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Forget the mannequin challenge. Try the empathy challenge this holiday season.

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31 small ways to make a positive difference in the world.


In many ways, we are the center of our own worlds.

We see things through the lens of our own experiences, our own communities, the things we read, and the people we interact with. But the world is so much bigger than what we’ve seen. It’s so much more diverse than our own experiences.

It’s impossible to know and understand everything, but we can do our best to empathize. Even the tiniest effort on our parts can make someone else feel heard and appreciated, brightening their day.  

Image via Kirt Edblom/Flickr.

With this in mind, we challenge you to 31 days of empathy.

And don’t worry, we’ve put together a list to get you started. Here are 31 small actions you can take over the course of December to make this chaotic world a slightly better place.

Dec. 1: Compliment a stranger.

Dec. 2: When you disagree with someone, ask them to explain what they mean. Peek into their thought process.

Dec. 3: Don’t shy away from tough conversations. Have a relative or friend who is saying something offensive? Gently let them know. Discuss it.

Dec. 4: Make an effort to carry a few dollars on you to give to someone who is homeless this week.

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Image via iStock.

Dec. 5: Never carry cash? Grab an extra sandwich in the store and offer it to a homeless person when they ask for help.

Dec. 6: Make an effort to consume news that isn’t tailored to your leanings. Facebook is great, but it can keep us in our bubbles. Go to a news site. Read a few articles there. Chances are, you’ll learn a new perspective.

Dec. 7: Go holiday shopping with a friend. See how much thought they’re putting into gift selection, and remember that it’s not about the things we get, it’s about the people in our lives.  

Dec. 8: Someone make you angry? Pause. Walk away from the situation. Then ask yourself how they might be feeling. Assume good intentions, even if the execution was upsetting.

Dec. 9: There are lots of kids who aren’t able to celebrate the holiday season with their families. Stop by a local orphanage or foster care center and drop off little holiday treats like cookies or toys. Let them know you care.

Dec. 10: Watch a documentary on another culture to understand a lifestyle that is completely different from yours.

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Image via iStock.

Dec. 11: Put the emphasis on traditions and being together — and less on gifts. You never know what someone’s financial situation is. Removing the obligation will make the holidays that much more enjoyable.

Dec. 12: Did someone’s smile or kind words brighten your day? Tell them that.

Dec. 13: Ask someone how their day is going, and prod them to actually answer. And then listen.

Dec. 14: Read through “Aesop’s Fables” again for small reminders about the ways our interactions affect other people.

Dec. 15: Send someone you’ve lost touch with a note saying, “Happy holidays.” It’s a small gesture, but it lets them know you’re thinking of them, and it may rekindle that friendship.

Dec. 16: Volunteer at a food bank and talk to the families it serves.

Dec. 17: Leave a thank-you note at your favorite cafe or restaurant to spread a little holiday cheer.

Dec. 18: Ask an elderly person if they’d like help carrying their groceries.

Dec. 19: Go to a cafe, put your phone away, and people-watch. You’ll be surprised to notice the assumptions you make and how wrong those assumptions can be.

Dec. 20: Call your parents. Ask them how their day went. Tell them that you love them. Show them that you care.

Dec. 21: Lucky enough to still have your grandparents in your life? Give them a call too. Or better yet, if you’re able, stop by unexpectedly and just hang out.

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Image via iStock.

Dec. 22: Borrowing a friend’s car to run some holiday errands? Don’t forget to top off the gas. Giving gas money is helpful, but filling the tank is even more appreciated.

Dec. 23: You work with your coworkers every day and face a number of challenges together. Tell them you appreciate them.

Dec. 24: Live in an area where parking is tough? Ask your neighbor if they need your parking spot if they’re unloading gifts or groceries.  

Dec. 25: Does one person in your family usually do all the cooking? Help them out. Stay in the kitchen, tell them stories, and dive in to help make a dish or clean up.  

