It’s been difficult to write about this project and not dip into political rhetoric about gun control. I’ve tried to keep this about me and my experiences for the artist statement but I’ve found it nearly impossible not to make mention of some of the more obvious underlying factors. These objects aren’t meant to spark debate or invite the criticism of our system (or lack thereof) for controlling gun violence. It was strictly a way for me to channel my frustration at yet another mass shooting, after another mass shooting, but before the next mass shooting and on and on ad finitum.
After the fact there’s plenty of room to make comparisons between the once-organic matter, pressed and shaped in molds to form the shapes that destroy those very things. The macro photography of tiny objects that are blown up to near comical sizes, pushing the viewer to contemplate every shard of bone, every sweaty curve of fat. You could mention all these things and not be wrong.
I don’t imagine that this series will alter anyone’s perception about gun control. I think that often, political art tends to get saddled with too much responsibility in that way. It’s rare that any one thing changes any of us. We are made of the pieces of experiences that we choose to remember or can’t make ourselves forget. Most of us, myself included, are looking for evidence that backs up our own opinions. Maybe I was creating my own evidence.
Like everyone, I’ve been really saddened and frustrated by the surge of mass shootings in America. Fighting the stagnation of legislature and a circular system that neither cares for the mentally ill OR limits access to guns seems like such an insurmountable task. I’ve tried to channel that energy into creating this photo series of bullets made out of non-traditional materials.
I wanted to talk about bullets in a different way, drawing attention to the destructive nature, but highlighting a kind of elegance as well. This is a fine line as with any real decisive issue. I don’t want to debate gun control with anyone, but rather create this thing that maybe reframes the conversation.
My first attempt was basically paper mache pressed into a mold that I purchased for people who want to make their own reloads. I got a really clean form and that lead to trying all kinds of things, some of them being more successful than others.
I have started thinking about these more in terms of sculptures that I am documenting with photos rather than “photos of something.” It’s the kind of distinction only some really nerdy art person would make but it feels like it needs to be said.
All in all, I have about 6 that I’m really happy about and a couple that could have turned out a little better. There are a bunch of issues when it comes to working that small and how my fat fingers manage it! I’ve put a few on Instagram and I’ll be updating the site as well.
Part of being a commercial photographer is learning that while your eye is why someone will hire you, they might not necessarily want you to use it. I’ve been shooting the way I shoot for a pretty long time. I try to cultivate a sense of vulnerability and intimacy with people who are often strangers, many times with a strong erotic slant. Wrapped up in that is often some form of styling or clothing that lends itself to “fashion,” which means mostly nothing, or at least, something different to everyone. On top of that, I try to get some sense of honesty (another word with no meaning) out of the person in the moment that feels genuine. This often lends itself to “portraiture” which has a meaning you can probably bank on. Viewers often respond to these images positively and people who hire me often tell me they really like my work…
…BUT…they don’t want me to shoot anything like that for them. To me, it’s kind of like of like being in the parking lot of a Porsche dealership, kicking the tires of a 911 Turbo, talking about how much you love it and then asking if it comes in a minivan.
This has happened to me nearly 95% of the times I’ve been hired for a job. This is probably a thing that happens to everyone else as well, especially as the idea of “branding” has become so pervasive. Companies inevitably want you to style your work to match the rest of their work. I try not to get my knickers bunched up about it.
My point is, in the longest way possible, is that it can be easy to get in a mode where you don’t challenge yourself artistically because you keep getting hired to shoot in a way that feels like is more profitable than your artsy stuff. Composition is the big one for me. I get locked into composing things I know people like. So I took this opportunity last week while I was standing in the brightest of afternoon sun (when I never shoot) with a Canon Powershot (which I never use) to do some quick framing and composition studies. I love formal relationships and I don’t explore those areas very often.
It forced me to think like me again, and anytime I’m able to do that I’m a lot happier.
A few weeks ago I published an interview with my friend and fellow photographer, Mark Velasquez, where we spoke briefly about his new workshop video series that he had been producing. And now, after many months of hard work and a lifetime of earned experience, it is available to you.
If you’ve ever had questions about finding models, directing photoshoots, post production workflow, equipment, etc., this is a really good place to start and for a lot less money than art school. (I am still paying off my art school student loans!)
Check out the series here and reach out if you have any questions.
