Over the past several months I have cast a much bigger net and have stayed busy shooting a wide variety of people. Recently I was asked to photograph the up-and-coming comedian, Kevin Tate after being contacted by his manager with the request to capture Kevin's more personal side rather than his "performer" side. Challenge gladly accepted!
When Kevin arrived at my studio I learned (like myself) that he is originally from Detroit and we hit it off immediately. We talked about basketball, baseball, growing up in the "D", our musical tastes and life on the road with comedians Bill Bellamy and Mike Epps.
After a few minutes of talking I could tell he was being himself and it was time to capture Kevin just being... Kevin.
Thanks for taking a look at my update. I am still very much around and am still enjoying the ability to make great images.
He was a starting guard for the Wayne State University Men's Basketball Team.
I simply asked, "Do you want to go for a swim while you're here?" and he said, "HELL YES!".
A candid shot of him laughing at one of my stupid jokes about Winnie the Pooh.
Since moving to our new house here in LA I have been not only renovating our house but have had the great pleasure of renovating the small, but useful studio on the property.
The renovations to the house are massive and costly but the changes to the studio are merely cosmetic and much, much easier... thankfully! Over the course of a couple of weeks I was able to put in a new floor, re-paint the entire studio and add some great lighting modifiers and features. Here are some pics of the great new flooring:
Ashley sitting on the OLD floor
Wilhelmina Model, Maria Breese posing on the NEW floor in the studio.
One other big deal (at least to me) is that I was also able to get my old, broken down and beaten up fan fixed. I was able to buy a Mole Richardson Wind Machine for $25.00 at Hollywood Rental's yearly sale of old equipment. They sell C-Stands, Apple Boxes, Scrims, Lights and many other goodies. While waiting in line to check out I asked one of the workers if they had any Wind Machines. I was happy to learn they had one left but the blades were broken and the Wind Machine needed some love. So, I gladly bought it for $25.00 and took it to Mole Richardson for repairs. After waiting about a month and $1700.00 later, I had a completely new Wind Machine. They re-painted it, cleaned off all the gunk, put on and calibrated new blades and replaced the motor. Check it out -
Here's my newly refurbished Mole Richardson Wind Machine
Now while you may think that's A LOT of money to spend on a wind machine you have to understand the new ones sell for over $9500.00 and the older ones (like I have) sell for about $4000.00. I think spending $1725.00 for a (essentially) brand new Wind Machine is pretty dope. I am happy to have it and it makes a really nice addition to the studio and the overall renovations! 🙂 And, I added the best studio fridge I could find... and it goes up to 11!
The best damn studio fridge I could find. I love this!
If you've ever been around me you know that I am a MASSIVE Prince admirer, fan, zealot, devotee, junkie and, um, nut! I first discovered Prince back in the early '80s when I was just a pup. A black friend of mine, Ronnie Nance, came to school one day wearing a Prince "Controversy" shirt. The only reason I point out that he was a black kid is because most of the other people I was around while growing up white rednecks and they exposed me to a lot of country and southern rock music (to my disdain) but they did also expose me to Queen and for that I am forever grateful. I had never heard of this guy named Prince but I liked the shirt (the picture was the album cover) and I liked the idea of controversy and I did whatever I could to find a way to listen to Prince.
