Suspect Photography

words and images from david george brommer

Month: October, 2012

Darwin, Taxidermy, and the Spiders from Mars. Meandering the halls of The American Museum of Natural History

Skulls 1/50 Second f1.4 iso 1250 Processed in Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.0 “Yellowed Preset”

Taking class trips while in school when I was a kid always promised an exciting day. You got to jump on a bus and leave the tedium of the classrooms behind and explore some thing new. All it took was a permission slip singed, a few bucks from Mom and Dad and off you went to somewhere special and different. My favorite was a trip to the Museum of Natural History in NYC. So much to see; take in a planetarium show, rub a meteorite, and see arguably the best taxidermy in the world exhibited in very cool dioramas. The museum is where learning, culture, and adventure collide to stimulate your imagination to new heights. In a word, “neato”.

Entrance 1/1200 Second f2.8 iso 200

Barbara and I were off to see the Spiders Alive show on this lovely Columbus day. We had this planned for about 3 weeks and truth be told, I really couldn’t wait to connect to my inner child and hit the museum. So I grabbed my faithful Fujifilm X Pro 1 and figuring it would be dimly lit I chose the 35 f 1.4 to document the day. Normally I wouldn’t post these images, just keep them for myself as I am working on other blog entries of shall we say, “more important nature”? However, marching about the museum’s halls with the X Pro 1 gave me a photographic tingling and so I figured I’d share. Once again, experiencing the world is enhanced when you see it as a photographer and the results were better than I thought. This whole blog post was shot using the 35mm 1.4 capturing standard film sim mode as a jpeg.

Leslie the Tarantula Detail 1/100 Second f1.4 iso 200

Spider Detail (crop of 50%) 1/50 Second f1.4 iso 2000

The American kids were super respectful during the demonstration. Notice the hands up when they have a question? They were attentive and into everything the docent was describing.

Docent and kids 1/50 Second f1.4 iso 1250

Rows of specimen bottles 1/50 Second f5.6 iso 2000 Macro Mode

The following is various taxidermy.

Note: All images are  shot through glass.

1/50 sec f 1.8 iso 400

1/50 sec f 1.8 iso 800

1/50 sec f 1.4 iso 2000

1/50 sec f 1.8 iso 800

Something wonderful for all those curious about where we came from (humanity that is) is the Hall of Origins. Something I always remember from my childhood is the hominid couple walking across the plains. They are short, hairy and and have an affection to each other. They greet you entering this vast temple to Darwin and it’s always a pleasure to see the lovers from another epoch.

1/50 sec f 1.4 iso 3200 Processed in Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.0 Antique 1 setting

I asked a security guard if any creationists had issue with this hall. After all, Adam and Eve have no place here, and with the abundant skulls and supporting arguments for evolution present, creationists would find no sympathizers. The guard said he had been on duty for three and half years and no one had ever spoken or acted with animosity to the exhibits singularity.

I was very impressed with the quality of the images two fold, first the auto focus did great shooting through the glass, secondly the quality of the overall image. I had set the camera to auto iso of 6400 and kept it in auto focus the whole time. I loved the shooting wide open most of the time and the depth of field accentuated the subject matter terrifically in my estimation. Once again, the Fujifilm X Pro 1 delivers stunning results and is a pleasure to keep as a companion around your neck as you explore the glorious world about you.

~David

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The Suspect Story: Part 1, A Un-Published Suspect Photography interview with Chris Gampat of the Phoblographer

Io Electro from the Seattle Suspects series Contax RX 60 2.8 Macro Planar 1/60 sec f 11 Kodak Techpan 25 iso

A couple of years ago, Chris Gampat, chief editor of the Phoblographer asked me a few questions about my Seattle Suspects project. For some reason, the questions and answers were never published, and recently while cleaning up some hard drives, I found the piece. This will be the first part in a three  part series about my most photographically productive time, the Seattle years.

Tell us about how you came up with the name, “Seattle Suspects.”

Suspect Photography was the name of my gallery/studio in Seattle. We filled a niche in the photography community of Seattle by showcasing emerging and mid-career photographers that had an edge, but couldn’t find a home in the more established galleries such as Benham and Gail Gibson gallery. We had a great location, in Pioneer Square and I coined a term, Maverick Gallery. These were artist owned galleries that were prevalent in the bohemian inhabited old industrial and manufacturing buildings that made up Pioneer Square.

