Thursday, May 31, 2007

Gentlemen Take Polaroids

I've been taking a lot of Polaroids with my Mamiya 645 Pro lately, not so much as tests - I already trust it to perform properly and I am confident in my lighting - but because I can.

There is something cool about a one-of-a-kind.

When I was in Detroit, BT Charles was driving Chip Willis, Lochai and I around on Saturday morning, and while he was driving, he handed me a bunch of Polaroids and said something like "you might enjoy seeing these."

They were Eric Kroll test shots - probably 30 of them. Eric was my editor for the Taschen book and we've talked many times, but holding his one-of-a-kinds in my hands kinda made me tremble...and that wasn't just me being kinda hung-over.

While in Seattle, I shot a number of Polaroids during the test shooting that we were doing, just to see what they looked like.

My friend Christopher Bush is a master of the Polaroid, and there were several times (when the Mamiya jammed) that I wished he was there to help me out, but I came to realize (once the shit worked) what I think it is that Christopher loves about the Polaroids...

They REALLY DO steal souls...

The title is from a Japan song. An underappreciated "new romantic" '80's band fronted by David Sylvian and featuring the fretless bass stylings of one Mick Karn.

This Polaroid is of Shannon.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Run and Turn Into Butter...

"Birdie in the hand for life's rich demand
The insurgency began and you missed it
I looked for it and I found it
Myles Standish proud, congratulate me

A philanderer's tie, a murderer's shoe

Life's rich demand creates supply in the hand
Of the powers, the only vote that matters
Silence means security silence means approval
On Zenith, on the TV, tiger run around the tree
Follow the leader, run and turn into butter

Let's begin again, begin the begin
Let's begin again like Martin Luther zen
The mythology begins the begin

Answer me a question I can't itemize
I can't think clear, you look to me for reason
It's not there, I can't even rhyme here in the begin

A philanderer's tie, a murderer's shoe
Example: the finest example IS YOU"

It's an REM song. I thought I'd tell you that in case you have no idea. And I'm not even gonna type what I think about you if you have no idea, OK?

Storm. In from Hong Kong. Tonight in NYC.

And all the way live.



Did a series with my good friend Reby two weeks ago that was new for me. She called me from her friend William Quigley's loft on the corner of Broome and Mercer streets. William is a well-known SoHo painter, specializing mainly in portraits and commissions from celebrities.

His loft could be a film set for a film about SoHo artists in the 1980's (or the 2000's, I guess...) as it is a huge open space full of canvases, most complete, some works in progress. The smell of oil paint lingered in the air even with all of the windows open in the amazing corner space.

William greeted me downstairs in the freight elevator and escorted me into the apartment and very graciously said that I could do whatever I wanted, move whatever canvases I wanted and just basically gave me his home. Then he, even more graciously, took a walk.

I asked Reby to put on her kick-ass boots and we sorta played "Around the World" - starting in one corner of the loft and shooting in front of William's work moving counter clock-wise until we were back where we started. The challenge (or at least the one I made up in my head) was to equally balance the girl with the artwork - not to focus on either more, but to figure out how to compose the shot, pose the model, and feature the paintings to create a "whole" image.

Not easy. Sometimes I succeeded and sometimes my instinctual habits won out and I featured Reby more - the ol' "there's a really hot naked chick in kick-ass boots" conundrum...

Oh well, not the worst problem in the world I guess...

Just returned home from a week in Seattle. We shot nine models in 6 days for their agency books. Also talked one of them and one of the make-up artists into shooting some "personal work" with us later in the evenings...

I shot 6 gigs of digital, 8 rolls of Neopan 400 120 and 6 rolls of Neopan 1600 35, which means my boys at US Color Lab are gonna love me later this afternoon.

A special thanks to Leo Lam, Seattle photographer extraordinaire, for making our trip so successful and welcoming.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

A Display of Patience, Disease-Covered Puget Sound

Off to Seattle for a week with Rich to shoot agency tests as his second...12 models in 5 days. And to get in the kind of trouble one can only get into in Seattle - coffee-fueled.

Thinking about Beth's - home of the 12-egg omelet, that record store in Freemont where I scored all the GBV last trip with my girl and that other one in Capitol Hill on Broadway where, well, suffice it to say, I just bought way too much music at discounted prices...

I love the Pacific Northwest and will probably not be on-line at all.


