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.
Coming at you from the familiar, torn comfortable seats at Caffetto coffee shop once again. Hipster culture has become such a laughable social movement the last few years. They don’t really bother me personally, because there are so many social demographics that I find more irritating, but I find it funny that although I don’t fit the part with plaid shirt and twisty mustache, I am…by all rights, a hipster. My friend Cullan Luthar did rebut that claim by saying the difference is that I actually am making a living with my art, which is automatic hipster disqualification, but all the other factors in the equation are there. Oh well. Caffetto has the best coffee in the Twin Cities in my opinion, and it’s like drinking it in the hull of an old pirate ship! How could anyone resist that?
A lot has been going on the last few weeks. Some good things, some very, very bad. The bad I’m not ready to talk about yet. I’m still in that state of denial that a crisis situation […don't worry, not health or family related] I’m in the middle of, is going to end with a “near miss” outcome and I’ll able to write my next blog about how I narrowly dodged a bullet.
In the meantime, there’s plenty of good to talk about, starting with the last trip to the east coast! I had quite a few awesome shoots booked with some beautiful, amazing people; but I can’t deny I was most excited for OPEN LIGHT: MODELING, POSING and ETIQUETTE! This was the third OPEN LIGHT workshop I’ve held with Jim Gavenus. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, Jim is solely responsible for putting me on the path to photography. He’s mentored me for almost ten years so having the opportunity to hold these classes with him is a true privilege. MODELING, POSING and ETIQUETTE was a workshop that was developed simply through popular demand. After our last OPEN LIGHT, the attendees were asked what they’d want in future gatherings and the subject of how to direct, pose and interact with models was of interest to almost everyone.
The event was a huge, huge success with fifteen attendees […three over the typical sell out class number of a dozen attendees] and included a mix of photographers, models and makeup artists. It was important to Jim and myself that everyone had equal contributions to the class, and that everyone walked away with knowledge and photos that would reflect what they paid to attend. We broke the afternoon into thirds, the first of which was etiquette. Addressing how to approach models, other team members, and even other photographers in the industry- and how to respect one another. We included a brief mention of the importance of contracts and model releases, followed by introductions. Later in the afternoon, Jim and I went through examples of environmental and fashion posing. We ended the day with over an hour of breaking up three beautiful models with professional makeup by Chelsea Sakavage, amongst three groups of four photographers throughout the gorgeous space of Arts YOUniverse in downtown Wilkes-Barre, PA.
The OPEN LIGHT workshops have become one of the most rewarding endeavors I’ve taken on in my life. They were originally intended to share secrets and tricks Jim and I have learned during our careers as exclusively available light photographers and obviously make a little money in the process, but they’ve become SO much more! The folks that have attended these workshops have turned OPEN LIGHT in to a growing, prospering community. After this last workshop, we’ve created a Facebook page and a group that I really encourage you to join and contribute to. There are big things in store for OPEN LIGHT this year and next, including bringing Jim to Minneapolis for our first workshop in the midwest. More information on that soon!
The shoots in Pennsylvania were an absolute pleasure. Aside from working with two promising young models for the first time, I got to shoot with Rachel Fox again. An absolute darling and dear friend who has exploded lately just breaking 4,000 likes on her Facebook modeling page! We had an extremely long…extremely productive shoot. The first few edits have been outstanding and I can’t wait to go through more. We’re trying to get her to Minneapolis to shoot a collaboration with myself and my friend Yuli Xenxai of TEASER By Yuli! Fingers crossed. I also had the opportunity to shoot maternity photos for my good friends Sean and Tawnie Rae. Truth be told, maternity shots used to be “work” for me….until I became a Dad myself. Now I love them, and I consider it an honor to document such an important milestone in a family’s development. OMNIA • VANITAS I could have mentioned before all of the above because it was a significant event that happened before I left for the east coast. My first gallery in almost a year and a half, hosted by The Hair.e.tic Salon in uptown Minneapolis. The opening was a big success and it felt good to have work on the wall again. I wanted to wait to mention it because this weekend, I’ll be shooting mini-sessions as an extension of the gallery opening, presented by The Hair.e.tic at probably the cheapest rates I’ve done in the last five years. The salon is subsidizing the shoots in return for styling and the space to shoot, so if you’re in the Twin Cities, I really encourage you to take advantage of this offer. Two shoot packages, starting at $100! We’re almost sold out so if it’s something you think you’d like to do, email email@example.com to schedule.
Otherwise, life is good! I still have a few other irons in the fire aside from photography stuff. There’s a cool t-shirt apparel company called Mermaids & Accolades here in Minneapolis that’s debuting their line in the summer. I’ve been contracted to illustrate and design three shirts for them. The first of which is called the modern mermaid design and was a really fun piece to work on. I also just finished a tattoo for one of my favorite people in the world, Laurel Nightingale. It’s an over the top art nouveau illustration that is serving as both the basis for a half sleeve, and future artwork for the eventual relaunch of Kommienezuspadt apparel.
Again, the intent was to keep these blogs shorter and more frequent. Although I’m sure I could drum up more to rant about, I should wrap it up. In the next couple weeks, you can expect another update with a look at the first of my new sets for Suicide Girls. There may also be a peak at a super secret long term project I’m started with Yuli, the first of which will feature the incredibly sexy Trisha Lynn! Keep checking back and do the social thing. Share the blog and the site! Thanks for reading and the continued support.
Facebook I www.facebook.com/rachelfoxmodel
Dammit! So much for shorter, but more frequent blogs! My heart was in the right place, but the time! Where can I find the time!? Unfortunately, my regular readers will have to understand the frequency of these blogs will probably remain weeks, rather than days apart. Rest assured however, time I’m not writing blogs, I’m most definitely creating art!
OPEN LIGHT is returning in March, but there’s something exciting that’s happened in my life/career that I need to talk about first! Thanks to my good friend Yuli’s recommendations, I began interviewing and eventually hiring a production assistant! Her name is Ashaley Yang and she is incredible! She has a background in fashion and event planning and even in three weeks of working together, she’s lessened my stress by almost half! Of the requirements I had for this position, probably the most important was that I needed someone that could get excited about projects and ultimately, want to see me succeed! Ashaley hit the ground running as she began working with me at an extremely busy, and unorganized time in my life. She’s stepped up to each obstacle and I feel so privileged to have found her before anyone else did. For past, and future clients, you’ll most likely start hearing from Ashaley instead of me if its anything that has to do with contracts, releases, locations, bookings or scheduling. I will still be dealing with photos, edits and concept building as I always have. Ashaley can be reached any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you were one of the attendees to the first OPEN LIGHT workshop, or have been considering it, March 23rd, Jim Gavenus and I will finally be holding the MODELING, POSING and ETIQUETTE class! After the initial OPEN LIGHT class last year, this was requested by several photographers and industry professionals. Countless times during shoots, models have asked if I’d be teaching a workshop on this essential, but often times overlooked skill set. Makeup artists and stylists have vented to me about how I’m the only photographer that consistently gets them edits of their work. All of these events have shaped the subject of this workshop and will undoubtedly be the most comprehensive opportunity for those already working, or looking to break in to the photography industry, to learn trade secrets that’ve taken Jim and me years to perfect.
March 16th, I’ll be opening my first gallery of 2013 at the hair.e.tic salon in Minneapolis. OMNIA • VANITAS from 7 – 10:00p.m. will showcase new editorial fashion and beauty work. My dear friend Nicole Crust of Hair By Crust [...incredible stylist who has worked on many projects with me including the incredible TEASER By Yuli collaborations], made this event possible. What’s even cooler is that we’ll be selling reservations for mini-sessions styled by the hair.e.tic staff that I’ll be returning to shoot in the salon the first week of April! It’s such a cool idea! If you’re in the Twin Cities, try to come by!I’m very humbled that I’ll have new work on the cover of MPLSZine’s March “Beauty” issue featuring Laurel Nightingale, one of the most gorgeous women I’ve ever met. The timing for the MPLSZine cover coincided with a shoot Laurel and I already planned. MPLSZine is an amazing digital publication featuring artists and writers all over Minneapolis. Definitely check it out. I was floored when I saw the production and content of the first nine issues. I’m completely set back to have the opportunity to have my work be the face of their beauty issue.
