Friday, September 30, 2011

Why I Love Scot Sothern's Low Life

For a moment or two I was Philip Marlow, Robert Mitchum, but then for a moment or two I was the writer I was always meant to be and this was my story.- Scot Sothern from Low Life

In my mind, Scot Sothern essentially went from nothing to everything in the year 2011. These images from his project Low Life seeped out into the photography blogosphere and people really did not know what to do with them. The photographs were harsh but also intelligent, and the words he wrote displayed a self awareness and honesty that just really couldn't be denied. Of course everyone wanted to see what he looked like...and there he is, at openings, on Facebook, appearing as charming and gentle as one could be.

Photography critic and writer Colin Pantall went from baffled and confused to openly celebrating Sothern's work...after sharing all of his apprehensions in early writings. Myself...I didn't know what to think, but the honesty of Sothern's writing voice drew me in. I couldn't decide if I loved or hated this work, but I knew I wanted to know more and more and more about it...and have more of it.

Sothern knows what makes a great interview...and really no two interviews with him seem redundant. His writing seems to get you into his inner voice, the voice in his head at the time the images were made. His voice in interviews has maturity and some reflection, and he is aware of his audience. In a gesture of brilliance, he finds a way to have his son interview him about the project. More honesty, more gestures that make us question him and get into his head all at the same time. Here his son Austin Wolf-Sothern asks him the question everyone wants to know:

AS: Do you consider the photos exploitative? And if so, is there anything wrong with that?

SS: Yes, I do think they are exploitative and yes, there are things wrong with that. However, in spite of all the wrong things about the pictures, I think there is somehow a greater good that comes from them. If someone looks at a picture and goes, Whoa, that's fucked up, then isn't that a good thing? There are many many whores, all over the world and I don't think any of them are having a very good time. I'd like to help out a little more, but you know, life is tough. Maybe that's just my justification for being a lowlife in the first place. I like to think I can be a lowlife and also be an artist and a pacifist, a leftist and a scofflaw, and yet Pollyannaish and idealistic. A fine upstanding citizen. Exploitation, well I guess that's what it takes to say what I want to say.


A fellow photographer shared a project he was working on with me around the time I found Sothern's work. My friend was photographing prostitutes in Las Vegas: getting the card on the street, calling the number, ordering the prostitute and photographing her in his room. His photographs were polished and stylized, the lighting and the colors all working together for a polished effect of these kind of hard life was a great combination of style and content. I told him about Sothern's work, shared a link with him and he reacted viciously: he hated the work and it seemed like he really was repulsed by it. I wondered why he reacted so strongly...and I'll never really know. I do suspect that Sothern's work had this honesty that didn't hide all the lust and attraction he may have felt. There was nothing stylized to hide hip snappy packaging, everything was raw. I suspected that my friend was having a hard time wrestling with his own attraction/repulsion to his subject and was kind of frightened by Sothern's admittance of everything. The push and pull that Sothern admits to makes me take stock of my own feelings as well.

Why do I love this project? I look at his photographs, read his text, and I simply find it inspiring. Is the idea of this guy facing the struggles of life by running to the comforts of prostitutes inspiring? No, but his honesty totally is. Is the fact that the work was ignored for years, he worked on it in anonymity, and he had the belief in it to find a time when the culture would embrace it inspiring? Absolutely inspiring. Again, Sothern's words from the interview with Austin Wolf-Sothern:

SS: To be honest, I've always loved just about every picture I've taken. Now that I have so many of the images scanned, I like to smoke a little pot and fill the computer screen with my pictures. I'm the same way with my writing. I've always been my biggest fan. How else could I face all the rejections, without knowing they are wrong, I'm right.

Buy Scot Sothern's book Low Life HERE.
Visit Sothern's website HERE.

All photographs copyright Scot Sothern.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Come On Feel The Noise : ACP 2011

Atlanta Celebrates Photography festival sprawls all over the fall in Atlanta, bringing all sorts of artists to town: Emmet Gowin, Martin Schoeller, Zoe Strauss and so many more great shows as well. The end of October opens ECHOLILIA / Sometimes I wonder at the Emory University School of Medicine with a lecture on the evening of the 28th by Elijah Archibald and myself. The event is sposored by a collaboration between the School of Medicine, ACP, and The Emory Center for Ethics. Wow.
More details to come as we put together the expanded show and figure out what we are going to do with this experience....what are we going to talk about?

Stay tuned HERE.

Friday, September 23, 2011

2 Things On A Friday

Above is a painting of a cat my son Wilson just did this morning after breakfast. I drew the cat and he did the stain glass painting treatment. Kinda looks like cubism to me.

Busy week this week culminating in the neat experience of having my AA grad student Emily Sevin accompany Sz and I on a very make-shift portrait shoot we tried to pull off in the early hours of San Francisco's bustling financial district. SF is not LA, thus you can try to pull off guerilla style photo shoots in various knooks and crannies and alleys and foreclosed storefronts and business facades...really now more than ever. The snap below is from our class / shoot. Grecian columns appreciated by all.

October has lots of big stuff going we are getting ready for that and thankful and amused by every assignment we are getting to do as well.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Autobiography / Fourth Grade

My son had to write an autobiography for fourth grade. He had weeks to complete it. I sat down to help him get organized and we realized it was due the following day.

Don't worry. I think I know what I want to say.
It couldn't be easier.
I'm just writing about me. I'll just sit down and type it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sophisticated, With A Touch of Gnarly

The creative team at Duncan Channon brought us in to create this ad for Gnarly Head Wine in the early spring. Alot of times there are projects that seem to hinge on one crucial element. With Gnarly, I really can't envision it without the character of our talent Lawrence Clark. Lawrence never showed up for our first casting. We spent the late afternoon coaching prospective models thru our method acting approach: you are like....elegant....well've always had the best of everything...given to you and earned by you. Amidst this all you are live life to it's physical can still rip it up outside, get eaten alive by your environment...crash your mountain bike...and still savor life and toast the that?

