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Archive for January, 2011

I’ve been wanting to do some interviews to pepper into the blog now and then.  I know a number of very talented artists, and I happen to be engaged to one of them.  Love has not blinded me; I was a fan of his before we were dating, and even before we first shot together, almost three years ago.

His style is a unique mix of photo journalism, American Apparel ads and Suicide Girls.  His work is sexy and provocative without being obscene or pornographic.  His goal in shooting models is to get to the core of who that person is and capture that essence.  He shoots in a spontaneous, minimalist way, further highlighting his subjects.  His work is not for the timid; it takes a certain kind of model to be able to shoot with him.   There’s nothing to hide behind, both literally and metaphorically.  Aside from the obvious lack of clothes, there is also no character or story to disguise you.  You are just you.  And that can be intimidating.  But he has also honed a wonderful bedside manner which makes the sometimes frightening work easier, and in my case at least, I walked away from the shoot proud and full of new confidence in myself.

Let’s say hello to Geoff Ashley of Unsinn Image.

What’s your favorite photo of yours?

I don’t know; what’s your favorite photo of mine?  I like the one in the back of the 57 the blurred one, where the girl has the skull-and-crossbones underwear.

I like the one of the model taking off the terry cloth bikini top, where it’s cut off at her mouth.


Do you think people are afraid of sex and nudity?

Yes, of course.

Why?

Because they’re conditioned to feel that way.

How do you think society would be different if we weren’t afraid of sex and nudity?

We’d all be really slutty and no one would care!

Why should society relax it’s attitudes about nudity?

Because nudity is awesome.  I think there would be a lot more art and it would be a lot more interesting if people weren’t self-censoring and worrying about if lines had been crossed.

What’s the most challenging thing for you about your photography?

Finding people who are gutsy enough to shoot with me.

What makes the best kind of model?

[Laughs] A model with no inhibitions, who has limits so far out, I will never reach them.   I don’t know, someone who likes my work, who’s not afraid to look stupid, who’s comfortable in her skin, literally and figuratively.

Why do you choose to photograph mostly women?

Because there’s just nothing less attractive than a naked man.

What about a clothed man?

That’s just boring.

Are you ever afraid of how your audience will react to your photos?

I wouldn’t say afraid, but there are some images that make me think about what do I want to put forward?  What is too much?  Is it too explicit?  I personally don’t have an issue with almost anything as long as it’s not illegal and everyone is a willing participant.  But there are some images that I like more as a viewer than I do as a photographer.  If I were a viewer looking at a shot, I might say, I like that it’s sexy or provocative, but as a photographer, I always have to think if it’s too sexy or too provocative.  So it’s a different point of view.

What do you hope your audience will take away from your pictures?

I don’t know that I have anything specific… I just hope they take something away.  What’s interesting to me is how people interpret things.  How they can find meaning in images I never intended.  I’m happy they find things in it, but what’s fascinating to me is what they find.

Do you have any advice for emerging photographers?

Don’t suck.

Do you think art effects society?

Yes.  Art is all around us.  I think we’re better off having art effect us than Keeping Up With The Kardashians.   That is the absence of art.

What drives you crazy in other people’s photographs?

When it’s boring.  What I like is photography that I respond to viscerally.  When I look at something, I immediately decide if it’s interesting or it’s boring.  And that’s pretty much my only criteria.  I can recognize the artistry and technical difficulty of boring things, but that doesn’t make them any more interesting.

What has your photography taught you about yourself?

That I am excellent at the art of having a conversation with a naked woman while maintaining eye contact.  [We both laugh]  You laugh, but that’s important.  It makes everybody feel professional.  I guess it’s taught me that I’m a lot more open-minded than some people, and that there are a lot of not-brave models out there.

What was your first nude shoot like?

It was ok.  It was about 96-97 and I’d put an ad in the paper for a model and this girl responded… she seemed kind of older to me at the time, I imagine she was probably early to mid 30’s.  She was very cool, very easy going, and I think I got some interesting shots, but I don’t think she had ever modeled before and I had very limited experience shooting models, so it was very “Artsy.”  Black and white, kind of bodyscapey.  I was working in film at that point, doing my own developing and printing.  It was not a dynamic shoot.

What was your first dynamic shoot?

It was about 97, my second nude shoot.

Was there a time when you decided, “this is my style and this is what I’m going to pursue shooting?”

