I had made plans to pick up Roksolana in the city and drive back to Hoboken to shoot at the studio. I had spent the earlier part of the morning setting up lights and backgrounds while stumbling around trying to make sure everything I needed was within reach. Quickly enough I made it down to SOHO with time to spare and decided to get my walk on. The temperature was reaching into the 60’s and the sun was fighting it’s way to the forefront.
As Rox arrived we quickly caught up with one another. It had been two years since we last worked together. It looked to me that she had not changed one bit. A big smile, wide eyes and a bundle of energy that a savvy marketing guru might turn into a hip energy drink. As we got in the car she excitedly asked what our plan was. I explained the studio set up and the look I was going for. Her eyes turned south like a child just about to ask her parents for the biggest toy in the store. “So, James… What do you think of the weather today.” I knew right then and there that we were just about to embark on an outdoor adventure. I was more than happy to embark on such a journey.
With a new sense of direction we hauled ass to the Lower East Side finding inspiration on this block and that block. Our first stop was just off Ave. A. There were interesting store fronts on the North Side of the street and a mural themed concrete wall and classic car on it’s South Side. Rox quickly rifled through her bag of tricks looking for just the right outfit as I surveyed the area for a good place to start. At one point she spotted a bike that was locked up in front of one of the store fronts. She quickly began to climd on as construction workers, shop owners and residents entered and exited the adjacent building. At one point the owner of the bike came out to see her quite comfortably mounting herself upon it. She looked over confidently smiling, “Is this your bike?” “Don’t worry, I will return it better than I found it.” Her friendly presence and sweet voice could have won over a Hell’s Angel.
Quickly me moved from one spot to another. Never staying long enough to attract too much attention or upset the herd.
Soon enough it was back in the car and off to Rivington St. Another change of outfits in the car with Police looking on curiously.
Some more great shots with a small interruption from a rather large homeless man coming between us in rather aggressive manner “How about you give a veteran a dollar!” he barked. Intimidated but more pissed that he visibly shook Rox up. I took a deep breathe and replied “How bout you give a poor photographer twenty.” Those few seconds felt like a lifetime but he actually moved on up the block without uttering another word. We quickly got back to work finishing up the block in front of one of my old haunts ABC No Rio.
As the day grew darker we stopped for some Vietnamese Sandwiches (Her first) before ending finishing up at Tompkins Sq. Park. For someone who was feeling pretty awkward in recent days. This was the perfect tonic. Funny how photography can do that.
Whenever setting up a shoot I like to have a game plan in place. I always go over everything with the model or subject I’ll be shooting with that day. The topic of clothing, hair, makeup and approach are all addressed. I always stress, “The more clothes you bring the better”. I provide a basic guideline of three distinguishable looks but remind them that they know their wardrobe better than me and know for sure what really brings out the best in them. There are always looks that click and those that don’t. Most of the time I find them ultimately wearing one of my dress shirts, ties or hats by the end of the shoot. “Why not?” “They always look better on them anyway.” The ultimate goal is that they’re relaxed, comfortable and in the best light possible.
For this particular shoot I had several looks I was hoping to achieve. My friends band My Rifle was set to release their first EP and I had just received their new T-shirt with the band/record logo. The second look was to capture a classic B&W vibe with a bit of a modern fashion twist. The third was to promote her naturally sexy look while adding a sense of warmth and comfort.
My goal with anyone I work with is of course to bring the very best out of them. Showing off their unique beauty and personality. There are many times when I’ve been able to see something in them, they themselves never saw. Getting someone to take chances and maybe think out of the box can often be rewarding for all parties involved.
Here’s what this particular model wrote about yours truly;
“I love James. He is amazing, I’ve never had so much confidence in my life… I was a cocoon hiding in the dark. Now I am spreading my wings and so proud to put myself out there and socialize with people all over the country. The more i work with him, the more i see how he brings out all of my beauty! Hence, I walk with better posture :)”
In closing (kinda formal, eh?) I find that as I grow as a photographer, so does my focus and attention to detail. I’m developing better concepts and ideas. Though I’m still a bit clumsy I’ve found that the confidence to work quicker at both communicating and executing my ideas without sacrificing any sense of focus or intimacy.
