If you had a glimpse into my life you’d give me a pass for only getting a blog out every few weeks […or months]. At the moment, I’m on a plane for a round of shoots booked during my first visit to LA. Ironically, sadly, these are the times I actually get to blog.
This visit to Los Angeles is going to be a big personal career milestone. I’ll be meeting new friends, shooting a set for Suicide Girls, and finally working with a lady I’ve been wanting to photograph for well over a year. Doris Mayday. One of the most renowned pinup models on the west coast! The last ten years of my life, I wanted to move from Scranton, to Minneapolis. On my thirtieth birthday, I finally took that chance, just to discover once I got here that “the next step” for Minneapolis photographers is apparently to move to LA. I have such nostalgia for Minneapolis […when I'd visit my friend Matt over the years, I'd always return home longing to be back in the Twin Cities], I don’t for see that ever happening. I also have such a stereotypical assumption of what LA is like. I imagine everyone is famous, thinks they’re famous or wants to be famous. I’ve also been led to believe that everyone is “fake” […and I'm not just referring to plump lips and cup size]. Being raised on the east coast, I’m used to directness. Again, these are all completely ignorant assumptions of a city I’ve never been to, so I guess I’ll find out what’s true and what’s not in a few hours. Anyway, I could go on and on about my expectations for the time I’ll be spending in Los Angeles, but let’s save that for another blog […I'd like to have posted by, er….December].
What I need to talk about is NOIR. The event I hosted with my art wife, Yuli Xenexai of Teaser By Yuli. Spoiler alert. I’ve always been the kind of person to give credit where credit is due, but I’m not an ass kisser […see above about being raised on the east coast], but throughout the duration of this blog, I’ll most definitely be kissing Yuli’s ass. It’s pretty much impossible to talk about her without doing so. In the last year, creatively, she’s become a huge part of my life, and my work. Before I go any further, stop, open a new browser window and visit www.teaserbyyuli.com or find her on Facebook.Last year, I was contacted about taking part in the Minneapolis RAW Artists event. I could go on at length about how my initial instincts were that this had to be a big scam. RAW ended up being one of the most brilliant events, and organizations in the country. For a guy that showed work at countless galleries in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, PA, often times having to twist the arm of friends to come to openings […don't worry, I remember who did, and didn't come], it seemed to good to be true that there was a company dedicated solely to showcases my art at their expense, aside from just selling a few tickets. Not to mention, meeting one of my best friends, Molly Waseka […actually, recently taking over as the US director for RAW, and the awesome friend that's putting me up in LA].
I was printing and peddling Kommienezuspadt apparel and having a good time of it. I’d made my rounds at The Fine Line. Lots of good art, and I was confident my work held up with the best there. That was, until I had to walk down that narrow stairway with my models, passing by Yuli’s entire collection that was about to take the stage. It was like nothing I’d ever seen, even for a guy that’s been shooting fashion for years. I mean, sure…you see this stuff in print. M Magazine, Dark Beauty and In Beauty have these elaborate wardrobes and lingerie, with perfect makeup and stunning models…but that doesn’t just happen at random events, on a Thursday night! Certainly not in Minnesota!
When my shirts, and the other designers girls hit the stage, there was a welcoming reception…but when Teaser by Yuli began walking that run way, the place absolutely erupted! People were literally screaming. Some were in shock, but every single person in that building was captivated by Yuli’s brilliance. There are those rare times you’re present for something “special”. I’ve seen bands that opened for bigger bands, that completely stole the show. I’ve been in a small indoor soccer area for my first Combat Zone Wrestling event in late 2000 that I knew was going to be something that some how, some way, would change my life. Seeing Jim Gavenus’ work for the first time. That night, at a small nightclub in downtown Minneapolis, I knew this was one of those moments.
After RAW, I messaged Yuli on Facebook, telling her how moved I was at the show and that I’d love to work with her. One of the most incredible things about her is her willingness to work with new talent. Photographers, models and makeup artists. We met and put together a big shoot with four models that eventually became the Rivertown Inn collaboration, which was a definite “next level” shoot at that time in my life.
Since then, we’ve worked together on smaller projects here and there. We’ve become good friends and share a lot of similar ideas on fashion, the projects we take on, and the frustrations that come with doing what we do for a living. Minnesota has a really…unique ecosystem within the photography/modeling industry. I won’t get into specifics, but for a guy that makes his living shooting in almost any other city in the country, Minneapolis is the one I find most difficult. I knew there had to be a formula to pay some bills in the city I loved and lived. I stumbled across something this past Spring when I held the OMINIA • VANTIAS sessions at the hair.e.tic salon. The idea was to offer sessions at a discounted rate, naturally with far less on the backend as far as shoot time, edits and wardrobe changes. Participants always had an option to buying more edits, and to my surprise, every single person did just that!
This led to me sitting down with Yuli and Nicole Crust, saying “…I’d love to do something along the lines of a boudoir session, but with it’s own identity. Maybe just all black and white photography.”. That birthed the idea for NOIR. Over the next few weeks, and eventually months, NOIR started to become more of a reality. Meetings […lots of meetings] with Sandy, Yuli, Nicole and Ashaley laid the foundation for the biggest event I’ve ever held with the rest of these talented ladies.
On July 9th, we were on set at Hotel 340 […Yuli's idea, even though I was positive I'd found the perfect hotel for this shoot. As usual, her idea was better. Hotel 340 is honestly the best I feel Minneapolis and St. Paul has to offer] for the production shoot that would eventually become the NOIR ads and commercial spot online. We shot Alexis Shaffhausen and Jordan Hoisington. Two of my absolute favorite models in Minnesota. The shoot was long, but the photos turned out amazing. Once they started making the rounds, there started to be a buzz about NOIR. The following weeks, we pushed hard, ran a contest and a week before the event, we completely sold out!The NOIR event was held August 8th at Hotel 340. It was completely booked with enough sessions to take us from immediately after check in, till about midnight, and one 90 minute Monroe session the next morning! Every girl that signed up was absolutely beautiful. Considering the stress after so many weeks of production and the amount of time in shooting, every new client was refreshing and exciting to work with. The shoots fell in back to back, in a gorgeous king suite that gave me endless possibilities in capturing a set for everyone that was uniquely their own.
NOIR has gotten incredible feedback and I continue to see the edits show up in my feed on Facebook and Instragram. Since the event, I’ve gotten several bookings from clients referencing what we did at NOIR as what they’d like doing our upcoming shoots together. With the success of this one of a kind event, Yuli and I have discussed bringing NOIR to other cities in the US. Spring of 2014, our west coast friends can look forward to NOIR being hosted at the historic Madonna Inn and that summer, we’ll most likely host the same event on the east coast near Philadelphia. Check back here or like the MadeInEighty Facebook page for news and dates.
As always, thanks for following my work and reading this blog. Also, the continued inquiries, bookings and support from all of you means everything. Thank you for giving me the freedom to make a living creating art and doing what I do. Please take a minute to visit the pages of the talented people I work with and mentioned above.