Friday, December 30, 2016
Thursday, December 22, 2016
I'm really happy with all of that black, negative space in the center. It's as if it is a vacuous void drawing you in. There really is no detail there— I had two 1000 watt light boxes behind her, and nothing in front. All of the side detail comes from that massive amount of light trying to wrap around her like an eclipse.
Sunday, December 18, 2016
I may very well decide a few years from now that I took the detail a bit too far into HDR territory with this and other images, but for now I really like it. It's perhaps ironic that I look at other photographers doing similar things and that I don't like it. It's not lost on me that I may be indulging myself with the detail. That's no worry, though, because I save many different versions along the way. Everything from RAW and untouched, to this and beyond. I can decide later to make a new portfolio (or portfolios) with different versions. That's the beauty of photography, both with film and digital— there is no such thing as a definitive image. Even with famous masters, you might see what you think in a book is the definitive image. The reality is that that image in the book is in all likelihood rather inferior to the print it came from— not to mention that there may very well be many prints and versions, each with something different to offer. There are so many possibilities after the shot is taken. Of course little to nothing can be done, which is usually boring but sometimes perfect. Usually a variety of things are employed— such as old school film things like different development processes, burning & dodging, cropping, solarization, high contrast or low contrast papers or filters, and on and on. Now there is Photoshop, which is based off of film techniques but can do some things that could not be done with film. Both perfect B&W and color from the same shot! This can be both a blessing or a curse, but I try to look at it as a blessing...
Tuesday, December 13, 2016
I tend not to interfere during these couples shoots— I let them know in the beginning what I'm looking for. I like for there to be a push & pull, a realness without being posed, and I tell them to ignore (as much as possible) my presence. I also like consensual violence, which I think makes for more dynamic images. That request does not seem to ever pose much of an issue with the people I've been working with lately...
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
I've always really liked this image below, with the cigarette— even though out of context it does not hold any particular meaning for anybody else. Well, it happened to be shot just after a very intense shower scene— where she had got herself off with a Waterpik to the point of exhaustion. So consequentially she is taking a relaxing smoke break, hair still dripping. Photographs are often like that. A favorite quote of mine by the photographer Diane Arbus sums it up best— "A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know".
Sunday, November 20, 2016
Wednesday, October 5, 2016
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Setsuki is a circus performer— so whereas I usually employ rope work for a suspension, this just her and a simple heavy chain that we linked up to the ceiling hooks. She did it all— I just stepped back and clicked the shutter. The brick wall, which is always behind the backgrounds that I typically use, is a nice departure. I've tried the brick before and did not like it, as it tends to be too busy looking. I think that I got it right this time...
Monday, September 12, 2016
There is an interesting story behind this image, as it almost did not happen. For a good majority of my shoots, I have always done the make-up myself— this dates back to when I first began photographing people. I made use of a very retro aesthetic from the very beginning since I wanted to emulate early masters and early Hollywood glamor photography. I started doing this in the early 1990's, which for all intents was still really the 1980's. This was not exactly a good time to find people with hair and make-up that looked like the time periods I wanted to represent in an authentic way. So I had to scrub everybody's faces clean, do their make-up and hair as well as find clothes for them. Yeah, no easy task. I like doing it, though, and it tends to relax women before a shoot. It has had another added benefit in that my early work (and most of it since) does not look badly dated now. Things got much easier later on when Swing and Rockabilly music came back in vogue (and to a certain extent has remained so). Suddenly women were showing up at my studio with these wonderful dead-on looks, all ready to go. It felt like 90% of my work was now cut out for me. It was not like I had not paid my dues, though. When women don't have their own cosmetics, I often tend to go for a fresh-scrubbed natural look nowadays. Anyway, to make a long story short (too late?), I've since started to get a little more experimental with maquillage when I do it myself now. For this session, I used white and black eyeliner on the top of the lids, along with some white mascara, in order to try something a bit weird and futuristic. I have to say that both she and I thought it looked kind of clownish, and she wanted to wipe it off and try something of her own. I convinced her to just shoot it for a few minutes first since I spent a while doing it. I'm glad that I did because it turned out to look a lot more elegant and distinctive in the shot than it did in real life. It was also by far the best thing we shot that day. It is one of my favorite images, and it even looks better in color— but I don't like to show color work here. I'm always amused at how often people are reluctant to trust me at first, but then turn out to absolutely love the results of something that they were initially rather wary of trying...
