“Hasta la diecisiete, a la direcha,” the parking attendant said. “Hasta la diecisiete, a la direcha?,” I repeated. (Turn right at 17th Street.) “Si,” he said. I drove away, contemplating whether I ought to listen to him, or try to find the highway on my own. Given all the times I’ve shanked myself driving around LA, I decided to trust him. Good call. I found I-10 in no time, and was soon cruising West towards Culver City.
Much like Chelsea used to be a dumpy, non-descript neighborhood before the Art world gentrified it, (bringing gobs of money and Frank Gehry frosted glass buildings,) the Culver City arts district popped up in a random concrete block in the last decade, and hung on for dear life. Wedged between Venice and Washington Boulevards, right off the highway offramp, the Culver City corridor mainly consists of one long block on South La Cienega, and a few places that spread off the corners. There must be 20 galleries there by now, and it’s easy to see a lot of art in a short span of time. Normally.
I say normally, because when I visited a few weeks back, most of the neighborhood was closed for installation. Gallery after gallery had makeshift signs in the door, casually letting me know that I was not welcome while they were hanging their new shows. Not uncommon, I understand, but unfortunately, they’d all scheduled the new openings for Saturday July 16th, smack dab in the middle of the impending “Carmageddon.” I’d been warned about it weeks in advance, and actually chose to visit on that very Thursday to avoid the chaos, bloodshed, and misery that “Carmageddon” was supposed to provide. (Hell was predicted to reign down on the West Side while a stretch of the 405 was closed for construction.) So when I saw that the art dealers had collectively chosen that very weekend to re-open to the world? I was not impressed. Like, yeah, you know, we’re having an opening, and yeah, it’s cool if you come, I guess, but we really don’t care, because we don’t sell work to you at the opening anyway.
As it happened, a few galleriests managed to get their homework done a couple of days early, and were in fact, open for business. I started at Cherry and Martin, which wasn’t there last time I visited. (Like Chinatown, there’s been tremendous turnover in the last few years.) They were showing three artists together, including a few 1970’s black and white prints by the conceptualist Robert Cumming. I remembered his name, and the vague certainty he was important, from the Contemporary Photo history class I took with Tom Barrow back at UNM. FYI, that was one of the best classes I’ve ever taken. Prof Tom knew so many of the photographers personally that some lectures took on an almost-boozy, you had to be there vibe that was totally addictive. Like Austin Powers with better teeth. Yeah baby. Everyone was throwing crazy, groovy key parties in the darkroom, Man, huffing fixer and chasing it down with qualudes, Man. Can you dig it? (Of course, none of that is actually true, but ought to convey the feeling of sitting in the audience.)
But I digress. Back to Mr. Cumming. His photographs were terrific, and leapt off the wall. I recall three in particular. The first was a diptych of a the torso of a naked body with a leaf covering the privates, holding a flute. In the second image, all was the same, except the torso was holding hands with a woman. It made me think of those Scholastic Magazine puzzles I used to see at the doctor’s office when I was a kid. The diptych was surreal in a groovy way. Just weird enough to be awesome. Another Cumming photo had different font versions of the letter A, and also managed to strike the right balance of oddity. Finally, they displayed a photograph that was one of the best I saw all day, “Spot with a Nice View, 1973, Orange CA”. An image of a backyard alleyway that had been slightly decorated, with a deck chair and lamps posed just so, with a projection of a palm tree at the back of the composition. It was like a crime scene meets a back lot in Burbank meets Jeff Spicoli’s perfect spot to smoke a joint. I think I could have stared at it forever, as it had that parallel universe mood that is almost impossible to achieve.
Kopeikin Gallery, a peripatetic LA institution, moved into one of the best spaces on the block recently. And not only was Mr. Kopeikin’s gallery open, (despite a scheduled Saturday opening,) but the man himself was arranging number pins to coordinate with the press release when I arrived. We ended up striking up a conversation, and he gave me a gracious tour of the place. I was really happy for the LA photography community, because this new gallery is an impressive place to view photos. Three pretty, interconnected rooms that grow in size: small to medium to large. I’m not saying I loved all the work, because I didn’t, but having a super-high-grade exhibition venue in the middle of a humping art scene is a good thing in and of itself.
As to the art, it was a mixed bag. The small gallery had an exhibit of Mr. Kopeikin’s personal collection of vernacular photos that he’s acquired at flea markets over the last ten years. Great. If seven year old kids can make interesting photographs nowadays, I see no reason why anonymous hobbyists fifty years ago couldn’t do the same. And they did. The group was well curated, and had a distinct 1950’s West Coast Americana vibe to it, with burger flippers, convertibles, & cowgirls. Random puffy faced white dudes, trapped in time.
The middle gallery had an exhibit by Kahn & Selesnick. The pictures consisted of digitally manipulated alien type people on Mars. Apparently, the pair had partnered with NASA, and the backdrops were in fact taken by the Mars rover. Interesting detail, but I didn’t care for the photographs. They were kind of cool, I suppose, but felt like a more highbrow version of a Michael Bay movie.
Finally, in the biggest space, there was a two-person show of work from Cuba, featuring Simone Leuck and Jeffrey Millstein, representing interiors and exteriors respectively. Ms. Leuck’s work, which is called “Cuba TV,” featured tight, detail-style images from the interiors of Cuban homes, all with a glowing television somewhere in the frame. Repeating a symbol like that can be tricky, as it can sometimes seem like a crutch, but it worked well here, creating just enough distance from straight up documentary photographs to make the group fresh. The repetition also highlighted the differences, not unlike the Warhol Soup Cans, and brought my attention to the little things that make up someone’s private space in a poor place, like plastic flowers, little dolls, and pictures on the wall. I actually saw the other day in the NY Times that Cubans are only just now being allowed to own their own homes, so all the photos I saw were of people’s attempts to personalize spaces that did not, in fact, belong to them. Strong work, overall.
