Yea, But Who Cares? Rolling Stone and the iPhone 7.

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It’s dangerous to romanticize the past too much because it alienates us from the newer generation but I’ll start by say that Rolling Stone Magazine was always a HUGE influence on me and my work.  It was extremely important in helping craft the way I shoot portraits and it will forever remain that for me…a driving force in art, music and rebellion.  In a waterproof box in storage house is the Kurt Cobain Death issue, among others, that I couldn’t bear to toss out.  It was back when RS was fat, thick, large, and lush, full of eye catching photographs and gorgeous, saturated tones.

It’s been a while since I’ve had a subscription to RS although I buy one for plane rides and the occasional political story.  Over the last six years in LA I’ve reached out to them 20 or so times to try to shoot for them.  (They politely ignored my requests)  But the magazine industry has melted into a strange amalgamation of pay walls, websites and throw away content at this point.  Culturally, we are less aware of what “good” media is at this point, good writing, good photos, good research, etc.  The rate at which we consume doesn’t warrant all the effort we used to put into it.

And here’s the chicken or the egg: Magazines lost money to the internet so they paid less for content so the quality went down and now the magazines are low quality that no one wants to pay for.  I don’t pretend I know how to fix it, but I don’t think we are any closer than we were five years ago.  And I don’t think the iPhone 7 Plus helps us either.

I picked this up the doctor’s office a couple weeks back.  The first thing I noticed about this RS cover was how yellow it was.  That’s easy enough to fix.  The second thing I noticed was that her hands were cut off.  This is such a rookie composition mistake, but I understand you have to crop for the cover.  Thirdly…other than the fact that Lourde is famous…who cares?  I mean, if you saw this and you weren’t a die hard Lourde fan, would you look twice?  What about this photo would make you want to purchase or even open this magazine?  And that’s kind of the crux of it.

Yea, great, the iPhone makes a good technical photo that you can reproduce.  But if the photo doesn’t push me or pull me, then who cares?  And what’s crazy is, Lourde is cool!  Lourde is someone who is so full of personality and opinions, not to mention, talent!  There would be a million ways to make this cover better which I won’t bore you with.  But here it is:

Anyone can make a photo.  Anyone can make a decent or even GREAT photo.  This photo on the cover of Rolling Stone is neither.

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I appreciate that RS needs ad money to survive and I appreciate that Apple thought this was a good marketing move, but are we so enamoured with the tech that we lost the art?  I think the answer is yes.  Portrait mode is slick, and I use the hell out of the slow motion feature on my Galaxy, but I know that making things is bigger than the tools that help you make them.  And art, photography, music, movies, magazines, are ALL suffering now because the the tools are so readily available but the motive, the message, the feeling, the blood, sweat, effort, love, hate desire…it’s just not there like it used to be.  (Not to mention the money…)

 

Full disclosure, Rolling Stone never hired me which I didn’t get too butthurt about.  Photographers who take above average photos with lots of opinions about things, shit, man, we are EVERYWHERE.  Personally, though, I hope we can pull out of this “content-for-contents’-sake” thing and get back to making art that has teeth.

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Stop-motion, with Jess

Let’s begin by saying this is NSFW, so your boss might can you, or promote you.  Hard to tell these days.  Fair warning, there are boobs, albeit quick ones.

I’d love to hear from some artists on Instagram.  With the new changes (ads and algorithm) do you still find it to be a useful tool for getting your work out there?  I stopped posting out of frustration over a month ago when it was apparent that only about 1/3 of my followers were seeing my posts.  On top of that, the ads were overwhelming.  And if by accident I happened to spend too much time on a page that I follow, I’d be flooded with posts from the last three months.

I played around with Fame Monkey, which has a clunky interface and the WORST name, but there’s not much of a viewer base and it’s painfully in Beta.  I like putting work out there, but honestly, in the last 6 weeks I haven’t posted a thing and no one noticed.  Part of me misses the daily feed, but I dislike the idea of content for content’s sake.  I don’t want to enjoy art like that and I don’t want people to enjoy my art like that.

If you’re still finding Instagram to be useful, I’d love to hear why.  If not, then I’d like to hear about that too.  Enjoy the video!

Sad Bathrooms, A Site Update

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Little Tokyo has great bathrooms.  I don’t mean in a clean way, I mean in a–this bathroom has character unlike other bathrooms I have seen–way.  I don’t want to go on and on about “seeing the unseen” and “paying attention to the things other people don’t pay attention to” because that’s boring as shit and you’ve heard that from 1000 artists already. There’s some truth there of course, in the way that we get conditioned to accept public restrooms being in a certain way.  But the smaller things stuck out to me…plastic plants, framed photos, stains on walls, extensions cords to nowhere.  With the plants there is an obvious attempt to add life to a windowless room that is probably lit with fluorescent lights that would otherwise look too bare without them.  But the blemishes, the damage, the stains, all of these things started to speak to me as well.  I don’t know what they are saying yet, but you can see more here.

There are no Little Tokyo bathrooms represented yet.  But until then, check out the new additions to the site and say hello.