This is almost exactly the shirt Ronnie Nance wore but his was white
I remember calling one of the urban R&B stations and requesting a Prince song. I think I waited for what seemed like hours listening for the DJ to say the name Prince so I would know which song was his. Then, there it was and I heard the song "1999." From that point forward Prince had his funky, quirky, eclectic and mesmerizing hooks deeply implanted in me. As a classically-trained musician I was starting to fall out of love with all things classical piano and realized I didn't have to play Bach, Beethoven or Schubert anymore. I could use my talents to play something that had me shakin' my booty (sorry for the visual here), movin' my feet and really groovin' with a song rather than trying to stay with the rigid structure of classical piano. Clearly, even at an early age I didn't like to follow the rules. 🙂
Fast forward through high school and college - I was still an ardent fan of Prince and bought everything he put out. Hell, when I was in college I found a great music store where one of the workers was just as much of a fan as I was and he would hook me up with bootleg recordings... LOTS OF BOOTLEG RECORDINGS! I had tapes and tapes of Prince sitting at the piano by himself just playing and singing, CDs of recordings Prince did for other people, Outtakes from sessions, Live recordings and many other items. Unlike most college students who spend much of the extra money on beer my extra money went to buying Prince recordings. I couldn't get enough of him and his songs and would study his intricate music more fervently than I would the scores from Bach, Beethoven and Schubert! I still have some of those bootlegs, rare collectibles and recordings.
Here is what's left of my Prince rarities, bootlegs and collectibles. It's a much smaller collection than what I once had.
Please understand that his music was what mattered to me more than anything else. I heard all the rumors about his life while being a fan. I heard about his sexual exploits and/or preferences, his massive cocaine habits, his random firing of employees/musicians if they crossed him and so on. Frankly, I didn't care about his personal life or love life or anything else for that matter. I cared about the music. Oh, and what great music it is! I could get lost in so many of his songs and most of what enamored me were the songs that weren't the hits. To this day my FAVORITE Prince song is the b-side to "Raspberry Beret." The song is entitled "She's Always in My Hair" and if you don't know this song or have never heard it then you are really missing out on one of the most powerful guitar riffs Prince ever created. It still captivates me whenever I hear it.
The worst part about being a Prince fan (at least for me) was that he never played live in a city close to me during his tours. Well, let me rephrase that... when he did tour, my places of residence always seemed to be at odds with his touring schedule. I may be traveling the country for work and he would be in my hometown the week I was traveling. Or, I would arrive at a city just after he left. This went on for about 14 years until I FINALLY was able to see Prince live while I was living in St. Louis. It was on the "Emancipation" tour and when he walked on stage I started pointing to the people around me and shouting "there he is!". It was pretty embarrassing now that I really think about it. But I LOVE live music more than ever listening to a recording. Live music brings out the personality and idiosyncrasies of the musician (often times it shows how bad some musicians are too) and no one is better live than Prince. I ended up seeing him live 8 times before his death and the best show I ever attended (even though it was an incredibly mellow show) was when my wife and I ended up in the FRONT ROW of the Troubadour to see an impromptu Prince performance. I was able to bring my wife to all of the L.A. shows and she instantly fell in love with Prince's live performances. We were fortunate enough to see him perform with Maceo Parker, Candy Dulfer, Sheila E., Mary J. Blige, Janelle Monae and the legend, Stevie Wonder.
Here are the instructions for the Prince show at the Troubadour
Prince at the Troubadour on May 11, 2011
When I learned about his death, I cried. These were not just little tears but some big "HOLY SHIT THIS IS REAL" tears because of what his music meant to me growing up and through much of my adult life. His music was my soundtrack and in many ways still is to this day. I do have to admit that I had a bit of a falling out with Prince's newer music in the early 2000s when he became a Jehovah's Witness. The music seemed less authentic, more forced and uninspired and perhaps my musical tastes were changing as well. I did enjoy watching Prince evolve throughout his career but during that time, sadly, he lost me. I am happy to say that he was winning me back and his last few albums were full of life, sound, inspiration, funk, rock and soul. I think the world lost an amazing musician and I am (selfishly) sad because I will never get to see him perform again and at some point the hundreds of songs in his vault will be released and there will be no more. I am also saddened to think about how future generations will only know the "hits" and never get to see him perform live as well. So long Prince and thank you for touching so many lives including this humble one!
Oh yeah, the other time I cried this much for someone I never knew... Freddie Mercury (arguably the greatest front man of any Rock 'n' Roll band in history).