Time and time again we ran thru these words...these words of get the talent into our roles. We had a Tony Danza look-a-like. We got a guy who could smile. We got another guy who had the rough, but he really had no elegance. The next morning we had agreed to come in and cast again, Lawrence would be there.

Lawrence arrives a bit flustered. The receptionist follows him into our room with a glass of orange juice. People wait on him, people clear the way for him, simply out of instinct. We give him our pitch, in a lazy half hearted way:'re the rich guy, but rough guy too. Got that?

Lawrence looks at us and becomes the role: A subtle eyebrow lift. A sneer that falls into a smile. A bit of arrogance, a bit of charm. His body starts to inhabit the space with a sense of privledge. We snap a few photographs of him there in the crowded office and look at each other silently.

I walk him out and thank him for coming. I come back to the room with the creatives and the feeling is universal: he was everything we wanted....we have our talent.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wilson Archibald At Work

Wilson Archibald is my youngest son. He has no blog, he has no book about him, he has no Facebook identity. He was doing his homework one night, I was helping him, and I snapped this photograph with my phone.

The next week we made a cake for his Mom, and he decorated it with the football, baseball and soccer themes, acting simultaneously.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sex Machine Time Travel

Tom Griggs of Fototazo asked me to write an essay about an image last week and suggested this image from 2004 when I was so wrapped up in the project that became Sex Machines: Photographs and Interviews. It really had been a long time since I thought about that world...and really I had to kind of think back, collect my thoughts and travel back to get into the mind set of that project.

In this internet hungry time, where there are so many photo blogs, so much of an internet community in our photographic world, this Sex Machine project suddenly has enjoyed a rebirth. A few months back Russian Esquire assembled a web gallery of the story that they originally and bravely published back in 2006. Then it got super busy when popular site Design You Trust published a big book excerpt in August, with words and images, that really delivered the vibe of the project. At first I didn't know how I felt about DYT laying it all out like that...but realized this project is meant to be shared, the wonderful book published by Process is meant to be celebrated, so yes...bring this to a new audience.

For me, I took the work off of my commercial site years ago. Images of giant phalli attached to hardware was not always awesome for the clients to see. The they appreciated it...but the actual clients did not. So it was gone...never to return again, really. I just simply allowed the work to exist quietly elsewhere...and in the book...but not on my site. But of course, these things were easy to find.

Just in case anyone is now are some links the spell it all out:

Conscientious published the best interview ever on the book's reverberations on HERE.

Fototazo essay is HERE.

Dig in to it's excerpt on Design You Trust HERE.

Buy it HERE.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Mike Disfarmer, meet The Wear Twins

Art Director Charlie Hess and I were discussing the forthcoming story on the Wear brothers, a set of twins now playing and attending UCLA. He wanted to know if I had any ideas for the shoot. A quick search revealed a these mirror-imaged, 7 foot tall young men. They seemed like they could have been from any time period, nothing looked trendy about them at all: solid, steady, all american good looks and deadpan expressions. Our conversation went like this:

CH: you have anything you'd like to do with these Twins?
TA: Well, they kind of look timeless to me. They look almost like someone who would be living in the 1940's. Do you know the work of a photographer Mike Disfarmer?
CH: I own a Disfarmer.

So there, that was our start. After securing a location that had a feeling of...oh...Hogwarts maybe...we did a series of images with the Twins. But like many things, our simple ideas were the keepers. Does our shot look like a Disfarmer? Not even close. Yet, to the amazement of Charlie and I, our Disfarmer-esque attempt ended up as the magazine's cover. See the shots in all their splendor HERE.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Choose A Robot Please?

Just messing around with some direct mail possibilites earlier in the week and realized I had never created any cards with these images created at Hanson Robotics in Texas last year.

I have a very commercial card going out at the end of the month and wanted to spread this imagery out as a follow up.

Thought I'd throw these out and see if anyone has any favorites here? Do any work better than others? Are they all lame or all they all equally interesting? Please enlighten below.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Commercial Ecosystem

Just got the Workbook and was psyched to see the entire Team Tidepool section kicking off with the Commercial Ecosystem page illustrated by Amy Dresser. See our stuff on Workbook online HERE.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I Found This And Was So Happy I Liked It

So this book I discovered earlier in the year, Maske by Phyllis Galembo was so consistently mind blowing that it is easily going to be the best photobook of the year...from this blog at least. I really have cut myself off from collecting photography books and now try to buy one book a year...and this one was it. I wrote about it HERE.

Like with discoveries in music or art or anything, you immediately try to go back and see what else is available that the artist has done. Here I find Dressed For Thrills : 100 Years of Halloween Costumes by Phyllis Galembo...and it is selling for $7.58! I had to buy it.

Is this an art book? Kind of...subversively. Is it historically important? Kind of ...alot of the stuff looks like it should be in some campy wing of the Smithsonian. Who is this aimed at...crafty soccer Moms going to Michael's or photo literate intellectuals? Well...both I think.

There is this unexpected thrill with this book, for sure. It is the experience where you are expecting the book to simply be a chronicle of the costumes, and boom, there, suddenly, is the most thought provoking photograph you've seen all week. The image at top depicting Red Riding Hood ( circa 1941 ) and Brown Bear (circa 1940) is one of those photographs for me. I really can't stop looking at it.

Find this and other books by Galembo HERE.