I'm of the completely biased opinion that San Diego is the best place to live in America. Not that it's a stretch, but it's still biased. One of the things that comes along with living in such a beautiful place is tons of year round visitors who all seem to make the same pictures. Let's be honest, San Diego is a really easy place to photograph. Go to just about any landscape gallery in the country and you're sure to see a big framed image of Antelope Canyon (AZ), Horseshoe Bend(AZ), and Scripps Pier among many other overly shot landmarks. A long time ago I realized that I have almost no desire to photograph the landmarks. What's the point? They've all been shot a million times over. And I'm certainly not a landscape photographer, so I won't be making any money from the shots. I still think it's important to photograph the place you live though. So over the past couple years, I've slowly developed a body of images made in various parts of San Diego. You're not going to see any images of Scripps Pier or Lajolla Cove in this gallery, but they are still interesting in my opinion. And images that I feel are representative of San Diego.
Thought this project was going to be done about a year ago, but I suppose that's just how it goes? Either way I'm really excited that the second barbershop book is finally on it's way. For anyone not familiar with the project, I initially spent 3 years (on and off) traveling to all 50 states with Mojo, documenting the old and quickly disappearing American barbershop. At the end of it all, that group of images was published into a book. Then about a year and half ago I started the project again. The whole time still documenting old school shops, but also photographing the "next generation" of shops that I feel are doing things the right way. So this second book is essentially an extension of the first. A lot of the images from the first book are also in this one, but completely re-edited, and with a proper trimming of the fat. The printing is also better than the first book, and I think the addition of all the new shops shows an incredible contrast of where the barber industry has grown to. I'm proud of the book and excited for people to see it. The barber industry has been very welcoming of me, so I hope that the book is something they feel does them right.
On Sunday May 6th, we'll be having a book release party at the notorious Eagle+Pig Barbershop in Costa Mesa, CA (Orange County). We've got some great people behind the project with sponsorships from Uppercut Deluxe, Andis Clippers, Irving Barber Company, and House Beer. It's sure to be a great time with tons of raffles, so come hang out, check out the book, drink some beer, and talk to some cool barbers.
Was back out on the road earlier this month. This time it was up to Canada for a snowboarding trip with a stop in Beaverton for a meeting with Nike. More on that later. About 2 years ago I realized that snowboarding is the only that will take the camera out of my hands. During any other activity I'm happy to watch from the sidelines just so I can shoot. On snowboarding trips though, the camera unfortunately spends too much time in the bag. I'm alright with that. A weird thing happens on those trips though, because the itch still needs to be scratched. I can't not shoot for any extended amount of time or I turn into a prick. Especially on the road because you see images everywhere, which are hard to pass up. So I start looking for images in other places. Thus the reason for a completely random mash-up of images in this blogpost.
Completely forgot to post last week about my gallery show for the Hoops Project in LA during All-Star weekend. Oops. It will be up there at Fathom gallery all month if you still want to check it out. Also have another show at Culture Brewing in Encinitas for Barbershops of America starting next week.The book won't be ready for about a month, but I'll be showing a bunch of limited edition prints. Come on out to Culture and enjoy a beer.
Last month I watched an on-line talk given by a photographer that I very much respect. He dished out a lot of great information, and briefly mentioned something about another photographer that he very much respected. The remark was about a book that photographer was about to publish, and the speaker said "I already know what it looks like". He hadn't seen the book, or any of the images, but was referring to the fact that the photographer was very predictable. And that stuck with me. He also didn't mean any disrespect at all, was just stating a fact. After thinking about it for a while, I realized how important it is to constantly be charging ahead in different directions. That's something I've always believed, but it was cool to hear from his perspective. As a photographer, you'll always have your "bread and butter", but it's boring to rest on that. Branch out and try new things. Develop portfolios in areas that your audience is expecting. Challenge yourself even if it means failing miserably for a while. In the long term, I believe that's the only way to make it.
Last month I did another cross-country trip from San Diego to as far as Plymouth, Massachusetts. Time on the road was shorter than I initially planned for, but it's always great. Shot a lot of images that are probably a lot different my norm, and people might not connect with them right away, but whatever. Some of them are certainly winners. I enjoy looking at them, and can see this stuff developing into a much larger portfolio. My main objective on this trip was to wrap up shooting on the barbershop project. So all of this "America" stuff was on the side, but I love it, and am always eager for more.
This is # 2. Was much smaller and much quicker, but certainly no less fun. Didn't do as much shooting on this one, which is normally what happens when a snowboard is involved. That seems to be the only thing that will take the camera out of my hand.
