Suspect Photography

words and images from david george brommer

Tag: black and white digital

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

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End of Year Post : What’s In and What’s Out

Doll_n_whip

Doll with whip, Brooklyn Xpro1 35mm f1.4 B&W jpeg

2013 will forever be known as “The year to try to keep up with”. Innovation found itself at every turn, politics were as contentious as any year in my life I have been aware of, and the now ambiguous smart phone has dominated just about every aspect of life in 2013. Trying to keep up is nearly impossible and requires a devoted assault on what was once known as “free time”. There is no more free time, unless you retreat to a cave, grow your beard (oh wait, the hipsters own beards now), make a conscious decision to quit social media,  isolate yourself,  and avoid at all cost  slew of new cable series that now define pop culture. There is light at the end of the ’13 tunnel, those cables series have become so engaging that reality TV became passé. A lot of shit went down in 2013, and I don’t have time to write about it all, ‘cause I gotta catch up so I’ll break it down with a In and Out list, kinda like In and Out burger.. but much tastier.

candle maker

Candle Maker, Sugar Load NY Zeiss 12mm f2.8

 

InUmami Burger, this LA burger joint opened on 6th Avenue and all the other burger joints in NYC pretty much took the back seat. The flavors are masterful, and the trick is to just sit at the bar and let the families wait for tables.

Out– MacDonalds, actually MickyDee’s has been out for a long time, but this year even their employee HR website recommended they don’t eat what they serve as unhealthy.

 

In– Mirrorless Cameras, this got serious in 2013 after Fujifilm in 2012 was the comeback kid. Olympus pretty much abandoned their DSLR line, and Sony stuck a full frame sensor in a Mirrorless camera.

Out– Cameras with the “hump” (DSLR) and sub $200 point and shoot digitals. Yea, cameras that have the hump mean they have a mirror and a mirror is so everything 2012 and past. Forget a cheap digital point and shoot, you got your iPhone for that. The only p&s digitals that can keep up these days have super zooms, something we are years away from with the phone cameras. At least for now.

 

In– Adobe Light Room 5, pretty much everyone is editing and organizing with this software that pretty much does what we all really need.

Out– Adobe Photoshop CS, It’s cloud based now, and the uproar could be heard in heaven. Adobe had to lower the monthly price and even Scott Kelby was accused of being the bad guy. This move by Adobe will end Photoshop being used by the marginals, and only the pro’s will shell out $50 bux a month for the software. The days of getting serial numbers on youtube pirate vids are officially over. Pony up or just use Capture One Pro 7 or DXO Optics Pro 8 to open up your RAW files.

 

In– the Afordable Health Care Act, with the promises to lower health care costs and provide coverage for all Americans how can you go wrong? Sounds like such a great idea!

Out– Obamacare, with a clunky website and insurance dropping those who are all ready covered and pretty much those who were happy with their insurance before, now paying more to cover those who couldn’t pay. Much like all good intentions, this is looking pretty crappy now.

 

 In– Miley Cyrus- I’m not going there.

Out– Lady Gaga- Her new album is so… meh.

 

In– The Fujifilm 23mm 1.4, and now there is no reason to shoot with any other camera. It’s fast, it’s super sharp, and it’s the perfect focal length.

Out– 18-55 Kit lenses, just go prime. Slow zooms are over, and the everyone knows that to the key to good bokeh, you shoot with a fast prime.

 

In– The Nikon DF, because retro is cool, its half the price of D4, and who really needs video? Oh and did you check out in black?

Out– The Nikon D800, because who really needs 38 megapixel? It’s over kill and there are way too many buttons on that camera.

 

In– Bill D’Blasio, NYC’s next mayor. Who really knows how he’s going to do? We all have our collective fingers crossed.

Out– Bloomberg, He did good for the city and lots of rich guys, but hey isn’t that NYC is all about anyway?

 

InThe Guardian, great journalism that takes chances and it’s free to read.

