There's a two-block stretch of Missoula known only as the Hip Strip. It's a name established in a self-congratulatory fashion by the businesses on the row , but one that is wholly deserved. Basically everything I wear comes from one store, Betty's Divine, which opened a few years ago and has since become a magnet for all budding fashionistas in the Montana area, where shopping is admittedly scare. Betty's has made this scarcity a non-issue thanks to their assortment of big-city labels mixed with local brands which always leaves you anxious to see what will be put on the racks next. Some of these clothes--alongside some special couture outfits made just for the occasion--were on display recently at a fashion show behind the strip and I had the chance to snap a few shots as the Montana heat died down for the day.
SORRY FOR THE ABUNDANCE OF PHOTO POSTS RECENTLY! BEEN SUPER BUSY TRANSITIONING BACK INTO NY LIFE AND WRITING ARTICLES/PAPERS! EEK! HOPE PEOPLE ARE ENJOYING THE PICTURES.
It's all about kickball...at least in Missoula. Yes, the benchmark of recesses across the nation is making a resurgence as a hipster sport in the valley I used to call home. Not since seventh grade gym class have I seen so many sweaty bodies hitting awkward poses and chasing after a bouncing red ball; at least outside of the dance studio. (I assume you've seen my avant garde work, "Pose and Chase the Red Ball, Hipsters Shall.")
Last week I had the chance to photograph a game during Missoula's new kickball league, featuring none other than the Betty's Divine team. In case you haven't heard (and seeing as almost none of you are from Missoula, I assume most of you haven't), Betty's Divine is THE store to shop at in Montana, and where I purchase 90% of my wardrobe. So it was with great pleasure that I photographed the team in all states of awkwardness as they showed off their fashionable (non) uniforms.
I always find it fascinating to watch the different physicality of individuals, and as this was the first sport I had ever photographed, I had a great time!
For my departure from Montana I thought I'd share a few final pictures of the gorgeous sky. In all my years living in Montana I've never seen a summer as crystal clear and all around flawless as this one that I've been so fortunate to experience.
I took the following photos on a car ride back from Great Falls with my wonderful parents, who were patient enough to slow down or stop whenever I saw a picture I needed to capture. During the trip, I became fascinated with man made structures, or objects cutting through the sky. Here are my three favorites.
(I might be missing for a few days while I get NYC life back in order!)
I know I've posted tons of photos of the Montana sky over the past few years, but when it continues to take my breath away, I can't help but share it with the blog universe. Last night was a spectacular sunset-- complimenting the beauty of Obama's speech which was on TV around the same time--and I was bouncing out of my chair in ten-minute intervals in order to capture the variations in the sky.
One of the things that always stuns me about Montana sunsets is the fact that there can be so many colors and shifts within a single night. I decided to continue the sky theme throughout the night, and photographed until 1am. As my time here draws to a close I am reminded of how thankful I am to have grown up in such a beautiful place.
Here is a collection of photos taken last night on my upstairs deck between 8pm and 1am. (They are almost all unaltered...save an exposure adjustment here or there.)
When I was seven years old, my father put me in a beat-up Ford Explorer and drove me out of town. My family had moved to Missoula, Montana a year prior to this excursion, and it was there that I started to develop hobbies of my own. Despite my affection for jump roping and roller skating on our driveway, I agreed to broaden my scope, to make use of the landscape that was unfamiliar just a year before in Los Angeles.
We were to go fishing on Clearwater River, a narrow ribbon of water I’d only passed on the way to my aunt and uncle’s cabin. The very thought made me wiggle like the trout we would attempt to catch. But even at a young age I could see the plea in my father’s eyes – he needed me to do this with him. It was something he had done with his father over thirty years before, and a rare instance where tradition entered my family’s vocabulary.
The morning of our trip, as my mother packed a cooler full of peanut butter sandwiches, soda, and snack cakes, I concerned myself with what outfit would go best with a river backdrop. In the privacy of my room, the trip began to feel like an adventure of the size Disney characters took in my VHS’s. But before getting caught up in the pending activity, there were certain factors to take into account while going through my closet: the beating sun on my Irish skin, water running around my ankles, and bugs. I opted for an oversized yellow parka and blue jeans (figuring it would make me stand out among the camouflage waders of the elder fishermen), purple Converse sneakers, and a Yankees hat.
