hey their kind friends…
i’ve officially moved my entire website to http://squarerootofnine.com. please come and visit when you get a minute. feel free to leave your comments there.
reynaldo. september 2009. dallas, tx.
toward the end of last month i was in Houston (or Boyd or Princeton or Dallas or in the office in my house in the suburbs just north of Dallas) with a to-do list too long to actually get all things done when it occurred to me that i hadn’t blogged in a month.
i have excuses. we all have excuses. but i came across something today that stopped me in my tracks and forced my hand.
sometimes we’re left without an excuse.
for what it’s worth, i believe that that Maria Kalman was right about the 19th century:
and the thing is – it was exploding with inventiveness and they hadn’t even gotten to the automobile or the airplane or open heart surgery or cloned sheep or broadcast or video or the internet or twitter or video on twitter. i sincerely believe that the world is – today as in 1838 – exploding with inventiveness.
My love affair with screenwriting began in the balcony of an old Singapore movie house when I was in the seventh grade. The romance took me to film school, where I ate, drank & breathed everything film and one of the things I learned there was the importance of a good set up – a strong first act. It’s so important that there are whole seminars on the how to craft the first ten pages of a screenplay.
In one of my screenwriting classes, we looked at the set up in The Usual Suspects. Do you remember it? The mealy mouthed cripple, Verbal Kint, in the detective’s office, says of Keyser Soze, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”
That line haunts you the rest of the film. That is a great set up. And the genius of the line is it takes a complicated theme and puts it into incredibly simple terms.
This same idea can be used, to great effect, in photography as well.
This is a subject I’ve been thinking about quite a bit lately and I’m not sure where I first encountered it in practice (the only place I can think to point to is Dan Winters, who does it infinitely better than anyone), but simplicity – simple light, simple composition, simple posture – is the best way I’ve found to expose for honest emotion.
I recently did portraits for Need Him, a non-profit whose mission is to give people a chance to hear the story of God’s love for mankind as it was personified in Jesus. They wanted their story to be told with authenticity, so early on, the decision was made to cast ordinary people instead of models.
However, people are a complicated tangle of story lines and emotions and most put up high walls that hide the honest, authentic emotion from strangers. Putting a camera in their face or being placed under a bunch of lights while being told what to do only adds to their discomfort.
So, as excited as I was about the opportunity to explore some of the complexity that real people bring with them, I knew that in order to create an environment where that could happen, I would need a simple set up.
We kicked off the first of 6 I Am Second shoots that I have booked between now & the end of August. I have been working with most of these peeps for a little over a year. Inevitably, polaroid time turns a little goofy – see also my friend Lan’s attempt to make me laugh during an I Am Second shoot last year.
All to say, we have a good time.
While we were waiting for our first subject yesterday morning, we ate breakfast, made a few images & laughed.
The story, as I understand it, goes something like this:
The city was threatening to condemn an historic old church just south of downtown Carrollton. The ninety something year old building required tens of thousands of dollars in repairs to bring it up to code and to make matters worse, the church was strapped for cash. Believing that The Church was an idea bigger than a building, they began making phone calls to other area churches to see if anyone would lend a hand in saving one of the oldest African American congregations in the DFW area.
The Church answered the call.
This past Saturday, the faithful of St. John (and the hundreds of volunteers who helped save it) received a tremendous piece of encouragement for all the sweat & prayers they offered in the name of helping a neighbor in need. The city of Carrollton honored them with an historical marker. It may not sound like much, but it was clear to me as I stood among those gathered for the early morning ceremony that the gesture was one of the highest moments in the congregations 117 year history. It was an incredible honor to be there to witness a quiet piece of history unfold and celebrate with The Church a triumph of unity.
You can read the full story of the history of St. John at their newly launched website and see more images after the jump.
i put together a new PDF book of my production still work. of all the things i shoot, i think production stills are dang near the top of the heap of things i adore. i love the collaborative process that is film making, the energy of a well run set and the way everything looks under the careful craftsmanship of a great DP.
i’m headed out to Orlando today to shoot some I Am Second stuff and feeling rather tropico, tropico. i’m hoping for at least one beverage with an umbrella in it. maybe i can do a travel diary while i’m away… it’s been a while.
here’s some new work from the country club renovation project:
we’re about at the halfway mark; i’m 6 months in and it’s amazing to me that i can see anything new or find new ways to see the things i’ve seen a hundred times. this job has been an incredible exercise in learning to look harder. i’m rather happy with my latest effort on that project.
“Then the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts – to make artistic designs… and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship.”
tomorrow marks one year of my involvement with I Am Second and the first person i shot for the campaign was Jason Castro. i remember being pretty nervous.
i had pitched the idea of shooting production stills to use as additional content on iamsecond.com, but the folks at E3 knew they would need studio portraits for the print & outdoor efforts, so they asked me to try my hand at those as well. at the time, studio photography wasn’t something that i had a ton of experience with – which was the root cause of 97% of my nervousness.
here’s that first image:
My RSS feeds are many & varied… but one of my favorites is a new visual journalism blog that the New York Times runs called LENS. It’s special for many reasons, like big images in a simple, unobtrusive design, a straightforward navigational structure that doesn’t feel tired or boring and quality, original content like images from the Archives, they publish timely and striking photojournalism every day, showcase photographers, talk shop and on and on. But, more than anything else, I think LENS is special because of the access it gives a viewer into the story behind the story.
Take, for example, the story that came up Tuesday – Behind the Scenes: Tank Man of Tiananmen, which digs into the iconic image from the 1989 protest on Tiananmen Square in China. It happend on June 5th, 1989 – I was eleven years old, but the image was seared into my brain. It may be the single most memorable image of my generation – and there are four versions. Who knew, right?
photo by Stuart Franklin/Magnum Photos
LENS takes you behind the scenes of one of recent histories most famous photographs and relates the story in the voice of the four men who shot the image – four photographers, four perspectives, four separate creative choices and four striking images. That’s why it’s one of my first stops every morning.
EDIT** Apparently the feature that ran Tuesday on LENS brought out a new, never before seen image of Tank Man shot by Terril Jones at street level. Jones’ story shows that timing is everying in journalism and is a great example of how a single image can define a story and the result that has on other images.
“There will be an emergence of “social thinking” and I think that this would be a great start in the right direction. Photography will play a very big part — as it has done so powerfully in the past — in the presentation of truth and the transformation of social and historical consciousness.
My intention as a photographer is to be a participant in this process.”
- Jeff Riedel
the new PDN photo annual is out. and it’s available online. and it’s superb.
photo by Dan Winters
the best photographs of the last year, from every imaginable discipline – advertising, editorial, photojournalism, sports, corporate and student work – as well as top portfolio sites, all in one place. it’s an inspirational goldmine. i found myself completely sucked in by the images in the editorial section – especially the work of Dan Winters, who I freaking love. I’m not sure there is a better editorial portrait photographer working today.
David Hume | children’s ministry volunteer at Irving Bible Church
I recently shot a series of conceptual portraits for Irving Bible Church. They are in constant need of volunteers to help out with their kids programs and we came up with this idea of everyday heroes. I think the push to recruit new volunteers begins next month and I’m excited to see what they end up doing from a copy and layout perspective. You can see the whole series here.