Tag Archives: photography

A Bit of the Ol’ Feng Shoo-ee, like

The fuckin' hoose.

The fuckin’ hoose.

* Warning, written entirely in Scots.  For a brief explanation of this project please click here.

Me and big Debs pure hud it out the other day. Jesus man. Like throwin’ fuckin fire baws at wan another. I hud tae get hur telt tae calm doon else some cunt wid ring the polis, then that’d be me, parole gubbed and an away fir the wee man’s Christmas again. Anyway, the dippit wee coo was tryin’ tae tell me that the hoose needed fixin’, and than everyhin was aw in the wrang order an that. I takes this as a personal dig like, given that this cunt wis the cunt that hoisted aw the fuckin’ furniture in.

‘We need a change’ she says, ‘Ah’ve been thinkin’ that we’ve goat fuck all ay that Feng shoo-ee like,’ she says.

Well, Christ in a fuckin’ Cosworth. Feng Shoo-ee she says!? We live in fuckin’ Kirky, nae Bay-jing like.

I says, ‘You’re fuckin’ wrang love, take a wee peep in the bin, I had Feng Shoo-ee fried rice a couple a nights ago! Fuckin’ magic by the way!’

She goes, ‘Ho you! That’s fuckin’ racist, and goes well against ma new frame ah mind by the way. I’m a changed woman.’

Fuckin’ changed woman she says?! She thinks I think she doesnae take a pish in the shower. I know hur inside fuckin’ oot. And she’s packed full a shite.

‘Whit fuckin’ programs have you bin watchin’? Givin’ it aww that fuckin’ feng shoo-ee shite.’

‘Actually ah went tae see a spiritualist yesterday, and he telt that ma chi was aw gammy an aff tae fuck, an that it was probably on account ay the sofa bein’ in the rang place or sumthin.’

Ah wis fuckin’ speechless. Ah just, ah didnae know wit tae say. Here’s me just tryin’ tae watch a bit a Jeremy Kyle and she’s tellin’ me I need swap the TV wi the fridge and drag the fuckin’ bed oot ontae the landin’. No chance.

‘So who was this fuckin’ spiritualist then?’

‘You don’t know him.’

‘How don’t ah know him?’

‘Coz he’s a pal ah Leslie-Ann’s.’

‘Leslie-Ann aye? You ridin’ him?’

‘Ah um tae fuck ya cheeky basturt!’

‘Awright awright! Sorry love, just, I wis just fuckin’ askin’! Awright? So, where am I stickin’ the fuckin’ couch then?’

She looked aroon the room and I knew she hadnae a fuckin’ clue whit she was bangin’ oan about. You kin fuck off wi your fuckin’ chinky feng shoo-ee shite. This is fuckin’ Scotland. In this country the couch faces the telly, and everyhin’ else just gets fuckin’ dumped somewhere aroon it.

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The Tree

The Tree

Myself, and The Tree and the deeds to The Tree.

* For an explanation as to what this project is all about please click here.

I bought The Tree in May of 1959. A Wednesday it was. I recall there being an oppressive, sweltering heat pressing down from above, but it was soothed, consoled, by a delicate ocean breeze that smelled so faintly of a final moment in bloom. It was the perfect weather to cut the ceremonial red tape of a successful agriculture transaction.

The Tree in question was my first, and indeed my last, business venture. I’d been on the market for one like it for several months. I’d been a perfect horticultural pervert about the whole affair. I’d peer through hedges, scale fences under moonlight, consult district planning records and frequent the ghostly corridors of the grand Central library, searching earnestly for the barky creature I so desired.

I came within a half whisker of finding what I needed on several occasions. I would locate a handsome tree, thoroughly scrutinize its potential under the cloak of night, and deem it a good tree. But the problem came when I would attempt to badger the owner into parting with the frivolously bushy accessory to their land.

‘I’m not going to do anything seedy with it,’ I would say, ‘If you’d be so gracious as to allow me that pun.’