However wrong this outfit would end up being for fishing, I managed to make it to the car without any alterations from my father. My mother, on the other hand, lathered me with sunscreen that made my pale skin even whiter, before I slipped from her grip and ran across my skating rink pavement to enter the shuttle to the unknown.
From my co-pilot position of the passenger’s seat, I watched familiar benchmarks pass as we parted from civilization. There was the McDonalds where I got breakfast whenever my parents saved me from the school bus. There was the gas station that always resulted in a new Archie comic. And then there were trees. Too many trees. Los Angeles road trips included bumper-to-bumper traffic, and being voyeur to people picking their noses in cars creeping alongside my family. In Montana all I could be voyeur to was a family of deer.
As annoyance set in, my feet kicked at the glove compartment in an attempt to keep my calves from sticking to the leather seats. Each time I turned my head to look up at my father, my gaze was interrupted by a thin black pole with string that looked like dental floss running the length of it. I still wasn’t sure how I was going to toss it in and catch anything. The only fishing I’d done prior to this was with a little plastic pole over a rotating collection of magnetized fish. And even that was too outdoorsy.
All of the materials in our car felt more like props in my ongoing production of “The Life of Matt,” than tools to be used outdoors. The two-person tent resting against my seat only had meaning to me as a backyard amphitheater that played host to an attack of action figures. Normally after a few hours of tossing around inside, I became bored and ran back to the comfort of my own bed. Sitting in the car, I wondered how I would be able to survive the night without my trusty picture of Bernadette Peters that was taped to my headboard (result of another hobby of mine: using a disposable camera to take photos of her on TV). The thought of crickets and bears replacing her started to send my over-stimulated brain into frenzy.
Before I had time to fret over details that would be sorted out in the coming hours, we pulled off the main road and the terrain changed. Smooth pavement was replaced by a collection of dirt and rock that had been leveled off to create a makeshift parking lot for aspiring fishermen.
My father jumped out of the car in his vest, adorned with custom-made flies, which he had taken to tying in our garage while smoking cigarettes. He looked picturesque, hauling equipment boxes out of the car, as other fathers and sons did the same from cars behind us. I, on the other hand, jumped out and scanned the perimeter for somewhere to plug in our boombox, which I’d loaded with my roller skating anthems of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” soundtrack.
What hadn’t been made clear to me during the hour-long ride was the desolate nature of the river at which we had just arrived. I assumed there would be a campground of sorts (which in my mind included at least one McDonalds with the promise of a Happy Meal toy). But what I saw was a collection of looming RVs with plush accommodations that put our tent to shame. While most people would be enjoying the day, sitting around compact dining tables that converted into beds, my dad and I would be roughing it.
We slid down a small hill leading to the riverbank to get the excursion underway, carrying two rods and a plastic equipment box. The plastic box looked like a Caboodle’s makeup case of my sister’s, only in subdued earth tones rather than eye-popping neon. As my father opened it to attach a clear plastic bubble to my rod, I realized there were no press-on nails or lipstick like I was used to when going through my sister’s things. Instead I got gnarly flies, spun out of colored string and hair.
After a quick demonstration where my dad did his best to look like a postcard for Montana tourism (he was an actor after all), I inched my way toward the bank while trying to keep my purple shoes in pristine condition. I’d spent most of my young life doing imitations of my sister’s and mother’s dancing, so with a light toss of my wrist I did my best imitation of my father. My fishing line made it a few feet out into the water, and all I could do now was wait.
I turned to my right and watched my father standing in the middle of the river as water flowed around his calves. The sun beat down on me, and just as I was beginning to lose interest in the solitary act of fishing, I felt a nibble at my line; there was movement. For all I knew, I had caught a dolphin, as the weight tugging at the end of my pole was strong enough that my dad abandoned his post and ran over to help me reel it in.
What emerged was barely the size of my forearm and slimy enough that I thought the water was actually phlegm. Even more puzzling was the fact that I had caught it. My first attempt and I’d already progressed past my father. (I’d never had such immediate success when trying new jump-roping tricks.) For a moment I thought I was destined to be a fisherman.
Then a mosquito bit me on the neck. I remembered that I was outdoors, and as quickly as I had reeled in the fish, I tossed it back. All of my accomplishments were suddenly negated, as I was standing exactly as I had been five minutes before…annoyed and fishless. Every time I turned my head I found a new creature creeping past. There were bees in front of my face, water bugs around my feet, and mosquitos feeding on my skin like maggots on a carcass.
