Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Gnarly Head Wine / Duncan Channon

I love wine. I love fire. I even love ribs.

Great to see this ad finally see the light of day.
We shot it last spring amidst the rainstorms waiting for a sunny day...and we finally got a great one.

A great performance by talent Lawrence Clark tied it all together, but we feared this ad would never run...and summer was coming to a close. It was great to get news that summer is once again here and it will be appearing in print and online this season.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Whacked Out Book I'm Flattered To Be In

What is GRADHIVA ?

Oh, well...just follow the link and try to read it and it'll all be clear. And its still kind of confusing to me as well.

Gradhiva: Revue d'anthropologie et d'histoire des arts is the proper name and issue 15 just came out with the daunting title Robots Estrangement Humains. Beautiful art and photography from deep in history to everything of now. Happy to see them include images from both my projects Sex Machines and Robots Are Real.

My images are up top and at the bottom here. Also included here is the cover photograph of David McGoran's "Heart Robot" photographed by Ben Dowden and the historical photograph by Nihon Robotto Soseiki.

Read about it, buy it, all of that HERE.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

At Least One LOL, But...

After launching "How The Chicken Conquered The World", Smithsonian Magazine published an interview with Molly Roberts, Shannon Amos and myself about the creation of the photographs. Titled "Chickens Dressed Like Napoleon, Einstein and Other Historical Figures: Get the story behind these absurd portraits and how they came to be." Written by Megan Gambino, the story went live on on Monday.

Checking it out on Wednesday, I found this priceless series of responses on the Smithsonian Magazine FB comment page. All opinions are welcome and valid, of course:

  • How very bizarre.
  • I personally find this quite offensive.
  • Really Smithsonian Magazine?! Shame.
  • Bizarre, offensive, and stupid. Some guy gets paid for this?
  • I was actually entertained by the article! I sent it to several friends and family. Lighten up people.
  • So this is what we do with our food?
  • Those were hilarious!
  • If I wanted this sort of story I would have liked Cracked or The Onion instead of Smithsonian Magazine. I certainly hope this isn't signaling the dumbing down of the page.
  • Disturbing. I will not share this one with my Vegan friends. LOL.
  • Why did Smithsonian waste the time fabricating the costumes and waste the food on this lame posting? Please find something interesting next time.
  • Interesting concept, next time leave the heads on them.
  • Didn't see this one coming.
  • This, from the Smithsonian? no... :|
  • I HATE THIS. Smithsonian shame on you. Not amusing. Offensive.
 Read the whole story about the creation of the photographs for "How The Chicken Conquered The World" HERE.

Monday, May 21, 2012

How The Chicken Conquered The World

Smithsonian's Director of Photography Molly Roberts and I had some reservations about this project for June's The Food Issue as we were analyzing the approach. Perhaps our expectations were so very low that it kind of put us at ease with it all. I don't think we really thought it would fly. No pun intended of course.

Calling stylist Shannon Amos and explaining the approach was essentially a five minute call that was as routine as ordering a pizza:

TA: Hi Shannon. Timothy here.'m sorry but that first idea I had they weren't crazy about. Now what they want to do is dress up fresh chickens as historical characters...actual people throughout history. know...we get a dead chicken, no head, ready to be cooked, and then dress it up as like...say....Julius Caesar...? Do you think this would work?

SA: They want to dress up chickens? Sure, I love chickens. Send me the names, it'll be fine.

TA: Ok. Thanks.


Then a couple of days later here we are, doing just that. Dressing up chickens, figuring out which ones work without the head and which do not. When can you suspend your grasp on reality and project into this combination of dead meat and fabric and actually imagine a historical character there? For us it really was trial and error...with lots of characters just not working at all. And then the utterly inspired moments such as the creation of King Tut, which simply involved covering the naked chicken with gold spraypaint. Genius is simplicity, really.

In total we shot 9 characters. In my opinion only 5 were really fully realized and "worked". What would make it work? Well, the character had to be iconic, easy to recognize and really you had to suggest alot with as little as possible. When all of those things came together, it worked.

See the keepers in all their splendor HERE.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Chalk Board Stays Just As It Is

Walking in to scout the offices of Path for our shoot with Dave Morin, of course we begged to have the chalk board we saw stay exactly how it was. The person helping us tour the offices seemed confused and indifferent to how wonderful we felt this chalk board was, and really she had no allegiance to us....

Happily it was still as it was when we arrived for the shoot: electrical sockets buzzing, physical hieroglyphics on the outside, a child had been in the room and scribbled in the right hand corner, and the cloud of thought hovering over his head. I needed all of that.

In the end I composited some of these elements to make them fit our crop, but the data was there...for real. But the back up location had it's charms as well:

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Chris Buck and "Presence"

Photographer Chris Buck was coming to town and we agreed to get together. The event necessitated the purchase of a new pair of shoes...I needed my A game to engage with this guy. Is he the defining portrait photographer of our time? I dunno, but his portraits always had the combination of humanity and humor I always found to be inspiring. With all that in mind I had to...ya know, put my best foot forward. These are the shoes that seemed appropriate for the meeting, photographed above.

Chris introduces me to an early mock up of "Presence- The Invisible Portrait", his forthcoming first book, published by Kehrer Verlag, due out in US in the fall. In the words of the publisher it is described as so:
"Presence" is a counter-intuitive, conceptual, and thoroughly entertaining take on the search for celebrity. Photographer Chris Buck hides his famous subjects without the use of digital manipulation in this perverse take on power portraits. The book features fifty sittings, including Robert De Niro, Günter Grass, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Chuck Close, Cindy Sherman, Russell Brand, Snoop Dogg, Nick Cave and David Lynch.

Conceptual and challenging, the concept of the book is highly ambitious. Is anyone going to get this?
Buck is excited and nervous, anticipating the publication of his first book, and one that has taken on such a challenging path. A book of Chris's celebrities would have been an obvious path to follow, a quick elevator pitch. Now the concept of "Presence" you need to ponder...he needs to spell it out to you and you gotta work a bit to get it.

As he talks about his process, he discusses the nature of celebrity, what a viewer brings to that in our culture. For a moment his observations seem like satire, another moment they seem deeply inspired. At one point I need to catch myself, noting the surreal nature of the moment : Chris is describing how he knew the concept of "Presence" had some previously unattained strength once he was able to talk top-tier celebrities such as Robert DeNiro into participating. I agree and see the draw of that. A moment later I have to laugh that this coup of getting DeNiro is made all the more absurd by the fact that his face never actually appears in the book. Like everyone else, DeNiro is hiding and not visible to the viewer.

As I open the book mock-up at the restaurant and I am haunted by the feeling that this ambitious concept is just not going to work...I just may not get this thing. We've had some organic beer and the honesty is flowing.

Truth be told, the book works immediately. It's a visceral experience...the book sets up the rules of the game and the viewer just reacts. It really just comes out of you. You open the book and it's on. Buck has created a project that seems to tap into the viewer's knowledge of celebrity, forces the viewer to bring that to the photograph, and then it rewards them. The brain is stimulated, the viewer laughs or thinks, or is taken back... and then the viewer falls into the splendor of the photograph. The photographs contain Buck's personality and whimsy...his curious observations, devoid of people, but the people, the celebrities, are still a major part of the project. Opening the book and engaging with it is a series of challenges and rewards and the pay off is tangible: you take in a spread, you start visually digesting it...and then...a bit later, when your brain puts the pieces together, comes the reward.


Later that night we are talking about the work of Annie Leibovitz. I never loved her work, never hated her work, but Buck focuses in on it. He is explaining the limitations of these high concept images she was known for in the 80's: Meryl Streep stretching her face, Bette Midler laying in the roses, The Blues Brothers in blue makeup...all of these images stop at one idea. They hand you the idea and it overpowers the person, overpowers the story, it becomes an "idea photograph" and really stops there.

He then brings up Anton Corbijn and the slower and smarter effect his work has on the viewer:

You know, that Corbijn photograph of Joy Division? They have their back to the camera and one guy has turned around to look at the photographer? There is so much to think about there, to project into. You don't just get it and move on. It gets to you later.

We bid farewell and I drive back home. On the drive out of San Francisco I'm wondering why he was going on and on about Leibovitz, Corbijn and this whole difference between the way the images hit your brain. And then, of course, it's clear. That brain delay, that effect where the viewer is rewarded for investing in the image, that quality he saw in Corbijn's work and felt was missing from Leibovitz's work, it's all woven into the series of images in "Presence".

More on this project when it's available. Just quick notes here while it's fresh on my mind. The forthcoming book "Presence- The Invisible Portrait" by Chris Buck. More info at Kehrer Verlag HERE.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Inspired Use

Always inspired to work with photo editor Amelia Hennighausen. She and I put together the most curious collection of images for Discover Magazine HERE.

I was glad to hear her propose this inspired use of a super old photograph of mine for a current story in Business Week Magazine titled "What I've Learned Working With Techies".

See it HERE.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mothership Connection

TIME Magazine's Mother's Day issue dedicated to all that is Attachment Parenting hit the newstands today with extremely memorable images by Martin Schoeller on'll see'em soon enough I'm sure. And if you don't know about the term Attachment Parenting...well it's all in there.

Me? I knew all about it.

