Friday, January 30, 2009

The Passing of Another Legend

In my morning email there was a note from friend & client Gail Simmons alerting me to the passing of folk/blues/jazz legend John Martyn. John died in Ireland yesterday and will be sorely missed among his many fans.
Born Iain David McGeachy in Surrey, England, John spent much of his childhood in Scotland, eventually becoming a fixture of the London folk scene in the early 1960's. Often linked with the late British musician Nick Drake, John's first commercial success came about in 1973 with the release of what many consider to be a defining British folk album Solid Air, the title track written for & dedicated to Drake.
John developed a distinct guitar sound throughout his work in the '70's, playing an acoustic guitar through various effects including a fuzzbox, phase shifter and echoplex... the analog predecessor of today's digital delay effects. Many of today's popular guitarists, including U2's The Edge and Pink Floyd's David Gilmour can attribute their technique and sound to these early works of Martyn. As a songwriter, Martyn penned many classics, including May You Never, a song later recorded by Eric Clapton, that version hitting the charts. His voice could alternate between a soft, sweet, melodious folkie tone to a powerful growl. Although his work never launched him into superstar status, he was a revered and respected cult figure for nearly forty years.
About ten years ago, John Martyn spent nearly a month living in the upcountry area of Maui, staying with Maui's master woodworker and furniture-maker Peter Naramore. While on the island, John performed at impromptu gatherings of small groups of friends & performed a public show at Cassanova Restaurant in Makawao. A notorious hard-drinker and difficult character, John reportedly soon wore out his welcome and returned to his home base in the UK where he continued to perform and record. 
Below is a clip of John performing May You Never back from 1973. I hope that as he laid his head down for the last time, there was a hand for him to hold.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

New Tear Sheets

The current issue of Modern Luxury Hawaii is on newsstands now. Inside are two portraits commissioned by the magazine and shot on assignment on the Island of Oahu in early November. First is Donne Dawson, Hawaii State Film Commissioner and former classmate of President Barack Obama. The second portrait is of Ron Bright, a spry 75 year old fixture of the Honolulu Community Theater scene and mentor to many of Hawaii's stage & screen talent. The portraits were included in a feature story titled "Arts & Power 2008".

More Of What's Going On...

Taxes! That's what's going on today... filing end of year GET reports, getting the accounting ready for my accountant... mountains of paperwork that will simply result in the fact that another fat wad of cash will go to the government for more wrongheaded schemes & bailouts. Selah!

The other thing that's going on is WORK! Yes... work, or the ripe potential of work is coming in the door. Last week, lots of art reproduction work, a two day assignment for one of the state's most talented graphic design firms (with more to come I'm told), and promotional photos of a local and very excellent jazz duo. This week discussions are underway for a new campaign for a locally produced boutique Vodka (there will definitely be a wrap party after this one!), requests for estimates for a Big Island resort's food & beverage images, a scheduled meeting with a Wailea resort about new food & beverage photos, room interiors and lifestyle images. If any or all of this pans out, things will be OK around here for the next few months.

I've got to say this is a welcome bit of activity after the fear & loathing of the past few months.

What's Going On

I wrote earlier in the week about rediscovering my love for film and for the methodical process of large format photography. Now, I'm anxious to begin using these tools again in my assignment work. The downside is that Polaroid no longer makes my favorite proofing film, Type 55 or any other instant films any longer. The ability to "proof each shot is essential in a commercial/editorial setting prior to committing the image to transparency film. Art directors need to be able to approve concept, composition & lighting in advance of making the actual photographs. 

Fuji has recently introduced a new 4x5 color instant film FP-100C. This proofing film comes in packs of 10 sheets and appears to require a specialized film holder. Rumor has it that a B&W version is in the works. I always preferred proofing shots in B&W, even when the final image was to be rendered in full color. Color polaroids always had a ghastly greenish cast and the B&W Type 55 included a negative that was a superior means of checking focus & depth of field. I doubt that the new B&W Fuji instant film emulsions will also contain a negative, but I might be forced to give them a try anyway.

There is the possibility of some good news on the instant film/polaroid front. A group of eccentric businessmen in Europe have recently purchased the rights to produce specific polaroid products, have leased equipment and a factory that formerly was used to produce polaroid films and have embarked on The Impossible Project. These guys plan on instant color films similar to and usable in the old SX-70 Polaroid Cameras in 2010. If successful, perhaps we will see the eventual manufacture of products similar to the old Type 55 films. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Annie Leibovitz: "At Work"

I finally got my hot little hands on a copy of Annie's latest book "At Work" a few days ago. While it does make for some moments of insightful reading, let's just say that as a writer, Annie is a great photographer. Just the same, the tome was inspiring at times. There's not a whole lot of new information contained in the pages, nor is there much in the way of "new work". There are some interesting moments... rare glimpses of vulnerability as she describes her uncertainty about how to proceed a a few photo sessions. I found it interesting to read about how she learned to adjust her exposures in order to make her images print optimally from the early days of shooting B&W negative and prints for reproduction in the original, newsprint format of Rolling Stone, to her beginning to shoot transparency films for the slicker RS formats that came along as years progressed. 

There are chapters where she discusses specific portrait assignments, equipment issues and advice for photographers. Still... not a lot of detailed info is presented but, if you're a photographer and/or a fan of Annie's work, it's worth a read. 