The excitement of my prodigious success wore off immediately. All I wanted was to be in my bed at home under the watchful eye of Saint Bernadette. But as the afternoon progressed, all I could do was relive my glory moment with no subsequent success.
By the time we packed up our gear and returned to the campground, my words (delivered in a piercing upper register) had turned into one giant sentence lamenting the state of my world. The performance was a building monologue that reached an emotional turning point when it came time to erect the tent.
A tangled mess of green nylon, the tent represented every fear I had about staying overnight in this foreign place where bears and deer had replaced my mother and sister. As my dad unfolded it, I stood holding stakes that he would use to mount our portable house to the ground. Fortunately, the makeshift parking lot that was to be our campground was on my side.
For each attempt my father made to drill the stakes into the ground he muttered an instinctual, “fuck.” Each “fuck” made my whining shriller as I secretly hoped the combination would put us on a straight path back to civilization. After thirty minutes of perseverance on his part, he threw the stakes to the rocky ground and gave me a look that granted all my wishes.
I helped gather all of the objects, in a rush of energy, that only moments before had been the bane of my existence. Light spilled out from fellow campers’ RV windows, and as the sun went down we turned on our headlights and rode back to the smooth pavement. We wove along the road that followed the path of the river, listening to Marc Cohn, and my eyes began to feel heavy. The comfort of the leather seats enveloped me as we made our way back home.
Every day when I walked into the house after climbing half a mountain from where the school bus dropped me off, I was greeted by a naked man bathing in shadows and assuming a semi-crucifixion pose in a painting at the landing of our entry way stairs. Horror. All of the neighbors must have thought we were either religious zealots or homosexuals (they were partially right, I guess). But each time they turned to shield their eyes from the oiled penis, they saw what I saw whenever I woke up in the morning: two enormous paintings by my father, full of demonic faces, empty chairs and frenzied brushstrokes of pink, red and orange. Without a doubt he was our neighborhood's Francis Bacon. Hell, they are even both Irish.
Bacon's paintings are works I grew fond of in my teenage years, no doubt aided by the aesthetic taste my parents nurtured with the art hanging on our walls. At the time, however, the paintings scared the shit out of me. Where did this side of my father come from, I wondered. He, the man who watched me perform plays and roller bladed with me on the weekend, somehow unleashed a Hulk-like beast capable of creating such haunting works; the stuff of nightmares, really.
Yet at the same time I remember being inspired by him. I often spent days in his studio downtown, a rented room in a hallway full of doors that were always hanging open revealing dusty floors covered in footprints of people I never saw -- they may have been ghosts. He'd situate me in the corner with a piece of paper and some colored pencils and let me doodle as he furrowed his brow in front of an easel, hands covered in charcoal and the smell of cigarettes.
No matter how hard I tried, my orb-eyed stick figures were immensely displeasing. I didn't have a knack for constructing something beautiful (or even grotesquely beautiful like some of my father's paintings) when you put tools in my hands...and to this day I still have no ability when armed with paint, crayons, colored pencils, markers, sharpies, or charcoal (which, let's face it, is way too messy for my taste).
In my childhood I was never afraid to try. Whenever I got together with friends we ended up doing something creative, or crafty, that allowed our parents to sit quietly, or smoke a joint, or god knows what for a few hours. Then sometime around adolescence that all stopped. I, along with a lot of my other friends, grew self conscious of trying to do something we weren't going to be experts at.
So it was with unbridled excitement that I found myself with a paintbrush and a blank piece of paper recently. The plans for the night had called for another trip down memory lane, as my friends and I had decided to watch Mary Poppins and devour bratwurst. Half of the plan stayed intact, but instead of having a jolly holiday, we had a painting party.
Jes was working on a project for an upcoming auction, but her box of colors and brushes proved too tempting for the rest of us to resist. After completing a series of paintings on the sidewalk, we moved inside and glided our brushes over pieces of glass. We were aimless, mixing colors with each other and seeing what resulted.
It felt great to be young enough again to find pleasure in the visceral nature of splattering paint aimlessly on a canvas, but old enough to not be scared of the slightly demonic results. The event Jes created her painting for is called Spontaneous Construction, and I was thrilled to live up to the first part of the name and just be spontaneous.
(Don't worry, she didn't get her head stuck between the wood.)
(Dancer foot surrounded by nail polish?)
