Thursday, October 29, 2009

Parker Posie Jewelry

I get random fits of inspiration.

I was informed by a little birdie that one of my Farenell Girls, Shannon Parker, began dabbling in custom jewelry.

In one of my "what the hell" moments, I asked if she'd have any interest in starting a collaboration of sorts. She sends me the jewelry, I shoot them w/ people wearing them, all three of us (myself, Shan, & the subjects) get usage rights out of them. Viola, everyone's happy.

Shan agreed.

Flying blind (partially done by choice & to preserve maximum flexibility), I was trying to do these as 1-part portraiture (I'm a sucker for those) & 1-part jewelry showcase.

Little would I know until after the fact, that she likes 'em tough. "Fierce" (w/ a couple of exclamation points) was how she enthusiastically described them when I emailed them to her.

It was tough in a lot of ways having to position the model in a specific way so the jewelry designs were actually seen. But I'd like to think I was up to the task.

I'm not saying either of us is any more correct than the other, we're just liking different things about what was produced. But here are a couple of my personal favorites (in no particular order):

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2. I liked these particular creations a lot. I guess I should rephrase. I like them a lot AND my perpetually broke-ass self was able to afford them at just the right time. These were given to my mother for Mother's Day.

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Shanon's favorites:

3. Seeing her "babies" w/ people in everyday clothes, was a compliment made by the jewelry creator for this one. Its something I'll have to remember if I'm blessed w/ ever working w/ her creations again:

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4. Clarification, the bracelet in this shot is the piece in question:

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Its all good though. I'm very happy to help out yet another Farenell Girl.

Feel free & opine if you so choose. All I ask is that you keep it civil.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The First Family Portrait

I am quite amused at the chatter I'm seeing regarding this Annie Leibovitz picture of the First Family:

Some of the comments I've heard.

1- "Its crap. She's breaking all the Photo 101 rules, chopping off hands, bad cropping, white outfits. My professor would be rolling over in his grave."

2- "That's the best she could do for the most important family in the world? That's it?"

3- "Sorry it’s a crappy shot. I could do a better job."

4- (paraphrasing) Another was bitching about how a control image freak like the Obamas could let crap like this get by.

5- "No forethought was put into this at all."

6- "Where's the dog? People trust their Presidents when they have a dog...well, except for Nixon."

My responses...

1R- There's more to an image than following the rules. There's a thing called capturing your subject's emotional connection w/ the camera & (if applicable) to each other. Lord knows if we viewed Diane Arbus's work in the same way, they'd all be thrown in the trash bin.

2R- I guess this responder has never heard of playing to your audience. In this case its Miss Leibovitz's employer, Vanity Fair, & by extension, its readers. The First Family, if they had any say in the matter to start w/, were probably looking for something that makes them look semi-normal but also showcases their familial connections to each other.

3R- I hear this a lot when people criticize Richard Avedon's work. Yes, something may be crap. If you can do a better job, put your money where your mouth is & do it. People forget (or choose to ignore) that being a good businessman is not really about producing the best product overall, its about producing the best product you can but more importantly, being the right fit for your client.

4R- Had this person said this during the 2008 Presidential campaign, I probably would have agreed. But things have changed, for better or worse. A bickering legislature, 2 wars that are still dragging on, appointees having considerable dirty laundry of their own, being embarrassed on national TV by Representative "You Lie."

5R- If no forethought was put into this image, that would mean that she got lucky. I could only dream of being even 1/4 that lucky & on a consistent basis as she. I'd also disagree about the no forethought opinion. The children are grouped closest to the parent that resembles them. Older daughter & mother dressed in predominantly a black wardrobe. Younger daughter & father dressed in predominantly white. Hands interlocking & our leaning on the parents to draw a further connection as a family.

6R- Ok, I've got no real answer for that. LOL

I'm certainly no cheer leading fan of the President but I can certainly empathize w/ him & by extension his family. Anyone who in less than 7 days can go from being vilified for "losing" an Olympic Games selection & turn around & still be vilified for "winning" a Nobel Peace Prize (decisions neither of which he had any control of whatsoever), all I can do is shrug my shoulders & shake my head.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Harvard Square Hijinks


This past week I came down w/ some seasonal disease or whatever. I pretty much ALWAYS get something when the weather swings crazy from hot to cold & vice-versa. Gotta love livin' in the Northeast as well as being half dead & narced up on over-the-counter antihistamine while popping Vitamin C tablets likes its Halloween candy.

