30 August 2008

The Road to Phoenix

"Metalworks in back of the P.A.M."

This weekend I am doing nothing but editing photos. I've got a nice backlog of material to pour through. Over the last month, things have really shaken up on my end. I'm having to get used to working a night shift. As of yet, I've still been unable to manage my normal habits of eating and sleeping. I am still attempting to get normal daily activities done during the day and before you know it, I realize I have to get ready to go back to work again! Then it turns into a battle of sheer will and determination to stay awake and do my job. In addition to that, my computer was down for a while until I was able to get it replaced, (thanks Garrett), and not long after that, I ended up relocating into a different residence. Its has been a whirlwind, to say the least.

Last weekend was another spontaneous and impromptu road trip. This time I went to Phoenix. There's no adventuresome or daring outdoor feats of bravery or skill involved, but it does get a little...odd. Okay, let me give you some brief background info. My kids have spent most of their lives in Tennessee which is where they are now. They are both grown up now. They had a childhood best friend whom was at my house all the time partially because my ex-wife did home daycare, but also because she lived in the neighborhood and visited often. Well, when she was 10, she moved away to Arizona. I hadn't seen or heard from this child until a year ago when she found me on the web and contacted me about doing a photo shoot with her. She is no longer a child. She goes by the moniker, Tish Terror.

I initially objected! But over the course of time, I concented. She's over 18 now and makes up her own mind. Setting all weirdness aside, my main concern was that her mom was gonna track me down and beat my ass! Well, thankfully that hasn't happened (yet). I think the shoot was a little awkward for the both of us initially. I think we'll do better work, the next time we shoot. Most often that's the case anyway. A first time nude shoot can be disconcerting to say the least for any young art model. All in all, we had lots of fun and the trip was one of the best road trips yet.

Felix and Summer came along on two days notice! That's why I love them. I want to say a special thank you to Sue Robinson at the Marriott TownePlace Suites in Phoenix. I had a problem with my room arrangements when I got down there. I had requested a room with a separate sleeping area from the living room at a sister property just in front of the Towne Place Suites. Sue got me a room in her hotel that not only had my original request but she also got us a room that had seperate bedrooms. THEN she dolled up Summer's room with candy and BEN & JERRY'S! It was a huge surprise for Summer who drove the entire 5 and a half hours, there and back. The bedding was the best I've slept on in a while. So you know where I'll be staying when I head back to Phoenix. It was adorable with excellent rates. I fully recommend it.

In addition to that (yes, this was a full weekend), we shot downtown Phoenix late that night. Surprisingly, there was not much activity going on for a major city on the weekend. It was certainly not like Vegas which may be an unfair comparison. We also got to visit the Phoenix Art Museum and check out my man, Edward Weston's MEXICO exhibit. This work was part of his time before Charis Wilson of whom I am much more familiar. His muse at during this time period is Tina Modotti, who also became an avid photographer. It would seem that Edaward would have not gotten very far without the women in his life. Both Modotti and Wilson made major contributions to his efforts in photography.

So now, I am going to attempt catching up with my photo edits this weekend, get organized into my new place with Jeff, and figure out how I'll make all of this work out. You can expect some more images from some other models I shot while interviewing for upcoming photo workshops for my Las Vegas Art Models Group. They'll be coming soon.

27 August 2008


Short and simple this time. More to come soon.

Welcome back, Chris St. James of Univers d' Artistes. We have missed you at the helm, my friend. I breathe easy, now.


20 August 2008

Because Unbearable Lightness said...

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

"...all photographs are self-portraits." - Minor White

"Go ahead. Post that baby!" - Unbearable Lightness

I'm almost willing to guess that I am probably the only nude art photog posting images of himself. At least as far as guys are concerned I guess. You don't see a Dave Rudin or a Dave Levingston doing this, but there are several people on deviantART who only post images of themselves. Why am I doing it... because Unbearable Lightness said so. I made a joking remark in the comment section of my latest post about Kolob Reservoir and the Narrows which has resulted in this post. But to be honest, its not all on UL. I've been wanting to do a project with myself as the model for some time. I had planned it since I was in school and just never did. I've been an art model since 1998 and was regular at it for at least 6 years. Then it became a not so regular thing. I'd pose for friends needing a subject and then while in Grad school from oh-5 til 0h-7, I'd volunteer for a weekly gig at the Murray Art Guild in KY on Wednesday mornings. Most people are under the perception that modeling like this is easy work. Most of the models who worked with me also had the same imagination. They don't think like that anymore. Figure modeling for an art drawing class will let you know real quick if you have what it takes to do it. You get a pretty good idea right after the first 5 minutes into your pose.

