That my work will be hanging at the Other Side Cafe (407 Newbury St. Boston, MA) for the month of April. I’m hanging it Friday morning and I’ll be there drinking and taking pictures all night, so stop on by!
So I had an awesome Tuesday. I have a friend of a friend who works at the Mead Art museum and owns a boa constrictor. My befuddled brain put two and two together and came up with an idea for a picture of her with her snake in front of an oil painting. First problem, the Mead doesn’t allow any photography, old Eddy would have let that stop him, but Tuesdays Eddy had some other tricks up his sleeve. I went into several galleries in the area and said “Hello, I got a strange question to ask you, would you mind if I brought in a snake and started to infringe on various copy-written art works?” The reactions ranged from laughing me out the door, to outright snake phobia. The head librarian at the Amherst Library (they have a gallery and a huge oil painting of our town founder Lord Jeff) hissed through a forced smile, that the snake in question would probably constrict and eat all the children who came in for story time.
I kept at it anyways, and the Michelson Gallery in Northampton (the same gallery who represents Leonard Nimoy, that’s right SPOCK) thought it over and decided that they’d let me do it next week for 40 bucks. Hell Yeah!
I went back to my truck to get some more film when I spotted this guy in front of Lucky’s tattoo shop. I took a couple pictures and I said “Thanks man, but what I really want to do is take a picture of somebody getting inked” to which he replied “Come on in, I’m in the middle of tattooing this dude right now” Fuck YEAH! I thought and with that win to my name I decided to double down.
So I hit up a couple bars and after several no’s, David the owner of Hugo’s (also in Noho) said “Sure what the hell.” So I’m gonna shoot there this Saturday, come on down to get your portrait made, you can buy me a drink as payment.
You know what I love about photography? Being nosy. Having a camera is a license to bother people and learn things. For example the other day I went down to the UMass Animal Research and Education complex and loitered. I’ve learned some things in my day, a good way to get attention is to trespass. When I was doing interviews for the 2010 Census and people wouldn’t come to the door I’d go looking around the backyard and poke around their sheds. Sooner rather than later, the owner would accost me and I had my man. So sure enough while I was cursing donkeys and getting zapped by the electric fence, I was found out by some students in the animal husbandry school. I complemented them on their baby donkey (dude they are unbelievably cute) and they invited me to photograph them make their adorable fuzzy rounds. I saw giant pigs, tiny goats, and learned about how protective llamas are of other species. Here are some pictures of different animals I’ve met.
Also on a technical side note all my cameras are broken, so Samuel Quinn was kind enough to lend me his Mamiya c330, which is a beast of a camera, but pretty damn good. It has a wide angle (55mm) lens which is both exciting and frustrating. Do you remember me talking about getting closer to my subjects from ‘These Kids Today’, well now I have to get twice as close and the distortion bothers me sometimes. Its ok, its something I can learn to deal with until I have some money to fix the Rolleiflex, but I know some of these pictures would be better with a normal lens. Que Sera Sera, right?
“That picture is not for publication and you need to remove it from your web site or else you HAVE just comitted your suicide !!!! Ever hear of the Diablos !!!!!! Remove that picture and I suggest you discard any negatives NOW”
I received this email the other day from one of the people I photographed at the Holyoke St Patrick’s Day parade, from what I remember they agreed to have their picture taken, it was a pleasant exchange and ended in me giving them my business card. This begs several questions. What went wrong? Who are the Diablos? What the hell should I do?
I forwarded this email to a bunch of people, first as a lark, then more seriously as the fears set in. As usually happens, my initial anger was softened when I started to piece everything together.
It was a picture in conjunction with some pretty terrible writing that made this person angry, I realized that the picture on its own might come off weird, but it was my over enthusiastic hyperbolic caption that brought the Diablos (a biker gang out of Westfield whose members have been arrested for drug trafficking) into the discussion. Let me quote the most offensive line of my prose
“Her disaffected stare repeating the dead plastic smile of her stuffed animal, the decapitated parents reinforcing her alienation from the nuclear family”
I talked to a couple parents who were sympathetic to my cause, but they all said that the idea of you’re child being taken from you (metaphorically through photography) and then injured (ditto) through words could make anybody murderously angry. When I reread my comment through their eyes I realized I sounded like a raving lunatic, some one who just might deserves a visit from the Diablos. So I took down the comment. Looking at it with fresh eyes changes the whole meaning of the photograph.