The title of this post-it note is courtesy Mr. "Dead-As-Hell" Cobain. The photo is of Mercury, who I shot several years ago in a dive motel on Aurora, which Mr. "I used to be in a band with that other dude and can drum like hell" Grohl namechecks on The Foo Fighters 2nd or 3rd album. I can't remember, but oh well, whatever, nevermind.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

"My " Models

I don't have any.

The models I work with are human beings with their own sense of destiny, their own ideas and their own minds. I don't own them, nor would I want to, especially since I am not a big fan of "people."

I've heard a lot lately and read a lot lately about some photographers who feel entitled to some sense of ownership of models that they have worked with...and it makes me wonder…

It makes me wonder about what is really percolating under the surface here. Freudian or not, but this false sense of ownership is unsettling. Maybe even pathologic. Maybe even something that could be equated with mental slavery. But mostly a pathetic justification for one's station in life.

Here's what I believe:
If you define your work by the people you work with, then you are not an artist.

Your work should be your work. Period, end of story.

"Who" is actually presented in "said work" is secondary. Actually, not even secondary but transparent – they should be part of the art.

And if you are afraid that some other photographer "steals" your model and takes a "picture" of them, and that the act of the other photographer doing that (in this shit world of shit photographers) somehow compromises the "picture" that you took of them, well, your "picture" probably wasn't that special after all...and you are AFRAID. Why are you afraid?

Insecurity and how it manifests itself is amazing.

Who owns Sigourney Weaver? Does Helmut Newton? Ridley Scott? Her husband? My guess is that Ms. Weaver would have issue with being owned...period. Even though I’ve seen AMAZING photos of her by Mr. Newton, have never seen that Columbus film by Mr. Scott (although the ALIEN one is pretty good), and have never met her husband, although he does really great off-off Broadway theatre in lower Manhattan.

Oh, but you “discovered” someone and “made” them. Really? Give me a fucking break…

Bottom line: If you tell me or if I read that you have a problem with other people "using" your models, I dismiss you.

Collaborations are precious. Muses are a gift. But people don’t belong to you.

Artists are confident. At least my definition of an artist is...

The photo above is of "my" model.

If you shoot with her, I will FUCKING KILL YOU. Or delete your tags. Or write about it in my blog.

And as D. Boon from The Minutemen sang, “Serious as a heart attack!”

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

This is Not a Photograph

"This is not a photograph
This is not a photograph

And these are not the Elysian Fields
This is not a photograph

This is not a bigot's head
This is not a photograph

This is not a photograph

This is just a perpendicular line to the grain
This is not a photograph

This wants to be outside the cage
Of the age
This is not a photograph

This is not a bigot's leg
This is not a photograph

This is not a photograph

This is not a photograph
This is not a photograph


If you've read my crap, you already know how important MISSION OF BURMA are to me.

If you haven't, now you do.

Listen here.

The photo is of Ali smoking about three weeks ago...

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Young Lady, Get That Child Out of Your Mouth!

The Goal: A simple set of portraits.

The Subject: Persiana, model, dominatrix, actor, and all around 6 foot tall goofball.

The Backstory: When Persiana and I met to brainstorm working together, I told her that I had no new direction, no plan and no project, and that I was looking for someone who could roll with that and just riff. She got very excited, saying that most of her shoots had been so planned out, and that she was also looking for an opportunity to improvise.

The Rules: When I saw her last Sunday at a local get-together, she said that she would be working out at the gym Friday until 12:30pm. What if, she suggested, I showed up at 12:45pm and we just shot post-gym sweaty, no makeup, no hair, no wardrobe, no shower?

The Reality: I was delayed for about 30 minutes. When I got to her place, she was jumping up and down to some Richard Simmons "Sweatin' with..." something DVD to maintain her "sweatness." It's great to start a shoot by laughing really hard.

The Photo: Persiana, with friend.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Just finished retouching her shots from November in Los Angeles

I am slow, dammit!

Retouching is actually not an appropriate term with Evelyn. It's more like correcting my mistakes - dodging and burning, bring up the background, dropping out the background. 'Cause Evelyn is essentially perfect. Look at her.

We go way back. I contacted her initially back in 2004 and we agreed to work together. She came to NYC in September of 2005 and I met her in the East Village two days before we were supposed to shoot. Then, the next day, my 93 year-old Grandmother passed away. And I had to wake up Evelyn and tell her I was leaving immediatly for NC.

Evelyn and I kept in touch, albeit 3,000 miles apart, and low and behold, I found myself in Los Angeles 13 months later.