Lastly, shortly after publishing this blog, I’ll be packing up for a road trip with Soraya from Pinup Stylings and we’ll be making an eight hour drive to St. Louis, MO for a collaboration that is sure to be nothing short of epic! I’ll be shooting an absolutely gorgeous model named Sara-Isabelle Macoux and another amazing model named Morgan Antonio Johhson!
I could go in to more detail but I want to save some anticipation for what’s to come! This is definitely one of the most anticipated shoots I’ve had on my calendar in a long time.
As always, thank you to everyone for the continued support! It means the world to me and as long as you guys still give a shit about what I do, I’ll keep doing it. Take a moment and visit the links below and give some love to colleagues and friends. I’ll be back mid March after shooting on the east coast. If you’re interested in booking a shoot in Pennsylvania or the surrounding areas, send a note to email@example.com and we’ll get you scheduled!
The hair.e.tic Salon
Website I www.hairetic.com
Facebook I www.facebook.com/pages/the-hairetic-salon
Pinup Stylings by Soraya
Facebook I www.facebook.com/pinup.stylings
I have a cute redhead that does my copy editing and she advised me to start writing shorter, more frequent blogs, so this’ll hopefully be the first of updates with more frequency. Abridged versions if you will. Audio blogs maybe? I guess that’d be a podcast. Nevermind. I definitely don’t have time for a podcast!
I’m far from the best photographer, but of hundreds of incredible photographers, I do have something unique that not everyone with a camera can do. Shooting the OPEN LIGHT style gives me the ability to shoot everywhere. Literally anywhere, and still make strong images. Without the constraints of heavy, clumsy equipment, I’ve been able to shoot in beautiful locations that typically wouldn’t be accessible to a photographer. From marble lobby’s at the ground level of five star hotels to dingy, dark warehouses, I’ve made some of the most iconic images of my career.
I’ve let some close friends in on the secret to Pheed, like east coast tattooed, total fitness babe, Rachel Fox. Rachel is one of the best models I’ve worked with and has yet to break out with the kind of notoriety she deserves. While she’s waiting on her Pheed account notification for new members, she’s launching a major campaign on Facebook and Instagram.
Lastly, keep in mind, guerrilla marketing goes well beyond the newest social network trend. When I first moved to Minneapolis, I was able to transition to a full-time freelance career, in a new city, because I was willing to actually walk in to local businesses and present myself, my work and my rates. Friends more talented than myself sat idly by, working part time jobs they hated. Flyer your shit! Bulletin boards DO actually work, IF you have something captivating! Freelance, exposure and creating a following for your work is a hustle. Respect the hustle! As my friend eL.I.Be says, “Do work son!”.
Teaser by Yuli
Twitter I http://twitter.com/rachelf0xy
If I were writing a profile for an online dating site, I wouldn’t start with “My life is in transition”. It just reeks of desperation. Fortunately, blogging on my own site, I can get away with it and the truth is, that’s exactly where I am at the moment.
All the Google Analytics in the world can’t really tell me who visits, or reads what I write here. I try to figure it out, but there are too many numbers and charts. I lose interest and trail off within minutes. However, its public knowledge – by no choice of my own, however, that I’m going through an ugly separation. After realizing a three year long distance relationship, it finally reached a point where two people weren’t able to get by on simply love alone. Many lives have been affected by this breakup and its something I’ll mourn for years to come.
The girl I moved to Minneapolis for had become such a part of my life that in the wake of this relationship’s sudden end, I’ve found myself questioning how much of my creativity will go with her. She has always personified that expression “…behind every great man, is a great woman” and of our lesser qualities as an individual “man” and “woman”, of which there are many, a more fitting quotation might be “…behind every great artist is a great partner”. She has always had excellent taste. She has always been brutally honest of my work, which has made it better. She influenced the direction of my photography and above all, she was an essential part of nearly every shoot I’ve done over the last two years. Despite my personal opinions of her and our relationship and its unfortunate end, I do respect her as one of the best makeup artists in the Midwest and I will miss collaborating on projects that pushed both of our professional limits.
In the last several weeks of my life, I’ve shifted gears, almost immediately, from freelance artist to amateur lawyer. With that, I’ve shelved virtually all creative pursuits…only getting back to projects related to my photography career only in the last few days. This rift in my life has raised a lot of questions that I still don’t have answers to. Although of the other relationships in my life, both personal and professional, are in tact…many people in my lives have chosen sides. Some in my favor. Some not. Losing good friends, clients and fellow artists over immature Internet hearsay is terribly sad, especially realizing I had misjudged the character of those I loved and respected. But, with that, I can be grateful that I’ve seen more maturity and grit in our mutual friends and acquaintances than I have in the former. To those who have offered their neutrality to us both, or had the consideration to listen to my side of a very ugly departure, I appreciate all of you in your decency and support.
As things have begun to settle over the last week, I’ve been able to catch up on missed work and look forward to new projects for the coming weeks and months. Drake Younger, international death match wrestling legend and long time friend of mine got in touch with me to design a t-shirt design for an upcoming tour of Japan. This was a welcomed distraction from the daily legal motion filings which had consumed my time for the past month. Drake is one of the most genuine and professional people I’ve met in the world of independent wrestling and I was psyched to do my fourth design for him. The deadline for the artwork was a little sooner than I’d like, especially with the Thanksgiving holiday, but I was still able to produce an awesome design for a deserving athlete, friend and fellow good dad.
Following that project, I spent a few nights at my favorite coffee shop to catch up on photo edits that some of my clients had patiently been waiting on. The greatest stressor in my life isn’t money. It’s falling behind on my work. Clients that hire me pay hard earned money for my services and I pride myself on my professionalism. I’m fortunate that I can attract those clients with the variety of services I offer. I’ve often thought that if I had to make my living on only photography, or only illustration, I’d never be able provide for my family. The advantage to offering photography, illustration, fine art, web design, etc – among other things – is that it gives me an opportunity to make a respectable income to clients that have needs beyond one single medium. Sometimes it can just becomes too much for one artist. It’s in the uninterrupted hours at Caffetto, with a perfectly frothed soy hazelnut latte, that I edit a few dozen photos or finish inking artwork for a shirt that’ll debut in Germany or Japan weeks later, that I can appreciate the work I do in visual art.
On a Sunday night, I finally had a much anticipated meeting with a friend and fellow artist that I’d been looking forward to for weeks. Yuli Xenxai is the designer responsible for the awe-inspiring lingerie showcased in the epic Teaser By Yuli shoot I was a part of from this past July. Yuli wanted to meet in order to discuss another campaign for a new line she’ll be debuting in early Spring, which I was extremely humbled that she chose to work with me, considering she pretty much work with any Twin Cities photographer. Chatting with Yuli about our vision for what the still imagery, and video campaign was exactly what I needed to get past the disappointment of losing the creative energy of a partnership I’ve counted on since moving to Minneapolis. Although it’s loss can’t be understated, there are many incredible artists I draw inspiration from. Yuli Xenxai, and Nicole Crust, who I have worked with on a variety of shoots, including the last Teaser By Yuli shoot, are two of those talented people.
