Welcome to an interesting and unusual event. I hope you enjoy yourself.

I’m speaking in the first person, because I only speak for myself, but this event is the culmination of thousands of hours of work by a multitude of amazing individuals, and I will give as many of them credit as I can. I’m only human, and my memory is weak.

Please explore the open areas of the building and grounds…. you’ll be amazed at what you find. Victoria’s Black Swan Inn is the perfect venue for the works you see here, both in the RW (Real World) and Virtually, on your preferred device. Also, please respect locked doors and “Do Not Enter” signs.

While many areas of the Inn are public, the owners live here, and we must respect their privacy. Thank you.

You will find a number of QR codes in the space….. those are the little black and white squares you see. Scan the code, and it will take you to a page related to that model/exhibit. You can also scroll through this program for direct links.

What is a Zen Monster? An individual who, while attempting clarity and peace, also feels the dynamic urge to create… to challenge… to break down norms and find something new. Someone who doesn’t quite fit in the world of “normals.”

Zen Monsters is the attempt of artists from a multitude of fields to collaborate and promote each other…. which is always our greatest weakness. Artists of all stripes usually suck at business and marketing, this event is one attempt to overcome that disability by working together.

Hopefully, Zen Monsters will explode far beyond this night, creating a home for everyone who needs us.


Participants, in a chaotic order of no significance.


Jaime Rodriguez,

aka The God Slayer

I met the God Slayer “by accident.” Testing light with Wesley De La Rosa at the gym where he worked, I was intrigued by the spunky dude with really cool hair. (It was not a natural color at that time.) And then Wes committed a huge social faux pas.

“Hey John,” he said, “Jaime’s been thinking about modeling. You two should totally work together!”

I blinked. I did that again. I had just had some HORRIBLE experiences with models and had avowed to never, ever work with anyone I didn’t know ever again. And yes, I was that guy in college the first time he waaaaay over-indulged who swore he’d never drink again.

I faked a smile, extended a card, and said, “Drop me a line.” Hopefully, he never would.

He did.  Thank all the gods.

Jaime has not only become a good friend, but he also works with me when his schedule permits as a production assistant and guy who generally knows when to tell me I’m full of crap. The shoots I do with him at my back are definitely the better for it.


Wesley de la Rosa

I met Wesley by “accident,” too. I saw his profile while looking for models to shoot for Third Testament: The Acts of St. Michael. I’d sent him a message, which he kinda ignored….. sorry, buddy, but it’s true!

Then I did a shoot with a random mutual friend (Hello, San Antonio.) We both commented on the Facebook post, and the mutual friend declared we needed to work together. Now, Wes is one of my go-to people to experiment as you will see from the variety in the online gallery, as well as a close friend. He’s also doing his best to help me lose weight….. and any troubles on that front are entirely my own. He is an amazing trainer and I highly recommend him.

Sarah Cevallos

Wes has introduced me to more than one model… he introduced me to Sarah Cevallos. It was my first shoot with Wes, and he asked if his girlfriend could come along. Ugh. Okay, I get models wanting someone along for a first shoot in case the photographer is a creep… but a girlfriend? Really?

Reluctantly, I agreed, and, yet again, Wes introduced me to an amazing person!

As you will see in the online gallery, Sarah and Wes have helped me create some amazing art.

Thank you, Sarah! Sorry I was reluctant at first!

Courtney Johnson

In case you don’t know, I am also a dance teacher, and Courtney and I met as coworkers at a dance studio, and one of my favorite memories as a dance teacher is dancing with Courtney to the music of another dear friend Chris Tijerina (more on him below) but it wasn’t until we’d both left that studio that we worked together as model and photographer.

This woman has a natural talent that I have rarely seen. Is it the dancer in her? Is it something more? I don’t know, but as you peruse her virtual gallery, you will see how much she has grown in a short period of time. I do  my best to encourage her to explore the larger world of modeling….. she has the talent.

Chris Tijerina

Chris and I met, yet again, by complete “coincidence.” His grandmother happened upon my dance studio and knew her grandson wanted lessons. Well, lessons can be expensive, but I was just then trying to think of myself as a serious photographer, so Chris and I traded dance lessons for photo shoots, and a solid friendship formed.

He had so much natural talent in both dance and photography that a strong partnership emerged. We shot together a number of times which eventually led to the cover of Consequence of Folly (which you can find on the merchandise table.)

Eventually, he graduated to jobs as a professional model which led to two nominations, in 2015 and 2o17, for model of the year at the SA Fashion Awards. Good for him!

Most recently, I am helping him and his fiance create a wedding dance. I hope to make that a festive reality!

Richard Harvey Medina



Much of my life has been directed by dance. I met Richard when dropping off a tutu to Carrie Vicana at Northwest Vista College. He was a student in her class, and I noticed he and his girlfriend were both dancers and asked if they wanted to do a shoot. Well, a lot has changed since then, but I love working with Richard. Even though he is currently stationed in California as an army medic and quickly moving up the ranks, he makes time whenever he is in SA to shoot together.

FYI, he helped me mix the “blood” for the bluebonnet image. It was nice to have a medic’s approval.

He also helped create a new superhero with a random photo he sent from the “Fiesta” aisle of a Wal-Mart. So many coincidences. So much Chaos. Welcome to the world “Move, San Antonio’s Superhero.”

By the way….. “Stilled Life with Bluebonnets” is one of the only images I have ever named.

Lauren Bleistein

More dance. I met Lauren in a West Coast Swing group and nothing would have really come if it if my good friend Michael hadn’t invited me out with some of the WC folks. Well, Lauren heard I’d written a steampunk novel and showed me photos of her steampunk costume.

Wha-a-a-a-a-at? “When can we shoot?”

Yet another happy coincidence. Lauren has amazing instincts and some of the best shots were entirely of her invention. “Hey, what if we…..?” she’ll say… and I’ve learned to run with it. In some cases, literally!

Her work with Dan Darlington in our first shoot together led to the creation of Penelope Price, a main character in the online story “A Consequence of Remorse,” alongside Chris Tijerina.

It should be fun tonight since these two will actually meet for the first time!

Suhail Arastu


I’ll be honest. I’m not even sure how Suhail and I originally met, although I suspect it was another random online introduction from Fa Winsborough, who is the friend who introduced Wesley and I.

We have worked together numerous times, and every shoot has been an education. From our first meeting in the Real World over coffee on Broadway, he has also introduced me to some amazing locations such as Hot Wells and the Blue Water as well as collaborating on some of my most provocative work. I have also enjoyed his dance performances in “Share the Beat” a dance production of mine in which Suhail has performed twice.

He’s actually the first person to make me think of myself as an artist by suggesting we put together a retrospective of our work together. Well, this isn’t quite that….. but it’s a start!

J. T. Aldridge

I first encountered J.T. on a site called Model Mayhem which helps models, photographers and other professionals meet. Though he had a large following and a profile that said he was likely way out of my league, he said one thing that grabbed me: he was looking for a new agent and needed new portfolio work.

So…. I dropped him a line letting him know that I love working with models on their “bucket list” ideas, concepts they’ve always wanted to explore but haven’t had the chance. Bingo.

Ever since then, he’s come to me with amazing concepts. “I want to be a circus ringmaster” or “What can we do with a strait jacket?” And, as above, “Can we do the Joker?”

Well, we’ve actually done two different Jokers, as well as numerous other wonderful projects. While I always have my own ideas to explore…. I love friends like J.T. who force me to figure out how to create something of which I had never thought.


Rory Mitchell

Rory contacted me. He’d just moved to Texas and was looking to build his portfolio. We met for a shoot, and I found out he was an actor so I put him through a series of acting drills.

Then I noticed the sunglasses and said, “Hey, let’s do Men in Black.”

