Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Bent Stick and Post It Note

My eldest son was sick last week for 48 hours. He found a stick and bent it in three places, making a perfect square. Yesterday I found a message I wrote to my wife on a post it note.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Arse Elektronika 2007

There are these dudes, from Vienna, who call them selves Monochrom. Only way I could describe them is like this kind of think tank of high IQ characters in Vienna who take things like popular culture as seriously as they take the study of splitting the atom. Wikipedia describes them as such:

Monochrom is an international art-technology-philosophy group founded in 1993. Its offices are located at Museumsquartier/Vienna.

The group's members are: Johannes Grenzfurthner, Evelyn Fürlinger, Harald List, Anika Kronberger, Franz Ablinger, Frank Apunkt Schneider, Daniel Fabry, Günther Friesinger. In November 2005 Roland Gratzer joined as PR content manager, and in December 2006 Jacob Appelbaum became official Monochrom ambassador.
Monochrom is known for its
left-wing political work/civil society work.

So Monochrom is putting on this big blowout meeting of the minds in October called "Arse Elektronika" on October 5th-7th, and have invited me to give a presentation. Get your tickets now! My presentation is called "How Small Time Inventors Have Changed America" and will have lots of visuals and tales from the Sex Machine front lines. Below is a group photo of Monochrom, please note the gingham table cloth. See their home page HERE. Read about Arse Elektronika HERE.

Saturday, July 28, 2007


I got a call from a photographer friend yesterday. After discussing various things, she brings up a shoot she just completed:

" Yeah, the whole thing ended up being a bloodbath. The photo editor sent me a note saying that she was expecting a more professional photographer or something. She went on to say that the photographs were so unsatisfactory, the magazine will now need to run the story smaller! This ever happen to you? "

A week earlier, we were all taking a lunch break during a relatively involved shoot we rented studio space for. The shoot that day was pretty elaborate for me at least: we had a set built, a model hired, a large surreal prop crafted for the shoot...lots of production for an editorial shot in my world. The model asked if we had ever done a shoot for the magazine previously. I thought for a moment and then felt a little sick:
"Oh, for sure. Last shot I did for them worked out so badly that my last conversation with the photo editor involved her screaming at me in a one-sided series of questions, asking me why I so blantantly dis-regarded all her instructions for the shoot. I tried to make peace with her and resolve the situation, but I couldn't engage her once she hung up the phone. That was the first and last time I worked with them"

Screaming. Yelling. I never really got into it...I never really saw the point. Back in the fall I had to shoot a Venture Capitalist who did not like the fact that I was bringing a painting of redwoods into his conference room for him to pose in front of, when real redwoods could be found right outside his parking lot. I explained to his assistant that is just wasn't the same. She dragged me into his office for him to convince me. He yelled for a focused period of 5-7 minutes, directly at me as I sat across from his desk. When he was done, somehow I had won, and he then needed to pose for me in front of this artificial post-modern redwood painted backdrop. He was red faced, flustered, and now, somehow, he had lost the battle and had to pose. Ha!

The more I'm thinking about it, the more blown shoots and catastrophic alpha battles keep popping up....way more than I originally thought I had. Shooting the guy who owns the clothing chain "The Men's Wearhouse" was such a losing battle that I've somehow buried it in my subconscious, though I can remember small details. It started off on a bad foot somehow, with the subject refusing to allow me to take a photograph before he was verbally guaranteed some type of editorial control that he was never going to be granted. Somehow he agreed to allow some exposures to be made, but was hyperventilating so intensely at that point ( with anger? ) that I as unable to really make a proper portrait of him. In a way, he won. I don't think the shoot yielded any usable images.