Going into photojournalism mode is always an adventure. I know I've said that before w/ my model shoots but on a scale of 1 to 10, my model shoots range usually range from 4.5 to 7. The more complications entailed, the higher it goes. Shooting news stuff ranges from anywhere from a 6.5 to 9, for the same reasons.

I just never know what kind of characters I'll encounter, what their reactions will be, how I'll deal w/ it, etc.

Which leads me into yet another entertaining antcedote regarding this image:


The image was taken this past summer during my stay in Boston. Its specifically at a park outside of Harvard Square.

The story behind this shot was that some old guy looking like a scraggier version of Robert E Lee was convinced I took a picture of him (I didn't). To appease him, I agreed to delete it & continued shooting. He caught on that I hadn't done so, so he asked to see me do it. I refused. He raised his voice while I continued shooting.

I pointed out that since all this was happening on public property & that I'm a taxpayer, I had as much of a right to take pictures as he does. If he doesn't like it, I encourage him to spend his time at his private dwelling.

He reminded me that he was in this neighborhood a lot & that if ever I was walking across the Harvard Campus at late at night, he wasn't going to get any help from him. W/o mentioning that I wasn't expecting to be at the Harvard campus late at night, I replied that I'd keep that in mind.

He raised his voice again insisting that I delete his phantom image. By this time, I shift my camera neck strap so its over my head & through one of my armpits because I'm thinking he's going to pull a "whoops" bump into me while slapping my camera to the ground. I continued shooting but in the end, it never came to that.

He soon left to go complain to a compatriot. I got what I was looking for, took that as my cue to go off on my own merry way.

So a refresher, while working taking pictures on the street,...

1. Knowing what one is allowed & not allowed to do will go a long way.
2. Though not applicable for this incident, acting/looking like you belong will illicit fewer questions.
3. Though not applicable for this incident, don't act like an asshole as your default position. Most people, like law enforcement, are just honestly curious as to what you're doing.
4. Hold your ground, if you think you'll go farther. Cut your losses, if you've met your personal threshold.
5. None of the above are absolute. Use your best judgement as it pertains to your situation.

I encourage you to opine, comment, whatever, so long as its civil.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Prom Dress Randomness

Anyone who has ever shot w/ me will know that I am horriblely, unpicky when it comes to wardrobe choices. Unless its a super specific idea where the wardrobe is essential for my big picture idea, I almost do not care. Bring what you have, I'll run w/ it.

Even before I began shooting Deborah, the day was what I describe as "blah". Major rainstorms. Cold, like (literally) 55 degrees in mid-July! I'm hungry because I still needed to go grocery shopping. No worries because I have a shoot later that day.

To make this story more entertaining, my model sends me a text that she's passed a certain subway stop. These were per my directions so I could meet her there BEFORE she arrives. So I sat there, one train goes by...then the second, then the third. Ok, I've never had more than 4 trains run past & not have my person show. The fourth one goes by.

I'm not going to lie. I'm starting to think she's simply BS'ing me, to afraid to outright bail so I get strung along. Considering I had a subject, not 2 days prior, message me that she was on the way at 10a & still hadn't arrived by 3p, I was kinda writing Deborah off as a flake. Needless to say I was wrong. Fast-forwarding to the end, Deborah arrives on the EIGHTH subway train.

That in itself makes for comedic copy but we're not done w/ this fish story.

So we walk the 3 blocks from the subway stop to the apartment, afterwards allowing her time to show what she's brought. She pulls this really cool prom dress that she got for $20! She then explains that its so new she hasn't had time to get it tailored. The Marine "improvise, adapt, & overcome" in me, isn't to worried. She takes time to do her makeup & hair while I figure out a work-around.

Fast-forwarding again...