Finally, I have a project of my own I’ve been developing for some time that looks as if it’ll finally see the light of day. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, my first love was comic book illustration and to this day, if I had a choice in careers, that’d be it. Unfortunately, it’s an awful industry to work in. Too many fiercely loyal, talented artists compete against one another for a shot at a dream job. The result is over worked, insultingly underpaid artists. Many of which have to have second or third part time jobs in addition to the great volume of art they’re expected to complete each month. Because of these unfortunate standards, I wandered away from a career I wanted since I was old enough to hold a pencil. But, not for good. With the advent of crowd funding websites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, I’ve contemplated bringing to life a story that I’ve been developing for the last six months or so, but where would I find the time? With the change in relationship status, time is something I’ve unexpectedly gained and with that, this next venture may become a reality.
My friend Charles is a creative powerhouse and a year ago, we were talking indie comics. He and two collaborators had illustrated a mini-graphic novel that he had written. He was looking for a way to have the project printed that would share the burden of costs between the three people involved. I suggested Kickstarter […at that point, I hadn't even used the platform myself]. He seemed intrigued and a bit skeptical. What I love about Charles, is that he’s a “do-er”. We met for coffee two weeks later and he’d set up a Kickstarter campaign on his own that was already getting backing. In only a month, Blue Flame was completely funded and scheduled for printing! I was inspired and immediately got excited for my own project. Life got in the way. Kids. Money. Career and numerous other projects. Yet, with the strange turn of events as of late, this venture has had some life breathed back in to it.
With the prospect of getting serious about the comic book, I decided to try my hand at a new skill. Writing. In the early goings of this book, I was working with my friend Kelli […incredible artist, both traditional and tattoo] and her friend Rick Stemm, who’s a professional writer. He did me a great service in helping to develop a genre and characters for this work. Unfortunately, Rick could not continue with our collaboration, due to his career and commitments that took precedence, but at the time it was a half hearted labor of love anyway. Once my fire was rekindled, I sat down and finished six pages worth of writing and dialogue, as well as a working cover. With crowd funding in mind, I’m plan to pencil and ink the first six pages then take it to community and see what happens. If it doesn’t go anywhere, I’ll live with it…but the two genres it appeal to are not only comic book nerds [of course], but science geeks – since much of the principle story is rooted in biology and cosmology. The story surrounds the unbelievable durability of a creature known as a water bear or tardigrade. A simple celled organism that can withstand temperatures -400°F, 350°F, ten thousand times more radiation than any other living creature and even survived eleven days in the vacuum of space! In a serendipitous occurrence, one of my favorite science based podcasts, Astronomy Cast with Fraiser Cain, the hosts actually covered the water bear in their recent episode “Animals In Space”. I sent the staff a friendly note commending them on the tardigrade coverage and mentioning the comic book and prospective IndieGoGo campaign. I was written back by Fraiser Cain himself, assuring me that once it’s live, he’ll do his best to get the word out. A great sign of a worthwhile direction as Astronomy Cast gets a weekly listenership well in to the tens of thousands!
More on where the comic book project goes in a future update, but in the meantime, feel free to set your crowd funding dollars aside for “Theia”. Thanks for keeping up with the occasional blog updates. I’m leaving for the east coast in a few days to finish up eight shoots that were postponed in November. Plenty of art and imagery coming. If you haven’t already, please like MadeInEighty on Facebook and follow me on Twitter. Links below. Stay classy!
Teaser by Yuli
Hair by Crust
Facebook I www.facebook.com/hair-by-crust
This is an exciting blog for me, personally, because it’s about the first workshop I’ll be hosting! Sometime last year, Jim Gavenus and I casually mentioned the possibility of holding a seminar together for intermediate to professional photographers. For those who might not be familiar with Jim, he’s an exceptional documentary photographer. Jim’s work is literally life changing, and I’m a product of his influence. I’ll explain in a bit. The idea of a workshop had been discussed. But between the two of us, our schedules are chaotic enough that it’s difficult to arrange a phone call, let alone a three hour class. Still, as months went by, it was a topic that, each time we had a chance to catch up, never left our thoughts. This project came together organically. Jim and I would mention it to friends and colleagues, and there seemed to be genuine interest. Then, just last week, we finally agreed on a date in September, when we will be holding our first [of hopefully many] workshops. OPEN LIGHT will be held Sunday, September 16th at ArtsYOUniverse in Wilkes-Barre, PA. 2:00p.m. We’ll host a class of twelve or so attendees. We’re really excited to share our individual journeys; which although similar, have gone down completely different paths in creating still imagery with others.
A few words on why this workshop is something you should consider. I’ll start with my earlier comment about Jim’s photography, and how it has the very real ability to change one’s life. Full disclosure, I used to hate photography. Yeah, that’s right. I thought it was a joke. I thought it was an art for those who couldn’t hack being a real artist. I’ve been an illustrator ever since I developed the motor skills to hold a pencil. From pencils, I eventually started with inks; from inks, to watercolors and so on. This is what art was, I thought. Pointing something at something else and clicking a button was for people who couldn’t do what I did…..or so I thought. It’s funny. I remember going to the MET in NYC with my class on field trips, and completely blow past once in a lifetime photography exhibits just so I could get to the paintings. Now, in hindsight, that makes me feel very foolish. I was a kid though. This was all until I was required to take a basic photography course as part of my Painting/Illustration major where I saw this image Jim took in Haiti.
This was a life changing photo. I was intrigued and amazed. Naturally, I admired the photo, but I was perplexed more than anything, that I actually cared. Looking back, I think it may have been because Jim was an actual person. I’d seen timeless images similar to this in magazines my entire life, but this guy was teaching my class! I decided at that moment, this was something I wanted to do. I’d gotten used to picking things up quickly, as long as they were in the same vein of artistic expression. Ironically, the medium I used to scoff at would eventually be the one that bitch slapped some humility in to me. I struggled from the moment I picked up the camera, and it wasn’t just a couple weeks until I figured out the hardware. It was literally YEARS before I started turning out decent images; and years beyond that until I started making great images, and getting attention for my work.
Jim inspired me, and the time spent working together, we became good friends. Often times, Jim would accompany me and my brother on ridiculous outings in the suburbs, in which we’d take high powered rifles and start 40 foot bonfires with homemade napalm and Molotov cocktails. Jim once took an amazing photo in our living room of our friend Ronnie holding an AK-47, in front of a bulletin board with an autographed picture of Mr. Rogers!
I continued to follow Jim’s work as both a friend, and a fan. I could come to him with questions and problems, and he was immensely responsible for helping to shape my style. As a documentary photographer, Jim was always shooting in interesting situations. He’s done acclaimed, and very emotional work in a project called “Near Death”, and his “Southern Accents” project has become a celebrated contribution to the ongoing Civil Rights movement. He’s also been featured in gallery exhibits in places such as the Southeast Museum of Photography and the Manhattan Gallery in NYC. In addition, Jim has countless photos published in Rolling Stone, American Photographer magazine, and many other publications.
After shadowing Jim for years, naturally, my approach was similar to his own. I was unaware at the time, but this would eventually develop into a style that is unique to most portrait photographers, and almost every fashion photographer. When people decide to venture into photography, one of the first things they learn after the initial camera anatomy, is light. How to light. Where to light. What light does to an object, and to a model. What is considered to be good lighting and bad lighting. My criticism of this is that, by in large, lighting is taught in a controlled environment. You are taking someone into a studio. You are shown how to position an umbrella flash against a seamless; how to make the lighting perfect. This is great if you want to become a studio photographer, but that’s not what all of us want to be. I do feel, because of the focus on studio photography and lighting, a lot of potential photographers become sheltered and fearful of the outside world and how to interact with it behind a camera. Because Jim’s images are captured from locations across the globe, he does not always have the option of setting up a giant soft box around his subjects. Jim made most of these iconic photos with only the use of his camera.
