Kathleen, Asheville. March 2018

March 23, 2018 at 4:58 pm

Some pho­to­shoots are fun, some are stress­ful, some are for learn­ing from mis­takes and some are for teach­ing. Some are for­ma­tional, and a very rare few are those which you know — even mid-work — there will be a “before” and “after” against which every­thing else is created.

Both times I’ve worked solo with Kath­leen Hahn of idodances.com and Dance­club Asheville have been those last types. Her abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate not just through dance but in the dia­logue before and after a piece is unique and I’m all the bet­ter a pho­tog­ra­pher for it. Our first ses­sion was a time lapse of sorts, her danc­ing in var­i­ous places and com­bin­ing them in post­pro­duc­tion. The rep­re­sen­ta­tive piece of that ses­sion is “Ten­nis Courts”.

This ses­sion, indoors at her stu­dio in Asheville, was entirely dif­fer­ent. We were look­ing for indi­vid­ual moments where Kath­leen was mov­ing much less delib­er­ately, with quicker move­ments but with more com­mu­ni­ca­tion between us. It was also a ses­sion where she was using a pole, which sur­faced a num­ber of lay­ers to the work.

As a male pho­tog­ra­pher, it’s easy to be in the posi­tion of power in a pho­to­shoot. Ooften the pho­tog­ra­phy stu­dio is intim­i­dat­ing itself, and one is work­ing with a sub­ject who can­not eas­ily stop and say “show me what you have so far”. There are often dis­crep­an­cies in vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties and also the inher­ent prob­lem of “male gaze” that must be addressed in every shoot. Put all of the above together along­side a ses­sion in a dance stu­dio where a main impe­tus is to reclaim all dance forms from patri­archy (if not too strong a phrase here) and impart con­fi­dence, my emo­tions were all over the place. “Should I be here with my cam­era? Should I be here at all? What is my role, what is Kathleen’s role? Why can I do this with Kath­leen as a friend, and is that dif­fer­ent than a pro­fes­sional? Can I pub­lish these? Should I even con­sider sell­ing prints of these?”

For­tu­nately, Kath­leen was more than up for the con­ver­sa­tion before, dur­ing, and after the shoot. And just as before, I came away a lit­tle wiser and grate­ful for all those I encounter in my photography.

Photo Exploration — FALL Rehearsals, July 2015

July 29, 2015 at 4:34 pm

I was for­tu­nate to be the Sideshow Fringe Fes­ti­val 2015 pho­tog­ra­pher, and as always there were many incred­i­ble ses­sions of the­ater, aeri­al­ists, pup­pets, and music. There are many, many, many tac­tics one can uti­lize when pho­tograph­ing per­for­mances. Long expo­sures, high-ISO cap­tures, processed images to high­light the per­former — all are good options. Another option on engag­ing the sub­ject: shoot once, process none. Shoot film, process, and take what develops.

In addi­tion to the actual live per­for­mances, I was also invited to check out some rehearsals, includ­ing the work of the FALL com­pany. It was pretty incred­i­ble to lis­ten in and hear some of their process as they rehearsed through the work, and to try and unob­tru­sively cap­ture some of the dis­cus­sions in pho­tos. Below are three of those images next to one of the per­form­ers dur­ing the rehearsal set.

FALL Rehearsing, Side Show Fringe Festival 2015

FALL Rehears­ing, Side Show Fringe Fes­ti­val 2015

Giv­ing up some con­trol with the medium lets me work in the avail­able light­ing and motion with­out stress­ing over the upcom­ing post-processing. A chance to pho­to­graph the mood and ambi­ence in the unpol­ished envi­ron­ment. A bit of a looser, yet more focused, feel­ing from the per­form­ers seems to come out in rehearsals. When the dancers are con­tin­u­ing the com­mit­ment of their work to mus­cle mem­ory it’s almost like a photo cri­tique. Peo­ple are look­ing for input, look­ing for encour­age­ment, but also any­thing that helps rise the level of the work is welcome.

Many thanks to FALL for allow­ing me to shoot the rehearsals!