After the shot that graces the cover of the special edition of Tales of Mystery and Woe: a comedy, I literally said, “Holy shit, that’s Maestro.” Rory embodied the main character of that novel perfectly.

Since then, he’s opened his home to me so I could go to Austin to shoot. We’ve done my one and only “Let’s get drunk and shoot pictures” shoot. Remarkably, we made some great art. (And didn’t actually get all that drunk.)

And he has become the embodiment of Maestro.

Oddly, Rory has wanted to shoot at the Black Swan with for some time, and the fact that we are both here for an event like this is, yet again, one of those intriguing “coincidences” that riddles me fun.


Ian Geyer


More intriguing paths of conjecture. I had contacted Ian, most likely through Model Mayhem, but at the time he was making enough professionally that his time was beyond my means, so we had a brief but friendly exchange. Then I worked with Rory, and he asked me if we could find a project where he could work together with a buddy of his.

I’m open-minded. “Who’s your buddy?”

So Rory, Ian and I had a project to create. Well, I’d already decided that Jaime was the new Spook, so a Tales of Mystery and Woe: a comedy shoot became inevitable. I rifled through my notes and outlines to find the perfect situation.

Folks often ask me where I get my ideas. Well, this random assortment of meetings and greetings became the nexus of a story, “Deleted Scene,” that is one part Special Feature Epilogue for the Special Addition but which also changed the entire meaning of the series. You’ll get that if you buy and read the novel. (Hint, hint. It’s over there on the table with Frankie who is selling stuff.)

Follow the path beneath your feet…. you never know where it might lead.

Nathan Goss

I almost always meet with new models before a shoot. I find the work is better if we’ve had a chance to say hello and reflect.

I actually met with Nathan for a specific purpose. I had just started working with SA Monthly Magazine and was preparing a story illustrated with photos for the next issue. (Photonovelas, as the creative editor dubbed them.) I had arranged to work with a specific model but that fell through as things do, so I was a bit strapped to find a replacement.

Well, the editor had worked with Nathan, and the photos were good… and I thought I could make him work for the character.

Wow. I was so right. Not only did Nathan embody Bobby Decker–in four different timey-wimey versions– but our work together  sent more than one novel in completely new directions.

Although I have literally hundreds of shots of Nathan from character shoots, his work with me on black and white has always been the most powerful. He was actually the first person I tapped for it.

I had never been comfortable with black/white, so I asked if he’d let me throw light on him knowing it might all suck.

It didn’t. We created some of my best work, and that shoot spring-boarded an entire “Film Noir” series that eventually ended with “Bobby Decker and the Bombshell from Pearl Harbor.”

Steven Mayen

I met Steve through the Model Mayhem website. Our first shoot came shortly after a relative had passed away and was, in some ways, both therapy and a reason for him to make sure he kept going to the gym. I’ve done some of my most abstract stuff with Steve, some of which were his ideas on multiple exposures and some of which were mine, like the time I wanted to play with Dadaism. “So…. lets drape you in this net and tie your hands together. ” The image included in the exhibit is actually an homage to a fairly important photo in the Dada movement. And one of these days, I’m going to do a shoot with his many pet birds.

Xransen Aether


A friend of a friend of a friend. That’s how I met Xransen. Our first face to face was at the Guadalupe River. I had decided I needed to get out of the studio more and back to my roots as an outdoor photographer. From what I could see, Xransen had a bit of a rush junky thing going on from stories he told me of falling off a mountain and finding himself stranded in the ocean off the coast of Hawaii.

“Huh,” I thought, “if I want to get into ‘adventure photography’ this is the guy!”

I haven’t known him as long as most of the other models, but I value his friendship. And we have had a couple of adventures together. Many more to come, hopefully.

Also, thanks for the booze.


Eliza and Eirik Sutton


The Es, as they are known, were students of a friend. I had thrown out the word that I was looking for dancers to photograph…. and thus I met the Daugherty/Suttons. I shot the kids dancing Scottish Highlands coolness, and that was that.

