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