Suspect Photography

words and images from david george brommer

Month: November, 2014

The New Star Wars is Going to Suck But We Will Go See It Anyway

The Legendary C3P0 and R2D2. These two droids have been through a lot.

The Legendary C3P0 and R2D2. These two droids have been through a lot.

I’m afraid of the new Star Wars trilogy. I feel sorry for the Millennials and the generation after them. They didn’t get to go see the Star Wars trilogy that my beloved Generation X got to grow up on. Millennials got Jar Jar Binks and a whiney teenage Anakin Skywalker. We got introduced to a new spin on the Arthurian based characters set in a space opera that took us to a galaxy far far away. They got over the top CGI to cover up horrible dialog and soulless characters. We got awesome lines to live by, such as, “Never Tell me the odds”, “Use the Force, Let Go” and the best line in movie history ever, “There is no try, there is only do or do not”. They got, “The people of Naboo are a peaceful people”. As great as Episode 4,5, and 6 was, Episode 1,2, and 3 were horrible. However, I paid out $$$ each time to see it in the theaters hoping against “A New Hope” that George Lucas would redeem himself and take me back to those awkward pre-teen years of 1977 a long long time ago. All the new episodes did were to make me appreciate the treat that seeing the originals were in theaters back when was I just a kid. For me, Star Wars proved to be both a moral compass and inspiration to dream, and dream big.

Rawwwwggghhhhhhh. Let me suggest a new strategy, let the wookie win.

Rawwwwggghhhhhhh. Let me suggest a new strategy, let the wookie win.

Like must of us, I watched the new trailer this holiday weekend. And yes, it has its moments and promises us the force will be with this new movie… but I got burned and I’m just as cynical now like Jawa under two suns at noon.

First trailer for Star Wars Ep. 7 "The Force Awakens".

First trailer for Star Wars Ep. 7 “The Force Awakens”.

So you might say, “what’s your problem? JJ Abrams is genius”. And that is my first problem. Mr. Abrams is not right for the job. My reason is simple; he is a Star Trek guy. There are two universes to consider, one takes place a long time ago and the other in 300 years. Never the two may cross. In Star Trek you have a Warp Drive, in the Star Wars you have a Hyper Drive. Phazers vs Lazers, Deflectors vs Shields, and all the other differences can be argued by geeks till blue in the face but one thing is certain, the look and feel of these sci-fi worlds are vastly different. Vulcans cannot mix with Wookies, Mr. Data can not play space chess with an Astro-Droid. But that is just it, JJ Abrams rebooted Star Trek and now he is going to reboot Star Wars? Too much power to wield from one director says I.

Two Bounty Hunters and Jabba's pit boss.

Two Bounty Hunters and Jabba’s pit boss.

I’m going to sum it up this way; JJ can bring the bling for sure. While I’m not a huge fan of what he did with Star Trek I’ll throw him a whompbat pie and say, OK he did pretty good. But that’s just it- pretty good. Star Wars deserves better than pretty good. It should epic. It should thrill you, and take you on a ride you have never been on before. This includes through Asteroid fields, artic plains, lush forests, mammoth space stations and of course, arid deserts where you farm moister. It shouldn’t look like perfect digital, it should look real, as in a sound stage on location. I want to feel the movie, feel it course through myself… oh wait… sorry I got lost in great Yoda wisdom from the Empire Strikes Back.

Two Jedi Masters. Judge me not by my size do you.

Two Jedi Masters. Judge me not by my size do you.

