Monday, July 31, 2006

3 1/2 hours in a 10' x 10' room

I've shot in nearly every hotel in Manhattan. And one in Queens (twice) and one in Southern New Jersey and one in Seattle and one in Portland. I've shot in friends' apartments, models' apartments, office buildings and Richard Avedon's former studio.

I like the challenge of shooting on location. I LOVE figuring out how you can make it look like the place you are shooting in or make it look like anywhere, somewhere, a studio, the moon.

I think that I'm pretty good at that. I've shot with the model standing next to her refrigerator (making crazy noises) which I cropped out. I've shot with the model standing next to her nasty kitchen with holes all in the walls and I intentionally included that. I've shot in a dead man's room where we (me, Angela Ryan, and Luis Santiago) were all scared to touch anything. Me less than them, but you know what I mean.

So Saturday night I was scheduled to shoot with Brittany from State College, PA. She was coming down to have some dude shoot her agency portfolio but really wanted to work with me. When we spoke earlier in the week, she told me that she was driving down to THE CITY (don't you love how us New Yorker's say that?) with her ex-boyfriend. Shit. Then I talked to her about the connection that model and photographer should make without a distraction and she agreed. I asked her where she was staying and she said the New York Suites - and much to my surprise I HAD NEVER HEARD OF IT.

I asked her if we could shoot there because of all the reasons mentioned above. She said that yeah, the ex would be gone and that we could shoot there. Location challenge!

She called me on Saturday and says "It's REALLY small." I say don't worry. I'm psyched because of all the reasons mentioned above.

I schlep all my shit up to 47th and 8th Avenue in the middle of a heatwave, walk past the desk guy who does not give a fuck (always a warning sign) and up four flight of stairs to room #404.

Brittany lets me in. She is gorgeous and 18. Her room, however, is 10 feet by 10 feet with a 5 square foot bathroom. And the air conditioner is really not working that well (think about it).

I reassure her AND for the next three and a half hours I challenge myself and sweat like a motherfucker (and I don't even sweat - really, ask anybody...).

Brittany is a great sport, beautiful and daring.

I haven't got the film back from the lab yet, but the digital test shots are sweet. They do not represent the reality. They are more magical than that.

This is what keeps me alive.

Friday, July 28, 2006


Man, I'm burnt.
On the downside of a huge multimedia project that I'm producing for a huge women's clothing company. I drop the masters off with the client tomorrow and say goodbye to the fall 2006 line. The last week of a project like this - managing a team of creatives, sitting in meetings with the client, testing programming, supervising edit sessions, critiquing artwork - is enough to make your brain just go numb.

I balance the video/film production with my photography and I'm fortunate enough at this stage in my life to actually have achieved that balance. Time on a project going full blast segues into time off to focus on my work.

I am itching to shoot...

I haven't shot since July 9th, when I shot with Darenzia on a long planned, and fairly elaborate "Trevor Brown" inspired shoot involving rehabilitative medical hardware and various and sundry surgical accoutrements. A seven and a half hour shoot, with the A-team of Luis Santiago on hair and Martha Friedlander on MU, that yielded some amazing results. Martha was all excited that she got to do "bruises" and Luis knew that I was gonna make him go nuts with her hair and Darenzia was a fantastic sport. So amazing are the results that I haven't fully had the time to go through it all yet and lay out "the story." There are plenty of publications that would pick this up, I believe, based on Darenzia's look & reputation coupled with my style. Just gotta take the time to do it. Next week...

So, I'm shooting tomorrow with a model from State College, Pennsylvania. No agenda other than some fashiony shots, some nudes, and whatever else we come up with. It'll be nice to hear the click of the Pentax again, visit my boy Tony at the lab, and scan me some negs...

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

What are you?

I'm a photographer. A portrait photographer, for the most part now, exploring ways outside (and inside) the idea of what a traditional portrait is. I know my style, and I think that as a photographer, that is the most important thing you one can do. Only if you know your style - and I mean REALLY know it - like in your sleep - can you try to push away from it, within it...

I had dinner with my photographic mentor Richard Goldstein last night and as usual, after a couple of beers, I said, "So Rich, what would you think if I..." and then some crazy thing, like "pushed the boundaries of fashion while trying to get hired in the fashion world." Or "only shot with up and coming porn stars, but made them do fashiony type stuff." Or "just took pictures of the back of people's heads."

Blah blah blah. My inexperience as a self-marketer and lack of confidence in a world that I would like to break into (I think). Coupled with the confidence of the booze and Rich there, listening intently, knowing that he really likes what I do and genuinely likes "mentoring" me. At 41, I often find that I sound like I'm 12 when I'm asking him these things...

Well, Rich ordered another Grey Goose and tonic and told me what he always has: Do not compromise your style. It is "unique" but more importantly and true (as "unique" is a tough one to stand there and defend) your eye and the way you think and see things and the way you get excited about imagery and manipulating light and models and settings and film stock and all of that shit thrown into a big bowl and sloshed around is "unique." He told me that he thinks that I am onto something, and in this day and age where EVERYTHING has been done and copied, there are people out there - patrons, reps, editors, art directors, gallery owners who will find me. With a need...

Of course, it ain't that simple, but it sure did bolster my confidence and make trying to figure out that puzzle a little more enjoyable today.

So, that said, I think that mainly I am a portrait photographer, albeit a non-traditional one.

I like tension in my photos - something that causes the viewer to feel just a little uncomfortable or a bit put-off, but drawn in at the same time - an inability to look away.

In 2004, I started my first monograph project of 20 women in 20 different hotel rooms in NYC. It's called "Rooms." With each model, I created a back-story, a character, a scenario, which of course dictated wardrobe, hair, MU and location. It was elaborate and involved and after 30 or so shoots, I had completely exhausted it within me creatively. And I had my 20 pieces.

Needing to do something different, my inclination was to start shooting portraits, still edgy, still "erotic" (whatever that means) and in my style.

I'm just beginning.

(the above stream of consciousness drivel especially for Chip & Don)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Pissed-Off Bunnies

I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of the Playboy Clubs, both from a nostalgic ‘I missed it’ and a ‘that Rat Pack shit was really cool’ point. It just seems so romantic, you know, the Playboy Philosophy lifestyle with the entry keys, the ashtrays, the shot glasses, but especially the Bunny-suit wearing waitresses serving up the booze and doing the Bunny Dip. It’s also always amazed me that so many famous women were Bunnies – Deborah Harry, Lauren Hutton and even Gloria Steinem – and being a Bunny seemed in a weird way to be exempt from being labeled anti-feminist. But then I actually started thinking about what it must have really been like to be a waitress in a leotard serving drinks to a bunch of self-important elitist hipsters, businessmen and celebrities. The moral equivalent of being a Hooters Girl, except that Hooters is a family restaurant. Imagine having to wear that extremely revealing costume with the stupid Bunny ears and the stupid Bunny tail that everyone, I’m sure, wanted to touch, thanklessly serving drinks to Sammy, Peter, Frankie and Dino while they paw your ass and chase you through the kitchen until the wee hours of the morning. Or worse – a bunch of lawyers from Buffalo.

I was thinking about a little photographic mini-project – something I could do at my leisure, something with a defined beginning middle and end (I have a problem drawing things to a close) and something that I could self-publish, as opposed to a whole big ass monograph or something. So, I got a vintage Bunny suit (well, vintage enough for my grainy black & white look) and mapped out the project. Twelve Bunnies, one for each month (Miss. January, etc…) photographed in a manner that might recall the back room, kitchen corridor or bathroom hideaway of The Playboy Club, looking extremely bored, tired or just plain pissed-off. Once I pick the shot of each Bunny, I’ll would do a free association session and see which city it looks like it was taken in and in what year i.e. Miami, 1968. Then I will get it printed as a little mini calendar or book – I haven’t decided yet – sign and number them and have something to sell at my gallery show (when that happens) or through my website. Then, one day when I am dead, they will be extremely valuable when they sell on eBay. You know, collector’s editions!

But the main thing that I want to do with it is send a copy to Christie Hefner, the daughter of Hef and Chairman and CEO of Playboy. Call it a barometer of her sense of humor. Also call it a calling card for my photography. I like absolutes, so absolutely one of three things will happen: She will ignore me. She will ask me to do a feature. She will issue a cease & desist order.

Well, the project is complete and I’m researching printers and paper and sizes and inks.

Soon, I’ll let you know what Christie does…

Thursday, July 06, 2006


What to do but agonize endlessly until nothing flows.

Free association, then:

Kenneth Lay does not deserve Hell.
Tool's new album, 10,000 Days is great to retouch photographs to.
Kenneth Lay does not deserve Hell.
The world's a mess it's in my kiss.
Kenneth Lay does not deserve Hell.
This is what happens when you style a fashion shoot for Tito Trelles in Allen Martin's basement (see photo).
Kenneth Lay does not deserve Hell.

Scaling back all photo shoots - new rules - quality over quantity.
Kenneth Lay does not deserve Hell.
Note to self: Only have a cigarette when you really, really want one - don't just smoke because you can.
Kenneth Lay does not deserve Hell.
Find that goddamn gallery here in NYC or Chip and Markus are gonna kick my ass.
Kenneth Lay does not deserve Hell.
Could those North Korean missiles reach Washington, D.C.? Hmmmm...
Kenneth Lay does not deserve Hell.

I'll be back...

Tuesday, July 04, 2006