I got a couple of minutes in the green room last night at 3rd and Lindsley. Really strong show by a young group Honey Honey. This is Suzanne Santo, the lead singer, and strong fiddle player. Fun night.
We worked with this yesterday. Was trying to shoot thru the glass and see how the light gets bent and warped. Not sure it’s finished. I still have a rumble to mess with it more. 8×10 collodion, diptych. Nine inch petzval lens. Daylight. One minute and twenty second exposure. Strange chemical surprises happened yesterday; not sure why or how, but I like them.
I’m not sure whether it’s a 17-year cycle, or a 13-year cycle, but whatever the case, they’re back. And I love them. They’re everywhere, and the sound, in my wooded neighborhood, is music to my ears. And here’s a great video about them. Fast forward to time code 2:40 and watch it til time code 3:10.
I received these yesterday in the UPS. Two book covers, printed, for Harpers Collins Publishers. The Melissa Marr book, we shot in a studio in Manhattan, and the Gwendolyn Heasley book, we shot in the country, in New Jersey. (Yes, New Jersey has country). Art Director: Alison Donalty; Designer: Ray Shappell. Go buy them for your teenage children.
Today, I made public the first stage of a new blog. This is an experiment to loosen up, to shoot with less gear, (to shoot with more Polaroid), and to connect more on a human level. And since I’ve been working out of town mostly in the last two years, it’s also an attempt to reconnect with the interesting people in my home of Nashville, Tennessee.
I haven’t added the stories yet in some of these posts, and some of the posts in the new blog were stolen from this blog, in order to show potential photo subjects what I wanted to do. So this blog might be a tad slow in the next few weeks, as I put all my attention into this new project, called MyDayWith.com.
Sample page below. Maybe, in time, this will evolve into a printed magazine or book.
I made a salad a few weeks ago. Cut an onion in half, and set the other half in the window sill. It stayed there for forever. It started changing. It started turning into a face. It started talking to me when I’d get up and make coffee in the morning. Funny how things will start to take on a life on their own. Two nights ago, I started photographing it; it was becoming human. Reminded me of that scene in Coen Brothers film with William Burroughs, with the typewriter, when things started coming alive.
I thought it was going to be part of a project that we’re all working on, but I don’t think it’ll make the cut. Even though I find the face pretty interesting. (Full retouching disclosure: it had the one ear, on its own, and I cloned it and made a second ear).
I shot this with this old funky Nikon f1.2 lens that I bought recently. I don’t even mount it on the camera — I just hold it up to the camera body, about a half inch away. It’s amazing how it still makes a picture, even though the lens is not even touching the camera. I just move the lens in and out, with my left hand, to focus it. Surprises me that it doesn’t flare more, since there’s light entering the mirror box all around the lens opening. Just move the lens around with your hand; your own homemade tilt lens.
Shot this yesterday for my friend Diana. We had a wonderful child to work with. Brent was with his mother, in a Cracker Barrel somewhere, and somehow, somebody knew somebody, and he met this child and her grandmother, I think. Not sure about the specifics of the story, but on some level, it doesn’t matter, (but doesn’t Cracker Barrel have to be involved in every story that happens in The South? Really). She is so poised and well-spoken, all for three years old. And these incredible birds were flying all over my house; at some point, they’d get bored from sitting in her hand, and they’d fly off, and Brent and I would climb a ladder and get them down off the seamless or the window sill. They are tiny little doves from Petsmart, and I want a couple for myself, along with a victorian bird cage. They make a soothing little cooing noise.
(Edit): Here’s a second image too; just playing around with the window light.
My new neighbor Julie Lee asked me to come down to The Contributor benefit last night, at the Downtown Presbyterian Church. I was honored that she asked me to help out. Here are some images from the event. I had to leave early for another thing, but I shot as much as I could. There was a very nice spirit in the room last night. There was an art show downstairs, with framed photographs for sale, shot by the homeless on disposable cameras, and then following, a music performance upstairs in the sanctuary.
I have this candle that’s not really a candle. It’s really just an incense holder. The wax is soft, and you just can jam them down in there. It’s taken on this ritualistic voodoo quality now, with all the leftover wood sticks of burned incense. It’s sitting on a piece of scrap sheetrock, that I’ve so elegantly converted into a tabletop to hold a lamp.
