I have been wanting to do a personal project for a while now based on the whole idea of an actual underground "Fight Club". Just outside of downtown Birmingham is an abandoned building known as the "Round House". It is the perfect amalgamation of grime, grunge and darkness all within a crumbling concrete frame. I really wish I had actually planned this out... I suck at planning. That being said, we threw this idea together rather quickly, set up some lights, got some fake blood, tore up some white t-shirts and got dirty for a couple hours! Big thanks to Fred Weaver, Kyle Jones and his wife Katy for helping out and being a part of my randomness. Here are some select images from our little get together...
Sitting high atop a ledge overlooking the Tennessee river in Chattanooga is the Hunter Museum of American Art. I've visited Chattanooga several times before and look forward to coming back before I even leave each time. Each visit I admire the museum from afar but wanted to explore it up close and personal this time. The flowing exterior of the main building was designed by Randall Stout and Associates of Los Angeles and is such a dominant feature of the entire sweeping panorama that is the River Front. The building seemed to take on multiple forms throughout the day as the light came in from different angles and caused highlights and shadows to dance across its beautiful exterior of what looks to me like brushed aluminum.
Inside the museum itself is divided into three sections. The main 21st century flowing building, the beautifully southern Mansion and the 70's era modern building. Looking at the three from the outside each seem to be their own unique and separate entity yet from the inside they are beautifully connected with works of art that carry you from one era to the next. From paintings and mixed media works to sculptures and photographs there's really something for every taste. As a photographer of course I appreciate good lighting and every exhibit is thoughtfully and subtly lit. Unobtrusive and never overbearing, each work is bathed is a subtle and gentle light that accentuates each piece and is quite flattering.
I hope to spend a little more time here on my next visit. I didn't allot myself enough time to really sit and take it all in as I would have liked to before they closed but definitely plan to next time. If you ever find yourself in Chattanooga, do yourself a favor and spend some time exploring this wonderful museum. It's definitely worth the time and money!
My son and I went on a little jaunt around Moss Rock Preserve in Hoover today. I love this place. Love. It. During the spring and summer it is filled with hikers, climbers and families enjoying nature at it's finest. There are miles and miles of trails to hike and a long meandering creek that flows through the heart of the park. My son loves hunting for crawfish in the creek and of course climbing on the many rock formations that are scattered throughout. If you haven't been, do it. Go. Now. Well not now but when you get a chance. Trust me, it's worth it! Below is a gallery of images from the day all shot with a Fuji X100s and as always, you can click on an image to view the larger version.
I have exactly two memories of my grandfather, the stoic figure to the left in the above image. One joyful, one haunting. The first and obviously the one I keep with me the most is of him taking me fishing when I was god only knows how young. I remember walking down a rickety old wooden pier to a small waiting boat. Fishing poles clanking against the metal sides as my grandfather stepped in and sat down and then reaching for my hand. I've never been scared of water but even if I had, his firm grip on me in this moment would not have allowed it to matter. I remember spending an entire day paying more attention to the busy airfield adjacent to the body of water we were in than to the company of the man that sat next to me. Being at the age I am now I regret that choice more than many I have made.
The second memory creeps into my head just about every time I hear the word Cancer. I remember walking into an enormous sanctuary holding my mothers hand. Colored light pouring in from all sides through stained glass windows adorned with massive images. Large wooden pews stretched to either side of me, stained a dark golden hue they had long rows of thick red cushion on them. I remember a nurse wheeling a pale, slender man in slowly. It was as if he was already gone. I was too young to really know what was going on but I could see he was sick. It's a devastating thing, it ravages body and mind and I hate it. I hate that it took a man I could have learned so much from. He left this earth on April 30th 1985. At least I have that one good memory inside and now the contents that I am about to share, to look back on and see a part of the wonderful life he lived.