I never really thought about the style.  It has evolved as being a photographer has evolved.  And I think that [second] shoot was the first example of the model and photographer dynamic.  But the really spontaneous style, playing with light in different ways, that came out of switching to digital.  You get that immediate feedback.  Shooting in film, you have to estimate and know things, like how switching this variable or that variable is going to change the photo.  With digital you don’t have to do that which is why everybody’s a photographer now [laughs].

What would your dream shoot be?

I don’t know that I have a dream shoot, per say.  The dream in general would be to be sought after for my style, as opposed to shooting soup cans or salad.  Being sought out because whoever it is who wants photos wants me because they like my style, so I’d be able to shoot something more commercial, but on my own terms.  Since it’s different with every model, I don’t really have a “dream shoot.”  The dream is to keep working with models who get me, who I interact well with, who like my work, who are uninhibited, who are just cool.

Thanks for joining us Geoff!  Want to see more of his work?  Click on any of the photos in this post to go to his site.  And if you’re an uninhibited, gutsy model in the LA area, you should go to his site and contact him!

A portrait I shot of Geoff in the Jim Morrison room.

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3 Good Days

This post follows hotly on the heels of my last several.

You all know about my recent experience with steroids.  I was bit by a cat and to help the incredible swelling of my hand go down, my doctor prescribed a course of steroids.  And it turned out that being on steroids (that kind anyway) almost completely eradicated the symptoms of chronic fatigue I live with daily.

It was beautiful.  But it was short-lived.

I had three days of the initial dosage before I started tapering off, and even on that fourth day, when I just began my descent downward, the magic was gone.  And I mourned those three lovely days for a while before I used my return to physical misery as a catalyst to call my regular doctor and make an appointment.

I will be a squeaky wheel.  No, she will not be able to put me on steroids forever.  It’s neither safe nor healthy.  But I will go in and put pressure on her to help me find some alternate kind of treatment.  Something that will make me feel better, and something which can stay with me.  As I am up very late for me (sadly, being tired all the time doesn’t equal me being able to actually sleep) my appointment is now at three o’clock this afternoon.  Wish me luck.

In the meantime, I created a self portrait about the experience, which is how they often come about.  No better way to get something off your chest than create art about it.

3 Good Days

3 Good Days

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Pain, Specialized

Technically this is my “photography” blog.  But my real life influences my photos, and they influence me, and the lines tend to get blurred for me.  Sometimes I blog about something which isn’t specifically about photos, but I’m ok with that, and if you’re reading this, you probably are too.

I’ve talked at some length about my health problems and the doctors I see for them.  For the most part, I’ve felt like my doctors’ attitudes were like this photo I took recently:

 

Left Alone In The Wilderness

Alone In The Wilderness

 

It was inspired by a Wintersleep song I love, Dead Letters And The Infinite Yes.  Part of the lyrics read “We’re alone in this wilderness, left to choke on the pills and to feed on the viruses.”  It was such an emotive, expressive line and I wanted to capture it’s mood in a photo.

But more than that, this is the attitude most of my doctors seem to have with me.  Because honestly, they don’t really have much of an idea how to treat me.  I’m an embarrassment to them, so they try and just shove me at the door as quickly as possible.  They don’t want to listen to me, they don’t want to hear about what’s wrong, they’ll throw pills at my symptoms and hope I go away.  This is a terrible way to feel like your own health care advocates feel about you.  I tend to be pretty Eeyoreish and gloomy anyway, but when the doctors act like there’s no hope, it’s very hard to generate any yourself.

However… I moved a few months ago, and all my old doctors fell out of my network.  I did weeks of research into picking a new primary care doctor, but I finally did, I liked her, and she started the process of sending me to all the new specialists I have to make contact with.  I saw my new pain specialist yesterday, and I was very nervous about meeting her.  If she wasn’t a good advocate for me, she could really fuck my life up.  And you know what?

I loved her.

I adored her.

She is young and pretty, but she sat down and the room and just LISTENED to me for a long time.  She asked me questions and let me ask her questions.  She did not appear flustered and overwhelmed by my list of pain complaints.  And moreover, she had suggestions for all of them.

Some of the treatments may or may not be approved by my insurance, and some of them will take a while to see results from.  But she actually fucking cared and took steps to help me.  And yes, that is what all doctors should do, but they very often don’t want to take the time, from my experience.

She has actually made me feel hopeful about myself.  Far more hopeful than I have felt in a long time, and I’m incredibly grateful for that.