Then they won a gift certificate for dance lessons….. and…. well… I don’t really teach kids.

At all.

But, well, what could a couple of lessons hurt?

And these kids were amazing. Their focus and attention was better than pro competitors I’ve taught. Seriously.

Since then I have taught them ballroom dance for many months, and we have shot numerous times as well.

When getting ready for this shoot at the historical and haunted Victoria’s Black Swan Inn, Kat, the mom of the family, asked what kind of spooky undead makeup they should have.

“Oh no,” I insisted. “That’s up to the space and to me.”

I could tell she only agreed with skepticism.

When she saw the place the next day, she changed her mind.  “Oh yeah, any kind of makeup would have been too much!”


The Black Swan



Where to begin. More unusual connections. I expressed to Jaime that I wanted to find interesting and unusual places to shoot, so he found a haunted abandoned hospital about an hour outside of San Antonio. Well, that experience went south, but then he and Taylor Simmons joined forces with Victoria’s Black Swan Inn as fire spinners and Jaime invited me to work with them at a booth where I could sell my books. That was cool, but felt off.

I connected with Jo Rivera, who owns the Black Swan, and we hit it off. She is awesome. So is Victoria.

I wasn’t suited to be a regular vendor at the Swan but sincerely loved the insane and creative family connected to the place and wanted to be involved. I grew up on the Addam’s family, right? So I offered my services as an unofficial official photographer.

The rest, as they say, is history.

I am honored and privileged to host my first professional photo exhibit at such an amazing facility and hope to encourage other artists to host exhibits here! You will not find a more creative and invigorating space in San Antonio.

Makeover Melanie

You know…. I have to be honest. I don’t get to know makeup artists (MUAs) as well as I get to know models.  Usually, I’m in the studio with Jaime setting up lights while the MUAs do their magic, so the models get to know me and the MUAs, but we sort of work in alternate universes.

Melanie was recommended to me by Courtney.  She has done everything from “pretty” makeup to the Dark Fairy to Ian’s demon makeup for Tales of Mystery and Woe.


Magdouline Benjilany Heffington


I first met Maggie as a dance teacher. There’s that dance thing again. Then she approached me when she branched out into makeup and I recommended her for a video shoot with which I was involved.

Well, I watched her work and was impressed with how she adjusted the makeup for each and every actor with whom she worked. Every design reflected the actor beneath the “greasepaint.” It was really kind of magical. And the hardest part was that she had signed on as a sort of “extra MUA just in case,” but was the only one who showed up!

She got those actors in and out of her chair like a trooper!

And they all looked wonderful…. even me!

Elizabeth Harrison


Happenstance? Yeah, it’s a theme.  I met Elizabeth as a miracle. J.T. was scheduled to come to SA for a shoot, but his MUA ghosted him that morning. I sent word out in a panic to see if any MUAs were available. I touched base with Debbie Nielson, of SA Photographer’s Studio Rental, where I shoot, and gave me Elizabeth’s name. Thanks to all the gods, she was available, and she dis a great job with J.T’s makeup on very little notice.

She has done some amazing character makeup and was the driving force behind Xransen’s black light Dia de los Muertos makeup.


Ariana Anderson Makeup Artistry


So SA Photographer’s Studio Rental was hosting their first meet-up (circus theme) since I had joined as a resident. My buddy Jaime was there as a model, and I kind of hung out with him while Ariana did his makeup. I was impressed with her style and with her honesty. She told me she mostly did “beauty makeup” (and I’m damn sure that’s not the right term) and that she had done lots of research to find modeling for Jaime’s work, which was a circus master clown theme.

Well, his makeup was amazeballs, and he has said it was his favorite makeup ever.  Also, I have found Ariana’s professionalism to be beyond compare. She is the only photography tech who regularly shows up before me! Yowsa!




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