STEPHANIE + STEPHEN

STEPHANIE

Like I say in the video below, Stephanie is one of my favorite models
on the corner. Model, because when I shoot her I can see that that’s
what she’s doing: modeling, working the camera. But not in a bogus
way. No. There just seems to be something so honest about what
she is willing and able to give me.

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Stephanie, Ottawa, 2010

Here’s a couple of shots of Stephanie with Crystal……you can see the
comfort, the ease and the expression Steph brings…..

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Stephanie and Crystal, Ottawa, 2010

I find myself drawn to her, and to others on the corner who bring
what she brings. I’m always happy when I bump into Steph, I never
get tired of shooting her.

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Stephanie, Ottawa, 2010

STEPHEN

When I photographed Stephen Harper I sensed something similar
to what I sense when I shoot Stephanie. It’s complicated and I’m
still trying to get my head wrapped around it, so bear with me.
And be forewarned….these thoughts aren’t fully fleshed out and,
in fact, might make no sense. But that’s never stopped me…..

But before I get into the vibe of the Harper shoot I have to tell you
that his people gave me 45 minutes to set up and he would sit for
5 minutes. So it’s not like I know him like I know Stephanie. But
a fotoshoot can be a charged, intense situation, one which provides
all kinds of dynamic and input that allow you to see more clearly.
And you walk away with proof…..

stephen-harper-prime-minister-of-canada
Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada

Okay…..I think Stephanie and Stephen both lack pretense when
they’re in front of the camera. They’re both being “true”, showing
something of themselves, their fact. And I respect that in a person.

But the way Steph does it is, she acts, she gets in touch with some
emotion and shows it to me. Not in a pretentious way, but in a way
that approaches some truth. She wants to connect.

Stephen, on the other hand, doesn’t act. He just stands there and
is himself. No emotion, no connection.

And that’s a kind of truth, too.

But if Stephanie was running against Stephen in an election, I know
which one I’d vote for….the drug addict, not the power addict.

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Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada

USER Men: talk

I was at the gallery Thursday afternoon, doing some press for
my upcoming show. Had just wrapped up when in walks Joce,
with his girlfriend, Lana.

Joce is the guy on the invitation and, in total, there are 4 shots
of him in the show.

joce
A picture of Joce standing in front of a picture of Joce

While we were talking he told me that the shots of him in the show
weren’t his favorite pictures. Lana, though, told me she totally
recognizes him, his vibe, in the fotos.

But that’s not the talk I wanted to talk about here.

I’ll be giving an artist talk at the gallery this Sunday (the 5th) at
four in the afternoon. Drop by if you’re in the area and watch
me sweat, swear, stutter and strut.

Details here.

Joce also came to the opening. Here’s the comment he left in the book:

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Me and Joce at the opening (foto courtesy of Justin Wonnacott)

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YOU’RE INVITED

INVITATION

USER Men opens this coming Friday. Seven to ten, September the
third at Gallery La Petitie Mort.

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Invitation, front and back

The shooting I was doing last year was very much about expression and
gesture, and the exhibition will be about that process. Six of the many
men I photographed last year will be represented in the show. Each one
by 2 or 3 or 4 images showing some of the range of expression the subjects
presented to me.

I hope you can make it to the opening, you’re invited.

More info here.

STANDARD

If you remember, I’m starting a magazine…..STANDARD. The first, kind of
test, issue is an edit of my work: AMERICAN STATES.

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After getting off to a roaring start, everything kind of ground to a halt while
the design was being tweaked and fine tuned. Each issue will be designed
by a guest art director and this issue’s A.D. got swamped by a moving dead-
line for an Annual Report she was working on and then the summer holidays
reared their ugly head.

Happy to report that things are back on track and the premier issue is on the
press as you read this.

Here’s a taste of a page spread…….

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I’ll be talking a bit more about this as time goes by and other projects I’m
working on settle down to a dull roar.

But let me tell you here and now that I’m already thinking about the next
issue. I’m also thinking that I’m gonna need some help with a lot of the
peripheral aspects of getting this up and running.

Right now I’m looking for a webhead to help set up an online presence
and, as time goes by and we see how this all works out, I’ll probably be
looking for some dog’s bodies, as well.

So if you know about web architecture and coding and have ideas about
how to make this thing shine, I want to hear from you. Please either leave
a comment here or PM me: tony (at) tonyfoto (dot) com

I’ll also soon be soliciting submissions for the next issue. You see, STANDARD
started out as a promo vehicle for me but I quickly realized that it should be
more than that. It should be a way to create and support both community and
print.

Stay tuned for more details.

DON’T SHOOT ME, I’M A DICK

That great quote is from “war” photographer Simon Norfolk. It refers to
how he dresses for the battlefield: 4×5 camera and a Hawaiian shirt.

“I can’t believe that photographers go into war
zones dressed like soldiers! Soldiers are the
people they shoot at. If I could wear a clown
suit I would…….