Kermit Roosevelt Crawford was born November 23rd 1922. He lied about his age so that he could join the Army Air Corps in 1939 at the age of 17. He served his country for 33 years, 3 months and 3 days, retiring in April of 1972. I came across a photo book filled with pictures from his time in India and Asia spanning from 1942 to 1949. Looking through these images is indescribable. Seeing a part of his life that I would have never known about or been able to visualize is amazing to me. I would give anything to be able to sit with him now and talk to him. I would give up every single piece of my gear and never take a single picture again to be able to make a portrait of him. But through these pictures I can imagine what it would have been like. I can get a glimpse of his personality and his demeanor through the images in this book. The way they smell, the way they feel, I can touch and hold something that he once did. And now, with pride, I get to share these images with you. Below is a gallery of selected images from his book. Please take your time and go over them with care. These are images that not only tell an individual mans story but are a piece of living history from what was a trying and triumphant time for our nation as a whole.
You may click on any image to view the larger version.
Nestled at the end of an unassuming street in Birmingham there is a piece of land where history comes alive. Joe Minter's African Village in America. Standing on the street, peering over the sprawling chain link fence, one gets an immediate feeling of wonderment as to what lies on the other side. From this perspective you could easily take a quick glance and pass it off as an ever growing pile of junk, a hoarders graveyard if you will. But you would be woefully wrong. What does in fact reside here is a man's life devoted not only to his art but to spreading love and kindness to all who walk the narrow passageways that crisscross through this "village".
Walking through the expansive tangle of re
-purposed metal, wood and other odd and
ends can seem aimless but Joe guides you
from point to point stopping to discuss each
section and its meaning. Certain points in
history commemorated with installation type
works of art, thoughtfully pieced together by
hands that look as if they too have been
forged from the Iron that is so prevalent in the
majority of Joe's work.
Surrounding the backside of the village is a cemetery which Joe refers to as an "ancestral burial ground". "what we have here is a hundred thousand African Americans and we are amongst them, this is all our ancestors breathing this way on us letting us know they are listening and everything that comes through my voice is really what they saying".
Listening to Joe speak and getting to know
him not only as an artist but as a person is hard
to put into words. He speaks with authority but
through a gentle voice. As if he is teaching
more than simply talking. Always firm in his
grasp is what Joe calls his "Talking Stick". A
massive seven foot tall piece of solid pine that
he found on the side of the street some years
back. Adorned with bells and trinkets, it
speaks to visitors just as much as Joe himself does.
There is so much life in this place, overflowing
with character much like its creator. Joe
Minter is a gentle soul, a man who has spent
the last thirty plus years of his life trying to
make a difference with his words whether it
be walking visitors through his village or on
the front steps of the county courthouse. "my
body is going bad now, I can't keep going
down there as bad as I want to".
"I've had run ins with the police, I'm too old for that now, getting thrown on the ground and such".
Hours of talking with Joe fly by. He has such
a youthful demeanor when talking about his
art and life in general. Having him in my
studio gave me a chance to see another side
of him. Sitting there in front of my camera as I
was changing film backs and getting focus
locked in I was able to catch a glimpse of him
in quiet reflection. Almost as if he was looking
within himself, looking back on the years he
has spent paving a path on our streets hoping
others would not follow but join. You can see
the miles in his eyes, the years on his hands
and almost the burden in his heart to bring
others together for the greater good of us all.
If there is anything I can say about my time with Joe it's that his art is his life. Literally. Take a few hours to walk through this place, to listen to his words and you will realize as I did that he has put his entire life into every single piece of metal, wood and plastic that lies within here. Every scrap of Iron, every thrown out and reclaimed item has been put in its place here with determined care. It all traveled through the years and landed in its very spot for an undeniably specific reason just as Joe Minter himself has. More than likely you will leave just as I did, a changed person, better off having met the man that has Iron in his blood and love in his heart.