That was my line. It would never fail to arouse at least a residual snigger, or a short, nodding nose breath. However they would then stare at me with arms tightly locked and a hard-boiled look of suspicion etched all over their faces. And then they would inevitably ask:

‘Why?’

Of course I couldn’t possibly divulge. They wouldn’t sell me their tree if they knew its darkest secrets. No, no. I would explain that I simply really liked trees, but that I lived in a condo. I would then lie and say that I’d tried discharging my sapling lust with a bonsai tree, but that it was far too small to climb. I never did think of a bonsai tree pun.

The lady that eventually sold me The Tree was an old crow who was more than a tad senile. And in truth, I wondered if I might be guilty of committing a lewd act of shady commerce on her. She explained that she was very fond of The Tree indeed, but that it had cats in it. She said that I was more than welcome to buy the tree for $30 if I took the cats away. We spat the viscous bond of American agreement onto our palms and duly sealed the deal.

Two blissful weeks after this transaction the old lady died of time, and The Tree, allegedly part of the property on which it sat, was taken from me and given to the unsuspecting mailman referenced in her will. I tried to make a terrible stink, but was swiftly informed that a verbal agreement and a spit-moistened handshake between two parties is not recognized as contractually binding in the state of California, and particularly not when one or both of the parties are certified as mentally handicapped. And just like that, my days as a rag and bone and tree man were brought to an abrupt yet poignant conclusion.

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Research – Warm-up

 

Research

 

* For an explanation of this project click here

‘Huh, I feel like I’m being interviewed on television,’ he said, sinking back in the chair. He allowed his shoulders to kneed around the back of the chair for a comfortable space. ‘So what exactly are you going to ask me Julie?’

I smiled at him. He glanced at the notebook in my hands, and then shuffled his shoulders around again against the back of the chair. He crossed his legs, and then uncrossed them again. I glanced at the question written at the top of the otherwise blank page. I dragged a finger down the page, over the lines. I watched his fingers drumming nervously on the padded arms of the chair.

I leant over to the tape deck beside the fireplace and pressed the red record button. I relaxed back in my chair.

‘This is Julie Roth, interviewing Douglas….’

‘O’Hara’ said Doug.

‘Douglas O’Hara. Okay Doug, we’ll start with your earliest childhood memory. Can you tell me about that?’ I said.

Doug looked up to the light and narrowed his eyes to slits. I’d started to notice that people looked to light bulbs for answers deep in their past. Perhaps there was something about the bright light that could expose these dormant memories from the dark corners in which they sat. Doug seemed to squish his face up, even clasp his jaw little, and I could tell that the exertion the recollection of this memory was taking was pushing Doug somewhere he hadn’t been for a while.

‘I was about three, or four maybe-‘

‘Which was it Doug? Three or four?’

‘Eh, three.’

‘You’re sure?’ I said.

‘Yes.’

‘Okay, so what happened Doug? Don’t worry, you’re doing great.’

I gave him a quick smile to reassure him. He was still rolling his shoulders around, doing things with his legs, desperate to find the seated equivalent of crossing his arms.

‘I remember being outside, sitting the empty driveway, in fall.’

‘Whose driveway?’

‘Our driveway.’

‘How did you know it was fall?’

‘There were leaves everywhere. Brown, orange, fall leaves.’

He leant forward and took a drink of water. I could see him shaking a little. He sat back in his chair and looked again to the light.

‘And who was there with you Doug?’

Doug kept looking to the light. He squinted at it again before pinching his nose and ruffling his brow.

‘I don’t recall.’

‘Doug, who was there with you?’

‘I don’t recall.’

‘Try harder.’

‘I, I…don’t….I can’t remember who was there, I can’t. But, but there was, someone.’

I looked down to my notebook and quickly scribbled my thoughts. I kept my exterior completely stoic, but inside I beamed.