Out– New York Times, except for the lens blog its clunky to read, who knows if what you’re reading is true or not, and it’s expensive. $20 bux a month!

 

InVine, really my attention span these days isn’t longer than 6 seconds anyway.

Out– Google Plus, despite how much google throws this down our throats, I still only know a handful of people who use it. Yuk.

 

In– The Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 with its retro style and advanced features, it’s the best instant camera to come along since the SX-70.

Out– The Fujifilm Instax Mini 25 was great until I replaced it with the Mini 90, but still for the money, a great instant camera.

 

Flatiron

Flat Iron Building Xpro1 18mm f2.0 B&W mode

 So there you have it, my list of the ins and outs of 2013. Suspect Photography is really looking forward to 2014. Workshops, a new book, and all the photographs yet to be taken. Happy New Year folks!

~David

 

Day of the Dead in Mexico: A Photographic Exploration Of Dia De Los Muertos

Day of the Dead Boy, Zacatecas Mexico

Day of the Dead Boy, Zacatecas Mexico

In the fall of 2013 I attended the Morbid Anatomy Day of the Dead Field Trip called, “Death in Mexico” exploring Dia De Los Muertos. I had seen photographs of this holiday from my friend and mentor Harvey Stein and I was certainly interested in learning more and turning my cameras eye to capture the macabre beauty of the celebration. Accompanying us on this trip was Salvador Olguin, a Monterrey born historian of Mexican cultural artifacts with an emphasis on studying the relationship of Mexico and death. He was our Beatrice as we travelled into the underworld and offered insight into the history and artifice of the Day of the Dead.

Salvador Olguin in cemetery, Guanajuato

Salvador Olguin in cemetery, Guanajuato

Background of the Day of the Dead

Mexico is wonderful country that has its share of issues and grandeur. Faced with a complex history of tyrants, corruption, poverty, and of course drug trafficking Mexicans are acutely aware of death and have the most interesting way of negotiating what we in the USA put at arms length and treat with abject distance. Something completely unique to Mexico’s Day of the Dead is that is has a sense of humor, a moribund smile of sorts.

Sculpture, Zacatecas

Sculpture, Zacatecas

The holiday is celebrated on November 2nd and can be confused with Halloween, which it is not. Day of the Dead is about honoring the deceased by building altars, visiting grave sites, and offering (ofrendas) foods, flowers and drinks to the departed. This all adds up to a festive environment where children paint thier faces in sugar skulls and adults arrange parties in the cemeteries and cities. The festival has its origins linked to the Aztec goddess Mictecacihuatl who presides over the underworld and rules the afterlife. She a flensed goddess and is often depicted with a skull agape. Very fitting since in death, our bones remain as all that is left of our mortal trappings.

Sugar Skull Girl

Girl with sugar skull and instant photo portrait, Zaccatecas

To gain access when needed or to just pass on good photo karma to my subjects I also used a Fujifilm Instax Mini 25 instant camera. If you want to charm your subjects and get them to open up to you, a smile and an Instax shot is your ticket.

Man with sugar skull and military costume, Zaccatecas

Man with sugar skull and military costume, Zaccatecas

You could find altars to the dead in civic building, markets, universities, and even just occupying a niche in the street. This altar was nestled between a parking lot and a major street in the city of Zacatecas.

Simple altar on the streets, Zacatecas

Simple altar on the streets, Zacatecas

Mexico is practical, they don’t feel the need to be modern, if it works, they will adopt it to suit their purpose. Using a mule to carry your cactus drink across town for thirsty denizens is not for a tourist show, the man has a work mule and it does it’s job better than anything else the man has, so he uses it. No license, no department of health, just a real world application. I imagine we could have found this same image 200 years ago, but a modern car would not be parked across the street!

mulevendor

When we were planning this trip I considered what I wanted to get out of it photographically. I wanted to capture the spirit of the day of the dead and the people of mexico. My parents brought me to Mexico when I was 13 years old and what struck me was the sincerity of the people. Shooting with a super sharp lens I walked about with a smile and pointing at my camera to my subjects in order to make these images. I found a purity in the shooting of these mexicans on their holiday, and went for a wide open aperture to soften the background so to make the attention fall on the subjects while hinting at the environment.