Monday, January 26, 2009

Falling In Love With Film Again...

For the past couple of weeks I have been busy shooting large format (4x5) transparencies of artwork for a new client. Until just a few short years ago, this was a staple of my studio business, my bread & butter work so to speak. Then... along came the revolution in digital SLR's and everything changed. I put away the studio's ®Sinar view camera, largely abandoned my in-house darkroom and committed myself to learning and using the new technologies. Besides... the daily doing business with fine-artists was all too frequently maddening. 
Now, after more than 5 years of primarily shooting digital, I have again dusted off the view camera, cleaned out the darkroom, ordered E-6 chemistry and fired up my in-studio E-6 processing line. It's like falling in love again. The need to work slowly & methodically with these types of cameras, the delayed gratification of waiting for the first processed sheets of film to emerge wet from the processor, waiting for the film to dry and then the careful inspection of each sheet of film over a light table using a loupe... I'd forgotten just how magical the entire process is.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Hope & Change

The spectacle of one million plus crowded on to the Mall in DC to witness the the changing of the guard this week, happy, exuberant, peaceful... it was quite a sight to see. If only they would have packed out their trash with them as they left.

For the past two years now, our new President has been promising Hope & Change. Cliches? Perhaps. Around these parts, however, I'm beginning to see signs of a change for the better and hope on the horizon. For the first time in the past couple of months, the phones have been ringing off the hook, work has been coming in at a very nice & steady pace and it looks like things on the economic front will be OK for the next few months at least. 

All the sudden activity has kept me away from the blog with little time to make entries here. There is much good stuff to write about but suddenly, time is very precious. I promise more next week once I get a handle on the rising assignment tide.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Big Wind Blow Hard

No... the title of this blog entry is not referring to notsoonenoughtobe Ex-President Bush's farewell speech last night. We're talkin' weather here... and here on the Valley Isle we are getting plenty of weather.  High winds from the southwest blowing a steady 35 mph and often gusting up to 50 mph and more have been hammering the island now for the past few days as a severe cold front moves across the island chain. The front is supposed to pass us by late this evening and bring a return to normal trade winds but right now, it is very windy and, at the moment, a heavy rain is pelting my Wailuku studio as this weather front moves closer.
Yesterday morning on the drive in along Maui's north shore, big waves were still rolling in at Hookipa Beach Park, sending clouds of misty spindrift up the faces and over the top of the waves as they peaked, crested and broke. Wave faces were easily 12 ft. plus during the sets but the heavy offshore winds prevented the usual suspects from waxing up & dropping in.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Seeing The Forest & The Trees- Thank You

The fruits of my drive home on friday afternoon.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

RIP Ron Asheton (1948-2009)

                     Photo: ©Rex

Stooges Guitarist Ron Asheton was found dead in his home on January 6th. Cause of death has yet to be released but indicators point to a fatal heart attack.
I remember being about 12 years old and watching a television concert (my first) filmed in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1970. On the bill were Grand Funk Railroad & Alice Cooper. At the time, I was a fledgling fretboard imitator of GFR guitarist Mark Farner and a big fan of Alice's newly released anthem of teenage angst "18". I was really excited to see these two acts beamed into my living room via the television. Oddly enough, it was GFR that I most wanted to see that evening. Their performance, however, left me cold. Alice, on the other hand, left me suitably impressed when he crawled to the edge of the stage dangling a pocket watch and began the mantra "...sleep... bodies need sleep..." and the entire stadium was right there with him.
Also on the bill that night was a band I had never heard of. That band was Iggy & the Stooges and they proceeded to rip thru a fierce & frantic set, the Iggster stage diving into the crowd shirtless & sweating. I had never heard music like this... it was fast, it was furious, it was LOUD. Best of all, it made my parents head explode when they waked into the room to see what all that noise was. I have loved The Stooges ever since.
Below is a short film featuring some great live footage, stills and excerpts from interviews with the Iggster. Aloha Ron. You will be missed.


This morning's email contained a note from UK based photojournalist Karl Blanchet, creator of the online magazine Lunatic. Previously unfamiliar with this particular online publication, I spent a few minutes poking around the latest issue, Lunatic#3. All I can say is...WOW... rich, sumptuous imagery, compelling visual storytelling, clean, modern, design. The work contained is strong.

The goal of Lunatic is to (from the homepage):

"...give(s) the opportunity to photographers to promote original stories and images. It also aims to provide space for creative work within photojournalism.... presenting work from known and unknown talented photographers from all around the world."

Thanks to Karl for the heads up. I'll be looking forward to future issues. Check out the work here... it's well worth the time.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Starting Off The New Year With A New Spread

It's always a good sign when you start the year off early with a nice editorial spread in a widely distributed publication. The new Jan/Feb. issue of Maui No Ka Oi magazine just hit the streets and features just such a spread showcasing the incredible design and execution by dream team architects Johnston & Cassel Design Group. This fabulous condo remodel project involved the skills of contractor/builder extraordinaire Bill Keele, master woodworker Ethan Fierro & his team of artisans and the tastefull & discerning eye of interior designer Gail Simmons, all working together with Dean Johnston, a former master furniture-maker turned architect and his partner John Cassel, an award winning Hollywood set designer turned architect.

Many thanks for MNKO art director/designer Ceci Fernandez for always making her contributors look good in print!