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Daily Warm-Ups – A Mouthful of Banana

This is the first in a lengthy series of creative writing pieces based on photographs of dead people. I have been known to frequent estate sales and purchase neglected photographs of the recently department. They’re very good mental stimulants for my writing, and I love the idea of a memory that was saved from the abyss, and interpreted without prejudice or any sense of context beyond its own borders.

I know that it’s weird, but to me there is something endearing about giving fresh life to an expired thought.

Bill and Carson

‘Bill,’ said Carson as he peeked his head around the door, ‘is now a good time to chat?’

Bill looked up from the piece of paper on his desk and turned to Carson, who was now standing in the open doorway. He’d been staring at the same sentence for the last two minutes, and the same piece of paper for the last ten. His eyes gave a clumsy flutter, as if his eyelashes were sweeping the text away. He nodded to the old man in the doorway, and smiled.

Carson walked through the office, taking in all of the jumbled piles of paper and scattered half-thoughts that decorated the surfaces. Bill carefully slipped the piece of paper into his drawer and snapped it shut. Carson gestured to the empty seat across from Bill’s seat. Bill smiled and shook his head.

‘Uh, okay. Bill, this uhm,’ started Carson, shuffling awkwardly from side to side as he looked at the piece of paper in his hand, ‘this uh, request, you made for changes in office policy. You obviously understand that this is grossly unacceptable right? I mean, you understand that right?’

Bill smiled and leant back in his chair. Carson looked to the door. He fumbled again with the paper. He moved towards the desk.

‘Listen, is everything okay at home Bill? I mean, I don’t mean to pry, but you can tell me. I’ve known you for, God, going on eleven years. This,’ he said, holding up the piece of paper in his hand, ‘this isn’t you Bill. You’re a good man. Is Marcy okay? And what about little Lewis? Is everything okay at home?’

Bill held his stare as he leant back further into his chair. He slowly put his hands behind his head, and raised his bare feet up and rested them on his desk between a pile of documents and coffee cup filled with rum. Carson let out an awkward cough. He ruffled the paper and looked back towards the door. Harold, the aging security guard peeked his head around. Below the desk Carson held out his hand to halt Harold from coming any further.

‘Bill,’ he said as he took a deep breath and puffed out his chest, ‘you’re my friend and all, we go back, but we’re gonna have to suspend you with immediate effect. Like, immediate effect. Do you understand?’

Bill’s smile came apart and his teeth appeared, glinting between his lips. He leant forward in his chair and opened his desk drawer. Next to the piece of paper was a banana left over from his lunch. He grabbed the banana, closed the drawer and reclined back again. He peeled it and took two large bites, devouring the entire fruit, leaving only the little heel and the flaccid yellow skin. He tossed the peel onto the desk between them.

‘Go fuck yourself Carson’ said Bill, with a mouthful of banana.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

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Brantley Gutierrez: Rock Photographer

Originally published by LA CANVAS.

*

Knoxville

One can plunge far into the carefully hidden depths of a person’s character by simply turning a camera on them. Some are completely unfazed by it, flirting, purring, allowing the lens to applaud their image. But others become edgy, awkward, shuffling around in the heat under the magnifying glass. And then there’s the rest, desperate to appear unfazed, shrouding their insecurities with outstretched tongues and garish expressions. The photographer and his camera interrogate everyone they see.

*

David Byrne
Brantley Gutierrez’s portfolio is a hugely personal collection of photographs. The warm C-41 bathed faces of familiar rock stars and actors just keeps relentlessly coming gathering this peculiar swaggering momentum, so much so that once-Beatle, now-Knight Sir Paul McCartney’s face is about ten photographs into the reel, just casually tucked in there as an “oh yeah, and…”. We see Eric Clapton, the snow leopard of rock ‘n’ roll, belly laughing in his home. Paul Rudd sits backstage sipping from a pink phallus-shaped water bottle. A quim of Arcade Fire members (‘quim’ is the collective noun for a collection of Arcade Fire members) just having a deft canter on a heath somewhere.

