Presence by Chris Buck

* Originally published in LA Canvas magazine.

Image

From the off it should be clearly expressed that this book is not going to be for everyone. You could lean back in your russet recliner and chortle as you shake your head and note that, ‘darling, no art is for everyone’. But Presence, the graceful yet unapologetic new photo book from celebrated pop culture photographer Chris Buck, is one of those things that some people will never, ever see where the appeal lies, like sardines, or Drum ‘n’ Bass.

Presence is a collection of celebrity portraits in which the celebrity himself is hiding somewhere out of sight within the frame. Yeah, I told you.

Jay Leno…allegedly.

Each page turn is a taunting carrot and stick ordeal that never ceases mocking you. Yet the statements signed by the subject and by a witness tease you just enough that you start to peel away the layers of the photograph to dive deep into the depth of field. And it’s there that you imagine these familiar faces crouched behind a sofa or standing behind the drapes, giggling.

Underwhelming, yes. Contradictory, yes. Strangely captivating, yes.

Snoop and his Dogg (now Lion)

Chris Buck has been documenting the evolution of pop culture since the early eighties. Finding his in through documenting the underground punk scene in his hometown of Toronto, he gained his reputation by catching early glimpses of iconic artists such as R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe and the Fall’s Mark E. Smith, and hinted at the abstract projects and themes that would later define his work and cement his reputation as one of the genuinely unique photographers in the industry.

Image

After a few years submerged in the music scene in Canada he made the jump to New York City where he immediately found his surreal sense of humor and precise attention to detail in high demand. His portfolio showed someone that was not only technically strong, but had a personality that put subjects at ease and soothed the presence of the intruding camera. And whilst he was amassing his little black book of who’s who of who’s, which includes Louis C.K., Steve Martin and even Barak Obama, he would end many of his shoots by politely asking the subject if they wouldn’t mind hiding behind something for a moment.

Image

Presence casually swats away the inevitable ‘gimmick’ tag by being beautifully composed on every level. The concept, whilst having a breezy air of whimsy and being almost immediately predictable, does carry a hefty weight when examining the notion of celebrity and the objectivity of portrait photography. It is also a wonderful collection of photographs of America, with the draw of a hiding celebrity giving you the ability to see and inspect the details as you probably wouldn’t otherwise.

Image

Desmond Tutu

There is a bold streak of humor as dry as marrow running through Chris Buck’s entire career, and his ability to convince ‘The Talent, darling’ to indulge in his bizarre concepts really comes in as a triumphant after-thought. He clearly places originality high on list of priorities when composing collections of photographs, and while some would write that off as being a hindrance on his unquestionable brilliance as a portrait photographer, it does bring him into a world of fine art that clearly suits his mind as well as his eye.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Where’s that accent from?

Based on the same conversation I have every single day about my f**king accent.

*

What can I get for you?

Can I get a…wait. Hold up. Where’s that accent from?

Same place I’m from.

Funny. Where’s that?

Guess.

Oooh. Okay.

 

Australia? No. Do I sound Australian?

I guess, a little. I don’t know. Just foreign.

Again.

New Zealand?

What?! That’s almost the same accent as Australia. No. Way off. Culturally, physically, and aurally.

South Africa maybe?

 

I’m Northern European. Look at me. I’m really, really white. I’m from the source.

God, I don’t know. Ireland maybe?

Scotland. I’m from Scotland. It’s a Scottish accent.

Scotland! That was my next guess. Wow. Scotland eh?

Yeah.

My friend’s been to Ireland.

 

It is the same.

Shut up, no it isn’t. They’re different countries. I’m just being a stupid American.

Honestly. Alcoholism, depression, recession, Anti-English sentiment. It’s the same place.

I think the UK sounds awesome. Old buildings and like the history and stuff. Culture, you know?

I think you’re mostly thinking of London.

Maybe. But Scotland is probably dope too right? Like castles and nature and stuff right?

 

I mean, you should always have a return ticket though.

I think I’m like one eighth…Scotch? Scottish?