You can find more information about Joe and his African Village in America here
I have been waiting a very, very long time to shoot what I consider to be the very best metal band on this planet. Sevendust. I finally got that chance last night as they returned to B'ham and rocked Zydeco, an intimate venue which with a band like Sevendust, is always an awesome experience. Touring on their latest album "Black Out the Sun", they have been destroying audiences around the country and tonight would be no different. Opening the set with "Decay" they quickly set the tone for the evening. Lajon's voice was as powerful as ever yet he still showed the finesse he is capable of on a few of their more melodic songs "Angels Son" and "Got A Feeling". I have been lucky enough to see these guys 5 times now and I am already anticipating their return! Below are images from the show as well as a few from the openers.
It's hard for me to describe what it is like to stand in front of a band like Ours and remember how to so much as press the shutter. Unless you've lived under a rock since 2001 or simply have a musical playlist that spans only from bubblegum pop to generic radio friendly "rock" then you know who Ours is and that they are truly one of the greats when it comes to song writing and wholeheartedly constructing a complex and intricate song from front to back. Their front man, Jimmy Gnecco, is hands down my vocal idol. From hauntingly mournful lows to blistering, heart piercing highs in one breath his vocal range is purely unrivaled. Period. The band is so tight note for note it's easy to imagine them as mere machines on stage going through the routine that was programmed yet they remain as soulful as ever. It was truly a treat for me to have the privilege to shoot this show and I only wish I could have had time to sit and get to know them in person. I hope to see them again sometime in the future!
Below are some more shots from the show along with a few from one of the opening bands James Hall
As always you can click on an image to view full screen.
I had the pleasure to shoot one of the most wonderful and loving weddings I have ever been a part of last weekend. My assistant on the day was a good friend named Tommy Mosley. A great local photographer that was a huge help!
Ricky and Ashton are easily one of the nicest and fun loving couples I have ever been around. Genuinely good people who are so deeply in love that it is evident through even the briefest glance of a random passerby. From their friends to their family everyone was so unbelievably kind and welcoming. And a huge thank you to Ashton's parents for the lemon square recipe! I will keep my words short and sweet for this post and let the pictures that follow tell the story of the wonderful day that took place!
One of my favorite bands of all time has and always will be LIVE. Former front man Ed Kowalczyk has been solo for 3 or 4 years now and was co-headlining Alabaster Cityfest this year so naturally I had to go. I did not anticipate getting to shoot this show but I brought my camera anyway in case I got to snap a few show from as close as I could get. I saw another photographer with a media pass and figured, what the hell can't hurt to ask. Turns out his son had a pass but was not shooting so he graciously gave it to me! So super big thanks to Eric Starling for making this happen for me. One of the coolest things to happen in a long time for sure. Below are some shots from the show, a bit too many I'm sure but I could not help myself being a huge fan. you can click on any image to view in a new window.
I wanted to try something different with this post and go a little more in depth with what goes into setting up the images I make. As always I try to get as much right "in camera" as I can and have a minimal amount of post work, such as color correction and contrast adjustments. In hind sight I would have planned a bit better as far as our location choices but we were running late on the day and so we agreed to drive around and try and find a few interesting places. Damn glad that choice was made! I like being challenged to think on my feet and work with what's in front of me. Having said that, I will work on better planning in the future!
I'm going to post a photo then below it post the lighting diagram that shows the setup for the image and explain a little of what I was thinking when I set the shot up. The above shot is actually the first image I want to show so here is the lighting set up for it.
As always you can click on any image to view it full screen.
This shot was pretty straight forward. We found this massive abandoned metal building that was completely open to the elements aside from another section that I will show later that did have a roof and 3 walls. I set the couple up about 6 inches from the wall making sure to keep their heads in a clean spot. I set up my 50" Westcott softbox, camera right and flew it above their heads and pointed down at roughly a 45 degree angle. Notice the position of the face of the softbox. I wanted to feather the light just across them as opposed to aiming it directly at them. This produces a softer quality of light and is much more pleasing to the eye than having a direct light or hot spot on them.
Move the camera just a foot or so to the side and introduce some flare from the direct sunlight in the corner of the frame and you can get a completely new look without changing anything other than your angle to the subject.