Mr. Millstein is well-known for his ongoing series of images of airplanes, shot from below, in an identical Becher-style composition. So this exhibition was a departure from what I’d seen from him before, but not from what I’d seen from others. The exterior, large-scale, supersharp images of peeling paint on decrepit architecture were about as cliché as I can imagine. I don’t enjoy writing such things, because I’m actually not an asshole, despite appearances to the contrary. One photograph, which was installed by itself on a separate wall was pretty awesome, and made me wonder why Mr. Millstein hadn’t pushed himself further. It featured a building, with some people on the sidewalk in front. Up on top, there was a billboard with a succession of politicians’ faces. The portraits of the men were illustrated in black and white, and the sign said “Volveran,” which means they will return. (I guess there’s not much surprise in the electoral process.) All but one of the men had these thick, ridiculously awesome, Pancho Villa-style moustaches. It looked like a Looney Tunes mugshot, minus Yosemite Sam. Truly remarkable photograph, which went a long way towards redeeming the show.
My final stop in Culver City was at Western Projects, for a series of hand-drawn, photo-realistic portraits of thug-life-vatos and other hard-looking dudes. The LA-based artist, Patrick Lee, met the men on the street and took their photographs, on which the graphite drawings were based. In a couple of the images, the subjects, neck tats and all, were staring right into the camera, so the viewer could look right back. As most of you know, I’m sure, in real life, you probably wouldn’t want to stare directly into one of these guys eyes. (Unless you’re a fan of getting your ass kicked.) So the drawings functioned in a way that society can’t. They allowed the viewer to contemplate and objectify the subjects, but as the commodification of gang culture and poverty is a billion dollar business these days, the phenomenon becomes a part of the metaphor. And though I’m proud to be a trigger-jockey, these portraits were definitely more engaging as drawings, which I was told take three months to create. The craftsmanship, and I suppose a bit of magic, held me in front of each piece well beyond what I would have offered up to a straight photo. Especially as the faces were surrounded by the naked paper, in lieu of the neutral backdrop one would likely see in a photographic portrait.
Done with Culver City, I hopped back on the 10, and drove a few miles West to Bergamot Station, a self-contained arts complex on the outskirts of Santa Monica. (Which is the part of town that you’d probably live in if money was no object. On the beach, postcard pretty, sun shining, that sort of thing.) I would not suggest the art is better here than in New York, because it’s not. But I owe it to you to mention that Bergamot Station is filled with purple flowers and palm trees, cool ocean breezes and eco-friendly hybrid UPS trucks. Very cush.
First stop, Berman Projects, which was technically closed for installation, but happily let me in when I said I was in town to review some shows. Nice people. They were showing a group exhibition curated by the actress Angela Featherstone, who’s one of those people you’ve never heard of, but recognize the headshot on IMDB. The photos tracked the life cycle of Woman, or so I was told, and represented a mixed-bag of quality. Catherine Opie had a cool photo of a laundry room from a married lesbian couple, and Tierney Gearon was showing a few images of naked preggos, including a dynamite photograph of two nude pregnant married ladies kissing, But the outright standout was a photograph by Gillian Laub called “Mom and Dad with Harriet the Wedding Planner, New York, 2008.” Rarely have I seen a photograph that so clearly could stand alone, without any text or the support of a complete project. (Though I’ll admit the title doesn’t hurt.) Somewhere, in the depths of my dreams, I know I’ll have nightmares of Harriet staring down at me, wickedly extracting a tooth, while she whistles “Sympathy for the Devil,” and lets loose with the throaty, smoker’s laugh she no doubt possesses. Ms. Laub, if you’re reading this, kudos.
On to Patrick Painter, for a show by Bas Jan Ader, the second artist of the day I remembered hearing about in Tom Barrow’s class. He was a strange, Scandanavian dude who disappeared at sea in 1975. Well, you don’t hear that every day. First observation was that there were probably ten photographs in a huge warehouse space with 20ft ceilings. It was the perfect contrast to the way MOCA had disrespected “The Americans,” and I made it a point to give props to the gallerina as such. The photographs hit the mark, like Robert Cumming, between outright surreality and the subtler, more Japanese, Murakami-style version. Perfectly weird and absurd, like the triptych of the artist holding a hand-saw standing in front of a band-saw, the artist sawing the hand-saw on the band-saw, then the artist holding up the sawed in half hand-saw. His other pieces, seemingly disconnected, like the artist falling from a tree like Yves Klein, and a black hooded guy on a baseball field, were also great. One can only hope he’s secretly living in Fiji, his royalties funneled through a dummy corporation in the Caymans.
Next: Frank Pictures, for my guilty pleasure of the day. Joe Aker, apparently a famous architectural photographer, had shot details of Gaudi and Gehry buildings, and printed the photos directly onto aluminum. My first thought was cheesy, but I stuck around for a few minutes, and slowly began to love these things. Most of the images were in varying and subtle shades of ochre, and they shimmered like holograms. They didn’t mean anything, per se, beyond the architect/artists’ original intent, which normally bugs me. But these things were just so beautiful, that I began to covet. Jonny want photograph. Jonny need photograph. Feed me.
