Drunks and Other Children

“Howdy, can you come with me? Here give me your hand… give me your hand, now sit right on this stool, put your feet on this box ok, point your knees towards the light, there you go, sit up tall now, who’s my little pickle face, its you, come on Pickleface, sit up tall… big smiles now, oh my gosh, your a little pretzel head aren’t you, French Fries! Wow that was great, There you go, grandma’s gonna love it, have a nice day.”
You really have to see me do it, I raise my voice a couple octaves and kind of dance around avoiding all the cables and strobes. Imagine I’m playing with a wiggly dog, “who’s my little bonster the monster, you are. you are, you want a cookie… COOKIE”
I got a job shooting school portraits, I spent last week learning how to take pictures the Grynn and Barrett way. Three days in we finally got to shoot real live children and it was absolutely bizarre how the head of the photography division  transformed into some kind of hopped up, amphetamine fueled, sesame street character, then slipped out of it to give us pointers on the finer aspects of getting shy children to sit still and smile like all the others. High capactity portraiture is the name of the game, one minute for normal kids, maybe 3 for the special needs, we have green screen cloth we can drape over the back of wheel chairs or aides who are holding the more spastic children still. Its all about rhythm they say, I believe it. During the training it was actually kind of fun sitting them up on the stool, giving directions in a funny excited voice while tripping the strobes without warning, then off to the next one in line and than the next one, and the next one… We learned all the tricks of the trade, how to pose people who are too fat, how to pose people who are too skinny, people with lazy eyes, the bald, people who suffer from albinism, preteen girls uncomforatble with their new breasts, preteen girls too proud of their new breasts and highschool douchbags.
We were given a rousing speech by the owner of the company, whose father founded it after coming home from WWII with a 4×5 camera he looted from a dead Nazi soldier, after storming the beaches of Normandy and single handedly liberating France. “You aren’t just taking pictures, you are immortalizing the love in a childs eyes for all time.” and apparently the best way to find the love in a childs eyes is to rattle off absurd but endearing petnames at a rapid clip. Fine by me “BANANA FISH, you’re my perfect little banana fish aren’t you, yes you are, yes you are, NOW SMILE! Great job… NEXT”

I chose this backround for my id to symbolize my greatest fear, which is to die in the vacuum of space after being sucked out the airlock

“Hey buddy are you in fucken Oasis? No seriously I love your hair, now come on… stand right there… no. no smiling, theres no smiling in art. theres no flashing the peace sign either, excuse me can you move… I’m just trying to take a picture of the long lost Gallagher brother over here, thanks… jesus I bet Avedon never had to put up with this shit”
Good looking man with a portrait of himself

I’m really enjoying my new nightlife project. I’m rediscovering my love of high impact Weegee style flash and hanging out on street corners smoking cigarettes late into the night. The plan is, after shooting in elementary schools all week, to drive into Boston on Friday nights and photograph the sexy young drunks who rove the city looking for love. So far it seems like ground zero for those tripping the night fantastic is the corner of Brighton and Harvard at the Blanchard liquor store in Allston.

 
Its also fun for me to be out and about with the beautiful young people who are suppose to be my peers, I always feel so out of place at parties and bars and such but with a camera I have a purpose. I heard an interesting interview with Tom Wolfe the other day, he said that when trying to document a certain subset of the population (Acid freaks, wall street traders etc.) its actually better to be the ‘Man from Mars’ than try in vain to fit in. The interested outsider in a vanilla ice cream suit has different access than some one who is trying to pass themselves off as just another participant in whatever ritual the kids these days are into. Thats how I try to go about it, a giant wierd camera from 50 years ago and a sweaty hulking body are my white suit. Who knows I might try calling the hot chicks in fuck me stilletoes Pickle Face this weekend.

Alot of people look up into the flash, gives it a alien abduction kinda feel

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Repetition is the Key

 It seems like I’ve started every post with “A couple of years ago” but today it might work well with the title so…  A couple of years ago I was on the subway going to Mass Art and a perfectly normal woman got on. She was 40ish, decently dressed, probably going to work. She took a seat and started chanting and rocking while hugging herself. “Repetition Repetition Repetition is the Key… REPETIIITIIIIOOOON” And she kept that up for 15 minutes, maybe longer but we made it to my stop and I got off. Subway cars are strange places, or maybe super normal depending on your outlook. Everybody is packed in next to everybody else but its like we all signed a contract at birth that we’ll try as hard as we can to pretend that no one else is there. I believe that the primary reason for free bullshit newspapers and magazines given away at t-stops is that it gives you something to pretend to look at while you and every one else engages in this “I promise to not acknowledge your existence if you do the same” routine that happens twice a day in every city in this country, if not the world.

 This woman was shocking and annoying at first, but after a while she got me thinking, she might not be a wackadoodle. She could be a genius. Every one on that subway car was repeating something. I was hungover on my way to school, something I did at least a couple times a week for 4 years, they could be taking the same line to the same job they’ve been going to every week day for a decade or more. Besides breaking the basic subway social contract of not being quiet and motionless (except for maybe a whispered ‘excuse me’ when exiting the vehicle) I think she made people uneasy because she was pointing out how much of our lives is spent covering the same ground either literally (subway conductors never choose the scenic route) or metaphorically.

 Which brings me to my actual point, while I know I have grown as a photographer, I’ve basically been doing the same thing for 5 years now. Almost every photograph I’ve taken was started with me camera in hand, approaching some one and saying “Excuse me…” Either I’m a one trick pony or I found something early on that I have been working on ever since. It feels a little silly to say knowing that a lot of artists spend their entire lives in the same genre, but 5 years seems like a long time to me. Who knows, in 10 years I might work at a bank and never take pictures again. I don’t want to say that I’m severely limited as a photographer, I think that photographing human beings in their natural environment is a rich and important endeavor, one worthy of a lifetime of effort. Better than counting money anyways.

I’ve heard other artists refer to their work as something of a game they play. Not a frivolous pursuit, but you always have the same basic elements (in my case a frame and a person). What makes it rewarding is though it is limited to certain parameters what you do inside of them is infinitely variable and all up to you. The real trick is to somehow play the same game, year after year, and keep it fresh.

 So I have this frame (now square) and I have a subject (who ever is in front of me) what the hell am I going to do? There is a natural (to me) way of doing things, but later when I have a stack of prints in front of me it’s the different that jumps out. Pictures where I got too close or too far away, when I shot into the sun or from up high. Most of the time they don’t really work but there’s the kernel of idea in there that could, with practice, be perfected.

Man at Photography Exhibit

This one should great but she blurred, we are going to try again

Father burying his son

capri sun

my sister on the beach

pleasant and main