Suspect Photography

words and images from david george brommer

Category: Performance

Bull Riding in NYC

ride3

I got a last minute invitation today to photograph the third and last day of PBR- Professional Bull Riding event at Madison Square Garden. Armed with my new Fujifilm XPro2 camera I hightailed it over to meet with long time friend and fellow photographer whose gig it was to shoot for Load It, an international trade magazine for productions. I hate to say this, but I think I have known photographer Todd Kaplan for very close to 3 decades. He’s a tried and true working pro- always gets the shot. Shoots with Canon. Good guy.

bullportrait

I heard we would have access, so I imagined cowboys in dressing rooms, ready to test their mettle on the backs of beasts. I grabbed the 18mm and 35 mm lenses in eager anticipation. I should have known how crummy the sodium vapor lights at the Garden are.

monster-girls

The Monster girls posing with their boss. At least he said he was their boss…

The cowboys were getting “in the zone” so no portraits of them occurred, I figured to make the most of the it and test out that new and improved AF system on the XPro2. I switched to high speed mode, AF servo and activated all focus points in with a wide AF center box. Ready to go!

ride2

Auto Focus Mode tracked the action no problem!

I’m usually an aperture priority kind a guy, but for this, I put the lens in A mode and set the camera to 1000 sec shutter speed. I opened up the auto ISO to a 12,500 cap. These settings worked like a charm!

ride5

8 frames per second and 1000th of second shutter nails the shot like the photographer was born in the bull pen. He wasn’t.

I shot these in the Film Sim mode using Across Green Filter setting. I figured the green would un-harsh the crappy stadium type lighting in B&W. My quick edit had me using the good old reliable Nik Silver EFX. I used the #22 ambrotype toning. I figured a warm look matched the classic bull riding theme of the photo shoot.

ride1

The bulls are the real stars.

Here is Todd working, it’s a tough job, someone has to do it.

todworking

bullincorral

MSG back stage, things are a little weird.

msgpbr

I finally found the picture I wanted, this cowboy was from Colorado, but has recently moved to Missouri. He works for 3 1/2 months, then gets to go home for a few weeks. He was cordial and really interested in the people he meets on the road. A gentleman. A gentleman cowboy.

cowboy

The last thing I’d like to convey, there were protesters outside of MSG. The crew I worked with Todd shooting were very professional and the cowboys taking care of the bulls were very respectful of the bulls. I saw no mistreatment and the bulls appeared to be .. well… bullish.

XPro 2 for sports? Yes!

~David

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Blood Bath in NYC courtesy of Bruce LaBruce

Just when I thought I was through photographing edges of the human race, Barbara suggested we head over the Hole NYC for a performance piece and book signing by an artist Bruce LaBruce who I wasn’t familiar with. A fast googling brought me to his wiki page and I was intrigued for sure. He’s a Canadian born multi disciplined gay pornographer, photographer, and writer. What caught my attention is he’s working in polaroid whilst shooting contentious set up scenes.

Before and after staging of performance.

Shock seems to come natural to Bruce, he softly directed the models and injected the signs and queued fonts of blood from his ultra fem-boy assistant. Wielding a Polaroid 600 camera, a base model with hardly any overrides, he strategically shot, signed the photo with a sharpie, and tossed his polaroids to the side for fem-boy to collect. The words on the signs seemed at first to be a standard progressive mantra but then as you start to really latch on to the slogan, its just “off” some how. It’s like laughing at a joke you don’t really get. Makes you think, and then just like that, another bucket of stage blood splatters on the victim-model, the crowd roars, and the antagonist-models contort in delight. Bruce, he’s just shooting, signing and loosely orchestrating the spectacle.

Paraded around The Hole NYC main gallery.

Victim is secured.

All the while a DJ pumped obscure dance music with a sometimes pop and often industrialized beat. Loud, expansive and contained in brilliant hi-key white, the Hole NY shook to audible and visual mock violence. It was perfect.

Bruce LaBruce Pieta 2012

Bruce in action with his Polaroid.

Fem-Nazi Madness

We hung out late afterwards, as people from the audience volunteered to be victimized the crowd slowly shuffled out. There was a small sign that promised signed polaroids for $5 each. I was incredulous to this as nothing in NY costs five bucks that’s worth a damn, aside from a bagel or a 4 block cab ride. Bruce’s work was taped to a brick wall, and in the end, with just a few gallerists  present, fem- boy let us pick out 4 polaroids. Barbara put them in her pocket book, I slipped fem-boy a Jackson. Our photography collection just took a turn for the better, I’m going to treasure those polaroids. They will remind me that the edge of the human race is alive and well.

Polaroid 600 Film recently shot.

a girl from the audience is targeted (and she loved it).

Later on, two blocks north on Bowery at Gemma I chimped my X Pro 1 to see what I got and the results gave me photo-butterfly wings feelings!  At the early point of the performance I set the camera exposure compensation to +1 stops which kept the walls white (until they became blood spattered of course). ISO setting was auto-1600 and I shot wide open at f 2.0 with the 18 mm which was perfect, allowing me to frame the whole stage from my vantage point. I shot fast and furious, to match Bruce’s orchestrations. Twice, I switched over to video and caught a movement of live action. The thrill of  photographs well caught was evident. I was excited by the shoot, but alas, it wasn’t mine. It was purely Bruce’s and myself and all the others who were shooting, video taping… they got something good, something exciting too. With all the smart phones of the 100 or so onlookers I imagine twitter, facebook and instagram must have been humming or as they say in the new digital vernacular, “trending” (I can only imagine the comments). I ordered the steak, rare. It seemed the only thing I had an appetite for after the performance.

After the buckets of blood were all done, Bruce slowed down and took more time directing.

Bruce had no signs saying no pictures. The spectacle was ours, shared by Bruce’s work and his decision to allow the imagery in an ultimate form of sharing, unrestricted access to his Bowery blood bath for all to see. Suspect Photography applauds Bruce LaBruce and his open-source performance art.

~David Brommer

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