Last night, I went to two art openings, and I think I got up today, inspired to work with a still life.
Not sure this is really the final image, I think I’m going back up there and reshoot it. Reshot it. ASA 6400, (my new love ASA), with the 45 tilt, stitched, wide open. ASA 100, with the 45 tilt, stitched, wide open.
And then, below, a portrait of a friend of a friend’s child, today. Pretty, soft window light, with the Mamiya contraption.
Was with some friends today, and shot some portraits in the little studio in my upstairs. Window light; was a cloudy grey day with not much punch. I love the idea of not being able to control the feeling of the light; you’ve got to shoot your stuff before the sun goes down, and if it’s sunny, you get pop, and if it’s grey, you get soft and blue. I’ve also been playing with this beat-to-hell Mamiya 645 lens, 80mm f1.9, that I found, and mounted onto this D3x. I found some strange adapter that let me mount the lens onto the Nikon. My new thing is playing with high ASA too, this is 3200. The higher you go, the prettier the noise gets. The old Mamiya lens does some nice things in the out of focus areas. I love how this has this accidental “Womens Prison, Topeka Kansas, 1945″ sort of feeling to it.
(Added later. Here is the mother of Topeka Kansas 1945. The sun went down, and I had to bring out the hot lights.):
Last night, Thomas urged me to crank up the ASA on my D3x up to 6400. We were all crammed into a room, watching a video, with only a tiny lamp on in the room. This is my newly-cobbled Mamiya 645 lens, mounted onto this D3x with some weird adapter, shot at 6400 wide open at 1.9. Love the noise, love the grain feeling. Feels like scene from a 70’s movie, just before the villain breaks through the back door. Brent and I were tag-team shooting, but I think (hope) I shot this frame.
Steamed-up window today — Korean restaurant, on 32nd and Fifth. Below.
A little video of Stumptown Coffee, shot this morning. That place, and the Ace are high on my list.
I am renovating a home. There is this one bathroom that has zero personality. All the fixtures have been pulled. We yanked the sink off the wall, and it left this beautiful pattern where the sheetrock paper got torn. And then we crammed a paper towel into the drain pipe, and walked away, about two months ago. Yesterday, I glanced down at the afternoon light and realized how much I like the scene. This morning I took a moment to document it, before the whole room gets gutted.
Here’s an image (that I messed with after I submitted it to the client). We shot this in the summer, up in New Jersey, ironically, in a garage — not in the ocean; not in a lake; not in a pond. Creative Director: Alison Donalty; Designer: Ray Shappell. There is quite a bit of type overlaying this image; had to leave it pretty empty and sparse.
Driving home today, I came upon this yard in my neighborhood. It completely took me back to my grandmother’s yard in rural Kentucky, when I was a kid. With winter coming on, she’d go into the basement and bring out an entire stack of lightweight blankets and sheets to cover the late-blooming flowers and tender bushes. Today, the light was just amazing, coming thru these plastic bags that someone had rigged up.
I dropped by the Linden School “Elves Faire” today for awhile. Ran upon an elf that was maybe eight or nine feet fall, and lived in the forest, and was quite stylishly dressed.
On Wednesday, we stopped in to see Sam, from Smiling Elephant restaurant, on 8th Avenue South. Sam is the brother of Patti Myint, who runs International Market and PM and is the Queen of Belmont. Behind the Smiling Elephant is an auto repair garage, and Sam worked on cars for years, and one day, he began to build out the front building, after hours, into a Thai restaurant.
Several months ago, I made my first visit to his new restaurant. When I walked up to the cashier counter to pay my Tab, there was a Buddha sitting on the counter, and I asked him about it. It turns out, it was not a Buddha, but a famous meditation teacher in Thailand. He told me the story of this man’s life. I told him I’d begun to practice meditation. He began to talk to me about my breath, and about his various techniques of his own meditation. People were beginning to line up behind me, eager to pay and get on their way, but Sam was not phased by this — he continued to talk to me patiently, and tell me his own story.
