This weekend we were in Ballard and we stopped in one of those places that sells all the stuff you already own but in a more expensive form. You know the places that have placemats, but they only come in sets of three and they’re made of alpaca fur or recycled Easter grass. There are a thousand of these places in LA and probably your city too, located between a clothing store that has only 6 items and a coffee shop. I’m poking around on the sale shelf and I see this little metal container about the size of an Altoid’s tin with a cardboard sleeve over it. The design is nice, letter press-esque, old fashioned looking, and it reads “Vintage Erasers.” I’m so curious.
What is a vintage eraser? Is it from the olden times? Were they saved from an old elementary school and repurposed? What treasure awaits mine eyes inside this hallowed vessel? So OBVIOUSLY I slip the cardboard off and pop the tin open, and, lo, what do I behold but three, brand new, pink pearl erasers. Is this some sort of trick?! I’ve been bamboozled! What sort of monster would repackage an eraser that is still being made and sold NEARLYEVERYWHERE to school children and artists and nearly anyone who uses pencils?
On each eraser was a little black pennant with words that read “Go All” like some sort of less-than-generic attempt to harken bark to a time when people had pennants. I don’t know if you’ve ever had one of those inner conversations in a place where you have to talk yourself out of flipping a table or making a scene but that’s what was going on in that moment. Would you like to know how much they were asking for these rare, bygone fossils of mistake correction?
Are there actual pearls in these erasers? If this situation was a person, you guys would go get coffee and you’d have to explain to Todd that this is why people don’t like him. You can buy a BOXOF 36 of these same erasers, except name brand, for $7.22. It boggles the mind.
My point is that everything is terrible and there’s no reason to leave the house, I guess. And since you’re holed up there you might as well cover your walls in some of the prints from my new print store.
Since I’ve moved I’ve been going through a bunch of earlier work, looking at new work, sorting things and trying to make sense of the things we keep as artists. For instance, I have 5 Nancy Drew books. Am I going to read them? No. What are they for? Not sure. Do they have an intended use? Maybe? But in all of this organization I’ve come across a bunch of work that I would love to put in a new home. A few of these are absolute one-offs, printed on cold press or other archival paper, often stained with coffee or tea. They are departures from my normal work, but I really love them and the idea of making work that can only exist as one thing.
Other highlights are two framed photos from the ever-popular Mattress Series, some test prints from the darkroom, and then a number of shots from my series about the alluring nature of depression. As these things move I’ll be cycling in new stuff, so check back in from time to time. The depression photos are really some of my all-time favorite work and the prints are really well done. It’s hard to part with them, but I’m happy to find them homes.
I know you’ve got to go eraser shopping, but cruise through the Print Store on your way out. Next week I’m selling vintage rulers packaged in tube socks for $75 each.
Enough time had passed between the last 1800 mile roadtrip with a car full of animals (Memphis-Los Angeles 2012) that I was actually looking forward to the drive from Los Angeles to Seattle. Like everything in 2018, if you don’t romanticize it and honey-dip it in a healthy coating of nostalgia, is it even worth hashtagging about? I’m exaggerating a tiny bit, but I was really excited about loading up the family-Dana (wife), Luna (dog), and Number Two (cat and elder statesman) and driving up the coast. What’s more, it was just us. A moving company was taking our stuff up the coast which left us free to meander up through California without having to worry about a trailer or anything. I was really excited about this because everyone is always talking about these big trees or something.
Number Two is an old man with arthritis and only one working eyeball. His contribution to the #vanlife was pissing on Dana once a day. We’d bought him this great backpack because we consider him to be part of the family and didn’t want to leave him in the car when we went to go check out all the nature. As it turns out, he just wanted to be left in the car. He got one if not two, full baths in hotel rooms on the way to Seattle. Luna was a little upset by all of the new sights, sounds and stresses of the road but she was surprisingly good. We bought this strange new brush for her and it makes this bizarre hair-weave, which is at once beautiful and disturbing. (Have they been reading my diary?)