The greatest front man to ever lead a Rock 'n' Roll band. Long live Freddie!
The real marketing behind "10 Minutes with a Stranger"
As many of you are aware I spent most of my 2013 working on a personal project called "10 Minutes with a Stranger" where I drove across America meeting, photographing and interviewing 150 random strangers. Ultimately this got turned into a book. I know, you all know that stuff. But, did you know this personal project wasn't turned into a book to be sold (although I did sell some of the books to the people who were clamoring for one). It was actually created to be a promotional piece that got mailed out to 150 Photo Buyers, Photo Editors and Art Buyers/Producers with ad agencies and several magazine companies in New York, Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles.
I think you can imagine just how incredibly daunting of a project this can be. Sure, not only was the process of photographing people, selecting the 30 of the 150 people to be featured in the book, hiring a designer, printing the book and then having a company design the packaging a daunting task but now that the book is complete and the packaging is done I have 150 book and packages sitting here in the living room waiting to be assembled and shipped. So even though I completed the road trip and photography work in August of 2013, I still had several months of work ahead of me to complete the entire project.
This is the space I created in my apartment for the books to go into once they arrive.
On January 8th, 2014 I received 8 boxes of books for the promotional delivery. The following day I received the mailing packaging. Fortunately this was one box but all 150 pieces were flat and had to be assembled. On top of that I had 150 personal notes to write to each person receiving the book. Yep, it's a lot of work but it's well worth the effort to help raise my work, my personal project and, well, hell.. ME... above the clutter that has become part of being a professional photographer nowadays.
Here are 5 of the 8 boxes of books for the massive marketing project of mailing out the book
The first thing I did was to start the part that would provide me the least amount of mental challenge and that was to assemble all packaging for mailing. Once that was completed I worked with my team to determine who would receive this mailer. After that, I asked my wife to pick up some mailing labels from Office Depot on her way home from work. By the way, after that night when she brought the labels home my wife went on a business trip and was gone for about a week. I did all of this on my own without the help of my wife or team or assistants. This was something I wanted to do and complete on my own.
The packaging took so much time to put together but once I got going I became a one-man assembly line.
Once the packaging was done and the labels were printed it was time to move onto writing personal notes to each person receiving the mailer. That took about two days to complete and organize. Then it was time to assemble the packaging with the book, the personal note (and envelope) and sealing each package getting it ready for mailing. That process was broken up into thirds. I would work on 50 at a time and then take a much needed break.
Taking a break from putting together the marketing packaging. Of course I had to watch Hardcore Pawn!
Finally, after 4 days of working to complete this mailing all 150 pieces were complete. So now what to do? I tried going onto USPS.com to buy and print shipping labels (yes, I had to pay for all the shipping too). But, to my tremendous disappointment the USPS site wouldn't take credit/debit cards at that time as the system was down. So I did the next best thing and went online to schedule a pickup. Fortunately I was able to spread out the pick ups over two days (I know the USPS was grateful for that too). But since there was no postage I had to walk to the post office and work with the people at the 104th Street location to get labels and pay for postage. Needless to say the people in line behind me were SCREWED but I didn't care because this is one of the most important things I, or any photographer, could do.
Outside my apartment on a cold, January day in NYC helping the USPS load my books for delivery.
At the end of the week all pieces were in the care of the USPS and were mailed to 150 people. As a follow up, I have heard from several people about the book and have garnered some pretty great press about the book. When I was sitting by myself putting all of these together and working my tail off to get these mailed I often wondered if it's going to be worth it. Well, I can attest that it was very much worth it and it's something we as photographers MUST do. There is no one helping us in so many facets of this business. It's a very solitary business but the harder we can work to separate ourselves from the insane clutter that is part of our profession then the better we will be in the long run.
The cart is empty and the packages are now in the hands of the USPS.