Scottish.

Scottish. And then like there’s some Dutch, a little German, and maybe like a sixteenth Native American.

Really? That’s an interesting mix. I’m just Scottish.

Well, I think that’s better. You get the accent and stuff. I just get this.

 

You do have one. This is what you sound like. You sound like this.

Oh my god! Shut the f**k up. That’s freaky. You actually sound American.

I am. I have an audition tomorrow. I’m actually from Fresno.

Oh my God! Shut the f**k up right now! I actually believed you were from f**king Scotland!

I’m joking. I am actually from Scotland.

Okay, now I’m confused. Anyway listen, what’s a good Scottish cocktail?

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Another line that made me stop

“Human beings are ashamed to have been born instead of made” – Günther Anders

Tagged , , ,

Blood and Sand – Cocktail Recipe

blood-and-sand1

Recipe: Equal parts blended Scotch, Sweet Vermouth, Maraschino Cherry liqueur and Orange juice. Shake well with ice and strain into some nice stemmed glassware (see above). Garnish and zest with an orange peel.

diddy-ciroc-bath

Okay, it’s last call on the flavored vodka troops. As it turns out your consumerist bhagwan Puff Dirty Daddy is laughing at you as you follow the scent of his ethereal goji berry spirit down the rabbit hole and into his bejeweled lair of misappropriated excess. Time to drink up and move on.

The majority of flavored vodkas have all the complexity of the supporting female role in a Kevin James movie, and the finish of George’s Marvelous Medicine. Bought because you heard that the Flow Rider and his ‘boyz’ drink it in the clubs, you fully embrace the bland, characterless spirit, and because of the shrewd product placement you gladly overlook the fact that it’s actually best used to clean burnt soup from cooker surfaces and congealed sin from the embossed initials on wedding rings.

ciroc1

It’s time to grow up and start enjoying the taste of alcohol.

Blood and Sand Stuff

The Blood and Sand originated at some point around 1920, and is a fantastically well-balanced Scotch-based cocktail transcends seasonal pallets and themes and often defies those that have an aversion towards whisky, and wince at the bone-dry echoes that sweet vermouth tends to leave behind. All four flavors are present in this drink, coming on one at a time, politely stepping aside and clearing the path for the next with a bygone sense of noble chivalry.

As one of only a handful of cocktails that uses Scotch, it does tend to raise the odd eyebrow with Puff Daddy’s flavored vodka crowd, but it is a hit. To ensure that people approach the drink with the necessary state of open mindedness, assure your more reserved party guests that they are in fact drinking the new Ciroc® Whisky, Sweet Vermouth, Cherry & Orange flavored vodka.

For best results use a blended whisky that’s relatively neutral, sweet and smooth (J&B, Johnnie Walker Black, Famous Grouse should be fine. Just don’t go near anything from Islay, unless you want your drink to taste like smoked surgical bandages), get some Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth (hard to come by but worth it) and keep it chilled, and I always like to toss a slice of orange and a maraschino cherry into the shaker to get a bit of pulp in there.

Sweet, strong, dry and a little tart, this is an exceptionally well-rounded cocktail. Jay Gatsby would have gladly served drinks like this at his appropriately excessive parties. Not something that can be said for a double Ciroc® Bratwurst with Monster Khaos…

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I read this today-

-and it arranged my emotional clutter into a precise line.

‘I felt like a cloud in someone else’s dream’ – from ‘I Love Bocce‘ by Sean Lovelace

x

Tagged , , ,

Mental Breakdown #4 – Actress

Image

Image

 

Date: 3/14/2013

To whom it may concern,

I took money from a guy I slept with a few days ago. I still have it all. It’s sitting in a drawer next to me. I thought about throwing it away. But I couldn’t.

I don’t know if this is a confession, or just some way that I can push everything I have away from me and breathe, but I need this. I need you to listen to me and I need to pretend that you understand, and that the same problem befell you, or someone you know. I need to think that this landed in the hands of someone that at one time felt like they needed something as badly as I need you. When I got home I opened this bottle of wine, sobbed in bed and looked through my entire phone book for someone to talk to. I hadn’t a single a name that would be able to hear me without judging me. Scores of acquaintances, taking and giving, but no friends that I can share with. That made me feel like I’d completely wasted the last ten years of my life.