Two days in we realized the folly of traveling with animals and made a lunch stop in one of those PetCo-BestBuy-Marshall’s shopping centers since we couldn’t really enjoy a sit-down meal at a restaurant. Luna got a hard brush. Number Two was put on a cat leash (cats love leashes) and the humans had a hummus and salad based lunch from Trader Joe’s. The romance was gone. The honeymoon was over. The animals had won, again. I wasn’t ready for the logistics of traveling with animals and trying to stop off and enjoy natural sights. Most places don’t allow dogs in even on a leash so as not to disturb the local flora and fauna, and that totally makes sense. In places like Redwood Forest, most of the real iconic places were off limits to four-legs, which ruled us out.
Somewhere at the top of California we’d been following this river on our left that was this crazy shade of blue. I kept seeing small dirt driveways and finally I swung us over to get out for a minute and explore. We left Number Two in the car because he’d already peed on Dana and grabbed the dog and tried to experience the nature for a minute. And that’s kind of how it went. We were able to grab moments here and there on the road, photo ops, and some pretty spectacular views out of the window.
We did stop near Carmel and Pebble Beach which were pretty breathtaking. I tried to get my panoramic game a little tighter. Still not the tightest, but you’ll get the idea.
This place was crazy. Foreign tourists piling out of vans and feeding squirrels by hand, islands covered in birds, and an extraordinary amount of “No Trespassing” signs. Pebble Beach I think, where golfing is about the only thing that isn’t outlawed.
And here we are! A month into the Seattle experience. Outside my window is the Norwegian Bliss, a 4000 passenger cruise ship, waiting to be christened for her maiden voyage. It’s a weird place, and a huge adjustment from Los Angeles but I’m slowly coming around. I’m mostly unemployed right now, so hit me up if you need me to talk you out of a roadtrip.
Memphis and I have never met in person but we’ve followed each other on social media for a few years now. His style is hard to pin down without using a lot of overused (and misused) terms so I’ll try to not use the words “raw” or “edgy” too much. There are a ton of raw and edgy photographers in the world, we hardly need another one. But Memphis’s work is something different, and while I struggle to put my finger right on it, I think there’s an element of risk to his work that I am really attracted to. He’s mostly shooting film which carries an inherent risk factor to it that most digital photographers don’t have to worry about. It makes his photos feel like precious objects, like things that can disappear, like the very act of looking might slowly break them down until they no longer exist.
Memphis and I connected last week and we did a quick interview about his work. I love talking shop with other artists. Lately, I’ve felt really insulated from the outside world with moving from LA to Seattle and my inclination is not to go find other artists and shake their hands and bother them until they talk to me. Usually my inclination is to sit in front of the computer in the dark. This was a good compromise.
Ok so basic stuff first, when did you start shooting?
4 years ago…I had been escorting girls to photo shoots with photographers they didn’t know and a photographer liked the way my composition with a phone camera was. (I had taken some shots with the girls phones to show photographers of outfits and such.) Anyways, this photographer, Tuck Chaylor was like, “You should get a camera.” But I said that I didn’t have money for something like that, so he gave me a film camera and I got addicted.
That’s an interesting way to get started, and film is a tough way to learn. Were you self taught then?
Yeah, well I had a book on film photography. But at first I just got lucky, I guess… I’ve always been really good at figuring out exposure.
Do you remember the camera?
It was a Minolta 7000i.
And you’re still shooting mostly film? That’s kind of what I gathered from your tumblr.
It was my go to for most of my “career” up until about 6 months ago when a photographer who had inspired me a lot and talked to me a bunch along the way wanted to get into film so I gave it and some Portra film, along with a couple Polaroid cameras to get him started. His name is Adam Parker if that’s important. I prefer film. I try to do some 35mm, some instant film, and some digital with everyone if it’s available. Digital is free and that’s the lure to it, I guess. Between film and digital there is no comparison in my opinion-it’s film film film!
I’m the same, but I’m kind of still nervous about film, like maybe I’ll whiff a roll or something. I’ve shot 100s of rolls, but that fear is still there.
Well there’s always a chance you’ll fuck shit up and then there’s the cost around every corner but for the most part I take a digital shot then match the settings…I’ve been told my digital camera is more of an expensive light meter than anything else! (laughs) But I don’t trust anything I can’t see.
(Laughs) I do the same thing! I shot some models before leaving LA and just took 3 rolls of film. It was totally different. No digital, and it changed the whole mood. Like we were so focused on getting it right. A different vibe.
Sometimes I do that but only when I have a sure thing model…I usually warm everyone up with digital though.