Dec. 26: Treat a loved one to a day of their “favorites”: favorite breakfast, favorite movie, favorite restaurant. Make it their day.

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Image via Nikos Koutoulas/Flickr.

Dec. 27: Write New Year’s cards for the people in your life. Some you may be in touch with every day, others you may have lost contact with. Tell them you appreciate them and wish them the best in the new year.

Dec. 28: Talk to someone from a different culture. Ask them about their holiday traditions. Learn about their experiences.

Dec. 29: See a kid throwing a tantrum in the middle of a store? Don’t stare. The parents are having a hard enough time as it is.

Dec. 30: Take a deep breath when you’re driving. Traffic is going to suck. But everyone has somewhere to go. You’re all in it together.

Dec. 31: Talk to a stranger. Ask them about their day and where they’re from. You’d be surprised what a simple “hello” can lead to.

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Image via Cliff/Flickr.

The holidays are about more than gifts and days off work.

So take a moment to celebrate your family and the people you love. And then step outside of your world and try to be a bright spot in someone else’s day. It doesn’t take a lot of effort, we just have to try our hardest to be mindful of spreading goodwill. These gestures might be small, but they are important now more than ever.


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I feel like it’s much too easy to assume Melanie sexualizes children because of a few songs. She’s said so many times before that it’s adult situations through the lens of a child, it’s about losing innocence through experiencing things a child shouldn’t be. Of course that would include sexual situations. You can’t just pretend it doesn’t happen and call it problematic. Whether you like it or not, Melanie expresses herself through childhood metaphors, and there’s really no shame in that. She’s said before that she didn’t want just any old dark album, so she made the exterior pastel colors and childlike metaphors, and the interior the true darkness of the album.

She was inspired by childhood to write a serious album, and everyone just calls her a pedophile. Cool, guys. Cool.

Like A Child 👦🏽

Mark 10:15- “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” (NKJV)

Devotion: Children have a unique ability to accept things at face value. They place a great amount of faith in what they are told. As adults, it gets more difficult to blindly place our faith in the kingdom of God. The Lord is trustworthy, He will not fail you. Dig deep inside to your inner child and step out in faith. Looking through the lens of your younger self, what can you trust God with TODAY?

anonymous asked:

I don't understand why people keep looking at Fitz's scene through an fs lens?I've seen so many complaints about once again getting fs stuff from Fitz's pov but they are totally ignoring them from a character perspective? I thought his scenes highlighted how much pressure he puts on himself about keeping Jemma's mental health on track without thinking of his own and i think that's so sad?Jemma's scenes aren't about fs,they are about her and we recognize that so why don't we do the same for Fitz?

Hi Anon!

Okay this is one of those responses that comes with the this is my take on everything disclaimer and its totally cool if you or anyone else disagrees with me.  

Everyone is going to have their own take on the scenes and stories.   And I personally feel this complaint about Fitz and Fitzsimmons has been around for ages.  


Last night yes, we saw a lot from Fitz’s perspective (that was the point), but we also saw how the team views the Fitzsimmons relationship as well.  It told us that each and every one of the team is well aware how much Fitzsimmons mean to EACH other.  Not just how much Jemma means to Fitz but how much Fitz means to Jemma. For me that spoke volumes, even more than a scene where she freaked out or broke down.   Every single person knew she was going to be devastated with the news, no one wanted to be the one to tell her, and used knowing how much it would hurt her as motivation and even leverage.  Through them we knew how much it would effect her even without seeing it.  

For me, Fitz broke down because he loves her.  He was terrified he would never see her again.  Terrified at how they left it.  Terrified she was in trouble somewhere.  He very vividly remembers what it was like when he found out Jemma was gone, like what happened to him just gone.  Vanished into thin air.  He knew that pain.  And you don’t want someone you love to be in any sort of pain. That moment wasn’t all about Fitzsimmons either.   Another reason we saw Fitz’s meltdown was Coulson needed that nudge of motivation himself, to remember exactly what and who he was fighting for.   And not only to fight to get home but to fight for Shield…see and hear exactly what it was he gave up when he gave up the Directorship.  He said he did it to protect the team when in reality that is one of the last things he accomplished.

