Archive for January, 2011
I told you in my last post that my dad was an engineer, and one thing I can tell you from experiencing his friends and colleagues is that engineers aren’t known for their fashion sense. Most of them look like their clothes come from Sears (trust me, my dad is having a “dress up day “when he’s wearing shoes that lace instead of velcro). But then I met Shaun, a recent graduate of Rose Hulman Institute of Technology who’s moved to Indianapolis to work as an engineer. And, he’s also interested in doing some part-time modeling, so he came into my studio a couple of weeks ago to start a portfolio.
Shaun’s planning on coming back in a few weeks for more photos, when he gets his body into a little bit better shape. (You’ve seen me, and certainly you must know how ridiculous this sounds coming from someone shaped like me, in reference to someone shaped like him, but that’s a blog for another day.) In the meantime, as always, you can look at more photos of Shaun on my website.
Before he retired, my father was an aerospace/nuclear engineer. Among the projects he worked on for NASA were the Mercury and Apollo rocket series. I can’t tell you much more than that, because to be honest, my dad’s a pretty boring person and so his lectures about his work are about things like oxygen analyzers and the laws of thermodynamics, rather than his trips to the Kennedy Space Center to inspect rocket ships.
But, one thing I do remember as when I was a very young kid, the space race was pretty important in our house. Before I was in kindergarten, I had globes of the moon and some of the planets, and books about rockets. And I can remember several occasions when my dad brought a few engineers to our house for lunch to watch rocket launches that were being broadcast on television. My mother would set out a big spread of appetizers and sandwiches and the engineers would watch the TV before the launch, gesturing and pointing and having side conversations with all the excitement of the Superbowl. During the launch, there was silence, as if despite their personal involvement, the whole group of them were in awe.
I liked these lunches. In retrospect, they represent the epitome of middle class suburban perfection. Looking back, in my mind’s eye, these days were always sunny, the doors and windows to the house were always open, a not-hot or not-chilly breeze was blowing in. The engineers were all wearing perfect crew cuts and pressed white shirts with dark ties. Even my mother’s sandwiches were perfect. It’s like these scenes from my childhood were lifted from a movie.
Twenty five years ago today, I was a sophomore in college. I was working the lunch shift at this terrible cafeteria that gave me a part time job. I left and walked back to my dorm. I went in what I called the “back door” because it was too cold outside to walk around to my side of the building. The back door opened onto the girls side of the dorm. I climbed three flights of steps to get to the bridge that crossed over to my wing of the dorm. I walked past my friend Beth’s room. Her door was open and she was sitting there, in the quiet. I walked in and said hi.
“Did you hear about Challenger?” She asked stoically. “It blew up.”
She turned on her television, and of course coverage was on every network. I don’t think I left that room for the rest of the day. I don’t even remember getting dinner.
I think this may have been the first great, historical tragedy that had an overwhelming personal impact on me. There have since been others: Tiananmen Square, the first Iraq War, the Rodney King riots, Columbine, the Haitian earthquake, of course 9-11. But this was the first. I grieved like I had lost a member of my own family. Astronauts are cool and respectable enough, but what made it worse was that the first teacher “in space” was aboard. Her mission, alone, just wasn’t supposed to end this way.
RIP, brave souls. Even now, your story can still make me cry. The only thing that comforts me is the thought that you died while enjoying the greatest adventure of your lives.
If you follow me on Facebook, you may have noticed this particular status update last night:
In an effort to always write status updates that have you wondering what the hell I’m up to, I give you this one: Does anyone know how to find out which prison someone is in?
I have a screensaver on my laptop that scrolls through about a thousand photos. Mostly, it’s the work of other photographers who inspire me, or images that I’d like to study, but some of them are just guys that I find hot, and a small handful of them are my own photos that I’m particularly fond of. Last night, a photo jumped onto the screen that caught my eye. It was of a guy I photographed years ago — one of the very first guys who posed for me back when I was just exploring whether I wanted to get into photography again.
We met this guy through some of our really good friends, at a party. I asked him to pose for me because he was, well, cute. After that, we’d see him around, here and there, for a while. Jay and I had dinner with him twice. We’d run into him at our friend’s house. I think he came over to hang out once or twice. To be honest the whole group of us thought he was on the verge of coming out of the closet when he suddenly surprised us with a pregnant wife that materialized out of nowhere — but this didn’t stop him from sending me shirtless photos of himself in the bathroom mirror and teasing me about posing again. But from there, things started getting a little weird and to be honest, we all kind of separated ourselves from him, hoping that on his own he’d figure some things out.
I’m sure you can see where this is going.
A couple of years ago while I was driving to work, a radio newscaster was revealing the sentencing details of a fairly high-profile extortion/identity theft case that had just concluded. I think I had heard about this case before, but for the first time I really heard the name of the person being convicted, and yes, it was the same name as my ex-model.
I arrived at my desk and quickly scoured the internet for news about the case. The defendant’s age, place of employment, and even the crime itself had me about 98% sure that this was our ex friend going to prison. I called Jay, and called the friends who had introduced us to him. We all talked a little bit about it, mostly about how strange it was that someone we used to hang out with was going to prison for a pretty serious crime, but none of us had seen him in a couple of years since things started getting weird, so the conversations ended quickly. And to be honest, I hadn’t given him much thought until last night, when his face materialized on my screen saver.