Speaking of, I don’t know how to phrase this exactly, but I really feel like you have a “kind” of model. A physical aesthetic, I guess? I love it. It’s raw as fuck but isn’t afraid to be femme at the same time. Tell me a little about how you find your models and that process?
Well that’s tricky to explain…I like girls that are boyish. I prefer butts over boobs. I like girls with something that makes you remember them, like a dimple in their chin or a gap between their teeth…I don’t like girls that use a lot of make up and I tend to like goth girls I guess if you were going to label them…I don’t like prissy people in general. I like girls that wear Doc Martin shoes, Vans or Converse…androgynous girls are my favorite, feminist type girls…girls that show their intelligence in their face.
I always joke with other photographers that I just want to shoot girls that look like boys.
Something about gender confusion is intriguing to me and always has been.
Especially now, it’s in the public consciousness so much.
A picture should make you question things I think that’s the idea to a lot of my images. I want to make people feel some type of way.
Whats your experience with your work that does question things since you’re living in the south?
Yes, I have been told I’m soft-core pornography and I’ve got a lot of flack that I don’t think I would in other places… people are worried they’ll ruin themselves here… in the south they still have that burn-the-witch mentality. But I’m noticing more and more that girls want to be liberated from that kind of judgement and want to own themselves instead of having the southern society decide the person they should be for them.
Are you from the south? And how’d you get the name Memphis?I was born and raised there!
I am from Blue Ridge South Carolina. The story of how I got my alias always raises some eyebrows and people give me shit about it because I am Memphis McEnroe in my everyday life, at work, and on the streets. People always ask “are you even from Memphis?” But it goes like this: A friend of mine was working in Memphis welding, and asked me to come out there and take pictures of him party and whatever…he said that Memphis was the Detroit of the south and since I love shot-out abandoned buildings, poverty, and things of that nature, that I’d like it there. So I grabbed my check, quit my job and ran out there… It’s a long long way from where I live and the only time I had ventured off that far away in my car. So somewhere along the way while we were going through the city I said I’d take it as my name and that my trip to Memphis had been a pilgrimage. But I had to have something to go along with it so I just saved it in my heart until that day came.
That’s pretty fucking hardcore, really. And you’re not wrong about Memphis/Detroit.
There were a lot of hardcore things that happened out there but I’ll leave that a mystery. Let’s just say Memphis definitely left an impression on me.
Yea, it gets inside you. I’m still trying to get it out of me. A lot of dudes who shoot chicks JUST shoot women. It’s like they can ONLY shoot that style. But I was on your tumblr and dude, you have my respect because you went full butthole in a couple shots with another dude. Tell me about that shoot.
Well that’s my friend Cole. He’s a musician. Point of view photography has become a big thing for me. It’s controversial as fuck. I mean for the first couple years I followed what they call the golden rule, which is don’t ever touch a model no matter what the circumstances.
And what changed for you?
But after a while I kept seeing it done and one day I was with my friend Sarah (who is also a photographer) and I said “Isn’t that just gross and in bad taste?” And she was like “nahh I think it’s hot.” So I decided to start asking girls if they wanted that type of picture and they did…Because of my history as an escort for models I had a lot of girls trust and they knew it was something like acting and wasn’t real-only staged-so we’d have a talk about it and go over each one before we shot it. It became so common that I quit asking people to do it and would only do it if they asked me…and they did. And I started hearing gossip about myself and the main rumor was “he only does photography so he can choke young women.”
I’ve heard that rumor about myself. Similar ones at least.
So I started doing it to men and when my friend Cole came over one day, we went all the way with it. And I did what I usually do with girls with him. Maybe a little more extreme.
It really hit me, as like, FEARLESS. I was totally impressed.
Thanks, man. I wasn’t too sure on how people would judge me for it but basically that was my way of saying “fuck you, I’ll choke anyone.” I think the fear in people about that is they think…. my god what if my mother or grandmother or sister or daughter or the girl I got a crush on wants Memphis to do that photo. And that scares people.
Yea, I can’t really put it into words, other than it made me feel like you were in it for the act of making art more than anything else. But yea, I get that other vibe. Being in front of the camera or behind it…it’s not real life. It’s something else. A strange place to be either way.
I guess in a way I want my art to scar people’s minds. I have a lot of concepts that I’m working on but I have to have people I trust around me to do them.