I met the guy about a month ago. He came in one night when I was cocktailing. We got to chatting and he said he was a producer for some reality show. I said I was out here doing my thing. He asked how it was going. I looked at him before I answered. I could see he wasn’t judging me. He understood. He saw me, and my dreams, and not the tray with his drink on it. I said it was going well. He smiled, and said ‘Good, I’m pleased’. But we all knew it could have been better. In the eight years I’ve been here I’ve realized that LA loves nothing more than reminding most of us of that very fact.

We exchanged numbers. He said he would introduce me to a few people that could help me. He tipped me really well, like 40%, and that was that. I texted him that night and thanked him. The texts kept going back and forth casually for a few weeks before we found time to go out.

The night out itself was really nice. We had a great meal in West Hollywood then went to a bar nearby, before going back to his place downtown. All night he’d been talking about his job, telling stories, name dropping. He talked about how he would make some calls and get me some parts. I just listened, taking it all in. At his place we talked over Jazz and stayed up drinking and taking blow, and eventually started making out on his couch.

When I came out of his bedroom the next morning there was this little pile of hundred dollar bills sitting on the kitchen work surface. There was a note on top of it.

“I had fun! Text me.”

I heard him in the shower, whistling. I looked behind, out of the huge windows at the tops of the bank buildings, and the hills behind them in the distance. I’d never seen the city from that height before. I looked back at the money. I put my hand down slowly on the bills, and took it off again as soon as I felt them. I counted them. Ten fresh hundred dollar bills.

It was like the air rushed from the elevator as it started to drop. I felt disorientated. My organs thumped inside my body, and I felt them working like they were dying. As soon as the doors opened I wanted to press the 35th floor button and go straight back up and leave the money where I’d left it. But I couldn’t. I walked quickly through the lobby and felt the cunt hostess at the front door eyeing me up and down, like I was someone else’s stain. I was dragged along, trailing, pulled by every negative emotion I could feel.

Truth is, I’ve been partying really hard over the last year. It’s gotten to be something that I no longer do because I’m happy. I wouldn’t have been in the situation I was in were it not for the fact that I’m deep in debt, deeply depressed and almost certainly an addict. In the last few months I’ve been dating a lot of guys, not because I want a relationship, but because I need to have someone to pay for me to drink, and then fall in love with me, for that night at least. And reading back over that I really feel like the sad, pathetic little Hollywood casualty I never wanted to become. But I’m scared now, because I don’t know who to call, and aside from the ten fresh hundred dollar bills in my drawer, I’m completely broke, lost and miserable.

Please, I need help. I need you to understand that I’m not a bad person. I’m just going through some stuff.

Kindest regards,

 

 

 

Anonymous

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mental Breakdown #3 – Student

Image

Image

Date: 03/14/2013

Dear whoever you are,

It’s 3:45 in the morning and I’m upset and tired and alone and drunk in LA. I tried to get some sleep but between my own crying and the echo of those little boys screaming in my head I couldn’t catch a moment. That awful, awful noise has been going round and round for hours and hours. I can still hear them crying, and that woman shouting, and Donny sounding so scary, all threatening. Its kept me awake all night, torturing me.

I feel so awful. I had no idea who they were. I thought she was just another crazy person. I mean, this is downtown LA, and we were outside Ralph’s. But she just started screaming, dragging her crying kids towards us. “Look at us you bastard! Look at your family!”. At first I laughed and shook my head, thinking she was someone else’s problem. But when I looked to Donny to say something about her I saw his jaw clenched shut and felt him go all stiff next to me. I fell down a big hole. I just ran away.

