Shots From The Road: Skin Wars model Taj Mahal + artist Jamie Graden

Another collaboration with bodypainter/ artist Jamie Graden of LA, this time featuring Skin Wars model Taj Mahal.

Another collaboration with bodypainter/ artist Jamie Graden of LA, this time featuring Skin Wars model Taj Mahal.

LA artist Jamie Graden and myself have been slowly accumulating some really good collaborative efforts.  This one with “Skin Wars” model Taj Mahal was photographed in August, but it took a few months for our schedules to clear up enough for Jamie to do the additional illustration, send it to me, and for me to scan it and reassemble the piece using my current tiny scanner.

Halloween Shots – Percolate in “Catwomanesque”


Two images show last year of local model + friend Percolate, who made her hair into cat-ears and donned a stunning latex suit in ridiculously hot weather.  The top image was shot with the use of a slide projector and some old slides I’d inherited.  The bottom one was merely to take advantage of the pretty sky we had that day.untitled-225

Print available on my etsy site.  I’ll be posting individual shots from this series as well as new “Scream Queens” work for the remainder of October!  If you enjoy any of this work I encourage you to like it and share it!  For more photoworks goodness peruse my Etsy shop, follow on tumblr and twitter and instagram, and rummage around on my full site.

Halloween Shots – Glass Olive as Stag Beetle

Continuing the Halloween themed posts… from 2011, work with model Glass Olive, bodypainter/ artist Jamie Graden, and hair stylist Victoria Buge in LA.  My collaborators were so creative and on point, so much of what’s in the frame were their ideas, for instance, the model wanted to be a Stag Beetle…DSC_1710-Edit-2_HDR

If you enjoy any of this work I encourage you to like it and share it!  For more photoworks goodness peruse my Etsy shop, follow on tumblr and twitter and instagram, and rummage around on my full site.

Decapitated Angel – EC Comics Tribute

Model Angel Lin + others recreating an EC Comics cover that landed the company in front of Congress.

Model Angel Lin + others recreating an EC Comics cover that landed the company in front of Congress.

Model Angel Lin in my tribute to EC Comics artist Johnny Craig.  This was created last November with the help of mua Brittany Moody, hair Laura Buenrostro, hand and clothes Marcel Dejure, legs Collette Stone.

I will never forget that, prior to setting this up with Angel, I was talking with another model who wanted to do Scream Queens stuff.  I mentioned this concept and she wrote back “I do not want to be in a photo where I’m decapitated.”  That was the end of that!  Then I mentioned it to Angel who thought it was cool as hell.  Those are the kinds of people I like to work with.

print available here!

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Creating Photo Products

il_570xN.597112938_45fn“Music is a loss leader to sell t-shirts.”  One of the numerous truisms spoken by photographer David Strick in a recent interview on the Candid Frame podcast.  “You have to be entrepreneurial about creating a persona that is unique enough that people want to pay for it.”

As an art photographer, it’s more in my interest to create products that people want to buy, rather than booking custom photoshoots.  It’s not that I wouldn’t love to book custom photoshoots- it’s just the inherent difficulty of creating art with people who may or may not have compatible visions as the artist.  It could go like an office worker hiring a director to make a movie featuring the worker and their family and friends.  Alternatively, the film gets made on the basis that ancillary licensed products like toys, t-shirts, gift sets etc. defray some of those production costs.

It’s also a fact that people will spend money on small tangible goods before they get to “life experiences” or commission creative works on their own.  The average person doesn’t know how to approach photographers or artists unless there’s a specific door, like the mall photo studios, or some kind of common site like Living Social which typically has the bottom-of-the-barrel photographers.

What can photographers make?

1. The first and most obvious product is prints.  Flat representations of an image that can go on a wall but, unless they spectacularly add to a room’s decor, are often no more enjoyable than they are on a screen.  For a photo image to compete with a screen it has to be either uniquely printed (such as with metallic inks or on specialty paper) or on different scale to the screen, for example, very large to dominate a room as artwork, or card-sized to be considered as a treasured gift.