Behind on this as usual, but have a lot to post about. Couple road trips in the books since the last time I was here. Below is the first one that took place from mid-December 2017 to mid-January 2018.
Just a reminder that I'm having a show at Fathom Gallery tonight after the Kobe jersey retirement ceremony at Staples Center. I'll have a bunch of limited edition prints on display, along with some 1/1 signed Kobe game jerseys by a group of really talented street artists. Hope to see you all there!
Fathom Gallery: 110 East 9th St. Suite CL002, Los Angeles, CA 90079
More Crossfit. An itch for me that will never be scratched enough.
On 12/18/17 the Los Angeles Lakers will be retiring Kobe Bryant's jersey at the Staples Center. If you're around for it, or just live in LA, come by Fathom Gallery afterward. I'll be showing some signed limited edition hoops prints. Alongside my prints will be a bunch of signed one of a kind Kobe jerseys that have been made in art pieces by a number of extremely talented street artists. Hope to see you there!!
Fathom Gallery. 12/18/17. 9pm-12am. - 110 E 9th St, Suite CL002, Los Angeles, CA 90079
These images were made a few weeks ago during a trip to Indonesia, and won't be in the show, but wanted to post some updated images anyway. For more, check out my HOOPS gallery.
Years and years ago Steve McCurry made an iconic photograph of the Sri Lanken stilt fisherman. At the time, it was a rich part of the countries culture, and a real way for the fisherman to earn a living while also providing for local residents. That was then. Fast forward X amount of years, and this beautiful trade has become nothing more that a tourist attraction. To the point that you can click on them on Google Maps. I didn't realize this before visiting, and very much wanted to see them all based on McCurry's photo. How ignorant of me. On this day, we pulled up to a beautiful beach where they are located, and were greeted by tourist buses filled with people waving their selfie sticks around. The worst part though, you can't even do this for free. If you want to take a picture, you have to pay a guy on the beach who almost acts like their agent. At the end of the day they divvy up the profits. Not sure what's more sad, the fact that hoards of idiot tourists ruin a beautiful scene with their selfie sticks, or that these guys don't even fish anymore? IF you can set all of that aside, it's still something to appreciate as a unique scene that you won't find anywhere else in the world. I tried to picture them 30+ years without the crowds just trying to earn a buck. It helped a little.
Forget everything I just said, because otherwise Sri Lanka is a great country. I really enjoyed it, and would have loved to spend more time there. A highlight for me was seeing how big the cricket culture is. Seems like everywhere we went there were pick-up games going on. Grass fields, dirt lots, concrete, doesn't matter. Sri Lankan's just want to play cricket.
About a year ago I developed a healthy obsession with photography books, and now have a small (and growing) collection that I try and comb through regularly. It's a calming thing to do, but it's also sort of a free education. Every time I look through another book, or back through an old one, I learn something new. Whether that's a new way of seeing, or whatever, it doesn't matter. Either way it has caused me to to enjoy shooting and looking for different kinds of images. I've always been of the opinion that not every image needs to be "epic". I fully understand why most people need to shoot that way, and why it sells, but there is a lot more to it than that. Simple images that show the viewer a slice of life or tell a story, are every bit as fun to make as one of the guy standing on top of Everest. The images below were taken on a couple walks around my neighborhood in San Diego and another in Los Angeles. They are simple, but I really like them, and will be making a lot more of them. The term "street photography" is getting pretty loose these days. Back in the day, if you were a street photographer, then you were wandering around NYC with a Leica. Now, these images would probably fit into that category. Looking at them, the style of shooting isn't much different from my America series. Just different subjects.
My America gallery of images is the one that gets the least attention and interest from people/clients. Which I find strange because sometimes I think it's my best stuff? Either way it's something I've been shooting for a long time, and will continue shooting forever. Lately I've been getting a lot of images request from clients for other bodies of work, which is always a gift because it forces you to go back through old hard drives, causing me to look at images I haven't seen in a long time. And whatever it is about time, that factor has made turned me on to images that I thought were worthless in the past. That might be a problem, but then again it might just be part of the process. Regardless, I'm happy to have stumbled upon these images that have been during road trips from as far back as 2011, and as recently as a few months ago. Can't wait to get back out on the road.
Can't ever see becoming sick of shooting CrossFit. It's too real, which means that it never gets boring. There is never a need to stage anything. You just let everything happen in front you and do your best to capture it. Real sweat. Not that from a spray bottle bullshit.