This shot is from the other side of the complex. I brought the couple out about 30 feet or so from the back wall for this shot. It was too dark inside to let the ambient light do the job of lighting the back wall so I set up an Alienbee 800 strobe behind them and camera right just out of frame. I feathered it across the wall to bring out a bit of detail. Set up just behind the couple is a small nikon speedlight. This was pointed directly at the couple and aimed up slightly. This is to give a bit of separation of the couple from the background by creating a bit of rim light.
This shot was from an open green space that divided the two previous sections. Very simple natural light shot with the sun high over their shoulders camera left.
Again, make a simple change and you can achieve a different look with minimal effort. I added a 47" round reflector camera right and used the gold colored side to add a bit of fill and add some warmth to the image. Reflectors can be a huge asset by giving you the ability to add a bit of fill light to a subject without having to set up another light.
The above and remaining images were all shot with this setup with only slight variations on the placement of the small softbox to the rear of the car. I set up the large 50" softbox about 2 feet in front of the car aimed just slightly up. This is my main or "key" light. The small 28" softbox is directly behind the car also aimed slightly up and is acting as a bit of fill. The speedlight is positioned about 5 feet to the right of the car and is acting as a rim light to create a tiny bit of separation for the back of her head.
I had a blast working with Ricky and Ashton and I can't wait to shoot their wedding in June!! If you have any questions about any of the setups feel free to ask in the comments.
One of the BEST new venues in our magic city of Birmingham is Iron City. I got the chance to shoot this show and I have to say it has to be one of the best times I have had doing so in quite a while. Being a huge fan of Bush I found myself having to remember I was there to do a job and not just kick back and rock out to one hell of a show. These guys did not disappoint! Here are some shots from the night... You can click on any image for full version
I got to spend and evening @ Iron Horse Cafe shooting some kick ass bands recently. What more could a guy ask for? Not much. I got the chance to meet some great people and spend some time with some great musicians. Here are some shots from a damn fine evening of rock music!
"It's pop punk on the outside, with some sort of quarter-life existentialist nightmare on the inside."
It's rock. It's loud, in your face and delightfully unapologetic. The lads from Jacksonville Alabama always give a heartfelt performance no matter the venue. No matter the attendance. No matter the distance they may have traveled to get to where they are. If you get a chance, do yourself a favor and check them out!
Music, in any form, can be a powerful medium to express yourself. To tell the world who you are through combinations of sounds that come together to form a digital representation of your very soul. So how do you achieve such a thing without using a single word? You do what Kevin Taylor Jr. (better known as KT) does, you make beats. Not just random drum loops and electronic mish mash but carefully crafted tracks that are put together with the thought and precision of a scientist in a lab.
KT has a way of molding a track into something that can speak to you without uttering a single syllable. His album "SoundTrack Life" is a just a taste of the passion and talent he brings to the game. The title track is a haunting low key mix that is begging for young Hova himself to flow on. The entire album is full of variety, from background string arrangements to well hidden meaty guitar riffs, if you can’t find a track to love then you’re either deaf or devoid of emotion. A personal favorite of mine is “Speechless”. A smooth little beat drives the track with an infectious violin hook riding shotgun. It’s been on repeat a few times over!
I sat down with KT recently and had a great conversation with him, it’s always interesting to delve into the mind of a fellow artist no matter the genre. Here’s a quick Q&A…
Q: Looking back, what was the first music related memory you have from childhood that really stuck with you?
KT: “my pops would always play Earth Wind and Fire. I would hear that stuff Jamming all the time. He played the piano, a bit of drums and the sax as well. He would play all kinds of music, I didn’t just grow up on rap, he would play rock, soul something was always playing. I took piano lessons when I was 6 but wasn’t into it then so I quit all together. I wanted to be an architect because they made a lot of money but I couldn’t draw! I picked up his old keyboard one day and started playing with it, made my first beat on that thing and was like, oh snap”!
Q: Who are some of your biggest influences musically right now?
