With Kinfolk – Tribe Making and Christmas trees

Where has November gone? Thanksgiving has already come and left and it’s pretty hard to believe that Christmas is almost upon us. But hurrah! Because Christmas is without a doubt, the most awesome time of year (unless you live in Australia (or South America), then it is summer and hot and gross — I am truly sorry about that). For the rest of us up north, though, it’s tea and cocoa and cookies and carols and lights and presents and snow. The best.

And, once again, it is my distinct pleasure to share with you work from the most recent Kinfolk Magazine. I had the honor this time around of contributing to a number of stories, which posed the unique dilemma of having to figure out which ones to blog about and in what order. After much hemming and hawing, I decided to start with the following story if for no other reason than because I love Christmas trees.

First, a word about process. As I’ve noted before, Kinfolk is shot roughly four months before it is published. That means that the holiday issue was shot in June and July. For those who are wondering, the only thing harder than trying to wrangle a three-year-old into pretending to chop down a Christmas tree is trying to wrangle a three-year-old dressed in a heavy jacket in Summer. It turns out that the key here is bribery. Hot chocolate and axes, to be exact (it also helps, I suppose, to bring along an enforcer, i.e. the boy’s dad). In any case, three-year-olds aside, it’s a bit of a task to make it look wintery when it is 87 degrees out. Ultimately, we were blessed with what may have been the only partially cloudy day that western Oregon got this last summer (which ended up being our saving grace).

On a deeper note, this particular story is meaningful to me for a number of reasons. Firstly, the words that accompany the article in Kinfolk were written by a certain Rebecca Payne. Months after we shot these photos, I was able to go on a three week work trip through Europe with her and her husband (Chris) in order to shoot for a Kinfolk book. It was during that trip that we realized we’d already contributed to each others’ work. And it was something special, after having shared that time with them so closely, to sit down and read through the article in print for the first time. They are fantastic people and that was a trip I will never forget.

Secondly, being able to shoot with Josh and Shep (the father and son in the photos) was particularly fulfilling. Josh Garrels is an accomplished artist in his own right, and also a mainstay in my church’s musical staff. I’d wanted to meet with him for a long while before we got a chance to shoot together, but for whatever reason, I never made it happen. In the weeks leading up to this shoot, we were searching high and low for a good father/son pair to use for the story. At the last second, a friend suggested Josh and his son — a suggestion that, to me, now seems Providential. Or conversely, perhaps it just goes to show that if it weren’t for photography, I might never make any friends.

Lastly, I always love getting the chance to work together with my brother. Shoots like these afford me those chances.

I should here note that I was helped in great part by Melisa Sibley and her ability to produce. She was invaluable in pulling this thing off; not to mention helping keep the younger talent in good spirits! All in all, this story has become one of my favorites for the year. I hadn’t quite done anything like it and therefore it was a challenge. I think it turned out pretty great.

On a final note, as has become standard, all shots were taken with Kodak Portra 160 using either a Contax 645 or a Zeiss Ikon.

And now, as we head into the Advent season, I hope you all find time in these colder, darker days to enjoy the warm company of friends and family. And that you have more than one opportunity to sit inside by a tree and a fire in order to do some quiet contemplation. Or, if not contemplation, at least bust out the Charlie Brown video tapes. Either way, I wish you all a most Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

With Nylon Magazine and Carrie Brownstein

Man. Every now and then, something will happen that makes me just stop and think to myself “well then, this is pretty neat.”

Back in late July, I was contacted out of the blue by Nylon Magazine to see if I’d be interested in pulling off a fairly last-minute shoot with Ms. Carrie Brownstein for their September TV issue. As you may or may not be aware, Carrie Brownstein is the leading lady in Portlandia. She’s also acclaimed guitarist for both Sleater-Kinney and Wild Flag. So, being asked to work with her was pretty sweet — especially since I live in Portland (represent, yoh).

Two days later, we met at the home of Bowen Ames for a relatively quick 2-hour session. Without mincing too many words, I can say that Carrie is just plain likeable. She’s easy-going, gracious, and humble — almost to the point of shyness. She’s also neither taller, nor shorter than I would have imagined. And it’s always a pleasant surprise to find out someone of note is also not a total jerk in person.

Of the three looks we shot, the magazine ran only a single image – although they granted Portlandia a full page. As is usually the case, they didn’t use any of my particularly favorite photos, but that’s how it goes. Below are shots from my favorite of the three looks. Enjoy them.

One last note — I want to here officially thank Jeff Luker for passing on my name to Nylon. You, sir, are the business.

With Vera Balyura and Verameat

At the risk of sounding broken-record-ish, I will say again that my favorite part of taking photos is having an excuse to meet people. I first learned of Vera Balyura through my friends at Industry of One, and a few months ago, while in New York shooting with Kinfolk Magazine, I was able to meet up with her in real life to take some photos. Vera gets a gold star for impressive multi-facetedness. The lady is a talented model-turned-painter-turned-photographer-turned-designer-turned-entrepreneur who makes eclectic jewelry pieces and dispenses them like so many gold-plated, delicious mentos through her own boutique chain named Verameat. Vera is energetic, affable, outgoing, and purposeful. In short, Vera gets it done.

We met at her apartment in the East Village and spent most of morning wandering around the neighborhood (which also happens to house Verameat’s flagship store), shooting and talking and trying not to sweat too much. Almost on a whim, by late afternoon, we had hopped a cab up to the Bronx, to visit Sylvia Plachy’s show at the Andrew Freedman Home. As the light was fading, and the staff was pushing us out the door, we snapped the last few photos of the day. Back in the East Village, we wrapped everything up with some thai food and Moonrise Kingdom — really of those sort of random days that I imagine people in New York have all the time.

In any case, the take-away here is that Vera is just impressively ambitious. She recently opened up a new store over in Brooklyn (which is brag-able), and has her eye on a west coast expansion. So as I said goodbye to her on my way to catch the subway, I couldn’t help but ask myself what the heck I’m doing with my own life. All in all, a good day.

With Amber Rose McConnell

Amber was right there at the top of my “People to Visit in Austin” list. She and I have known each other online and by reputation for quite awhile now, and I was excited to meet her. The lady is a talented model and a great photographer in her own right, but it was just plain good to finally get together. I still hold that the best part of being a photographer is the opportunity to always be meeting awesome folk. Ms. McConnell is awesome folk.

Essentially though, for our shoot, we walked the neighborhood in which I was staying, trespassing through various people’s front yards. Quintessential run-and-gun type-stuff. As is almost always the case with things like this, I wish we had had more time to sit down and plan something out properly. For what it was, though, I think the shots came out quite nicely. I am especially fond of the Polaroids (although that is almost always the case). In any case, here’s to round two! I, for one, can’t wait.



With Rockie Nolan in Austin

While I was down in Texas, I was finally able to meet up with Rockie Nolan. I say finally because in the last two months, we’ve come a hair’s breadth from making contact on three separate occasions. It finally took something like SXSW to do the trick.

Rockie is one of my favorite lady photographers, but is also a legitimately rad person. My only regret is that we had so little time together. As it happens, Ms. Nolan is graduating from SCAD in only a few weeks, before she moves up north to Brooklyn. I suppose this just means I have yet another reason to haul myself back out to New York. Hard life.

On a side note, is there a law in Austin requiring homeowners to plant cacti in their front yards? Cause I’d gladly comply with said law. One of the most striking things to me in Austin were all of the giant agave plants, so please forgive me if I went a bit overboard here. I’m kinda jealous just cause I can’t have a massive ball of spikes growing in my front yard here in Portland. Flippin rain. Flippin lack of sunlight. Again, hard life.