We had the good fortune of connecting with Richard Radstone and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Richard, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
I’ve been known to call myself a most outgoing hermit. A thought shared by others, I don’t know? I do love people and being around others, but I also cherish my quiet time to reflect and simply observe the world around me. I do stay informed with news and current culture and events, but am the kind of person who likes to talk first-hand in working to know what is real – the under the skin feelings, and in the heart stuff, that drives us as individuals. So yea, I like to listen as much as I like to talk and create. Perhaps it’s an outcome of an adolescence where I never really fit into any one group. I bounced from clique to clique in wanting to find myself (I guess, a normal thing for many teens). Or maybe it was the carry forward from a 20s when I was in demand and labeled a wiz-kid artist, my eye for fashion and special effects feeding my ego in my quest for approval. Or could it be the subconscious of a somewhat emotionally suppressed upbringing? Not that there was a lack of affection or that I faced any abuse. I had parents who took good care of me, even to the point of spoiling and supporting me in just about everything (yep, even the police raided high school parties and all). But with all dignity recognized to my parents and sisters, deep emotional or spiritual conversations where a rarity in the home of my childhood. And not putting you in the shoes of a therapist, and for the integrity of sharing what makes this mind tick, something inside me has pushed me to share this in defining my origins, why I am so fascinated to better understand the dynamics of human connection, and I’m guessing, the very reason why I got into the arts, media and outreach in the first place. I’m the youngest child with two elder sisters, one 8 years, and the other 11 years older. There was always a distance between us because of the age gap. Plus, they both left home by the time I was 13, so, in a way, I spent a big part of developmental years kind of like an only child in a British household (sarcasm, humor, table manners and all). My father was a dreamer and survivor, who as did my mother, lived through the Blitz and mid-century anti-Semitism. Their example to me; a blend of move forward care taking, stiff upper lip thinking, and keep it quite intimacy. So I learned early to dream quietly, to push through whatever was in front of me, and to be independent. I’ve always been driven by emotion, spiritual connection, and, for better or for worse, the feelings I absorb from others. Scary at it’s worst; a rush beyond all rushes at it’s best. So to talk about my journey is to expose both the blessings and phantoms that drive me. If you had to define me in a simple phrase, I guess you could call me an openhearted wall dropper– more interested in who a person is and how we relate, rather than what they do or how deep their resume is. It’s weird; I even look at inanimate objects with the same perspective. I’ve learned throughout my life and career, that every time I try to lock my views toward others and myself, I lose myself. The result, my work and outlook becomes forced, and my imagination and intuition replaced by looking at categories and first impressions rather than into my heart, or better yet, toward the heart of others. Most likely, (that besides my subsiding hairline), a viewpoint I think keeps me young, breathing and never wanting to stop my quest for the unexpected discoveries of life, as well as the intimacy found in trusting my relationship with others. Prompts that push me to reach into my fears and comfort zones to face, and own, what I intake, see and feel in every chapter of my evolution. The stuff that comes at me becoming the literal source material I harness in navigating all that I do. So here’s the strange dilemma, a conflict that never fails me in seeing and feeling of the world around me, or better yet, learning to trust and own emotions within myself. As I see it, the greatest key to vulnerability with others, as well as a hangman’s noose I’m always muscling through. It’s not an easy thing to be open in expressing what’s in my heart. A fact proven through many amazingly intimate experiences with people, as well as some painfully embarrassing slip-ups. But a life-view that I accept with fully open arms, for I believe that living on the edge of open-heartedness is where branches to honestly create and contribute can be grown to there fullest. Best I can explain it. All in all, it just happens, but as think about it, I guess it’s all about emotional integrity (not genius, concept, bravado, or over-production), and with this acceptance, my feeling is, the purest place for creation, life and expression to happen has to come from trusting ourselves. Like I said, not so easy a thing to do, but a discipline I am now just starting to fully realize and own. And per that journey or endpoint, I’m not sure if it ever started for me, or will even end anywhere in the near future. It’s more like a soulful thing that is simply part of me from the inception of who I am. And in that, even when life sucks, I still feel purpose in what I see, do and create. So, I’ll simply say this, “the journey is truly the present”. I know, sometimes I sound like such a guru!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Per my work and what I am doing today, I do my best to divorce myself of all preconceptions and predictions. To realize that everyone, just like I, bring to the table more than what is first viewed on the outside, regardless of what may seem apparent. I like to be organic, spontaneous, and live by the mantra of Less-is-More. I think we all have hidden children dwelling within our hearts, and each of us are carrying so many joys and pains that we are dealing with; and, to be able to tap into the intimacy of a quiet moment with another person is something that I am at a loss to fully explain. I’ve had a lot of people open up to me in the most humbling ways. So in honor of them, I feel it my responsibility to do the same. For me, it’s all about sincerity, empathy, holding onto my values while honoring the views and values of others. Creative, intellectual, spiritual, lost, found, happy, sad, whatever race, creed, or age, even the guy at the supermarket who screamed at me, whoever; and in that, is the place I find the deepest creativity, peace to openly interact, and ability to see life and others more clearly. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to talk to (even formally interview) a lot of diverse people, in that, 35 plus years of countless conversations and dealings with a vast set of perspectives, lifestyles, and personalities. The full range of what can be expected living in Los Angeles and traveling a bit. From the kind and fulfilled to the lost, depressed, angry, and disenchanted. So when I share my perspectives, know that they are a mix of my own personal observations, experiences shared with me by others, a bunch of research, and grounded by my quest to find my place as a human being. I’ve been rich and in demand, I’ve also been homeless and forgotten. Weathered through a lifetime of swinging doors within my own set of personal, economic, social, political, cultural, and professional challenges. Each phase affecting me in all areas of who I am, how I feel about myself, and my dreams of where I am going. Being a creator and communicator is a fragile thing, we live in an A plus B never equals C, or anywhere near the same outcome vocation. Add that to the pressures put on us by our own fulfilled and unfulfilled dreams, the opinions and prejudices put on us by the critiques and attitudes of others, and it becomes easy to find ourselves wandering in the weeds. Yep, I’m one of those philosophical guys. The talker and the advocate who speaks his mind, but in that, a social hermit I trust to keep me centered. So here’s the silver lining of it all. A consideration brought to my attention by a stranger I once photographed and interviewed on a Los Angeles street. A clinical psychologist who asked, “How much of what you do, do you consider therapy?” I’ll leave it at that. And if you are a creator or listener, you just might know exactly what I’m saying. For as long as I can remember I’ve always been inspired by music. Something I can see when I relax my mind and close my eyes. I know, sounds so cliché. But it’s a real thing for me, and in opening up in this interview, a part of my psyche I feel compelled to expose. It’s a bizarre thing that happens in my brain, it’s not like feeling the rhythm, beat, or cadence of a musical piece, it’s a visual experience. At its fullest leaving me dream like control to create, view, and move dimensional pictures in my head. And per the music itself, I’ve even awoken at night with fully composed symphonic orchestrations building in my mind, but without the musical skills, they are trapped there. So with this reveal, can I put the question so many ask on the table? If you could do it again, what would you do? For me, knowing what I know now, I might have studied musical composition. Perhaps I’d be a composer or conductor now. But, no regrets here, love where I am and what I do, and with that, I’ve found a work that allows me to release that musical energy. A project I’ve titled, “HEAL.” It started very vicariously, as being a father to an emerging and very disciplined ballet dancer; I’ve been graced to meet some amazing artists. And in this experience, I’ve fallen in love with the movement, emotional depth, physicality and musicality of traditional and contemporary ballet. A trust that is allowing me to connect my emotional self and musicality in a profoundly sensual, emotional, and spiritual way, and the deeper I push in letting go to the project, the more organic, relevant, and personal it is becoming. HEAL is a double meaning title, one part reference to the physicality of dance and reference to foot position, but more passionately, the emotional implications of the title. For it is, that in all of us are hidden, unexpressed or dreamed for feelings, and yes, even reason for healing. And who better to emote the fullest depth of human emotion and relationship than a dancer, who in a most connected way, can own and emote a feeling from head to toe. My hope is, that as more-and-more take time to look into the frozen frames of the Heal photos, that they may reflect on what they see in that photo. Perhaps better yet, to relate to what they feel from that photo, and from there, to ponder on how they treat and view those around them as well as themselves. As the title suggests: to HEAL whatever is in need of forgiveness, to accept the reality we are all dealing with a unique set of inner joys and pains, and to be released to our own calmness by knowing that not one of us is alone in dealing with our feelings and relationships. And per what the most amazing choreographer, dancer, and my good friend, Shamika Jones suggested as she helped me conceive the project, “There is grace in that.” I’m one of those people who has a mind that never stops moving; the guy who writes into the early morning hours, or wakes up at 2 am to take a photo of a plastic gas can. Yes, the dude who can drive his family nuts with what if’s, and did you see that’s? Give me a Styrofoam cup, and I’ll turn it at different angles, look at it in different light, and then make a claim that the cup has a unique history or story to tell. I know, super nutty, huh? But that’s just me. Take it or leave it, and luckily enough for me, I have friends and family that let me live in this world that I see. But one thing I can lock on. That in the projects I do get involved in, and in whatever they look like, my guess is, most likely they will be centered around opening conversations which get us all to consider what might be in the hearts and minds of one another, or ideas that push us to examine ourselves, or at it’s least, to make some sort of statement per the impact we as humans have upon each other as well as the world we share. Stuff like my “Dreams” project, where I film people telling about the dreams they have in their sleep, or the photographs of “Rubbish” and “In•an•i•mate åbjekts” that tell of our human footprint and impact on the planet. Even the documentaries I’m directing and producing focus on what I like to refer as, “Under The Hood” in each of us. Yet I do have to say, at the top of all that I do sits one standout project: Sidewalk Ghosts and its associated podcast. But, Sidewalk Ghosts is more than a podcast; it’s an advocacy of purpose that has not only reshaped my life and career for the better; it has touched the hearts of a global, growing and current audience and my most sincere hope is that it will continue to gain momentum. It all started in 2011 when I