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The Blight – Photography by Neil Girling    » Blight-O-Vision

The Blight, © Neil Girling, 1998-2017

Archive for the 'Blight-O-Vision' Category

International Man of Mystery

Friday, July 9th, 2010

I depart for Europe in 17 hours! I’ve been hired to shoot a wedding in Venice, and am doing a quick stop in Prague first (to see the Sedlec Ossuary at Kutná Hora)

Where else should I go? I have a global Eurail pass and don’t return until the 21st of August (in time for Burning Man, naturally). Leave a suggestion.

Birthday!

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

It’s my birthday this weekend! I thought I’d share my planned itinerary of shenanigans, were you so inclined to join me.

Friday night: Hubba Hubba Revue at the Uptown in Oakland! I work two jobs that day, and intend to unwind with the Bay Area’s finest burlesque show at one of my favorite Oakland bars. It’s right next to BART, for you west-bay car-less folk.

Then, Saturday 8pm until late, my friends down the road at the Vulcan are throwing a May Day celebration and fundraiser for their theater! See a venue most unique at one of the Bay Area’s finest underground locales, with acts including the Vau de Vire Society, Totter Tod, Gooferman, and the Hobo Gobbelins.

Come by my place starting at 5pm for pre-show cocktails. (Contact me directly for details).

Finally, on Sunday, we will drag our hungover selves to Antiques by the Bay at Alameda’s Naval Base, to sift through old relics looking for gems (like the Settee of Contention). It is our noble intention to arrive before noon, mimosas in hand.

Feel free to email, call or text at any point to find out what’s going on. I hope to see you at one of these!

Lightning in a Bottle does not respect artists

Friday, March 5th, 2010

As the Do Lab’s Lightning in a Bottle enters full promotional swing, I’ve received something of a rude shock: friend and fellow picture-taker (and digital rights advocate) Robert Kaye sends me a note. “Did they ask you permission to use your photos?” It turns out that the announcement the Do Lab made regarding tickets being on sale included a montage of photos, in which more than half a dozen of mine were featured, without permission and in violation of copyright law.

This is adding injury to insult to injury. Accompanying Vau de Vire Society in 2007, I shot the event itself and then, when contacted in March of 2008 (by Jenka Gurfinkel) I agreed to let them use my photographs (even providing high-resolution files) for promotional purposes, and asked for a comp ticket. I heard nothing. Two months pass and I  buy my own ticket and car pass (>$150). Then, the day before the event, I hear from Jenka: she asks if I’ve heard from the publicist, which I have not. I am offered the option to sell my own ticket–the day before I’m supposed to leave!–and take their comp, in exchange for shooting the event. Citing impossibility, I refuse.

Cut to November, and Jenka contacts me: “Once again, your images from LIB are dope,” and requests several high resolution files for her media kit. I explain to her that I’d be happy to provide them were they to reimburse me for my ticket purchase earlier that year (since, ultimately, there’s no difference were they to do so or have given me a comp in the first place).

Jenka refuses, and says, infuriatingly:

If the option of having your images available for publication is not something that is nterests [sic] to you, we will, of course, respect your wishes, and not use them. If you should change your mind, feel free to be in touch.

You know what? Fuck you.

You’re now using them in your email blast, and on your Facebook events page. This is insulting. Yes, you give credit in your email (sort of: you just link to my Flickr page) and there’s no credit at all (and my watermarks are half-cropped) on Facebook. But this isn’t about credit: You said you would not use them.

Two Thousand Nine — A Year in Review

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

As the new year has come around, I thought I’d again bring you some of the past year’s highlights (see the post from last year). Two-thousand Nine was marked by two major changes for me: the first, that I actually got enough room for a full studio; and the second, more subtle but much more far-reaching, that I have adjusted my focus to higher quality over quantity (both in events attended and pictures taken). I’m no longer going to three shows a week and taking a million photos; rather, I’ll attend two and shoot a few score. So without further blather, here are my favorites from 2009 —

(Every image can be clicked to enlarge)

Jill Tracy for Constellation Magazine
Jill Tracy for Constellation Magazine
It seems fitting to start with one of my last images of the year, this portrait of the beautiful and talented Jill Tracy; after all, I’ve had a whole year to hone my craft, and I’ve hardly been sitting idle… Jill and I have been speaking of doing a photoshoot for years, and I’m quite pleased with the results which will grace the cover of Constellation Magazine, shot at her apartment in San Francisco. You may find some of her magnificently malevolent work at her website, JillTracy.com

Savannah, Raven.
Savannah, Raven
This photo of Dreamtime Circus performers Raven and Savannah marks the first official studio shot I ever took; the white of their makeup and costumes, provided by them, was a happy coincidence.