My story picks up where Jim’s leaves off, and again, that’s because his approach to making pictures has directly influenced my own. I never had space for a studio, and I didn’t have money for expensive equipment. I also wasn’t comfortable shooting folks I didn’t know. Jim is a wealth of remarkable, hard to believe stories about walking in to strangers’ houses in places like Needmore, Alabama. Sometimes the stories ended well, and sometimes really badly. I wasn’t as adventurous. I found myself being drawn to portraits. People [mostly women] that actually wanted to have their pictures taken. For the first three years [yes….YEARS] my work was awful. Looking back on it now, I don’t think I realized just how awful it was. There was good reason for that. I was using photography as a means to hang out with pretty girls in their underwear. A phase many, many, MANY photographers never grow out of […even those who are well in to their fifties, sixties and beyond]. Luckily, I did. At some point, I started paying a lot more attention to making respectable, professional photos, than I did the cup size in front of me. With a shift in what was motivating me to take these pictures, my work started to improve. I expanded to shoot other subjects like bands and live event photography, weddings, etc., but always came back to portraits.
Without extra lighting, it was a long while before I was making powerful photos. Initially, it wasn’t a conscious decision. I just straight up couldn’t afford a $400 flash. I kept my head down and pushed forward. I enjoyed the process, so even though my images weren’t blowing me away, there were always those one or two lucky shots that were encouraging enough to keep pursuing this complicated and frustrating art. One day, [I actually remember the shoot], all of a sudden I just saw things differently. It’s hard to explain, but I’m confident almost every photographer experiences this moment. A moment of enlightenment, where instead of seeing people, background, and props; everything just became in sync. Similarly to when you squint your eyes, I suddenly saw shapes and colors, highlights and shadows. All these essential ingredients that photographers pour pain-staking hours into creating in a studio. The only difference was, I was in a park! It was a pivotal moment.
My tastes and interests began to evolve, while maintaining my new vision of the world, and my unique education on using my available surroundings to light my subjects. I suppose, the following years were spent honing those skills, and learning the essentials outside of myself and the camera. For example, Photoshop processing and the importance of building a reliable team of creative professionals like makeup artists, hair stylists, etc. [Read my East Coast MUA, Maria Bonacuse's latest blog on why makeup artists are important to photographers, on her site.]
Another important milestone in my career was finally realizing a three year long distance relationship with Angela Morris, a Minneapolis model/makeup artist, whom I met under the most serendipitous circumstances. With the exception of Jim, no one has influenced my style and photography as much as she has. She was brutally honest in her critiques of my work. She’s a tactless, but incredibly effective, editor who pointed out things in my images that I would never have caught on to without her. It’s because of her that I have an understanding of what good makeup looks like, versus awful makeup. She’s the reason I started requiring a professional MUA, rather than having the model do her own. With Angela’s help, my style was fully discovered. My photos finally began looking professional; and it wasn’t a particular change in my work that made the difference. It was all of those changes. After ten stubborn years of wrestling with this art, I’d finally turned the corner. Then, following a move to Minneapolis in 2012, I began making my living taking pictures as a freelancer.
I feel like my last three years have been the harvest of a ten year long, tumultuous struggle in sowing this career. There were opportunities placed before me that caused me to experience a lot of doubt and anxiety. With the success I achieved in light of those challenges, I gained the confidence I needed to embark on this rewarding lifestyle; making a living creating art. I’ve had the chance to shoot models in Germany and Paris, as well as work with exceptional models like Kaio Wilker, Lady Diamond, and Ryan Malarkey. I’ve gotten to see my work printed in publications from Boston, New York City, Brazil, and Japan. It still seems surreal, even after working so hard for it. Although this life is sometimes difficult to juggle with a family, I enjoy the spoils of my hard work and dedication to a craft that by no means came easily. I’m able to travel all over the world, getting paid to shoot beautiful people, and make lasting images that we are both extremely proud of. It is the manifestation of almost every artist’s dream.
What makes Jim’s work so timeless, and what makes mine so unique, is our use of light. We’re setting out to teach this approach of truly using your surroundings in our first workshop, OPEN LIGHT. The seminar is not for beginners, and will be aimed at advanced, intermediate to professional photographers. We’ll be assuming you understand the basic functions and anatomy of your camera, as well as how to make basic exposures. The class will be broken up in to three parts. First, the process of recognizing that rather than bringing your studio and equipment to the location [i.e. Dragging light kits and flashes to a field with battery packs, etc. Believe me, this DOES happen], the location can be your studio. Adjusting any thought process takes time, but we’ll be showing students how to change their perspective. We’ll always be focusing the first part of the workshop on mastering manual settings and exposure to problem solve almost any scenario. The second part will apply what we learned to its use in the real world. We’re offering hands-on shooting time with both myself and Jim [precisely why this will be a small class, ensuring one-on-one time with all attendees] at a location with difficult lighting scenarios. We will be supplying a beautiful model, Tara, for the entire class to shoot during this segment. Finally, we’ll be having a look at the photos we took, and addressing file management strategies, Photoshop processing, and how to save your work for both print and web ready publishing.
At the time of posting this, the class is almost half filled, so if you’re at all interested, we suggest registering ASAP. To reserve your place in the class, access the SkillShare site. The total cost is $100, but by using the code “DEPOSIT” at checkout, you’ll be charged $50 to ensure you can participate, with the remaining $50 due the day of the event. As I mentioned earlier, this is our first of what will hopefully be many workshops to come so of them all, this will be the class to determine whether or not more will follow. We’re going to exhaustive efforts to secure future workshops by making OPEN LIGHT the absolute best it can be.
Thanks for your time and considering registration. While you’re here, take some time to browse the work throughout MadeInEighty and keep in mind, virtually every photo throughout the photography portfolios were shot with this available light technique. I’d also urge you to visit Jim’s website, www.gavenusphoto.com for a look at his work in various galleries of editorial and documentary photography. Also created using the OPEN LIGHT approach.
Register For OPEN LIGHT
SkillShare I http://tinyurl.com/openlightworkshop
So here’s the quick version of our last photo swing through Pennsylvania and Atlantic City. Delta loses our bag with all our cameras. Two hour drive to get a replacement camera and lens as to not cancel on the seven booked shoots. Making out in abandoned train station. Fancy hotel and pretty girls. Baby Mills turns one year old. Camera returns from Albuquerque, NM. Vegan Treats is closed on Mondays. Atlantic City. Fancy hotel and beautiful maternity photos on the beach. Vegan Treats IS open Tuesdays. Pretty girls. I turn thirty-two. Indian food with great friends, new and old. Pretty girls. Boarding passes, followed by Delta again, fucking things up the entire trip back to Minneapolis. That is the quick version. If you’re satisfied with that, thanks for reading. Read on for the in depth adventure, which, much like children’s books, has pictures…except NOTHING like pictures in actual children’s books!
Every 6 – 8 weeks I go back to the East Coast for a tour of photography sessions spanning from Philadelphia to Boston. Sometimes Angela comes along if we can make baby arrangements and afford the second flight. With bookings almost every day in Pennsylvania this was something we were looking forward to. A chance to work, see friends and travel as a family. Baby Mills has only visited Mema and Grandpa and our friends in Scranton once, so we were excited. We were also anticipating some incredible shoots in the models we had booked. Beautiful girls with varying levels of experience and completely different styles. Everything was looking just splendid…until Delta got involved in the mix.