I’ve been a little stuck lately when it comes to shooting. I am primarily an artist who works collaboratively and I thrive on the give and take with other artists. Moving to Seattle put me in a place where those creative connections are harder to find and that’s brought up a lot of questions about how I work and what I want to work on next. Moving here was also a way to distance myself from the commercial photography world in LA that can be overwhelming at times, and completely toxic at its worst.
So I’m here with all this limitless artistic freedom, but it feels at times like the same kind of freedom you’d have on a deserted island–oppressive in its infinite vastness. I work well with constraints. Time, media, equipment, etc. It’s been an experience to do a hard reset.
Finding and shooting a little series of found compositions has been therapeutic. These were all at the South Lake Union Block Party for the SVC Steamroller Smackdown where they were making lino prints with a steamroller. Pretty damn cool.
For the last few years I feel like I’ve been watching something I love die a slow, painful, and frankly, embarrassing death. The combination of the decline of publishing and the rise of the influencer, mixed with our gluttonous need for content has lead us to a point where quality and pride are third, fourth, tenth on the list of priorities. I fell in love with the idea of the artist/photographer who straddled both the fine art world and the commercial one, creating work that was a solid mixture of both. It’s been a long time scratching and fighting to achieve that, only to watch it disintegrate into a world of photographers who, in a race to the bottom, gave up paychecks for “exposure” to magazines that couldn’t wait to sacrifice prime cover real estate for whichever Kardashian might sell more units.
This is tough for me to write. I really wanted to be that next Helmut Newton, Annie Leibovitz, Herb Ritz. And, if I’m totally honest, Terry Richardson. (Minus the rape-y stuff.) These were artists who were able to weave pop culture into bigger conversations about art, the future, fashion, and the world. But I don’t know if that world exists anymore, and I don’t know if you can be known for making good photos unless you’re hanging onto 100k followers. And sometimes you don’t need to make good photos, you just need the 100k followers.
These are not new ideas. We’ve all seen magazines fold and newspapers fire their writers. We’ve all been witness to this slow tire-fire of investigative journalism that’s turned into one-sentence-answer interviews and celebrity jerk-off fluff pieces, framed on either side by uninteresting iPhone photos or PR images. We lost that war a long time ago. If you’re still fighting it’s because you don’t know that our side lost.
I called Alexander a couple days after he posted about the GQ flap and we talked before my therapy appointment, which is why I ended the call so quickly at the end. (True story.) He’s a really talented artist and an all around good guy to have in your circle of art friends. He’s untouched by whatever fame-bug I’m obviously infected with and I really respected his adamant stance against this kind of art theft. I have found myself biting my tongue more than once at photo-business buffoonery, always wishing I’d spoken up when it was too late.
This was a little departure from the “artist interview” format, but I hope you enjoy it.
Happy 4th of July to all of you in the celebratory mood. I’m releasing this interview I had with Ryan Bussard about two weeks ago for your listening pleasure. Maybe you listen to it while you’re grilling, ignoring all the toddlers at your cookout, or water skiing. I’m just trying to make it accessible. You don’t have to be doing any of those things but I want you to know you have options.
I’ve known about Ryan’s work for a long time and we kept in touch over social media while I was living in LA. We both reached out a couple times for actual face to face coffee, in person, IRL, real time, but we never got it to happen. This is a problem with the social media machine…sometimes it makes us feel like we know a person or we’ve had some interaction, so we put it off again until next time. And then one of you moves to Seattle and there’s not really a likelihood of you having coffee any time soon. This is totally my experience, I’m not speaking for Ryan, but I feel like I’ve missed out on some things because I subconsciously mistook something on the internet for a *real* experience.
Ryan is a damn fine photographer, but he’s been doing experiments with “glitch” art…these digital derivations on top of (or inside?) photographs. I kind of gush over them with no real words to describe them during the interview. It’s pretty smooth, so check that out. Lots of pauses while I try to find a couple words that aren’t “cool” or “pretty.” But I think that when I’m stumped by art I know that something big is happening and that I’ve found something important. The long and the short of it is, I’m fascinated by the digital world we’ve found ourselves in, and they speak to that. Especially since he talks about “taking apart the images,” like a dissection or a surgery.
