If only I had written down the darn address of the butcher's store, I said to myself, instead I spent 30 minutes walking around in the cold, with my camera pack on my back, zig zagging the streets looking for the joint. I was starting to think, "Maybe the guy finally went out of business", and was almost ready to give up when I spotted the store front. Notice the patriotic banner over the front door, looks like it's been there since the Grand Opening!
Walking into the store is like being time warped back to the 50's. Except for the meat... I hope! Everything in the place is original. On the right side of the store are the scales to weigh the meat. There is a single refrigerator with no light when you open the door, probably because the bulb burned out 40 years ago, so you have no idea what anything is as it's so dark.
The guys' mother ran the place until she was 97 years old. The shot to the left is a homemade poster of her when she was younger, it was used for decoration for her 90th birthday. Wonder if they had steaks for her birthday dinner?
The left side of the store is an office and what appears to be storage for the years of memorabilia. When I enter the store the owner is sitting with his feet up on some boxes in his makeshift office, which consists of a chair, a few boxes, and mountainous stacks of papers. He doesn't even look up, engrossed in how many pork chops he's sold that week perhaps. Anyway I break the ice by saying "I love your store, how long have you been in business?". He says, "Over 50 years", without looking up from his carcass stat sheet.
Part of me senses this guy just doesn't want to be bothered, but I press on by telling him about the project, and all the while he is flipping through his stack of papers. At the end of my pitch I asked if it would be alright if I take some pictures. Finally he looks over at me, his face is lifeless, I mean, no expression at all, and says "Sure."
Then he goes right back to his paperwork.
The place has an eerie charm. The nostalgia of the old equipment... strange though to see on the wall a saw you could cut down a good size tree with or amputate a leg in hurry.
As I'm unpacking my camera I notice some pictures of an actor I knew, named Vinny Vella, taped to a cabinet. When I was an assistant photographer working on fashion jobs, Vinny drove the location van we hired. Vinny, is your typical New York maffioso type character. He told these great stories that always had me laughing. Anyway, as I wanted the butcher to warm up to me so he'd let me take his picture, I say to him, "Wow you know Vinny!" After a second or two the butcher just says "Yep." So I go on and say, "I used to work with him when he drove location vans for Star Truckers", trying to let him know that we have a mutual friend and get some interest from him. No response from the butcher.
So, I finish shooting. I'm all packed up and just about to get my back pack strapped on, when the butcher asks me in his deadpan expressionless voice "So is this going to be in a movie?".
This Mom & Pop Shop photography / writing series is a project I've been working on for some time. My guidelines for the series is the shop must not be a franchise, in business for 25 plus years, family owned and operated.
Stay tuned I have several more to share from the series.
Monday, February 18, 2013
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
There are times when even simplicity can be stripped down to a simpler form. Is that too simple?
I work with many independent musicians to create music videos. Some want to create a linear storyline while others want an abstract visual. I enjoy both challenges however to create a music video down to it's most basic form, well let's just say this there is one question I always ask myself. "What can be taken out?" See most people want to keep adding on and adding on to try to make something better. In fact it works just the opposite. We've all heard the expression "Less is more.". The hardest thing is to create a simple yet strong visual solution.
Steve Messina of Blow Up Hollywood and I have been working together since the inception of his band close to 10 years now. Over that time I've learned about the kind of visuals he prefers. When Steve contacted me about creating a video of just him performing in his apartment my mind started solving all the obstacles. The apartment environment how to stage it so it is visually appealing, lighting, am I gonna need multiple cameras and sound quality. These are concerns to tackle and the best solution is to simplify.
Here's how I created the music video of Steve covering The Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony".
A single Lowell Pro-light 250 watt
Placed up high to the right of the subject. The key is to feather the light off the of the subject's face towards the floor. Reason, I did not want to see the couch and to make the video have a darker vibe.
The Nikon P7000. That's right a point and shoot digital camera. Why did I use this camera when I could have used my broadcast quality Nikon D800 instead? The first thing the Nikon P7000 is light making it highly mobile. Two I like the subtle exposure adjustments that automatically are created by the camera itself.
This is an articulated arm to use as a steadicam. When you hold the camera directly you get more shake. The J Rig actually helps to reduce shake by steadying the camera because your hands are not holding the camera directly. This example shows a Go Pro on the J Rig with Nikon P7000. I did not use the Go Pro for this video. However if you want to see what a music video looks like with the full J Rig in action go to this video I made for Risa Binder.
Of course having quality sound for a musician is super important. The microphone in the shot was just not there for visual purposes but fully functional. Gordon Davies is an excellent audio engineer. Davies mixed the track after the session and provided me with the audio that I synced to the video using Final Cut Pro X Synchronizing Clip feature.