site: http://www.tahquechi.com/
My Bodyscapes project: http://www.bodyscapes.photography/
My travel site: http://www.blindtravels.com/
Instagram and Twitter: @nedskee