Here is the crux of my problem. Can he do this? It’s second to last scene in a New Hope- Episode 4. The whole movie has brought us to this one point, the smuggled plans that reveal the achilies heel of the most devastating object in the universe, the Death Star (hellooooo a frigg’in DEATH STAR!!!!!!!). The proverbial underdogs, the rebellion is going at it with vim and vigor, it’s a long shot but they are the good guys and if they can win the day, they save not only a planet, but end tyranny and evil on a grand scale. It comes all down to Luke as he pilots a hot rod of fighter through canyons of steel, lazers and enemy tie fighters led by the most evil character in movie history (besides Hanibal Lecter of course). The tension is palpable, he is so near his goal, to make a “one in a million shot” and start the chain reaction that will destroy the Death Star. It’s David vs. the Ultimate Goliath and he is turning off his computer and using the force to do it. Lord Vader is on his tail, has him in his sights and says, “I have you now…” when the prototypical cowboy-scoundrel-pirate flys out of the glare of a star in the Millennium Falcon and wings Vader’s mean tie fighter off into the void of space. Han Solo exhorts Luke to “You’re all clear kid now lets blow this thing and go home”. Luke takes exhales deeply and takes his shot… It’s perfect, you are in the X-Wing at that moment, you are Luke, and you are the hero of the rebellion for a moment. Your stomach twists and you pull up out of the Death Star’s canyon as the your proton bolts fly into a small exhaust hole and Luke-You destroy the ominous Death Star in a spectacular climax.

The Circle is now complete...

The Circle is now complete…

It’s 1977 and Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) do this with models and green screen. No CGI. It’s almost real. Han and Chewie have your back and it’s a perfect suspension of dis-belief.

Hammerhead. 'nuff said.

Hammerhead. ’nuff said. You might notice his eyes are soft, that’s because he was the first figure I photographed and had the lens on the RX10 set to 2.8. All the others were shot at f8. note to self, when doing macro, shoot stopped down!

Can Mr. JJ Abrams replicate this? Sadly, I don’t think so. I think the movie will be lost in pointless dialog and over the top effects that have no soul. I hope I’m wrong- I truly do, for the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.. oh wait, wrong movie.

Tie Fighter Pilot. So bad ass, they aren't even clones.

Tie Fighter Pilot. So bad ass, they aren’t even clones.

The images found on this post were shot in the portrait style I used for the Seattle Suspects. The figures are from my personal collection; each one was played with in back yards, friend’s rooms and construction sites. I photographed them with a Sony RX10 using one reflector and widow light. A sheet of 13×19 white satin paper was used as the back drop. I then ran the images through Nik Silver EFX to get them to look like my old Tech Pan process looked like. Contrasty and filled with detail.

studio set up

that's no moon.

that’s no moon.

~David “may the force be with you” Brommer

Advertisements

The Story Behind 10 Hours Walking in NYC as a Goth Viral Video

Portrait of Paradox shot with RX10 at 180mm 2.8 jpg and processed in Snapseed

Portrait of Paradox shot with RX10 at 180mm 2.8 jpg and processed in Snapseed

My first foray into video started off as a parody of sorts, but then it got serious as I delved deeper into the project and realized I could offer a commentary on what fringe persona have to deal with on a daily basis. I invite you to watch 10 Hours Walking in NYC as a Goth before reading the rest of this blog post, you’ll laugh and the whole thing will make more sense!

Click to watch video

sleep in a coffin

In early November a video was released on Youtube called, “10 Hours Walking in NYC as a Woman” which secretly video documented a simply dressed woman as she silently made her way about NYC and received catcalls left and right. The elements of the 10 Hours video are particular. The subject does not speak; they are “silent walking” and no matter how much they are intimidated they don’t respond. Subtitles are given for the catcalls they receive, and these subtitle float along at the bottom of the screen as the subject walks. A person also joins them and walks beside them for a prolonged period, and the subtitle keeps a tab on that time. The 10 Hours Walking as a Woman is actually quite a good piece of film making due to its stylistic choices. Proof of it being so good is the viral exposure it has garnered, over 36 million views!

woman

Ten Hours Walking as a Woman was created Rob Bliss, who runs his own viral video marketing agency. Bliss partnered with Hollaback, an advocacy group dedicated to ending street harassment. If you are interested in more of the original story behind the video the Washington Post has a great article about it here.