Then: Joachim Brohm’s “Ohio,” at Gallery Luisotti. He’s German, despite the name, and the dry-style proved it. Like many of his colleagues, he was heavily influenced by Stephen Shore, and it showed. These photos were made in Columbus, Ohio, during the early 80’s. Much as I love real innovation, which these images lacked, they were so well-seen and made that I began to love them. It was a day of the random perfect image (Cumming, Laub) and Brohm busted one out too. A car on fire in an alleyway. Muy bien, Señor Brohm. But a few others were incredibly resonant of place and time too, like a view of a silver Gremlin from above, in an alleyway, or a handful of firemen walking into a house in red, super-short 80’s short-shorts. (Yes, I had some too.) Great use of color, great time-warp experience.
Finally, finally, (Yes, it’s long for me too) I ended the day at Peter Fetterman, who was showing some classic, feel good favorites from Elliot Erwitt, and some classic feel-bad favorites from Sebastao Salgado. Rather than risk a Fatwa for criticizing two such-loved legends, I’ll finish up by saying that the work didn’t speak to me. Erwitt’s sweet, playful, romantic, nostalgic sensibility seemed out of time in these stressful, difficult, globalized 21st Century years. But they were made in a different era, when everything was looking up, and of course they’re great. They just didn’t move me. Same with Mr. Salgado’s work, with high-contrast black and white visions of India, Africa, and Antarctica. I wondered whether I was evil for not liking the images, but they seemed a bit too generic, like 3rd World Travel Porn, and that was that. He did have one image, super large, of an Algerian man in the foreground of some immense sand dunes that receded into the distance, and while it didn’t do it for me, I was sure that for the many photo lovers who crave the perfect “shot,” it would have been a perfect 10. El Diez, otra vez.
Creative Director: Tim J. Luddy
Art Director: Carolyn Perot
Illustrator: Jack Unruh
Note: Content for The Daily Edit is found on the newsstands. Submissions are not accepted.
California Is a Place is the creative brain child of Zackary Canepari and Drea Cooper. They were both working PAs and met in 2004 on some forgettable commercial job. Zac showed Drea where to park and the rest is history. Their films offer a quick glimpse into the people and places of California. Their subtitle is Tales from the Golden State, though the narrative arcs are not always severe blue skies and sunny. Their most recent film is Aquaettes and just came out last week. You can follow them here and here.
Heidi: What is your role specifically and what is Drea’s?
Zack: It’s pretty simple. Drea and I both produce, direct and shoot. But Drea is our editing machine. And we outsource the music.
How did the project come about and what was your first film?
We had talked about working on a project together for a long time but were never in the same place long enough to get something going. In July 2009, A friend of mine mentioned the foreclosure skater story. On a whim, we hopped on it. We called Josh Peacock on a Wednesday and by Friday we were in Fresno shooting our first film, Cannonball.
About three weeks later, I sent Zack the first cut of the edit. We were both super excited and immediately started discussing what we were going to do next and how these films would connect and be presented. Seven months later, the site went live with our first four films.
Most of your films are about 10 min. Do you have plans to go longer?
Yes and no. Of course, we’d like to tell longer format stories but I’m not sure if they would be for California is a place. Maybe they would. It’s hard to say. We generally shoot until we have enough to tell the story we are trying to tell. At this point, those stories tend to be shorter than 10 minutes. I guess it comes down to intention. Our goal with this series is to make short personal stories about people in the Golden State.
Is the amount of shooting hours about the same in order to get 10 min, meaning is it relative?
Not at all. There probably is a minimum amount of shooting needed but there is certainly no maximum.
So far you have eight films out, which was the most ground breaking for your creatively and why?
It’s hard to say. When I watched the first rough cut of our first film, Cannonball, there was definitely an “a-ha” moment. I knew then and there that the work was good and that we needed to make more. For that reason, it was the most ground-breaking.
Which film taught you both the most about your weakness and abilities?
For me personally, coming from a background in documentary photography, the transition to motion wasn’t overnight. It’s such a more detailed and nuanced medium than photography. And tedious. I was lucky to have Drea for a partner. He’s been making and studying film making for almost a decade. Plus, he’s an editor. There was so much I didn’t know about producing a film that he was patient enough to show me. Without him, I’d be lost.
Aquaettes is your latest release, how did you know that was a good enough idea to move forward? What were your initial hesitations if any?
That’s a good question. We knew it was ready because we just knew but there are always doubts. There is always something missing. There is always something we could have gotten more of. But we have yet to put out a film that felt incomplete. At least not in our eyes. If anything, I think a few of them could be fleshed out a bit more. The Aquadettes are a perfect example. That film could easily be longer than it is. But for now, we are very happy with where it is…
How do you find, discover develop your ideas?
Any way we can. Local news, international news, friends, family, random conversations we’ve had, random relationships we’ve made and once in a while, from own intuition. Generally, we know what types of stories we are looking for and are interested in, so we often know where to look. For example, the Big Vinny film started with Drea and I just shooting empty used car lots in Alameda. We had no character and no story until someone told us about Big Vinny. From there, it’s all phone calls and reading and talking and research. Same with Borderlands. I went to photograph the funeral procession of an Border Agent murdered by drug smugglers. I met some minutemen there and they invited us down. But when we got there, it turned out that the story wasn’t the minutemen who’d go there once or twice a month. Instead it was the locals that lived at the border that we were interested in. You never know until you go…
How much pre production/research do you do before you decide the idea is worth it?