Originally posted by welshpastry

Then we had the reunion:

Originally posted by fitzsimmmonsy

The way they held each other, clung to each other, the relief, pain, and joy all crammed into that simple action.  Jemma knew something had happened, Mace had been in contact with who was bringing her home since he knew she was about home.  We don’t know what she was told but we do know she was desperate to get to him.  To hold him.  Make sure he was there.  

I was happy with the episode.  I was happy with the Fitzsimmons aspects.  I felt Jemma unaware of what had transpired had even more of an impact.  That every time you saw her your heart broke because we knew what had happened, what she was missing, that it was down right cruel her not knowing, and what she was going to find out when she got home.  

As for the ignoring the Fitzsimmons relationship.  I know you are all ready to just smack me upside the head when I keep repeating that it was on purpose, it was to set up them almost losing each other, that in almost losing each other it will spur them into action,, and that we are going to see a whole new leaf when it comes to Fitzsimmons starting next week.  That we will see them back together, working together, and making another good move in their relationship.  

Mitch listened to Hamilton the last time he drove down, and we were talking about it. He said “the funny thing is I only know these characters from your fanfics so I’m seeing them through that lens. Like James Madison comes out and on his first introduction he reaches out and touches Thomas and I’m like ‘wow, there it is. That’s why she ships this.’”
Getting It Wrong About Islam: Check Your Secular Privilege, Liberal America | Cognoscenti

“…It takes a certain amount of hubris to frame the religious issues of the Middle East through the lens of America’s culture wars. Such a tendency is even more disconcerting when displayed by American liberals, people who should know better. They would not want their country to have an official religion, as evidenced by their successive lawsuits against public school prayer. They would never compromise on a woman’s right to choose, now that Roe V. Wade is the law of the land. Their very ideological platform is rooted in standing with society’s underdogs: underrepresented ethnic groups, religious minorities, LGBTQs and free thinkers. Yet when Middle Eastern dissidents advocate for the same fundamental rights, liberals would rather not hear it. Why the inconsistency?

Middle Eastern expats eager to advocate for secular societies back home have no choice but to seek freedom of speech. When our liberal allies in America try to silence our plea, they imply that the Middle East does not deserve the same rights they enjoy here. Interpreting our struggles purely from the perspective of U.S. foreign policy is borderline ethnocentric. Surely, that is not the liberal thing to do…”


Through the Lens: Mr. T-Michael

Undoubtedly one of the most stylish and influential personalities in the current menswear scene, T-Michael makes an impression wherever he goes.

During a recent visit to Portugal, I got a chance to team up with Filipa Alves for a relaxed photo shoot among friends, featuring the bespoke tailor and Norwegian Rain designer. The unexpected rendezvous resulted in yet another record of his flawless aesthetic.

Keep an eye out for his full collections at Pitti Uomo, Liberty Fairs, Tranoi Homme and Norwegian Rain’s showroom at Rue Charlot, Paris.

Ph: Filipa Alves and Beyond Fabric

Follow me on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

NY Through The Lens - The Book!

I am super excited to announce this news!

My New York City coffee table book is currently available for sale worldwide!

All of the photos in this post are in the book. For all press coverage and book reviews, check out my media page for up to date coverage.

Here are some Questions and Answers about the book:

I live in the United States or Canada. What is the link to use to order the book online?

Use this link if you have a United States shipping address:

(The book’s first edition sold out!!!! Thank you! Second edition is printing and it will be back in stock April 2016 but you can still order it and it will ship once it’s back!!) NY Through the Lens - Amazon

(Will be back in stock at Barnes and Noble in April of 2016!) NY Through The Lens - Barnes and Noble

I live in the UK, Australia, or New Zealand. What are the links to use to order the book online?

Thank you to the UK for making my book a huge best-seller!!

