(Starting with an image of my daughter Maggie at Venice Beach, no studio needed!)
I’m writing this in the final few days of cleaning out my studio and moving everything back to my house. It’s been a year since I had 24 hr access to a shared space in a fashion house startup in Tempe and I thought I would share some of the ups and downs, what I thought I would get out of it and the reality.
In 2016 I had a string of music video shoots and had germs of ideas for web series. It seemed like having a space and employees and being a full business was the next step. The opportunity came to have a former tv studio in the basement of a new fashion startup- potential to do work with designers, stylists, all sorts of industry types. I hadn’t shot fashion in a few years but knew I could do the sort of weirder fashion that everyone says they like but no one will pay for.
One of the two managers of the space already knew a photographer, so I was brought in as the video guy, which wasn’t much of a significant difference except I wasn’t allowed to teach photography classes in the classrooms, which is something I’ve successfully done for 10 years. The photography classes that were supposed to be offered never came about, making my inability to teach a topic because someone else was gonna do it pointless. This was probably the first sign it wasn’t going to be a great fit.
The first 6 months of being in the studio meant a lot of clean up, painting, model shoots, filming myself, meeting new people and generally having a great time. There were even a couple paid opportunities though nowhere near what I imagined. Many scenarios involved me being recommended as videographer to a company or person who didn’t have any interest in creative stuff, they were looking for a commercial for their video screens or whatever.
I think during this time I made pretty creative use of the studio- playing more with colored backdrops that we could totally trash, lasers, smoke machines, sets, nudes. Since many of the models I like to work with are out-of-state, I thought it would be just as easy to bring people here and shoot in the studio all set up instead of my traveling, renting a car, booking a place, dealing with strict time limits etc.
Unfortunately there’s only a few people I shoot with regularly in the Phoenix metro, and when I looked into shooting with agency models I found out pretty fast that I’d be asked to do a bunch of trade and within a tight creative box. Also I only ended up bringing a couple of my favorite model/ actress collaborators, and after I put a guest room in to do it more frequently, my sister moved in and STILL hasn’t left.
By the time summer hit, a variety of things changed.
I had started an art gallery job that, while it doesn’t pay much, was super convenient for me- 1 mile from my house and I do a lot of my computer work there (including writing this).
My car air conditioner died and the car itself was leaking oil, neither of which have been fixed, but that meant I wasn’t driving into Tempe if I didn’t have to.
I had a couple jobs through the studio that turned out to be a lot more trouble than they were worth, involving missed payments and chaos.
People in the building were asking me to come lecture for free and also to do big slideshow presentations etc.
Adobe was sending me to San Diego Comic Con to give a panel on their new mo-cap animation software, and the fashion head said it wasn’t going to be mentioned in the studio newsletter since it wasn’t fashion related. That might not sound like a big deal but to me it was like “a cool thing that is related to the businesses here”.
By the end of the summer, I came to a few conclusions of what was working out and what wasn’t- based on
A. what I wanted to do
B. what I had an audience for
C. what people would pay for
D. what companies supported me
…and what I ended up with was
trippy Instant Film
dark video stuff
stuff I do with my daughter Maggie
stuff I shoot with like 6 specific models
As far as poppy, bright fashion stuff goes- I think there’s a lot of it out there, and people who build their entire portfolios around it, with Halloween masks and children’s toys etc. And I think tonally it’s not something I want to pursue and I don’t think what audience I have is into.
But here’s the thing about that list- I don’t need a studio for any of it. Or to be more specific, I don’t need a studio shared with others, where I have to drive a distance and deal with ASU traffic and pay for parking to get walked in on by a tour group and have $50 insurance come out of my account every month while owing a large $ of services to the building manager.
Oh, I’m not happy that I quit all my local art center teaching so I could schedule classes for a company that wouldn’t let me teach what I successfully teach and whose signup process is so difficult to understand that customers told me they couldn’t do it.
So it’s a mix of disappointment and relief that I’m moving all the stuff back to my 10×10 backyard workshop and in a couple weeks, room that my sister is soon to be vacating. I still don’t know and don’t care about anything involving fashion and it seems the feeling is mutual.
But in the end – the aesthetic of Primordial Creative is to be very organic, even when glitchy; to have some involvement of the elements or nature, not be in some controlled box.