And you have to trust them. I think it works both ways.
It’s a fear of mine that the concepts that I want to do will be stolen or something.
Yea I have that same fear.
They say everything’s been done so I shouldn’t be so scared.
It sounds like you have a good base of other photographers around you. You’ve mentioned 3 that you’re friends with.
Yeah, they come and go but Tuck is my roommate. We’ve been good friends for a while now. I don’t know what it is that makes photographers fuck with me! (laughs) I think it might hurt their reputation to be my friend but they don’t ever seem to care.
I just moved to Seattle, I don’t know anyone, photographers, models, etc. I need those people in my life.
I think that Kace Face chic lives there. She’s a model I’ve always wanted to shoot.
Oh, maybe. I shot her in LA. Very andro look.
Yeah, I don’t really follow her anymore but I remember her. I love her look, the shaved head thing in a girl I really like.
Ok, so any advice for anyone wanting to pick up a camera and start shooting models and choking dudes?
My advice is: Don’t touch models! (laughs) And if you do, don’t be a creep about it. Just ask nicely, and if they say no leave it at that and don’t ask again. Remember that you are only as good as the worst image you show, so be careful about what you showcase. Your name is a brand and it needs to represent you and what you stand for. Respect everyone and be the best version of yourself possible.
(My wife and I went to Seattle a few weeks back so she could interview for a job. She was offered the job and we are moving in the next couple weeks! I started writing this before we knew.)
What can I say about Seattle? Firstly, it was remarkably cold. The kind of cold where you have to go buy clothes and you tear up in the biting wind because six years in LA has made you cold-soft. Also, you’d think it was a huge coffee city, but you’d be wrong. I bought and subsequently threw away a ton of coffee because it was ditchbrewed char-water that I can only imagine was fair-traded with bridge trolls. If you like Starbucks version of coffee you’re totally in luck because that whole Starbucks-on-every-corner is a thing there. But if you like NUANCE and COMPLEXITY, it’s not going to be your jam.
I’m old enough that grunge was a real defining aspect of my musical development and looking around you can feel that hanging on a little bit, even in the face of Amazon and Microsoft. It’s interesting that the polar opposites of hardcore computing and hardcore heroin use were existing in the same time, at the same place, each creating something lasting and meaningful. I say that with no snark. I’ve never done heroin but I’m a huge fan of the music. Amazon Prime isn’t too shabby either.
Speaking of computing…the Living Computers Museum was a total treat. I got Virtual Reality-ed, toured the graveyard of computers past, and used a robot to put makeup on my face (see below). Really fantastic as far as nerdy things like that go. Would recommend, 10/10.
Also the Frye Museum was just mind blowing, specifically the salon style room that looked like…
I don’t think you can get the full experience here with this picture, but it was an immersive experience, overwhelming and and awe-inspiring. Rare that we see art displayed like this in museums, but apparently this was how they were hung at the Frye Estate. Even better, it’s free.
Long story short, we are packing up and moving to Seattle in the next month. Los Angeles is and has been amazing and I’m seriously sad to leave. But, the next adventure awaits. I’d love to hear from artists, models, etc in Seattle, as I won’t know anyone. And I’d love to hear your suggestions as far as food, beer, things to do, etc.
(This is an edited and reprinted article I wrote a few months back and published on my other blog.)
It’s dangerous to romanticize the past too much because it alienates us from the newer generation, but I’ll start by saying that Rolling Stone Magazine was always a HUGE influence on me and my work. It was extremely important in crafting the way I shoot portraits and it will forever remain that for me…a driving force in art, music and rebellion. In a waterproof box in storage is the Kurt Cobain Death issue, among others, that I couldn’t bear to toss out. It was back when RS was fat, thick, and lush, full of eye catching photographs and gorgeous, saturated tones.
It’s been a while since I’ve had a subscription to RS although I buy one for plane rides and the occasional political story. Over the last six years in LA I’ve reached out to them 20 or so times to try to shoot for them. (They politely ignored my requests) But the magazine industry has melted into a strange amalgamation of pay walls, websites and throw away content at this point. Culturally, we are less aware of what “good” media is, good writing, good photos, good research, etc. and we are way more concerned with how fast we can consume it. The rate at which we consume doesn’t warrant all the effort we used to put into it.