The next time I went in the restaurant — this time for take out — I was sitting on the little bench by the cashier counter, waiting for my food, and Sam came over to me and said, unprompted, “You know, the main thing in life is to give our bodies healthy food, and to provide for our families.” We began to talk again, about health, and meditation, and life goals. He’d look right into my eyes, his big bushy eyebrows moving above his sparkling eyes. We barely knew each other, but we talked as if we’d been friends for years.
Now, we swap books, and literature on meditation, when I go into the restaurant. I see him now and give him a big hug — I’m not sure how he feels about that, but he goes along with it. So he seemed perfect for my new little portrait series — a man who’s unique and interesting, and is contributing positive energy to those around him. His restaurant is booming, with lines out the front door every day at lunch, and soon, my bet is that he’ll have to renovate the auto garage out back, in order to accomodate all the customers, and his continued success. He’s a special man.
I go to this old-timey grocery store on Belmont Boulevard, near my new house. I’m not sure why — they don’t really have the freshest produce, or most anything organic. I’m just drawn there. I go there and buy cooked meat, back in their deli. It’s one of the few last bastions of the Old South — beans, meat, and barbeque cooked daily. The floors are waxed clean and shiny, even though they’re very old. They only recently added the ability to pay with a credit card. It just feels like home.
When I was a kid, my family owned five small convenience stores in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Ever since I was about twelve years old, I started bagging groceries and working in those markets. Worked in them all the way through high school and college. I can stock a shelf with the best of them. I can clean a milk cooler. I can run a register and make change quickly. It was useful to learn how to talk to strangers, when I was a dorky, stoner, redneck kid. It sorta socialized me. It’s helped in my adult life, as a photographer.
Anyway, I go into this grocery, and I always see the night manager there. His name is James. He’s about 6’2″, but he seems about seven feet tall, because he’s so thin. He’s always running around at a hundred miles an hour, stocking shelves, and running the place. He always is fitted with his ball point pens, a nametag, and most of the time with one of those back supports, like those Home Depot guys wear. He said he has a problem with his back. So here is James — he is just so awesome to me. He is America. He seems like a guy that could be in a Mayberry RFD episode, along with Otis and Barney and Andy.
Session with Sara Burgers on Friday. In the end, we went to those flooded-out mobile homes on Nolensville Road, and finished there. Those trailers are calling out for a photo project of their very own, but I guess Robert Polidori already claimed that photo content. Nonetheless, it’s an amazing location.
Shot at a bar on Division Street, Wednesday. Beautiful detailed work on her arm. Great face.
Ian Leach, from Imogene and Willie, yesterday morning. Very nice guy; great store, too.
I recently moved into a new home. Today, we started a new series of Testing portraits. My friend Buddy Jackson told me about a jewel of a fine man, who happens to live down the street from me. He’s 95 years old, still drives his big Lincoln to the grocery, and still has a strong singing voice. He likes blues songs, but prefers to sing church spirituals.
In the video below, Mr. Sherill walked across the street, to ask his friend and neighbor Julie Lee, if she’d sing with him. They’ve been friends for a many years.
Got a call from Andrew last night. He was shooting a job in Louisville, and then driving direct to Atlanta today for another project. He and his assistant stopped in Nashville this morning for breakfast; I met them and showed them around town. It was Andrew’s first time through town. Anyone from out of town, who’s in the business, has to be taken to Hatch Show Print, so we started there, walked over to Tootsie’s and Robert’s, and then had breakfast at Bongo. Andrew’s always been an inspiration to me — we compare notes on eating healthy foods; exercise; shopping at Whole Foods; and staying healthy. We always talk shop, but the friendship is larger than that. He’s a fine man; a well-balanced guy. Here’s a quick frame of him at Hatch this morning, using my Poor Man’s Depth-Of-Field Technique.
A friend of mine kept a Vision Board by her desk in her office. I’d never heard of the concept before. But recently, I’ve seen a couple references to them. For me, I keep this Folder on my Desktop, and when I see something on FFFFound or Yimmy or Eric Baker, I just drag it off into that Folder. Later on, I found a way to dump them into Lightroom and easily make a 5×7 print of each one. I’ve started plastering one of the walls in my new office with these prints; and soon, they’re going to take over the room. (But what a nice way to be reminded of what/how you want to shoot). I tend to be drawn to tight faces, or historical images, or damn near anything that’s Hasselblad and B/W. I just use this board like a “Mental Rudder” to stay reminded of what’s important, and to keep the flame alive, and to keep shooting for myself, and to keep exploring. Part of me wants to spray them with glue on the back, so they become a permanent part of the room. Imagine your entire office, covered with wonderful images.