What got me were the parody videos that appeared after the original. Three in particular inspired me to make my own, the first was 10 Hours Walking in NYC as Jew, which is super hilarious. If you don’t get the joke, let me explain- Jews normally aren’t missionary, but a particular sect, the Lubavitch, or Chabab Jews get extra points for bringing a way ward Jew back into the fold. So in NYC, if you look even remotely Jewish, they accost you and try to get you to pray. It’s pretty indimic and I have been accosted by these particular jews many times over the years. Blame it on my big nose I guess. The other funny ones are; 10 Hours Walking in NYC as Princess Leia, as a white male, as a jets fan…  it goes on. They got to me and I figured it would be great subject matter to make a short video with. I had to try! (Note: the Princess Leia one is extremely funny in a nerdy way)

starwars

For the gear, I was currently testing a Sony RX10 for a B&H project and this camera, aside from an awesome still camera, shoots incredible video as well. Now I’m so not a video guy but I like a good challenge so I figured this was the opportunity to test the camera. I slapped on a Rode Video Mic ‘cause the built in mic is lame. The stabilizer in the Sony RX10 is superb, so no need for steady cam was called for, and also, I wanted a little bump and jump to give it that renegade look. I had my lifelong friend and Suspect assistant Joe Asaro guide me as I walked backwards in front of Paradox. The excellent Rode mic picked up her footsteps perfect, and since it was facing forward, didn’t pick up my steps (which I was worried about, walking backwards gives you a heavy step).

The opening scene starts with the walker adjusting the lens. I love Paradox's "Marilyn Manson" eyes in this scene.

The opening scene starts with the walker adjusting the lens. I love Paradox’s “Marilyn Manson” eyes in this scene.

 

While the original was spontaneous I knew Paradox would get little attention in the East Village where I wanted to film. So I went on line to the facebook group, “Goth after 30” and polled the elder Goths catcalls they have heard over the years. I edited together these comments and built a script. To parody the guy who walks beside the woman in the original 10 Hours vid (Shoshanna Roberts) I wanted something sort of outrageous so I bought a Priest shirt at the Halloween Adventure Store for $15 bux and caste the perfect “Priest”, NYC underground actor Joe Freedom. The idea for the “Jesus Saves” comment was made up on the spot, but I feel it worked out perfect. Notice the (13 minutes) line, the whole video has small subtexts that fit goth humor perfectly. Event the last title states, “666 comments were made”, that’s goth humor at its best.

Priest

One of the stars for sure is my Mother-in-law Elvira. She is a sweet little lady from Milan and needed a bit of coaxing to be the freak with the crucifix. I figured with her diminutive size and black clad look she could pull off the scene comically and with aplomb. In the editing phase I had to make her appearance with a fast cut because she looked to Barbara, her daughter and my wife right after “accosting” Paradox. I think the fast cut is hilarious and gets the point across perfectly. Almost all of the scenes were done in one take.

Elvira

Speaking of comedy I wanted to interject something very goth culture like, and the dominant factor that brings all gothdom together is music and dance. Paradox had asked if she could bring a some friends along, and I immediately conceived of the scene outside of the Gothic Renaissance (notice the gargoyle?) store. It would be a fast dance scene complete with old skool boom box. Joe A. schlepped in his boom box and I recruited the one and only William of New Goth City fame to be the boom box operator during the scene. The music is a youtube approved goth sound track that really worked. I only wanted them to dance for a few seconds but what got me was Paradox’s perfect sashay. She sums it up in haste, and as fast as it begins, an unscripted pedestrian walks through the scene, then it’s over and Paradox continues her silent walk.

dance scene

The video took about 3 hours to shoot. It was cold, I was layered up, and Paradox was a super trooper for enduring the scenes only wearing a skirt, corset and light top. William stood vigilant over the gear as we shot, and I trusted Joe to guide me as I walked backwards and faced Paradox as she strolled along, umbrella in hand and getting harassed left and right. Albeit a scripted harassment, half of the harassers were recruited right on the street, the other half I arranged to meet up at points along 2nd Avenue. We ticked off the best comments and gave the lines out the strangers that we recruited. The shoot went off perfect. It was tons of fun and Paradox really rocked it. All that was left was to edit the footage and that was the part I feared most.

BTS shot by Joe Asaro with iPhone

BTS shot by Joe Asaro with iPhone

I started off working with Apple’s iMovie but it turned out that soft ware was not up to the task. You couldn’t add the text in the live video, and I needed that to pay proper homage to the original with the subtitling of the catcalls. I downloaded the trial of Adobe Premier and rolled up my sleeves and had at it. I haven’t learnt new software in ages but with in 5 hours, had it cut and ready to go. After spending 5 hours looking pretty much at Paradox’s face and those eyes (double contacts if you were wondering) to say I didn’t have a bit of a goth crush would be a lie. Premier was easier to figure out than I feared and dare I say, I kinda like editing now. I look forward to my next project to edit.

