Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Going through shots originally discarded can sometimes yield amazing results. Mindset can dictate that interesting shots are immediately discarded. For instance:

I shot with the beautiful Sarah Crawford back in May. While going through the files today and cleaning off my computer drive, I came across this:

This is an incredibly photogenic woman making a very evil face. Actually she was probably laughing at me, but whatever...Sarah is the kind of model that you light and just basically point the camera at. She photographs WELL. And she would probably not dig this shot - at least not use it in her portfolio (although, she was pretty punk rock). She might put it on a Christmas card or something...

Since I do think of myself as a portrait photographer first and foremost, I rescued it. It's a real shot of a real person. And a total accident.

Note to self for 2007 work: You can still be a dictatorial director, but remember to just let stuff happen, too.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Red Wine in a Dixie Cup is a Must Have

Sarah said that.

She's one of the foremost figure models in the US and an all around fantastic person. I worked all day long on the shots from our last two shoots - the first from May and the second from June (yes, I suck and am behind, but at least I own up to it every chance I get). Sarah is a great friend AND a great sport as she has never yelled at me about it. And that's cool. She knows she's gonna get them, and they are gonna be good and dammit, they're going out tomorrow...

It's funny. When I first started shooting, I was a little bit at a loss as to what to do with a figure model - a model that is more comfortable in no clothes than in clothes. That kinda went against my narrative scenario when I was shooting the ROOMS series, so I did what came naturally to me - I dressed them up! Sometimes in a Styrofoam Statue of Liberty head-thing, sometimes in actual clothes...

When Sarah and I first got in touch with each other (she with me, I think) I was a little intimidated. Her work was amazing and voluminous. Her confidence was at 11 and, I don't know, it seemed as though she was this sort of rock star of figure models.

We hit it off immediately during our first meeting and our first shoot yielded great results. And she was a rock star. Still is...

She's one of my favorites to shoot with, since at this point after working together three times, it's like old times. The last time we shot - in June - she asked me to get a Australian red for the shoot. I did, but the hotel only had Dixie cups. We made do. Nothing like red wine and wax...and she claims I turned her into a wine lover...

The photo is Sarah from May. I wanted to see how far I could push the Neopan 1600, so I blew out the white tile of the bathroom in this hotel room with all the light I had and nearly lost her in the exposure. But not quite...

Saturday, November 25, 2006

It's a Process


I think the best thing is the long, long weekend. I woke up this morning after seeing The Hold Steady @ Maxwell's last night thinking it was Sunday. Nope. Reprieve!

Took my girl to see BORAT tonight. Her first time. My second. Still holds up. In fact, not having to deal with the sheer frequency of slapstick/intellectual humor allowed me to focus on the sheer genius of it all. The pre-production must have been an absolute hoot.

I'm envious. But anyway, I take pictures...And so...

...since I described the way I shoot the Chair series in the second to last post, I thought it would be cool to actually show the steps toward making the final image.

I'm shooting Sheena tomorrow for both the Chair series and the Bunny series and that is cool. I've worked with her before and we get along famously. When I contacted her about shooting, she wrote back. "LOL...yea I kinda figured after lookin at your recent stuff that I would get caught up in the naked on a chair scene."

Ya gotta love that in a model...

Well, here's the Naked on a Chair Scene, dissected, exploded and semi-explained - the process, not the secrets:

EXHIBIT #1 - The Chair

The chair must be unique, that is to say, unlike any of the other chairs in the Chair series. The chair must have a strange, circular light under it. The chair must be able to support a full-grown model. The chair must not obscure the models boots, i.e. black chair bleeds into black boots. Chairs usually come with hotel rooms, although this particular fleabag in Midtown did not come with a chair. I requested one from the management and without a question, he gave me this one from the office, where he was watching some sort of Indian sports program. Stability was tested and it was determined that this chair would serve just fine. This is also the step where the entire room is art directed and production designed. There was a huge wooden shelf in the corner that had to be relocated (see EXHIBIT #2) and a bunch of corn chips (or something!) on the floor that had to be swept out of the frame. You can see the beginnings of that strange circular light in this shot. Also notice the phone that is screwed into the wall that the model will need to hide with her pose. The model's hair and makeup happens during this part of the process.