Quaintrelle Designs
Calamity Lulu, Quaintrelle Designs
It’s a serendipitous thing indeed to have as a partner someone as beautiful and talented as miss Calamity Lulu (who made everything you see in this Tudor gown), who now runs a costume and fashion line called Quaintrelle.

Eva for Quaintrelle
Eva, Quaintrelle Designs
Following the thread of both studio work — still a relatively foreign concept to me — and costume design is this photo of Eva, where the outfit and assistance directing comes again from Lulu.

Jenny Atomik
Jenny Atomik atop the Sunshine Biscuits factory
Jenny Atomik and Mike Estee came to my studio for a photoshoot, and it was only appropriate to use the architecture and neighborhood as a setting and backdrop.

HUMANWINE poster
HUMANWINE poster/flyer shot for show promotion
Visiting from Boston, I had the distinct pleasure of befriending M@ and Holly of HUMANWINE, whose music I’ve enjoyed for years. The concept and editing for this photo were done by M@ for an upcoming show in Boston. Go listen to their music here.

The Man burns, Burning Man 2009
The Man burns at Burning Man 2009, shot from a boom lift
Watching the burn from a boom lift — the best seat in the house — was an incredible (and fortuitous) honor. The story of how I managed to get up there was one of luck and timing, to be told another day. Thanks again to Cameragirl, Andy, and Gadget.

The DPW of Burning Man 2009 group photo
The DPW of 2009
This motley crew is responsible for the building of all the infrastructure of Black Rock City not provided by the participants themselves: the generators, the roads, the trash fence, heavy machinery (for setting up art, etc.), building the Man and Center Camp: the list goes on. But they also stick around after the event is over to clean up the detritus left by 50,000 people who, though good at policing their own trash, are by no means perfect. This image is a composite of seven photographs shot in quick succession with little to no direction from me (I just flipped ’em off to get the official DPW “salute”).

John Cervelli at Fourth of Juplaya
John Cervelli in the Black Rock Desert at Fourth of Juplaya
John and I went for a ride and a glass of wine after I finished a grueling two-day epic ordeal to get my blasted car out of the mud. The surface of the playa is treacherous: undisturbed, the dry lakebed turns from tan to white when there’s water beneath the surface as salt rises up from below; it’s subtle, and if you’re driving 25MPH and looking for a crossing over the railroad, you’ll quickly find yourself in the middle with a hard way out.

What my camera looked like after this year's Burning Man.
My camera post Burning Man
I am a very vocal proponent of relax and use your damned camera. This isn’t to say I go out of my way to damage my gear, but I don’t expend much effort to protect it, either: because everything you do to keep your gear safe is one more hindrance to taking a shot. And the harder you make it, the fewer pictures you’ll take. Many people refuse to bring their nice equipment out to Burning Man, safe guarding it at home instead (where it takes no pictures). Rather, they bring out cheap gear — and then, when it dies, use this as justification for not bringing out the good stuff. Counter intuitively, the high quality (and hopefully weathersealed) gear would have been just fine. It all boils down to this: did you buy the gear to sit on a shelf, or to take pictures?

Eva at the Edwardian Ball 2009
Eva at the Edwardian Ball
My favorite portrait from the four days of Edwardian Ball last year, this picture of Eva in her fantastic swimwear was hastily taken in the middle of the crowd in front of the stage. This year’s Edwardian Ball is rapidly approaching; do you have your costume yet?

Vau de Vire Society at Sunday Gorey Sunday Edwardian Ball 2009
Vau de Vire girls spin ’round the room
One of the most technically difficult (read: “lucky”) shots I took all year is this one of two Vau de Vire girls spinning around in big circles in an drastically underlit room in the upstairs lodge of the Regency Ballroom for Sunday’s Edwardian Ball.

Victor at the Fetish Ball
The fabulous Victor at Supperclub for the Marquis Fetish Ball
A frequent performer with Bad Unkl Sista, Victor can always be counted on for some of the finest costuming and makeup. This was just a quick snapshot on the stairs at Supperclub, where after plenty of contract wrangling, I was finally OK to shoot the Von Gutenburg/Marquis Fetish Ball.

Other than Burning Man, only three of the above images come from events, a marked departure from all of my previous years. I learned photography backward, diving headfirst into the chaos of parties and clubs and galas without ever meticulously working in a controlled environment; it just seemed the natural way to do things. These days, working in a studio is something of a double-edged sword: you have full control over everything, but it’s up to you to make it work.

2009 was great — here’s to 2010.