Sunday, September 11, 2016
This is from a series that kind of look like those old-timey boardwalk photographs— except that they more resemble actual vintage images, rather than being campy or hokey. I find it interesting there is such a fine line between being genuine versus silly. I like the challenge of taking that extra effort to make it work. By the way, I scraped this scene together on a tight budget— the rug was $20 from IKEA, backdrops are my usual from fabric row, and the rest came as bits and pieces from Linens n' Things. It all fits into a trunk, and it takes me about 15 minutes to set it up!
Saturday, September 10, 2016
A rather old film shot from 1994. I was just finishing up with my Pictorialism phase, and starting to do some very genuine portraiture that looked like it came from about the same era. Pictorialism was the name given to an international style and aesthetic movement that dominated photography during the later 19th and early 20th centuries. I've never stopped doing this kind of portraiture, but this is perhaps my first successful one, and still an all time favorite that I tend to rate all others against. It's kind of like Steve McCurry's Afghan Girl from National Geographic— a great early image that I'm always unsuccessfully trying to top.
Friday, September 9, 2016
I've done a lot of maternity portraits over the years— but they are most often paid shoots where I tend to be more concerned with making my subject relaxed & untroubled above anything else. Twinky is someone that I had shot with before, however, and she is very comfortable in front of the camera. I think she lent a slight eroticism to all of the pregnancy pics we did together. I would not have wanted it to be more than a slight eroticism, though, because that would probably be distasteful. I think that this is just right— not too much. By the way, she was 38 and pregnant with her 5th child at this shoot. Crazy!
Thursday, September 8, 2016
Wednesday, September 7, 2016
These two images rank among my favorite vintage inspired pics. This is despite the fact that they both kind of violate my own rules for creating a time-honored looking photograph. My steadfast rule is that the details have to be dead on accurate to whatever period I’m trying to replicate, without any deviation. These don’t really make that cut. I doubt that I had a real plan for any particular time period for these. I was just winging it, which is unlike me. Baby doll dresses originated in the early 1940’s, although they had revivals in the early 70’s and late 90’s. She is wearing a baby doll dress, but the make-up is very 60’s. The hair is hard to pinpoint. The overall feel is hard to identify. It all makes for a slightly bizarre combo, but I guess it works. Maybe not? The other image has a 40’s Hollywood glamour to it, but she definitely looks like a cherub from a Raphael painting. Which is weird, because she’s a full-grown woman— not a young boy. The dress strap looks sort of contemporary. My point is that I still definitely like these images— even though they are failures by my usual parameters. Normally, I would reject them completely (either as I’m shooting, or later in editing). But somehow they work— at least for me.
Tuesday, September 6, 2016
Monday, September 5, 2016
Photography has been stuck being about subject-matter for a long time now. It seems that if it does not represent something then people tend to dismiss it. Painting, however, has not been purely about subject-matter for over a century; it is about paint, surface, color, illusion, many things— but more often not about being pictorial. Yes, this is a little bit of a blanket statement— and, of course, there have been attempts. But seriously, how much abstract photography have you seen versus representational? Even if you live under a rock, you’ve seen many nonrepresentational paintings and sculpture. This image is from a series that I’ve been working on for about ten years. I posted a couple of them here occasionally, but, honestly, I try not to. I think that they are quite original (at least I have not seen anything like them myself, but who knows?), so I’m afraid that it will be copied and imitated. So what do I do? I post my favorite one, of course. I have to say that this one would probably be pretty tough to imitate, as I don’t know if I could replicate it myself. It almost made me want to quit the series at this since I might spend years trying to top it with nothing better to show for. BTW, I think that it works in any orientation (I've actually hung four different versions in a gallery show before), so I'm posting a horizontal and a vertical version here.