Just for clarification, when I say “Delta” I mean, DELTA AIRLINES! Yes, the same airline who’s customer feedback page on their website is right here. I never check a bag. I travel light on clothes and heavy on equipment. Contrary to popular belief, when I make these trips to different cities to shoot 10,000+ photos of beautiful people, it’s still a job…and I’m actually there to work. Part of the reason I don’t check bags is because I’m cheap and refuse to pay extra for something that up until a few years ago, was free, but also, because I don’t trust people. I don’t trust employees. It’s the same reason I don’t go on roller coasters. I’ve had several jobs and even at the best of them, I had those days that I didn’t give 100%. Many that I didn’t even give 50%. Now, that does apply to the crew that’s prepping and flying the plane just as it does roller coasters, but I don’t NEED to go on roller coasters. I DO need to fly to these cities to make a living. It’s a necessary risk. Handing my livelihood over to a stranger with a tag gun is a risk I can avoid by holding on to my only bag.
Alright. So, guess what? Our first flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta, the overheads were full. “We’re going to have to check your bag”. It’d be funny if it weren’t so infuriating looking back to that moment that my gut instinct with to tell them to eff off. The thing is, I’ve flown Delta the last six or seven trips with NO problems at all. I guess I’d grown to trust them as a “company”, failing to realize that the company is made up of many individuals, some of whom may have been experiencing one of those 50% effort days I mentioned earlier. One of these 50%er’s tried to take a woman’s bag two seats behind me and she exclaimed with great enthusiasm “Tough shit, you’re going to have to make it fit! I’m not checking my bag.” Angela and I smirked at each other silently reading each other’s looks, “What a bitch!” HA! You can start preparing yourself for how this turns out. I hand reluctantly hand my carry on over to the flight attendant who asks “What’s your final destination?”. I tell him, “Allentown, PA”, and he says “You’ll just pick it up there at the baggage claim.” Oddly, I was never given a pink ticket or slip and didn’t see this individual again for the duration of the flight. Several hours and one connection in Atlanta later, I’m standing next to my wife at an empty baggage carousel in Allentown knowing it’s lost with no way to track it. Angela says to me “What was in it?”. Trying to reassure myself the important things we’re still in my possession [i.e. laptop, baby, etc.], I spoke through a clenched jaw as I told her “….baby diapers, clothes….and all our cameras and lenses”. We knew were were fucked.
I tried to place a claim at the Delta counter but without a ticket number to track, it wasn’t looking good. We left the airport in the state where you try to convince yourself it wasn’t that bad. It was, and we both knew it, but that’s just what you do in time of crisis. Angela and I are both very resourceful people. We weren’t even back to Scranton and we were shopping for rentals, considering purchasing and returning one, and putting the call out on Facebook for a loaner. We got some great leads from friends like Lindsay Tarutis, who suggested a incredible place called Zilok. Unfortunately, the closest one was in Philadelphia. A few friends like Jason Healy and Nick Vino really came through with offers to borrow their DSLR’s but equally important to the body, I absolutely needed a 50mm lens. It’s what I’ve shot with for the last six years. It’s what I’m most comfortable with and is imperative to the style of photos I take, and moreover, what these girls were paying for. In the midst of the scramble, I got a message from my friend Jimmy Maria [who I serendipitously met shooting a Norma Jean show together]. He had a 50mm and a Canon 50d, but he was in Reading, PA. Two hours from me. He was able to get the camera to his friend Nate Flickinger in Allentown, someone I also respect as a talented artist and photographer and had been wanting to meet for a while. So, thanks Delta. You can add about four hours of travel to the tickets you’re going to comp me. We made the trip to Allentown and although brief, I got to meet Nate and we had a solution for the upcoming paid shoots that weekend.
*I should also note that Angela loves coming back to the East Coast because of turnpikes. If you’ve never been to PA, NJ or NY, these are toll roads [….for what reason I still have no clue considering it's like driving through that twelve minute fire fight scene in "Children Of Men", versus the smooth, welcoming pavement of Minnesota's FREE highways], and upon exiting the turnpike you have to hand a ticket over to an attendant and pay a fee. My friend Matt and I used to play this game years ago where the passenger had to come up with a predetermined sentence fragment the driver had to incorporate in to a quick conversation with the toll employee. On the way back from the Allentown adventure, I was given “…head banging to The Jackson 5″. I nailed it by casually mentioning “I’m so excited to be here in Scranton; birthplace of Michael Jackson! We’ve been head banging to The Jackson 5 since Philly!”. The funny thing is, he barely reacted and that’s typically the case. Proof that state government pay and benefits can’t prevent you from hating your job and life.
The next day was baby Mills’ birthday and it was so great to have family around to celebrate this day with my little boy. Although that nauseous feeling didn’t go away knowing $5,000 in camera equipment was gone, we at least had the means to finish out the shoots we were booked for. We were able to enjoy our little family gathering as Mills destroyed his first birthday cupcake made by his very own Mema!
After the family festivities, it was time to get to work. Angela and I took another new friend out on a yogurt date [or was it the other way around?] and decided to spend a few hours getting used to the Canon […yes, I shoot Nikon]. We went to the infamous train station and I eventually figured out the 50d enough to make some great shots of Alyssa.
The next day was two shoots, back to back, with Becca and a really promising model, Erin Crispell. We had been talking concepts and locations for weeks. We had all rented a room at The Radisson hotel in downtown Scranton. A beautiful nineteenth century train station that was converted in to a hotel/banquet center. We’d shot there once before and the images came out great. This time I was looking forward to exploring the enormous marble building and lobby, rather than just shooting in our room. Becca wanted a variety of portraits and Erin wanted straight up editorial fashion. Both girls are beautiful and couldn’t have been more pleasant and professional to work with. For the times I may bitch about the pitfalls of this business, it’s clients like these girls that make me so thankful to be able to make a living creating art.
Becca’s shoot was first. We all checked in and Angela started makeup while I walked to Northern Lights to gather few cups of Scranton’s best coffee. By the time I came back upstairs, she was ready to go, I’d wrestled the Canon into submission, and we were off to the races. Becca was a natural right from the start. Photographers tend the throw that phrase a lot, but this was the stone cold truth. She snapped in to modeling the minute I picked up the camera. I rarely show models photos on the camera because if it’s something they don’t like or are overly critical, it can effect their confidence for the duration of the shoot, but I had no doubt she’d love what we’d already taken and it was incredible to see the look on her face when she knew she was killing it. We did some really cool unintentional 60′s mod shots on a orange couch outside, some timeless headshots that turned out absolutely classic, and some very sexy boudoir photos back in the hotel room. Even writing this, I can’t wait to go through an edit more from this shoot.
Immediately following Becca, Erin arrived […I'm being literal. They passed each other in the room and Ange started Erin's makeup while I dumped the last memory card and switched batteries]. Erin has such a great fashion look so the opportunity to shoot her in this style couldn’t have made me more happy. Especially since, as of late, editorial fashion has been my jam. Angela did a remarkable job on makeup and Erin and I warmed up in the lobby. Perfect, dramatic lighting…nice and low, with beautiful bright colorful accents along the walls with a shiny hardwood floor. Again, Erin has a natural talent for modeling but it was rewarding to show her some posing and breathing tricks. One thing Angela and I get compliments on a lot is how well we direct. The few times I’ve been on the other side of the camera, I can only describe it as a feeling of being lost. Simple things I’ve never had to think about suddenly felt awkward, like how my arms rested at my sides. We shot a variety of styles of fashion in a ton of different locations throughout The Radisson. One of favorite shots was during a detour through the stair well. These really bright, clinical walls with industrial water pipes going from floor to ceiling and a random chair nearby. We wrapped up the session with some really cool rear-sync flash photography- a technique I love, but one that carries a high rate of failure because of the unpredictability of movement and light. Luckily, we nailed a few shots and I know there are more on the HD waiting to be edited to perfection. It was extremely rewarding to shoot Erin because I feel she’s getting images unlike anything she has in her portfolio and most importantly, that she got her money’s worth. She’s coming away with a lot more confidence, which is something you can’t fake. I love knowing we helped in her path of a legitimate modeling career.