Not everyone who received a book has contacted me and I am not disappointed by that because I do know that those people now know who I am and may be keeping the book handy just in case they have something that comes up and my work may be exactly what is needed for that shoot/assignment/campaign. Marketing is KEY to rising above the clutter.
Here's the great Chris Hardwick. His question was, "Since you have been able to do so much with your life, what would you change about anything that has happened?"
During the course of my trip across America I met so many wonderful people. One of the coolest people I got to meet was Actor, Comedian, TV Show Host Chris Hardwick (Talking Dead, After Midnight, Stand-Up Comedy and countless other things).
While attending a comedy show with my friend Jeannie in Salt Lake City I got the chance to meet Chris. He asked what I was doing in town and I told him about the project. He was really, really curious about the project and so I asked if he would be a part of it. He said, "Yes." He said that we could do this after his stand-up show (which is incredibly funny, smart and entertaining by the way). We met in the lobby after the show and I had about 3 minutes with him. I asked Jeannie to hold the light for me and we knocked out three images so he could go. I am not really happy with the images but they worked for how quickly we had to work and stick with the overall look of the series.
Sadly, Chris could never be a part of this project and not because he's a celebrity. I have a signed release form from him and his agreement to be a part of this. However, after looking at all the images from the trip my team and I decided not to have him as part of the series (either in the book or on the website) since there are no other celebrities in the series. Therefore, since we wanted to keep with a theme of just the "everyday" people I met along the journey, it wouldn't make sense to have someone like him in the series as it would or could possibly throw off the overall flow of the series.
Even though I couldn't have Chris in the series I do really appreciate him taking the time to be a part of this series and spending a short amount of time with me. He's a really nice person!
I think making a series of a celebrity "10 Minutes with a Stranger" could be next on the agenda! 🙂
10 Minutes with a Stranger - A project and photo book by New York City photographer Seth Hancock
As many of you know, I spent a large part of my 2013 moving from Los Angeles to New York City. During that process, I spent several days driving across America working on a personal project called "10 Minutes with a Stranger."
Well, I am happy to report that the book is now available to pre order and I will be shipping out books the week of January 6, 2014. This first printing for sale to the public is limited to only 100 copies (as many of the other copies are already spoken for here in NYC) and when those are gone there will be no more of this version. The cost is $35.00 for the book with a flat rate of $10.00 shipping USPS Priority Mail.
I am going to personally sign each book with a "thank you" and personal message. Also, please download the Junaio Augmented Reality App to get the full experience of the book. I hope you get as much enjoyment out of this book as I did creating it.
Remember, there are only 100 of these so you better get yours soon. To order click on the PayPal button below.
Always be prepared when shooting. This is great advice; too bad I blew off the most important rule of photography.
Recently I went to Washington DC to photograph the area and see what I can add to my PLACES Portfolio. In prepping for the trip I wanted to pack as lightly as possible so I could be mobile and traverse the city to see what I could find. I took my DSLR and two lenses (24-70mm 2.8 and a 14-24mm 2.8). My goal was to be as versatile as possible in shooting and moving around and thought those lenses would give me the best opportunity to do just that. I made a conscious decision NOT to take my tripod as I thought it would take up too much room and I didn't want to carry it around all over the place.
Apparently I left the dog behind along with my tripod. Sorry Albert!
Well, that was a complete bonehead, rookie mistake on my part. Case in point, this image below was a great opportunity to make a great shot. But since I didn't have my tripod with me I couldn't do any long exposures when the light was better or to create multiple exposures (for bracketing NOT HDR - My motto: Death before HDR!). This is a nice image but as you can see there is too much clutter in the background that could easily be eliminated by shooting at night (long/longer exposure) or with multiple, bracketed exposures and then layered together in Photoshop. By darkening the background by 2-3 stops I could have easily made this a better image where the point of focus is solely the carousel and not everything else around it.
Breakdown of why I don't like this image and wish I had my tripod.