And here’s the chicken or the egg: Magazines lost money to the internet so they paid less for content so the quality went down and now the magazines are low quality that no one wants to pay for. I don’t pretend I know how to fix it, but I don’t think we are any closer than we were five years ago. And I don’t think the iPhone 7 Plus helps us either.
I picked this up the doctor’s office a couple weeks back. The first thing I noticed about this RS cover was how yellow it was. That’s easy enough to fix. The second thing I noticed was that her hands were cut off. This is such a rookie composition mistake, but I understand maybe they cropped them for the cover. Thirdly…other than the fact that Lourde is famous…who cares? I mean, if you saw this and you weren’t a die hard Lourde fan, would you look twice? What about this photo would make you want to purchase or even open this magazine? And that’s kind of the crux of it.
Yea, great, the iPhone makes a good technical photo that you can reproduce. But if the photo doesn’t push me or pull me, then who cares? And what’s crazy is, Lourde is cool! Lourde is someone who is so full of personality and opinions, not to mention, talent! There would be a million ways to make this cover better which I won’t bore you with. But here it is:
Anyone can make a photo. Anyone can make a decent or even GREAT photo. This photo on the cover of Rolling Stone is neither.
I appreciate that RS needs ad money to survive and I appreciate that Apple thought this was a good marketing move, but are we so enamoured with the tech that we lost the art? I think the answer is yes. Portrait mode is slick, and I use the hell out of the slow motion feature on my Galaxy, but I know that making art is bigger than the tools that help you make them. And art, photography, music, movies, magazines, are ALL suffering now because the the tools are so readily available but the motive, the message, the feeling, the blood, sweat, effort, love, hate desire…it’s just not there like it used to be. (Not to mention the money…)
Full disclosure, Rolling Stone never hired me which I didn’t get too butthurt about. Photographers who take above average photos with lots of opinions about things, shit, man, we are EVERYWHERE. Personally, though, I hope we can pull out of this “content-for-contents’-sake” thing and get back to making art that has teeth.
I’m not a real dialed in, gear-headed, exacting type photographer. I’m more of a by-any-means-let’s-get-this-done-artsy-fartsy-feelings-and-whatnot type of photographer. There’s basically two kinds of us: the scientists and the artists. Can you guess which one I am? I have a camera and I know how it works. It’s the best camera because it’s the one in my hand. I’m kind of the same with Photoshop. I love it because I learned on it. It’s based on layers, and since I’m a visual artist that works with my hands, I understand it. Lightroom is cool and I shoot tethered into it when a client demands it. But when it comes to your hardcore editing and RAW action, give me Photoshop any day.
Today I was sitting in the dark in my underwear in my apartment editing some recent corporate shots I did for a friend’s company and ran across this aesthetic issue with overexposure. Lighting the interior on the fly and then shooting towards a giant window onto a patio really tested my skill with balancing light sources and you could pretty roundly say that I failed. In a real production I would have had the time to dial in the shot but this was a one-light, run and gun type of photoshoot, so it was more about getting the feel of the shot and then worrying about the details later. Plus, these were small, web-only kind of shots. Not making excuses! Just setting up the situation.
Here’s a short, punk rock, cut and paste, sloppy, and sweaty way to fix a spot in your photo that’s overexposed. It’s not a pixel-by-pixel, perfect tutorial on retouching, but that’s ok, because I’m not that kind of photographer and you probably aren’t either if you read this far. Most photos are used for the web these days so there’s not a ton of reason to go balls deep when retouching. Sure, nationwide ad campaign, yeah, son! Get on it and go hard in the paint. Better yet, just hire a real retouching pro to do it for you. You get back out there and find more work and keep shooting. Those jobs are the ones we all want. While you’re waiting for Adidas to call, though, you’d better be shooting your headshots and buddy’s wedding.
This is the first of hopefully more of these kind of videos that will show you some shortcuts in Photoshop, provide a quick tutorial, maybe some humor along with it (don’t bet on the last one). I hope you enjoy.
A cool thing about this blog is that this is literally my THIRDTIMEWRITINGTHIS because for some unknown reason I keep effing deleting it by navigating forward or backwards. That being said…Los Angeles was gorgeous, warm, and sunny in the beginning of February so I thought I’d fly to Memphis and help my dad move where it was 39 degrees and sleeting wet nonsense. Also, an important fact is that there is a ton of new cool craft brews in Memphis and I think they all have about 3% alcohol in them.
