Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Meet Wesley Corn...


Meet Wesley Corn... a fellow photographer. I've never photographed a photographer AS a photographer... I've used photographer friends for models, photographer friends for stand-ins, etc... but I've never been asked to shoot a portrait of a photographer and represent his or her craft. I'm not sure if I was nervous or excited about this shoot, maybe both. Thank heavens Wes is a cool dude... relaxed, patient and just into it. I must say, shooting artists is usually quite pleasurable. They know the deal... they know what goes into creating something... they know not to expect something totally rushed, totally smooth, or totally without trial and error.... and for that, I thank them all.

I showed up at Wes's place, his grandfather's old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, not knowing what the hell I was going to do. Wes was selected for the On The Verge show based on images he had created of himself in front of an American flag, so without completely ripping him off, I wanted to incorporate that somehow... for the simply reason that I wanted the portrait to look good, and not out-of-place, when published alongside Wes's work in the magazine spread. Other than that, I was completely winging it.

I toured his place, brainstorming ideas... I eventually settled on the inside of his grandfather's workshop... it was dusty, filled with wood scraps, wasps and saw blades, and had an awesome set of windows. The plan was to use the indirect light streaming in from outside to backlight the flag hanging in the window... throw a couple of kickers, a beauty-dish and a ring-flash on Wes, and presto! Well we hung the flag and went outside to gather more equipment and (this is what makes the fluid creative environment fun) after taking one look at the flag hanging in the window from the outside, I knew that we had stumbled across something even better!

I still wanted the flag illuminated from behind, so I set up a 1200 ws Whitelightning inside the shed aimed at the flag. I took the other lights outside, substituted an umbrella with a speedlite for the beauty-dish, and started loving what I saw. Now the question... what the hell to do with Wes? How do I show him as a photographer? There was no way in hell I was going to have him hold a camera... there is nothing a hate more than the awful portraits of photographers holding cameras. How many of those have you seen on photographer's "about me" web pages or in the contributors sections of magazine? Maybe you are one of them? Shame on you!!! Well, I started out trying an equally lame idea: I had him hold up an empty frame in front of his head. Ouch! And then we dug up an old self-portrait headshot that he'd taken... There was one Wes uses for online dating that he wouldn't even let me see, and then there was this awesome goofy one. Just so happens that the color of shirt in the headshot very closely matched the one he was wearing, so I was happy and knew it would work. I had him hold it in a few different ways, yada yada yada, and there you have it. Oh... and that is a remote trigger in his hand controlling an off-set camera that was recording stills of the whole thing... no, not as lame as holding an actual camera. (you'll see a few of those pics at the end of the behind-the-camera video... my G9 battery died before I wrapped up the shoot, so Wes sent me a gif animation... thanks Wes!)

BTW... rather than speed up the whole shoot to 1 minute in length like I do the rest, I left this one long (2 minutes) because I like the song so much. It's The D Bag Rag by The Avett Brothers.

MGMT: Time to Pretend... the karaoke version.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Meet Dustin Spagnola...

Meet Dustin Spagnola... the second artist I shot for WNC Magazine's On The Verge contest. Dustin uses images of famous folks he finds via Google, blows them up really really big, and incorporates them into his oversized, super fantastic paintings. As a photographer that idea bothered me: using someone else's images without credit or compensation... so I knew going in that I would ask Dustin about it (though I have used uncredited music in some of my behind-the-camera timelapses). I wasn't there two minutes when Dustin preempted my protest and, unlike millionare "appropriation artists" Shepard Fairey and Richard Prince, offered unsolicited admission to stealing the pics from Google. I applauded him for that, the admission, but I am still a bit apprehensive about the execution. True, images are forever being borrowed by "Art," reworked and repurposed, but where would the newfound masterpieces be without the original masterpieces themselves? I guess I wonder what's wrong with a little credit where due... For much more brilliant conversations on appropriation art, click here and here... google more and inform yourself... come to your own conclusion.

Dustin's portrait and video are among my favorites of the whole series. Just like the rest of these portraits and videos, it was a one-man, one-camera production. We shot at two locations... his old studio for the portrait, and his new one a few weeks later for the video.

Sometimes, when I walk into a location for the first time, I don't have to do much studying to find what I like... other times I do. After seeing the plastic Dustin had hung in his tiny studio to trap in the warmth during wintertime, I could think of nothing else for the backdrop. To simplify the background I'd drop the plastic as low as I could get it. The window would make a nice frame for his head. The rest of the space would be filled with Dustin's work. I gave him the task of setting up the scene as I set up the lights. Dustin's got a great smirk... just add a cigarette and a rim light and the picture takes itself.

I aimed to create a mini narrative with each video... two hours of shooting, 30 minutes of recorded conversation, then a night or so worth of editing. It was all on the fly, and all a ton of fun. I asked each artist to come up with the soundtrack themselves... I wanted to incorporate what they listen to while they work, and since I didn't want anything with lyrics I had to dig up a few karaoke versions... for Dustin I used a Fugazi song that he loves.

Music: Murder for Money, Morphine
Sweet and Low, Fucoustic plays Fugazi


Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Meet Severn Eaton...

Meet Severn Eaton.... He's a cool cat: a father, a husband, a ginger-ale brewmaster, and an artist. Severn's paintings are right up my alley: they have meaning. In one of my favorites black helicopters emerge from a wasps nest... and in another a soldier walks among a field of poppies.

I shot Severn as the first in a series of western North Carolina's top emerging artists for WNC Magazine. I gave myself a challenge: all images were to be taken in the studio of the artist, wether that be a basement, a bedroom, or a warehouse... nowhere else... no scouting, no building sets, no assistants... just show up alone and keep it real. The plan was to spend about an afternoon with each artist shooting a lit portrait and a bonus: SLR video footage that I'd edit down into a 2 minute mini-documentary.

I've attached the behind-the-camera-timelapse of the lit-portait, but this one is a bit vague... see if you can figure it all out... feel free to comment.

And here is the 2 minute doc... It's been years and years since I've shot any video... as I post these in the coming days and weeks you may notice that the videos get better as time and practice assert their valuable toll.

PS... didn't mean to be absent from the blog for so long... this was a big project and a lot of things fell by the wayside... on that note, I'm sorry, Katie, mi amor.