challenged myself to, regardless of weather, where I was, or how I felt, to interview and photograph a stranger every day for 365 consecutive days. I never missed one day as for an entire year (even beyond) I blogged the photographs and an accompanying 800 to 2500 word essay for the world to read and share. Three months in it caught fire as WordPress featured it as one of the top ten daily blogs to follow, and as comments and subscribers from around the globe flowed in, I fell in love with the world. Now, almost a decade later, 100s of interviews behind me, a book written, a non-profit formed, a speaking outreach and podcast in place, Sidewalk Ghosts has become a mission that I hope will uplift many to reach out within their own lives, and to be touched as I too have been. Sidewalk Ghosts is based on three fundamental principles: 1, “There is an extraordinary story living within each of us.” 2, “If we seek to truly see each other and grow our connections from a place of sincerity, empathy, and acknowledgment of others; what we create, and the impact we leave, will have long-lasting reach and effect.” 3, “Every moment of every day… our individual impact truly does matter to someone else in the world.” Now as I approach the 10th anniversary of this journey, I find myself grounded as an ambassador to what I feel a very timely and much-needed message. One that, as an artist, communicator, and human, has helped me to be more committed to recognizing what I have to contribute through and beyond my medium. The payoff (if I have to look for one), my life and work are becoming even more balanced and purpose-based. An awakening I have to consider when I think about just how far the works I am leaving behind will reach and last. Leaving behind? I know, sounds morbid and maybe a bit self-aggrandizing. But in trusting you, let me share my motivation. Please know that I’m not on a quest for fame or on a downward spiral toward my deathbed. I’ve got a lot of good years to go and am in my emotional, spiritual, and intellectual prime. Excited and motivated to do what I can with the talents I’ve been given. So in this, may I simply pledge to the world, “My friends, you’ll see no razor to my ear.” But here is the thing I really wish to share. A notion I wished I grabbed onto in my 20’s (but even then, I was doing all I knew with what I knew). And not standing on the guru’s soapbox, I’m humbling myself to be as vulnerable as I can in this written interview. So, I stand exposed (OK, I hear a snicker from the back of the room in that statement). On a course to do all I can to be true to the creative, healed, and damaged voice within myself. My integrity on the line as I set an example to my family, as looking into the mirror in doing my best to stand with credibility in what I do and say; and knowing there are only two unavoidable obstacles common to us all, those being, taxes and death. That perhaps when I meet my maker, I wish to be as close to debt-free as I can be. And in that, to have an epitaph that reads, he did all that he could to honor the gifts that were given to him”, and if lucky enough, to sleep in the rest of knowing I did all I could to forward the same wishes to you. I invite you to live it forward at www.sidewalkghosts.com With warmth and gratitude, Richard.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Wow, what a question. Really hard to pinpoint a specific itinerary, so as general as it sounds, I need to set the stage. What I love most, and feel driven to share, about Los Angeles is the depth of culture and outlook we have. Just take a drive from top to bottom of thruways like Beverly Boulevard, Sepulveda, or Parthenia and you’ll pass through a world of cultures, languages and lifestyles. This is a city of light and shadows, in that to be found, the best of the best, and sad to say, the worst of worst. But in all, examples and opportunities to discover so much in regard to understanding others as well as engaging with our better selves. So when I think about my friends, or anyone I find myself as escort in showing off LA, I’ll always go for visiting cultural areas and local small businesses, galleries and cultural happenings, and in that, to reach out to those communities in conversation and listening. It’s impossible to nail it down to any one destination or area, there’s way too much to offer to do that. Also, guessing per which friend it would, and in consideration of what dates that friend might be visiting, we would most likely grab the car and hit the road. But I’m sure wherever we end up; it would most likely be somewhat under the radar of the big visibility stops– although when we have a good performance in town, that a pretty cool thing too.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
SIDEWALK GHOSTS www.sidewalkghosts.com Bettering the world we share…one interaction at a time. You CAN make a difference… By signing up as a Sidewalk Ghost, you become part of a growing community of diverse individuals, who, in our own localized ways, are creating real effect in bettering the way many view and treat one another, and even how we see and appreciate ourselves. A pledge of a simple smile, a kind gesture, a sincere conversation, a listening ear, a helping hand, a voluntary effort, a donation to a good cause, a patient mind, a forgiving heart, a considerate thought, or anything that recognizes, or better yet, uplifts those you know, and even those you don’t. Especially in regard to difference and disagreement. The method is quite simple, we publish a running toll of how many have pledged to do what they can to contribute to bettering the world around them, or are at least taking a moment to pause in consideration of one another. You benefit by knowing you are part of a sustainable and far-reaching movement, and that in all you do, in who you are as you are, that your singular efforts truly do matter in a big way. The more of us who take and live the pledge, the more we realize we are not alone in our localized and quite efforts. Numbered among positive change-makers who are standing side-by-side in a timely, much-needed, and globally important outreach: One person, one neighborhood, and one community at a time. “If we seek to truly see each other and grow our connections from a place of sincerity, empathy, and acknowledgment of others; what we create, and the impact we leave, will have long-lasting reach and effect.” Take the pledge at www.sidewalkghosts.com