(A see through canvas makes this photographer's eye very happy.)
(Garrett got some fuel so he could create...)
(His masterpieces: the devil, and me. Which is which?)
(Jes brought her work outside and stayed focused (even though she's out of focus).)
(new techniques/have an artistic breakdown.)
(I opened a sidewalk gallery of my masterpieces.)
(But all of my customers were busy eating food. DRAT!)
(They probably would have bought Jes's beautiful piece of work anyway!)
Of the things in my life that I am thankful for, my family outranks all else. From the time I was a child they have acted as a constant source of support for my artistic endeavors, but also a huge source of inspiration because of the work that they all create. There is a thoughtfulness to each of their contributions to their respective fields (Mom-tap dance; Sister-modern and tap dance; Dad-filmmaking/directing/acting) that pushes me to expand beyond my comfort zone and not be afraid of a challenge.
There can be a downside to being part of a family full of artists. But for every instance I become exasperated dissecting the relevance of a certain shot in a movie, there is another moment where I find the winding road our conversations take to be thrilling; and at all times I realize how fortunate I am to have them, and acknowledge the fact that I wouldn't be where I am today were it not for their own artistic curiosity. Plus there's the bonus of covering a variety of artistic fields over the course of our four-person unit; always an interesting viewpoint on each others' work.
My dad and I had a chance to combine projects last week when I went to visit him at work. But this wasn't another day at the office -- unless you consider a huge open field down the Bitterroot valley an office. By the time I arrived the sun was high and the summer heat was setting in, but that didn't stop him, my friends Anya and Jes, and a small crew from beginning work on a new experimental dance film.
The morning light proved difficult to photograph in, but with such lovely subjects as my friends and the scenery, it was hard to get a bad shot.
After photographing two performances of Katherine Kramer's fantastic "Stop, Look, and Listen," upon my arrival to Helena, MT this week, Nick and I took a roadtrip to my hometown of Missoula to...photograph "Stop, Look, and Listen." I got some incredible shots of the show (which you will no doubt see endless amounts of over the coming weeks), but, as always, I couldn't help but get caught up in the Montana scenery as we blasted Katy Perry from the stereo. Here are the first pictures from our road trip, a new triptych: Man vs. Wild.
"Well, it's just you," said the chipper flight attendant.
I looked around at the empty collection of brown plastic chairs straight out of 1970.
"Wait, you mean it's literally just me on this flight?" I asked, nervous at the idea of being the sole passenger on an airplane whose frame looked small enough to flatten my already deflating mohawk.
"Oh, heavens no," she responded. "There are several passengers still on the plane from the first leg that just came in from Seattle.
After thirteen hours of travel, the last leg of my trip, from Great Falls to Helena, was to be a 20-minute jaunt, rumbling over the uneven mountains of Montana. It took all the energy I could muster just to get myself down the walkway, across the tarmac, and into the cabin without passing out on my third flight of the day.
Upon entering, under harsh fluorescent lighting, I stumbled past a collection of men wearing cowboy hats as round as car wheels, and planted myself in a red leather seat in the last row. Solace, in the form of "Tales of the City", rested in my hands; a brief diversion to focus my attention at the end of a draining day.
"You from around here," said a voice that belonged to a pair of blue eyes peering over a seat two rows in front of me.
"No," I responded, as I momentarily glanced up from my book. "I'm from New York."
Most passengers would take the combination of a head planted in a book, the late hour, and stifled answer as a clue to end the conversation there.
"My girlfriend is from Ohio," he replied. I was unsure of the connection.
"Yeah, they're both really far away," I said. "I'm so tired, it's two hours later to me."
"My girlfriend is three years older than me." The measurements, switched from time to age, were enough to prompt my dim brain to shut down.
Looking down at my lap, I continued reading Maupin's tale of a group of strangers in 1970s San Francisco, and wished I could teleport myself into the pages, into a world where the dialogue wasn't invasive.
"Our cousin introduced us," he said. At the use of the word "our," sirens started screaming in my head, ripping me away from the page. "But she's adopted. That doesn't make us blood related does it?"
I engaged all my powers of concentration, and attempted to avoid my natural instinct to run up and down the aisle like a wild banshee.
"What do you do?" he asked. I was relieved at the change of subject. Possible incest investigations had never been my strong suit.
"I'm a writer," I said.
"I want to be an Ichthyologist, that's the study of fish."
Welcome to Montana.