Videos! Burning Man 2009

Friday, September 11th, 2009

Perhaps in homage to this year’s theme, Evolution, I’ve extended my image-making repertoire to include things that move. Not the campy Photo-Flipbooks of ol’, but actual movies, with sound. Shot on Wee Camera (My Canon SD780), they’re nothing particularly fancy (coupled with the fact that I’m no videographer) these are here to serve as a documentary supplement to the photos in the gallery (at which you’ve already looked, yes?)

Without further ado, the first three (and the most exciting, assuredly) videos from my travels:

The Man Burns at Burning Man 2009


Raygun Gothic Rocketship Launch,  Burning Man 2009

Burn Night from a boom lift, Burning Man 2009

There are a few more of mine up on Vimeo, and I’ll add some more in the coming days (from the DPW Parade, the Balsa Man Regional Burn, and a few others). Enjoy!

Calamity Lulu and Evacide

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

This past weekend saw two photoshoots at my studio in Oakland.

Calamity Lulu
Calamity Lulu and the Settee of Contention [click for gallery]

Evacide

Lil Miss Never for an aerial promo shoot for an upcoming fetish event [click for gallery]


A change of course

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Savannah, Raven.

White Witches — Savannah, Raven. Touch to view large (and larger).

For the last few years, several times a week could you catch me at some event or another, camera in hand. (You may have noticed). Though I’ve picked up many a trick over time to get photos sorted, archived, edited and uploaded in as expedient a manner as possible, it’s still a rather… large amount of work. And doing so has prevented me from experimenting with other avenues of photography, which I have wistfully lamented.

It’s time for something different.

By Streetlamp

Lulu de la Calamité by midnight. Touch to view large (and larger).

Vignettes and glimmers will be my focus for a spell, shooting in my (brand-new!) studio or on location, working with (mostly) cooperative subjects, as opposed to performers on stage. And I’ll be in control of the light for once. The above two photographs were shot Friday and Saturday night of this past weekend; I would call the experiment a success (if I may be so bold (and I am)).

This doesn’t mean you won’t see me out-and-about with some degree of regularity, like-as-not with camera in-hand — but if you do, I don’t want to hear an exclamation of incredulity on your part; for what else do I know how to do at an event, anyway? I just don’t want to have the responsibility and requirement to cover every act and aspect of a show and editing hundreds of photos later. Maybe I’ll get two shots instead, and perhaps they’ll be something completely different than before. However they end up, though, they’ll be on my terms, and I find that exciting (and a relief). Unless you want to hire me. In which case, we should talk.

So, do you have an idea that you’d like to turn into a shoot? Send me a note and give me your thoughts. I’m looking for models and locations and projects and what-have-you. (I reserve the right to be picky). I have a studio in Oakland and will work on-location anywhere in the Bay Area for the right project (or travel for the really right project).

In other news, I’ve updated my portfolio (with special higher-res versions).

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Spy on me on Twitter! Written last night while sipping San Francisco’s own Old Potrero Rye.

Under wraps: and if so, why bother?

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

There exist in my archives a very large number of images never seen by anyone — a quick estimate puts the number at over 100,000. The vast majority of these are the duplicates, the blurry, the over/under-exposed, the ill-composed; you would be most disappointed to see them, I wager. I have heard it said anyone can be considered a good photographer if they only choose the right photos to post, but I digress: I’m not here to talk about the mountain of bad photos I have sitting here, and I’m not here to tell you the various trite reasons the ones worth posting remain languishing in the dark. No, I’m here to ask: why bother doing it at all?

I have always tried to put my work on display, even when it (frequently) was not worthy of it. My goal was not the criticism and critique of others, for I am and have always been my own harshest critic, and am never satisfied but for a moment with anything I have done. For if I cannot find flaw in a creation, it means either that it is perfect (which is utterly impossible) or that, instead, I’m not yet skilled enough to identify what is wrong. And, if so, I should not rest until I can do so. Nor did I (do I?) present and showcase for the (undeserved) praise that I sometimes received. Instead, all I wanted was acknowledgment. “Look, I did this, and I am proud of it for a moment.” A nod would be more than sufficient.

To not share is to be unfulfilled: it’s akin to laughing at a joke in an empty room. You turn and cast about, hoping to share it with someone — anyone — and thereby expand your own experience and joy, but no one’s there and you sigh and carry on. It’s like filling your mouth with fine wine and not swallowing.

I am not some artist laboring in obscurity to fill some void, some need in my psyche, only to have my work discovered posthumously — I cannot claim that dignified a goal. It is a performer whose traits I share, the desire for an audience. Though instead of even a quiet, polite applause, I instead satisfy myself with pageviews and bandwidth (oh woe is me). Ours is work to appreciate after the fact, for though we and the performers are plying our trade at the same moment, their act is the moment, and my photos will be up tomorrow.