This is a photo of my brother and me. I kept those bangs for another 15 years or so, but Jeremy still has this haircut, even today.
My dad had more ties than anyone would possibly need. Here’s two of the better ones. I don’t own 1) a suit or 2) a tie. True story. I moved to LA so I’d never have to wear either. Formal wear in LA is your *nice* Tom’s and not a tank top. But these ties…holy crap. There was a banker’s box full of them. It bears mentioning that I haven’t seen my dad wear a tie since 2010.
The Whole Foods had four kinds of mac and cheese on the hot bar. I don’t really have a lot else to say about that. This level of jealousy can’t really be put into words.
Lastly, I took this at the airport on the way back home. You know I love a good, dreary, depressing landscape. I used to call these my Flat World images because of the way cell phone camera’s kind of flatten space. I still think that’s a good name for them. And if you like sadsack photos, you should go check out Sad Bathrooms.
A week later I went to Seattle, so come back for that soonish.
If a little bandaid goo is going to set you off, today’s post is not for you. But as an artist, I’m always looking for those moments where the offputting becomes interesting, compelling, or even gorgeous.
I haven’t done a lot with macro photography in my career until recently shooting jewelry in a studio setting. It’s such a fantastic tool for things like faceted jewels or chain links, but it’s also incredibly unforgiving. Any flaw, blemish, scuff, fingerprint…you’re going to see it. I think that’s the very thing I like about it, and aiming it at something like a used bandaid. It’s unflinching in its honesty.
There is no end to the amount of stucco in Los Angeles. For all the brilliant architectural movements we’ve helped spawn, for all the cool structures dotting the cityscape, we are QUICK to fall back on that cheap stucco facade, lending itself to an utterly featureless wall. A few years ago I got really interested in the way cellphone photos kind of flattened space and distance and made everything look more one-dimensional. Coupled with that, the architectural landscape in LA runs the gamut from brilliant to awful. These “flat” looking photos of architectural eyesores seemed like a good pairing and thusly, the Flat World series was born.
This building is a pretty perfect example of the where we are with commercial building design in LA…off-white grey, buffed over in a couple places, windowless, and seeming to go on forever. Throw in one of those cell towers that looks like a tree and you’re good to go. Spanish tile? Don’t mind if I do! Why? No idea!
I’m interested in the innate melancholy of having to work in a place like this, or live across the street from it, waking up to this looming grey expanse that describes nothing, tells you nothing, offers you nothing.
Email me if you are interested in this print. I have a limited run of 5 of these at 15”x7”, signed and numbered at $375.00 each.
This is a good one! Full disclosure, I got about 3 emails in before I realized I was being set up. It was a perfect storm of 1) Wanting to work with Hypebeast, 2) Slow season 3) Cautious hope and optimism.
A couple warning signs…They talk about money almost immediately. I WISH people were this up front about money, sadly, they never are. This guy is good tho, because he drops a healthy sum of money and then when you agree to it…
He adds more money to the deal. It’s a nice way to get a slow burn going. There’s a few grammatical errors in this email but you could write them off as just email mistakes. Lot’s more talk about money. Again, most of the time there is no money, and secondly, we all just act like we can pay rent with the love we have for street fashion. No one is EVER this up front about who is getting paid and how. At this point I’m slightly suspicious and I email him back about a stylist. He sends me a contract with a TON of misspellings. Mainly, “HYPEBEATS” which is when I Googled this dude’s name and “scam” and found some near copies of this email floating around other places.
I emailed his buddy at the modeling agency which actually had a website, and he emailed me back immediately asking for money and dates for the shoot. Yikes! Buyer beware! Or whatever analogy you’d like to make. You could find yourself about $5000 poorer real fast if you aren’t vigilant. My guess is you set it up with Chris at the modeling agency who then starts hammering you for the payment. Jake at “Hypebeats” promises it’s on the way, go ahead and do the shoot and he’ll settle up after. You drop the cash for the “modeling agency” which is just a fake email address and once your check clears you’ll never hear from them again.
I get similar emails to this from Craigslist a lot, people who will string you along until you’ve invested a significant amount of time and then ask you for money. This is the first time I’ve gotten one disguised as work. Be careful out there!