Sunday, February 18, 2007

Dirty Detroit - Behind The Music - Part 1

The images taken on this page were taken with a brand-new, top-secret technology that I was testing for Kodak in the low light situation in and around the Dirty Detroit show on the weekend of February 9-11, 2007. They have developed a space-age technology, which is the next big step after digital. Basically, it is a self-contained camera-like unit with complete manual controls. The engineers have managed to eliminate many features that professional photographers simply do not need (like aperture control, focus control, etc) and boil it down to the following:

- Shutter release (you still get to decide when to create an image!)
- Flash on or off (if you need a light it's right there!)
- Manual advance (no wasting the space-age power cell, save that for lighting!)

Imagine the freedom! The camera-like unit is a waterproof, shockproof, plastic polymer encasement that protects from light-leaks and is scratch resistant. In fact, the camera-like unit is so experimental, that you can only rent them as of now, with pre-packed image capture - and here’s the goofy part – black and white images rated at 400 asa, but processed by “old school C-41.” That’s crazy! When you have filled up the pre-packed image capture, you return the whole unit to a Kodak Representative and they print your images and give you "reverse" digital prints on these little orange filmstrip things – nutty, I tell ya! Nutty! You can even get them on a CD too, if you want!

So here’s my first attempt using this amazing new technology to document the goings on at the Dirty Detroit Show. Enjoy!

Big kudos to Dan, for being the only one at the show to recognize my new technology - thanks for keeping it quiet, my man!

Oh, before I start, I managed to sneak out a photo of this amazing device:

Day One – Friday, February 9th, 2007

After working all day in an ill-fated attempt to deliver a multi-media project for a huge women's clothing client, I land in -2 degrees Detroit at around 8pm. By the time I check into the hotel and make my way over to the show it's about 9:30pm. About 20 minutes after I got through the "invited artists" list, I met Dan in the lobby. I've always really admired the figure work that Dan creates - stark black and white images that manage to sidestep all of the clich├ęs of figure work and take the genre to a whole new level - he's got a great signature style, and it was a pleasure to finally meet him. Dan told me that Chip Willis and Sarah, a model I've shot more than any other, were already inside. I also needed to find Bruce, but wasn’t sure what he looked like, so I started looking for Chip, who I knew was a large black guy. Well, what do you know, he and Bruce were hanging out. Bruce is responsible for Chip and I being a part of the show. Bruce is also in the Taschen book. Bruce's work kicks ass and Bruce, the dude, kicks ass.

Chip and I were eager to see our “stuff” hanging in the “invited guests/Taschen book photographers” area that Bruce had engineered. This is Chip with a Jack and Diet Coke giving me his approval. This was a key area for the two of us that weekend. We basically spent the whole show talking to well-wishers and old friends, but whenever it got slow, Chip would say to me “Let’s go over and watch people look at our stuff.” I loved that. It was the first time he and I had chosen to exhibit and we were a little giddy, scared and unsure of what would happen - at least I was. See the EXIT sign? Well every time someone came through that door, they slammed it, thus making the photos go crooked. We got tired of fixing them pretty quickly…

I saw some old friends, like Melvin Moten, Jr. on the right and some folks whose work I have long admired like Lochai, on the left. These guys are a hoot...

My pals Petr and Rose. Petr had a couple of pieces in the show and they had just flown in from Portland. Literally. Rose is a great photographer too, and really pretty...

I think Chip is either trying to hypnotize me here or he’s digging the Jack and Diet Cokes and all the attention. Or both…

Finally, at about 1am, we all meet up with Sarah and Dan and head towards Dan’s room at The LeLand for some late night wine. We had all decided to take a room at one of Detroit’s oldest and still standing, albeit barely, hotels. 21 stories of former magnificence, grand ballrooms and opulence, all falling supersonically into ill repair. Really, it’s hard to describe except to say two things, ok, four:

- There’s a bunch of Crackheads everywhere
- There’s a Goth club in the basement
- It’s a photographer’s dream
- The staff at The Leland does not give a fuck – about anything

The first time I worked with Sarah, I was a little intimidated. Her work is very serious, and seriously good (she picks collaborators well) and her confidence pops out of her photos and slaps you in the face. We've become fast friends with a shared sensibility in near-about everything. She claims I turned her on to the merits of red wine, South American to be exact, but I doubt it. Oddly enough, when Sarah is not in front of a camera working, she can be quite the goofball.

Here she is being the goofball with Chip, while our new acquaintance Melissa pretends to be a mannequin.

On the way to Dan’s room, suddenly, from out nowhere, this bat-like creature swooped down and grabbed Sarah, but she grabbed it around the neck, smiled at the camera and killed it. Dan photographed the whole thing, as you can see. I think Chip took this. I can't remember where I was...

Melissa and her old man, Tim - good people. Melissa is a model, just starting out. Dan and Chip will work with her on Saturday in the decaying ruins of the hotel. That will beef up her portfolio astronomically. Talented guys, this Dan and Chip…

Melissa checking out Chip’s book. It’s an impressive book.

Chip checking out Dan’s Hasselblad. It’s an impressive Hasselblad.

Chip likes Dan’s Hasselblad so much he attempts to fly, which is a little scary 'cause Chip works in the aeronautical industry, so if anyone in the room knows how to fly, it's him.

Dan, just as surprised as the rest of us, when Chip ACTUALLY takes off and hits the opposite wall with considerable force. Chip is fine and thankfully, The Leland doesn’t give a fuck.

Now 5am, and the wine long gone, it's time take a nap. Big day tomorrow...


BT Charles said...


Awesome work there with the "Hightech" equipment.


Petr Sorfa said...

Holy crap James! We were a mere crumbbling room or two away. More adventure required. Thanks for the piccy of Rose and I. Very very nice indeed.

Iksodas said...

James, this was almost the highlight of my day, no matter how good the post, you'd have a hard time topping Lela stopping by my studion tonight!

thanks for everything.. and looking forward to doing it again some time..

Sarah said...

Fuck, James.

Wine in dixie cups is our tradition from now on...

maybe even the new technology for the candid 'jam face' here and there.. :)

Chip said...

You made me look Fat....!

No, wait. I am!

LOL. Can't wait til the next time!


Alysa316 said...

Three cheers for new super secret camera technology! ;D