Archive for September, 2009
I was about 6 years old the first time I remember my family driving down this specific country highway about 15 miles from the town where I grew up. Off to the right, there was a ridiculously big, empty field; beyond the field, almost too far away for me to see, was a stout, square brick building next to a building with a big sloping roof.
“What’s that?” I asked from the backseat.
“It’s the hospital for the insane,” said my mother from the front seat.
“The funny farm,” said my older brother, leaning over from the other side of the back seat and whispering to me.
“The nut house,” said Laurie Marriott, the cool girl who lived around the corner, the next day when I told her about it.
That started my infatuation.
And truth be told, who isn’t a bit infatuated by the former insane asylums? Those of us old enough to remember know that they were fairly common during the first three quarters of the 20th century, then they all but disappeared as Prozac was invented and President Reagan cut the funding for them, having decided that crazy people were better off homeless, on the streets of America’s major cities, than they were in state-supported hospitals. Reagan did this thoroughly it seems, because now I couldn’t tell you where the nearest psychiatric hospital even is.
I moved to Indianapolis after they closed and deconstructed Central State. Or maybe, it was here but I didn’t discover it in time. It was unbelievably big. (Why were there so many Hoosiers in need of a psychiatric hospital?) Central State was called “Seven Steeples” despite the fact that it had eight. The building was just so big that there wasn’t a vantage point where you could see all eight steeples at once. Here is Central State, from the 1920s (you can see the Seven Steeples building at the top of the frame).
Central State Hospital, circa 1920
Until now, Richard Avedon was the photographer who had shot my preferred collection of photography from a mental institution. His work, however, concentrated on the patients rather than the structures. His photos in this series are not easy to look at, some people might even say they’re exploitive. Personally, I think this collection might be the most honest portraiture I can think of. These are two of Avedon’s photos, which I would never be brave enough to shoot. Not in a million years.
Two photography by Richard Avedon
There is a new book that’s just been released, called Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals, by a photographer named Christopher Payne. As opposed to the people, this book features the architecture of the hospitals — which was usually stunning. Apparently, crazy people do well in beautiful settings, or maybe it’s just another case of, they just don’t build things like they used to.
Two photos from “Asylum,” by Christopher Payne
The book speaks to the landscape and exterior architecture of the hospitals, which was used as a ruse:
The location of the hospitals, in the countryside, away from the city, afforded ample privacy and an abundance of land for farming and gardening, which were integral to the patients’ daily regimen of exercise. . . . The grounds provided relief from the indoor sights and sounds of the asylum and also served as a dramatic setting for the buildings, enhancing their grandeur. As visitors to the asylums never penetrated beyond the public lobbies of the administration buildings, it was these spaces and the landscapes that acted as the chief agents of propaganda to exert a positive influence on public perception.
I have to have this book. Immediately.
I’ve been thinking about buying Photoshop Lightroom for the last week, because I hear good things about its image editing and organizing capabilities. But I’m still on the fance. Truth be told, most photographers I know are quicker to embrace image editing and enhancing software and new gadgets than I am. I’m still what I consider a true photographer — nothing makes me happier than looking at a photo and realizing that it needs NO editing, whatsoever, because the composition and camera settings were perfect.
Of course, I’m also realistic enough to know that this isn’t a reasonable goal when it comes to shooting people, especially models and headshots. There are crows feet to blend, zits to remove, teeth to whiten, and skin to smooth on almost everybody. But there are also too many photographers that take this to the extreme and dick around in Photoshop so much that the subjects they shoot start to look more like porcelain dolls or mannequins than people, and that’s just silly.
Then there are cases like this one, the photo to the right in particular, which literally made me laugh out loud. Somebody was obviously using an enhancement tool with gay abandon, as it’s just about impossible for . . . ahem . . . something to be so well defined on a boy who’s wearing both underwear and jeans.
Something funny going on
You’ve got to love the joys of Photoshop! It almost makes you wonder how we could stand to look at photos of each other before it existed.
Jason worked with me last winter; then he called me a few weeks ago and said that he had worked out and lost some weight and was ready for a second shoot. Here are two of the better photos we got this time.
Jason, shot by Scott Barnes, 2009
Those of you who have been following my Habits series will also find a shot there that might be fun. Truthfully, I can’t decide if I like it or not.
I bought the TV show, Fight Quest, from the Discovery channel and watched the whole thing over the last 3 weeks or so. I’ll confess, I made the purchase because I have a crush on Jimmy Smith, one of the show’s hosts, and there just isn’t enough information on the Internet about him to do a proper Google stalking.
Yeah, I said it, someone like me (who cares about most sports just a little less than I care about attending the next Ice Capades tour) has a crush on a mixed martial arts fighter. But it’s true. And yet all that considered, the show is interesting, as the two hosts travel around the glob to learn different styles of martial arts and fighting/defense techniques. It’s kind of inspiring, in a way, to watch them put so much effort into learning new things that they know full well can’t be learned in a week. And yet they give put 100% into it, anyway. The travel shots and cultural aspects of the show are fun to see, too.
But mostly, the show has also inspired me to eat better and make more of a commitment at the gym. If Jimmy Smith can go to Isreal and spend 5 days being beaten by the Isreali military, I can take my ass to the gym 3 or 4 times a week and spend 30 minutes on an elliptical machine.
And for what it’s worth, the other host of Fight Quest is kind of cute, too.
