With 2013 — The Year in Chronological Review

2013 is gone and buried the world over. Happy New Years and a hearty hello to 2014.

In order to welcome in the next 365 days, I’ve compiled, in chronological order, a set of 100 of some (I could have easily done 200) of my favorite photos from 2013. By my very rough, back-of-the-envelope calculating, I figure I’ve shot around 8,000 frames of film in the last year. Selecting only 100 images in order to create a cohesive review was a bit of a task. Some things that I am proud of from 2013 are not here represented, and others are simply under embargo. Of the things I can share, though, I feel this is a solid core sample.

2013 was really the year of Japan for me. By the end of November, I’d been to that most awesome of countries a total of four times. As such, a disproportionate amount of the photos here are taken for Japanese clients or were taken in Japan itself. I can honestly say that after this year, I am more comfortable making my way around Tokyo than almost anywhere else on the globe.

A number of important milestones were reached for me this year—shooting for Nike while using film being chief among them (the photos are unfortunately on lockdown). I was able to continue and build upon my relationship with Kinfolk Magazine, and the Kinfolk Table, a sizable portfolio of my 2012 work, was released successfully. I was blessed enough to shoot another cover story for HUGE magazine, with portraits of Chaz Bundick of Toro y Moi and Steven Ellison of Flying Lotus. Beginning the Overgrowth project, a collaboration with my dear Riley Messina, and exhibiting those images overseas was another big achievement. Perhaps my favorite moment of the entire year was being able to meet and shoot a lunch session with Jiro Ono.

I can honestly say that 2013 was the busiest year of my life. I am happy to say that because I could honestly say the same about 2012 way back then, which I think is a great measure of growth.

By the same token, 2013 reminded me that it is imperative to keep one’s mind in the moment (as opposed to being fixated on the moments, hours or days just ahead). C. S. Lewis said that “the Present is the point at which time touches eternity,” and I happen to agree. It’s sometimes terribly difficult to remember to appreciate that present, though, when you’re living out of hotels and have three or four shoots to pull off in a day. How soon the pleasures of work and travel become mundane unless we steel ourselves against such things.

Lastly, 2013 saw the beginning and the deepening of many important friendships—first and foremost in my relationship with Riley. Secondly, in my friendship and partnership with my brother. Third, with my dear friend Sawako Akune. And fourth, with the wickedly talented Hideaki Hamada. My life is now full of affections for literally hundreds of people here and in Japan that I didn’t know a few mere months past. It’s strange and interesting how quickly life can pivot, and worlds can open up.

And on that note, I will simply say that I am excited for the new year. Let’s do our utmost to make it a good one, shall we?

With Overgrowth – Back in Japan

Any year that I get to go to Japan once is a great year. Any year that brings me back to Japan three times is the stuff of dreams. My work with Kinfolk magazine brought me here in February and then again in June. Now, though, I’m here on my own steam, collaborating with the lovely Riley Messina with our brand new project named Overgrowth. I’ve been meaning to get to this post for awhile now, but we’ve just been so busy! Riley and I have been in Japan for almost two weeks now and we’re able to only just now sit down for a restful afternoon. Sheesh!

Overgrowth made its way to Japan through the help of some amazing friendships that Riley and I made during our last visit back in June. We first showed at Isetan in Shinjuku along with the Portland Pop-up shop thanks to the most awesome Daisuke Matsushima of Paddlers Coffee. In a few days, thanks to Megumi Inoue, we’ll be launching a gallery showing with a weekend of workshops at Gallery ROCKET in Omotesando. Lastly, in early October, we’ve been invited by Tokuhiko Kise to show at his amazing space at TRUCK in Osaka. All of our coordinating and translation has been headed up by the indispensable Tina Dhingra. And of course, we owe a debt of gratitude to our great friend Hideaki Hamada for helping to promote our dates. In any event, if you’re in Tokyo next week, or in Osaka the second week of October, we’d love to see you at our opening receptions! Or better yet, if you’re into flowers, come to one of Riley’s workshops! There are still a few tickets left.

Information on our workshop schedules and opening receptions are below. Tickets to Riley’s flower workshops, and very soon, prints, are available at http://overgrowth.bigcartel.com.

The Overgrowth logo was skillfully drawn by Joy Fitzgerald. All Overgrowth collateral was designed by Ben Biondo. All photos for Overgrowth were shot on Kodak Portra 160.

