Veterans for Bernie Sanders

Veterans for Bernie Sanders

I was proud to donate my efforts as a photographer and creative director for this social media campaign in support of a group of military veterans that advocate for the presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders. I spent a day photographing portraits of each veteran, as well as personally-significant artifacts of their service, from uniform patches, to medals, to dusty combat boots that were worn on deployment.

A Katrina Chat With My Mom

A Katrina Chat With My Mom

As the 10th anniversary of Katrina arrived, I asked my mom if she wanted to have a phone chat and talk about it, and record it for others to hear. So we had a good talk, and here it is. Unscripted, unpolished, just a couple locals talking about what they went through during the time. The same conversation happening on stoops all across New Orleans today.

Listen in:

The first moment she saw news reports out of New Orleans

The first moment she saw news reports out of New Orleans

One year later, rebuilding her house

One year later, rebuilding her house

Currently, in her beloved woods

Currently, in her beloved woods

Sour Times Revisited

Sour Times Revisited

A high-pressure system of media attention began developing months ago, a natural side-effect of the 10-year anniversary of Katrina. At first I read each new essay or before-and-after list eagerly, to see if any wisdom from our suffering then had left marks like a waterline throughout the wider cultural memory. But as I write this, two days before Katrina's ghost comes ashore yet again, I've found myself bogged down in the depression and futility we felt in the aftermath of the original storm, and it's taken all my strength just to scroll faster past the Category 5 think-pieces as they surge from the globally-warmed media companies and social media pundits.

One bright spot in the clouds, and one that I'm proud to have contributed to, is Cynthia Joyce's curated collection of blogging and citizen reporting from the time of the storm (and after.) It's called "Please Forward: How Blogging Reconnected New Orleans After Katrina" and if you're looking to get a feel for what life was actually like for those of us in the middle of it then, this is the book you want to read. 

I was asked to contribute a post in which my mom gets injured while toiling to clear debris from her property, and, well, I'll post it here along with the original photos:


Sour Times, Operation Eden, September 18, 2005


I want so desperately to have good news for you. Trust me, this is not for your benefit, but for mine, for my family, for my mom, for the hundreds of pitiful and proud people I’ve talked to here. Some good news, some hope, even just a little thimble full, would save some lives. But there is none. Not even a thimble full. No, I take that back, occasionally good news travels in from outside, like a birdsong though an open window. It’s as if Katrina left in her wake a huge zone of Bad, where no new Good can gain a foothold. 

All the Good we get has to be imported from exotic far away lands, like Missouri, or New York. Places where people have homes, and electricity, and phones, and running water, and a future. Those of you who’ve given, who’ve bought prints from me, or donated money, you’ve sent us some good news. That’s what we’re surviving on. Thank you. 

But down here, the Bad just keeps lingering. While I was in what’s left of my mom’s Eden, photographing what happened to her few belongings, she tripped over a fallen tree in the backyard and fell on her face. Katrina did this to her. 

We rushed her to the motor home medical clinic at the local distribution center, and a nice volunteer doctor from Florida checked her out, after he was done checking out the little fat kid who had accidentally split his foot wide open with an ax while trying to clear his dad’s yard. 

In 100-degree heat she sat there, and I watched as what was left of her dignity and pride slowly drained out of her. I could see it happen, right as she apologized to the doctor for having unshaven legs, but we haven’t had running water this whole time, so I feel bad you have to touch them. The doctor was charming and said nonsense, don’t apologize, but it was too late, and Katrina and the 100 degree heat evaporated my mom’s reserve of dignity and all I could do was watch, because dignity drains much faster than you can fill it back up. 

We listened to Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” on the way back to our shelter, and my mom silently cried a little, and I put my hand on her shoulder and couldn’t say anything, because Johnny already said all that needed saying.


I also contributed a spoken-word version of this post, to air as part of Thacker Mountain Radio Hour's (Mississippi Public Radio) Katrina episode, recorded with Cynthia Joyce in front of a live audience in Ocean Springs, MS. That show airs in Mississippi and Louisiana on August 29th, 2015, and can be listened to live or later online here.

Available for a Limited Time: Miniprints

Available for a Limited Time: Miniprints

For the first time in ten years I'm offering prints to the public! For a limited trial run I'm very happy to introduce MiniPrints.

What's a MiniPrint? It's my attempt to capture some of the ephemeral beauty and tiny intimacy of Instagram, and fix it in a form I can share with people who love my work, but might not be able to afford my large-scale limited edition prints. Each print is about the size of an iPhone, and printed on beautiful lo-fi glossy Fuji Instax film. They're really charming, combining the feeling of immediacy and intimacy you experience looking at Instagram images, with the retro fun of Polaroids you can post to the wall or display on your desk. Hell, you could have a gallery's worth of art in your pocket!

How does it work? Pick any image of mine you like from my websiteInstagram, or Tumblr, I'll print them, sign them, and send them to you. Easy. Tiny. Beautiful.

Available until December 25, 2014. Free shipping on orders over $100.

Get them here!

Real Life Breakfast Club 1984-1985

Real Life Breakfast Club 1984-1985

This charmingly dorky high school student video project from 1984 is like a real-life outtake from The Breakfast Club! Watch as a few 80s teens discuss what fashion means to them, how they get picked on for it, and what the definition of "ska" is.

Dark Cajun Blues Swampadelia

Dark Cajun Blues Swampadelia

If you like Beasts of the Southern Wild, True Detective, The Velvet Underground, and Tom Waits, you might like the Lost Bayou Ramblers. I love this younger generation of Cajun artists remaining true to the traditions while infusing them with the influences of modern life. Their track 'Blues De Bernadette' is one of my favorites. (image thumbnail my own, taken at the Pearl River Bayou on my last trip home)

 

"Oh why is it like that / Every day working for nothing / You can’t think of what tomorrow will be / But you know your riches are worth nothing

 

Oh fifty years of working / Day after day, on your feet, miserable / One of these days, God will find you / He’ll give you your riches in heaven

 

Oh it hurts me just to think / You alone in your house, / your family all dead / You don’t know if there will be anyone to take care of you / But I know God is watching"

 

1977: Iggy Pop Explains Punk Rock

1977: Iggy Pop Explains Punk Rock

"I'll tell you about punk rock: punk rock is a word used by dilettantes and heartless manipulators, about music that takes up the energies, and the bodies, and the hearts and the souls and the time and the minds, of young men, who give what they have to it, and give everything they have to it."

"And it's a term that's based on contempt; it's a term that's based on fashion, style, elitism, satanism, and, everything that's rotten about rock 'n' roll. I don't know Johnny Rotten.. but I'm sure, I'm sure he puts as much blood and sweat into what he does as Sigmund Freud did. You see, what, what sounds to you like a big load of trashy old noise... is in fact... the brilliant music of a genius... myself."

"And that music is so powerful, that it's quite beyond my control. And when I'm in the grips of it, I don't feel pleasure and I don't feel pain, either physically or emotionally. Do you understand what I'm talking about? Have you ever, have you ever felt like that? When you just, when you just, you couldn't feel anything, and you didn't want to either. You know, like that? Do you understand what I'm saying, sir?"


Images of model Clara Rae taken from my Instagram, follow me there.

Text transcript of the above interview with Iggy Pop from the CBC on March 11, 1977 (direct link)

Iggy's monologue from the interview was used to mesmerizing effect on Mogwai's 1999 track Punk Rock (Amazon mp3)

His Tears Turned Into Pearls

His Tears Turned Into Pearls

"That same night, I wrote my first short story. It took me thirty minutes. It was a dark little tale about a man who found a magic cup and learned that if he wept into the cup, his tears turned into pearls. But even though he had always been poor, he was a happy man and rarely shed a tear. So he found ways to make himself sad so that his tears could make him rich."

"As the pearls piled up, so did his greed grow. The story ended with the man sitting on a mountain of pearls, knife in hand, weeping helplessly into the cup with his beloved wife's slain body in his arms." –Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

Hysterical Literature vs James Earl Jones on Walt Whitman's Birthday

Hysterical Literature vs James Earl Jones on Walt Whitman's Birthday

Today is Walt Whitman's 195th birthday. Let's celebrate with a fun comparison between two very different readings from his classic of American literature, "Leaves of Grass."

First up, from my Hysterical Literature video project:

Next, via Brainpickings, a theatrical reading by legendary James Earl Jones:

Which do you think Walt would have preferred?

"Sex contains all, bodies, souls, 

Meanings, proofs, purities, delicacies, results, promulgations,

Songs, commands, health, pride, the maternal mystery, the seminal milk,

All hopes, benefactions, bestowals, all the passions, loves, beauties, delights of the earth,

All the governments, judges, gods, follow’d persons of the earth,

These are contain’d in sex as parts of itself and justifications of itself."

-A Woman Waits for Me, Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman 1855

 

Star-Spangled Banner for Smithsonian Magazine

Star-Spangled Banner for Smithsonian Magazine

Smithsonian Magazine recently called on select contemporary artists to interpret the Star-Spangled Banner, and as part of that project commissioned me to make portraits of avant-garde guitarist Mary Halvorson recording her rendition.

From the project website:

As national treasures go, it was a bargain: $405.90, paid to Mary Pickersgill of Baltimore, who fashioned it from red, blue and undyed wool, plus cotton for the 15 stars, to fly at the fortress guarding the city’s harbor. An enormous flag, 30 by 42 feet, it was intended as a bold statement to the British warships that were certain to come. And when, in September 1814, the young United States turned back the invaders in a spectacular battle witnessed by Francis Scott Key, he put his joy into a verse published first as “Defence of Fort M’Henry” and then, set to the tune of a British drinking song, immortalized as “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The flag itself, enshrined since 2008 in a special chamber at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History following a $7 million restoration—and due to be celebrated June 14 with a nationwide singalong — remains a bold statement. But what is it saying now, 200 years later? We asked leading painters, musicians, poets and other artists to consider that question. You might be inspired by their responses, or provoked. But their artworks give proof that the anthem and the icon are as powerful as ever, symbols of an ever-expanding diversity of ideas about what it means to be an American.

Visit the project website for more, and listen to Mary's interpretation below:

Muddy Waters Did a Heavy Psychedelic Album and It Will Melt Your Face

Muddy Waters Did a Heavy Psychedelic Album and It Will Melt Your Face

You're probably very familiar with the classic blues sound Muddy Waters is known for, but you might not have ever heard his 1968 psychedelic concept album, Electric Mud. After influencing a generation of heavy rockers including the Rolling Stones (who named themselves after one of his songs) to the Animals, Yardbirds, Cream, and Jimi Hendrix, Muddy assembled a group of psychedelic musicians in Chicago and turned the tables on the youngins, and his amps up to 11.

He even covers 'Let's Spend the Night Together' which must have been a dream come true for the Rolling Stones, although the resulting version sounds so legitimately transformed one might assume it was the Stones covering him.

The resulting album is so heavy it caused a meltdown among the blues purists that Muddy had become an icon to, and he was eventually forced to distance himself from it. Despite this, it went on to influence a whole new crop of musicians, from Led Zeppelin to Public Enemy's Chuck D.

It's fantastic summer listening. Turn it all the way up:

It's available as mp3 download for only $5.99 on Amazon here.

Class Portrait of Everyone In Line to See Kara Walker at 5:30pm on May 23, 2014

Class Portrait of Everyone In Line to See Kara Walker at 5:30pm on May 23, 2014

Yesterday I went to see Kara Walker's installation at the soon-to-be-demolished Domino Sugar Factory. Presented by Creative Time, 'A Subtlety' has been an overwhelming success, as I saw when I arrived to see a line of hundreds of people stretching at least five long blocks down Kent Avenue in Williamsburg.

Despite threatening clouds, everyone seemed in good spirits, so as I strolled to the back of the line I photographed the people waiting to get in.

24 images in all, photographed off the hip and automatically, like Google Street View on two legs, a spontaneous "Class Portrait of Everyone In Line to See Kara Walker at 5:30pm on May 23, 2014"

If you'd like to download the panorama as a single giant stitched image, it's 620 pixels x 35,288 pixels, at 72DPI (48mb) , and you can get it here:

PS: don't be alarmed at the size of the line, Creative Time has a very efficient staff working the door, and they let in groups of 100 people every 20 minutes or so.

The Beautifully Frightful Wooden Children of Gehard Demetz

The Beautifully Frightful Wooden Children of Gehard Demetz

“Are you not afraid of death?"

"I am not in the least afraid!... I would rather die than drink that bitter medicine."

"At that moment the door of the room flew open, and four rabbits as black as ink entered carrying on their shoulders a little bier."

"What do you want with me?' cried Pinocchio, sitting up in bed in a great fright."

"We are come to take you,' said the biggest rabbit."

"To take me?... But I am not yet dead!..."

"No, not yet: but you have only a few minutes to live, as you have refused the medicine that would have cured you of the fever."

"Oh, Fairy, Fairy!' the puppet then began to scream..."

"'give me the tumbler at once... be quick, for pity's sake..."

"...for I will not die... no... I will not die....”

I made these images of the hauntingly beautiful wooden sculptures by Gehard Demetz at his solo show currently on display at Jack Shainman Gallery on West 20th Street in NYC. It's up until May 31, 2014, see it if you're able.

Quoted text from The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, 1883

5EZ Pieces: Blue Bayou

5EZ Pieces: Blue Bayou

"There is something beautiful about all scars of whatever nature. A scar means the hurt is over, the wound is closed and healed, done with." -Harry Crews

The censorbar technique I was forced to develop for Instagram has begun creeping in to my other work. If one thing is obscene, everything is obscene. And if everything is obscene, nothing is.

New Music: Die Antwoord: Pitbull Terrier

New Music: Die Antwoord: Pitbull Terrier

My friends Die Antwoord have released a new video from their forthcoming album, Donker Mag, and it's everything you've come to expect from them. Ninja as feral mutant dogman terrorizing anthropomorphic fashion model/cats, Yolandi as mystical-rune-inscribed seductress fairy with magical spit. You know, the standard stuff.

Watch it. Die Antwoord never bores.

I've worked with Die Antwoord for years, from their very first album cover to later music videos, and I'm always humbled and awed by their tireless perfectionism and hunt for the real in the fantastic. 

Proud to call them friends.

Words. Of. Wisdom.

Words. Of. Wisdom.

"The Bitterness of Poor Quality Lingers Long After the Sweetness of Low Price is Forgotten" Jamie Ruth, New Orleans

"The Bitterness of Poor Quality Lingers Long After the Sweetness of Low Price is Forgotten" Jamie Ruth, New Orleans

Maja and Michel

Maja and Michel

 
Knowledge is not for knowing: knowledge is for cutting.
— Michel Foucault
 
 
What strikes me is the fact that in our society, art has become something which is related only to objects and not to individuals, or to life. That art is something which is specialized or which is done by experts who are artists. But couldn’t everyone’s life become a work of art? Why should the lamp or the house be an art object, but not our life?
— Michel Foucault
 

Model: Maja Stina

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