Suspect Photography

words and images from david george brommer

Tag: goth

Death Becomes Her – A Paradox Portrait Shot with an 8×10 Camera

Portrait of Paradox, from 10 Hours Walking as a Goth in NYC viral video.

Portrait of Paradox, from 10 Hours Walking as a Goth in NYC viral video.

I have one fear, and that is to shoot my beloved portraits with an 8×10 camera. I fear being able to focus, I fear not be able to see as I do with a reflex view, I fear the time it takes to focus, pull the dark cloth, load the film, pull the dark slide, and finally make the exposure. What if the model moves in that time and the focus is so shallow that I miss the mark?

“First world 8×10 Film Shooter’s problems”

So I played it safe and stuck to landscapes. But when I set up my 10 Hours Walking as a Goth photoshoot I decided to face my fears and start the video shoot with a still shot. Camera of choice being a 8×10 Deardorff loaded with Ilford FP4. We started the shoot late, and the sun was setting early in mid November. I pushed the FP4 to 400 iso (two stops from its native 125) and opened up the Kodak Commercial 14 inch f6.8 all the way. Using a Pentax Digi Spot I arrived at 100th of a second wide open. My assistant held a 32″ Silver Reflector to try to direct the anemic light while giving a little fill to Paradox’s magnetic eyes.  I miss-placed the heavy duty cable release that is needed for that behemoth of a lens and had to hand trip the shutter. This photoshoot had all the hallmarks of a crappy outcome.

Detail of eyes. Yes, those are special double contacts.

Detail of eyes. Yes, those are special double contacts.

But an amazing thing happened, out of the two plates I made, one worked. I’d say I nailed the focus by a tight margin, but what really got me was the amazing bokeh. That huge herkin’ Kodak 14 inch lens wide open is smoother than a newborn babies but!

I scanned the Ilford FP4 negs on a Epson 3600 perfection using Silverfast AI software. Then using PS I retouched the image and applied Nik Silver EFX to fine tune the black and white. The detail when working with such a large negative is positively sick and allows for extreme cropping with little to no loss.

Detail of 10% of the 8x10 negative.

Detail of 10% of the 8×10 negative.

 

If you like Paradox, then check out the short viral video I produce with her shot in November of 2014.

I’m hooked on 8×10 Portraits and shall be shooting and posting more soon.

~David

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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

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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