Portrait of the photographer: Tal Shpantver With an eye to the spirit and a camera in hand, photographer Tal Shpantver has taken the energy of freedom, and focused it effortlessly to capture brief glimpses of those moments in reflection. ...

Yana Young, photographed by Jeffree Benet
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Sometimes it takes absolutely nothing to release feelings and words; other times I find myself starting off paragraphs with statements like "life is random."

Freedom is something that if you've grown up with public schools in the US, you've heard about from the very beginning. 

It's mostly used in reference to America, but it also finds its way into personal conversations about self and relationships with others as well. It's a word I've been thinking about a whole lot. It seems to be this state of being we're either trying to achieve, a state of being we're in, or at least a state we're told we're in.

To me, freedom is sanctuary. It is this wonderful state in which the inner chatter that plagues my mind goes still and all of a sudden, I'm just living. Decisions are made on a more instinctive "feels right" level, without the restraint of preexisting quilt. In fact, it seems that rather than me making the choices, the choices make themselves and I just sort of float along with what 'is'.

On a larger level, freedom is the ability to be able to do what we deserve. Without emphasizing too much of the negative when it comes to our freedoms, it does jar me a little bit that we've been made to feel grateful for the freedoms we do have, when we in fact should be raving mad for all the ones we don't have.

Take for example the trend towards governmental control of 'house parties'. Okay, granted, we do have the right to gather wherever we desire as brothers and sisters; the problem is that as we increasingly do this, the freedom of spontaneity is stolen from us when we are forced to either permit the gathering or suffer from the lack of one when the police come and end it for us. 

And when you get down to it, permits are a pretty big joke when we talk about the true essence of freedom. It's like, "You're free to do as you desire, but first you need to ask permission, and if we decide that what YOU want to do is acceptable to us, then maybe you can go do it, but first you have to pay an inspector so much an hour, and then you need to pay for the permits, and then, and then, and then..."

All I wanted to do was hang out with 50 of my closest friends, and now it's like I'm having to deal with this major investment of time and money, not to mention the whole issue of what right these people who don't even know me have to decide whether MY fun is acceptable fun. 

I mean, given the choice I might not give them permits to gather at THEIR mansions and drown in various forms of alcohol-drug, so that they can wake up hung-over on the wrong side of the bed the next day and vote people out of a job and home and louse up budgets nation-wide, just because they're too pissed or delirious to do what's right. Bleah.

Alright, so now we're back to personal freedom. I guess it's at this point when we realize that so many things are out of our control that we can truly grasp how many things actually are in our control. I mean, granted, they do make it rough to do what you want, but the point is, we do end up doing what we want anyways. Okay, so now we have to be a little bit smarter and more tricky about it, but isn't that the point?

It's these traits exactly that are going to keeps us one step ahead when we complain all the while about being one step behind.

And, oooh... the music! We've got the music! Don't you just die everytime you go out and you're going insane to whatever beat strikes your fancy at that present moment and for whatever amount of time you just forget about everything? The problems. The realities. 

That whole sense of self. It's like, now you aren't you. You exist because the eternal beat marches on. And now you're jumping. And now you're sweating. Oh, man! Now you're yelling! You've never been so happy before! But, wait... an hour ago, you were complaining that you were becoming bored with your job, your boy/girlfriend just doesn't understand you, and you're losing that creative edge you used to feel. 

Now, all you can think is "I'm alive!" And then you're yelling it. What a difference , oh, such a short time. Has life become bearable again?

Now, if we actually are in agreement that this state of "herenowness" is a good thing, it's also important that we attempt to figure out what makes it such a good thing. I'd say that first and foremost, it's the FREEDOM. It's that feeling that we get so little of in real life. 

It's being able to not think about what this or that person thinks about whatever. It's being able to do whatever we want (without harming others) whenever we want because it just struck our fancy that it'd be FUN. And it's about being able to truly experience life and learn from it at whatever rate or momentum we so desire.

Now I ask myself, "Did we find that freedom written in some law book with some permit attached to it, or is this true freedom something we found within ourselves because it was there all along?"

At this point everything becomes really wonderful and easy, yet, at the same time, really tough. Okay, yeah, we're free, happy and really excited about this whole new outlook on life.

But in being so excited, have we lost balance? Well, maybe we never really had any kind of balance to begin with, but maybe it's time we really start looking for it. I mean, we have experienced life on both sides of the fence. It's been boring... and it's been FUN!!! 

It's just that we take this 'new' growth of freedom and think it just ends there, maybe there's a point we missed? Growth is never-ending. Just when we've come upon something really big, something new is just around the corner.

Not to mention the fact that we're going to keep experiencing and existing until we cease to, so we might as well make steps forward rather than existing a stagnant non-life (an example being when fun ceases to be fun and morphs into more of a habit).

So, grow, I say! GROW! but... have fun...yet... evolve...and maintain balance... and be nice. By the way, ceasing to exist may cause temporary memory loss. That could be good though.

So can a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

So, what's the point anyway? Eat whatever you want (be free), make sure it's not poisonous and causing an early demise (maintain balance), and don't let it sit out too long and catch that funky fuzz (growth). 

Or maybe all this stuff just happens on its own?

-Photo of Yana Young by Jeffree Benet

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