Framed work sells for a much higher price than an individual print, but it’s also a bigger beast to ship in the mail and kind of risky to have it arrive in good condition.

2. Shirts, mugs, jewelry and other chochkies.  Basically you are transforming your art into something utilitarian and mundane, or to put it another way, making art affordable and useful.  In my gallery experiences it’s always come up that small things sell more frequently to the layman.  “People spend on things under $50 without thinking,” as one gallery artist explained to me.  “It’s when you go over $50, they have to start thinking about how much they really want something.”

3. The book/ the pdf of the book.  In 2014 half the book market was self-published, and the barriers to entry are virtually non-existent.  The primary issue is building up an audience large enough, and giving enough pre-market buzz to a book, to entice people to care when the thing actually comes out.

4. Alternative process pieces.  What differentiates these kinds of works is they are one-of-a-kind type of prints, for example, polaroids or Fuji Instax instant film prints, or hand-coated cyanotype or van dyke editions.

5. Experiences – generally “I’ll help you shoot/ edit” kinds of things.  The experience-as-product comes from providing a setting that isn’t possible without you- lunch, models, access to exotic locale, etc.

6. Unique tools for photography, for example, custom gobos or modified 4×5 cameras.  Recent DIY cameras I’ve come across include one made from Legos and another from a 150 year old Tibetan skull.

Making products isn’t the only way to make money in photography, but the old adage of “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” reminds us that many baskets are necessary for many eggs.  Let products sit comfortably alongside your commissioned shoots or gear flipping or sponsorships or retouching gigs.


Teach Yourself To Teach Others

I teach classes in photography for a couple of the local city rec programs and I think I’m pretty qualified to do it. Lots of experience, a BFA, been through a teaching program and taught high school photography for a couple years, and often I get paid to shoot. I also teach drawing and comic making at an arts center. This spring I added watercolor and pastel classes, and this summer there will be mask-making, bookmaking, and manga classes on top of the others. I wouldn’t say I’m an expert in any of those areas but that challenge is part of what makes it exciting; learning new skills to pass on to others.

Masks, books, pastel work, watercolors, and drawing are all things I’ve done and been taught by others. All of my life up until the end of high school was about drawing, and I only turned to photography because I couldn’t draw as realistically as I wanted to at the time. Now that I’m older I understand you make the craft work for you, because art at its best is about self expression. Two other guys who couldn’t draw a real person to save their lives were Charles Shultz and Matt Groening; they drew what worked for them and their work touched millions.

The truth about tools, like cameras, pottery wheels, applications etc. is they are pretty easy to learn and if you introduce to someone else how it works, and give them a few samples showing the potential of the tool, creative people will take it and run with it in whatever direction they desire.

I was thinking about this because I’m starting to do more projects that are outside my normal creative output. For example, ceramics was something I had a single class in in 2006, but I enjoyed the zen nature of the wheel and sculpting faces. I owned a wheel for a few years and created faces on my own, until around 2009 I sold the wheel and stopped doing ceramics because I didn’t have a kiln. Once the bug hit me again last year I made sure each piece I created was an improvement on the past pieces- either by adding unique textures, or accessories, or smoothing out the edges- and the work got better.

The next project which is kind of a new field for me will be comics. I’ve made a few comics off and on over my life, mostly involving photography, and I’ve taught making comics for 2 years. Because the writing is a quicker process than the art, the goal is to write comics for other artists to bring to life, but to do that, I have to 100% create my first comic, work out the bugs in the writing, and understand pacing and how dialogue and images really work. It’ll be a challenge but a fun one.

I know I can’t draw a human being to look super realistic, but I do know enough about how to communicate an idea with the elements of art, principles of design and composition, how a lightbox works, how photoshop works, how to use prismacolor markers and charcoal and scissors and tape and masking fluid, and I know what kind of stories I like and what I don’t like, that I’ll probably be able to get by. I would wager most creative people who apply themselves to new media or genres or art forms would be able to do well if they have the drive in their heart.

The more stuff I make, the more experience I have to pass on in teaching, but perversely it’s the teaching that makes me learn more and more about each craft.