Also, yesterday, the postman brought me this beautiful package wrapped in brown kraft paper. My dear friend Alison Donalty in NY had sent me a housewarming gift. She’d seen a group of artists on Etsy do a series of famous quotes, on letterpress. So this sweet little poster arrived, along with some other smaller cards, done by Mary Kate McDevitt, in Portland. The outside of the package was so nicely done that I waited for several hours before even opening the package. Then, by last night, my curiosity got the best of me. How nice to touch real paper again, and run your fingers over that ink. (Everything I do now seems to be done on this Macintosh and FTP’d; I rarely make a print on real paper any more). (This is about to change…; stay tuned).
Just back from extended little road trip. Here are a couple of outtake images shot a couple days ago, at El Matador. Stunning weather out there; yesterday it was 113 degrees in downtown LA. But at the beach, much more calm and peaceful. These are quickies that I worked up on the plane today. For a couple of reasons, Los Angeles was hard to leave this time.
Pulled into Memphis tonight, scouting/prepping for a project. Dinner and a stroll through downtown. I heart Illustrators and street artists. And sweet dogs that ride atop carriages. And oysters. And the trolley. And great storytellers. And good friends.
I’m working in New York this week. Checked into my room on 32nd and Fifth, and it’s like a Hollywood matte painting as a backdrop, outside my window.
Also, headed out on Friday for my first Manhattan bicyle ride, up the WestSide Highway. Bike rented; clothes and shoes in place; weather should be nice. Not sure how many miles, but it sure will be fun. With Brett Sahler as my guide, we’re in for an adventure.
Back in May, Nashville got sacked with three solid days of rain. Today, the skies opened again, and I think everyone is still a bit gun-shy. There is this one building over by the Fairgrounds, that got hit hard in May. The entire neighborhood was underwater. So much so, that they’re digging up their parking lot and reworking the whole building. I drove by there today, after the hard rain, and several parked cars were in danger of flooding again. And BMW’s at that. The light was just that strange color of mixture of dusk and storm and tornado and twilight.
Loved this article last week in the Times, about a couple that rearranged and simplified their life. Today, I walked past this line of shoes, in my bedroom, and felt guilty. But I could make a practical case for (almost) every pair. But for the record, I do own only four plates, so maybe there’s hope for me.
We had another one of our ArtNights last night at Buddy Jackson’s home. A great group of people showed up for BarBQ, corn pudding, black bean salad, and great conversation. I shot this portrait of my friend Jimmy Abegg before the event started, up on one of the landings in Buddy’s home. Four huge windows with great afternoon light. Jimmy ranks right up there, as one of The Nicest Guys in the World.
I’ve been doing post work on a series of projects from a recent NY trip. Here’s one outtake frame that won’t be published — they used a different concept for the final. Really striking model, and excellent hair and make up from Ronnie Peterson. It’s funny — we lit the first setup with a million tiny tungstens, and this, we just moved out the CStands at the end of the day, threw the window blinds up, and shot window light. So simple and clean.
We worked on a project in Memphis yesterday, and after the job, we drove by Graceland, and the Civil Rights Museum. The photo below is the preserved Lorraine Motel, where Dr. King was assassinated.
I got a call from my friend Diana recently. She’d discovered this baby goat and wanted to photograph it for her company. When we were finished with that, we had about fifteen minutes with the goat before it had to go home, so we shot some stuff with her daughters. Here are a couple of frames.
Backstory: I guess when a goat has babies, it’s normal for the mother to have only one or two babies. In this case, there was a third one born in the litter. But I guess the mother has some innate knowledge that she only has enough milk for two babies, so she ignores the third one. The human mother of all the goats recognized this, and took the third baby and is feeding it by bottle, to get it strong. She even takes it to work with her. In these pictures, the little baby is only seven days old. Very sweet energy; it just ran around my apartment, crawled under the sofa, explored all the crannies, and then chewed on my running shoes. When you picked it up and wrapped it in its little blanket, it would just calmly lie there and almost be lulled to sleep.