Photo Exploration — Kiddie Ride, Hendersonville North Carolina

July 20, 2015 at 1:32 pm

Down­towns cen­tered on Main Streets are still around, and they often pro­vide a view into the past. And some­times there is a per­spec­tive into tran­si­tion between the past and present as well. In Hen­der­son­ville, North Car­olina, there is a vibrant down­town with music instru­ment stores, bars, knick-knacks shops, ice cream coun­ters and delis. Includ­ing this old phar­macy with the dog treats, cig­a­rette recep­ta­cle, and kid­die horse lined up out­side the front door.

I see this pho­to­graph as a doc­u­ment of ten­sion. I tried to limit the sur­round­ing con­text to a min­i­mum, although I did sneak in the his­tor­i­cal plaque on the left wall. Between that dec­o­ra­tion and the tiled entry­way, what is orig­i­nal? We see a procla­ma­tion of this “new” own­er­ship, man­age­ment, whathaveyou — “The old ‘Jus­tus Phar­macy’” — so some­things have changed. Maybe the Coke bar­rel by the door, prob­a­bly the dog bis­cuit offer­ing — those are cer­tainly new. The neon sign could go both ways — maybe orig­i­nal? Our reflected awning is likely orig­i­nal, if not restored. But the horse — what of the horse? Def­i­nitely weather-worn, and from an ear­lier day when the motor cas­ings were still metal instead of shock-proof plas­tic. I’ve no idea if it works or not — unfor­tu­nately I’m always bereft of loose change.

Is the restau­rant merely trad­ing on nos­tal­gia and rep­u­ta­tion? Do they have gen­uine respect for the his­tory of such a space, or are they lever­ag­ing the horse to hook tourists into spend­ing some quick cash? I should say that I don’t know at all — but I would imag­ine that the new own­ers are prob­a­bly on the “respect and restore” side of the coin than the “appro­pri­ate and abuse” the past viewpoint.

Kiddie Ride

This pho­to­graph was made on a rainy after­noon in June 2015, with 35mm Supe­ria X-TRA 400 in my Leica M3.

Photo Exploration: Nurse Log in Percy Warner Park, May 2015

May 31, 2015 at 7:40 pm

It had been a long time since I’d clam­bered into the woods, dirt under hands and scrap­ing knees, to make that metic­u­lously framed photo. The more found-and-street pho­tog­ra­phy I do, the less of the compose-recompose-recompose-again process I had done. Last week­end was just such an oppor­tu­nity. Walk­ing in Percy Warner Park there was up on a hill a large tree that had fallen across another tree and, over time, twisted away and set­tled on the ground. In the future it will prob­a­bly be a nurse log for other growth. Unfor­tu­nately it was a good was up that hill and too far for any lens to get it from the road. It was a very cloudy day mak­ing hand­held shots tricky at best, and this being under cover of trees I had no choice except to scram­ble up car­ry­ing my tri­pod to setup for the shot.

Nurse Log, Percy Warner Park. May 2015

Shoot­ing with the Leica M3 at 35mm can be tricky. On the tech­ni­cal detail side, this was made with the Leica M3 with a 35mm f/2.8 lens. Expired T-Max 400 shot at 200, f/11 at 1/2 sec­ond. With that 35mm lens there is an attach­ment to the viewfinder to ensure proper fram­ing, but when the cam­era is low to the ground in an already uncom­fort­able sit­u­a­tion, it’s tough to ensure that the setup is just the way you want it. With a lit­tle time and patience, that part came together.

Next was meter­ing and set­ting the shut­ter. Get­ting the expo­sure down is thank­fully a breeze with my hand­held meter. Since it was a long expo­sure, a self-timer was going to be used. With the Leica there is a strange lit­tle half-winder on the front that you set, trip to start, and then when the winder fin­ishes it fires the shut­ter. It takes a few tries to trust it — espe­cially as the winder can run whether or not the expo­sure has already been tripped by the shut­ter button.

But when all was done, the photo was made and can now be shared.

Photo Exploration: Military Street, Hamilton Alabama. August 2014

August 20, 2014 at 11:37 pm

When you drive down the road on a sunny day, some­times you have a cam­era in hand and it’s setup for 1/500 sec expo­sure. Maybe man­u­ally setup for f/11 and hyper­fo­cal con­ver­gence. Burn­ing through a few frames, or more. And there is one shot, maybe, when it is worth stop­ping. But where on earth are you? Film doesn’t give you much by way of coor­di­nates. If you’re lucky, you can remem­ber the most recent town, or some­thing unique about where you turned around to trace back a quar­ter mile to find that shot.