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Have you seen the movie Awakenings?

It’s been a long time since I saw it, but I enjoyed it, in a horrified sort of way.  I’m going to spoil the plot a little, but it follows a group of patients who have been in comas for years… until suddenly a new drug revives them.  They wake.  They are fully functioning, and while they have lost years of their lives, they are fully capable of returning to them.

But it doesn’t last.  For reasons no one can figure out, the drug stops working and the patients slowly, slowly, return back to their comas.  And they know it’s coming.  They know what they’re returning to.  They know what they’re losing.  And they can’t do a single thing to stop it.

It’s based on a true story, and I’ve long meant to look more into the facts it’s based on, although I still have yet to do so.  But the movie made an impact on me, even though I only saw it once.  I felt the horror of the patients as the inexorably returned to their unwakening sleep, helpless to slow or stop it.

I feel something of a parallel to the movie right now, although it’s clearly a much more dramatic example than what I’m going through.  I think I’ve mentioned before than one of the physical conditions I struggle with is chronic fatigue syndrome.  It’s a horrible, silent illness which robs you of your energy and lust for life.  I cannot remember a time when I haven’t been tired.  It’s unknown what causes it, and thus fixing it becomes a problem.  Apparently in some cases anti depressants have helped, by some funny trick it plays in your brain, but I unfortunately already know I can’t take anti depressants as they make me violently ill.  So that’s out.  My doctors mostly look away and change the subject when I bring up what a problem it is, because they truly don’t know how to help me.

I handle this better some times than others, but right now it’s difficult.  The thing is, I got bit by a cat last Friday, and my hand swelled up like a pink balloon that night.  I went to an urgent care center since it was now New Year’s Eve and was prescribed (along with a host of other dreadful things) steroids because it was so very swollen.

And it turns out that the steroids make me not feel tired.  It borders on being too much energy, as I sometimes have trouble getting to sleep at night (not that I don’t always have trouble sleeping, so that’s negligible) but I feel normal.  I don’t wish that I’ll get into a car accident on my way to work just so that I don’t have to go, because I’m so tired.  This is an earth-shattering shift in my life which I don’t think I can fully explain.  You’ll just have to go with me on this.

The problem is, of course, that steroids are awful for you and this is a week’s supply.  No doctor is going to keep me on them forever, and they have some weird side effects of their own, such as the sleep problems.  Not to mention they make me even moodier than I normally am, which isn’t good for anyone.  But for a few days, I feel good.

And I know that it won’t last.

In a few days my pills will run out and I’ll be back to feeling smothered by life every single day, barely able to cope with working and the normal tasks of life.  It’s not fair. I don’t want a break from my illness only to have to go right back into it.  I’d rather the doctor didn’t wake me from my coma and just let me sleep if I just have to return to it, equally helpless and equally aware of what that means.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I am very aware there are people who suffer far worse than I do every day and who complain far less.  But right now at this moment I want to just sob about this, so I’m letting it out in a blog.

I have the next few days off, and I’m going to try and make the most of my fleeting energy by taking lots of photos, making costumes and generally getting as much done as I can with what I’m given.  After that, I will try and be gracious and patient and remember that I don’t have it nearly as bad as some do.

Our photo today is one I took a while ago about how chronic fatigue makes me feel, since that seems fitting.

Fatigued

Fatigued

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New Leaves

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions?

I didn’t really give it much thought until last year, when I resolved to make more time for my art.  And then in the end of January I took my first self portrait, and my life as a photographer began.

I never dreamed such a simple vow could produce such dramatic results.  But seeing how well it worked last year, I’m doing it again this year.  This year my resolution is to be a full-time artist by the end of the year.  I don’t know how exactly this will come about, and I have reservations about proclaiming it aloud.  But I think it’s important to declare it, to give it voice and make it feel more valid.  Then perhaps I’ll work even harder to make it happen.

I took a photo about a month ago which, for various reasons, it took me a long time to get around to editing.  But I think it’s very pertinent to today, as we’re starting a new year.  This photo is about taking chances.  You roll the dice, and just go with whatever you’re given.  It’s not always perfect, but you make it work.  You don’t just sit idly, wishing the world would dump perfection in your lap.  You take control and start acting on your life.

So this year, let’s all take control of our lives.  Let’s work to create the lives we want instead of the ones we’re handed.  It’s in our control.  Let’s do this 🙂

A Roll Of The Dice

A Roll Of The Dice

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