With Kinfolk – Concerning Japan, Flowers, Linens, and Seaweed

I’ve just returned from a second trip to Japan this year. The first was in February and its purpose was to shoot imagery for the current issue of Kinfolk Magazine. The second coincided with its release in Japan. I really can’t put words to how amazing I find all of this. As you may know, I’ve long loved Japan and in the span of only 6 months, I’ve been able to work nearly non-stop for Japanese publications and Japan-related stories. It’s too much for me to take in all at once. It’s sorta like a dream.

Volume 8 of Kinfolk marks a subtle but important change for the publication. The magazine will now be based around quarterly themes (the first of these happily being Japan) in hopes of including a broader scope of material, covering not only the usual fare (quiet moments, dinners and gatherings), but also the people and places that make these things possible. “Discovering new things to cook, make and do,” as Kinfolk now puts it.

For this special Japan-themed volume, I had the honor of shooting three stories and the cover. First, I was able to shoot a profile with Fog Linen Work creator Yumiko Sekine and clothing designer Rieko Ohashi (pictured on the cover). Secondly, I collaborated with Riley Messina and Erba Floral Studio for a piece on Ikebana. And lastly, I traveled to a small island in the Aichi Prefecture named Shinojima in order to document the Tsuji family bringing in a wakame seaweed harvest. Below are highlights from each story.

For thanks, I owe a particular debt to Sawako Akune. Without her incredible writing, her translating, her organizational skills and her friendship, I would have been walking blind. Secondly, I must give a verbal bear hug to Mayumi Nishimura, renowned macrobiotic chef and long-time friend of the Tsuji family. She grew up with them on Shinojima and arranged everything for us there. It is through her that I’ve discovered one of my most favorite places on earth. Lastly, I must give mention to the lovely Riley Messina. Her mastery of floral design (clearly on display below) continues to inspire me – as it should you.

And for the usual notes: All images shot with either a Contax 645, a Contax T2 or Leica M3 using Kodak Portra 160 and 400 films.

With Aaron James Draplin for HUGE Magazine

Somewhere back in the mists of time, when I was still just a lowly design intern, a colleague handed me a Field Notes booklet to write down my Photoshop short cuts. There was something about the texture and simplicity and the Futura that completely revolutionized what I considered “good design.” It was one of those flash point moments for me in my professional life. And call it a case of extreme laziness (because it says in detail in the back of every Field Notes booklet), but it wasn’t until a few years later that I learned Aaron Draplin lived in Portland. I met Aaron briefly at the first Portland Bazaar and was completely surprised at his unguarded and friendly disposition. He is one of the nicest, most earnest men I’ve ever met, and as far as I know, he wears his Carhartt jacket to bed.

I recently shot the images below for a spread in HUGE Magazine, Japan. Their current issue features people who collect interesting and eclectic items and ephemera. Mr. Draplin happens to have a rather extensive collection of interestingly designed Americana, including possibly the world’s largest collection of bullet pens. Naturally, a perfect fit for the article. While I was shooting, Aaron expounded a little on why he collects all this stuff — that it’s about saving little pieces of history from the junk heap. He takes these matchbooks and pens and name plates, etc, and incorporates elements from them into his designs, effectively resurrecting a part of history that would have otherwise been lost. Pretty awesome idea. And the best justification I’ve ever heard from any hoarder. ^_^ Incidentally, I think I’m the same with old cameras — I buy them to save them from everyone else haha.

I was truly honored to have been able to work with Aaron in an official capacity. I hope it’s not long before our paths cross again.

With my Grandfather — James Francis Fitzgerald

Today is my grandfather’s 87th birthday, and it’s also the first since 1926 that he won’t be here for, and the world is much worse off for it.

My grandfather’s name was James Francis Fitzgerald (or gramps to me) and he was an amazing man.

So in honor of gramps’ birthday, I’m going to do something I don’t normally do and share a few family photos here. Growing up, I never paid any of these pictures much attention, but now that he’s gone and I’ve become a photographer, they’ve become precious to me. I hope you don’t mind letting me tell you a little about him.

My grandfather was born March 27th, 1926 in Janesville, Wisconsin to a wholesale flour salesman named Michael Henry Fitzgerald and his wife Chloris. By his 5th birthday, the country was already in the midst of the Great Depression, but as Providence would have it, his grandfather (my great great grandpa Beiter) was a butcher in Iowa. So between the flour and the meat, they kept from starving. It was through my grandfather’s grandfather, though, that he got his first summer job at an Iowan rendering plant. For those of you who don’t know, a rendering plant is where they basically boil down dead animals and use their parts for soap or Jello or whatever. If you were a farmer, say, and found that one of your horses had dropped dead on the far end of your property, you’d haul it on down to the rendering plant and they’d take care of things. It was pretty gnarly. On his first day, gramps had to hack apart a several-day dead cow. That’s when he decided that he needed to do anything else in order to make a living.