EXHIBIT #2 - The Model

At this point, hair and makeup is complete and the model (or an assistant, but preferably the model) stands in to be lit. As any real photographer knows, lighting is about balance, reflection and intensity. Since I am replicating an existing lighting schematic (see EXHIBIT #3) I spend a lot of time here getting the model's face to read at one level (or f-stop), while the rest of her body is at another level and the surface of the chair and her boots is at another level. The background also has to be lit, and the strange, circular light under the chair has to be maintained relative to all the other light, it being the brightest. This is the fun part. This is also the part where I direct the model as to the pose for the shot. I also determine and lock into the camera placement vertically and horizontally, which often places me under a table or levitating about 2 1/2 feet off the ground upside-down.

EXHIBIT #3 - The Lighting Schematic

This is the actual lighting schematic for the Chair series. It was drawn on a bar napkin a couple of days ago while I was explaining all the complexities of these shots to my girl while we were having a few drinks. She put it into her back pocket and walked around with it for the rest of the evening. When I asked her for it, she produced something that vaguely looked like a cigarette that had been machine washed from her pocket and gave it to me. I think the texture just adds to the coolness of it. When I gave it back to her, I initialed it and dated it and told her to sell it immediately upon my death. That and $.75 will get her a cup of coffee here, as long as she goes to the cheap deli. Look closely - all the secrets are here! If this gets into the forums on Model Mayhem on OMP, I'll be ruined!

EXHIBIT #4 - The Final Product

I usually shoot about 20-30 shots of the set-up for the final. At 1600 asa. I pick the best one based on facial expression and posture, clean it up a little in Photoshop, run it through my "custom" Photoshop recipe and out pops another chick on a chair.

Like I said, 9 down, 4 or 5 more to go...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


"What is a cult? It just means not enough people to make a minority."

- Robert Altman


Tappy Hanksgiving !

Finished four sets of photos this week - amazing what you can get done if you:

a) do not leave the house all day long
b) are unemployed at the moment

Sent them off in the maily mail today, which always manufactures a strange sense of accomplishment. Always seems like magic of some governmental sort. Always leaves me with much less to do. And less people to bug my draggin' ass ass.

Hey, I'm a TYPE A, I overextend, I take on too much. After all, death is just around the corner ("Hi, Death..."), and even though I WANT to believe in reincarnation and that I WILL come back as a HOT CHICK, I'm not convinced. That leaves a lot to do NOW.

I took some photos of the Baby Kitty playing with her menagerie of toys last night and just amused myself. Used the flash, in the living room, while chasing a moving target. The pictures looked like shit, in fact, the email I sent them out with was entitled, "See, I can take crappy pictures too..."

Monday, I shot another model for my chair series (#8). Since the lighting and angle are consistent throughout - meaning I have to replicate them every single time to the finest detail (color temp, wattage, exposure, focal length - really) - it takes me about an hour to set up. This mostly involves me lighting an empty space with a chair while hair and makeup is happening for the model. Then the model stands in, usually wearing her casual clothes while I fine-tune the lighting to her. Then she disrobes, sans anything but boots and accessories and we attempt the shot. Monday's shoot was easy as the chair was rock solid. The last chair shoot I did - with Kyra - the chair cushion was poofy and her boots were spiky and she had to hold onto the wall until I said "go." I'd shoot a frame and she'd wobble and grab the wall again. But we got the shot (posted back a couple of entries ago - she with the pink hair).

Taking snapshots of the cat and shooting portraits of the chair series are opposite ends of the spectrum for me. Except that it's all about trying to get...

Gonna spend the next 5 weeks wrapping up two distinct projects - The Pissed-Off Bunny Project and The Chair Series. I need 12 strong bunnies, and I've got 10. I need 13 strong chairs and I've got 9. Then, with those done I'll concentrate on the gallery show and the self-published "Chairs" monograph. 2007 is wide open for me.