Before we began, I busted out my Deardorff 8x10 with Kodak 14" lens and made two exposures with Berrger BPF200. Yup, I'm the kind of guy who shows up to shoot film still with a wooden 8x10 camera. Truth is, the Paul Strand retrospective at the Philly Museum of Art I had just scene inspired me and with a great model at your disposal such as Paradox, you gotta make the most of the collaboration.

Before we began, I busted out my Deardorff 8×10 with Kodak 14″ lens and made two exposures with Berrger BPF200. Yup, I’m the kind of guy who shows up to shoot film stills with a wooden 8×10 camera. Truth is, the Paul Strand retrospective at the Philly Museum of Art I had just seen inspired me and with a great model at your disposal such as Paradox, you gotta make the most of the collaboration. I hope to print these in cyanotype soon.

One thing that surprisingly manifested itself as this project unfolded, while the whole film was scripted and started as a parody, it rang true. Paradox and her ilk do indeed endure catcalls. So while it is funny, and was inspired by a straight up girl doing the silent walk, there is a substantial statement about society and those who walk the margins have to endure. This video does make a statement, and while catcalling any woman is un-gentleman like, the same applies to woman, boys or anyone who expresses themselves in a flashy, punk, drag, or gothic manner. Regarding the original, it has also caused some controversy. The video states that she was catcalled by all ethnic backgrounds, however the video seems to show only latinos and blacks. Where are the white men? I’m not going to comment further, but would like the viewers question this aspect and draw their own conclusions. Also, Shoshana B. Roberts is now receiving rape threats as a response to the original video. Humanity can be disappointing in all its forms.

Please help the cause and share the video! Thank you,

 

~David

Do we really need a Black & White Challenge? The Answer is a colorful YES!

Eastern State Penitentiary Sony RX10 B&W Jpeg

Eastern State Penitentiary Sony RX10 B&W Jpeg

Recently on social media, and in particular Facebook, the Black and White challenge has gone viral. The parameters appear to be that once you are nominated by a peer or friend, you have to post one image a day for five days, and on each post, you must nominate another photographer to do the same. The result, if the challenge is accepted, creates a pyramid of photographers posting B&W images exclusively. These rules are stated in the post of the photograph, and of course the nomination tags the photographer. When I did it, I liked to tag the person who nominated me, and on each daily post I made, I also tagged those who I was nominating during the duration of the challenge.

Eastern State Walls

 

I believe this to be a very interesting social media phenomenon, since it is creative and not just a social media useless trend, like the Bill Gates Millions chain e-letter. You can engage it many ways with deepness, like challenging a photographer who is known for color (I challenged Brandon Remler) or a more timid social media poster and film guy from Japan, my friend Mark Hammon. What was interesting about nominating Mark was that the mainstay of his photography circle is Japanese, so the challenge is spread globally.

Eastern State Pen View

I nominated my wife Barbara, who is a capable of making stunning color images and the occasional b&w. She took it to a new level and put the parameter of “some of her favorite things” and her posts are of objects and places that she loves instead of arbitrary images. She also nominated an Italian co-founder of the Cortona on the Move Photography festival, thus expanding once again across cultural and geographic boundaries.

Eastern State Walls

 

I tried to find out where and who the originator of the challenge is, but alas, that appears to be lost in the web. The Phoblographer made a good post about the challenge as well. Their post elaborated on what makes a good b&w shot. Pretty cool. Another aspect is that the level of photographers participating is very high, Sean Kernan is in on it. At this point, the challenge has gone through my photographer circle and some stunning work has been posted.

The above images were all shot at the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. The reason I chose to include this catalog of images for this blog post is that the location begged to be shot in b&w.

 

I believe this to be a blast, and very good for our medium. It’s actually a useful social media endeavor that can be challenging and interactive. Social Media is always evolving in unexpected and welcome ways.

 

What about you? Have you accepted the challenge?

%d bloggers like this: