So Long Studio

DSCF1342(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

Character Animator

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.

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Design + the dancer

I wanted to post a few recent images I did with dancer/ stuntwoman Alana Schoen in LA.  Probably my favorite styling to work with is a black turtleneck and leggings; I’ve done it many times with many different models and it always comes out with a super clean design that appeals to me.  Alana (228 of 513)-Edit

All images shot with th eFuji X-T2, 35mm lens, LED lighting.Alana (233 of 513)-EditAlana (1 of 9)

Alana (510 of 513)

Help support the Primordial Creative studio via Patreon and check out our photography tutorials on our Skillshare channel!

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Documentary Portraits, 20 Years Later

Hello out there! This time I’m showing you some of my earliest work- portraits I took while working in developmentally disabled group homes circa 1998-1999. It was my early college years and I was full of social crusading juice. These were all shot with the blessing of the clients and their families, and I describe what I’ve learned in years since about what makes a good documentary portrait project. I also show you some of my recent work with my daughter Magdalena.

Help support the Primordial Creative studio via Patreon and check out our photography tutorials on our Skillshare channel!

Maggie without a plan

Over the years my photography has gotten more and more focused around a plan – booking studio time, working with booked models or paying clients, even basing my own family photography around trips to exotic locations in the Southwest or Alaska or Hawaii or Mexico. It has been a long time where I just went out with the camera and shot stuff without a plan.

Tonight, on a routine trip to McDonald's with the kids, the sun hit just right and my daughter Maggie's hair was just the right combination of wild and fashionable.

I feel like to get good at a creative medium, or keep up one's chops, it's important to work at it during "off" time- like an illustrator who sketches while watching tv. Shot with the Fuji X-T2 and 35mm 1.4 lens.

Maggie at the Petrified Forest/ Painted Desert

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I’ve always had a problem: I live in the Southwest- surrounded by exotic, beautiful environments like the Painted Desert- but it’s just far enough away that it’s not feasible to take a pro stylized model with me to shoot out there.  Enter my daughter Maggie, who at age 8 has been in enough of Daddy’s shoots in her lifetime to finally get styled and shot way out amongst the petrified wood.  Hair and makeup done by her mom/ my wife Vesna Miller.  We’re going to make this a routine thing- once a month- with the goal of building up a youngster to be an ultra stylized look.

All images done with Fuji X-T2 and either the 35mm 1.4 lens or 23mm 2.0 lens.

Minimal Monochrome Model Instax

I’ve come to the conclusion that instant film is the ideal format for my photography – minimalist, strange, shot with “what you see is what you get” style lighting.  These were shot with Fujifilm Instax Mini Monochrome Film – 10 Exposures on my Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic Instant Film Camera, and here’s a little tutorial from my YouTube on how to get the double exposure effect you see in Shasta’s image!

New Monochrome Instax w/ Alina, Devi + Mia

I’ve put together a little formula for how I’ve conducted my recent shoots, which is: some video, which takes a while to compile/ edit/ do fx + sound for etc., and then some instant film shots, which are already done the moment they come out of the camera.  This seems to satisfy the need for immediate results while giving me something to work on for the next couple months.

It’s fascinating how sometimes the work that gets the best response is the stuff that’s simplest or easiest or quickest to create like this.  These were shot with the Fujifilm Instax Mini Monochrome Film, my new go-t0 creative tool for stills!

On my youtube channel I have a couple video tutorial/ reviews of the Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic Instant Film Camera

…and the new monochrome film I use to make these!