Creatively, as of this writing, I have no new ideas. I know I've done the "Hotel Room" thing (which doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t shoot in a hotel room, just not AS a hotel room), the bunnies, the chairs...

I need the next big idea. And some real work. Thinking cap on...

I'd like to meet my friend D. Brian Nelson (see link to right) up in St. John's in March and shoot Angela again. I'd also like to go to Toronto for a few days and work with some of the models there that never seem to get down to NYC, like Kim. And there's always plenty of talent here in the city.

But what to do? Harder-core? Motion blurs? Double exposures?

We'll see...

But first, turkey, mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts and tons of wine...

Photo is of the Baby Kitty and The Duck. The Duck used to contain catnip, but I think it either got eaten out of the Duck's back (no anesthesia!) or just went lame. The Duck mocks the Baby Kitty. The Baby Kitty does not take to the mocking kindly...

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Taschen's "The New Erotic Photography"

Taschen has finally gotten the release info for the book up on their site.

I'm very happy with the fact that it's hardback, 10.5" x 7.5" and is $50.00 - a perfectly respectable coffee-table book.

The talent represented in the book also blows me away - 82 photographers total. And names that pretty much own "erotic photography" today, plus a bunch of us up-and-comers. It's humbling and exhilarating to be included among such company.

February 2007 release.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Everybody Seems to Wonder What It's Like Down Here...

I am on edge. So what else is new?

I had a ticket to see Greg Dulli tonight (right now) with Mark Lanegan, but I elected not to go.

Three reasons, in least to most importance:

1 - It's raining like hell, and I'd have to walk 7 blocks to the Q train, then on the other end 12 blocks from Bedford to The Warsaw. Then back. Which at 1pm takes four times as long. Of course, I could call a Car Service, but then we're talking $20.00 each way. Fuck...

2 - I'm very, very tired. And, I might mention, unmotivated due to the rain and the cost of a car.

3 - I just don't want to see Mark without my girl. He's her favorite. "Do him without retribution" favorite. Plain and simple. But tonight, he's a back-up singer, guest-star shill for Greg's The Twilight Singers.

NOT The Afghan Whigs. Not bad, mind you, just not memorable. But NOT The Afghan Whigs. Which were great, but NOT American Music Club great, but that complicates things.

So $21.00 goes to Greg and Mark tonight, courtesy of me. I hope they use it well and make more music. $9.00 goes to Ticketmaster and they can blow me. A lot. All the time. Forever.

And more disposable income out the door -

I stopped by Virgin @ 14th Street today after my ALLERGY SHOT (what am I allergic to, you ask? TICKETMASTER, for starts...) to pick up the Neil Young thang and, of course, slippery slope, gateway drug, ended up with the following:

- Neil Young, Neil Young and Crazy Horse Live at The Fillmore East, March 6 & 7, 1970, CD/DVD
- Frank Zappa, Thing-Fish, CD
- P J Harvey, The Peel Sessions, 191-2004, CD

Nuff said.

Been scanning negatives and working on digital shots all day long. Want to get the LA girls their shots as soon as possible and I have six rolls here from Sharmeen's wedding.

And a conference call with The Gap tomorrow at 1pm for a shitload of corporate work.

Photo is Ginger in Beverly Hills perching. Pretty.
Neil titled the blog entry. Godlike.

Anyone else reading "Shakey"? I got a copy in Woodstock and I'm 400 pages in...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Glad Girls

I'm a bad bachelor. I may have mentioned this before.

My girl is somewhere in America on the Human Rights Watch Donor Dinner tour 2006. She left two Sunday's ago and isn't gonna be home until this Sunday.

At my worst, I drink a bottle and a half of wine (good stuff, mind you - Chilean or Argentinean reds) and order Chinese food and fall asleep on the couch with THE TV on Channel Static.

The cat jumps on me or licks me or something at 4am and just looks at me like - idiot boy, go to bed...(but feed me heartily in four hours...)

That's EXACTLY what it would say if it could talk, and our baby kitty can ALMOST talk. Really. Serious shit. People have seen it almost talk. It's sounds are SO CLOSE to human words.

And who says our language is the best anyway. Fucking self-important opposable thumb assholes that we are...