Military Road, Hamilton Alabama

This photo was made early August of 2014 on a drive from Nashville to Colum­bus, MS. It was only after I devel­oped the film that I real­ized I wasn’t really all that sure where I had been. It cer­tainly wasn’t going to come up in a search for Tex­aco sta­tions between the two points.

Grate­fully there are plenty of ways to trace one’s steps. Work­ing back­wards from the end of my drive, look­ing at a Google Maps satel­lite view along High­way 17 in Alabama, I was able to find where the above was taken. 34.170103, –87.962499. The street view is from Decem­ber 2013, and you can see the branches bare. The tree seems much more frag­ile then, as if it could be ripped out of the ground with­out effort. But in the sum­mer, it seems that within a few years the entire loca­tion will be one mass of green.

It was occu­pied at least since 1989, when System3 gaso­line was intro­duced. And prob­a­bly much more recently than that. My guess is that it was dam­aged in 2011, pos­si­bly related to the EF5 twister that in that area. This is a snap­shot of a moment of tran­si­tion. I feel the bal­ance very pre­car­i­ously in this spot. Will we come to clean our mess? And, fur­ther, will we come to clean the mess that we were handed by nature, in a way? Or will we let nature take back what was claimed by storms?

I felt like a tourist there. I was no more invested in this space than I am when I visit ancient won­ders. I admire those who built it, and I even more so, in some ways, admire those who knew to walk away. “Yes we are OPEN” — was that left as a bit of jest? As a state­ment say­ing we will be back? It is like those places aban­doned mid-meal, when some ter­ror or need was so great that all was left behind with hope of return­ing, but maybe know­ing in some sliver that no one would be com­ing back. And now it is cap­tured in film, in this state of tran­si­tion, forever.

 

[EDIT: Oth­ers have noted that the EF5 tor­nado passed a few miles north of the ser­vice sta­tion. So, dam­age is prob­a­bly not from the tor­nado itself but I would still guess from the related storm]

Photo Exploration: Theo in the Backyard, June 2014.

June 24, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Theo, June 2014

Theo play­ing in the back­yard as we do a lit­tle lawn main­te­nance. He really loves his “dig­gers and dumpers.”

When you play with expired film, some­times you get a mash of spotty color and weak con­trast. This roll turned out fine, and I’m grate­ful. There are some other shots of Theo, but this is the one I really took as a favorite. There aren’t any par­tic­u­larly amaz­ing mes­sages com­ing from this, but it is still a nice “day in the life” work.

I’m spend­ing more of my time work­ing on series for show, get­ting gallery work together and really striv­ing for a more “fine art” pre­sen­ta­tion. It’s a bit exhaust­ing, and it doesn’t always give me the space to just shoot. I’ve got­ten more hes­i­tant about shar­ing work on social media, as if the responses won’t be hon­est enough. I want to just work with shar­ing­prints these days, but even that has become a block and I’m not print­ing as much as I was ear­lier this year. I feel that if I bring this work out into the world, I need a wor­thy place to present and dis­cuss. And that’s still being searched for.…maybe indefinitely.

All that said, I like this photo as it takes me away from all that navel gaz­ing and is just a nice time hang­ing out with Theo.

Photo Exploration: Rotten 2. December 2013.

April 15, 2014 at 1:07 pm

This photo is (prob­a­bly) my favorite from my Rot­ten series.

Rotten 2

In this series I pho­tographed food that would oth­er­wise have been dis­carded. I pro­duced this work as a play on the tra­di­tional still life and a reflec­tion of my own habits.
I became frus­trated with the amount of waste leav­ing my own home. At the same time I was enam­ored with col­ors and tex­tures that appeared when food, espe­cially fruit, was left to rot.

By tak­ing light­ing cues from the Old Mas­ters and uti­liz­ing bro­ken, dried, molded or oth­er­wise unap­pe­tiz­ing pro­vi­sions as sub­ject mat­ter, I jux­ta­posed some of our tra­di­tional pre­sen­ta­tions of edi­ble beauty with our waste.