Some but we’ve found there is only so much planning you can do until you get out there and meet people and see the world. Sometimes all it takes is a phone call or an email to know. Other times, you’ve got to drive 3 hours at 5am to know if a story is any good or not. And more often than not, what we find is totally different than what we anticipated. It’s never easy to find good stories and good characters. In 2 years of working on this project, we’ve only found 9-12 stories that are worthy. It just shows how rare they are…
Uppercut for example, that is very underground, violent and esoteric… tell me how that one got developed.
That story came from a friend of Drea’s that was actually a local fighter. Drea knew him from high school and this guy had gone to a few of the Fight Club nights. He put us in touch with Gints, the man with the plan. From there, it was just finding the time to go and shoot…
After that came out, do you know if the subjects had any fall out or collateral damage? Is a fightclub legal?
Not yet. As far as they can tell, you can do what you like in your garage on a tuesday night as long as no one gets hurt. I think they were more fearful of losing their Silicon Valley Jobs than they were of being arrested.
Did filming that make you want to try a fight?
Yes! But fighting isn’t my thing so I passed. Although I completely related to what drove these guys to participate. Which is exactly what I like about making these films. Generally speaking, most “normal” people disapprove of underground clubs or being a minuteman on the border or sneaking into foreclosed homes to skateboard in a swimming pool or smoking weed but our characters have their reasons. And often those reasons are pretty solid and authentic.
How do these projects get funded?
They don’t. We self-fund. Hence the need for day jobs.
I know you have a photography career as well and an interesting organization to your portfolio section. Most if not all begin with a description narrative, are these all self assigned projects? Do you feel the text adds your ability to story tell and has that then translated and transcended into your motion work.
Most of the work on my website is self-assigned. Some was shot on assignment (eg. Pakistan) but the rest was just me wanting to shoot and tell stories. They have led to me getting plenty of paid work but paid work is often so unfulfilling. I always admire photographers that get great photos for their portfolio while on assignment. I’ve rarely been in that situation. Normally, someone pays me to shoot something fairly mundane and then I parlay that money in to a project I’m interested in. It’s a terrible business model but I’m happy to work that way…
What are your hopes with this project? What is the end goal besides a creative outlet?
Honestly, I’m not sure. The success of the project is already beyond my wildest dreams. I suppose I’d like to see it get sponsored so that we make films like these all the time. This American Life being the best model I can think of. But overall, I’m not even thinking about that too much. All I want to do is tell good stories and make nice images. I think that’s been my goal since I became a photographer. Shooting is my therapy and it’s something I’m going to do no matter the circumstances. Lucky for me, the circumstances right now, are pretty good.
Whats next after your latest release, are you already on to your next production?
We just keep it moving. We already have another film shot that just needs to be edited. We’re in the process of getting another story going. And then of course, there is the always exciting game of getting paid work. Unfortunately, California is a place doesn’t pay the bills.
Are you discussions with any studios?
To make films? Not at the moment. The obvious next step would be to make a feature documentary. But as I said, good stories aren’t all that common. Without a good story, you can’t make a good film.
…and has changed what we want to see. Here at my studio, we are trying to create a printed portfolio that feels more like the looseness of a blog and has the personality that can come thru on facebook. This casual tossing out of idea and photographs that blogs and facebook allow us are starting to be expected and hungered for…and I do really find that exciting.
( click images to make bigger )
Design Director: Jane Palacek.
Art Director: Steven Powell
Director of Photography: Tara Guertin
Photographer: George Georgiou
Note: Content for The Daily Edit is found on the newsstands. Submissions are not accepted.
Heidi: Are you shooting a lot of travel now?
George: I don’t often shoot travel assignments, the last time I was in Jerusalem was during the beginning of the 2nd intifada, when the City was very tense with a lot of clashes. So it was great to see the city relaxed, with all the tourist returning and Arabs and Jews moving in each others areas without fear.
I know this was shot during Purim, how much of a gathering collected to listen and watch? Where the streets bustling and were people responsive to you taking photos?
I had arrived in Jerusalem around 4 in the morning and was staying in East Jerusalem, the Arabic side. I got up around noon and decide to walk around the City to get a feel of the place, I had no idea it was Purim until I started to notice a few people dressed up. I headed towards the city center in West Jerusalem, which was full of people dressed up and generally partying and having fun. Shooting was easy, as is usually the case when people are celebrating.
Where were you to take this opening image?
I knew fairly early on that an image of the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock would be perfect as both are unmistakably symbols of Jerusalem and illustrated the main theme of the feature, Jerusalem stone through the ages. I walk around trying to get onto as many rooftops as possible to find the right angle and light, in the end I took this image from a spot that is accessible and popular with tourists. The photograph was taken at the beginning of the Sabbath on the Friday evening, just as the sun is starting to set and the floodlights are switched on. During the Sabbath, photography is not permitted by the western wall, so it was a perfect time to step back and make a landscape. I managed to get to this vantage point just before the tourists, by the time I left there were rows of people waiting to get to a glimpse of this view.