Throughout the may lay of thousands of images….guess who called and left me a message? Connie, from Delta…in Albuquerque, NM. Yeah, they found my bag. In Albuquerque. Motherfucker. After some discussion and praise to G-d, it was on it’s way back to Scranton. Hallelujah!
We thought we had a couple days off but during the shoots at The Radisson, the makeup artist I use in NEPA, Maria Bonacuse came by to meet Angela […they are makeup soul mates]. Maria is about eight months pregnant and looks incredible. She had casually mentioned needing maternity photos but was leaving the following morning for Atlantic City. From the time she left and later that night, she and Angela were texting each other constantly about NARS Cosmetics’ “Orgasm” blush being the number one selling blush on the planet, crease colors, broken oars and at some point, plans were made to drive to Atlantic City and shoot her maternity photos on the beach. Sure! Why not? Luckily, I’m a pretty spontaneous guy, and after all….we were here to work. I also liked being able to take Angela places she’s never seen. She has a fascination with the East Coast and its people…..for reasons I’ll never understand.
We departed, stopped at the Scanton/Avoca airport and picked up my bag. In tact, with all cameras, lenses and diapers accounted for. As terrifying as it was to have that bag lost with thousands of dollars in booked photography scheduled, the thing that really had us defeated was what we were going to do after this trip. As I said, we’re a resourceful team. We knew we’d find SOME way to do the work lined up, but we had NO way to replace the equipment we depend on to make our living. With my luggage making it’s way back, we could finally breathe a sigh or relief.
The next afternoon, we loaded up our equipment and said goodbye to baby Mills so he could spend the day with Mema and Grandpa Hal. We embarked on our second venture on the Pennsylvania turnpike en route to Atlantic City, NJ with a stop at Vegan Treats in Bethlehem, PA. That little detour is an adventure in itself, which I’ll direct you to via Angela’s blog on vegan cuisine, http://angelaeatsvegan.com.
We arrived in Atlantic City relatively in tact mentally and emotionally considering how the first leg of the trip had gone. Maria was staying at the Trump Taj Mahal, which although I’d been to AC many times, I’d never had the opportunity to walk through. I can only compare Angela’s reaction to that of the first time she was in NYC. Wide eyed, overwhelmed. Not smiling. Moreso in awe of what surrounded her. When she’s in a new, beautiful place like this, she tends to just observe, like she’s soaking in every detail. One of my favorite perks of this job is that we get to experience things like this together.
We met Maria and headed down to the board walk. The sun was just starting to set and conditions couldn’t have been any more perfect for portraits. Maria looked absolutely beautiful. We fit several outfits and shots into a relatively short amount of time. The photos were just coming out incredible. Again, contrary to my typical conduct I had to share a beautiful shot against the pier and her face was priceless! I may be making assumptions but although Maria knew getting maternity photos was an important part in documenting this time in her life and her baby’s, I don’t think she was “excited” about them until seeing that photo. From that moment, she was glowing in almost every photo.
Aside from Maria being one of the best makeup artists I’ve ever worked with, she’s an absolute sweetheart. We stayed at a nearby hotel for the night and met her and her family the next morning on the beach. We dipped our toes in the Atlantic Ocean and then promptly made our way back on the AC Expressway with a belated stop at Vegan Treats. Again, the entire story on that here.
We settled back in after a three and a half hour drive. We spent some much-needed quality time with Baby Mills and my folks and took a day to recover. Angela stayed in with the baby and I met Ashley Gries for a spontaneous rendezvous for Dark Knight Rises. Ashley is an incredible photographer. I had an afternoon shootout with her last year and she’s a darling. Check out her work here.
The following day, we had two shoots booked with Keri and Marti Calpin. We had a late start on Keri’s shoot but fortunately, Marti was able to reschedule for the last day of the trip. We had a few concepts fleshed out for Keri that were kind of involved and then little hang ups like memory card troubles and last minute location changes. Once we got started, things began coming together. We had a splattery paint shoot that could have went über cheesy, but I feel was executed perfectly, sexy without being Maxim-esque. The second concept involved some really cool editorial shots getting changed in the back seat of her car. Keri did a great job. I hope one day we can shoot again. In the last half hour, she really seemed to get comfortable during the sexier shots and her confidence read on the images great. She has a great body, beautiful tattoos and was professional. The only we were able to make this shoot happen is because another girl flaked two weeks before the trip. She paid for her session in full, no questions asked and was a pleasure to work with. Funny how things work out, eh?
Later that night, we finally had a chance to meet up with my dear friend Ryan. Ryan grew up five miles from where I lived almost my entire life. She was always unique and a stand out in our small town. She pursued big things and accomplished them. She went to Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC and worked for years as a designer for a big company on Broadway that supplies retailers like QVC. She lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and just moved back to Northeastern Pennsylvania for a tattoo apprenticeship. Since she completed it, she’s quickly becoming one of the best tattoo artists on the East Coast. On top of all these accomplishments, she’s a remarkable fine artist. Have a look at some of her illustrations, charcoals, and paintings on her Blogspot.
I have two theories. The first is that if you’re incredibly talented and smart, you don’t get to also be beautiful. I feel strongly about this because that means there’s someone out there that’s ugly, dumb and pretty much useless…and it’s your fault. It’s just a cosmic balance that you’re screwing up. I feel this way about Tina Dolin, but also about Ryan. The second theory is on WHY Ryan is good at what she does and is as accomplished as she is. I think it has something to do with where she grew up. I feel qualified in this theory because I’m a product of it. I wanted to be an artist my entire life. Even though I was conditioned to accept a regular 9 – 5 job, I wanted more. I went forward working third shift at a psychiatric hospital for six years, along side a freelance art career during the day hours. It resulted in virtually no sleep for a good part of my adult life but I wanted it enough to put up the bullshit. I used to regularly hold fine art exhibits, twisting the arms of my friends […and in some case, family] to come and attend the openings. In short, if you wanted to be an artist where I grew up, you had to basically be willing to do it for yourself because there was little interest and opportunity. It was a natural order of thinning the herd from those who wanted to be an artist because they weren’t sure what major they wanted to declare in college, to those who were passionate and lived to pursue something they were sure they were meant to do. Fortunately, Ryan realized this at a much younger age than I did, but it’s still true. Art just radiates from her.
Angela and Ryan have become good friends since I moved to Minneapolis even though they’ve met only a few times, they keep in touch. Ryan and I have a special bond, not only because we grew up in the same small town, but because the photos I’ve taken of her are undisputedly the most iconic portraits I’ve ever done […in close competition with the shots of Kaio Wilker]. Seizing the opportunity for us to create new photos together has been in the works for years and finally on my 32nd birthday, our circumstances had finally aligned. I decided on the Ashley coal breaker. An abandoned breaker in Northeastern Pennsylvania that’s a well known exploring/photography location if you can get to it without being noticed. Actually, I’d shot a dear friend and model, Mandee Wolfe there years ago but it wasn’t until Jimmy Maria and Sara Scutt showed me the secret back entrance with access to the inside of the buildings. It was perfect for this shoot with Ryan. We’d done beauty, fashion, and sexy. It was time for something dark and gritty.
We had a casual start to the day which was perfect. This was meant to be fun and without the pressing constraints of a schedule we were able to take our time and have fun. Of all the shoots I’ve done over the last thirteen years, I can’t recall a time that SO many images on the memory card were immediately keepers that I locked for definite editing. It was seriously 1:5 ratio. We did about three outfit changes. We took some beautiful makeup shots and a few product photos for Kommienezuspadt. We wrapped up a little bit ahead of schedule, dropped off Ryan and she made her way to NYC. Definitely one of my favorite parts of this trip. She’s an incredible person and it was great for Angela and me to spend time with her.