It's only been a year+ since this trip and I'm finally getting around to posting about it. Have been back several times since. Wonder how many other trips I have sitting on my hard drive? Jackson Hole is top notch. Really top notch. The more I go back, the better it is, and the amount of time we actually spend in town is less and less. Grand Teton National Park and everything else that surrounds town is phenomenal. The hiking, camping, fishing, etc, is so good. And on this particular trip we did all of that. Up the middle Teton to be exact. A very different type of backcountry climbing than I'm used to. So much of it is just huge boulder fields. Which means that you spend a lot of time going from rock to rock, or scrambling. Not my favorite style of hiking, but what an incredible trip. The Tetons have to be the most picturesque range in the USA. The way they rise up from the the valley floor is so dramatic. They look so massive from afar, and even bigger when you're right up close. Not sure how we got so lucky, but it was perfectly sunny at the summit without an ounce of wind. That can't happen too often? As I'm writing this it's snowing in Jackson Hole, and I can't wait to get back up there. The snowboarding there is so good. You'd have to put it up there as some of the best in the country, especially when you really get to know the mountain. This is the worst thing I've written in a while. Sorry.
Good times over in Austria. For whatever reason, I did the least amount of shooting on this trip compared to all other in the past. Travel always brings on great experiences no matter what. Perhaps the funniest and unexpected came out of the need for a bathroom. During a long drive, we stopped at a market in a small town to pee and get food for lunch. I couldn't find the bathroom and tried asking the two workers in the back. They obviously knew very little English, and had no idea what I was saying. After trying every word they might know, I moved onto the universal sign for a guy going to the bathroom, the actual motion of doing it. They instantly knew what I needed and showed me the way. When I came back out, one of the guys was still there and asked me with a very Austrian accent "Ver ah you from?" I replied simply with "California", to which he screamed "AAAAHHHHH, SCHWARZENEGGER!!!"
Working with brands that you naturally click with is such a rad thing. I've talked a lot in the past about personal projects,and their benefits, but this is the perfect case. For the past 5-6 years I have been working on my barbershop project. And to be honest, it hasn't been until the past year or so that I've put much effort into getting it out there. That effort combined with the social sharing by people who are naturally pumped about the project has lead to exactly what I had hoped. Brands within the barber industry reaching out to connect with me. That's amazing. Like any other industry there are schwappy companies, and then there are those that stand out. Uppercut Deluxe is one of the later. I dig their brand and what they are all about. Ironic that they sell hair pomade as I have a shaved head, but whatever. Doesn't matter. I dig what they do and they dig what I do. Rad group of people too. So when Uppercut reached out about a collaboration, I was really excited. After just a couple short conversations we developed a way to incorporate both of our "products", and the video below is the first sample of things to come. I love working on these so much. The barbers audio really brings the images to life, and is something that people can connect with on a different level. Check back soon to see more of this.
Getting outside your comfort zone is a beneficial thing in all aspects of life. Without it growth is not possible. The rodeo in Poway was last week, and I thought it would be a fun thing to shoot. Certainly something I've never done, but was very drawn to. So I reached out and found someone who needed some coverage. Like most things I shoot, my focus was not so much on the action, but behind the scenes. The little things that add to the culture but aren't really noticed or seen by most people. I loved everything about shooting this event. Being back where the riders were was awesome. Such a foreign culture that I've never experienced. And all the auxiliary stuff was great too. I got there really early and just wondered around the grounds, where I ran into a lot of characters. Everything I shot was natural light, and after the sun went down it was cool to see how much the color temperature of the "house" lights changed so quickly as they fell off. Learned a lot, most of which is that I'd shoot something like this again in a second. The grittiness of it is right up my alley. And everything felt so authentic. These aren't showy athletes on multi million dollar contracts. They are cowboys being cowboys.
I always think to myself that any photographer who really gives a shit will invest heavily in personal projects. That's not to say you have to spend a lot of money, but invest yourself. Shoot something that's just for you and let that project develop a life of it's own. You'll be glad you did. I also think that a photographers personal project begins without even knowing it. In your own time you shoot what you're randomly and naturally drawn to. Then over time, a small collection or series of images comes together that you didn't even realize you were creating. The even greater part is over the same period of time, that body of work naturally grows followers of people with similar interests. Those people can be totally random, but they can also be commercial clients who want to buy your images or pay you to make something similar. That's a win on all levels. No longer are you searching for the right clients. Now the right clients are looking for you.