paul rudd penis
You see light streams of diversity across his body of work, from sharpened editorial photography that utilize substantial budgets, settings, rigs and crews, to soft, casual, almost homely photographs that do more to counteract the the notion of ‘celebrity’ than almost any other outlet. From the palms of a generation strangled by its obsession with the lives of the lauded, it’s as fresh as frost to see someone that instills a silent humanity back into people we pushed onto pedestals high above us.
‘But it’s all about collaborating’ he said, teasing his steampunk inventor’s soul patch, ‘I really get my buzz on when I’m creating with other people. In portrait photography you’re constantly collaborating. On a movie set you have hundreds of people collaborating. Even right now. Trying to get something useful out of me!’

Brantley

Brantley

Brantley Gutierrez has taken photographs since he was a child. Raised somewhere between the rolling Virginia countryside and the static D.C. concrete, he grew up fascinated by the camera’s ability to extract hidden emotions from people. After a frustrating stint mainly photographing snow in Aspen, he made his way to Seattle, and eventually onto Los Angeles.
His transition into rock photography was impeccably timed. His first couple of high-profile gigs with the Foo Fighters came moments before the digital explosion and the music industry’s implosion. He was there, establishing himself as a fantastic photographer before detachable lenses became fashion accessories and every business felt that the privilege of experience was plenty payment enough.

Neeson

But while he is still an ardent film user and a spontaneous shot fetishist, it’s not difficult to see that despite his wealth of talent his most vital asset could well be his personality.
‘People have to feel comfortable around me, because if they don’t then they’re not going to be themselves,’ he says, smiling as I note his smiles, ‘I liken it to a doctor’s bedside manner.’

Paul MAnd where war photographers are defined by their bravery, it seems that rock photographers are defined by their ability to ‘be cool’ and chill in the background, and if Brantley’s photographs are anything to go by, that is when you can catch and bottle that moment of passive humanity in those we treat as gods.

For a good look through his complete portfolio click here.

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Descriptions – Part Three

You can find part two of this story here.

 

**

“So, you’ve got a skillet and a measuring cup. Anything else?” the lady asked me, looking over her little reading glasses at the receipt she was writing.

“No.”

“Okay, let’s call it $10” she said, smiling.

I smiled too.

***

He sat down on that old chair with his drink. He looked around the dark room. The outlines of things were all around him and frames hung on the wall. In that thick darkness they were just vague descriptions of some faces that could be recalled from memory. There was a single streak of light coming in from the crack in the drapes. Little speckles of dust floated in the light, making their way back to the carpet again. He took a big slow drink. The dust speckles whipped up and around with the path of his arm. He closed his eyes and breathed in through his nose as the oaky liquid sank into him, and the old damp scent that covered the room hung like a heavy leather cloak drying.

Even though he’d been here as long as he had, the scent of age was slightly transparent. The new paint smell now hid a few feet below the surface. Over the years it had drifted out of the little crack in the window, and slowly sank into the old carpet he laid over the varnished pine. Every time he stepped on that old carpet he could feel the hard wood beneath, and smell that old sour scent rising up, leaving the new paint trailing behind it. When he sat on the chair a plume of dust-speckled smoke being pushed up and around him, consuming his body. He would let himself sink into the chair and be embraced by the scent of use. He could faintly smell the people that sat in it before him. He could smell the rooms that it had been in before this one. And I think he could faintly smell himself. Something about those deep breaths said that he was in there, somewhere.

He sat forward in the chair and reached for the old lamp with the watercolor shade. He pulled the dainty little beaded string. Light burst around the room and brought detail to everything. The warm golden hue bathed the faces on the wall, pressing a white ball of light on the glass of the frames.

Noir shadows, exaggerating every expression of the room, pushed up to the ceiling at fierce gradients. The corners of the room remained dark. From that heavy darkness I watched him take another drink and scan the faces on the wall.