After a long day of good food and gallery hopping in Chinatown, SOHO and The Lower East Side we began to head West on Houston to catch the Path Train back to Hoboken. Stopping here and there to check out some of the artisans that sell their gear in front of that church I came upon one particularly interesting table. The man and his wife were selling these intriguing artifacts they cleverly restored and made into jewelry. As I listened to the man explain the background and process to an interested party I started to set up my camera to sneak a shot of this very interesting looking gentleman. I could have pulled it off without him noticing but would I get a really honest telling shot? I got over my shyness and began an interesting conversation with Scott. I then asked him nicely if I could take a picture of him. He obliged and I left with both a story and a picture. You can check out some of Scott’s work at www.newyorkartifactart.com I’m sure you’ll be impressed.
As noted in previous posts I’ve been doing my share of work at the gallery in downtown New York City. A great opportunity that offers it’s share of rewards and challenges. One of the challenges is when the themes and backgrounds all start to look and like and it starts to get mundane and repetitive. When you find something you love. Whether it be a person, place or thing. You tend to wear it out. Something I hope to avoid if at all possible. Aside from the gallery I’ve had similar finishes to sessions. Heading in the direction of Chinatown and using the same streets and alleys. Yesterday I tried a few new angles at the gallery and instead of heading East towards Chinatown I explored the surrounding streets of Tribeca just to the West.
I’ve been a member of SOHO Photo Gallery for about three or four years now. Displaying new work month after month alongside the many talented photographers that belong to a COOP who’s membership spans worldwide. Though I hate meetings and may not have learned a whole lot from the folks that were doing this before I was born. I have taken full advantage of the opportunity. Early this year I decided to take advantage of the amazing space and light gallery has to offer. The buildings white walls, old architecture and little nooks and crannies give me lots of inspiration. Not to mention the surrounding streets of Tribeca and Chinatown. I’ve been conducting shoots while the gallery is closed on Monday and Tuesday. Thus far it’s worked out extremely well. I’ve been entertaining the idea of booking night sessions in the future. But for now it’s working out pretty well.
Tuesday afternoon I met up with actress/model Janet before heading uptown to a pre meeting with next Tuesday shoot. Janet is twenty six but her look skus much younger allowing her to take on younger parts that call for more maturity. Though she was very business minded and serious. I was able to get some really good smiles and even a few silly images. As for my meeting later that night. I can’t say enough. The sample images she had sent earlier did no justice to her beauty or personality. Looking forward to our shoot.
Last night I met up with Allison at the gallery for a pre shoot meeting. Allison and I have been trying to get together for some time now but conflicting schedules and last minute cancellations have plagued us from the onset. As we sat and talked about our ideas it was pretty obvious that not only were we on the same track but we were sharing a seat on the train that ran along it. The give and take was easy and conversation flowed. I asked a lot of questions and learned a lot about her. We talked about her Texas roots and where we saw our lives heading. Allison being a newcomer to NYC while I’ve lived in and around the area my entire life. I told her that though I loved New York and my current town of Hoboken. Someday I wanted to live an entirely different existence. How I saw myself living in a desert town somewhere in New Mexico growing a long beard, investing in some flowery shirts, selling all my socks and selling my art on the streets. Lofty goals, I know. But a man has to have dreams. Afterward we shared some vermicelli and summer rolls a few blocks east before we head in opposite directions. I really look forward to working with Allison and one day, finding a buyer for all those old socks.