 

Plastic/Fantastic and Some Grainy 35mm

Check these 35mm shots from a couple of my plastic/fantastic cameras that I took with me on a trip to Memphis, Tenn, a couple months back.  All this film is well expired, run thru the x ray, stored improperly and generally treated badly.  It’s kind of what I love about photography though…the accidents, the color shifts, the screw-ups.

If you’re cleaning out the boxes in your closet this weekend, feel free to send me any crusty rolls you come across.  I promise to put them to good use.

 

Hey, you busy?

Howard and Todd, from Episode 2

Can roommates share bathrobes?

The third episode of Howard and Todd comes out tomorrow before breakfast on the west coast.  Halfway through the series!  I hope you’re enjoying it, laughing until you toot, and making nerdy jokes to people who haven’t seen the show yet.

I mean, you could talk with people about the new GOT, but I’ll sum it up for you: Dragons, that one weasel-y guy, some boobs, violence, Cersei probably acting like a real a-hole, incest, some other stuff.  Same for Twin Peaks, minus dragons.

Speaking of talking, could you take 3 minutes and write a review, subscribe, or like, for us?  Rating and reviews is a HUGE help to us as far as getting seen on the web.

Here are the places you can leave us a note:

Stareable— this is our page and a review helps us get a grant for next season

YouTube–If you’re on YouTube, subscribe, comment, thumbs up, you know how it works.

Vimeo–Add to us to your collections and leave a note

Thank you, and enjoy the next episode!

 

Howard And Todd. Episodes 1 and 2

Episode #2 Comes out tomorrow so catch up on #1 now!

I’ve been sitting on this for SO LONG, I am really happy that it gets to see the light of day. My buddy Brandon and I worked on this web-series together for the last two years.  I directed and co-wrote, he produced and did sound.  Patrick Churvis was our absolutely patient, brilliant and talented DP.

Give this a watch and do me a HUGE favor and share this with your friends, your mom, your roommate.  But seriously, a repost on Facebook would mean the world to us.  Hope you enjoy!

Jordan Borges plays Howard, Kevin Bohleber is Todd, and Elizabeth Grullon is Loosie.

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An Experience In Failure, Loudly

Judging by all of my friends’ social media feeds, and mine too, most of the time, it would appear that we are all financially independent, succeeding wildly beyond our dreams, embracing every crazy opportunity that falls in our lap, and living life to the absolute fullest while dancing like no one is watching.  Every time I scroll through IG it’s like a Pepsi commercial with all the cheesing and grinning.  This thing we’ve all had a hand in creating is supposed to mirror our lives, but instead we’ve constructed ego-trumpets that we can’t stop blasting at the top of our lungs, regardless of what the string section is doing.

Social Media is the highlight reel.  We don’t see the behind the scenes, we are cautious to expose our vulnerabilities, the hard work, the missed opportunities, the times we really effed it up.  And in fashion photography, especially, there’s a sense of image that’s important to clients and followers that we maintain.

I was watching Elon Musk talk about how we are basically cyborgs already, the way we have digital personas and keep huge parts of our lives online.  If it all froze today, historians would look back with absolute wonder and amazement at what a posh time it was for all of us.  But it’s bullshit.  I think on some level as we all construct our own fantastic life-projections we realize that…I least I think I do until I fall into that trap of thinking that everyone has a cool life but me.

I don’t want my feed to be just a list of my embellished accomplishments so I’m going to share this with you.  It’s embarrassing, it’s painful, it’s funny, at times.  Ok, I’m actually still looking for the humor part, but you get the idea.

In December 2015 I started a Patreon account for my photography, videos, and zines.  Patreon (quickly) is a site that allows you to donate to artists whose work you really like.  You can do it on a subscription basis, for as little as a $1 a month, and in return there are different levels where the artist rewards their “patrons” with photo sets or zines or BTS stuff, etc.  It’s a cool concept that has a ton of artists making money each month where they weren’t before.  And, importantly, fans and followers get to contribute in real time to goals the artist sets.

I’ve been blogging on tumblr for years and was really stoked about the idea of releasing whole sets of photos no one had seen before. The idea of making photo zines that you can hold, booklets and sets that people can collect and keep as art objects has always been exciting for me.  I’ve had amazing feedback on my video work but paying for music licensing, props, studio space…it adds up.  Zines are not cheap, printing and mailing costs are high.  I do these things because I love doing them, but ultimately I was hoping other people loved them enough to contribute as well.  I thought that people who already followed me would be into the idea of helping me create more of what they loved about my work.

I was wrong.

It started kind of strong.  3 patrons in the first week.  I was elated.  And then a plateau.  Weeks went by and I changed tactics, adjusted reward levels, changed my pitch. Nothing.  I contacted all the magazines and blogs I contribute to and asked if they would help me promote my Patreon, getting as many eyes on it as possible and they did.  Maybe 10 different blogs featured it, one or two mags as well.  Some big Tumblr and Twitter friends blasted it out, I put it on everything I owned…Tumblr, Vimeo, IG, and I hammered it home.  I had a ton of help that I really appreciated because getting it into the world is what you need when you’re basically competing with everyone on the internet.  We’re talking in the hundreds of thousands of views.  Good numbers.