I don't care who you are, things can get slow from time to time. And what happens during those lows, is that you take assignments you're not right for. Maybe it's not your speciality, or maybe you just don't give a shit? Either way, you shouldn't have taken it because it always shows up in the work. Everyone who views an image can tell if it's right or not. When a photographer wants to make a great image he'll do whatever he can to make it. But when the interest isn't there, or they just took the job for the money, you can see it. I decided a long time ago that I'd rather be broke than take assignments that aren't right for me. I use to take them all the time, and it just led to bad relationships and bad images. Definitely not the kind of thing you want out in the world as a freelance photographer. So I started investing heavily in my own projects while also shooting commercially. And after years of building up different portfolios, all that work is starting to pay off. One of them in particular is starting to get really fun, The Basketball Hoops Project. Last February the project had it's first exhibition in New Orleans for NBA All-Star Weekend. And just recently I signed on with Fathom Gallery in Los Angeles. They will not only be sourcing shows for the project and selling prints, but also seeking commercial licensing. I'm really excited about this partnership, and look forward to seeing where it goes.
Creating images for the right clients is always fun. For a company to choose you out of all the other photographers in the world is a great compliment. When your personal projects start to take flight though, that's the real reward. Hugh Hefner died yesterday. Calling him a legend would be an understatement. Among the many great things he's ever said, my favorite has to be "Life is too short to be living someone else's dream".
Go out and create for yourself.
I made this image back in April of 2011 during a road trip with my mother. At the time the Hoops Project wasn't even a thought. Yesterday though, after stumbling on this, it made me wonder if it was?
I've had a lot of love for Europe for a long time, and even more after completing this recent trip to Austria. Don't get me wrong, I love America and have a lot of pride for this country. But every time I visit Europe, I find myself saying "they have it figured out over here". There just seems to be a whole lot less bullshit, and the people have a much more relaxed outlook on life. Walk around Vienna, take a couple rides on the U-Bahn, and tell me you're not somewhat embarrassed of how disgusting most of America is? You'd have a hard time finding a piece of garbage on the street in Vienna. And the subway platforms are almost clean enough to eat off of. Sort of a double edged sword, as the grit in America is a lot of what I'm drawn into photographically. Still though, our biggest and most popular cities (NYC+LA) are fucking filthy. Trash everywhere.
As is any trip worth remembering, this one was an adventure. Traveling in all forms will teach you valuable lessons whether you realize it immediately or not. We flew on Air Berlin which was our first mistake, as we later found out that they are bankrupt. I'm not a genius, but maybe if they had working WIFI on the flight for people to purchase, they could turn over a few extra euros? That's just one bullet point I'd throw in if asked to make a power point presentation. Not that I really care, but you don't see British Air having problems with their WIFI! We made it to Salzburg fine, but our luggage, not so much. The whole system of trying to get your bags located was prehistoric, but finally after 7+ days, they were back in our hands. Again, not the end of the world. Although most people would probably disagree with you. We weren't necessarily that upset about not having our bags as we were thinking about having to replace everything that was in them. During the trip it sucks taking time and money to go buy the necessaries, but something you just shut up and do. Deal with it and make the most of your trip. The biggest lesson we learned after dealing with Air Berlin's bullshit for 7+ days, is that there really is no reason to ever check a bag again. How much stuff do you really need on a trip? Not much. There now is no question that everything we could possibly need can fit in a backpack and you're one given piece of carry-on luggage. Think about all the times you've packed for a trip and never end up using half of what you stuffed in there? That's almost every trip that every human being on the planet has ever taken. Let's not even discuss the photography equipment that I take on a trip. If you just focus on the necessaries, it works in just your carry on. Couple t-shirts, socks, boxers, jeans, shorts, sandals/bathing suit(seasonal), and a nice shirt or two for dinner are the basics. On top of that, all you need is a warm layer, a shell raincoat (just incase), and your toiletries. A great pair of sneakers are key, but those are already on your feet. Add on a nice pair of shoes if you really need them. We always stay in Airbnb's or VRBO's, which often have washing machines, so doing laundry isn't any issue. Even when they don't, wash your laundry in the sink. It's easy, just takes a little bit of thinking. Checking luggage is out. All it does is slow you down.
As you can see from our route on the map, we covered a lot of ground. One of the phenomanal things about Europe is how easy it is to travel between countries. Almost without slowing down at the "border" we took little side trips into Hungary and Slovenia. Anyway, good times over there. Will be posting more on this soon. For now, go do yourself a favor and throw out that huge old suitcase sitting in your closet.