Periodically someone will ask why do I bother? Why do I spend all this money and time and effort and go through the stress and pain and sleepless nights to do this? (For, perhaps you do not know, but I do not do this for a living. In fact, it barely — if at all — pays for itself. It depends on how I do my books). And I will not offer up some asininely banal reason such as “I enjoy it.” I can do better than that, and will explore that topic in a future post.

Ultimately, the answer here is that there is no point whatsoever for me to shoot something if no one ever sees it. There’s your tree-in-the-forest solution; did anyone hear it? Yes? No? Irrelevant.

All this was a very fancy (read: longwinded) way of saying “Oh hi, look, I didn’t post these last year for various reasons, but I am now. You should look (and thus validate their existence and my effort). Kthxbai.” And so, without further ado, I present you with a very small gallery of “studio-esque” — that is, contrived and posed and planned to some degree, and not a live performance — photos of miss Erica Mulkey, aka Unwoman, from a shoot she hired me for mid last year. She has not made use of them yet, but I have her permission to publish them — go here for the full gallery.

A Year in Review Part 2 — 2008

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

I shall continue where I left off in Part the First, no less tired this time around, but a scant few hours before my self-imposed bedtime — and if I don’t finish it now, then when? Indeed.

Once again, the full gallery of my Year in Review photographs can be seen here — I have selected one photo per thousand I shot all year (45,000 in all), picking ones I thought particularly interesting in the story they told, amusing somehow, or just a personal favorite.

The first image is Magdelene Veen, formerly of Abney Park, at the Emerging Illusions fashion show with Creatureform Designs; she reposted several of these photos titled “I am some sort of demon crow.” Her act was that of a ballerina; and this shot, though backstage, reminds me of the same flow and movement (though I’m not sure she even knew I took this).

We of course love the Dresden Dolls, those purveyors of punk cabaret and one of the first mainstream underground (yes, I’m aware of the contradiction) acts to combine musical and non-musical performance acts on their stage — for, in 2005, as a fan of the Dresden Dolls, how else would I have been introduced to Vau de Vire Society but by seeing them perform onstage alongside a favorite band? The rest is history. Pictured here is Brian Viglione at the Fillmore, where I was brought in to shoot the show (and I had dinner with Brian, Amanda and Meredith Yayanos beforehand: they’re all amazing sweethearts).

Hiding ‘neath the swirl of the skirt here is Leila Bazzani of Black and Blue Burlesque, performing with the Yard Dogs Roadshow at Lightning in a Bottle 2008. You may notice a similarity to a certain other photo of mine, which just so happens to be her partner in crime, Tuesday Blue.

Please see the rest after the cut (even if it’s just to browse the photos…).

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Two-Thousand Eight — a Year in Review (pt. 1)

Friday, January 16th, 2009

With 2008 growing colder by the day in the grave, it’s time to pay our last respects and take a quick look at the events that transpired during that time. It was a momentous year for me: I spent my first time ever without a plan, being homeless on a clown’s couch for two months whilst much rockstardom was had, until I got a call out of the blue and a job offer fell into my lap (after a technical phone screening and a grueling six-hour interview with some of the brightest engineers I’ve ever met). Some have said good riddance; I heard the same about 2007. Not so, here — 2007 was the year I hit my stride with photography, and saw extensive growth technically and in my relationships with performers, and ended with my graduation from University and my move to San Francisco (finally). 2008 continued the upward momentum, and every month it seems I can look back at the one prior and think, “Really? That’s the best I could do?”

The only fitting and proper (and believable) way I could discuss 2008 is through the use of photos. Briefly: in 2008 I shot 85 events spanning 104 days, totaling 45,000 photos. This summary contains one photograph per 1,000 images I took last year, with a brief vignette as to why I thought it pertinent or amusing. Everything is in chronological order. You can click here for the full gallery of images.

I ended 2007 and started 2008 I had the past several years, at the San Francisco Concourse Exhibition Center with Anon Salon for Sea of Dreams. This year I was hired by Vau de Vire Society to work the show with them. I have something of a tradition of getting photos of myself in whatever mirror I can find, primarily through necessity: if I don’t get one, it’s likely no documentation will exist (people always forget to get pictures of meeee).

The Hot Couture fashion show marks the last event I’ll ever work for the Crucible as long as Michael Sturtz is running the show: on one occasion alone (at the Fire Arts Festival in 2007) he treated me more rudely than every other person at every other event I’ve ever worked has treated me (and that wasn’t the only event where it happened!). Other than him, I think the Crucible is great and does marvelous things for the community. I look forward to working with them again, either via a change in heart or a change in leadership.

Please see much, much more after the cut. (Really. I wrote a lot. At least skim the pictures?)

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