A slow trickle.  One or two more people would drop in, drop out.  Stay for an update or a reward and then bounce.  4 months in–I got worried.  I watched two other artists I’m friends with start to really make money each month and they started their accounts after I did.  I emailed Patreon and asked for some help.  It takes time!  Is what they said.  Send us your project and maybe we’ll put it on our front page.  I did, a few times, and they never did.  I’m sure they had a billion of these to go through so I’m not mad, I’m just building the narrative that I worked hard on my end to promote it.

And it sort of went on like this for the next few months.  I was pulling in around $46 a month, then $20, then $17…and then last month I got my statement…$6.  Six dollars.  Despite knowing this was really going to fuck me up, I checked in on my friends doing Patreon and they were killing it.  I checked in on my nemesis (we all have an art nemesis so don’t act like I’m an asshole) and he was REALLY killing it.  I cruised by some models that I follow–all doing much better than I was.  So I couldn’t blame it on the economy.  I can’t blame it on no one knowing what Patreon is, because people do know, and they are supporting it, they just aren’t supporting me.  (It did, in fact, fuck me up.)

What do you do when you ask the world what they think your art is worth, and they decide it’s $6?

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You flip out.  You lose your shit.  You question everything.  You text your friends maudlin messages.  You drink whiskey and text even more maudlin messages.  They can’t relate though…they have a Patreon and a dedicated group of supporters.

A good friend told me I should take that $17 and be really proud of it and take my wife out to coffee.  But this is from a guy who makes around $1500.00 a month from his.  The truth is, I’m the outlier from my group.  In fact, in the pool, I’d be the statistic they cut for standard deviation.  I’m not even below average, I’m so far below average it fucks up the curve so they toss it!  (Is that the funny part?)  A bar has been set by my contemporaries and I couldn’t cut it.  It’s a really hard thing to swallow.

Yesterday I turned my account off.  I’m out.  To be honest, I don’t have the intestinal fortitude to hang out and watch this thing cough and sputter any longer.  I asked a question to my supporting base: Will you help me fund more projects?  And they collectively said No.  Loudly.

Full Disclosure: I’m stoked about Patreon being a service for any artist who can make it work. We live in a fast world where art is in jeopardy always, and getting paid for doing art is never easy.  Patreon found a way to patch the holes in the dam and I genuinely appreciate the support they offer and the platform to make a lot of dreams come true.  I’m not bitter about my friends making money doing what they love.  They absolutely deserve it.  (Maybe about my nemesis, yes.)  Am I jealous?  Oh fuck yes.  Am I hurt?  Incredibly.

I follow a guy on IG who can’t stop talking about how humbled he is by his followers, his fans, and his supporters.  But there’s really nothing more humbling than approaching the people you think like and appreciate your work, your struggle, your passion, people you’ve shared this with for years, who’ve watched you evolve and grow and create, and asking these people for help and have them to collectively, nearly unanimously, say no.

It has always felt to me that a big part of being a fashion photographer is trying maintain this image of how cool your life is and I hate it.  It’s not healthy for me or anyone else.  There are pitfalls in life.  There are embarrassments, lapses in judgement, jealousy, envy, failure, butthurtedness! The opposite of success!  I’m just putting this here so you’ll know that some guy had a pretty rough day on the internet and maybe you can relate to that. Dancing like no one was watching, or whatever it is that Abraham Lincoln said.

 

New Zine Available Today!

My new zine, RED, just arrived from the printer this weekend.  Each on is 16pp, glossy, full color, signed and numbered, and 18+.  DM me your address at chris@cultnoir.com and I’ll send you payment instructions thru PayPal.  I don’t want to give too much away but it’s an exploration of the idea of red, and the many ways it can be interpreted.  I hope you enjoy it!

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Must be 18 or older to order, and I will ship overseas if you add shipping.  Otherwise for US sales it’s $5 flat.  And today I’ll throw in a digital copy as well.

Fighting Censorship

You guys seemed to dig the Vlog so I’m rolling with that this week again while I edit photos of Ruby.  This episode is about fighting with my printer and a nasty, terrible, evil photo that they wouldn’t print.  THE HORROR! (You’ll see it at the end.)

Enjoy, and let me know what you think in the comments.

The Art of Not Getting Butthurt

I don’t always feel articulate when I speak, but I thought I’d try a vlog-ish version of my blog today.  Art is hard for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is dealing with my clinical self doubt, a constantly bruised and limping ego, a grand sense of entitlement and a pretty rocking persecution complex.  It would be funnier if it wasn’t so true! Anyways, here’s the video and a rambling train of thought, struggling not to derail.

Thanks for hanging with it!  To sum it up: Not everyone with an opinion about your work is right.  Not everyone in a position of power over you with an opinion is right either.  I’m quick to internalize certain criticism.  And some criticism is certainly warranted.  However, knowing when to listen and when to shrug it off is the hard part.  Today I shrugged it off.  Cross you fingers for tomorrow.

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