It’d be pretty naive of me to say that I didn’t suspect that he might have been married. I mean, he’s like forty years old! Maybe it was just the way he was, all youthful and free-spirited. More like a renaissance, less like a crisis. It honestly felt like we met somewhere between nineteen and forty. He didn’t look like he’d had kids. You know that way sometimes you can just tell. It’s not a physical trait, more the way they view the world. But maybe I saw all of that but didn’t want to acknowledge it. Maybe I figured that I was in love with him, so why jeopardize this over something like that? Or maybe I saw it and didn’t care because I’m a terrible person like that.

When I got home I took the bottle of vodka in the refrigerator into my room, flopped onto my bed and cried. I text him, maybe seven, eight times. Phoned him twice but on the first time he cancelled the call, and the next time it went straight to his voicemail. I heard him saying his ‘Hi it’s Donald Elrich, I’m sorry I can’t take your call-’ thing. I hadn’t thought about what to say, so I just said a few sobbing words asking him to call me asap, then deleted it. I broke down. I mean, every single bit of me just fell apart as I hit the bottom of the big hole. I felt like the loneliest, stupidest little girl in the world. I couldn’t do anything but lie there and cry into my pillow.

The crying has stopped for now at least, but in a way I always felt that crying was good because I always saw tears as baggage. But cried tonight about who I’ve lost, not about the lives I’ve ruined. I can’t seem to shed a single tear over of the shame I feel. I’m trying to cry, but the tears are all blocked up. They’re in a big lump in my stomach. I’ve been sitting here for the last two hours watching the ice cubes melt in my drink and thinking about all of the people that I’ve been horrible to in my life. All the way from the mom that gave birth to me to the mom that was screaming at me. I’d never done a comprehensive overview of the casualties of my selfish behavior. Maybe if I had I would have been so ashamed with myself that I wouldn’t be here today. Because that’s how I feel right now. Not like some people who think like, ‘No one would even notice me if I was dead!’ I feel that people would notice me being dead, and they would be happier. ‘That bitch?’ they’d say, ‘Thank God for that! The air around me is that little bit fresher.’

Brandi is the only person I want to speak to. The friends I text earlier still haven’t gotten back to me, and I don’t even really want them to. Because I don’t know what I’d say to them. I want to speak to Brandi. But I really fucked that up. She’s like my best friend and my roommate, but since we moved to LA together I’ve become an even bigger bitch and we’ve grated against each other. She took school seriously, and I constantly made fun of her for it. Like bailing on class and wasting my father’s money and my own time was cool. Ugh. Anyway, we had a massive falling out a week ago and haven’t spoken since. But I feel ready to apologize for the way I’ve always treated her. I’ve kind of come to realize that I’ve always sort of bullied her. Like she was almost beneath me, in a way. I pulled myself out of bed and knocked on her door, but there was no answer. She must have been with that guy she’s been seeing. I thought about calling. But I couldn’t. I didn’t even know where to starting knowing what to say. In the end I just sent her a text saying, “I think I see it now. You’re right. I’m so sorry gurl. I love you x”. I still haven’t heard back from her yet. I hope she forgives me. I need her.

I’ve been sitting with the knife close by for about an hour and I’m thinking about it. I am. I closed my eyes put it on my forearm and felt it, all cold and straight. Maybe it’s just a childish cry for help, but why not? I need help, and I’ve proved time and time again that I’m a child. I mean, I feel like I deserve it. No one wants me. Yesterday it felt like everyone wanted to be me. Like I had one of those lives. The kind that I thought I would have when I came to Los Angeles. And today I’m toxic. No one wants to be around me. I think I love Donny but what does that even mean? To him, to me. I’m a child, and he already has two of them apparently. I thought about calling dad, but I can’t tell him about any of this. I’m his baby girl. His baby girl that thinks she’s a full-grown woman, stumbling in these big heels, crying for attention when she falls.