He put his hand on the lamp and tilted it, moving it slightly, turning the shadows at their base. He looked at every face on the wall, allowed every detail to sink in again, and moved on. The light came around to the corner in which I sat. I felt its warmth cut across me. I watched his eyes scan across the photograph next to me. His eyeballs twitched onto every feature. They moved to me. I saw his lids widen from behind his glasses. His hand slid into his coat pocket and pulled out two photographs.  He held them up and dropped the light onto them. I fell into darkness. The light lit the photos and reflected back to him. The shadows cut thick black lines across his face. He lifted the light back to me. I saw that a little smile had formed on his tired face.

He stood up and started walking towards me, lifting dust and pungent scent up from the old used carpet. He picked me up off the mantle piece and lay me face down. I felt him unscrew the back of the frame and pull me out. His fingers felt drunk, clumsy, impatient. He took me back to the chair and sat me on his lap. He put down pictures of these two older people. They were new. I hadn’t seen them before. He carefully opened the drawer on the little side table next to the old chair. He took out the picture of that little black and white boy again. He looked at the picture. The corners of the photograph quivered in his hands. A tear formed in the corner of his eye and burst across his lid, before sliding down the contours of his expression.

He placed the little boy down carefully next to me. We looked a little alike. I was a year or two older maybe. We both sat, on a knee each, under the older people. He looked at all of us together. Another tear rolled down his face, caught on the tip of his smile. He threw back the last of the whiskey into his mouth. The rounded edges of the melting ice cubes hit his lips, and slid to the bottom of the glass. He looked to the ceiling and started to weep. We lay on his lap as quiet as tears, together, just transplanted memories that sank like diving bells into the scent that drowned us all.

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Descriptions – Part One

I found what I was looking for in an old worn shoebox. The shoebox was in the bottom of the closet. The closet was in the corner of the study. The study was at the back of the house, over looking the over grown garden. I knew that they would be somewhere like that. I’d checked under the bed in the man’s room. I’d looked in the drawers in his dresser. I looked on his messy, cluttered desk. I knew that they would be somewhere. Somewhere hidden, so that they didn’t interfere with anything around them.

I pulled out the shoebox and looked around before I opened it. There were people mulling around, picking things up and checking price tags. A lot of things didn’t have price tags. Some people liked those things. I was one of those people. I could hear them in the other rooms haggling over prices of things. I heard people saying things like, “Oh, this would be nice in the den” and “I wish this hadn’t been painted white”.

I looked back at the shoebox. It was an old thing. Maybe from the early eighties. The old price tag was still on the box. The corners had been frayed and bashed in. They had started to burst out of their shape and show their little card fibers. I could smell the box over the smell of mothballs and the carpet. It smelt like old paper that had been soaked in the rain and dried in the sun. Everything in the house smelled so old and stale, but this box had a little freshness still trapped inside it.

I opened the box and saw a mass of paper and cards and receipts and pictures. All the paper had turned a light brown and a little crispy, like it had been blasted by time. I pushed my hand down onto the paper. I heard it crunch a little, like dead leaves. I started carefully picking through the box. The same handwriting marked everything. It was the handwriting of an older man. It was sharp and pointed. It was elegant. Thought was given to each dip and swoop of the pen. I started to flick through things, pulling something out now and again to look at it. I looked at strips of paper with thoughts and reminders written on them, postcards, from Paris, Rome, Cairo, letters, from Ohio, Delaware, Ontario, and photographs, from places I didn’t know.

I pulled out a postcard. It was a painting of some 50s saloon bar in Vegas. I turned it over.

“We need to talk when I get home. I’ve been thinking” it read. There was no address, no stamp and no sender information. Other than the handwriting.

I sat the box down and stared at the words again. I ran my fingers across the back. I felt the bumps in the ink like braille. I closed my eyes and breathed in. I smelled everything in the house around me, and imagined the man that lived there, and what he’d been thinking.

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A Morning in Varanasi, India

We rose at 5am to watch the sunrise over the Ganges.

This man rowed us all the way.

He brought us to the Burning Ghats, the final resting place of millions of Hindus.

We went back to our hotel a little bit different.

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