The shots are phenomenal. She's special for me. And I cannot wait to work with her again.

Rumor has it, she's headed this way soon...

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Kick Ass

Iggy in motion, that is. Stooges reunion with Mike Watt on bass. It just doesn't get any better than this - this very silent still photograph SCREAMS noise at me. I wish I had taken it, but I'm no good at "sports" shooting - where you have one chance to capture something. And most importantly, when you are down there in the mosh pit trying to get a shot like this, you do not experience the show. I'd rather have The Ig pound through me in a life altering way, than try to get a shot like this...

My first published shot was of Billy Idol in concert way back in 1988(?) for some alternative indie rag in Atlanta. My pal Greg was assigned to write the concert review and he enlisted me to shoot some shots - you know, during "White Wedding" - Billy with his famous post-Generation X snarl and his fist in the air...

The shots were fine for the rag, but in retrospect, I'm sure they were pretty awful. I didn't care two shits about the show, so I did try my best to get up close and capture some punkness, but...

Sunday, May 06, 2007


Tanya came into town from Philly to shoot with amazing photographer Gary Breckheimer yesterday. I picked up her slack - Tanya and I are good friends and proven collaborators and she would do (almost) anything for me as a model. And she's quite the little shooter, herself. Her macro shots of foodstuffs are fascinating...

Tanya was disappointed that she didn't get to wear her skates for Gary, so I told her to strap them on. I love situating things in the wrong setting, creating a scenario where "this just wouldn't happen" and recording it. I also love the challenge of doing something honest and interesting (at least to me) with elements of cliché.

Tanya, of course had the proper socks for her skates.

In a by-the-hour dump in midtown, where the guy behind the glass has literally seen everything, except, I imagine, people skating in their rooms…

Thursday, May 03, 2007

One of my Favorite Philosophers

"Everything we have to do to get to the truth has to be sneaky. It seems a shame to sneak to get to the truth, to make the truth such an evil, nasty old thing. You gotta sneak to get to the truth. The truth is condemned. The truth is in the gas chamber. The truth has been in your stockyards, your slaughterhouses. The truth has been in your reservations, building your railroads, emptying your garbage. The truth is in your ghettos and your jails and your young love. Not in your courts or your Congress, where the old sit in judgment of the young. What the hell do the old know about the young? They put a picture of old George on the dollar and tell you he's your father - worship him. Look at the madness that goes on. You can't prove anything that happened yesterday. Now is the only thing that's real. You can try to prove that Columbus sailed on an ocean, but it’s not the same ocean, it's a different ocean. It's a different world. Every day, every reality is a new reality. Every new reality is a new horizon. A brand new experience of living."

- Charles Milles Maddox

The photo is Tanya, who is the truth. I am shooting with her again this weekend.

Maddox is not the name that Charles is best known might want to google him...

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Digital Whore

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? Ah 1, ah 2, ah 3 - crunch...

Remember that old commercial?

This is my post-production note to myself - you gotta make them, or you will not only lose perspective, but your sense of what's good.

I hate the digital photographer gig - you know, I got a million shots; I might as well click away until I get "something." Maybe I'll get lucky and get a "capture" is their manifesto.

I don't capture, I compose. I create. I produce.

Very few of them have an idea in mind and then strive to get that moment. I mean a shot - one shot. That's it, just one shot. Not maybe we'll see a titty, or more, but you know, just a fucking shot. Well thought out, well composed, well lit - is that too much to ask? Apparently...

This was the next to last CHAIR shot with Celia (I haven't shot the LAST one yet, but it will be of Lorraine). I knew what the shot needed to be, and I took 191 shots. Most of them were "shit! lighting is not right" shots. Probably 50 of them were valid.

14 of them were interesting.

6 of them were compared side by side and evaluated for posture, expression, head position, and the eyes.

I chose #79 out of 191, which is weird, 'cause usually it's the very last shot...really. But by #191, we had done it.

Celia nailed it very early on. And I did too. I did have to digitally replace the TV screen with the golf that we got on #32. I told her then, very early on, that I just wanted the most mundane, banal thing on the TV behind her - especially a male dominated PASSIVE sport - nothing better than golf. And as soon as I got the lighting and the angle right and she got the pose right, they went to some show about whales. Fuckers.

Final result:

I could always be more eloquent, and often am in person, but I don't fucking feel like it right this second.

So there.