Someone help, please. This really hurts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anonymous

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mental Breakdown #2 – Writer

Two

Image

Date: 03/14/2013

To the ceaselessly trending you,

This morning I posted a single paragraph blurb about some pop-up gluten-free cupcake store in the Arts District, and two hours later posted a 1500 word satirical essay I wrote last year about technological developments being directly proportional to the gory death of masculine identity. The cupcake scoop presently has 34 ‘likes’ and 16 comments on the magazine’s Facebook page. The essay received two ‘likes’, one of which was from our tech guy in Bangalore, and no comments. At what point can one legitimately begin to blame the audience for one’s shortcomings?

I am presently being smothered in the clutches of a hateful relationship with myself. I work in an industry I thought that I loved for people that I loathe, for an almost-negligible sum of money. I worry that my boyfriend is fucking all his skinny actress friends, but I’m possibly just being all #overlyattachedgirlfriend about everything and that he’ll realize he’s better off without me. And despite the fact that this is going to sound like such an LA-thing to say, but I’m worried that I’m just a big ball of negative energy that people want nothing to do with.

A few days ago I could barely afford to make the repayment on my enormous school debt. It’s really beginning to sink in now that I voluntarily put myself into thousands of dollars of debt to attain a qualification that does nothing but feed itself back to itself. I have an MA in Creative Writing. So in order to find work that actually pays actual money I will almost certainly have to join the education system, and start teaching more kids to be teachers in order to pay off the debt that their silly little passion lumped on them. Perhaps as a result of my extensive online fieldwork with GRIT/SHINE magazine I will one day be considered the preeminent authority on Twitter Literature (#twitlit), and will be able to explore the bowels of minimalism, teaching undiscovered Hemingways and Salingers to consider vowels implied and punctuation frivolous.

There are lots of reasons I despise my job, but the biggest one at present seems to be that our priority has shifted from print towards the internet. This means gouging the bottom of the dried-up superlative well for more innocuous praise for ‘cool’ things we found whilst trawling Gawker, or Fader, or Hypebeast, or Pitchfork. But once we’ve declared something to be ‘super-sick’, it immediately becomes, oops, ‘super-[sic]’, and we’re, pfffft, over it. God forbid you should miss out on a ticket to today’s Super Rad Flying Lotus Circle Jerk because you were busy standing in line for yesterday’s Gnar Gnar Kendrick Lamar Pants Festival. We, the Damp Hype Journalists, armed with an ‘@vice.com’ email address and right-click button for synonyms, build careers to tear them down, and have smugly reinvented ourselves as ‘Trendspotters’. And I’m dreading the well-earned irony it would be if my work was one day fed through the ruthless system of fragile hype that I helped to facilitate for almost no reward, other than the initial weightless euphoria of my career freefalling the second after said epitaph was declared ‘of note’.

I guess it was last night’s party that really brought me to you. It was at some kitschy street art gallery in Hollywood. The art was by another purposeless stoner that found his calling in life wallowing somewhere on the surface level of ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’. It was a ‘VIP’ event, despite their being a large number of people in attendance that I knew to be anything but important. The all stood around, schmoozing and fawning all over one another, then moving on to the next. I watched conversations dip into awkward troughs as people blanked on names before being saved by the exchange of deceptively marked, Bateman-esque business cards. From my vantage point of the deepest corner, every single smile in the room seemed fake. I could see it in their eyes. I imagined every time someone looked at their phone they were wishing the hours away until they could be alone and curse themselves for falling for the gag again.

I slipped out of the party early. Darryl asked if I minded if he stayed. I didn’t want to say ‘yes’, but I did mind. I wanted him to come home with me. I said, ‘No. Stay, if you want to.’ He smiled, gave me a kiss, and walked off into the crowd. I left, and let the tears fall out onto the street. I took the subway most of the way home. I got off at Westlake/MacArthur Park and walked the rest. I just walked, dabbing tears, laughing and swearing at myself, looking like another crazy that came here and lost. But I didn’t care. At that moment I was far too worried about what I thought of me to worry about what anyone else thought of me. At least that’s a start.