Sunday, September 4, 2016
Pin-up style took on quite a few different forms, even though it’s a formula that is actually very narrow and rather easily defined. My favorite style would be Irving Klaw photographing Bettie Page in bondage— which is fun but most definitely fetish & BDSM oriented. It's all pretty much tame compared to today's fare, though. I based this shoot, however, on the friendlier pulp girlie magazines that were published in the 40’s & 50’s and sold from under the counter. They were a bit more toned down compared to the Irving Klaw stuff...
Saturday, September 3, 2016
To most people, vintage photos are often interesting simply because they're old. There's an other-worldliness to relics of past eras. It's exotic. It's like how a foreign accent makes someone more alluring and attractive. It’s that mystical feeling you get looking at an old castle or cathedral. It's not a part of your general everyday experience and therefore it's enchanting. Likewise, we tend to associate authenticity with the style of a bygone photo because they have stood the test of time. They describe a world past— and, as such, they have earned a sense of importance. In short, this probably sums up why I enjoy making my own images look like they are actually vintage. The key is that they have to definitely look genuinely classic in every way, down to every detail— otherwise, the illusion is broken...
Thursday, September 1, 2016
One of my all-time favorite photography books (and biggest guilty pleasure) is Revenge by Ellen Von Unwerth. It's a little (6 x 8 inch) limited edition book, bound in black linen. I don't like to judge books by their cover- but just looking at this cover, you know that it's going to be a treat inside. I've actually had people see the book among others at my photo studio and say "Oh, what's that?!". While there is a general narrative arc (taken as "excerpts" from the diaries of the nubile young heroines), Von Unwerth primarily uses stylized black and white photography (think Helmut Newton meets Man Ray) to tell the story of how the Baroness disciplines her newly orphaned nieces. It is not a very original story, but Revenge is really not about the story. What little narrative there is, is executed with a tongue-in-cheek flair that sets the saucy tone of the book. And the eroticism in Revenge really does have flair. The models are gorgeous, the clothes (when there are clothes) are gorgeous, the set (a glorious mansion and its extensive grounds) is gorgeous— all in the style of the lovely pornography of early 20th century Europe. The sadomasochistic elements tend less towards real pain and suffering and more towards the discomforts of dominance and submission in a campy, Paris Vogue sort of way. You can't help but laugh, but you also can't put it down— it's just too damn fucking pretty. Though I find the pleasure of reading it to be more aesthetic than erotic, I certainly can't deny that it's definitely a pleasure all the same. Revenge is a sexy little volume, all the more so because it doesn't take it so too terribly seriously. If a book could wink, this one would ;)
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
This image is from a shoot with a model who goes by the moniker PXE. It's pronounced pixie, which is fitting due not only to her petite size, but her squeaky voice. Her voice is a dead ringer for Carol Kane's voice (from Taxi). She's definitely one of a kind— a fascinating person, capable of switching back and forth between a bubbly cartoon character and intense sexual persona. Speaking of bubbly versus intense, I think this is one of my strongest images— despite the fact that we were both pretty much laughing hysterically the whole shoot. It seems to visually convey a celebration of female empowerment. "I am woman, hear me roar".
Monday, August 29, 2016
What is, and what will be 21st Century photography? So far, the real difference between 20th Century photography and now is that it primarily existed on a printed page before, whereas now digital offers other possibilities. In the 21st Century a print is still relevant for sure, but now somehow quaint, and certainly not the way most of us see and/or use images for the most part now. Many print magazines and newspapers are dying and bookstores (where you can see actual books) offer a paltry selection of coffee table photo books. Remember those? In its place, there is now a luminous screen, and its other side remotely plugged into an unimaginably large stream of data. We now look at social media, websites, blogs, and online newspapers/mags for our images most of the time. And yet, there is still an image, and the image can be of something or other as always. The next wave will be virtual reality, for better or worse. It will be, at the very least, interesting. It will probably take on new names, such as immersive multimedia. Despite all of this, an image of a cat still will just represent a real cat (or perhaps, sort of), according to the same logic that maintains that paper money represents gold bullion (gold standard). It always was, and always will be, an illusion based on inherent trust. But that illusion will be stretched and the inherent trust will be further tested to be sure...