She's in the prom dress & the back is only zipping so far. I'm starting to wonder if I can simply shoot her w/o the dress being loose in the back. Y'know like the running gag in Marilyn Monroe's "Some Like it Hot." A few test shots later, that idea wasn't going to work. I'm looking around the apartment for SOMETHING that will help us out. Nope, clothespins weren't working. Nor did we have any saftey pins handy.

What to do? What to do?

The roommate, who likes to making jewelry in her spare time, did have safety wire in the apartment. A couple holes punched in her dress, wire slipped through, we now have a corset. Presto-improvisio! We're ready to rock & roll.

Since it stopped raining & I was sick of shooting indoors, we ran outside & shot around the neighborhood which ilicited some strange looks by the passers-by (not that we cared).

*insert sinister laugh*

Got bored w/ that & shot in the stairwell of the apartment. Again w/ more passers-by & again, neither of us really cared what they thought. We were happily off in our own little world.

I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE random shoots like this. :-)


Monday, October 12, 2009

Obama's Nobel Peace Prize

I like a lot of people were stunned Friday morning in learning that President Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize "for his work to improve international diplomacy and rid the world of nuclear weapons."

Congratulations to you, Mr. President.

Not to take anything away the honor (its not like Obama lobbied for it anyway) but it certainly makes people wonder what the Nobel committee was thinking, considering that the nomination deadlines were due 2 weeks AFTER he took the oath of office! Ok, many people thought it was a good inauguration speech but I doubt anyway thought it was Nobel worthy. LOL

This leads to a couple of theories.

1. There are some title holders who likely get nominated every year regardless who holds it, in the hopes they'll actually do something to warrant it. The UN Secretary General, the President of the United States, the British Prime Minister, the Dahlahi Lami, the Pope, Director of Unicef, etc.

2. It just goes to show you that EVERYTHING is relative. During last Autumn's Presidential Campaign, I told nearly everyone that either canidate could do an absolute lousey job as President but since they'd be succeeding George W. Bush, they'd come off looking like a million bucks.

Think about it. Reagan was maybe mediocre to an above average President but because he followed Carter's lousey administration (particularly the last year & a half) & combine that w/ him making everyone feel better about themselves, the Old Gipper comes out looking like gold. Same w/ Clinton in a different respect. This is not to say that Bush, Sr was a lousey President, Clinton had that unique ability to A. get people to believe in his vision & B. HELPED create the conditions for people to prosper. If people are prospering, they likely feel good about themselves & their future.

Winning something like the Nobel Prize, any of them for that matter, so early in ones career/life has gotta be pretty dang tough. Its like any author winning the Pulitzer for his debut novel. Its like how the heck does everything that follows measure up?

Good luck to you, Mr President. I certainly do not envy your job.


Taken this past July during my stay in Boston. Its specifically of Government Center. The day inching towards dusk.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

My Loveable Headcases

I was reading Jaimeibarra's blog over on deviantART & it got me thinking.

One will detect an element of reverence, affection, &/or love when I speak about many of my subjects. I've periodically blabbed about my own photo-relationships & it caused me to expand upon the theme.

My style of shooting contains A LOT emotions. I'm almost entirely dependent on developing & establishing a rapport w/ my subjects. This means talking w/ them, getting to know them. Its a buildup in getting them to trust me while also revealing something wholely unique about themselves that they (in many cases) never knew existed. More importantly, I need honesty. Combine the uniquness & honesty, w/ pouring every last ounce of creativity that I can muster and I'm left drained upon a shoot's completion.

Contrary to Hollywood's portrayal, its not sexual. "Clinical" would be better description for I personally work. The bulk of what I do entails people being able to trust me as well as my crazy ideas. Its a waste of energy to hit on them because quite frankly, the creation process takes precedence. I certainly wouldn't be opposed if my subjects hit on me...but that's like different. At least how I'm viewing things, I am the one in a position of trust & I can't be the first one to blink.

Course I'm usually lost in my warped little world so if any girl was interested in me, they could walk up & shake my hand & I probably wouldn't notice. In all seriousness, it likely not THAT bad. It just makes for great comic relief. I am a tragic Red Sox fiend & they've been breakin' my heart since 1988.