I've loved being an art model. I've always found the roll as highly under appreciated, yet it has been such a necessity in art since the beginning of time. This is the primary reason I started the Las Vegas Art Models Group, although I admit I am still trying to get more of a balanced focus on Art Modeling and not so heavy on photography. I read and reviewed Sarah R. Phillips' book, "Modeling Life" and reviewed it in 3 parts on my blog: Part I, Part II, Part III (In fact the book is in arm's reach of me now.) I know its impractical, but I'd like to see more photographers taking a chance doing this. Experience on both ends of the lens gives so much insight and appreciation to an art model's perspective. I am certain it has served well in my success in working with models. Granted, I know that not every photog should be nude in front of the camera. I'm going to go out on a limb and say its probably easier for a female photographer to do it than for males. When you think of fine art nudes, a dude is not the first impression that comes to mind. In many cases, photogs who shoot nudes, don't do guys. I think in all, I've done about 5, some of which were part of a couple shoot. But I think you'd be surprised at yourself if you tried it. Besides, many of the greats have done self portraiture. Oh, by the way, feel free to click on the hyperlinks. Lots of good info there.

I'm still going to work on a self-portrait project, but for now, these none-project nudes will have to work. The first one is one of the few times I've posed with my model. I did this without a release from the model so while I have the print, I chose to blur her facial features prior to placement on the web. The next one is my first attempt at doing a self-project, but I didn't really like the results and didn't follow up on it, but I will. The third image is from the recent trip to the Narrows. That's a knee brace I am wearing. This is the one I was ordered to post by UL.

16 August 2008

New Beginnings

Last "Calvin and Hobbes" Comic Strip by Bill Watterson

Eleven days...
That's how long its been since my last post. I've been handling a few life changes lately that have been exhaustive to say the least. My works schedule has recently changed to a night shift and its definitely taking some getting used to. Rest doesn't come easy while trying to sleep in the mornings. However the most significant change has to deal with my recent relocation. Oh, I still reside in Vegas and actually not too far from my former residence. I won't go into details but suffice to say, a move was necessary. I was invited to stay with art model groupie, Jeff who has attended quite a few of my workshops and we've done a few excursions and scout trips together. Its still taking somewhat of an adjustment to get used to all this. I have yet to really call any place a home since selling my house and leaving Tennessee. Since then, I've lived out of boxes. The two years I was in Murray, KY while attending grad school, I moved twice. Even here in Vegas, I never really unpacked with the exception of essentials. I miss having a home. Where will I next call home, I wonder...

I've been experiencing certain freedoms, most notably with Felix. I plan to expand that notion even more. I had a birthday on 08-08-08 which my Mom says means "New Beginnings, as she wrote in my birthday card. The above Calvin and Hobbes comic strip was one of the first things I saw hanging up in Jeff's living room. There were other confirmation signs that seemed to pop up with the same theme. Its time for a new beginning then.
Needless to say, I'm no spring chicken, although I still kick ass hanging with kids half my age. I need to get into better shape if for no better reason than to continue rehabbing my knee injured on a military training accident. Still, in terms of strength, speed, and stamina, I've been surprised to find that I can still hold my own with these youngsters. Just ask my son! But I digress, I want to set a goal of camping at least once a month for a year. Can I do it?...Is it practical?...Don't know. The point of the matter is that I'm interested in experiencing life. I'm done with drama. I'm done with wasting time. I'm done with killing myself for a job, creditors, and people who don't contribute back. I want to lead a healthier life with a different lifestyle that suits me better than what I've been doing and I plan to surround myself with like-minded people. Travel is on the agenda. Exploration is the whole reason I've come out West.

Felix and Summer are like that. In fact, I've recommended that Summer start blogging along with Felix's photography much in the same fashion that Lin Bang does over there on Fluffytek with hubby Richard. He's the shooter. She's the writer, (as well as his muse). It was kind of interesting because when I brought up the idea to Felix, he and Summer had just been discussing the idea of doing just that. So henceforth has come The Monkey Chronicles, authored by Summer detailing their excursions and adventures in the pursuit of life documented in photographs. You get the mind of Felix from his images. Summer's are illustrated in her words. Isn't that a great complimentary combination. As a matter of fact, the last discovery of this magnitude was back in 1928 when Harry Burnett Reese first combined chocolate and peanut butter. Who knew?

Switch gears...

It was interesting that my website has recently doubled in traffic this month. I haven't really explored why that is or from where the traffic stems. I can see the rankings of my images and statistical information. I've had a few people inquire as to top images, top models, and such. So I give you the top 5. I've mentioned before that the top model continues to be Trisha whom I'd like an opportunity to do again. She's obviously a bit more "open" than most of my models and can tend to push the boundaries of comfort zones for some people who might suggest she had other motives. She had desire to see herself the way men are perceived to look at and desire her. This is, in a way, her method of stepping out of herself and then looking back on herself in the same fashion that a guy might view her. It was an interesting project and I admire her boldness to do it, her brilliance for the concept, and I appreciate her willingness to let me share our work. Her eagerness to shoot again is another reason I need to travel more. And understand, I was hesitant to put these particular images up. They are not part of the original series I posted. She was still the rankingest model on my site even before this more explicit series went up. She's got two images in the top 5 and then 3 more for the top 10.

