Friday, July 30, 2010

Work We Love: VW

"Don't let your car devalue" 

Gotta love European Advertising. And German dudes on scooters.

Advertising Agency: DDB, Milan, Italy
Creative Directors: Luca Albanese, Francesco Taddeucci
Copywriter: Elena carella
Art Director: Hugo Gallardo Dominguez
Photographer; Jean Leprini

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Burden of Dreams

Ok, this is going to be a long one, but a good one, so bear with me.  The payoff is worth it.

I spent Saturday going through the last five years of my work, revisiting old jobs, sifting through personal projects, and thinking about where I'd like to go from here. 

It was an intense experience, traveling through 5 years of work in a single day.  When I arrived at the end I felt uneasy and anxious.  There was no satisfaction or sense of contentment.  Now that it's 2010, all I care about is what I'm going to do in 2011. 

Of course the last 5 years have produced many memories and I've traveled to some amazing places, and spent time with creative, interesting, inspirational people.  I wouldn't trade it for anything.  However, just looking at the images from past shoots can't recreate the feeling of going into these shoots, or being behind the camera on set.

I celebrated the end of my editing journey with some chinese food and a cold Tsingtao, then headed home to watch a movie.  I'd just seen Werner Herzog's Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call, which led me to dig a bit deeper into Mr. Herzog's fascinating past, which then led me to a documentary called Burden of Dreams, that chronicles the making Herzog's 1982 film Fitzcarraldo.

The movie is based on the true story of an eccentric rubber baron (yes, rubber baron) that traveled by steam ship far up the Amazon, dismantled his 30 ton ship, and dragged the pieces up and over a hill using ropes and pulleys, then reassembled it in another river on the other side.  

Herzog decides that the only possible way to shoot his film is to go to the Amazon, and actually do this.  Except that instead of dismantling the ship, he insists on keeping it whole.  And his ship is 250 tons, instead of 30.  And he's going to do this in a place where people don't speak english and will shoot you with arrows if you piss them off.  And it's 1980.  And at the time he is only 36 years old.  And he is using a bunch of other peoples' money to do this.

This has to be one of the most insane undertakings in the history of film production.  And it's all documented in one of the best "making of" movies I've seen.  

It's not easy. People are injured and killed in the process, but he eventually does it.  One crew member is bitten by a snake, and is forced to immediately amputate his foot on the spot using a chainsaw.

Herzog should be an inspiration to any artist.  He is a dreamer.  And he believes that when his dream ends, his life ends.  To dream = to live.  Here it is in his words:

I have yet to tow a 250 ton ship up and over a remote hill in the Amazon, but it's such a great metaphor for following through on creative pursuits.  Following through can feel like this -- an enormous weight that must be dragged uphill, through the mud using limited tools.  But Herzog is living proof that it can be done, along with anything else we can dream up.

Herzog actually ate his shoe to prove this point.  He lost a bet with his friend Errol Morris, that Morris would never finish one of his numerous personal projects.  This is also documented in a 20 minute short aptly named Werner Herzog eats his Shoe:

So here's to you Werner, and to pulling 250 ton steamships up and over the hill.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Work We Love / Dodge Challenger

From the extra talented Weiden + Kennedy, art directed by Jimm Lasser.

Print by old school ambrotype photographer Steven Berkman:

The original, full length commercial:

Behind the scenes video

Tour de France / Epic Battle / Epic Photos

I was glued to my laptop this morning as Andy Schleck prepared to crush Alberto Contador in the climb up the legendary Tourmalet. I have to admit I think Contador is a total ass. Dropping Schleck in stage 15, then doing his stupid little "pistolero" thing on the podium afterwards was sooooooo uncool.

Anyway, it was an epic battle up the hill, with Contador stuck like a leech on Schleck's wheel. The fog was thick and there were crazy naked Euros all over the road as the two slugged it out. I wanted to be there, shooting pictures of the whole scene, which if Schleck had pulled away, would have been one of the best victories in cycling ever.

Regardless of the giant black smudge on Contador's yellow jersey
, pics from this day will go down in the cycling photo history books as some of the great ones.

I snapped some pics of the monitor with my iphone. The motion blur and crappy resolution coupled with the fog make them sort of beautiful. Maybe I'll print these huge and sell them for millions ala Richard Prince:
Here is the one (yes, literally one) pic I shot during my visit to the Tour in 2004. A composite of Lance Armstrong passing Ivan Basso on the Alpe D'Huez. That year it was a time trial, and I spent all day sitting on a hillside overlooking the last switchback into the finish, shooting frames on my Hassy. This is made up of about 12 pieces of film, from throughout the day:

Which makes me think of Brent Humphrey's epic project from last year, Le Tour, which is a must see for anyone that loves cycling and photography.

Saturday is Schleck's last chance to catch Contador, he needs to make up 9 seconds to win. I'll be pulling for him to crush the Pistolero...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

ESPN shoot / When things fall apart

A few pics from a recent shoot for Jim Surber at ESPN Magazine.  Rockies pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez is having a great season -- when we shot him, he was undefeated and his ERA was under 1.00.  I guess that's pretty good.  Jim wanted to try to get a cover image out of the shoot (!!!), an opener for the story, and also something for the table of contents.  We had 20 minutes with Ubaldo, and each setup used at least 4 lights, so we had to work fast. 