There are also "my" headcases which are different than "the" headcases. "My" headcases are those I simply want to wring their necks (& they sometimes mine). They are the ones who no matter how hard we both try, nothing EVER goes as planned. Either the situation sucks; the weather's crappy; Plans A, B, C, D, & E get thrown out the window & I'm basically making it up as I go; Residual friend drama creeping in; whatever. There's often so much stress & intense emotions involved, I usually leave feeling like the entire shoot was a complete waste of time. This is why I like to decompress (2 weeks is usually good) because once said emotions subside, "my" headcase shoots are NO WHERE near as bad as I ever initially think.

"The" headcases are simply the aforementioned problems plus we're just not jiving for any reason. Could be crappy communication; one side simply "isn't feeling it"; something's put one of us in a foul mood; they look nothing like the test pictures they sent &/or those that are in their profile...the list goes on. These are the type of shoots that you remember, learn from them, mention them for comic relief but ultimately, let them die w/ dignity.

Isabel (shown below):

Photobucket one of lovable "my" headcases. Don't worry, I'm not insulting her because we've discussed this very topic long ago. I'm choosing this picutre because of her reaction. "Its so simple, I love it! To many people makes things so elaborate, making (the images & my job) a complete bore."

Our first shoot, she was pregnant & I just didn't get her personality. Left thinking, "Man, this broad is bitchy" & vowed to never work w/ her again. This was my first meeting w/ her baby's father who didn't impress me (more on him later)

Second shoot, I was passing through & she inquired if we wanted to work again. I remembered her initial bitchiness, chalked it up as a hormonal pregnant women, gave her the benefit of the doubt, & shot her again. Our initial plan never made it out the door but as usual leaving me to pull something out my rear.

Another entailed me being like 2 hours late. I swung by a local photographer's place to talk shop over coffee. I was expecting to be in & out in under an hour, maybe 2 tops. Low & behold 4 hours later, I left. I got the tale end of her group shoot thing (its not like I was doing anything that day anyway).

Another one driving through an unsuspecting snowstorm & thus having my vehicle slide off the road. That was fun. *rolls eyes*

The most memorable was the baby's father creating a stink (no pun intended) in the hopes of getting her custody agreement revoked. The claim was "we all were smoking weed in front of the little one." This is quite curious because I was shooting Izzy outside in the backyard) & had formally turned over the baby's visitation to the father. If he stormed out like he testified in court, how was watching the baby?

This resolution entailed me leaving work at 4a (I was working an overnight at the time), driving 2 hours, dressing for the family court hearing in case they wished to have me testify (I volunteered). I didn't "need" to be there but in my book, the possiblity of losing ones kid is a big thing, so I willingly made the sacriface. As Murphy's Law would have it, my transmission died (ah, gotta love beater cars) which required a rescue from one of my friends.

I think we had a few other shoots scattered hear & there but I've kinda lost count.

Its pretty safe to say that Isabel's personality is an acquired taste.Our work relationship has become more than the usual model-photographer relationship, we consider each other friends. This is not a term I throw around lightly.

I adore all my Farenell Girls but especially "my" lovable headcases.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Breast Cancer w/ Ashley & Ann

As stated in my 1 Oct blog, I'm involved in a Breast Cancer Awareness series. Knowing how I operate this will probably be a lengthy process...I'm not complaining considering the circumstances.

While I was in Boston this past summer, I was blessed in being approached by Ashley. She was enthusiastic about the series because the issue was very much in the moment.

Somewhere along the way, I discovered her mom had a mastectomy & in one of my WTH moments, I invited her mom presuming she felt up to it. Maybe they'd be interested in doing some mother-daughter stuff. Maybe she was more interested in staying in the background offering emotional support to her daughter. I dunno.

A reason why I like my editorial projects is that EVERYONE has their own story. It can be cathartic for them. But simply having them describe their struggles, helps me brainstorm, not to mention, its interesting to hear the variation in details.

