I journeyed to Brooklyn last week to shoot my friend Terry Bartlett. Hard to believe we've known each other for over 15 years (since he was a college student/friend of my babysitter's when my sister and I were kids in Montana)! Fortunately his energy is still as boundless as ever, so I used the opportunity to get him to do some of his famous Streb (the company with which he used to dance) acrobatics on his rooftop. Here are the results!
By my highly scientific calculations (meaning not even remotely scientific), KMart sold more pillows on Saturday than they ever have before. Hipsters, children, married couples, and everybody in between seemed to be flocking to the aisles of Martha Stewart's downy goodness for the chance to buy a cheap pillow to put to use during the annual New York City Pillow Fight, an event I didn't even know existed until I was about to photograph it. And despite my fear of huge crowds packed into tiny areas, I'm glad I went.
As Nick, Meg, Jes and I made our way down to the financial district--a rather poetic place to bludgeon people with feathers, given our current financial crisis--we found ourselves surrounded by people carrying pillows on the subway, which contrary to the name of a certain musical, is not usually for sleeping. By the time we climbed up the stairs and let our eyes adjust to daylight, it was clear we'd have to adjust to much more. The streets were filled with people funneling into the single entrance that led to the fight's location: a blocked off section of pavement directly in front of the stock exchange.
I put my scientific calculation skills to use again and determined that roughly half of the crowd was carrying cameras. Fortunately, if faced with a fight, I felt confident my camera could beat a pillow any day. Not that anyone had much room for swinging. The packed crowd meant that the pillow fight was more of a pillow bump, but that didn't stop the throngs of participants from wailing their weapons with as much force as their arms would allow. Despite lingering on the periphery, I still managed to get hit several times. And despite the collision of pillow to camera lens, I also managed to get a few decent shots in the process.
I feel like I haven't stopped to breathe in the past week. Between editing a new issue of Movmnt, photographing for performances and magazines, finishing up a college course, and writing a few articles it seems like the only time I have come up for air is when I shovel down some of Target's Monster Mix (which is, hands down, the best "trail mix" ever, although it's basically all candy). Fortunately, I enjoy the work.
The only real struggle has been finding a moment to squeeze in shooting time for my weekly International Center of Photography course. This week's challenge (I like to think of my life as a reality show) is to choose one photographer off a list of the most iconic imagicians (because after looking at these photographers it's clear they possessed some magic fingers that we mortals aren't blessed with) of the past century (think Richard Avedon, Diane Arbus, Nan Goldin, etc.) and emulate their style through ten photographs. Initially I was going to go with Avedon--perhaps one of the most untouchable photographers ever--simply because his work with portraiture is not only stop-in-the-middle-of-traffic stunning, but far out of my comfort zone. More than any photographer I've come in contact with (an admittedly limited number), Avedon focuses solely on the emotion of his subject, most often removing the environment they are in from the portrait altogether by erecting a white background. Through his mix of natural and studio lighting, he was able to create a signature look as he photographed everyone from farmers of the Western US to Marilyn Monroe.
I have talented friends, some who could do a killer Monroe impression, but after scanning through some of his images in the new anthology of his work, Performance, I started to feel defeated before I even began, like stretching on the sidelines while you watch someone run a mile in six minutes flat, knowing your average is thirteen. I decided to change directions. Unfortunately, the main factor in this decision was simply that I didn't have time to organize shooting time with ten friends...I needed inanimate objects.
So I turned to my initial instinct and chose William Eggleston, a photographer who I recently became familiar with through his retrospective at the Whitney Museum. To me, Eggleston is the king of breathing life into seemingly mundane settings and situations; he's the person in the kitchen who can finally twist the lid off a jar after everyone else has tried. Most of his work that I'm familiar with is in the South during the early seventies, but the techniques he brings to each photo are universal. It's as if he takes the cacophony of objects residing in the world and brings them into a discombobulated harmony, one you hadn't quite imagined before. Most importantly I find he works very much with linear relationships between objects, including stationary structures, reflections, and the occasional person, and draws the viewer in through these interactions. Of course, he's the master. I'm a student.
My biggest disappointment yesterday (I will continue shooting today) was the fact that New York was an overcast, rainy mess. Eggleston works with sunlight, saturation, and shadows...three things that were hard to come by while roaming around the West Village. But I tried to emulate portions of his style, most importantly the fact that, to me, Eggleston is a fascinating explorer with a sense of humor. He sets off across the country with little more than film and receptive senses, and comes back to the museum wall with something new.
I wish I had more time to focus on this challenge, but I'm confident I'll make it through elimination. And next week, when we have to stand on poles in the middle of the Hudson for eight hours as we photograph our surroundings while sharks bite at our feet, I'll rock it.