“Most children think that they are devils who play at being angels, when very often it is the reverse that is true” from The Secret Language of Birthdays by Gary Goldschneider & Joost Elffers

Ramón Charles by © Camila Gargantini

“Ramón and I had a phone conversation to come up with a location for his shoot. I wanted to find a spot that reflected who he is and where he is at in his life. After much brainstorming, he mentioned that he always wanted to live in a loft, so last year he gave himself a birthday ultimatum to move into one before his 40th birthday. He lives in a loft now, with super tall ceilings and lots of natural light. When I got there I fell in love with it. The space is beautiful. After chatting about creativity and the new phase he is just starting in his career, he mentioned that he loved negative space, and so I took this shot. I think it fits him perfectly and is a great reflection of how I see him – with a blank canvas, ready to start fresh and pensive about the possibilities.” – Camila G

Image by © Camila Gargantini

An Interview with Ramón

Q. What is the best memory you have from a previous birthday?

A. I never really celebrated my birthdays much as a kid. I didn’t have birthday parties that much and it was usually more of a family affair. Fast forward to my adult life, I started celebrating more. My friend Joanne and her brother Joseph threw an annual summer party called JoJo Cabana. They were themed parties and so much fun. I wanted to do something similar for my own birthday, bringing all my favourite people together and partying together. My girlfriend and I decided to host house parties every year. We cooked our favourite dishes, provided all the drinks, had an open dj station, and brought all of our different social circles together. For me those birthdays were about being in a room with people I really appreciated. It was a way of giving back, an act of appreciation and saying thank you for being in my life.

Q. How about the worst? And why?

A. I remember at one of my birthday house parties I was given one too many shots. I ended up face down in my bed just an hour into the party. I had all my friends over and my girlfriend and I were prepping for so long. Maybe even a few days. That didn’t stop the party from going on, everyone still hung out and enjoyed themselves (minus moi). People would take turns coming to check in on me but I was out cold. When it was time to sing Happy Birthday everyone swarmed me on the bed and sang to me. It was a sweet moment, but I remember nothing from that night :(

Q. What was the present you’ve received for your birthday that surprised you most?

A. Once upon a time I used this app called ShakeItPhoto which created Polaroid frames for your iPhone photos. I was really obsessed with the app. I was using it all the time, for everything. Growing up in my early teens I bought myself a black Polaroid 600-Type Camera. I remember film back then only cost about $10 for a 10 pack. Can’t recall what I used to shoot with that camera but I’ve always been in love with that instant format. As the novelty wore off and the film became harder to find that 600 sat in a corner in my room but I never threw it out. I still have it to this day. So fast forward back to when I started using ShakeItPhoto. That experience brought back memories of having my old 600 and I really wanted to revive it. So I hunted for film. It’s amazing what happens when you start hunting. Turns out that one of my co-workers at the time was trying to get rid of some expired film & Polaroid cameras that his girlfriend was hanging onto forever, but didn’t want anymore. I bought everything he had. Think there was about 3 cameras and maybe 8 boxes of film. It was awesome, but as I said the film was expired so they came out under developed. I eventually discovered the Impossible project which sold new Polaroid film. My birthday was coming up and I wanted to buy film so I could take pictures at the party that people could see immediately and maybe take with them as a keepsake. Fast forward to the night of my birthday party at my house I was so wrapped up with entertaining and taking pics that I failed to realize a gift that someone brought for me. My friend brought Lorena got me some Polaroid film. She saw how passionate I was about the format so she got me a pack. I assumed it was one of mine and didn’t acknowledge her gift like I should have. It was super thoughtful and after the party I sent her a big thank you message and apology for missing her gift.

Q. Is there a food or dish that you insist on eating on your birthday?

A. If there’s butter chicken or plantains available on my birthday they will get inhaled. My girlfriend’s butter chicken is amazing. She doesn’t make it all the time but when she does it’s like a gift from the Gods. Plantains have always been my childhood favourite. They have to be extra ripe. When the plantain skin looks black and spoiled, that’s when it’s the ripest and optimal for frying. Best results with cocunut oil. Irie Food Joint, now Harlem Underground does them the best. They’re lightly drizzled with brown sugar/syrup.

Q. What do you believe is the most important aspect of celebrating a birthday?

A. In the past I used to think birthdays were about me. It changed into a celebration of the people in my life and saying thank you for being part of it. It’s now evolved into a more reflective space where I want to get away from everyone and everything I know on that day. My girlfriend and I choose to plan our vacations around our birthdays so we can escape and reset. More than New Years, I really feel that Birthdays are your reset buttons. You can reflect on the past year and start to take steps in a new direction. I try to set new goals on my birthdays now and really strive to challenge myself spiritually and creatively. Without being in a positive state of mind, things won’t move forward. Getting away on my birthday now helps to clear all the baggage that might’ve been with me over the year. I come back clearer, motivated, inspired.

Q. Do you have any traditions or thing you always do to celebrate a birthday? What is it?

A. My family tries to come together for Birthdays. Normally a dinner out. Summer birthdays we would barbecue but for the most part they’re pretty low key.