Jicama, lime, and chili  snack man, rest stop between Monterrey & Zaccatecas

Jicama, lime, and chili snack man, rest stop between Monterrey & Zaccatecas

Our trip took across four cities and I found interesting subjects at highway rest stops, in alleyways, and on the streets. As I shot the images and edited them I began to fall in love the subjects. Take for instance this father daughter team, it was taken at the Festival of Skulls and it may just be the most honest image I have ever made. The affection is evident in the fathers closeness to his daughter and the child is innocent in a way that North American children have lost in our modern age.

Festival of Skulls father & daughter vendor, Aguascalientes

Festival of Skulls father & daughter vendor, Aguascalientes

The celebrations culminated in parties in the cemeteries. Families would gather in a festive way on the graves of their dead ancestors. These little girls were above their grandmother. I believe that no matter where the spirit of their grandmother is, the smiles of her descendants warms her soul.

girls at grave

Young girls celebrating over grave of grand parent, Guanajuato

breadofdead

Selling Pan de muerto (bread of the dead) on the street, Guanajuato

Mexico Sunset on highway between Zacatecas and Monterrey

The landscape could be ominous between the cities as seen in this sunset.

We visited the Mummies of Guanajuato, where well preserved mummies from a cholera outbreak were on display. These images were shot through display glass and I had to keep the lens touching the glass to avoid reflections.

mummyhead2

Mummy Head

To see more of this work, I have created a book with 76 plates and resources on Blurb. It’s not a cheap book, its $120 dollars but it is 12″x12″ and I’m quite proud of it. Please take a look here, I have the full preview permission set so you can see the entire book.

 

My Day of the Dead Triptych is also available on Fine Art America. This site allows you to choose varying sizes and presentation styles. I have priced them very affordable, so if you’re a fan of this work,  you have a choice of ways to own the photograph without breaking the bank.

Art Prints

The work I shot during the Day of the Dead was photographed exclusively with a Fujifilm XPro1 camera and three lenses; the Zeiss 12mm f2.8, Fujifilm 18mm f2.0 and Fujifilm 35mm f1.4. Settings were raw+jpeg, b&w mode, auto iso to 6400. All jpegs were imported into an iPad and final processing was done using Google’s Snapseed.  This is a workflow I have been using for over a year now and am very excited to present it in a new seminar at the B&H Event Space December 30th at 4 pm.

Resources for learning more about Death in Mexico

Morbid Anatomy – Brooklyn based blog, library and cabinet, museum, and educational collective that survey the interstices of art and medicine, death and culture.

National Museum of Death – A museum in Aguascalientes dedicated to the culture of death in Mexico. A must visit for those with an affinity for the macabre in art and culture.

El Museo De Las Momias (“The Mummies’ Museum”) – A museum exhibiting The Mummies of Guanajuato that consists of naturally mummified bodies interred during a cholera outbreak around Guanajuato, Mexico in 1833. The bodies appear to have been disinterred between 1865 and 1958. During that time a local tax was imposed requiring relatives to pay a fee to keep their relatives interred. If the relatives were unable or unwilling to pay the tax, the bodies were disinterred. Ninety percent of the remains were disinterred because their relatives did not pay the tax. Of these, only two percent had been naturally mummified. The mummified bodies were stored in a building and in the 1900s began attracting tourists. Cemetery workers began charging people a few pesos to enter the building where bones and mummies were stored and eventually a formal museum was founded.

and lastly, here is the entire tour from Morbid Anatomy’s Death in Mexico field trip. A wonderful trip, with wonderful people and the opportunity to make great photographs of super interesting subjects.

The tour group photo picture.