….. I can either scrape in there on my belly,
wearing camo, and sneak around; or I can
stand right there in front, wearing a shirt
that says, you know, Don’t shoot me. I’m
a dick.”

sn

I thought I might start with that slightly humorous bit from a great
interview Norfolk did a few years ago on BLDGBLOG, because he also,
in the same interview, brings forward many interesting and pretty critical
ideas about war, war photography and photojournalism.

sn1
© Simon Norfolk

BLDGBLOG: So your projects are
even more political now – yet they’re
intended as landscape photography?

NORFOLK: I mean, I didn’t get fed up
with the subjects of photojournalism –
I got fed up with the clichés of photo-
journalism, with its inability to talk
about anything complicated. Photo-
journalism is a great tool for telling
very simple stories: Here’s a good
guy. Here’s a bad guy……

…..I needed to find a more comp-
licated way to draw people in. I’m
not down on photojournalism …..
but its job is to offer all its infor-
mation instantly and immediately…

…..So the content of photojournalism
interests me enormously, it’s just the
tools that I had to work with I thought
were terrible. I had to find a different
syntax to negotiate those things.

I couldn’t agree more. All too often these days we’re fed clichés and
simple answers. Complexity seems to be regarded in many media
circles (or is that: circle jerks?) as, well, too complicated.

I really recommend going here and reading and thinking about what
Norfolk has to say.

Simon Norfolk’s website is here.

SECOND GUESSING OR FINE TUNING?

Further to last week’s post about what happens with the USER pix
when I get home……

This week I took a fast look thru all the negs I’ve shot on the corner
so far this year. Now that the shape and direction of the shooting
are becoming a bit more clear to me I noticed certain images that
I had originally discounted. I’m also starting to wonder about
some of the images I initially chose, wonder if or how they might
fit in to the final thing, whatever that may be.

Case in point…..some of you may remember this image of Helena:

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I was initially attracted to it because of it’s ethereal, mysterious quality.
Then, this week, I noticed this frame of her, shot the same day:

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It seems much more in keeping with what I seem to be shooting there.
It kind of has the same vibe as my initial choice but the look of it seems
more me/USER.

Of course, in the end, who knows? Sometimes, when you’re shooting
for an extended sequence as opposed to just trying to get great singles,
certain “funny” shots are just what the doctor ordered, in terms of finding
images that will link passages or help move a feeling forward.

All I know now is that, when all the shooting and initial scanning is said
and done, I’ll still have to go back through all the material and agonize
over what to do, what to pick and what have I done.

HOW IT WORKS

The other day my friend Michael Tardioli dropped by to help me with some
printing problems. (Not technical problems, aesthetic ones.)

While he was here he mentioned that he thinks I post too many new pictures
on drool, that I should hold some back for later, on my website, or something.

Well, that’s just not the way I roll. I’m like a kid, I get excited. Besides, I take
a lot of fotos and what else am I gonna do with them except think about them
and show them to folks? Which is kind of what blogs are (or should be) about.

I’ve always thought that drool was a place to throw up experiments, random
thoughts and worries, confusions, opinions, also-rans, failures and successes.

So this week I’m going to talk a little bit about the USER process. Not the
shooting process, but what happens after I get home; how these images
come to be up on drool.

HOW IT WORKS (part 1)

I don’t make contact sheets or gang-scan the negs. I throw them onto my
little lightbox and look at them. I’ve been looking at negs for 30 years.

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Negs on the lightbox

If I see a frame I like (I’m aided in my selection by having been at the shoot and
remembering what pictures I took, if you know what I mean) I throw it into the
scanner and do a quick preview scan. If it looks good and meets certain criteria
I do a high resolution scan and some preliminary Photoshop corrections on it.
Then I put my head down over the lightbox and look for the next good frame.

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Tracey, Ottawa, 2010

During this initial edit all I’m trying to do is to identify and do a bit of post
production on any image that might be useful to the project. There are a
ton of reasons I’ll pick one frame and reject another….but I’ll save that for
another post

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Alexandra, Ottawa, 2010

So the USER images you’re seeing roll out onto drool every week are only
potential final shots with only preliminary post production. These, and
a whole bunch more, all get thrown into Aperture, where I make a light
table with them and, in my spare time, when the inclination hits, I move
them around, put them in different orders and think about what I’ve done
and what still needs doing.

Then I go and do it.

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HOW IT WORKS (part 2)

Regular droolers might be wondering what has happened to the good-old
magazine format that this blog has adhered to for the past bunch of years.
Bits about me, bits about the Ottawa-foto-scene, bits about what I’ve been
looking at in the wide world of fotografy (even though my foto-world isn’t
actually that wide) and the occasional rant.

These days drool is just USER, USER, USER….

But, then again, regular droolers also know I have my obsessions, and when
I’m shooting USER, or any personal project, that’s it. Obsession.

That’s how I get these personal projects done…..by pushing aside the regular
routines of my existence and focusing in. Some might even say: by being
selfish. Yeah, I’m that.

That’s how it works.

rikki-3-1-360
Rikki was in a bad way Friday, drug sick. I gave her some money to get drugs.

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A little while later she came back, crying. She’d been ripped off and was still sick.