Ryan McGinley – The Kids are Alright
Rinko Kawauchi – Utatane
Geert van Kesteren – Why Mister Why
John Gossage – Berlin in the time of the Wall
Christien Meindertsma – Checked Baggage
Leigh Ladare – Pretend You’re Actually Alive
Sakaguchi Tomoyuki – Home
Simon Roberts – We English
Paul Graham – A Shimmer of Possibility
Jules Spinatsch – Temporary Discomfort: Chapter 1-V
Daniela Rossell – Ricas y Famosas
Uchihara Yasuhiko – Son of a Bit
Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs – The Great Unreal
Donovan Wylie – Scrapbook
Archive of Modern Conflict – Nein, Onkel
Stephen Gill – Hackney Wick
Susan Meiselas – In History
PhotoIreland Festival announces Martin Parr’s selection of the 30 most influential photobooks of the last decade. The selection, on show at the National Photographic Archive of Ireland until the 31st of July, is featured in the exhibition catalogue, limited to an edition of 500. The catalogue includes Martin Parr’s comments on each book, together with illustrations and ‘Author’s notes’. These are mostly unpublished texts by the photographers, publishers and curators of the works – personal statements on the process and raison d’être of each book.
More: PhotoIreland Festival 2011.
Only get into photography if you are passionate – it can be a hard way to make a living. But if you do go for it then take creative risks, you only live once. Use your photography to show who you are.
Recently launched Avec Artistsis a new boutique photo agency run by Carrie Ferriter in NYC. This new agency is part of Bruce Kramer’s growing fiefdom, the Kramer Creative Group which is set to launch this month along with a relaunch of JAW (Just Add Water ) as Selected to be run by Rebecca Fain former photo editor of XXL Magazine.
Heidi: What was your concept when developing this roster? You have quite the range from editorial, advertising, documentary, personal, and fine art.
Carrie: I wanted to create a company that appealed to advertisers but also take on photographers that had a range and were involved in other aspects of photography, whether it be fine art, publishing, directing, etc. I find that when photographers are involved in projects other than commercial work – they are in turn more interesting.( Stephen Toner)
What made you select someone like Stephen Toner and decided to open his book with the landscapes, do you see that type of work applicable for car advertising or….?
I have known Stephen for many years and have always felt strongly about his photography. We originally met through an old friend while I was living in London and I have worked with him throughout the years with EXIT. I wanted to work with Stephen because not only is he an excellent photographer he is very much tapped into the pulse of what is happening in the photography world. His work appeals to creative directors because he is a creative director and has also founded and runs a really respected and award winning magazine called EXIT. I approached him to join Avec because his photography has never really been shown in this sort of outlet. It’s almost as if I’m introducing someone very new but also very established at the same time.
The reason I opened with Landscape is because the pictures are stunning. They grab your attention. That’s also the work that he loves and wants to shoot all the time so I thought I would just put it out there from the very start. Whether or not it’s applicable to car advertising I’m sure going to approach all car advertisers along with everyone else.
Are you the only agent?
Yes, I am the only agent but Avec is part of the Kramer Creative Group which is a group of agencies my partner Bruce Kramer owns. Bruce is fully involved with avec and all the agencies in the group. Each agency is unique and has it’s own style of talent. It’s great to have that because we all really work together and help each other out. For example, I work alongside another agent, Bridget Flaherty, who runs Bridge Artists. She represents stylists, set designers, hair and makeup. Her and I are constantly feeding ideas off of each other and helping each other out with clients. It’s a great team.
What kind of content will be on your news section?
It’s going to start with mainly news on the photographers. I would like it to be a very visual blog but eventually I want it to grow into something a bit more and allow the photographer to contribute on it. I want it to be accessible to people on my roster and give them the freedom to post whatever they would like. Avec translates to ‘with’ so the essential core of this agency is to be ‘with’ the artists. This isn’t an agency about me, it’s very much about them and I want the blog to showcase that.
Where were you before this agency?
I started my career working in production at an agency called JGK, after that I worked for Moo Management (now Trish South management) and then for a more commercial agency in NY. Working at Moo was a great springboard to where I am now – the roster there was great and really allowed me to develop my own working style and eye for type of photography that I feel strongly about representing.
How would you describe your roster? and who are your premiere clients, mostly European?
My roster is a group of photographers I feel passionately about and enjoy working with. There is a definite fine art and documentary feel to avec but once you look a little deeper you will see that there is a good range than can appeal to many different clients. My clients are across the board – I wouldn’t say that they are mostly European though. Throughout my career, the agencies I have worked for have all been European or have had European founders so that definitely comes into play but I’m heavily targeting clients in the US.
As an agent what do you think is the single most important aspect in getting your photographers to work in the current economy?
Target to the right client, be persistent, be genuine, follow up consistently but in a way where you are respecting the clients time and space. Sorry, I realize that was more than one thing!
What will you do differently with this particular agency?
I’m launching as a traditional photography agency but competition is fierce so I think it’s important to stand out and be a little more modern in my way of thinking. I try to stay on the pulse of what is happening industry wise – blogs like ‘A Photo Editor’ are a huge resource. I really want avec to grow and as the industry changes I will adapt the agency accordingly.
When did you launch?
Just this month!
Creative Director: Robert Festino
Director of Photography: Brenda Milis
Deputy Director of Photography: Jeanne Graves
Photographer: Stephen Lewis
Prop Stylist: Elizabeth Press
Heidi: How long did it take to assemble this still life?
Stephen: This shot took about an hour or two. There was a lot of playing with different foods trying to come up with a shape that worked. Generally I like to start out loose and with this shot things got a little messy. The fish shape didn’t come until I had tried a few different ideas. It turned out that Jeanne Graves (the Photo Editor) wanted to see something like this so we continued to pursue this idea until we came up with the photograph that ran.
Were the items editorial driven? meaning how did you pick those food pieces?