In this image of the DC Metro I was able to rest my camera between a wall and a rail to get a 1/8th shutter speed (long exposure) for this image. If that rail wasn't there then there's no way I could have held that camera with my bare hands to get a sharp exposure. Hell, I can barely get a sharp exposure at 1/30th shutter speed by hand holding the camera. Glad that rail was there so I could make this image.
Love the lines and architecture of this area. I couldn't do this without some stabilizing element.
Lesson Learned! It takes a conscious effort to make sure a good photographer has everything he/she needs to bring an image to life. And, because of my laziness I couldn't get what I wanted. The good news is I am going back to DC in January and this time I will not forget to take the tripod so I can redo this image and add to my portfolio. Lesson here - don't make a bonehead move like me... be prepared and don't be lazy. It's always better to be have it and not use it than to not have it and need it.
No more laziness...
A couple of months ago I went with my friend, Crafty, to the Salton Sea. I took my trusty Mamiya RZ67 film camera as I think there are certain locations that are just better shot on film than with a digital camera. I loaded up the camera with 2 rolls of Ilford Delta Pro 100 B&W film to capture the gritty, earthy and solemn feel of the Salton Sea. Again, if you don't know the tragic story of the Salton Sea then please check out this page HERE.
My Mamiya RZ67 film camera
Don't get me wrong, I think I could have made some great images with my Nikon DSLR but I truly believe that, no matter how hard you try, you cannot replicate the look of B&W film from a digital shot. Yes, Nik Software's SILVER EFEX PRO 2 is an amazing piece of software that comes pretty damn close to emulating a true B&W film look. Also, Vincent Versace has some great tips for converting digital images through the ACME Educational website. But, if you were to ask most photographers I think you will find the vast majority will tell you that nothing you can do in Photoshop can compare to the final image you get from using your favorite B&W film.
Crafty and I spent several hours driving around and looking for the best locations for shooting. One of the first places I wanted to see was Salvation Mountain. A devoutly religious, Christian man created this "mountain" over 25 years ago as an art project. He was only going to stay one week but has since made it his home. Unfortunately, the creator, Leonard Knight, suffers from dementia and has been placed in a long term care facility and is no longer on site. I was hoping to meet the man who dedicated his life to this project but took solace in knowing we could see the project at least. There are plans to keep this project alive and hopefully there will be enough paint, sweat and volunteers who can keep his vision alive long after he is gone. While I am not a deeply religious person, I do respect any artist who has dedicated his/her life to their passion. Knowing Mr. Knight wasn't around I wanted to create an image that signified his passion and desire. I asked Crafty to pose for me here, put the Red 25A filter on the lens to completely darken the sky and made the image below (Yes, the starlight/God's light was added in Photoshop as that was what I was thinking about when I made this image).
Redeemed by Salvation Mountain.
Another place I wanted to visit is the old Red Hill Marina. This used to be a thriving marina but now there is nothing left but busted up concrete, rocks, hills and dead Tilapia. While walking around here I noticed these lone trees sitting in the dried up area that used to be part of the Salton Sea (the sea levels are diminishing year after year). I found this sad and wanted to make an image of this tree. This tree and marina reminded me of everything that used to be thriving and vibrant with the sea. But if you look closely you can still see some large bird nests in the limbs and that actually gave me hope that this beautiful area can, once again, be alive with tourists, homes, people and life (Editorial note: But I am sure if a lot of people start coming back to this area again then I am sure they will figure out a way to screw it up. - Now I am stepping down off soapbox). 🙂
A lone tree at the Salton Sea.