Help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anonymous

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mental Breakdown #1 – Comedian

One

Image

Date: 03/14/2013

To the cleaner that finds this,

I’m just about ready to pop a bag of Xanax like Skittles and dive to the bottom of this bottle of Popov. Leave the world like a silent fart made from Guinness and Mexican street meat. Perhaps my legacy will burn brighter than my life ever did. Perhaps people will realize that I was too far ahead of my time to ever achieve the recognition I deserved. ‘He was like Hicks, Kauffman and Stanhope rolled into one!’’ They’ll read my Wikipedia page and lament about how young I was, how expansive my career could have been, and how it just didn’t need to be that way. But it did need to be that way. And at this point I think it probably will be.

I’ve been sitting in this dank, cavernous little motel room in Fresno for two days now. There are little blood shots on the ceiling that are either from squished mosquitoes or stabbed veins. Everything white has turned the color of smoker’s fingernails, and the pipes heave and splutter before spewing their bile into the sink. The smog that hangs over the city probably comes from the crematorium for anonymous souls that slashed their wrists in their ‘luxury motel rooms’ as they fled from abject failure in Los Angeles. It’s exactly the sort of place that a degenerate fuck up crawls to die.

I decided I would try to write my own Wikipedia page. I didn’t have time to write a book, so it would be Wikipedia, a quick Tweet and a big fat ‘Fuck yourself’ post to everyone on Facebook, and I’d be gone. Yet despite the fact that it’s widely known that anyone can make a Wikipedia page, it still manages to instill a sense of legitimacy. Like, ‘Oh shit, he’s got a Wikipedia page? He must be worth something.’ They don’t need to know that he made it in a motel room in Fresno, drunk, in yesterday’s yesterday’s underwear.

I fantasized about what I’d write. I made some notes and categorized everything. ‘Early Life’, ‘Mid-Career: Seattle to Los Angeles’, ‘Final Years: 2010 – 2013’ ‘Death’, ‘Legacy’ and everyone’s favorite, ‘Personal Life’. Once I was planned and ready to start I opened it up and realized that you need to have some knowledge of internet coding. So I gave up and here I am, writing this letter that may or may not be a suicide note. It’s certainly a cry a for attention, but I don’t know whether I want you to come and save me, or to just bring your poncho and a spoon and watch me explode like Gallagher’s watermelon.

*

I feel like I owe it to you to briefly explain the “Schindler’s List on Ice” that my life has become in what could amount to its final few days.

After getting on more than 400 mics a year for six years straight, my “agent” lands me a headlining spot at the Laugh Factory. There were big promoters, producers; all the spokes on Hollywood’s greasy wheel were rolling in to see me. And I bombed. I fell apart, like a cat shit sandcastle. They just didn’t get it. They just stared at me, watching the school bus crash in super slow motion. So I did what anyone would do in that situation: I go home, get fucked up, and smash stuff. Kitty comes home from work and explodes, hits me with an ashtray and bursts my head open. Tells me to get out. I leave with all my stuff flying out after me, and pass out in the car.

Woke up covered in blood still piss drunk, still angry. I grabbed all of my stuff that lay outside, threw it into the car and started driving to Seattle. I was done with Los Angeles: The place where creativity washes up dead and bloated on the shore.

But here I am. In a motel in Fresno, out of gas, out of money, and out of everything I need to feel like things can possibly get better. I look at myself and see a worthless nobody that duped himself into thinking he was somebody for his entire life. But the game’s up. I’ve been circling the drain for years and now I’m just about ready to disappear.

But here’s the punchline of my entire life: I’m out of vodka and I have no money to buy Xanax. How much is six feet of rope?

Fuck my life. And fuck yours too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anonymous

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Messages in Bottles – Part Two

The following photographs are of a sort of literary street art project I worked on with the help of my close friend Anders Rostad. All bottles washed up onto the streets of downtown Los Angeles and contained anonymous letters from five young people struggling to cope with the pressures of their lives.

One

 

One Letter

 

Two

 

Two Letter

 

Three

 

Three Letter

 

Four

 

Four Letter

 

Five

 

Five Letter

 

Six

 

Six Letter

 

Thank you for your interest. I’ll post the letters over the next couple of days.

Please feel free to share x

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,