And after all this, here we are. The last day of the trip, finally getting to shoot Marti after rescheduling. The hours previous were chaotic and unorganized. Plans kept changing with family, location, driving arrangements, you name it. Fortunately, Marti is a beautiful person with the patience of a saint. We were able to get in to ArtsYOUniverse, one of my favorite locations to shoot in NEPA- a Catholic church bought and converted into studios for visual and performing arts. I’ve become good friends with the building managers so it’s a huge privilege to have access to that space, especially on short notice. We did some moody shots in the sanctuary but the best shots were made outside the church against the walls, between small spaces. Very interesting compositions. We made use of a colorful sunset. Completely different than our shoot last November. She took us out to eat at La Toletca, one of our favorite Wilkes-Barre restaurants. Whether she realizes it or not, she made a sizable contribution to the overall goodness of our time in Pennsylvania.
On the way home, naturally…Delta cancelled our flight. Am I shitting you? No, I’m not. We left later the following morning, causing major pick up arrangements with our older boys. We were rebooked on the first flight, but left as standby on the second. I dealt with more obnoxious Delta representatives at the counter, and our son’s head was hit by a flight attendants cart followed immediately by “…you really should watch your baby’s head so it doesn’t get hit when I’m coming down the aisle.”. No apology. We’re currently in the midst of pursing refunded flights which as of this blog, I was told by a senior customer service supervisor “We do not refund flights”. Just a heads up for those of you considering flying Delta.
Overall, another few thousands miles in the bank. Thousands and thousands of images made of beautiful people, and work doing what we love. Yes, there were crises but in the end, it all worked out. That’s something I need to get better about realizing in the thick of the catastrophes. It was so good seeing friends and family. Thank you to the thoughtfulness to those offering their help, time, cameras and assistance in a time of desperate need. It’s folks like you that maintain my delicate faith in the goodness of humanity despite all the shitty people out there. Visit some of the sites below and patron those that helped make this trip, and these images possible.
Website I www.jamesmaria.com
Ryan Ashley Malarkey
Website I http://ryanashleymalarkey.blogspot.com/
May 10th, 2012, RAW Artists hosted an event at The Fine Line Music Cafe in downtown Minneapolis, which Kommienezuspadt took part in billed as The Blend. We featured live screen printing as well as showcasing our models in a runway which seemed like a great way to get the brand seen in front of a packed venue of onlookers. Not to say that didn’t happen, but I can be pretty sure no one remembered our upstart independent apparel brand and that’s not just because the name is hard to pronounce. It’s because of TEASER by Yuli, who absolutely stole the entire show with a dozen drop dead gorgeous models displaying her raciest pieces in her collection! The entire club was in awe; myself included.
For the next couple of days, Angela and I found ourselves talking about upcoming shoots which seemed to always end in “Ohhhhh! We should see if we can get Yuli to style it!”. Independently of each other, we did some stalking until we found her on Facebook and we sent her a message about a possible collaboration.
Again, I’ve ranted at length about artists and creative professionals that adopt a walled garden approach to others in the same, or similar industries- a protectionist MO where the advantages or opportunities are you have are something you aren’t willing to share because every one else is “competition”. I was raised on the East Coast and of the many things I prefer about Minneapolis, the willingness to help others and lower your guard for the sake of collaborating seems more abundant than what I was used to in my developing career in a Philadelphia suburb.
Yuli was receptive to working with me and Angela so we made a date to get together and discuss our ideas. It took a few weeks for schedules to line up but once we were able to meet up it was obvious this wasn’t going to be a thrown-together late afternoon with last-minute models and shot in a spare room. Angela and Yuli are both extremely dominant women, just in their presence. At times, I’d just sit back and watch them interact with one another, trying to gauge the potential disaster. Fortunately, with their dominance, there also seemed to be a mutual respect for one another as creative powerhouses. They listened to one another and were honest with what they wanted and how they wanted it.
Once I knew I wasn’t going to have to referee a cat fight, I began throwing out lots of really dumb ideas that were quickly shot down by both. It’s hilarious to me that for as much fashion and editorial fashion photography as I do, I know almost nothing about what is and isn’t fashionable. The girls took the reigns. I stuck to how I’d like to shoot the photos and made suggestions about the concepts. The night ended late after several hours of conversation and a date was picked. Up next was weeks of production, phone calls and emails.
Angela and I suggested a hotel in historic Stillwater for the location, and although it was beautiful, it wasn’t “the one”. Yuli suggested a place in the same small town called The Rivertown Inn. We brought it up and knew immediately this was the place…even at $400 a night! It’s a breathtaking nineteenth century mansion converted in to a hotel. Without a doubt, the most beautiful hotel in the Twin Cities. Probably all of Minnesota. Angela called and spoke with Elise, the hotel manager and explained our hopes of shooting…and budget limitations. She said she’d get back to us after thinking about it for a day and when we heard from her, she gave us a reasonable rate that worked within our budget constraints.
Along with Yuli gathering props and pieces from her collection, we had confirmed four models for our good girl/bad girl tea party. Clearly we were all excited for this project but as the days grew closer to the shoot, some nervousness and insecurity started to set in. That always happens for me before big shoots. Especially when there’s so much on the line. If everyone does a flawless job and the photos aren’t extraordinary, that’s a lot of pressure.
Fast forward. We showed up to the hotel within a half hour of our start time, absolutely speechless to their beautiful building. With every turn, a room more beautiful than the one before it. We were incredible fortunate to have Nicole Crust of Hair by Crust styling. She was there early, and was hard at work when we came through the door. Considering how many complications can arise during a shoot of this magnitude, things went surprisingly smooth [which again I'll attribute to excellent production and planning on the parts of Yuli and Angela. I'm really not being humble about that either. During our early meetings I explicitly stated that I had too much going on with Kommienezuspadt and freelance work to contribute to calling, planning or preparation].
The shoot itself was incredible. We shot during a merciless heatwave and with seven people crammed into a small room, it was extremely hot even with the AC. Other stressors arose and it was over ten hours of hard work, but the kind of work you enjoy because you know you’re creating something special. With every photo I took, I knew this was the next level for most of us. Another exciting perk of this project was Angela as a second camera. She has her own camera [proudly, I am the spouse of a Nikon shooter and just recently the owner of a MacBook Pro]. She’s been looking forward to making her own images for years and there couldn’t be a more perfect circumstance than this to create and capture her own work.
All in all, we walked away from this exhausted by elated with the fruits of our labor and the knowledge that we’d done it together is exactly what a collaboration is meant to be. Several people pooled their collective talents to create something that benefited everyone and pushed them to the next step in their careers.
I’ve only had a chance to go through the 3,000+ photos taken and made edits of about twenty or so, which you can view below. I’d like to thank Yuli for taking us on for this project. Angela and Nicole for their contributions, the four models, Mary, Austria, Maconnie and Taylor, and of course The Rivertown Inn. I have countless hours ahead of me in editing and can not wait! I feel like every shoot I do, I’m giving up a piece of myself creatively…as if it weren’t an endless well…and if that’s true, I have absolutely no regrets on whatever I personally spent making these images a reality.
Everyone involved worked incredibly hard and are the gold standard of professionalism in the photography industry. Take a moment to visit their pages, add them or just say hello.