Sunday, August 28, 2016
I had a literary allusion in mind for this image— I was thinking Henry Miller as a woman. I gathered up some old items and arranged them a bit. I told Katy to pretend to be him, which wasn’t hard since she worships the author (she has a tattoo of him on her arm). To be honest, I thought that it was going to be a kind of lame image, but I love it! Speaking of Henry Miller, for anyone remotely interested in him but have been put off by the intense going off on a tangent/rambling (and crudeness) in the Tropic books, I would suggest picking up a lesser-known writing— Quiet Days in Clichy. Miller, in a masterful way, gives us an account of Paris like it once was. Far from the visual images of a saccharine city as portrayed in films like Amelie (not that I don’t love that film), Quiet Days in Clichy mingles the picturesque with the down-and-out for a wonderfully grimy portrait of the underbelly of a city. Whores and cafes, breakfasts of Roquefort and white wine, poetry, and squalid prose, Miller dissects Paris in the brilliant way Émile Zola writes of it in Thérèse Raquin... presenting a city that is a filthy beast, but deserving not less than all your love and praise. It's straightforward, hilarious— and at times shocking, but undoubtedly it will continue to be an inspiration to those who long to live life to the fullest. I've been a big Henry Miller fan since I was a teenager, but his infamous and banned books (the Cancer and Capricorn ones) are not my favorites. I far prefer this one, along with The Colossus of Maroussi and Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch. Quiet Days is a memoir; a nostalgic story of life in Paris before WW II; a celebration of the Bohemian life Miller lived when he was a poor unknown writer. It's rollicking, hysterical, and introduces fans to a whole cast of characters who became Miller's lifelong friends— people who influenced his writing and his art forever.
Saturday, August 27, 2016
Friday, August 26, 2016
When I first started photographing, my biggest influence was Man Ray. My earliest successful images often looked like Man Ray photographs. Not so much any more, but that connection is still embedded in me, and that aesthetic still seeps into more than a few newer images. Perhaps the one below fits that bill. Early on, I used to think that his images were more by chance than deliberate methods. I saw a wonderful retrospective on him at the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris, back in 1998, which showed how dramatically he would crop images. It also showed how he used myth making to his advantage— he would make up fabulous stories about how many of his photographs came about by happy accident, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. His name is a good example of how intentional he was about anything that he did. His real name was Emmanuel Radnitzky— but he cropped it, and cropped it well. He didn't become Manny Radnik or Ritzy Manuel. He folded and trimmed his name so that the new one would have a shiny new meaning- half human, half light. Man Ray cropped with flair, and chance had nothing to do with it.
I must say that although I definitely understand the mass appeal of using your iPhone as a snapshot camera, I have never been entirely comfortable with the trade-off. Yes, it's super convenient— but it is actually taking two or three (or four) steps backward concerning image quality. Technology (especially for photography) is more advanced than ever, but everyone is taking these awful pictures that wouldn't even look good as a 4 x 6 print, yet alone a larger print that you might frame and hang. Hell, they usually look downright awful as thumbnails on Facebook! I see the bus stop and television ads showing what amazing potential they have as far as being able to be blown up to a billboard or a large HDTV, but I am not buying it. They are very deceptive. Those images are very carefully selected from talented photographers shooting under ideal circumstances— not to mention that the images were not degraded with in-phone apps, and then they were heavily processed and fixed by professionals with advanced software. Maybe they were not even shot on iPhones? None the less, I have an iPhone, and sometimes the best camera is the one you have with you. So I have been taking some shots with it. Things that catch my eye in the spur of the moment. Also, macro photography is a strong point of the iPhone camera; you can get two inches away (from, let's say an insect) and get a good focus. I love this because carrying a macro lens on the go is not something that I would typically do. So, yes, eventually I hope to have a little portfolio of iPhone images. I'm pretty damn sure that it won't be my favorite portfolio, but it might be interesting. Kind of like the collection of Polaroids that I have— which are interesting, but far from great....