KT: “Right now, still Kanye, Pharrell, Timbaland. I never give them three a ranking but Timbaland is probably the most influential because he just don’t care, he would beat box on it, anything and my pops, I realize the older I get the bigger an influence he is on me. He would hear something I did and be like yeah I would have done that”.
Q: When did you decide you were going to make a real push at this and make KT Productions official?
KT: “My senior year in high school. That was when people, my friends and teammates first started to rap over my beats. I was like oh snap, people wanting to rap over my stuff”!
Q: Where do you want to be, where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?
KT: “In 5 years, I will be living in Atlanta. I’m gonna get out there this year. I got a couple people I work with out there, artists and writers. Doing something with music, doing whatever man. I really want to get into movies, movie scoring doing all that. Just working with artists, I want to be around driven, passionate people”.
At only 22 it’s easy to see his future will be very bright indeed. With talent to spare, void is the attitude one may expect to come with it, a very humble, hard working person is all that remains when the curtain is pulled back and the stage lights dim.
You can check out his main website here… http://www.ktgotbeats.com/#
It’s 1984. The streets of Sao Paulo are abuzz with people, traffic whizzing by, the colors, the smells. A 3-year-old Raphael Conte takes it all in, king of the world atop a Honda CB125 with his father at the throttle. Rapha recalls the moment vividly, “There was no other feeling like it in the world”. “Total freedom, a tremendous adrenaline rush, man and machine one with the world”! I can relate to this as I recall a vivid memory from my childhood riding in my fathers black Pontiac Trans AM complete with a massive golden eagle on the beat up hood, Queen’s ”Another One Bites The Dust” the soundtrack to our day. Rapha’s passion for the two-wheeled wonders was instinctively oppressed by his loving if not over protective mother throughout his teenage years but the chains would only hold for so long.
“It’s not until you’re between a rock and a hard place that you know your true calling”. Rapha held several jobs through the years from flipping burgers to managing a sales team for a phone company. Yes they paid the bills but as many would agree from their own experiences, they were just j-o-b’s. “I can’t say I had been passionate about any of my career choices to that point”. So far his only experience with motorcycles had been tinkering with his own bike, learning as much as he could from knowledegable friends and online forums. Over the years that followed he was forced to sell his bike to pay for a tattoo certification and bills that had managed to pile up. Just a few months later Rapha purchased a used motorcycle for cheap and got to work on it. “Let’s just say I polished a turd”! His hard work and dedication to his passion was suddenly starting to literally pay off. The bike turned out great and garnered a good bit of attention, so much so that he was made an offer he felt he could not refuse and ended up selling the bike. After turning a pretty profit on that bike, his hobby had unintentionally become a part-time job. So he bought, customized and sold motorcycles for a profit from a tiny two car garage at his home. After two years of successfully flipping bikes he decided to start his own business and the rest is history.
In June of 2011 Conte Kustoms was open for business! Starting a business during an economic depression with very little money came with its limitations and sacrifices. The rough times meant Rapha had to fill a niche in the market that catered to the blue-collar workers. People like him, passionate about their motorcycles but on a budget. Heart can get you started but talent is what keeps it going and Rapha has talent to spare along with an attitude and graciousness that I not only admire but aspire to myself. “The era of chromed out, $50,000 themed motorcycles was over, television history”!
Deciding to target the “blue collar” market with affordable, mid-sized bobbers and choppers, he went at it full-bore. After just over a year in business, Conte Kustoms is growing nonstop. With dozens of motorcycles sold throughout the country and an upcoming magazine feature, Conte Kustoms is becoming a household name. In the pipeline there is some sure to be in demand Conte Kustoms merchandise and the shop is also preparing for their biggest party yet, the first annual “Haulin & Squalin” anniversary bash! There’s definitely no stopping now, Conte Kustoms is here to stay and for good reason! “I love what I do and plan on doing this till my very last breath”! To someone I now consider a great new friend, “cheers to you Rapha, here’s to many more a Brazilian beast rolling out of that garage and into the world”!