I’ve thrown in a couple of his illustrations as well, another reason I wanted to speak to him. I always feel like photographers are at this disadvantage expressing themselves because there are certain constraints with a camera. Especially if you are relying on others to collaborate with you. I’m always interested in the other ways photographers choose to be creative and how that manifests itself.
There’s some good origin stories of his images here, and some interesting thoughts on artists sticking to and not straying from, their own sexual preferences. It was a good talk, despite the inevitable lost call close to the end. There’s a bit of a hiccup, but I’m sure you’ll be able to keep up.
Can we take a minute to admire the manliness, the sheer masculinity, nay, VIRILITY of whoever is below my window revving his motor bike? I can hear the simultaneous ovulation of every biological woman in a 3 block radius. And my building? Screams of ecstacy on each floor, women and men grinding and moaning against the closest object, the elevator door is opening and closing and reopening and closing on piles of writhing naked bodies. It’s getting harder and harder for me to control my own urges as I hear the rider, whom I imagine is made of mostly penis, gunning and gunning his bike over and over, summoning me from the dark recesses of my 5th floor apartment. I walk to the window, my legs shaking from the repeated spams of uncontrollable orgasms that come in wave after wave after wave, in sync with the animal hum of the shuddering engine between his legs. I’m afraid to look at my suitor below. I tremble as I pull back the blinds, afraid that if we make eye contact I’ll swoon, and right now my fainting couch is on the other side of the room.
I cover my mouth with my hand, lest I release a scream into the noon air, look down and, oh…
Of fucking course it’s some old fat guy with a $50,000 bike waiting for a train looking like he just needed to make a Buffalo Wild Wings run for the rest of the tellers at Bank of America.
Another audio interview! I listen and watch stuff when I edit, so I’m expecting you do the same. Or while you fold clothes or debone a fish or reattach the trucks on your skatingboard. I’m not telling you what to do, just giving you suggestions.
Mark and I met a few years ago in downtown LA when he was showing some work at a gallery. I’d been following him for a while on the streams and we’d worked with a few of the same people over the years but never officially crossed paths. I’m one of those weirdos that will be friends with you on social media AND in real life. I’ll see you post that you’re going to be somewhere doing something and I’ll straight up SHOWUP and introduce myself. If I see you out and I know you from social media, I will totally tell you I think you’re cool. I’ve made a couple friends in real life like that, and Mark is for sure one of them. (I’ve also alienated a few, too. Some people just can’t swing real life.)
Over the years we’ve shared work, introduced each other to new models, met for beers and Korean food, and, most importantly, bitched about photography. In this interview I try to give you a full-picture view of his start in photography and what he’s doing now. His start in photography is really interesting because it wasn’t his first choice, so we talk about that, his college phase of “porn meets religion” and working with models.
Mark is mainly known for his work for Playboy and his wonderfully lit, sculptural photos of models. But while watching his video series, I saw this whole other, earlier, theatrical side of him…Snow White, Santa Claus, pin-up calendars…thematically far away from where his now, but you can see the elements of staging and lighting that carry through all of his work.
I’m still figuring out the audio and recording but I think this one sounds a lot better. Again, if you’re a podcast wizard with some advice for this kind of call-to-call recording, I’d love to hear from you. And if you’re an artist with something to say, let’s talk.
Lucy and I met a few years ago in Los Angeles when I was testing with her agency. Over the years we ended up shooting a few times together. She has a crazy interesting life as a model, a bass player for the band Dear Boy, and as an artist, drawing and painting. I thought this was such a compelling intersection of talents and I’m kind of nosy (some would say curious) so I asked her if she was down for an interview.
I tried a different format with a podcast/recorded interview so bear with the audio inconsistencies and my southern accent. I like working with different interviewing methods and this one felt more conversational, but I don’t think anyone talks on the phone anymore so sometimes that feels awkward. Will you sit in front of your computer and listen to a Soundcloud track? Will you download it to your phone? Maybe if I can get you to listen to this I can trick you into checking out my underground hip-hop mix tape. I don’t know…I’m just playing with ideas here. Make shit, break shit, as they say in Silicon Seattle.
This blog doesn’t support an actual Soundcloud player, so I hosted it on another page. Don’t yell at me, I’m just working with what I have here. Also, if you’re a recording genius and you have tips and hints for recording phone calls, I’d love to hear them. We lost connection around 5 minutes in so if there’s a slight continuity break while we get back into it.