The items were editorially driven. The article was on “FrankenFoods” or foods that combine ingredients with ostensible health benefits in different ways; i.e. putting anti-oxidants in sugary drinks. So the stylist, Elizabeth Press, with the direction of Jeanne Graves at Men’s Health, picked up ingredients that either made health claims or were suggestive of such claims or suggested ridiculousness in some way. We played it a little loose as we were going for a feeling more than a literal approach.
Who was your food stylist?
My food stylist wasn’t a food stylist but a prop stylist – Elizabeth Press. I usually do shoot with food stylists on food related jobs. Since this story didn’t actually involve cooking and there was (hopefully) a humorous element here, I chose Elizabeth because I knew she’d understand what we were looking to accomplish.
In the digital age, it’s easy to take a picture. It’s hard to take a picture differently from everyone else though. Isn’t that the thrill of shooting? To take a picture that no one has seen before. I’m not saying I do this. I strive to do this though.
Photographers are continually getting hit with different versions of the check swap scam. The way it works is they contact you for an assignment then send you a check that overpays for the work or pays for you and someone else they claim to be working with. Then they ask you to refund the overpayment or pass along the extra to that person they’re working with (for weddings this could be a fake florist). You cash the check and send out the payment but after your payment is cashed the check they sent you bounces.
I’ve posted about this before and people left the emails they’d gotten in the comments which seems to help thwart this because the names and emails used show up in searches with the headline “Photographer Scam.”
How is Business today?
My name is Sonia Ramirez. I am an handicap and i reside in U.K.
The reason i am contacting you is that my Son is having his birthday soon in your Location,United States on the 19th of August 2011 and I will like you to take care of the Photographs.
I came across your advert on the Internet and am impressed with your services.
All expenses would be taken care of,Please I want the best service from you, because this is my only son so i want the best for him. So your best effort is needed at this occasion.
Pls Let me know your price to work for 3 Hours on that day,12 noon to 3 pm in the afternoon.We want about 25 copies of different photos in coloured form.We want you to work for at least 3 Hours at the occasion.
Also,we will have the photographs snapped at the Birthday forwarded to the Publisher of a Magazine Company in United Kingdom so they could feature it in their celebrity journal.
I look forward to your response
From: mack carthy
Date: Friday, June 24, 2011, 6:06 PM
I will like to know if you can shoot a wedding of about 100 guest. Please let me know so that I can give you details.
It wouldn’t be a story about LA if I didn’t bitch about the traffic, so let’s get it done right now and move along. I was headed up Highway 5 from a vacation getaway in a cute little beach town down the coast. Off hours, no drama, until I hit the LA County line. As soon as I crossed over from Orange County (nicknamed the Orange Curtain, I now know) it was as if I drove into a pile of mud. Stop and go, snarled, miserable, bumper to bumper traffic, all the way into Los Angeles. And of course I had to pee. Badly. Really, there are so few things I hate more than being stuck on the Freeway when I have to go. And then some old-school, straight-out-of-Long Beach Snoop Dogg came on the radio while I was trapped under an overpass. I started to laugh, because sometimes you feel like you’re stuck in Hollywood cliché, and it’s just not worth fighting it.
Regardless, I clamped down as hard as I could and hopped off the 110 in downtown LA for my little tour of the East Side. (The article on the West side will follow shortly.) Let’s be clear, it’s insane to think that one can cover all of LA as a scene, so I didn’t try. I went to see as much as I could, and accepted that much would be left out. That said, I saw a lot.
I started out in Chinatown, which is home to a dozen or so galleries, mixed in among the restaurants, fish stores, and shops selling cheap crap from the Motherland. It sprang up as a home to the contemporary gallery scene a while back, and seems to have held on through the economic chaos. I was last there in 2008, and it was definitely a bleaker place now. Several galleries have gone out of business, and one spot that I’d visited in the past now had some old people playing Mah Jong inside. The homeless quotient was also way up from three years ago, which wasn’t a surprise.
I started out at Sam Lee gallery, on the edge of the neighborhood, right across the street from a highway off-ramp. Sam was showing the work of two different California photographers, mixed up around the room. The first were large scale, razor sharp images by Rebecca Sittler. Whenever possible, I like to look at work without knowing anything about it so I can read the images for all they’ve got. Ms. Sittler’s photographs were of interior scenes, tackily decorated. The first had an eye-catching textural combination of red curtains, trippy carpeting, a wall and a window drape. Another had two beds with a phone in between. There was an image of a heavy, frayed rope on carpet against an angled metal wall, a photo of a roped-off painting with a chair, and also a shiny wood railing in a fancy room.
Taken together, I thought I was looking at the inside of a cruise ship. They were devoid of people, and felt lonely. They spoke of an almost Love Boat, 70’s style- cruise culture, where everybody had suddenly disappeared, like the Rapture. Sure enough, I went to look at the press release, and found that Ms. Sittler’s images were made on the decommissioned RMS Queen Mary that sits in the harbor at Long Beach. (Again with the LBC) It’s impressive that she was able to communicate both the setting and the mood without any text or obvious details. Terrific work. As to why this symbol, and why now? A decommissioned behemoth who’s best days are behind it? A musty style that’s trapped in the past.? A lonely relic of the Cold War heyday? Yeah, I get it.
Adam Thorman’s images, on the other hand, were medium-scale photographs of the California Coast, shot in the detail style, from directly above. Tide pools, moss, rocks, that sort of thing. I’ve spent a lot of time on the Coast in my day, and these looked like spots around Point Lobos, or somewhere south of San Francisco. I often wonder why artists try to capture the essence of Nature, without attempting to communicate scale or sound. Zen has it’s place, but requires a depth of perception that was lacking here. Having seen the real thing, I felt like Mr. Thorman’s photos were far less impressive than the original, and not that interesting.