New York Through the Lens - UK Edition

Use this link if you have an Australia or New Zealand shipping address:

New York Through the Lens - Australian Edition

I live in other parts of the world. How can I purchase the book?

The book is available in the English language on Amazon throughout most of Europe (and parts of Asia).

If you go to your country’s Amazon and search for: NY Through The Lens, my book will show up. This is your own country’s option for purchasing the book. Just remember that the shipping will be local and the currency will be friendly to where you live but the book will be in English.

If you live in other parts of Europe, you may also be able to order the book from which offers free or reduced shipping to parts of Europe outside of the United Kingdom.

What are the release dates for the book?

United States and Canada release date in stores (it’s available now!): November 24, 2014.

UK, Australia and New Zealand release date: October 7, 2014 (it’s available now!).

Can I find your book in stores?


The book released in stores worldwide on November 24th, 2014.

You can find the book at major retailers in the United States like Barnes and Noble and Walmart. It’s also available at many indie booksellers like these locations in NYC: Strand Bookstore, St. Mark’s Bookshop, Drama Bookshop, Kinokunya, Tenement Museum giftshop, just to name a few.

You can find the book at major retailers in the U.K. like Waterstones, Foyles, The Guardian Bookshop, WHSmith, Blackwell’s, just to name a few.

Here is a page with an ongoing listing of physical retail and online locations to purchase the book:

NY Through The Lens - Book - Retail Locations

I really would love it if I could buy your book from my local bookshop. Is that possible?

Of course!

If your local bookshop doesn’t currently stock my book, just ask them about ordering and stocking the book. Most bookstores should be able to order copies for sale.

I really want a signed copy of the book. Is this possible?

Right now the only way to get a signed copy is via book appearances and events most of which have taken place here in NYC.

My publisher is still working on making a signed copy available. If that happens, I will definitely announce it and update this answer.

Any book events or signings coming up?

I had a few book signings in NYC. Thanks to all who came to them!

Is there an e-book edition of the book available?


I am press and would love to review the book. How do I get in touch with you?

Feel free to use my contact form.

Do you have any photos of what the book looks like?

Here is what the cover looks like:

The cover and physical book together:

Some sample pages:

View images of more sample pages and the cover over at this album:

NY Through The Lens Book Images

How many pages are in the book? What are the formats?

The United States and Canada version of the book is paperback and consists of 192 pages of photography and writing by yours truly.

The UK, Australia, and New Zealand version of the book is hardcover and consists of 192 pages of photography and writing.

***Edited this section. The page counts actually match but Amazon has the wrong info listed. For anyone who was previously wondering…

General questions:

What part of NYC did you grow up in? Where do you live now?

I was born and raised in a borough of New York City called Queens. More specifically, I grew up in Flushing, Queens. I have lived in Manhattan for the past 12 years. I currently reside on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

When and how did you start photography? What inspires you? And how would you describe your style of photography?

The beginnings…

In 2008, I was extremely broke and had very little money. I was also stressed out as I had quit my job to go back to school to finally finish the degree which I had abandoned nearly a decade earlier because I needed to work many jobs to support myself.

Living on my own since the age of 17 years old with no family support or safety net put me in the precarious position of working many jobs to keep myself afloat while living in New York City. I worked 7 days a week for quite a while and decided I needed to make a change in my life before my life passed me by and I barely explored my passions.

It took a huge leap of faith to put myself back in school. But I did. I decided to go back to school pursuing a pre-med path.

Without much in the way of material things or financial prosperity, walking became my number one way to deal with stress. It also became a way for me to experience the city like I hadn’t before. I would choose a direction and walk as far as my feet would take me; I still do this.

My walks opened my eyes to a New York City that I hadn’t experienced before. I knew that I wanted to capture the moments and experiences on my walks that made my heart swell. However, I was so broke that I couldn’t even afford a smartphone or a smartphone plan. I went on Amazon and purchased the cheapest point and shoot I could find. At $79, it was a huge investment at the time. That humble little camera had one button and a few settings (one of which was broken!). I didn’t care though. I finally had a tool to explore my view and vision of New York City.