Hair by Crust
Facebook I www.facebook.com/hair-by-crust
Rivertown Inn – Stillwater, MN
Website I www.rivertowninn.com
When you work in an industry of beautiful, talented, often times wealthy or privileged people, you’re bound to face problems with punctuality, readiness, favorable work ethic and in some cases, the simplicity of showing up to the fucking shoot at all. I deal with many of these things on a regular basis, but recently I had someone flake [second time actually. Same model, so is it her really her fault or my own?] and throughout the years it’s taken me to finish my own blog/portfolio site, my intent was never to have an outlet to bitch and moan about those in this industry that have wronged me. But, on the other hand…this is my blog, and as previously mentioned, I’ve gone far too long without one. What I’d like to do rather than naming names is set up the situation, the outcome and most importantly, use this as an opportunity to put an emphasis on etiquette. Maybe for those just breaking into the industry, one of the many “What you should do in starting your career” pieces of advice you’ll pick up along the way… a little something to be said about what “not” to do. First and foremost, I am a new, proud father of a baby boy. My wife and I have two other boys. Our oldest is non-verbal on the autism spectrum. We are both freelancers. Aside from photography, I’m also an illustrator that designs t-shirts and apparel for indie wrestling and MMA companies in Germany, Japan as well as the US. If that wasn’t enough of a load on our shoulders, my wife and I also co-manage and operate Kommienezuspadt, our independent apparel brand. You may be asking yourself, “Okay, you’ve got a lot of shit going on. What does that have to do with this blog?”. To that, I’d say “Why yes. I DO have a lot of shit going on.”, which is precisely why time is not something I’m willing to give up unless it’s for something worth while.
Typically, I do not do TF (trade) work. On rare occassions I will, “if” I feel the choice to do so mutually benefits my career [...which is what TF is SUPPOSE to be! Not an excuse to lure pretty girls to your parents basement to take pictures of them with a Nikon CoolPix, but that's a much longer rant for a later blog] and that of an established model, MUA or stylist. This was one of those rare occassions as the model I’m referring to recently had a cover feature with Bizarre magazine shot by an extremely talented Minneapolis photographer named Julian Murray. I had decided prior to talks of this collaboration that in 2012, I wanted to expland my portfolio with a few more print models, so it made sense.
Referring back to my previous point about the small margin of time I have to dedicate to personal projects, this was something I cautiously let myself get excited for. My initial discussions with the model were times, dates, and eventually locations and concepts. My wife Angela is phenomenally gifted at creating unique concepts, so much so that I sometimes get a little lazy in coming up with my own. I decided I was going to exercise every creative muscle I had with every available resource. After a weeks worth of calls, rentals and preparation I had an actual skull from a Texas longhorn, and enough flowers and sod to build a Pan’s Labrynth backdrop. As a secondary concept, a hand build antique beach lounging chair as part of a BDSM-esque bondage theme, and even a rickety old hammock for an additional shoot she was hoping to submit work for, independently of our collaboration. She asked Angela to do her makeup, which she even allowed herself to become excited for.The stage was set for one of the most epic photography endeavors of my career.
For almost two weeks, I regularly checked in with this model making sure we were still on. The more work, time and money that was invested in the shoot, the anxiety of a potential cancelation became greater and greater. But, after being reassured, I felt confident in going further with what had become an extremely production-heavy arrangement.
Fast forward till the night prior. Although very excited, I was up late from a live event I had to photograph in downtown Minneapolis. After coming home tired, I made some quick preparations to charge batteries, clear memory cards and check some email. During that time, came across a tell tale red flag of what has, in past experience, been a prelude to disaster. Seeing a model on Facebook chat at 2:30a.m. when she has to be on location by 8:00a.m. makes me nervous. I sent a instant message that said “Hey. Get to sleep! We’ve got an early day a head of us!” and her response of “Oh! No sleep for me. I’m at work. I don’t get off till 6:30a.m.”, was the last thing I needed to hear. You see, for six years I worked third shift at a psychiatric hospital. I know all too well the feeling of walking out of your place of employment as the sun comes up, knowing you’ve committed yourself to something only hours later. While I prided myself on being able to function on very little sleep and being dependable, it takes a special kind of person to have the discipline to push through and not blow off whatever just to crash in a pile of sheets and a soft pillow. I was not convinced she was one of these people.
Awake a few hours later, my first few texts didn’t receive a response, but no need to panic. An hour later, still nothing and reading the tea leaves was becoming increasingly more obvious. Checking my phone on the couch, going through our Facebook messages from the last few weeks I was confused to see her listed as “Facebook User”. A glitch!? No. At that moment, the inevitable I’d been convincing myself wasn’t going to happen finally sank in as a reality. She wasn’t coming, and had blocked both my wife and I so she didn’t have to deal with being bitched out. Hours and hours of thought, preparation and well over $150 spent on production I now had no use for.
The following two days were spent trying to juggle the schedules and availability of my wife, the friend that offered the location, and scrambling to find a replacement model. In the end, although I found a few girls that were interested, getting everyone’s schedule to sync up to save this shoot was more stressful than being pissed off for a few days and letting it go. I eventually did just that. I returned the skull, and equipment to the rental house and signed for almost $100 charge for props that never even saw the flash of a camera.
Everyone will deal with this shit from time to time. In my case, it’s been a long time since having this degree of a screwing, but once it happens, it reminds you why you adopted certain policies in the first place. It wasn’t until I arrived in Boston with four of my five shoots booked and no way to pay for the flight, travel and expenses, that I need to start requiring non-refundable deposits [this is, again, enough for a future blog itself]. I’ve always had a “one strike” policy on flaking. And I mean real flaking. I’ve had a few instances where serious, legitimate things have come up for models that have given ample notice and expressed regret. It’s no call, no show situations leaving myself and in some cases an entire creative team holding the bag. The girl this blog is about did just that to me about six months earlier for an advertising shoot for a local screen printing company. I made excuses for her because she was just an “add on” to the girl that was already confirmed, but regardless…she never showed up then, and I shouldn’t have been surprised that she didn’t this time.
To new photographers breaking in, establishing yourselves and your careers, and to professional photographers with years, or decades of experience, and to models, MUA’s and stylists, I urge you to heed this lesson. Lack of professionalism happens on all sides of this industry. It’s not just the photographer that gets screwed. The gears of an industry like photography, videography, theater or anything that relies on creative professionals, all turn on one another. Whether you realize it or not, YOU are one of those gears! Accept your contribution to this machine and how fortunate you are to be a part of it. Understand that at times, your commitments will be inconvenient, hard work and will interfere with time you could be doing something else. Accept those things as the conditions of this industry, or DO NOT COMMIT IN THE FIRST PLACE! I can’t speak on behalf of anyone but myself, but I would have much rather heard “I work overnights and I honestly don’t know if I’d be up for a shoot the very next morning,” especially after everything I put in to something that didn’t happen.
No one will fault you for being honest. Contrary to this awful experience, I’m reminded of a situation in early May. I have contacted an exceptional model named Doris Mayday about shooting after several mutual friends had mentioned her upcoming move and suggested us making pictures before she left Minneapolis. She was very receptive but as one would imagine, the two weeks leading up to her move were very hectic. The only time our schedules met up were a Sunday afternoon but the night before, she had a going away party. Although we were both very hopeful to shoot, my only time slot was from 10:00a.m. – 2:00p.m. Her response was a disappointing, but extremely considerate and honest “…I don’t think it’d be wise. The night prior will be rather long, rather sad, and rather drunk.” Disappointing, but responsible. Although we didn’t get to shoot before she ventured to bigger things, I’m sure one day our paths will cross and when they do, they’ll be on very good terms.
In closing with this first blog/rant, I’ll say this one positive about the industry: It has a natural order of weeding out assholes. Cream does rise to the top and impurities sink to the bottom. Do good work, treat people with respect and be considerate. That’s equally as important as your technical prowess, your style or performance. There are lots and lots of pretty girls and handsome dudes that don’t get called for work, projects or collaborations because word gets out. As tempted as I am to use this girl’s name, I’m not going to on a public internet blog but, candidly, within my circles of friends, colleagues and other creative professionals I will absolutely call her out by name with my experience[s]. There are two ways to get people to talk about you- Make good decisions or do the opposite.