What was I trying to say with my super pompous, dark reading of the picture, was that a photograph shares only a tangential connection with the reality ‘recorded’ in front of the camera. I was showing off how I could take something as wholesome as a family on a Sunday stroll and make it weird and dark. I then took this somewhat unsettling image and jumped off the deep end with my words, in a way that frightened my once willing subject into anger. I want to say for the record that I apologize for that, it was bone headed and wrong of me, and my sister/editor wants to point out that I didn’t run it past her and that she would have nipped it in the bud (so really it should be her you’re angry with)
Now I’m a guy who sees the humor in everything, and whats really funny is both my accuser and I are guilty of the same thing, being too hyperbolic, bursting through the line between legitimate discourse and outright nastiness. I stand by the picture 100%, but I actually have to thank this person for opening my eyes to an important conundrum.
The material for my art is living breathing human beings with feelings. I believe that as an artist I have the right to use them for whatever purpose I’m after. The sculptor doesn’t care what the clay thinks when he is transforming it into an expression of his psyche. Unfortunately my material has turned around to bite me in the ass. So what should I do? If I try and censure myself into only finding positive things to say with my art, I worry it might lose whatever power it has and die. However I can never lose sight of the fact that these are people so decent and trusting that they let a fat sweaty bald stranger into their lives, if only for a moment, to make his art that they will never profit from. Maybe I’ve gotten so comfortable in the street that I forgot that the little image in my camera is a person just like me.
The only reason any of this happened is that I’m trying to promote myself, for years the images lived on a semi private photo stream, where I could be sure that the subjects would never find themselves and only other photographers, who would understand the stupid jokes, would see them. Of course as I discussed in the previous post (You Down with OPC) this was never really the case, but once I started handing out business cards that linked to this blog, I was opening up a can of worms that I am still struggling with.
I took part in the first ever All Visual Boston slide show event, which was headlined by the Great (if underrated) Bill Burke. I finally worked up the nerve to talk to him right before he went on, and I asked him a bunch of dorky pointless questions about how awesome it must have been to be shooting free Polaroid neg/pos film. What I really should have asked, in retrospect, is what are his feelings about portrait ethics. The big E word makes me uncomfortable, I feel that real photographers just go for the picture, while smart aleck pusses sit around on the sidelines clucking amongst themselves. Bill Burke’s portraits can be brutal, and he doesn’t shy away from a little editorializing in the captions either.
Intellectual property stolen from Bill Burke
What would make his opinion on ‘ethics’ so interesting is that he was using Pos/Neg instant film, so his subject knew exactly how they were being portrayed (admittedly after the deed was done) how did this change his interaction with his subjects and his photography. Hopefully I’ll run into him someday and be able to get some answers. In the meantime I’ll have to figure it out on my own.
This blog is for you (you being friends, strangers, and my subjects) but more importantly its a place for me to try and solidify my ideas about art making by writing down all the dumb ideas I have running through my brain, so I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll agree to look both ways before crossing the street from now on, if you agree to think twice before getting the Diablos involved. Deal?
So I’ve been reading this blog called Karapture (sounds like crap aperture to me) and this guy writing it must be like 80 years old. All he does is complain about the kids on his lawn using their new fangled widgets, and taking funky pictures to share online on something called a facebook.
In all seriousness though, Sunday was a great day for pictures, I went down to the Holyoke St. Patrick’s parade. One problem I noticed with my pictures lately is I’ve been framing them all to wide. Head to toe pictures look great on the ground glass, but when I’m editing them later I’m yelling “The picture is there, just 5 feet closer” So I decided to get too close and let the chips fall where they may. Sometimes it doesn’t quite work
This one is almost there but a little too chaotic and soft. It was a blast to shoot though, I was right up in their grills telling them to “shoot more bubbles” and making the trigger finger at them because they didn’t know English that well.
Here we have a close but simple picture. I love how the girl isn’t ecstatic, just deeply satisfied with the way her Sunday is going. Taking her dad for a walk downtown, showing off all the plastic bling he bought her.
I was arguing with Rosie about this last night, I said it was too pleasant to be art, she said “Not all your pictures have to be suicidal, douche-bag” Maybe the graffiti, the mothers interesting skull and giant hoop earring’s push this over the line into proper photography. What do you think?
I wanted to take her picture cause I saw her using her bra as a cellphone holder, all her friends were laughing like crazy, but damn she knows how to work it. The kid on the lower right bothers me, but there was like half a million people at the parade so I cut myself some slack.
I edited this post for strange and interesting reasons. I might tell you about it someday.
Just a quick update on the kleptocratic incestuous clusterfuck that is the Internet, the picture I talked about yesterday has since been reblogged by a spanish language tumbler called ‘el mejillon suisida’ and a thinspo site called ‘revolution2resolution’ both credit photographsonthebrain instead of me. Can any bilingual people tell me what mejillon suisida means? Is it spanish for suicide girls?
