Suspect Photography

words and images from david george brommer

Category: Performance

Reinvigorate with Drone Photography and Fly Like an Eagle

Lago Trasimeno, Italy.

I purchased my first drone in 2018, the original DJI Mavic Air in red. I had a co-worker at B&H show me the ropes and then took the drone to Italy. For the first few flights my hands were shaking like a hound dog passing peach pits! It was truly exciting to take a camera into the sky and then apply years of early video game training to fly it over a mile away- so far that I quickly would lose sight of the little red drone.

Castello di Montecchio Vesponi, Italy
Small Castle and Olive Grove above Punta Bella, Italy

Aside from fear of crashing I was dumbfounded by the choice of either video or still. When I started droning I leaned heavily into video and even upped my Adobe account to include Premier. I put together a Tuscan countryside video that was quite basic and filled with mistakes. However among those mistakes were gold- I was learning to see like an eagle if not fly like one.

The End- Montauk Light House, NY

Drones can see straight ahead and at any angle completely down. It was the “completely down” that blew me away. Drones are smart, in that they know where they are in space (thank you GPS satellites). They can hover and remain stationary or they can fly upwards of 40 MPH in “sport mode”. What I found most appealing from a photographic perspective is hovering in cinema mode. Cine mode makes the drone move very slowly, like a slow camera pan. In still photography it allows for precise micro adjustments of the composition.

South End of Manhattan with Staten Island Ferry, NYC 2020

So get this, you are controlling a camera in the sky (400 foot ceiling as per FAA) over a mile away and making slight adjustments for framing while using altitude as your zoom. That is very exhilarating and empowering. You are now not limited to the perspective afforded by being grounded. Technology is wonderful!

Hay Rolls in a Tuscan Field
By lowering altitude you can “zoom” in a on detail or rotate to alter the entire composition.

During the pandemic I bought the DJI Mavic Mini and used it on the quiet streets of Manhattan to document the amazing city. The Mini is under 50 grams and no licenses are needed to fly it, so it was perfect for my urban explorations.

Brooklyn Bridge Morning, NYC 2020
Brooklyn Bridge view towards Brooklyn (note the low covid traffic), NYC 2020

I’ve walked past this skate park at least 1000 times but when I viewed it from above I discovered a geometry and texture that remained unseen from the ground.

Chelsea Piers Skate Park, NYC 2021
Lower Altitude with Skaters
300 % Crop of the above photograph

Sometimes great surprises can occur when you are droning that being on the ground would go unnoticed like this message in the corn fields of Warwick NY in the fall of 2020.

Corn Maze, Warwick NY 2020

Much like a view camera, there are a number of steps to ensure you achieve the image you want. Forget one step and you blow you chance or worse, crash the drone. Here is my “Pre-Flight Checklist” to ensure a successful, fruitful flight with the Mavic Air first gen.

Pre-Flight Check List Done in Water Color

The Mavic Mini is my faithful companion in rural italy where I can fly it safely and see a whole new landscape from above. I keep it in Tuscany, and look forward to a new generation of Mavic to purchase soon. Each release of the Mavic series from DJI just gets better and better. I find it thrilling and what’s really amazing is that it represents a whole new way of seeing that is accessible and relatively wide open to anyone who doesn’t have a fear of flying.

Delaware Water Gap, NJ 2021

Stay tuned for Part Two, Droning with Video.

Bull Riding in NYC


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.


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.


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!


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!


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.


The bulls are the real stars.

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



MSG back stage, things are a little weird.


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.


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!


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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