Another month gone and I realize how much I’ve been neglecting this blog as of late. It’s not a case of nothing doing, nothing to talk about. I can assure you of that. This past month has given me it’s share of adventure, opportunities and challenges. My website UniteWebzine.com has kept me very busy. So much so I’m starting to look for contributors to lighten the load. I recently become the admistrator for SOHO Photo Galleries Facebook page and have become a contributer to Jersey Beat. Writing and photography have been my strong suits for some time now. As I find myself doing more and more of both I’m seeing a very strong connection. I’ve noticed that my approach to portraiture and interviewing musicans and such the same. Building a trust and slowly peeling away the layers. I know I won’t be able to get what I need unless I invest the time to really get to know the person inside. I see both my photography and interviewing style grow and evolve. I guess I’d like to become more of a story teller than just ask the random “So tell me about the new album and tour.” I find it easy gaining trust with the people I photograph. It’s a lot harder with bands and artists. I find the best interviews I’ve done were never at gigs. There’s just too much going on and everyone seems to be talking over one another. The times when I’ve really gotten to know the artist is when we were just relaxing over a beer, burger or burritto. Just as in my portaiture I’d rather do one in depth interview than ten random “What are your influences. What made you choose the bands goofy name?” That’s where I see myself and my work going. That’s my take on it.
It’s hard to believe I let an entire month go by without posting anything. It’s not that I haven’t been doing creative things with my spare time. It just seems like there is less and less of it. As of late I’ve taken on too many responsibilities and tasks. I’ve stretched myself thin and in a sense lost touch with the things that are most important to me. Who knows, maybe I’m just finding more things that are important. Perhaps my interests have shifted. I’ve started work on a new project called “Mind, Body, Spirit” which is very personal to me. In recent years I’ve been searching for that inner peace that has eluded me for most of my life. To love myself as much as I love everyone else and to find a balance in life. I’ve become a bit more spiritual. A bit more motivated to do more with my life. To be a person of merit and to make a difference in my community and in the lives of the people around me. This can be tough at times. It’s not hard to get caught up in the anger, indifference and carelessness that we encounter every day. Finding that peace and that core. It doesn’t happen in a day, a year or maybe even a lifetime. It’s continuos I guess. It’s almost 2:00 and I’m starting to go off track. The images posted in this entry are the start of the project. They were exhibited at Soho Photo Gallery during the month of May. Thanks to those who came down for the opening. That meant a lot to me.
I’m sitting here enjoying my second cup of coffee and admiring the shelf I put up last night. It’s a nice shelf I picked up at Ikea a few weeks ago. Thick black particle board with silver brackets. As of now the shelf is empty with the exception of the proudly placed level I left as a reminder of what you can accomplish if you plan ahead and put your mind to it. Putting up a shelf may not seem like much but it represents something important to me.
A few years ago when I moved into this apartment I asked a coworker if he could put up some shelves for me. He was a nice guy and a self proclaimed carpenter/handyman. I had two shelves that needed to be put up in the bedroom and a shelf to be installed in the closet. He asked for $10 an hour which seemed like nothing. Eight hours later he hadn’t finished the job and the work he had done was shoddy to say the least.
I learned a lot that day. What I learned most was “If you want something done right. Do it yourself.”. I always loved tools and carpentry. I’m a total sucker for those shows on HGTV and TLC but my fears of fucking up the job and putting a hole in the wall and messing up the measurement were overpowering. I’m a klutz by nature and don’t always go into things with a game plan. Over the past few years I’ve learned a lot about fear. Anyone can tell you I’m my own worst critic and my fear of failure had gotten in the way of a lot of my goals.
I’m on a path now. No more fear of anything. Everyone fails from time to time. Learning and growing from it is what’s important. In recent years I learned to DJ. I’ve become a much better cook and I’ve taken my studio lighting from dull and predictable to what some people have called “beautiful and elegant”. I like the work I’m doing now but I know there’s plenty of room for growth and there’s still so much to be learned. I’m using the gallery downtown to shoot during the early days of the week. The natural lighting is beautiful but it also presents it’s challenges. The walls are whiter than Barry Manilow and can all together wash out a subject and the success I’ve had in the early morning and around 2:00 pm only make the failures of 4:30 to 5:00 more frustrating. But it is far from insurmountable. I just have to figure it out and adjust. That’s what makes life great. Overcoming the challenges and making adjustments. Learning to deal with change and sometimes roll with the punches. In the future I’ll be putting up more shelves and getting to know and understand the tools that will hopefully bring me success. And when I fail I’ll try not to take it so hard and just learn from it.