When we wrapped up walking around the Red Hill Marina we found this little driving trail leading us to another side of the area. Being the explorers that we are, we wanted to see what was on the other side. After following the path we came to (what appeared to be) an abandoned trailer park/RV area. There was a posted sign stating that no cars were able to drive past this marked area without permission. So I got out of the car and started walking around yelling for someone or anyone to come out. After about 15 minutes of walking around and asking if anyone was around we decided to drive past the marked area, park the car and get out and walk toward the Salton Sea to explore possible shoots. Around 20 minutes into our walk we notice a car coming from the area we had just left. The vehicle was coming toward us and I knew we were in trouble. As the old Chevy Blazer approached and stopped, this diminutive man of 70+ years steps out of the vehicle and starts to inquire as to why we were there, what we were doing, didn't we read the signs, etc. It felt like an interrogation. However, after about 10 minutes of talking and letting the caretaker of the property (if you saw this area you would scratch your head wondering why there was a "caretaker" of the area) introduced himself as J.J. and started telling us stories about the area, his life as a Marine and his passion for living at the Salton Sea! He showed us the arsenal he had in the back of his vehicle in case he needed to use it on us. One of the items he pulled out was a Samurai sword and I knew I had to get a shot. Here's the image I made of J.J.
The Salton Sea Samurai
This man is so proud of this area and where he lives he took Crafty and me around the Sea to show us some of the best locations that only locals know about. I also promised J.J. that I would print the image I made of him and get it to him. As a side note, I did return to the area about 10 days later with my lovely wife, Lisa, and handed J.J. a 16x20 print of this shot. J.J. also pulled out part of his arsenal of firearms and let Crafty take target practice. You can see that below.
Lastly, if you are wondering why there are only three images from my shoot, I have to admit that I discovered a massive light leak with the camera. The bad part of shooting film is that you don't know about the dreaded "Light Leak" until you develop your negatives. Now while some people like the light leak effect I don't particularly care for it. I had to trash many of the images because the leak directly affected the area I wanted to have the viewer focus on. But the leak has since been repaired and I am looking forward to going back to the Salton Sea for more images. In case you don't know what a light leak is then here is an example.
Nah! I'm just kidding. I am, however, moving all the documentary blog posting to the NEW documentary website. Yes, you read that correctly. There is a new, dedicated website to the LEFTOVERS documentary complete with images, video clips, new blog postings and links to all the great organizations featured in this film.
I will no longer be posting any documentary related blog postings here and will, once again, dedicate this site to my photography work and photography related blog posts. You can check out all the new information and related posts on the new site:
http://www.leftoversmovie.com (THIS IS NO LONGER ACTIVE - NEW INFORMATION WILL BE POSTED SOON AFTER 1/31/15)
I want to thank all of you for reading these posts and following the progress and now you can do so on a site dedicated to eradicating the plight of senior hunger. I hope you join me there.
There have been a lot of things taking place over the last couple of months in regard to the documentary. Yes, I have been playing a massive waiting game with people in Washington, DC and my calls and emails to anyone at the USDA have fallen on deaf ears and I cannot get a response from that organization. However, I have been in talks with Meals on Wheels Association of America, the Administration on Aging and the National Council on Aging and have some interviews lined up here. So, I will be traveling to DC in a matter of weeks. In the meantime, I have kept myself busy with working on and organizing my clips so that I can tell the story when the time comes. Also, I have been sending out email after email and making phone call after phone to set up interviews and garner additional funding for the project. All my "behind the scenes" work is paying off and so much is starting to happen.
Now, there's a lot i CANNOT share with you right now because I don't want some information to get out but I can tell you that I am writing this blog post as an EXTREMELY happy man right now. Something huge came in the mail today for me that will allow me to finish this project. I am so happy that I want to shout it from the rooftops but am restrained to do so out of respect and admiration of the people involved. But, I can tell you this and share this with you... We are working on a site solely dedicated to the film so you don't have to read anymore posts here on my photography site. We are in the works of building a "Stick A Fork In It" website that will solely devoted to the film, photographs, stories, people and organizations we have encountered along the way as well as links for you to personally get involved in the lives of seniors. It will have a new, completely overhauled logo and everything. This is getting exciting and more and more professional every minute. I think this is all coming together nicely.
Look here for more details coming soon and thanks for all your support. I love you all!