Suspect Photography was named after an experience I had where I “suspected” anything could exist in an instance of chance. When you look at an uncertain future, you can “suspect” anything, because anything is possible. Suspect Photography is both pragmatic and optimistic with a dash of fanciful promise.

Since the subjects were a selection of Goths, Fetish heads, Drag Queens, Artists, Poets, Musicians, and other assorted wayward souls I had a small difficulty in coming up with a name for the project. So I looked for the common denominator, which was they all came to Suspect Photography to be photographed, and Suspect Photography was in Seattle, hence the name Seattle Suspects. On a side note, everyone I ran the name by loved the title, but Joyce Tenneson. She is the undisputed queen of photography books and she absolutely detested it! I had to go with my gut, and keep the name in spite of Joyce’s opinion.

Nearly Naked Man from the Seattle Suspects. Contax RX 60mm 2.8 1/60 sec F11 Kodak Tech Pan 25 iso

 What was working with these people like for you?

Like hanging out with friends that I wanted to become closer to. I love people who are on the edge, I love freaks. I love people who take being called a freak as a compliment.

Susan from Club F*uck Seattle Suspect Series Contax RX 60 2.8 Macro Planar 1/60 sec F 11

 How did you get your subjects to pose the way that they did?

I encourage them to take over the studio sounds system. If you didn’t bring a cd over, I’d drop in one of mine, something that local clubs would be playing. It was the mid 90’s so NIN, Skinny Puppy, Dead Can Dance would suffice fine. I’d let them dance for me and coach them to stop when they got into an interesting pose. I would look for positions that were demonstrative of the subject, ones that encouraged positive and negative space with expressive reaching of the arms or straddled legs.

Sparks from the Seattle Suspects series Contax RX 35-70 vario-sonnar 1/60 sec F 11 Kodak Techpan 25 iso

Do you feel that chemistry between a photographer and the subject is vital to creating great photos? If so, why?

Absolutely. Emotions will be caught on film, so if they don’t trust you, then your images will reflect that. They wont give you their all. I likened the underground of Seattle to a court, and I was the court photographer. I photographed the kings and queens of the scene and they trusted my eye to capture this moment in their life. This gave me access to the rest of the courtesans. I have to also say at this point that I was one of them. I wasn’t an outsider looking in, I was an insider of the scene. I partied at the after hour speakeasies where I recruited the Suspects, I promoted at the clubs (Catwalk and Chapel Periolous) and I ran a gallery that featured edgy art. I also shot Fantasy Unlimited ad campaigns that gave me street cred. The Suspect’s trusted me with themselves, and I respected them.

Dalia from the Seattle Suspects series. Contax RX 60 2.8 Macro Planar 1/60 sec f 11 Kodak Techpan 25 iso

How did you inspire yourself?

How could I not? Look closely at the suspects, they are so complicated and strangely beautiful, a blend of darkly serious and deathly whimsical that I always was honored these subjects would pose before my lenses. What we photograph will echo in eternity, I was inspired to ensure their voices and style would not fade into obscurity. The suspects of mid 1990’s Seattle are fully documented and that is inspiration incarnate.

Malinda from the Seattle Suspects series Contax RX 60 2.8 Macro Planar 1/60 sec f 11 Kodak Techpan 25 iso

Tell us about how you lit your subjects to get the look that you wanted.

I approach studio lighting like two puzzles to solve. First, you must light the background. I would hit the background with two While Lighting “oil cans” fitted with barn doors to keep the spill from hitting the subject in the foreground. I would try to even the light out so the flash would give F11 across the entire backdrop. To light the subject I would use a White Lighting Ultra 1800 in a large Photoflex soft box as a main light, pretty much hitting the subject’s torso at f 11 but the trick was to mount the light on a Bogen Super Boom. Booming the box lets me use the light like a great soft skylight to bathe the subject that I can tweak and aim just so. For fill light I would use an Ultra 600 in Photoflex Stripdome to achieve F 8 1/2 output. I recommend playing with your lights and testing them so you can find the look that matches the subjects and the process your using.

Thank you Chris for asking me those questions, and thank you to all the fabulous freaks of mid 90’s Seattle. You set me free to find myself.

Seattle Suspects book published in 2009 with Blurb and available on the Blurb market place or with a print on the Seattle Suspects site.

Please visit the Seattle Suspects main site to view the book and more suspects, and whilst your at it, give a “like” to the Suspects fan page.

~David

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