Ana was my first shoot with a person from the trans community. She wanted portraits of herself because at 61 years old, she was finally ready to make the final transition from male to female. and she wanted something to show family and colleagues that she wasn’t going to look like, “some clown.”
I’ve been contacted by members of the trans community before but never had a shoot materialize — not because I am uncomfortable with the situation but because I had always thought there were other photographers with more female portraiture experience who would provide a softer, more feminine product. This time, however, I felt compelled to take the client. I contacted Catherine, my most experienced makeup artist, who is perfectly delightful and who used to be a runway model in Japan. Catherine stepped in, and with her expert make up and help with a few subtle tips for Ana to sit and hold herself with more femininity, we had a very nice shoot.
Actually, the shoot was more than good, both Catherine and I were moved by it, somehow. It felt significantly more important than most of the shoots that I do. Ana came in sheepishly became more confident and happy as the makeup, wig, and dress went on. I think, as we were wrapping up, she said it best: “You took a balding, frumpy Mexican and turned me into the person I always wanted to see when I look in the mirror. Thank you.”
I won’t forget this one.
How is it that I’m just now finding out that September 4th is National Penis Day in New Zealand?
To celebrate, men (and a few supportive women) gather in Auckland’s Cathedral Square, get naked, and stand or sit in the formation of a giant penis, all to be a part of an art photograph. National Penis Day is aimed at raising awareness to men’s genital health, and according to some online research, also seems to include an HIV/AIDS fundraising element. According to at least one source, the city council grants permission for the event as long as it remains “discreet and sensitive.” Lest anyone be offended, signs were erected (their word, not mine) in the square warning other pedestrians as to what they may see.
So while we Americans are stuck with stupid things in September like National Date Nut Bread Day (8th) and Talk Like a Pirate Day (19th), the New Zealanders are getting naked in public. Am I living in the wrong part of the world, or what?
, , , but, um, WOW, my little blog here was just proclaimed as Indiana’s #1 GLBT-related blog, by a blogger with a site that probably gets about 10,000 more daily hits than I do right now. Thanks, Bil; your compliments didn’t go unnoticed, and I really (really!) appreciate your accolades.
You know, in one way or another I have had a blog for a long, long time. Granted, I wasn’t one of the originals (the kool kids like Jonno and Beau and Encorswish and Feministe and Disgruntled Housewife and Leatheregg and so many others all came WAY before me)l and I’ve recently been talking with other long-term bloggers about whether or not Facebook and Twitter (ugh) are killing our venue. I’ve even found myself asking, who the hell reads this crap that I post, anyway? But today, for the first time in a while, I feel like it’s all worthwhile, after all.
Unfortunately, I met Josh last summer, just about three weeks before he moved to New York, so we only had the chance to work together once. But I did manage to get a few good photos of him, including these two.
Since leaving Indiana, Josh has been modeling in New York and Miami. Last week, I found this photo of him online, which was shot recently in the Dominican Republic.
It makes me a little sad sometimes that I find some really good models here, work with them once or twice, and then they move to a big city and suddenly get really hot. Matthew, Josh, Kevin, Scott, Alberto, and David have all moved on. I guess that’s one of the things I’m just going to have to find a way to accept, as long as we decide to live in Indiana.
First, thanks to Brian’s comment a couple of days ago, it’s been confirmed that Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptists (you know, those lovely “God Hates Fags” people) are saying that they’re coming to Indianapolis on Thursday, Sept 24th, to protest the Glick Jewish Community Center from 2:10 to 2:40 pm and North Central High School from 2:55 to 3:30 pm. They’re protesting North Central because their theater department is putting on The Laramie Project as the fall play. Apparently, they’re protesting the JCC because some people have the unmitigated audacity to be Jewish.
Police have been made aware of both events and there are plans in the work for a peaceful counter protest at North Central, as well as a fundraiser for the school’s gay/straight alliance as people are pledging one doller per minute that Phelps and his followers stay. I’m seriously thinking about taking Thursday afternoon off of work and attending the counter protest, is anyone interested in joining me? I’m also probably going to be attending the play one night.
Note that above, I said that it’s confirmed that they say they’re coming. The Westboro baptists are notorious for saying they are going to protest an event and then they never show up. But often times, they do.
The second thing about politics that I wanted to say is this: for being the glaring, unapologizing Democrat that I am, I’m not really a huge fan of Nancy Pelosi. But this time, I think she’s absolutely right. As long as Republicans choose to lie to their base to keep them movitvated by fear, as long as Republicans think it’s acceptable to bring guns to town hall meetings and presidential speeches, the chance of political violence in the US is increasing. The press might be in an uproar, but she kind of stated the obvious if you ask me. And I’m glad she did.
For a little fun, check out this contest, Art Vs. Art. It’s a competition by a group of young, local artists, many of whom are art students (for those who don’t live around here, Indianapolis’ Herron School of Art has a surprisingly good program/reputation). The winner gets a $3500 cash prize, and there is also a party at the Vogue on night of the 25th for all the artists, their friends, and fans. I haven’t been in the Vogue in probably 10 years, despite the fact that one of our best friends was the general manager up until a few weeks ago. But who knows? This event might be fun and even bring me out.
I know one of the artists who’s participating, but I’m not going to tell you which piece is hers because I want you to vote for your own favorite. There is some really interesting work in the contest, and I’m especially intrigued by the thought of studying a group of artwork because of my post from last week about art criticism. I think you should check it out, too.