~David Brommer

Hurricane Sandy and the Obliteration of a Safe North East

Chelsea Pier on the Hudson River Monday October 29th

I’m not sure I know where I’m going with this blog post. Being a Manhattanite effected by the super storm Hurricane Sandy I was one of millions who lived through an interesting time to say the least. It was the week of Photo Plus East, the massive imaging trade show at the Jacob Javitz Convention Center  and we had just finished up a grueling week of camera a photo education. My favorite holiday, Halloween was a few days away and the reports of a “Frankentstorm” started being reported. The Saturday before the storm the government and media really started to talk about it. The presidential election was in the fury of its last days and even that took a back seat to the impending storm.

By Sunday it was obvious, we would be getting hit, and get hit bad. Hurricane Sandy was killing people in Caribbean, and she was moving up the eastern seaboard slowly. From the mid west of the USA a massive low pressure cold front was heading towards the Atlantic and would collide with Sandy far off the coast of the Carolinas. The weather scientists were saying this was more than the perfect storm, this was something we haven’t seen yet. Ominous.

As a photographer and not a first responder I decided I would continue shooting the event. Knowing that power was most likely going to go out, I set to charging all batteries and devices. Monday everything was closed or closing. Hurricane Sandy was approaching. I was going to fall back on photographer mode. I shot these all with the Fujifilm XPro1 with the 18mm f 2.0 lens over the next week. Images were shot in JPEG and then converted to black and white with Nik Silver Efx 2.

When the impending storm was just innocent fun.

Bottled Water was the first thing to run out. Monday the 29th.

The Mayor’s office began mandatory evacuations and broke the city into three zones. Zone A was expecting severe flooding and on Sunday they ordered evacuation from a block from our building. The Chelsea galleries are famous in this neighborhood, and they would be right smack in the center of Zone A.

The Galleries of Chelsea braced for the impact, and flooding.

Things we take for granted, like access to our parks closed and locked up.

Art in NYC is bad ass. They stop for nothing.

The wind picked up Monday night and the storm smacked into Manhattan around 7:30 p.m.. I pretty much stopped shooting at this point and waited out the storm. We lost power shortly afterward.

and then the lights went out. The storm had hit Manhattan. 8:16 PM Monday the 29th.

I thought I had eclipsed my fathers wisdom was “a know it all”. Turns out Dad can still dispense with good advice, he had recommended we fill the bath tub with water. I followed Dad’s advice and was very glad because when the power went, so did the water. I shall not doubt my fathers capacity for wisdom again, if we had not had a bath tub of water to use to flush the toilette that would have put a huge damper on the next 5 days.

News became a luxury in a dark city. The morning of October 30th.

houston

Manhattan had taken its hit. Overall not too bad, severe flooding and a few downed trees. However three other parts of New York, Breezy Point in Queens, The Rockaways (out by JFK airport) and Staten Island would get a hammering of epic proportions. On election day, November 6th I took a trip with Brandon Remler to Staten Island to survey the damage. What I saw will be forever in my mind of the power of nature and the futility of man to thrive in her shadow.

Cleaning up after the massive flood in Staten Island. Sense of humor is still dominant in New Yorkers. November 7th, 7 days after Sandy landed.

Boats in Midland Park Staten Island, tossed like kid’s toys.

The boats created a surreal sense of place, all out of place.

The scope of property damage was unreal.

Homes pushed off their foundations by storm surges.

In some places, the ground itself was washed away.

I witnessed devastation, but also a community united. The American flag was ever present.

Crooked Church in Staten Island, still standing.

I walked away from this experience with emotions. Everyone you meet asked how you weathered the storm, and you ask them too. I actually felt guilty saying I had no electricity nor water and lived on the 18th floor without elevator service. Those are small inconveniences next to the fires of Breezy Point, the washouts of low lying Rockaways and Staten Island. We are told that this will now be a current state, vicious hurricanes and flooding. NYC now has it’s natural disaster, its earth quake/brush fire/volcano. Water. That will be our challenge.

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