But suddenly, last night, something changed. I watched his photo dissolve on my screensaver and was overcome by a flurry of questions. I wondered if he’s in a minimum or medium security prison? I wondered what his days are like? If he regrets his mistake or has become a more hardened criminal? I wondered if he thinks about what to do with the rest of his life when he gets out? Did his wife stay with him? Did his parents support him or disown him? Is he somebody’s prison bitch? Does he have a bitch? Does he like the food they serve in prison? I even wondered what he might look like: I could see him going both ways, emotionally humiliated and thus physically withering to almost nothingness; or having nothing better to do than use the prison gym, and thereby turning into some giant muscle monster that I wouldn’t even recognize.
I don’t know why, but I felt like I had to know something. And thus, the Facebook status.
Almost instantly after posting it, an attorney in Florida contacted me and said he was pretty well-versed at tracking things like this. And literally 12 minutes later, the attorney send me this: My model’s name, age 29, white male, incarcerated in The Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) at Manchester in eastern Kentucky, approximately 75 miles south of Lexington, and scheduled to be released on 11/28/11. He also gave me an inmate register number and address, if I decided to write to him.
And I don’t know why I feel compelled to do it, but I think I might. Even stranger than that, Lexington is only 3 hours from here, there’s a part of me that wants to take a Saturday and go see him. If I could find someone to go with me, I would. I am not sure Jay would be interested, and I’m almost positive that our mutual friends would be completely uninterested. But this, for me, is almost a calling. I can’t really explain it. It’s not the stereotypical bleeding heart bullshit — I didn’t get that part of liberalism, I have NO desire to “reform a criminal.” But I don’t think that’s even what this is, anyway. I don’t think this ex-model of mine is a bad person, just a dumb guy who did a really fucking reckless and stupid thing.
My intuition is telling me that on some level, he might need this. If he’s alone, it could do him well to see that at least one old friend (acquaintance?) was willing to invest several hours in a car, driving to the most godforsaken and Deliverance-like corner of Kentucky, just to make eye contact with him. And I feel compelled to check on him, to see that he’s okay. If nothing else, I suppose I could cross visiting someone in prison off my life experience list.
I suppose I should start with a letter. I don’t even know what I’d say.
While he was in the studio a few weeks back, Trevor posed for my Gods series.
Click the “read more” link to see one more photo, which is not safe for work. And go to my Gods page to see two more.
Here’s a link to an interesting, well-done article about Cindy Sherman, one of the greatest living photographers and one of my muses.
Here’s a few of my favorite Sherman portraits.
All photos in this post copyright, Cindy Sherman.
Here’s a couple more photos of my quick shoot with Daniel. This one wasn’t a planned photo shoot, instead Jerry brought Daniel to our house for dinner, and three bottles of wine later, Jerry looked at me and said, “Don’t you think you should take Daniel up to your studio for ten minutes?”
Who am I to argue?
(And I hope it’s not the last time I get to work with him.)
You can see a few more of the photos from the night on my site.
A gentleman in Florida was interested in decorating his bedroom with photos, half of which were shot be me and half by a photographer in England. In a bit of a strange arrangement, the other photographer opted to email his digital files to me to send to the printer that I use. And it occurred to me that since I already have his files and his printing permissions, maybe I should print one or two of them for myself. I’ve been trying to increase my collection of photography by other people, anyway.
I’m just trying to decide which I like best. Your thoughts?
By the way, if you think the last shot looks familiar, it’s because the client asked me to shoot a similar shot with Mel. He ended up not buying that one, though.
All photos this post copyright, Garry Downie
To be direct, wedding photography bores the fuck out of me. Every couple says they want their photos to be different and yet comes back to the same old thing — and even the “creative” shots (like the close-up of the bride’s shoes or a fork with a half-consumed piece of wedding cake), I’ve seen over and over again.
Then my hairstylist showed me the website of a friend of his, Amanda Wilcher. I was pretty much blown away. Amanda’s work is not only incredible from a technical aspect, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen more unique wedding photography. And these first two shots below might be among the best portraits I’ve ever seen, period.
I don’t normally post thumbnails on this blog, but I like Amanda’s work so much that I did here, so click on any of them to see a larger version.
Apparently, Amanda is local, too (she’s based in Indianapolis). But she’s currently shooting in London, and does a lot of work in Chicago, according to Josh (my stylist). She must be doing something right.
I think so.
All photos in this post copyright, Amanda Wilcher.
- The time I feel closest to some kind of higher power is when I’m alone, outside on a summer night, and looking at stars.
- I went through a phase where I read tarot cards. With them, I accurately predicted that a girl’s father was going to die, and outed a suspected kleptomaniac.
- I don’t really believe in “god,” but get really freaked out about TV shows about demons or demonic possession.
- I am sort of convinced that the “god” we still refer to is a result of an alien visitation thousands of years ago.
- But the aliens (god) has moved on, and no longer care about us.
- I miss seeing nuns dressed in full habits. For reasons I can’t explain, it bothers me that there’s a nun shortage.
- I think I’m a little bit psychic, but I don’t see dead people. I’m glad for this, I think seeing dead people would suck.
- In the past, I’ve considered converting to Judaism, Buddhism, Wicca, and Taoism.
- I have a fantasy that starts with two Mormon missionaries ringing my doorbell.
- Despite my generally agnostic feelings, I find a lot of committed atheists to be almost as annoying as the worst Christians.
This is one of the most recent guys to pose for me, Trevor. It was our first time together and I’ve been suffering through a sinus infection so I was a little leery of having a photo shoot at all, but Trevor was sweet, professional, and he brought his own ideas and came prepared.
I hope it’s not the only time we work together.
And he’s actually doing this right, he’s building a portfolio, and working with as many different photographers as he can, and learning as much as he can pick up. I think this one might go places!
As always, there are more photos of Trevor, on my website.