I digress.

The other thing I've done since my girl has been gone, in-between dealing with my corporate clients and the IRS, is scan, scan. scan negatives. I also make trips into the city and back to Brooklyn to drop off and pick up negatives. So I can scan them. 13 rolls of Neopan from the damn West Coast excursion - 13!

This is the way it goes at US COLOR LABS

Hi Tony.
Hey James, where’ve you been?
On the West Coast shooting my ass off.
How many rolls?
All girls?
Nah, I shot a wedding too. But yeah…
1:1 develop, reference prints glossy with borders.
Tomorrow at 8pm?
But like 8pm?
That’s cool, Tony, I’ll either stop by then or come by the next morning.

I’ve been getting my stuff done at US COLOR LABS since 1990. I am often asked by fellow photographers if I process my own and my answer is always the same: I am too old to give up that much time and hell, at this point, Tony knows more about how to process my stuff than I do. And he likes seeing the girls, so he gives he a healthy 30% discount. Tony will be thanked in my first monograph.

I shot Lee, a model from my home state of NC last month. We had been talking about it for a year or so and she finally made the trip to NYC. I booked a studio (there’s a shot in a previous post) and even though she was an hour and a half late due to transportation difficulties, we had a great time and as I was scanning the negatives today, I realized that we got great stuff. Very 1960’s Audrey Hepburn/Marcel Marceau if that makes any sense.

Lee was MAD when she showed up at the studio and I gave her a big hug and told her not to worry about it. She recoiled and said that she really needed to vent, to get the trains and taxis out of her system.

I understood that intuitively. And liked her all the more for going there first. She’s got a New Yorker’s soul whilst living in Durham, NC.

Just like me a long time ago.

The photo is her, completely relaxed and inventing. Reinventing, perhaps.

Or as Bob Pollard would say:

Reinvented nightly
Wake up with skills like this
And do you want me in your head?
But what's behind your scattered eyesigns?

I want to reinvent you now

Fifty hats and bargain suits
We will wear them if we must
But who will be a human boot?
Kick the wave of current hotlines?

I want to reinvent you now

Reinvent you nightly
Reinvite you rightly
I'll reunite you

ps - he was amazing last night. And really fucking drunk. Really fucking drunk.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Drinks with Friends

No, Robert Pollard has not written a song called this, although he should have. He did write one called "Teenage FBI" which has nothing to do with this except that it is blaring from my computer jam box right this second.

Occasionally, I enjoy the company of other photographers. I've been fortunate to meet many that I, a) admire and respect and, b) actually enjoy spending my free time with.

(Think about that phrase - "SPENDING my FREE time with." - hmmm.)

I like the colliding of concepts, the different points of view, the goofy war stories and the availability of rich advice.

There's Rich and Tito. Marco and Allen (although DO NOT call him that). Melvin and Sanders. Lauren in the home hood, and Jessica, who was kind enough and down enough to allow me to photograph her clothed only in her camera.

Tonight Rich and I had some drinks with a very talented fellow of the Lower East Side called Christopher Bush. He has a chopsticks shot that is fantastic. And he's a fellow vinyl junkie.

Check out his stuff here before the three of us get thrown in the pokey for the ill-planned "Five Borough Skanky Strip Club Tour 2006."


I like that he goes by Christopher. I am a huge stickler for honoring your given name. If I say my name is "James," do not call me "Jim." Unless you ask me and I give you permission. I have given permission to one human being (Steve Thomas) to call me Jim. And several family members and close friends for "Jamie."

Photo is that beautiful beached boat in Chile. For India. There are twenty more...shots, not boats...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Surgical Focus

I am still on West Coast time and it is damning me.
To stay up until 4am.

Robert Pollard, late of "Guided By Voices" is playing @ The Bowery Ballroom on Monday night. He is also playing on my computer jam box, currently. The title of this entry is his, not mine.

I will be at his show, close to the bar, and not trying to match Mr. Pollard beer for beer. It's a losing proposition.

Later in the week, I'll ACTUALLY go to Williamsburg (arghhh!) and see Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan.

Wish my girl would be with me, but alas, she in da Los Angeles.

We've talked a lot about our individual families and friends getting together for a celebration. An event. A remembrance. A thing.

I wish it was the Dulli/Lanegan show.

Passing time.

Photo is of the lovely Krya tonight, down from Boston to stand on a chair naked for me. With boots. She had great shoes...

…and moxy.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

In the End, We Are Just a Heartbeat...

"Now" is us being here. When we are gone, it will be another's "now."

Perspective is everything, personally. Relatively.

This was me, recently, but not "now."

Shot by the very talented Petr Sorfa (see link at right) under duress, when "now " was then.

I love this "now" of me. I will not be "now" tomorrow.

This One Goes Out to the One I Love

Once I thought I saw you
in a crowded hazy bar,
Dancing on the light
from star to star.
Far across the moonbeam
I know that's who you are,
I saw your brown eyes
turning once to fire.

You are like a hurricane
There's calm in your eye.
And I'm gettin' blown away
To somewhere safer
where the feeling stays.
I want to love you but
I'm getting blown away.

I am just a dreamer,
but you are just a dream,
You could have been
anyone to me.
Before that moment
you touched my lips
That perfect feeling
when time just slips
Away between us
on our foggy trip.

You are like a hurricane
There's calm in your eye.
And I'm gettin' blown away
To somewhere safer
where the feeling stays.
I want to love you but
I'm getting blown away.

You are just a dreamer,
and I am just a dream.
You could have been
anyone to me.
Before that moment
you touched my lips
That perfect feeling
when time just slips
Away between us
on our foggy trip.

You are like a hurricane
There's calm in your eye.
And I'm gettin' blown away
To somewhere safer
where the feeling stays.
I want to love you but
I'm getting blown away.

- Neil Young

Friday, November 10, 2006

Los Angeles Girls Like To Stand On Chairs, Part II

Told ya.

Photo #1 - Trish
Photo #2 - Ginger
Photo #3 - Ariyana

Uncertain Acclimation

The last week and a half:

- I traveled from New York City to Las Vegas to Los Angeles to Las Vegas to New York City to San Francisco to New York City.

- I watched the Democrats Win. I witnessed Rumsfeld Booted!

- I was sad that Ed Bradley died...I wanted him to be President one day. Really. RIP.

- I loved that BORAT made $27M!

- I shot Trish, Ginger, and Ariyana in Los Angeles.

- I ate dinner at Chez Panisse in Berkeley.

- I saw the Bob Dylan Tribute/Benefit @ Lincoln Center - standouts: Ryan Adams (really), The Roots, Rosanne Cash, Natalie Merchant and Philip Glass, and of course, Patti w/ Tom Verlaine!

- I received the press release regarding the Taschen book. It's hardback! It's big! It's $50.00!

- I struggle to determine what day and time zone I'm in. Also, the "to do" list is in shambles...

- I am ecstatic that Neil Young is FINALLY releasing "The Neil Young Archive Vol. 1 - Live At The Fillmore East, 1970" on Tuesday. Aren't you?

Something more substantial tomorrow, maybe...

Photo is by the great Marcus Richter (see link to the right) of me shooting Lisa and all my lighting secrets all out in the open for public consumption and replication.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

"How do you get that grainy effect?"

Does this mean anything in the digital age, to the digital boys with their digital toys?

"Tabular-grain film is a type of photographic film that includes T-max films from Kodak (with Kodak's T-grain emulsion), Delta films from Ilford and the Fuji Neopan films. The silver halide crystals in the film emulsion are flatter and more tabular (hence T-Grain). By spreading the crystal area out to intercept more light, Kodak and Ilford were able to increase the film speed without an increase in the overall graininess. Normally, without tabular grains, faster films with cubic or pebble-like crystals have a grainy appearance due to the larger silver grains that result from the required larger silver halide crystal volumes."


Thanks to Petr (see link at right) for this.

The photo is tabular-grain in it's purest form.

What Becomes of All the Little Boys?

