At the end of the day

Nothing today will be related to photography really.  You’ve been warned.  

I haven’t processed any film this month so far.  In fact I haven’t shot very much this month either.  Things have been a bit too crazy with my job.  I’ve had to work last three or four Saturdays in a row and I’m starting to get tired of it all.  Really tired and pretty frustrated and pissy and irritable too.  In fact if you know me, this is a smart time to stay away from me.  My attitude is shit, my patience is null and I will more likely than not argue with you over something that I don’t give a rat’s ass over rather than be amiable.  This is mainly due to the fact that if I can’t be happy than you don’t deserve to be either so fuck you and take your fucking seat next to me on the Noellert titanic.  

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but I work in advertising which is very much akin to working for satan, depending on how you feel about advertising or capitalism as a whole. That being the case, most of the various people I come across, from clients at advertising agencies to fellow artists and technicians, producers and account folks tend to be good people.  Well not the account people, that’s bullshit, but pretty much everyone else–they are decent hardworking people who are just trying to do what they can.  Some of the creatives that I work with treat it as way more than just a job in fact.  They pour themselves into their pitches.  They stay up day and night trying to come-up with interesting decks that’ll tantalize the client into some new and interesting advertising dynamic beyond the 30 second spot and then everyone will be toasting with bubble down at Cannes, gold lion in hand.  

But that doesn’t happen.  What happens dear reader, as if you could give a shit less about the ad world, is that all of that hard work and interesting-concept-edginess, gets watered-down, watered-down, watered-down and all of the edginess gets eroded, eroded, eroded until none of the original artistic intent is anywhere to be found.  And I hear them all wail, 

“What happened?  My beautiful ideas are all ruined!  They don’t want to do something smart or edgy!  They just want more product and more logo.”  

To which my reply every time is a resounding “No shit.”  Actually, I usually don’t say it that loud.  To be honest…  I never say it out loud, but in my mind I’m belting-out that “No shit!” like Julie Andrews from a fucking mountain.   Advertising isn’t an art form.  It’s not.  We would love to think that we are making art when we finish off some awesome 30 second spot with some hot pretty-boy star for a Korean car company, but it’s a fucking commercial at the end of the day.  We are all hired because we are excellent craftsmen capable building a product to a certain specification on a certain schedule at a certain price.  Art never entered into that equation.  Do we require artistic skills to complete that product?  Oh hell yes, although I’ve seen many a talentless creative fail forward, fumbling though project after project without a single truly creative molecule in their body, the vast majority of folks who work in the creative-end of advertising that I get the pleasure of dealing with are talented, skilled in their discipline and really happy to be working.  So much so that they let the companies that hire them walk all over them.  Most of them are to nice to say no but most are even more scared to say no…  

There are certain clients out there that expect their agencies to always be available to them at all hours of the day.  So the creative and account teams work literally around the clock.  They don’t get enough sleep.  They don’t get enough to eat.  There’s infighting and treachery and scheming and conniving but most of all, there is gobs and gobs of fear.  Fear of their client.  Fear of their boss and fear for the other teams because they fear for their job. It’s a reality television show waiting to happen.  And that fear filters down through everything they touch.  So every other piece of the puzzle needs to be available to combat that fear, by jumping through whatever hoops those who are afraid need.  It’s a giant Donkey-Kong level and we’re all climbing up the ladders, ready to get knocked down by barrel after flaming barrel filled to the brim with fear hurled down the ramp by Donkey Kong with a giant Apple logo on his chest.  Once you lose your three lives trying to dodge those barrels, the games not over, the machine keeps going–there’s always someone new, straight out of school, aching to to lose their three lives on the level you were just knocked-off of.  So the barrels keep coming, faster and faster and faster every year.  In turn things just get crazier and crazier every year.  

And that’s where I find myself right now.  At the end of a crazy year having jumped many a barrel and wondering at the enormity of the hypocrite I can be.  This capitalist religion that I was born into, like all religions, is just another fiction–a story that people believe is a truth handed down from on high, whispered in their ear by a burning bush or a even a Scottish priest.  It’s a divine belief that people subscribe to in order to be part of a greater whole.  For the church of capitalism, that divine belief is that growth will increase capital which will increase growth.  Glorious isn’t it?  No where in that statement is there anything that doesn’t end like a game of monopoly.  There’s nothing in that story that cares for humanity.  For the environment.  For love or for family.  For well being or enjoyment.  Nothing about the importance of watching MOFI with the kids or eating meatballs at Ikea.  Nothing about drinking to much wine and fooling around with Anna Maria after the kids are asleep.  Nothing about Saturdays are for shooting surfers or Sundays are for trains.  

But at the end of the day, this is our church.  Shot on my Mamiya6MF at 50mm on Kodak Tri-X film, pushed +1 at the Icon.   

Hello, Hej

If you’ve spent most of your adult life in Sweden and then moved abroad, it’s a moral imperative to locate your closest Ikea the second you come up for air.  It’s a law actually… in the Swedish constitution.  Given that subconscious mandate we find ourselves, from time to time, trying to come up with something to do on a Sunday and without even realizing what has happened we’ve driven to Burbank and we’re about to order meatballs.  It’s called a changeover.  The movie goes on and nobody in the audience had any idea what happened.  Tyler Svensson took over…  

And such was the case a couple weeks ago when I found myself, family in tow, once again at Ikea.  We weren’t shopping for anything in particular–just walking around looking at a ton of stuff that we really don’t need when I had an idea.  I realized that it would be fantastic to do a street style series in Ikea.  Seriously, it would be amazing.  Have you ever gone people watching at Ikea?  

It’s b-a-n-a-n-a-s.  

People do all kinds of crazy shit there constantly.  Jump in display beds and pull the covers over their heads, lay down on sofas with their feet dangling over the edges, fall asleep in the cafeteria with their face almost in their food, crawl into cabinets and wardrobes to check the size, study themselves in corridors filled with mirrors–it’s like they either don’t think anyone is watching or they just don’t give a shit   And that’s just the patrons.  There’s the whole warehouse that would be perfect to shoot on 8x10.  There’s the roof with the million solar panels that’s also aching to be a massive large format print.  The cafeteria and kitchen mass producing food as a long exposure.  Fleets of delivery trucks unloading those anonymous brown cartons and boxes.  This literally no bottom to the visual narrative you could create there.    

I shot out a whole roll there just as a test and when I got it back there were so many interesting images that I had difficulty editing them down to a series. In the end I figured it might be fun to post a small taste of what I’m thinking could be done.  These are all shot on Tri-X pushed to 800 at the Icon.  All on my Leica M7.  I think for the real thing I would want to do it 4x5 or 8x10 just for the sake of printing large.  I could even do it on the Hassy.  Need to think things through a bit more but I like where this is heading.   

The fork

I have Kertész on the brain.  I bought a used copy of “Andre Kertesz: Sixty Years of Photography” this weekend at Arcana books and I must have looked through it 20 times already.  It’s in my bedroom, atop of a chest of drawers very close to the bed.  I keep grabbing it right before I go to sleep.  It’s a used hardcover originally published in 1978.  The pages feel old on my fingertips but the pages are still glossy.  There’s an inscription in the cover to some unknown person on some unknown birthday in 1986.  It’s a first edition.   

This book really speaks to me.  Volumes.  It’s my first book of his and for the life of me I can’t figure out why I didn’t buy it earlier.  His images are so much more impactful in print–his contrasts make so much more sense on paper than on a screen and his compositions are even more finite and absolute when framed in hard glossy white boarders.  It’s a joy.  It’s an absolute joy.  Incidentally I find his use of longer lenses topical considering how I’ve been feeling with the 50mm as of late.  I’m sure he would have thought it funny to hear anyone referring to 50 as long but that’s neither here nor there.

What draws me to his work is his perfect geometric composition forged in a delicate dance between physical matter and light.  He’s infinitely aware of the everything in his scene–directions of his shadows, reflectivity of metal, softness of a bounce… he’s always in complete and utter control of what will be black and what will be white, leaving nothing to chance.  Everything is intentional.  I can feel his feet moving and winding around his scene, finding the perfect space to render his perfect compositions and contrasts.  His street scenes feel like paintings to me sometimes, especially some of the winter scenes– the ones he shot from above on a longer lens.  The whole frame compresses into this tapestry of white tones punctuated by hard black strokes from trees and roads.  It’s so graphic it could have been illustrated.  

And you can find that same tonal perfection (albeit the opposite way around) in his still-lifes, like “The fork,” for which my image is named.   It’s a simple image that we all have taken…


I love this description from “The melancholy life of the amazing André Kertész” by Noel Bourcier:

This photograph was shown at the ‘Salon de l’Escalier’ (Paris, 1928) and at ‘Film und Foto’ (Stuttgart, 1929) and was used in an 
advertisement for the silversmiths Bruckman-Bestecke. The purity of the 
composition matches the function of the object – the fork is not depicted merely as a formally beautiful object, but also retains its qualities as a utensil. With 
this vivid description of the spirit of an object, Kertész fulfilled an important artistic goal.

It was the original photographic incarnation of the expression form and function.  Which brings me to my image.  When I shot it, I was hot and miserable and not even remotely interested in making an interesting image.  My mind was purely focused on staying safely wrapped in the cool shadow of the pop-up tent I was hiding in and as close as I could be to the fans–our saving grace on this freakishly hot fall day.   I was supervising a commercial shoot and for some reason we were having record highs.  Anyway, I looked down, pissy and hot and miserable and saw this frame plain as day.  Like Kertész I try to always have a camera on me, so I framed up, shuffled my feet a little to get what I was after and made my version of “The fork.” 

HC-B once said of Kertész, “Each time Andre Kertész’s shutter clicks, I feel his heart beating.”  After I took made my image, some of the crew looked at me a bit strange and asked why I was taking pictures of the ground.  I just pointed and the shadows.  I have no idea if they got it or not, but I can tell you that when I hear my camera’s shutter click, I know my heart is beating.  

Shot on my Leica M7, amber filter, 35mm Summicron on Tri-X pushed to 800 at the Icon.          

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