Tuesday, September 22, 2009

We get by with a little help from our friends...

The core of creative work is exchange. We exchange ideas, we collaborate, we share ourselves with each other (as in photographer and subject.) A few months ago, my dear old friend T Foley (Teresa) asked me if I would contribute some content to her latest media art project Locally Toned, whereby T creates custom ringtones for cell phones by recording sounds at various locations. The idea is that people submit to her an idea for a ringtone and she executes it, making it available in downloadable format on her site. She has been given tech support on the project by local software company DeepLocal, a company which specializes in mapping software and other high tech schtuff. More can be read about Teresa's project at:  http://locallytoned.wordpress.com/

My involvement was in three different capacities: first, I recommended to Teresa, as a source, my awesome chef friend Keith Fuller, from downtown Pittsburgh's Six Penn Kitchen, when she inquired with me about wanting to do a kitchen tone. The result can be heard at:  http://locallytoned.wordpress.com/2009/06/23/kitchen-tones/

Secondly, I volunteered my own idea for a Buddhist monk chanting ringtone, to be recorded at the Pittsburgh Buddhist Center, where I go for a weekly meditation session. That tone and story can be found at:  

I had a wonderful time going out with Teresa to the temple and helping her make the recordings. It was a feeling of real connectivity between indivitual parties making a small effort to create something larger and meaningful to share with the world. I felt this type of collaboration is the essence of recent contemporary art: work that goes beyond simply an artist presenting a subject to a passive viewing audience, but rather, involves the audience in the artistic process from its origination through to its final destination. 

Thirdly, Teresa asked if I would help her by making a portrait of her to be used on the promotional "business" cards she is creating to describe and seek an audience for Locally Toned. This is the third time I have photographed T, the last time being a shot with a little Hazmat cleanup action figure I bought her as a gift and that she used in her 2004 video art project Hazardous  Materials. (If I remember correctly, the action figure used in the video was a humorous birthday gift I had given Teresa previously, which, if my mind is working properly here, would further extend our web of collaboration.) 

Anyway, this photo is the result. And it is not a matter of Photoshopping a sky into a background of a studio image. It was made in-camera, at the Schenley golf course, on a sunny day, with a little strobe-fill. I love how surreal it looks! In the end-production of the promo cards for "Locally Toned," Teresa has added spraypaint type text that reads "Airspace = Public Property." 

Teresa and I had a really fun time working on this, including dodging some golf balls on the green nearby and a follow-up dinner at Six Penn to celebrate the project and catch up on another very important creative exchange: girl talk (not the musician, see above, the conversation!)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ghost Chair

A long exposure on a starry night, camera sitting in the grass. Reminds me of David Lynch, which makes me very pleased. This was taken on the grounds of the Century Inn, an historic inn on Route 40 in Washington County, PA. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

2 weekends ago, my brother Evan and I ventured down to lovely Greene County, Pennsylvania, to work on an article for the upcoming Fall issue of TABLE magazine. Here are two shots that resulted. 

One is some sort of interesting fly that must be a Monongahela River native, as there were scads of these things resting everywhere.

The second image is my friend David Lesako's painting studio, which is an old log cabin that he bought, moved, and reconstructed on his own property. It's just an amazing place to be, with gorgeous views on all 4 sides of the tiny little cottage. David makes wonderful, colorful landscape paintings, some of which have been on view at Pittsburgh's Gallery on 43rd Street recently. 

Monday, June 30, 2008

Kramer Super Surprise

TOP PHOTO: Bob Ziller shakes it off in the studio after a grueling few days. Recording engineer Larry Luther of Mr. Small's is on the left.

BOTTOM PHOTO: Larry and Bob with KRAMER on the right. If you'd told me back in 1990, when I was in college, that someday I'd be standing in a recording studio photographing Kramer, I would've NEVER believed it. 

So, last Friday I got a big thrill. I had an assignment to shoot my friend Bob Ziller for a book feature in next week's City Paper. (He has just finished doing a translation of poetry from French, for publication, though I don't know the poet offhand.) I was sent to Mr. Small's recording studio on the North Side, where Bob was recording a record with his band (whose name I don't even know...shame on me!) When I walked into the studio, Bob introduces me to the guy who is producing his record, "And this is Kramer." "Hey," I said, and shook his hand. Then, I'm like, wait a minute! "Are you THE KRAMER?" No, not the guy from Seinfeld. The guy who ran Shimmy Disc records, which pretty much influenced my core musical sensibilities when I was the music director of my college radio station! Kramer has played with bands like the FUGS, Butthole Surfers, B.A.L.L., Bongwater, and King Missile, as well as produced folks like Daniel Johnston, Jad Fair, and the cover of "Girl You'll Be A Woman Soon," by Urge Overkill, featured on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack.I played King Missile religiously and pretty much anything that arrived with that Shimmy Disc label on the box. So many great records! If you've never heard the song "Sensitive Artist," by King Missile, you owe it to yourself to go on You Tube and find yerself some. Anyway,  I saw Bongwater at the 9:30 Club in DC (the original location) in the early 90's, during which I remember that Kramer was playing a lot of Zeppelin-ish guitar. When I told him this, he just chuckled. I guess he lives in Florida these days and is doing more production for others than making his own records. I was starstruck, if you can call it that, in a REALLY geeky way.  

Anyway, just goes to show you that being a photographer means never knowing exactly what is going to happen to you in the course of a day!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hot Town Summer in the City

An assignment today for an upcoming City Paper feature on the Pittsburgh music sensation sweeping the nation, otherwise known as GIRLTALK, aka Greg Gillis (who I last shot a couple of years ago when he had short hair and a "corporate job," which he has now been able to quit because of being, like, famous and shit.)
We had a very refreshing and successful shoot. Now, normally, I'm not one who needs much prompting to hop into the swim, but I was a bit concerned about my camera getting wet. We managed to pull it off and even prevented Greg's laptop (which will appear in the "real" photo in the paper) from getting wet....and we DID have it in the pool with us. 
You'll have to tune into August issues of City Paper to see the end result. Greg will be playing Lollapalooza in Chicago on my birthday, August 1, so I may just have to go out there and shoot his ass live.

Fer yerself, check out Greg's snorkeltastic grooves at http://www.myspace.com/girltalk where you can "pay what you want" to get his new release "Feed the Animals."

Friday, June 6, 2008

Lensbaby from Clemente Bridge

Out shooting last night at PNC Park, the light was gorgeous, so I tried out my favorite toy, the "Lensbaby." This special selective focus lens makes everything look fun and dreamy. I like using it when shooting scenes that are VERY familiar to me, because the effect brings something unusual to what might be otherwise mundane. 

James climbs the Carnegie Library