More are flooding back...I gotta stop for now. It started off as amusing and liberating, and now its just ...well...disappointing for humankind...or maybe its funny, depending on what side you are on. Above are the Redwoods. Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Cambridge, Massachusetts 7/23

Crime Fighting Photographer: Kreg Holt

I met Kreg Holt in NYC around 2000- 2001. Great photographer with a curious and soulfull way of finding quiet moments with photography. Not in the traditional way...really in his own way. View his site and you'll see what I'm refering to. I got this note and photo from him this morning:

I cleaned the car this morning, did a real good job too. I vacuumed it all out (Mom, you would be proud), cleaned the floor mats, and ran it through the car wash. We were going to drive 2 hours up to CT so I wanted to get some of the dirt out from all the plants and garden supplies that had exploded in the back seat. I drove back home and ran inside to get Kate. As I got out of the car I realized my camera and wallet were in the back seat, but I would just be quick. As I'm heading back out I hear the sound of breaking glass and see a guy putting things into his backpack and walking off. Another blond haired kid is out there on the phone, calling 911 and pointing to the dude I saw and saying that he had just broken into my car. He was only 30ft. down the sidewalk, so I followed him and when I asked him what was up, he told me that another guy had done it, and that we should run after him. We ran together around the corner, it was then that I noticed his hand was bleeding. I kept acting like I was looking around for the guy we were chasing but as we got to the corner of Havemeyer St. and Grand Ave. I thanked the guy for his help and asked if I could just see in his backpack for piece of mind. He said, "no problem" but kept walking, all the while I see Kate about 50 ft. behind us on the phone with the police. He then tried to act like he again saw the guy that broke into my car so we started running after him again up Havemeyer St. I think he was trying to get away from me, because he was straining to run, but I was right behind. As we got to South 2nd I started to tell him that if he just gave me my camera that everything would be cool. He was still trying to act like he didn't have it, but eventually he reluctantly handed the camera over. I looked quick to make sure the camera was ok, and kept following him, asking him for my wallet. He said that he didn't have my wallet and that we were "cool" because I had my camera. I told him "It doesn't work like that" and kept following up to South 3rd where the police came speeding the wrong way up Havemeyer Ave. He tried to run once he saw them but it was no use. I had my camera, so I started taking pictures (see attached photo).
I was kind of busy with the police after that, but Kate was on the street with the crowd that developed and overheard an old timer saying "Is that Chico?"
"Yeah." someone else said.
"What'd he do?"
"He broke into our car." Kate said.
"Ohh", the old timer said "That's what he does.."

all photographs by kreg holt

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Most Whacked Out Photo Blog Ever and David Strick

World Famous Photo Reporter is the name of the blog. Take a look and you'll see why it is MWOPBE. Authored by photographer J.J. Stratford, it looks like nothing you've seen before. Is it a video game? Can I get to the next level? With popular photo blogs by super talented photographers featuring kinda heavy stuff like "Friday Poem", World Famous Photo Reporter creates a blog for ...well...the rest of us: the overstimulated masses.
None the less, it won me over when it highlighted this book I was totally into in the late 80's, forgot about until 2005, and then rediscovered : Our Hollywood by David Strick. I bought a copy, long since gone out of print, for a bunch of money while I was working on Sex Machines...I wanted to really study it and remember why I liked it....possibly steal some ideas from it. I recall being moved by the foreword, written by Bret Easton Ellis, but I didn't know why.
Strick's photographs are simple on the surface: street-photography in style, made up of oddball looks at the surreal juxtapositions that can be found backstage and on the streets of Hollywood. After reading the essay, you realize that this is more personal territory for Strick. He grew up in Hollywood to parents who were deep in the Hollywood everything. In the foreword, Ellis reports " One of Strick's favorite memories of childhood in Hollywood will always be hearing Rona Barrett report his parents' divorce proceedings on live television." When I first read that line, it struck me as immediately humorous, and then really really tragic.
In Our Hollywood, as the book is winding down, is a picture that is the reminder to the reader that Strick's story is his own. His view of Hollywood, it's emptiness and desperation, at first funny as you leaf through the book at the bookstore, strikes you as menacing...almost heartbreaking once you get the book home and live with it. People using people, people losing their internal compass, people not knowing what they want out of life and realizing their disappointment and confusion. Page 92, A divorce attorney with a cigar and smile, laughs demonically behind his desk. He is contorted and smug. He's seems to be laughing at all of the nonsense in the book, but then seems a bit more nefarious as well. Make a deal with the devil....here he is. I was never able to look at Strick's work with the same levity after that. It's not as powerful out of context, but here is the shot:

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Sometimes It Is So Much Fun

Great and elegant giant question mark by prop stylist Shannon Amos of Artist Untied, and great locations courtesy of The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Bad Blog / Found Blog

The other day I was walking through a park and found a chunk of rubber on the ground. It's shape looked familiar:

"Does it look like Italy? Maybe like California? or was it Florida? One of those long shaped states or countries, God, I just don't know. Oh, I guess I'll put the thing on my scanner and that can be my next blog."

I found myself using the instant gratification the blog provides as an excuse for doing something creative that day. Oh...I did the blog, I created something today...right? Can I be done now? Mentally tricky stuff this blogging can be.

Fortunately, just as I was about to scan this mundane piece of rubber, a photographer friend showed me this returned promo card he sent out earlier that week. I begged him for it. Enjoy.


Monday, July 16, 2007

Responses to "The Pointer"

Got some interesting responses to the last post, I thought I'd publish them here. The first one is kind of fatalistic and the second one kinda sounds like a call to arms, but they have their points. Do we need a Blogifesto? Is this hype or journalism or just someone's diary?

Anonymous said...

I know the feeling. We get into photography because we think we have a better more clever approach. When the client insists on their vision-- one you don't share--off goes the enthsiasm engine. You know your career has ended when the only reason you've taken the job is the money.
July 14, 2007 10:32 PM

How much sunshine do you intend to blow up our ass? Instead of saying you had an idea for the story you really liked and the editor's weren't bright enough to get it, you tell us this feel good story of trying an idea and it failing. But guess what? Its all good because you all came up with a solution that was even better!!! Great news! And then you all hugged on the conference call.

Do we need more hype and exageration in this business? Isn't the point of the blogs to inject some truth into this industry? Do we need a blog manifesto? A blogifesto?
July 15, 2007 8:27 PM

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Pointer

The idea really seemed do-able at the time: hire a prop stylist to create a three dimensional version of the "pointer" that appears on every computer, be it p.c. or mac. Take that prop out into the world and point it at significant places in America's dot com history. Oh...here is the garage HP was started in, let's point it there. Oh, here is the dorm that the Yahoo dudes used to crash in...let's point it in there.
Enthusiasm was high, I sold the idea pretty hard to the magazine. We went forth on a blustery SF Monday to try it out. I was kind of having a blast: it looked surreal out in the world but it still seemed to make sense. Kinda clunky with the model trying to hide her body behind it, but I kind of loved the home-made d.i.y. qualities it had. It was dada-ist, so very San Francisco, and feeling like field day in art school, taking all this theory out onto the streets to meet the people.
I came home, processed the digital files, high-fived myself, and sent the magazine editors a note saying " We nailed it. You are gonna love it. "
Next day, bright and early I received a concerned sounding email from the photo editor, asking if there were other images I shot that I didn't send them...like perhaps some without the arrow? Could we have a conference call at 2:00? At that point I knew this idea did not fly.Nothing had been nailed, no one was in love.
The one really rock solid thing I've learned is that once you are in the position of needing to defend an idea to a client/editor/subject, you really have already lost the battle. If the shots are not speaking to them, you really will never be able to talk your way out if it. And there is nothing more awkward than trying to explain a photograph. It either speaks for itself or it doesn't.

In the end, the conference call led to a better solution for the project: a path that maintains the spirit of the idea but approaches it in a less goofy and more elegant manner...so all is good and we are still plugging away on it, trying to work out the glitches as they arise.
Oh...but there is nothing that really feels the same as the spectacular crash and burn of an idea.