In 2009, I decided to finally post the photos I had accumulated along the way online. I knew nothing about posting photography online and had heard that blogs were a great place to post photography. I literally googled the word “blog” one evening and Tumblr came up as the first search result. I decided to create my blog, NY Through The Lens on Tumblr purely for myself as a way to view my collected images in a beautiful way online.

Since I had no formal training in photography or in-depth knowledge of the rules and concepts defining the field, it didn’t occur to me that I’d have an audience for my work. I honestly didn’t think that anyone would be interested in what I was posting online to my Tumblr blog. However, within a few months of posting my photos to Tumblr, I amassed close to 70,000 followers and I was both humbled and touched by the messages I would receive on a weekly basis.

Inspiration and style…

Starting out in photography with limited tools enticed me to learn more about light, which in turn, has set me on a lifelong journey attempting to capture something as fleeting and vast as the transient quality of New York City and other places around the world.

That initial leap of posting my photography online to my Tumblr and eventually across social media started an epic adventure and led to photography and writing becoming my career. I am thankful everyday that I get to share my passion with an online audience of over 2.5 million. The ability to connect with people on a regular basis is something I never take for granted.

Currently, I am focused on distilling the essence of New York City and other places around the world into distinctive visual remnants that resonate in a variety of ways.

The fantastical elements of how I perceive New York City are something that I intend to keep on imbuing into my photography. The exploration of what is reality and what is perceived reality filtered through a variety of influences is a key focus of my work.

I have always harbored a dreamy, fantastical view of New York City which harkens back to my childhood growing up as a first generation New Yorker with a tragic, yet inspirational family backstory that has inspired me in a variety of ways.

Most of my photography is heavily influenced by cinema, music, and other art forms as I have a background in fine art (painting and art history).

I am also endlessly haunted by a sense of saudade and sehnsucht: a deep longing for a place that is unidentifiable but somehow familiar and indicative of what could be identified as home. I am on a never-ending quest to attempt to imbue my photography of cities and landscapes with this complex notion of nostalgic longing.

I am fascinated and interested in exploring how certain tones can produce feelings of different forms of nostalgia and how color or lack of color influences memory and desire.

Additionally, I am inspired by all of the things that different places symbolize for people and I try to examine and delve into these enduring symbols with my photography.

Where can I find out more about you?

My About Page

Published Work, Press Coverage, Media, Events, Appearances

Social Media Reach and Information about Brands

My Travel Blog

New York City Photography Collection

Travel Photography Collection

Where else can I find you online?




Google Plus


All about cameras:

The most common question I get every day is what camera I shoot with. The photos in the book and the majority of the photos on my blog have been taken with Sony cameras.

I started using Sony cameras when I first began pursuing photography professionally back in 2010 based on the suggestion of a very close friend and a lot of research. I spoke on a blog panel during a photography conference in the summer of 2012. It was because of that amazing speaking opportunity that I became acquainted with Sony since someone from Sony was in the audience during my panel. I partnered with Sony in 2013 and became one of 10 contracted Sony Artisans of Imagery worldwide in April of 2014. The choice to partner with Sony was a natural one for me since I had already been enthusiastically using Sony cameras for my professional photography.

Because this photography book is inclusive of my photographic journey from the start up until now, it also includes photos that I took with my initial no-frills point-and-shoot camera as well as some mobile photos since I am very passionate about mobile photography.

Every photo in the book has a caption that indicates what camera was used as well as the settings used.

I hope you will enjoy my book. It’s been an enormous labor of love.

I want to thank everyone involved in the process: my UK publisher: Ilex Press, my US publisher: F+W Media, and…


None of this would have been possible without you.

Much love to all of you for inspiring me every day to follow my passion.

View: My New York City photography portfolio, My Travel Blog, On G+,email me, or ask for help.