I love me some Amoeba Music. For years, I’ve spent my not-so-disposable income at their wonderful Haight-Ashbury and Berkeley stores in San Francisco, their used section being a virtual cornucopia of out-of-print treasures and in-print undeniable adorableness.

This past Thursday, after speaking to Eric Kroll, who was in NYC, but traveling to LA that very minute and invited me to hang with “some dominatrixes” that very evening at 1:00am, I ventured inside the Los Angeles store on sunny Sunset Blvd.

This is what I came away with, all from the used section:

• Bongwater “The Big Sell-Out”
• Bongwater “The Peel Session”
• David Bowie “Heathen”
• Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan “Ballad of the Broken Seas”
• Ray Davies “The Storyteller”
• Mojo Magazine Tribute “The Genius of Ray Davies”
• Guided By Voices “Do The Collapse”
• Red House Painters “Untitled”
• Red House Painters “Red House Painters”
• Red House Painters “Down Colorful Hill”
• Red House Painters “Ocean Beach”
• Sleater-Kinney “You’re No Rock ‘N’ Roll Fun” UK CD Single
• True Believers “Hard Road”

That’s $121.10 (with tax), bag full of half the CDs that I wanted, walking out into the Sunset sun.

Some annotations:

- Bongwater: I was a huge Shockabilly fan, still am. Saw Kramer’s Bongwater back in 1987 when I lived in Norwell, MA, up in Boston @ Johnny D’s Uptown and Ann Magnuson didn’t show. So it was just Kramer. Then I saw Kramer’s BALL a year later. Then I invited him to be in a film I was pre-producing. He accepted. Then I moved to NYC. Met Kramer (for the first time) through a mutual friend and we became friends. Dated a girl that he wanted to date and basically gave her to him (don’t know the outcome of that one). Remained friends, talked to him about scoring another film I was working on, and ate rice and beans with him many times. At the last peace rally here before Bush plunged us into his fantasy money war, I took a picture of Kramer and his daughter. He now lives in Florida and I miss his madness. Anyway, these were the two out-of-print CDs that I didn’t own.

- Bowie: Adolescently, my favorite. When I was 18, Dave was the man. “Space Oddity” to “Scary Monsters” still is pertinently primal to me. Everything after that – whatever…A friend of mine just did an internship with the guy that took the photos for “Heathen.” And some DJ on WFMU (see link to the right) played something from it several weeks ago that I kinda liked. And it was $7.99.

- Isobel & Mark: This one is for my girl. She loves Mark. Isobel was with Belle & Sebastian. It’s sea shanty songs.

- Ray / MOJO: Out-of-print career retrospective briliant idea that spawned a thousand other bands to do really bad episodes on VH1. The MOJO thing is Kinks covers, including one by Mark Lanegan.

- GBV: If you’ve read this thing at all you know how much I love them.

- RHP: Had them all, lost them, gave them away or misplaced them. Someone in LA sold them and I got them all back for $6.99 each. Sweet.

- Sleater-Kinney: My girl’s favorite band. Period. End of story. From Olympia, both of them (the girl and the band). I love searching out rare CD singles with two unreleased B-sides and shit for her, ‘cause she just doesn’t, and I do. This is one of them.

- True Believers: Alejandro Escovedo’s seminal LA post-punk band from 1983-86. Their one album has been out-of-print for years – I think the last time I heard it was when I lived with John Williams in 1989 on his turntable. In 1994, RYKO released that album and the never released 2nd album on CD, which immediately went out of print. Travesty. This is the jewel of my quest.

The title of this entry is from Tom Waits’ “On the Nickel” which is one of the most profoundly beautiful songs ever written. Glen Jones (WFMU – see link to the right) played it while I was typing this and it almost made me cry. Glen obviously loves it and so do I. James Walker IV was the first person to ever play it for me. Thanks, Jim.

Photo is a self-portrait/light test in the Downtown Hollywood Motel on Hollywood Boulevard shortly before the proprietor asked Ariyana and I to “stop taking commercial pictures.”

Fair enough: She was topless on the balcony with a host of my lights shining on her…now if I could just work on the "commercial" part...

Los Angeles Girls Like To Stand On Chairs, Part I


Proof soon...