Fast forward a few years, and gramps was off to college at Baldwin-Wallace University in Ohio. It was smack dab in the middle of World War II, so he’d also joined the Navy and was in the officer’s training corps. After a few years, the Navy sent him to Notre Dame in order to finish school. And by the time he had graduated, the war had ended.

After serving his time and moving back to Janesville, my grandpa got right to business by starting a heating oil company with his long-time friend Fred Weber. Soon after, they bought a service station at the edge of town and Fitzgerald and Weber Oil was born. Gramps was officially an oil man. He ended up partnering with Shell and by the late 50s, owned dozens of franchised service stations in Wisconsin and Illinois.

In 1950, gramps married Marylin Cullen (aka granny girl). Granny was nicknamed “The Flower of Rock County,” and she was a bona-fide babe. Her family was in the contracting business, and pretty soon the Cullens and the Fitzgeralds were in business together. By the end of the 50s, my grandpa had moved into a whole number of different fields. He and the Cullens built Janesville’s first strip mall, first super market, and first Holiday Inn. By the 60s, gramps found himself wrapped up in a brand new industry called “cable television.” And altogether, granny and gramps ended up having six kids: Aunt Marcia, Uncle Mike, Uncle B, my dad (James Jr.), Aunt Carolyn and Aunt Ellen.

In 1975, my grandpa pulled together a group of investors and bought the Milwaukee Bucks for a paltry $800,000. He owned the team for 10 years before selling them in 1985 for $18 million — a record at the time. He then took over the Golden State Warriors and owned them until 1995, when he then sold them for another record-breaking amount. I suppose this is what my grandpa’s most known for — being so involved in the NBA. As a little kid, it served to make gramps seem larger than life to me. He was always doing business with amazing people, or golfing with bigwigs (he counted more than one former President amongst his personal friends). But how he dealt with his success taught me two important lessons: first, even famous (and even perhaps important) men are still just only men. And secondly, the bigger you become, the more humble and grateful you should be. My grandfather had the means, but never spent money frivolously, and died in the same little house that he had raised his family in.

My grandfather loved doing business, but more importantly, he loved people. When I brush all of the history aside, I think that this is what stands out to me the most. He was always laughing — he had a big belly laugh (I can still hear it in my mind when I try hard — imagine a nice, friendly Jabba the Hutt). And he was always listening. He was genuinely interested in everybody and everything. He had a natural curiosity that complimented a honed sense of compassion — and that’s why he was so successful. He was your friend first, and your business partner second.

Moreover, he was an honest man. He epitomized everything good about the great American businessman. In a time when free market capitalism is almost a swear word, I think back on how my grandpa demonstrated to me over and over that good business is not a zero-sum game, but rather an exercise in mutual benefit. He worked hard to provide for his family, but he worked just as hard for those with whom he did business. He never took advantage of people in order to get ahead, and he respected everyone he dealt with. In short, they don’t often make them like gramps anymore.

So on this first March 27th that I won’t be able to call him up and say happy birthday, I’ll say a prayer to God instead — a prayer of thanks that I was blessed enough to have a man like James Francis Fitzgerald for a grandfather. I can’t wait to see him again.

Before I go, just a note on a few of theses photos: The first is from the 1983 NBA playoffs when his Bucks defeated the Celtics in the semifinals. I think this is my favorite photo of gramps. It perfectly encapsulates to me how jovial he always seemed. He always had that smile on his face.

The last is a photo taken by the legendary photographer Yousuf Karsh. I think that this was gramp’s favorite photo of himself. He used it for decades. The photo immediately above it is gramps with Karsh. I’m jealous. ^_^

About 10 photos down from the top is a shot of gramps with his soapbox car. This is my second-favorite shot of him, but it’s just a great photo all by itself. I think the year is 1950 here. Immediately below it is my favorite picture of my grandma. It’s her freshman college photo. What a babe.

I debated heavily on whether or not to add any color photos to this post but eventually decided against it. I wasn’t able to get scans of some of the photos I wanted to include here either — especially shots from gramps’ time with the NBA. I’ll most likely add them at a later date. In the mean time, thanks for reading. ^_^