At the time we shot, Ann was 2-weeks post-op. As she described it, she was just starting to get back on her feet but because of the recovery, she hadn't quite gotten a sense of her own limits. As sometimes happens, I was mesmerized by my subject, Ann, & thankfully Ashley called put a stop to things due to her mom's shaking. When I get mesmerized & intensely focused, I kinda have a situational awareness blindspot.

We soon called it a wrap. I got what I was looking for & was grateful they allowed me to be a part of their journey.

The shoot left me emotionally drained in a good way for a couple of days. Reflecting on Ann's bravery & how she carried & still carries herself, still leaves me in awe & leaves me a little ashamed.

Working w/ them & experiencing their battle reinforces the notion that there's more to life than materialistically, ephemeral things.


Feel free to comment, suggest, opine, whatever as you see fit, so long as you keep it civil.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

As many of you may know, I often have random thoughts (particular when alcohol is involved). "Why do we drive on parkways & park on driveways?" "How did military intelligence get its name when it seems like its anything but?" "Why do people knock masturbation when its at least sex w/ someone you love?" "What are the mythological archetypes between today's heroes & what links do can be made drawn upon established heroes from the distant past?" "Where can I find directions & the supplies to build a working Star Wars lightsaber?"

In fairness, none but the last are a Farenell Photography original but it does kinda illustrate how scatter-brained my mind works.

All kidding aside, my editorial instincts were reignited recently in wanting to do something w/ a social message. I'm still actively working on my "Critique of the Unsatisfied Relationship" series...


...& my "Grip of Anorexia" series...


...but either my ideas, my subjects personal stories, or my ability to translate them to a visual medium is not speaking as clearly as they used to. Whatever the deal is, I'm in a holding pattern. Stuff like this happens all the time, so I'm not to worried about it.

Somewhere along the way I got thinking about cancer. According to my mom, my maternal grandmother was constantly afraid of that while growing up. I think it had something to do w/ it running in the family. Not sure exactly. Then my thoughts drifted to she & my little sister. Then I got thinking about all the people I worked w/, 95% of them being women. This is not to say I don't mind working w/ men, its just a numbers thing.

My shoots are more like a social exercises &, for better or worse, I start to care about what happens w/ them afterwards. Granted they are free-willed individuals & whatnot but I care about their well being long after I've delivered what I was supposed to deliver. This is another reason why I have to actively control my exuberance. Because I'm like one of those knuckleheads who has a one-track mind. If I weren't told to go (expletive deleted), every now & then. I'd probably drive people nuts.

Because I work w/ so many women, it got me thinking about Breast Cancer. If you think about it, the breasts are as much of a physical manifestation of their gender identity as their genitalia is. The difference being breasts can be seen (whether they're covered w/ a bra over a shirt or in a bikini top or bare-chested) in some respect. Just think of how many women get implants in the hopes upsizing will improve their self-esteem. Yes, its overally simplistic but I bring it up to prove a point.

My original idea for this series is to illustrate taking the simplicity of a Richard Avedon BW portrait, combine it w/ selective coloring for the pink bow, combine my models being topless to drive the point home, & viola, Breast Cancer Awareness!

Like my Ana series, the overall hope is that the more people discuss a taboo subject, the more likely that an individual will be brave enough to take the treacherous first steps they may need to get said help. Again, probably overally simplistic but that's the premise I'm running under.

In terms of this project...I've tried playing w/ the ribbons as stand-alone cuffs (like how the old school Playboy bunny waitresses) but were dropped due to me sucking when it comes to figuring out what to do w/ hands. The toplessness was also dropped as a prerequisite when I continued to ran into the complication of having volunteers who were gun-shy about baring their breasts for a good cause. Considered everything & left the toplessness simply as an option if they were open to doing so. Nice to have to drive home the point but not completely necessary.

All that being said, I used Nancy (shown below) was my first volunteer.


This entire series is a work in progress. Hopefully, its one I'm able to do more regularly if I can get more volunteers.

If anyone has any suggestion in actually recruiting Breast Cancer patients, I'm all ears. I was blessed w/ working w/ one & her daughter while out in Boston & it was one of the most worthwhile draining shoots I've ever done (you'll be seeing some of those later this month).

Feel free to opine about any part of this entry if you wish to do so. Just keep it civil.