I walked back to Chung King road, which houses several galleries in a row. They had completely turned over since my last visit, and there were fewer spaces in business as well. I began at Charlie James, which was showing work by Carol Selter, also from California. (Now that I think about it, I’m sure that most of the work I saw that day was local.) Ms. Selter was showing a project, “Animal Stories,” that included photographs, sculpture, and video. Her images contained taxidermy animals that she had returned to nature, then photographed. Birds in particular, and also amphibious creatures trapped in little vitrines. One image depicted a song bird, held by string up to the mouth of a flower.
Damien Hirst references aside, the photographs were compelling. The videos featured the same squirrels, turtles, and a variety of animals talking to each other, bitching about global warming in funny voices. I enjoyed the absurdity, but it didn’t really improve on the message from the photographs. Definite thumbs up, overall.
Next stop was The Box, for a collaborative exhibition by Sara Conaway and Lisa Williamson. Ms. Conaway’s photos were mixed among painting and sculpture, and had a distinctive, airy LA vibe to them. The images were minimal, color-drained photos of 3d objects like wire, cut paper, styrofoam, and cloth. Very sculptural. One exception was a photo with red cloth against an intense yellow background. It reminded me of a de-contextualized, de-politicized “Piss Christ.” I left thinking that everything would look great on a big wall in a big house owned by a big Hollywood production executive. But I’m not about to criticize them for being beautiful, especially as they didn’t look just like everything else out there.
Pepin Moore, right down the alley (Chung King Road is a pedestrian only affair) had a group show curated by LA art star Soo Kim. The exhibition was titled “US EST,” but that didn’t really inform anything. It was a melange of seemingly disconnected work, with a heavy hand from photoshop, and a definite nod to the natural world. (The Earth and sky in particular.) Hannah Whitaker had two multiple image panels in the show: one contained four phases of the moon (boring), and the other was of a white girl in a blue costume dancing with a red hula hoop. Strange, playful, and awesome. The background was all white, and looked like it was photoshopped, especially as one of the shadows seemed to be coming from the wrong direction.
Mark Wyse, another LA art star, was also included in the show. I’ve seen several of his projects before, (cars, surfers) and have also read some of his writing(dense, Yale-ish). Here, he was showing some photos of rocks, perhaps beach rocks, photographed from directly above (not terribly dissimilar from Adam Thorman’s photos up the street.) The images were dry, and razor sharp, but left me unimpressed. Especially as I supposed they were backed by some theory of other. You get a lot of that in LA… pretty photos that are described as far more than what they really are. Not to backtrack from my linear sensibility, but give you an example, the Conaway/Williamson show of pretty pictures was described in the press release as such:
“Their meanings are implicit (not explicit!), resonant (not dull!), and inspired (not locked down!) …there is an aspiratory and generative sensibility that runs throughout.)”
Oh. Thanks. Now I get it.
From there, I made another classic, LA cliché-type mistake. I decided leave the car in the lot and walk across the 110 to MOCA downtown. It didn’t look that far, and I’ve driven it before in 5 minutes or so, so I figured it would just be a quick little nothing walk. Wrong. Pounding on the pavement in my flipflops, desperate once again to pee, I couldn’t believe how dumb I was to play pedestrian. It took almost a half an hour, all told, and I had to sneak into a conservatory across from Frank Gehry’s Disney Hall just to find a bathroom (The secret? Act casually confident, and pretend you know where you’re going. Make no eye contact, under any circumstances).
Problem solved, I walked the last couple of blocks to MOCA. I had seen on FB the previous week that they had an exhibition of Andy Warhol’s entire Campbell Soup Can series, and I wasn’t about to miss it. Andy has had a huge influence on my work, and was unquestionably one of the two or three most important artists of the 20th Century. His impact has been felt across culture, and here was a chance to see his first major painting project, returned to LA where it had debuted (lent by MOMA, fueling the ever-present East Coast/West Coast rivalry).
The ladies at the ticket counter were kind enough to tell me how to get back to Chinatown by bus, but couldn’t suppress smirks at my silly walking endeavor. Advice freshly received, I headed down into the museum. On my way to see the soup cans, I passed through an exhibition of MOCA’s Pop Art collection, and ran into one of Richard Prince’s Marlboro Men photos, “Untitled (Cowboys),” 1980-84. Prince’s work has been much discussed on this blog in 2011, and I was happy to see it again firsthand. The photo was fascinating in that it had some altered texture that looked very much like the noise or rasterized effect we see all the time in digital images that have been pushed too far. To my eye, it looked current, and the blurring texture definitely looked like an alteration of the original (which we probably all now know is a key ingredient in qualifying for Fair Use).
After rounding a couple of corners, I came face to face with the Campbell Soup paintings, installed in a horizontal line, hung in chronological order of when each type of soup had been released by Campbells. Beginning with Tomato soup in 1897, running through the last released in 1962 (the year the project was exhibited in LA).
I’ll share my thoughts as best I can, but clearly this is something to see in person. One of my first observations, as I walked up and down the line, was that the paintings are not, in fact, identical. For all the notoriety that they are 32 paintings of a soup can, they’re not. Warhol was a commercial illustrator before becoming a fine artist, and he did the majority of each painting by hand. So the slight differences, like where he drew the highlight and shadow demarcations on the can lid, became obvious. And a couple of the paintings had a slightly different hue of red from the others. A function of aging or not, it broke the continuity.
I loved the ironic humor. Cheddar Cheese soup (also a sauce), Pepper Pot, (what?), Scotch Broth (a hearty soup), Beef Consommé AND Beef Bouillon, all condensed, of course. Subtle absurdity that grows as you engage the sequence. I could just see the 1950’s Ad men sitting around drinking cocktails, trying to come up with the next hot product to entice the burgeoning suburban shopper class. The paintings are also cold and a bit alienating. It’s well known that the show was not an immediate success, and the dealer Irving Blum ended up buying the whole set for a song. I can see why. In their mechanical-ness, they really lacked any sense of emotion or viscerality, which would have been a big change from the high drama of the 1950’s Abstract Expressionist emo-fest. But of course, they meshed perfectly with Andy’s blank, emotion-suppressed personal brand. For all the talk about branding nowadays, he clearly got there first (15 minutes, anyone?).
What else? They’re brilliant. Simply brilliant. Has anyone ever really picked a better symbol to speak for so many larger issues? Campbell’s soup. How American is that? Soup was the original peasant food, just add water to whatever else is lying around. It also represents warmth, comfort, and Mom’s home cooking. “Soup is good food,” for god sakes. Then someone figured out how to mechanize the production, canning, and distribution of the thing, and the growth of the American Empire was soon to follow. Soup for everyone, the same everywhere, cheap, with a reassuring label, replete with fleurs-de-lis. Classy. And then, over the years, so many choices were offered. What better way to anticipate the mind-cleansing consumerism of the 21st Century grocery store, or Ebay for that matter?
Mechanization of culture, commodification of home, repetition of ever so slightly different but really the same objects, the mesmerizing combination of white and red (just ask Target how effective it is), the space-agey-ness of the Kennedy era. It’s all there. The paintings obviously look like advertising images, and from a distance resemble photographs. They’re phallic, and were a precursor to the Becher’s water-towers, as well as any other deadpan, ironic type of work we see from the 70’s to today. All together, they tell a story about how American Popular Culture, beginning with Pop Art, became the global monstrosity we see today.
After ten or fifteen minutes, I finally shoved off to see the rest of the museum’s offerings, weaving through a few rooms of painting and sculpture with little that jumped out. Suddenly, I found myself in a not-large room surrounded by 58 of Robert Frank’s photographs from “The Americans,” hung in two horizontal rows. They were crammed together, and I felt like I do when I try to shoe-horn myself into my jeans the week after Thanksgiving. Uncomfortable to the point of claustrophobia. I saw the Frank retrospective in 2009 at SFMOMA, and wrote about it in Fraction Magazine, so I’ll spare you a rehash of how seminal I think the work is. Here, I could not get a sense of the scope or the message. The installation was non-linear, and confusing. Really, it made me want to not look. And they were all framed the same size and way, cream colored mats with black frames. Hard to imagine that I didn’t want to bother looking at some of my favorite art of all time, but there it is.
Right around the corner, I saw ten terrific photographs by Helen Levitt, framed and hung the same way, literally jammed into a corner. Of course, across the hall, each of Mark Rothko’s paintings were given feet upon feet of breathing space. Odd. I’m the last guy to have a complex about photography’s place in the Art World, because I think those battles were fought and won years ago. At MOCA, however, the message of photography’s inferiority was emblazoned on the wall through it’s second-class installation.
So with my panties in a wedge, I climbed back to street level, hopped a Dash B bus, and headed back to find my car in Chinatown. After a couple of stale, nasty pork buns from a Chinese bakery on Broadway, I got some directions to I-10 in Spanish, and headed out to the West Side, hoping the traffic gods would smile kindly on me… they did.
I started the project at a time when work had been very quiet for several weeks. I had barely seen or spoken to anybody. In times like those your reserves of confidence can literally eat themselves up in minutes. Since the demise of analogue/film in my world, the opportunities to meet and spend time with other like minded types have been heavily diminished. […]The ’140 Characters’ thing was my attempt to meet people, as well as ‘self assign’ a project that would fill up some time, inspire me and also serve as a big, barbed stick with which to keep the Black Dog away.
Creative Director: John Korpics
Photography Director: Mia Diehl
Photographer: Gregg Segal
Heidi: Was the subject hard to open up? What did you ask him at this very moment?
Greg: It wasn’t difficult to get him to open up because, coincidentally enough, we’re from the same small town in Ohio (Marietta, population 16,000). I googled Moynihan before photographing him and discovered this. I’d had a friend in junior high, Pat Moynihan, who I found is Brian’s younger brother. So there was plenty to talk about. At this moment, I may have been reminiscing about Mr. Peacatch, the assistant principal at Marietta Junior High, a small bald man with a Hitler mustache and a thick rural accent who’d whack you with a wooden paddle if you got out of line. I was probably telling Mr. Moynihan the anecdote about my brother, who walked into the bathroom on the first day of school and found Mr. Peacatch sitting in one of the stalls, which had no door, and couldn’t help but stare. “What’s a matter,” said Peacatch, “ain’t you never seen someone take a shit before?”
What is the biggest challenge about photographing “regular” and very busy people?
The challenge to photographing very busy people is keeping them engaged because even if you have them for 30 minutes, they’ll get antsy in half that time.
Did you set up in his offices?
We set up in a large meeting room adjacent to the trading floor at B of A’s headquarters in Manhattan and had to turn the space into a studio, hanging immense panels of black cloth all around us so as not to disturb traders.