I got to spend the span of two days with Erica Kain and her daughters to create a photo essay on a Mom who was raising three girls embracing and rejecting the values of this philosophy. I'm interested in the ebb and flow of parenting and all the internal struggles it throws at really shooting this story was just like waking up and living life.

Kinda different for me to play the role of the documentary photographer. In the middle of the day this story came out a photographer friend points out the point that the whole story is on Motherhood with a capital M...and the photographers on this story, the cover story and the story on Dr. Sears were all guys. Could TIME not find a woman to share her perspective ? Very good points there that I'm sure will surface out there on the internet horizon. Food for thought for sure.

Here are some images from the story...above and below. Enjoy...and see the whole package HERE.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sendak : There Must Be More To Life

Lots of stuff to think about recently, lots of lines criss crossing that I hope to write about soon. Spent a fascinating afternoon with artist Catherine Wagner last week, had a stimulating evening with photographer Chris Buck the week before and oh yes Tony Fouhse may have a creative enterprise in the works and there may be a project to address there...and then there is LOOK3 coming up in June that I am preparing a multi media presentation for...and really I should be addressing all of those topics. But today I opened the paper and read about the death of Maurice Sendak.

Reading the NYT's, I'm startled by the first lines of his obituary:

Maurice Sendak, widely considered the most important children’s book artist of the 20th century, who wrenched the picture book out of the safe, sanitized world of the nursery and plunged it into the dark, terrifying and hauntingly beautiful recesses of the human psyche, died on Tuesday in Danbury, Conn. He was 83 and lived in Ridgefield, Conn.

The words they used hit hard, sunk in, and then seemed accurate. But wow, what an aggresive description of his work. The visual it leaves you with is hard to shake. Good for him for earning that....and I think he did indeed earn it.

Sendak stuck in my brain in the 90's, long before I had kids. I was reading a book written by The Monks of New Skete about dog training. In the book we have an interview with Maurice Sendak, of all people, who had purchased a dog from the Monks. It seemed at first like Sendak was in there for star quality only. After a few sentences, Sendak takes this whole dog training business in another direction, explaining that humans alway present their real selves to their dogs...they can't wear a mask, they can't fool a dog. And that by digging deeper into that dog/man relationship, we are able to look at our own problems, weaknesses and fears. Sendak explains that mining this stuff is hard, but in the end is fruitful for self growth and for his art. Being an author of children's book, he wants to mine his childhood...or childhood in general, for all of the depth and complexity it has. And he felt that his relationship with his dog allowed him to dig deep and mine for that material.

For me at the time, that was rich stuff. Here was Sendak, gay and childless, but man...he knew his territory. And the books he wrote...I never loved them...they were just too odd, too curious for me, but they seemed to touch on something real that immediately earned my respect. I bought all of them at the time, just to try to figure out what he was doing...and I never was able to grab ahold of it. But it spoke to me.

At the time Sendak's book " Higglety Pigglety Pop! Or, There Must Be More to Life " was the one that was the keeper. An odd tale of a dog that had a good easy life, but left it all to find something more satisfying, stuck with me. Images of lions eating babies, domestic terrors, and a dog who must eat a giant plunger as part of a theatrical performance seemed dadaist and menacing all at the same time. It was hard to read and left me confused. But it did teach me that this childhood thing was deep, it was complex, and it was something that didn't ever need to be dumbed down.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Reality Check From Above

Q: Speaking of your blog. I hate to say it, but it's just terrible. It used to be about your life and the early stages of ECHOLILIA and this idea of combining work and family and art and everything. People used to be able to get to know you through your blog. It was like you were the guy who came in to the coffee place every day and you knew all about him. Now it's like a mediocre commercial photography a free one that is all ads. Last week was an all time low, really.

A: Oh, I know. That's accurate. I admit it. All things have their times I think. My new project is on tumblr because it's just such an elegant presentation, and then facebook is the live feedback loop for life and community. The blog is now like the dog that had to adjust to a new baby in the family...just not the star anymore.

Q: And then, do you even have a family any more? The only time you acknowledge them is when you try to get someone to buy your book or some foreign country is celebrating ECHOLILIA or something. Like here is Scientific American Tanzania with a 9 page blowout of ECHO....

A: Ok, ok, ok. I get the point. Yes, still have a career, a family and a project, but really the family and project are all wrapped up into one series, written in cryptic code of course, at Stereoscopy Photographs on Tumblr. Have you seen it?

Q: Yes. I still don't get it.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Buy ECHOLILIA from PhotoEye

Buy ECHOLILIA / Sometimes I wonder, now available thru Photo Eye Bookstore.
Read all about it HERE.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Busy Week Last Week

Busy week last week shooting a bunch of projects all around the bay. What to say? Nothing really. I think the best blog posts come when there is downtime really.

Here are some snapshots from week behind...