Year in Review by Simon Abrams

I decided to do my own Year in Review - one that I think is a little more personal than the one that the Facebook algorithm generated for me - by selecting 24 images (two for each month) that represent my 2014.

I started off the year with a teaching gig at Miami Ad School's Brooklyn outpost, which gave me a good excuse to roam around DUMBO with my then-new Fuji X100S. In February, I went on an absolutely fantastic trip to Morocco with my wife. This trip was one of the highlights of the year for me (another great opportunity to road-test my new camera), and I can't believe it's already been almost a year.

I spent Memorial Day with my family at my sister's place in Virgina. It was right around that time that I noticed a funny, squishy bump on my elbow that turned out to be bursitis. It eventually led to me needing surgery, and being stuck in a pretty gnarly brace for a total of five weeks this summer.

I made my annual pilgrimage to the Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival, which, to my chagrin, moved to Williamsburg this year. It was co-headlined by Jay Electronica and Raekwon, and featured a very special guest named Jay-Z.

In the fall, a group of us rented a place upstate via Airbnb, and went ziplining at Hunter Mountain to celebrate my good friend's 40th birthday. I was also lucky enough to take not one, but two trips to California -- one for the ADCOLOR conference, and one to reunite with my two closest friends from high school.

Overall it's been a good year, and it has ended with some promising developments (more on those later) which should start 2015 off on a strong note.

With that said, here are 24 images that recap my 2014.

Shodan by Simon Abrams

With Shihan Alfred DiGrazia after the Black Belt Test

With Shihan Alfred DiGrazia after the Black Belt Test

Well, it's done. Those weeks of anxiety are over, the black belt test has come and gone, and I did it. And it was absolutely the hardest thing I've ever done. The physical aspect was grueling and unimaginably hard - I don't think I've ever sprinted, kicked, punched, burpeed, or done so many push-ups in my life. I have no idea if it's possible, but I think I might have sprained my diaphragm, I was gasping for air so hard. But the hardest part — by far — was not quitting. 20 minutes in, every part of my body was screaming for me to just sit down on the mat and stop. My head was spinning, I was panting for air, everything hurt like hell, it took all of my concentration to keep my balance and not fall over during kicking drills and kata… Every time Shihan said run, I wanted to flop down on the mat and tap out. During the kumite, I got knocked over (I tripped or lost my balance — really, I swear!) and lying there, even just for a few seconds, felt so damn good. But I got up.

Now, in retrospect, I'm kind of sad I didn't look stronger, and I couldn't have been more impressive in my fights. By the end I was just flailing and getting hit. But I know that's just the vain part of me thinking that. The whole point was for me to be utterly beyond running on empty by the time the fights came around, and that my real test was whether I'd quit or keep going.

I'm really proud that I didn't quit. I have a pretty strong competitive drive sometimes, especially against myself. But I couldn't have done it without the constant encouragement of Shihan Al, Sensei Allison, my fellow classmates, and the presence of both my former* senseis Brian and Edwin, and my wife Stephanie.

People have been asking me what's next. I'm going to keep training - I want to refine my technique, improve my form and my stamina, and maybe even start teaching. And I want to improve my fighting. I still get a little freaked out when sparring, so I need to be more relaxed and comfortable with that. The next level of black belt is a long road and many years away, though - I'm nowhere near being ready to even think about that at this point.

Most importantly, though, I want to remember exactly how every minute of that test felt, so I can remind myself that when things get hard, and my brain is yelling at me to give up, I can overcome that need to quit and that I can do anything I decide I want to do.

*Brian and Edwin will always be my teachers, so "former" probably isn't the right word - it's just that I don't currently train with them on a regular basis.

2012 Journal by Simon Abrams

As we come close to the end of 2012, I thought I'd put together a collection of some of the notable moments in my life over the past year.

The first part of the year was heavily centered around my finally becoming a citizen of the United States. Other than that, babies were the other big thing this year - I went to no less than three baby showers. There was also a wedding, a 60th anniversary, a Grammy-winning artist, a comedian, some hip-hop, some classical, Las Vegas, and a mustache.

This is one of the things I love not just about being a photographer, but about the exploding ubiquity of cameras in our culture: much of my life is fairly well-documented, and looking back over my photos helps to remind me that despite the mundane-ness of my day-to-day existence (sleep, work, home, rinse, repeat), I have a pretty great life.