I went the day before to scout, and found a great spot in the bullpen.  We cleared it with Rockies' media, and planned to get there a few hours before our 20 minute slot with Ubaldo.  We had to get each lighting setup dialed in and clearly marked so we could move through all three setups quickly.

The day of the shoot, our media contact dropped off the face of the earth.  No one else was there.  So we were left standing outside Coors field as the clock ticked down.  We now have an hour to set up.  I start to sweat.  

45 minutes left to set up.  We finally get into the bullpen, unpack lights, camera, and laptop (shooting tethered) and get our three setups dialed.  Five minutes before Ubaldo is scheduled to show up, the Rockies pitching coach shows up and he is PISSED.  There are stands and lights all over the pitching mound, and he has pitchers to warm up for that day's game.  He wasn't told about the shoot and he wants us OUT.  NOW.

I take a deep breath, put on my Kofi Annan hat, and work out a tenuous deal with him where we scoot a few lights over to make room, then readjust all the lighting we'd set up.  Now I am really sweaty.  Ubaldo shows up, and thankfully he is a pleasure to work with.  We get our three shots, and get out of there as fast as we can.

I don't always have time to scout editorial shoots, but I'm glad I did on this one.  Even with the advance planning and scheduling, there was no way to anticipate that our media contact was going to throw us under the bus. 

If this had happened to the less experienced me, say five years ago, I might have snapped.  Planning ahead, knowing where to shoot, working quickly and efficiently, and dealing with unexpected adversity on set are all acquired skills, and there is no substitute for time spent doing these things (or having them happen to you).  

This is especially true in the editorial world where most of the time you are working on the fly, without a producer or any real budget.  It's great practice for advertising work, since it teaches you to improvise on set. 

Thanks to Wes Ferguson of LA Digital Assistant, who totally hooked me up on this one.  And to Ubaldo for being super cool....

Monday, July 19, 2010

John Baldessari: total badass

So check this out.  In 1970, John Baldessari decided to formally end his career as a painter.  Apparently he was just over it.  So as part of his Cremation Project, he took all the paintings that he had completed before 1966 and BURNED THEM ALL.  Yes, that's him above, overseeing the fiery elimination of his painterly past.

Some of the ashes were preserved in a book-shaped urn.  The rest of the ashes were used to make cookies.  Seriously:

I've studied lots of art history over the years, but this one slipped by me.   And I've discovered it at a time when I am replacing full hard drives, backing up Terabytes of data, and making everything double and triple redundant.  As if losing my past work will erase me from existence.

JB's epic feat makes my hoarding of zeroes and ones seem so ridiculous.  What if I took my precious hard drives and just baked them into a pie?  Or tied a cinderblock to them and threw them in the Hudson?  Would it be liberating?  I'd probably have some sort of identity crisis -- so much of who I am is what I do.  And it would probably be liberating as hell.  Is there really any point in looking backwards?  Is failure and destruction a necessary part of art? 

Here is what the man himself had to say about it:
         Baldessari/Cremation piece

Hats off to JB for taking one for the team. 

Thanks to Brooklyn Rail, The Huffington Post, and the Daily Serving, from which this was pieced together.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dillon O'Kelley: Special Operations

It's a big week here at JK Industries.  The one man band is now two part harmony.  Dillon O'Kelley is the newest addition to the crack production crew -- that's him above, sporting a $0.99 poncho during a blustery editorial shoot back in his school days.  

With his shiny new title of "Special Ops" Mr. O'Kelley will be helping with pretty much everything -- photo assisting, marketing, technical support, editing, retouching, creative direction, beer, and whatever else the job requires. 

On that note, Dillon will be running a new weekly post called "weekend update" where we round up a few of our favorites from the week.

The only advice I've given Dillon so far is to watch out for the boss, he can be difficult at times.

Good luck Dillon, welcome to the band!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Yes, all art is still subjective

PDN was nice enough to put some of my work up on their site the other day, as part of their Photo of the Day feature.  

A random reader named "Tom" took some time to share his thoughts on each of the images:

1. The back end of a car just sitting there, nothing happening. Aren’t drag cars suppose to be burning rubber and/or moving? What’s with the vertical orientation with the car dead center. Same with the smoke. Center focus point, click.
2. That bright sign is stealing the smokes ‘thunder’. All my eyes are drawn to is the bright signs.
3. Decent detail shot, would go well with a story about drag racing (vignetted why though?).
4. Probably the better of the four but still just doesn’t seem quite there.
Also, it looks like these photos were batched vignetted the exact same way to make them dramatic but the photos themselves lack any action/dramatic events happening. For PDN I would expect better work to be praised.
I just checked out the photographers site and he’s got some nice work (a little heavy on the same post-vignetting), much better than what these photos portray. I would expect much better out of this photographer, especially one who has access to get 5 feet away from the cars.

There was once a time when any sort of criticism of my work would really get to me.  Then I went to art school and spent lots of time in small rooms with other artists, where we would tear each others' work to pieces.  One teacher actually told us to arrange everyones' work on the wall, from best to worst, then left the room for ten minutes while we got all Lord of the Flies on each other.  Eventually, all the fear of rejection just went away.

The truth is, that everything I put out into the world is something that I believe in 100%.  Otherwise, it never sees the light of day.

Individuals will always respond to art in their own way, and no one is right or wrong, whether it's Joe the Plumber or Larry Gagosian.  The latter, however, has a slightly better understanding of the art market, and stands to make a bit more money from it. 

So to Mr. Tom, I tip my hat.