This work also speaks to the lux­ury of my abil­ity to con­sider the scrap­ping of food when a great many com­mu­ni­ties can­not. Our con­tin­ued refine­ment of food pro­duc­tion enables us to have greater con­trol over appear­ances until it reaches our home, but after­wards we eas­ily dis­card that which devel­ops an unpleas­ant appear­ance. Even if the food main­tains qual­ity, we will quickly dis­pose of that which looks unap­peal­ing. Granted, some of the ele­ments used in this work were lit­er­ally dis­gust­ing, but much of the mate­r­ial could have been eaten or oth­er­wise reused with­out ill effect.

With this work I explore con­cepts of what is appeal­ing, suc­cu­lent and edi­ble while explor­ing my own stan­dards of that which sus­tains. This work ven­tures to bring the focus back to ordi­nary decay and nat­ural cycles. With the desire for cleaner, newer, brighter, shinier or clearer sub­stance we read­ily dis­card that which is still — or even more — beau­ti­ful once left to nature’s own processes

Photo Exploration: Self, Exit/In. January 2014

March 4, 2014 at 12:34 pm

They say never meet your heroes. I’ve found that be mostly true, espe­cially with musi­cians. I can recall numer­ous shows where the per­former dis­ap­pointed me. Either in energy, or pre­sen­ta­tion, or just being not that great onstage. But Self’s 20th anniver­sary release show for Sub­lim­i­nal Plas­tic Motives blew that mantra away. The show was sim­ply incred­i­ble. I enjoyed the open­ing bands (espe­cially Glos­sary), and when the open­ing notes of Bora­teen started up I was over the moon. Thanks to Exit/In for open­ing up such a great venue for the show, and thanks to Matt Mahaf­fey and the rest of the band for doing a show in Nashville.

I’ve touched on con­cert pho­tog­ra­phy before, and I’d say that the num­ber one issue with such work is the phys­i­cal loca­tion. Venue’s can have vary­ing rules on where/what to shoot, the light­ing can be dif­fi­cult (at best), and staff aren’t always the most under­stand­ing when it comes to pho­tog­ra­phers want­ing (or need­ing) to get “the shot.” For­tu­nately this night didn’t need any sneak­ing or cajol­ing, either to get my cam­era into the club or to take pho­tos. Although it was my only time to visit Exit/In, I have high hopes for return vis­its. I espe­cially like that to reach the facil­i­ties, one must walk up a set of stairs right by the stage. It was from this van­tage point I made the pho­to­graph below.

self-and-friends-wesleyduffeebraun-009

Self, Exit/In. Jan­u­ary 2014

There is always the feel­ing of “Did I shoot too much? Did I still some­how miss the shot?” with con­certs. They last for hours and most per­form­ers are so ener­getic they move far too quickly for the required (rel­a­tively slow) shut­ter speed to get enough light. Addi­tion­ally, in the dark­ened room pretty much every­thing looks good on the camera’s LCD dis­play. So it is a mish-mash of shoot­ing a whole lot of pho­tos and throw­ing out an amaz­ingly large num­ber of them — even those that looked great the night before in pre­view. But, with a lit­tle prac­tice, once can incor­po­rate the dif­fi­cul­ties above and find some treasures.

For instance, by the end of a long show the musi­cians may be sweaty, disheveled, even a lit­tle drunk (or oth­er­wise ine­bri­ated). Maybe they have slowed down — they aren’t quite as ani­mated, but more expres­sive. The crowd may have even thinned out a lit­tle so you can stay longer in the prime spots. I took plenty of shots from the front of the stage, but this side image I really love. Matt has been play­ing these notes for a long, long time and I some­times won­der how artists who have been per­form­ing the same work through mul­ti­ple decades keep the music fresh for them­selves. I think there must be some sort of a med­i­ta­tive state, some­thing mind­ful and yet with­out active con­trol. Where the right actions hap­pen nat­u­rally, and that frees up the musi­cian to really hear the rest of the expe­ri­ence — the other per­form­ers, the crowd, maybe their own heart­beat. To step into the void, so to speak.

And I think about my own pho­tog­ra­phy, my own moments of shooting-without-thinking, and per­haps that’s why I really love con­cert pho­tog­ra­phy. When the air between the stage and the lens opens up, and the musi­cian and the pho­tog­ra­pher let their media engage with­out human inter­fer­ence — just human motivation.