Also I will stop all these bullshit wordy posts and give you awesome pictures later today.
The last post was the most popular ever and for a while I was obsessively checking the viewer count. I would yell out to Rosie, my sister and chief editor, “We hit the big FIVE NINE!!!” to which she would reply “Cat videos get 10 times that in a minute, loser” which is true of course, but its cool to think of 59 people reading the bullshit I scribble down. On one of these pathetic checks I noticed that a lot of people were finding my blog from a website called photographsonthebrain.com so I clicked on it and they had one of my pictures, well this one exactly
It had been favorited like 30 times on their site. This has happened to me before, I first noticed it when I googled my name to find out if eddypula.com came up first, what I found was that my pictures were all over the web, on all sorts of articles. A picture I took at a comic book convention was on a gay navy blog about the fist openly homosexual Archie character.
My self portrait as Weegee was used an article about using OPC (other people’s content) for marketing, how ironic. And most disturbingly all my bikini chicks were on all these weird Thai porn sites. I felt terrible about that, these women had trusted me (for some reason) and now Thai men were busting nuts over them. Of course there is no shortage of more erotic pictures on the internet, and I made these pictures available to masterbators on my site, but the context was so weird and creepy I felt complicit in something awful. What did I do about it?
Nothing, I felt conflicted. I liked that people saw the illustrative value of my pictures, but I was gaining nothing. In fact less than nothing, no one had asked me if they could use them, most of the blogs credited me, but if I hadn’t checked I would have never known. Obviously I want people to see my work, It was interesting to see my pictures being used in a editorial fashion, and all this random exposure could be nothing but good. What really irked me was that besides the theoretical exposure I got nothing, not even a heads up. I would like to make money, lots of money to buy all the cameras and cigarettes I need, but hey information wants to be free right, and I don’t think that the guy who writes the gay navy blog was making stacks off my picture? These people (Or weird internet ‘spiders’) hadn’t had the decency to shoot me an email and say “Hey man I love your work, could I use it on this weird conspiracy site for an article about how cell phones give you cancer?” (True story)
Now I’ll get to money in a bit, but this lack of basic courtesy pisses me off. I know how it feels to be making work and feel like no one cares, so when I find somebody who’s doing groovy stuff I make a point to write them a long rambling appreciation letter. I got such an email when I was 15 and making a public access television show, I printed it out and read it seven thousand times, I couldn’t believe it, some one had actually watched my stupid videos and felt compelled to write me a decent critique out of the blue? “I must be on to something” thought little Eddy and soldiered on.
Now it should be noted that I have no idea how the internet works. Half the stupid blogs I read just take others people’s posts, videos and pictures and paste them up every couple of hours. The little feature Jair Burbank did on me was on something called ISO 1200 with every single fact changed in the intro text. I helped make a short piece on the closing of a Japanese Arcade in Los Angeles, and within hours it was on every gaming website. It seems to me that people have gotten used to these aggregator sites constantly having new media and don’t know or care who made them. Duh, that’s how the internet works Eddy. I just never realised the implications until it happened to me. I have a friend who makes a decent living tweeting about Taco Bell, but pictures won’t get you nowhere. That friend once told me that he felt sorry for me that we live in a time where no one values what I can do. I’m not sure that’s true, I have dreams of shooting for the New Yorker or New York Times (Side note Nick Nixon did that last year) they won’t be in print of course, but we’ll be able to look at them on our ipads… right? I don’t want to whine but there has to be some one who might want to pay me for my little black and white squares in the future. Now people want them but they don’t have the decency to even ask.
Money, I don’t have it, and the Rolleiflex my friend bought me is broken and needs like $300 of work. Luckily I have a beat to shit rolleicord as backup so I can keep this train I just got started up rolling on. I once read in a survival book that the best tool you can have in the wilderness is two identical rifles, so if both break you can cobble together a Franken-Gun. I learned this the hard way at 14 when my first photo class took a trip to NYC and my camera died the second we got off the bus in Rockefeller plaza. When me and Jenna Mac got to Mississippi I dropped my crown graphic during a parade on the 2nd day of a 2 month trip, luckily I had the foresight to bring 3 graphics in varying states of disrepair I could take parts off of (The best part of those cameras is almost any one can fix them with a screwdriver and butter knife and you can pick up beaters for like 100 bucks) The moral of the story is you need at least 17 cameras to make one good picture of a guy on his Alpaca Farm and for that you need lots of money. So start a tumbler about the new Dorito taco shell (I got inside info) and rake it in before you try and make any art.