My train rides with Elliot always lead to Union Station.  The Expo line stops at 7th Street and we transfer to the red line and ride the rest of the way to Union Station.  Sometimes we’ll get out and walk down 7th and then turn left, up towards Grand Central market so I can shoot Broadway or Spring or somewhere else along the way but usually it’s a transfer.  

Subways in LA aren’t like subways in New York or other eastern towns.  The LA metro feels like it still has it’s training wheels on, like one day it’ll become a real subway system.  For now it’s still learning, taking small steps towards being completely unreliable, totally unsafe and utterly jam-packed with commuters.  In fact it just dawned on me… LA metro is a glitzy movie version of a northeastern subway.  The same is true of Union Station.  It’s the Hollywood set of central stations.  It’s like you’ve wandered onto a location shoot–filming in progress–and nothing feels quite real and you don’t know where the set stops and reality begins. 

The people who are to’ing and fro’ing become unwitting actors in this fake movie magic world.  They seem real, but as you wander around it’s hard to imagine where they might be going.  True, I arrived at the station on a subway train, but for some reason it feels so strange to think that anyone would have a reason to be at Union station at all.  Aside from the subway stops all of the trains are above ground, away from the station itself.  You never seen anyone borad a train.  You never see a train depart.  You never see people crowding or lovers kissing goodbye or children crying while a mother departs.  None of it ever really happened for all I know.  It’s all hidden away from me as I wander, so it becomes the Truman show.  All of these people waiting to depart in the main hall, running frantically up this ramp or the other, buying snacks with their children and walking through the halls–a massive ruse playing out only for me.  When I leave they all go back to their starting positions and wait for me to come back through again.  

After a while I start to make up stories about the people I see. I think we all do it but aren’t always conscious of it, this bizarre act of making up stories about strangers.  When I’m wandering around Union Station, though, my mind shifts into overdrive and I’m actively interweaving narrative after narrative after narrative for every single interesting looking individual who crosses my path.  That guy’s girlfriend is coming back from college… they haven’t seen each other since the start of school, hence the flowers and chocolates and the spring in the step.  That girl’s on her way to adopt a puppy–that’s why she’s carrying an animal carrier but has no animal. I think she had a leash, yes that’s a leash.  That couple is fighting because he lost all their money at the dog fights and got fucked up when they came to collect which is why his arm is bandaged and there’s blood on his polo.  That woman’s crying on the steps clutching her phone, because she’s waiting for her lover to come back from San Francisco and he just called to say he missed the train.  That older gentleman over there is lost.  No, I actually think he’s lost.   

I am the Sherlock Holmes of fictitious bullshit.   

It gets so bad sometimes that I forget to take pictures.  I need to remember to see as well as drift–to combine the vision and the narrative and to take the picture.  Clear my mind and see.  I think I saw the light first.  Then I saw the woman.  The light was perfect, but I struggled with a story for her.  She looked so ordinary and plain.  She was looking at her phone and seemed so completely disinterested in the incredible light flooding the small area she occupied.  She had been chosen by some divine force to be the center of this incredible celestial event and she couldn’t have cared less.  So I decided that was her narrative.  She was waiting, while a world of beauty was forming around her.  So much beauty that people began to take notice.  They covered their mouths when they spoke.  They shielded their eyes it was so bright.  They could feel the warmth radiating out from around her, but she just sat there, waiting.  

The click of my camera and it was gone.   Shot on my Mamiya 6MF on Kodak Tri-X film, pushed to 800 at the Icon. 

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.   

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