Next is the lovely Lessa, who posed in my LVAMG a few months back. Her images haven't been up long enough to rank higher over the last year, but for this month, her's is the next in hits. She also has the highest view images for purchase considerations. There's also Elizabeth, whom I did an excellent series on. She comes in as number 4. (Another one of Trisha's images was 3). And rounding out the top 5 is Laura who was the first model I shot after moving here last year. She's also got the number one image for the year in terms of hits. However her images have a full 6 month head start on the newer set of Trisha's images. The one spread-eagle shot is gaining ground very quickly. And that was expected. Va-JayJay shots are always going to get the most views and its remained a topic of discussion since forever. Some models have a stipulation of "No Pink" showing or no spread leg shots. I continue to respect a model's personal boundaries as well as working with those who are open to more latitude. I'd like to think that these images are getting hits for their artistic aesthetics, but I don't kid myself. I just keep shooting whats exposed to my lens.

05 August 2008

Kolob Reservoir and the Narrows

"They came from Salt Lake"

"Thank you, for serving! Peace and Love!" -Tristan

Put another great weekend in the books. Did I say that on the last post? Maybe I did, but the truth is the truth. I took off with Felix and Summer again. This time we headed north up into Utah to Kolob Reservoir. Felix and everyone that went got there on Friday evening, but I didn't arrive til that next Saturday morning. I still had errands to complete before I took off for the weekend. I got to meet some very interesting people... Obrah and Candace, Ed and Ashley, Sally, and a few others. It got kind of chilly, surprisingly, but I guess when you're next to a lake, you should expect that. The place was nice. I tried to swim out to an island about 250 meters out, but I got half way and just barely caught my shorts with my big toe before they were certain to be lost to the murky depths. Granted, I'm used to being naked in front of strangers, but hey...this was in the middle of the day and there were plenty of kids around. I don't expect them to receive a mossy grass-covered naked black man too favorably. Several of us played catch football in the water. Footing was very slippery, so leg stability was lost in trying to get an accurate throw. It was still fun to attempt it.

The following day we packed up and headed into Zion to hike the Narrows. It was my second time hiking upstream again, but I wasn't as motivated to take pictures. All I could think about was getting a model in there. I've got someone in mind whom I have talked extensively with about this project. That would be Liliana, from the Bay area. In fact, I've promised to not shoot any other model for this project unless she turned down the project first. The problem is getting her here. She's offered to forego her usual fees in order to work with me provided I can fly her here and take care of her expenses. I've only recently started working and I am almost afraid I'll miss my window of reasonable weather before I can afford to bring here here and ticket prices are rising by the day. Anybody wishing to make a contribution to my efforts are more than welcome to donate using the Amazon Honor System thingie on the right or Paypal. We'd both appreciate the gesture.

Liliana is a lovely girl and I've thought long and hard on the body type and mentality of the model for this project. I should say durability instead of mentality. What I need is a girl that's a bit more hardy than the standard girl from the city. Liliana has the mentality of doing what it takes to make great art and has endured temperature extremes before. I have no intention of taking her for granted or abusing her, don't get me wrong. I won't let her endanger her health or welfare. I've got some other possibilities for more projects requiring hardy models and would like to involve Isobeau from Salt Lake City.

Speaking of Salt Lake... I ran into a hiking group while doing the narrows. Tristan, Carter, Monica, and Madison were coming in from camping in the backcountry at the Narrows. These guys were hiking the entire length of the Narrows. Most visitors start out at the low end and hike up as far as they want, then turn around. To start at the top, you need an overnight permit because there is no way you're going to hike the whole 16 miles in one span of daylight hours. Then again, it might be worth it to try. I met them way back into the river where very few other park patrons dared tread. I hiked with them a little while before I had to pick up the pace to catch Felix and Summer who were already heading back. Tristan caught me off guard when he thanked me for serving in the military. I was wearing my dog tags, which I frequently do, and I have a tattoo of the 101st Screaming Eagles on my left shoulder. People thank me like this often enough, but its still surprises me, I guess. No one ever told me this while I was serving, I don't think. I've talked to a few other soldiers who share the same sentiments. For me, I guess its still a hard thing to say "You are welcome". In some ways, I know there are more who sacrificed and lost so much, to include their lives. Those are they guys who truly deserve our appreciation and it should be extended to their families. I lam truly looking forward to getting to see Tristan and those guys again. I have every intention of heading up to Salt Lake to shoot and would love to hang out with them there.

After it was all said and done, we got back quite late. Getting up to go to work the next morning was a bear. In addition, I was up all night with Felix again the next night. Being a good friend, Felix offered to fix my breaks. Coming down from the mountain did a number on my brake pads and rotors. I knew I was getting close and needed to have them changed, but coming down the mountain just wore them out. I was pretty much metal on metal by the time I got to the bottom. There was a guy in front of us who chose to do 20mph going down. My breaks couldn't take it. I'm good to go now, thanks to Mr. Felix G!
I thought I'd throw in a face I hadn't seen in quite some time. This is Jacinda, whom I've truly missed photographing. We got to do one shoot, with plans for several more, but... well, she got married and doing nudes wasn't conducive to the feelings of the new hubby. Several people have likened her unto Gretta Garbo. She's got that classic old Hollywood stlye of imagry that seems to come out when I shoot her. Yeah, now that I think about it, I need to make a more concerted effort to return to do a new shoot with Jacinda. Good Gracious, she was good.