Thursday, August 25, 2016
We are bombarded with visual images. The potential for any one image being particularly memorable is being diluted with everything else. Where we once just saw photographs in magazines and books and snapshots (perhaps a gallery), we now see them constantly on the internet. For photographers, this is a blessing and a curse. More people than ever can see our work— but unless it's absolutely iconic, it probably is not being remembered all that well. It is more important than it ever was to have a certain look to your work, for it is more likely that your general body of work is being remembered, rather than a few select images. Perhaps one image, again, but only if it is something that really stands out. This is quite sobering. I've always thought that is important that one creates their art more for themselves than for others to see— for since it has always been a difficult endeavor to remain relevant, it seems harder than ever in a culture that overwhelms us with optical stimuli.
Full disclosure: I’ve always been a cropper. Having started with film and spending years developing black and white photos, cropping in the darkroom always felt natural. To me, it also felt necessary to accomplish what I wanted to. This despite being vehemently told otherwise by others— they said that cropping was a cop-out for not being able to get it right in the camera, and it was a form of lying. Of course, that's B.S. All photographs are lies, all photographs are crops. My definition of a photograph is to add edges to the world which has no edges. But, none the less, I had guilt about cropping. I realize now that a “perfect” rectangle or square— pulled back so you see the edges of the negative in the exposed print (to “prove” you haven’t cropped) is basically a parlor trick. Over time I've seen the work of many photographers who don't crop beside the camera— and I honestly feel that while they may sometimes get an image that looks pure and wonderful, usually their compositions in the majority of their work are kind of (if not very much so) seriously lacking. So, yeah, I crop. Not always, sometimes just a little, and sometimes a lot. Sue me. All these years later, I look back with no regrets about it.
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
This was actually just a smoke break that caught my eye, which I took a quick snap of— the studio lights happened to still be on. That's a nice benefit of using continuous lighting. It turned out to be the best shot of a shoot that was already finished. Those kinds of things can really make your day.
I've always tried to maintain a strong lock onto the eyes. Normally, there is a natural rhythm of looking at people and looking away. When it feels right, we can hold our gaze a little longer, relishing a simple moment of human connection. We are naturally drawn into images by eye contact. There is nothing like that feeling of a tie bound by an invisible thread, as in sharing a unique moment with them. It’s very hard to articulate and explain in words that feeling that connects you to a subject, either in the viewfinder or on the printed page. When that connection is there, though, it's obvious— and doesn’t need words to explain it; we feel it.
Monday, August 22, 2016
This is one of my favorite images, perhaps because it has a unique oddness to it. It's not something that someone else could imitate very easily. In fact, I don't think that I could replicate it again myself if I wanted to. It was the serendipity of the right model doing the right thing— while by chance, I got the right angle with just the right lighting. It certainly was not something that I consciously designed or thought of beforehand. It was a happy accident.
Sunday, August 21, 2016
"I’ve watched people at the gallery looking at the nudes, and I find it interesting that they don’t spend the most time in front of the beautiful bodies… even young gallery-goers seem to be more involved with the bodies that show signs of wear and tear, the one that shows evidence of having been lived in.” ~Chuck Close
This reminds me of the Shroud of Turin. Which reminds me of "In Search Of...", that was narrated by Leonard Nimoy in the 1970's. My favorite was "In Search of... The Bermuda Triangle". Talk about early sensationalism! Now I tend to think, umm— how about that planes & boats disappear simply because it's a very large area that is extremely prone to nasty storms, despite that it's surrounded by heavily populated civilization? There was, indeed, an "In Search of... the Shroud of Turin", though. This image is dedicated to that episode.
Saturday, August 20, 2016
Friday, August 19, 2016
Thursday, August 18, 2016
Recently someone left me a comment stating that they reworked the single images of photographers found on the internet. He also mentioned that he (Alexandros “Ishkandar” Raskolnick) hoped that I didn't mind that he reworked a couple of my images. Generally, I don't really care for such things, but I really liked this interpretation of two of my images combined: