I’ve had to make a few changes in my life for 2018.   We’ve always had a comfortable lifestyle, the Noellert family.  We’re not wealthy or even rich or affluent, but we’re not middle class.  Ester says were “bougie” from time to time which makes my face do this weird sideways smirk that makes people ask me if I’m in a bad mood.  That may be historically more correct than she knows but then let’s call it like it is, we’re haute bourgeoisie.  I like that more.

Our bougie lifestyle has meant Ginya and Malibu Farms quite often.  Shoppigs sprees for tops from Urban Outfitters, bottoms from Brandi Melville and a that new pair of Superstars.  Sketchboxes, Chatbooks and New York Times a-plenty–Netflixes and Spotifys and Apples galore.  You want iPhones?  We’ve got 20.  But who cares, no big deal, we buy more.

And so it goes.  The money comes and the money goes and as I try to stop the bleeding there are obvious things that can be quickly culled.  Simple subscription services are canceled with the swipe of a finger.  Budgets can be created for food and for shopping.  Tough choices need to be made for sure, but none so tough as the realization I had a couple weeks ago.  

I need to stop shooting film–maybe forever but at least for 2018 and while that realization feels like my soul is being ripped apart, between my stock and processing costs, if I’m going to get ahead of my finances I have to stop shooting on a physical medium.  So I’ve begrudgingly packed-up all of my favorites–the Leica M7 and the Mamiya 6MF and the Hassy and the FM2–in their respective bags and put them in the closet.  I have a couple rolls left to shoot out but I’m saving them for Mardi Gras or Stockholm this summer.  I am Jacks wasted life.  

I’ve charged up my M9 and taken it with me the past couple weekends.  It feels all wrong.  It goes to sleep sometimes and doesn’t wake-up in time to make the image.  Sometimes it won’t turn on at all, sometimes it refuses turn off.  It feels kinda right in the the hand but I’m shooting tons more and find I’m concentrating significantly less.  I find myself chimping.  But worst of all the images themselves feel worthless because somewhere in my head I know that they cost nothing to make.  Not only that but there’s no physical record of what had to happen for that image to exist–the image only exists when I look at it on my laptop or on the back of the camera.  Then there’s the aesthetic of the image–the just don’t look right.  The gamma is wrong, the contrast is wrong.  The colors are wrong, the sharpness is wrong, the highlights clips, the shadows are shit.  WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG.  It’s all fucking WRONG.    

I feel fucked.  So much so that I don’t really feel like shooting anymore.  So much so that I don’t feel like sitting in lightroom and even importing these wrong images.  So much so that I don’t much care to process my last 10 rolls of film because just seeing those processed negs is just going to depress me more.  So much so that I have bothered to write a daily for at least week.  So much so that I don’t have the energy to will to post.  In the back of my mind there’s this nagging feeling.  The images that I make have always had an inherent value to me partially because I know that each and every one had a cost attached to them and I made those images because I thought that each and every one was worth that cost.  How am I supposed to feel when I can’t really afford the cost of my art anymore?  I’ve always thought my images were film worthy, but maybe they weren’t after all and what’s the point of doing something if it no longer brings you joy.  

Shot on my Leica M7 at 35mm on Kodak Portra 800 and processed at the Icon.

Hairy Scary

The idea for this image came in a flash.  Ella and I were sitting in the living room.  I was reading the Sunday New York Times and Ella was behind me, on the other side of the room brushing her hair with what could only be called extreme prejudice.  She was starting at the roots, with a big, prickly brush, and reversing the length of her hair in long, jerky strokes, punctuated with frequent grunts, sighs and what almost could be called growls.  After about 15 minutes of so near constant racket, all the grunting stopped and I looked up to see Ella staring in the mirror.  

Now we all have big hair in this family from my wife to the kids to even little old moi.  When we go to restaurants and are just about to order, the waitress will say, “My God, you guys have such amazing hair!”  When we go out shopping and Ester is trying on something and we’re all waiting around near the dressing room, one of the sales folks will walk by and say “Damn, I wish I had hair like that!”  When we’re getting on a connecting flight from London to Stockholm and we haven’t really slept in twenty or so hours, an overly cheerful flight attendant greet us as we board a shitty little commuter flight with “Well, goodness what lovely hair you all have!”

You get the point.  

Be that as it may I was ill prepared for how absolutely ginormous Ella’s hair had gotten.  All of that brushing had puffed and feathered and poofed it all out to the point that there were bits that, even under normal big hair conditions, should have gone straight down that seemed to be lunging-out directly to the sides in a gravity defying vector that I have truly never seen before.  Poor thing.  She looked miserable at first, this tiny toothpick of a child topped with a head of hair that looked ready to attack whatever came walking by for first for food, but then she just started laughing.  

And I started laughing too.  I grabbed my camera and made a few images of her.  Then I got the idea to lay on the ground and shoot upwards.  With all of that hair going everywhere I knew it would be perfect so I threw myself on the floor and pushed myself around on my back with my legs ‘till I found the sweet spot.  I loved the way that hair cut her off at the eyes and it was so long that it just gradually swept out of focus.  I made two more frames, all the while making jokes and laughing about that monster hair of hers.  When I was a kid one of my brother’s friends, who constantly cut his hair to a millimeters length, made stickers that said “Hairy Scary” and plastered them all over the place.  I hadn’t thought about those stickers in ages but as I was squirming around on the floor taking pictures of my daughter and her enormous frightening hair, I found those exact words coming out of my mouth and they elicited such a hysterical response from Ella that she started hic-up’ing uncontrollably which made me laugh so hard that I had tears in my eyes.

That was a good Sunday. 

“Hairy Scary” shot on my Leica M7 with the 35mm Cron on Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to 800 at the Icon.    


One of the best parts about living where I live is that I’m only a stones throw from the Venice Beach boardwalk.  Venice is seething with images just begging to be made and time after time when I head down there, close to sunset with a fresh roll it never disappoints.  Whether it’s the freak show or the skatepark or whatever random event occurring in between, you find images–even if they’re not the ones you thought you would make.  

Such was the case with this one.  On the way to the skatepark there had been only a handful of scenes that had caught my eye.  I had managed to get off a couple of frames but missed equally as many.  I was feeling off.  Something wasn’t hitting right.  As I walked, my mind wandered from this to that.  I was taking in the world in front of me but more and more at a subconscious level.  It’s that phase for me between attention and recognition where I can make out shapes and tones but context slowly recedes, dripping silently away, and I’m left with a purely abstract impression of the events unfolding around me and an unspoken narrative running in my head.  

Usually something happens to snap me back–a scene predicates an image, shooting an impulse down the nerve to my right hand, forcing a hard-break from the on/off switch mantra of left/right/left, and into bringing the camera up to my eye so I can interpret the events unfolding in my mind’s viewfinder.  Usually.  This time I snapped out of it because I almost got run over by a woman in a bikini on 80’s roller-skates wearing pink-heart-shaped sunglasses amidst a fury of red curly hair.  I whipped back to reality just in time to jump out of the way but not early enough to make an image.  I had wandered on to the bike path by the skate park without noticing.  

I was struck at the rush of being so close to a fast moving human being.  I crouched down next to the path and framed up to the sky catching the skaters and joggers and cyclists as they zoomed by but I wasn’t getting close enough–again that feeling that I was off.  Venice always makes me think of Winogrand but the frame made me think of Gilden, so much so that all of a sudden everything felt very wrong.  The frame was to wide, I was seeing to much.  I looked through the viewfinder at the lens and realized why.  The night before, after more than a couple glasses of wine, I had vowed to be braver and get closer and make 2018 the year of the 28.  In the sobering daylight of the boardwalk the decision felt unsettling and uncomfortable.  I knew the image I wanted so when I saw the runner coming down the path, I took a deep breath and leaned in close.  I dropped my knee to the concrete and got in low.  The whole movement was fluid.  The lean to my knee while shifting weight forward than right into the pan and punctuated by the smooth click of the shutter–all in one continuous gesture–fully articulated and connected.  Nothing felt more natural.

I have a good feeling about 2018.  I have a really good feeling.  

“Low” shot on my Leica M7 with the 28mm Elmarit on Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to 800 at the Icon.    

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