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The Blight – Photography by Neil Girling    » Bad Unkl Sista

The Blight, © Neil Girling, 1998-2017

Archive for the 'Bad Unkl Sista' Category

Recent photographs – Throbbing Gristle, Vau de Vire, Circus Metropolus

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

I’ve made a few recent exceptions to my event-photography hiatus (does this surprise anyone?) and you can take a peek below. You’ll find Throbbing Gristle, Vau de Vire’s “Sideshow” at Cellspace, Circus Metropolus’s “Funhouse” at the Oakland Metro, and a special bonus vignette.

Genesis P-Orridge of Throbbing Gristle at the SF Regency Ballroom

Throbbing Gristle — the pioneers of noise as music and of shock theater (who are credited with the invention of industrial music, along with Cabaret Voltaire and Einstürzende Neubauten) — who had broken up in 1981 (coincidentally after last playing Kezar Stadium in San Francisco) are back on tour. To quote Jon Longhi of NBC Bay Area (where my photos ran!) “Throbbing Gristle wasn’t just showing all these young techno kids that they could still do it, they were showing them how it’s done.” See the photos here.

Illy of Circus Metropolus at Cellspace

Vau de Vire Society joined forces with the Eric McFadden Trio at Cellspace for some stellar performance and fantastic music. If you weren’t there, you missed out. I have some portraits I shot here, including those of the chanteuse Jill Tracy and Andrea Zerilli (Oryx Incruentus).

Bad Unkl Sista at the Oakland Metro

Circus Metropolus — joined by Bad Unkl Sista (pictured above), Dreamtime Circus and (obviously) Gooferman — took over the Oakland Metro for a production called “Funhouse.” I again took mostly portraits, though I did shoot Bad Unkl Sista’s lovely butoh performance.

My grandfather’s WWII / Korean War MB Jeep

Finally, for something a little out-of-the-ordinary, a very small gallery of my grandfather’s WWII / Korean War MB Jeep. He’s a veteran of the Merchant Marines, WWII (United States Army, German Theater), and the Korean War, where he was an MP and drove a jeep just like this one. I wish to thank him here for all that he’s done (and show some nifty pictures of his toy!).
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Edwardian Ball 2009 teaser

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

It’s off to the third night of the extravagant gala that is the Edwardian Ball, and though I had delusions about getting Saturday’s photos up before I left, and though they’re nearly finished, they shall sadly have to wait until tomorrow. I have but one thing to offer you as a stop-gap measure before you begin hounding me for imagery of this fantastic affair, and so I present you Meredith Yayanos, violin player and thereminist extraordinaire, as well as editor at the love letter to alternative culture that is the dark and beautiful Coilhouse Magazine.

Meredith Yayanos and her Penny Farthing at the Edwardian Ball 2009

Meredith Yayanos with her Penny Farthing at the Edwardian Ball 2009

Come back and look for photos from all three days of the Edwardian Ball online here starting tomorrow evening. And now, it’s off to see the Ghosts Project in the red velvet upstairs of the Regency Ballroom.

*** UPDATE ***

Photos frrom Saturday are now online — see them here.

Burning Man 2008 American Dream photo gallery and post-burn

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

Everyone asks me, “how was your Burn?” as if a single answer would suffice and provide a neat package so we could move on and change the conversation, like two people passing in the hall asking how each other is doing: “Good,” “good,” they say, without even slowing.

Such niceties are in no way sufficient for Burning Man — if you want to ask me how it was, you’ll need to narrow it down to a day, or better yet, perhaps one-half of any given day: then I can give you a “good,” or perhaps a “stellar,” “horrible,” “mind-blowing,” “wretched,” or the like. For I guarantee I could use each of these and many more to accurately summarize my experience this year. But to put it succinctly?

Absolutely fantastic.

Last year was quite wretched indeed for me: I had caught cold just before arriving, was horribly stressed out both with work and a nasty situation where I had to threaten legal action to a (former) friend, and coupled with that I was leaving early (missing the burn itself). The result of which was that I never felt that I had arrived, floating through the event and disappearing like a ghost. I was not pleased with the work I created, and barely had a good time. Clearly, I was doing it wrong. (Some images didn’t suck, however.)

This year, I did it right. I was with my friends in a tight-knit camp with lots of real-estate and know-how, who made food and built shade when I wilted in the sun or disappeared for hours to go shoot. I arrived early, relatively stress-free (as relaxed as anyone who likes to be super-prepared can be pre-burn…) and utterly without incident (thanks, Evan!). I had the support of one member of BM senior staff who lent me space in her trailer and her computer that could grab a wifi connetion (thanks a ton, miss Bex).

Some highlights?

The Wheel of Thwarted Ambition, a metal cage wheel with a wood fire inside that, when spun, showered embers across the night sky. It was a simple concept brilliantly executed.

Taking over for David Best this year, Shrine, and a crew of architects (including TukTuk) built the Temple, Basura Sagrada. It was an extraordinarily beautiful piece, made from over 90% found and recycled materials (hence “Sacred Trash”). You may recognize a similarity to the Tasseograph Trash Tea Temple from last year — it is by the same artist.

Shrine and his clipboard The Temple, Basura Sagrada

The DPW Parade during Saturday’s dust storm was a page out of Mad Max, and a hilariously epic good time with a ton of incredibly intelligent, creative people who love drinking Pabst and whisky while yelling at hippies. That, and they do amazing work in brutal conditions. From the DPW and Man Crew, SF Slim had, in the height of coincidence, set his gear down within the very boundaries of my camp (before anyone from Fandango village had even arrived) after they made him move from his temporary camp under the man (his home while they built it). He was quickly assimilated into the Blight and made a fantastic addition, and it was he who invited me out on the DPW Parade at the last minute: I grabbed my gear and ran. (I have your leather jacket, by the way).

Thursday at dawn at the temple is traditionally the White Procession, a solemn gathering of folk all in white to greet the new day at a sacred place. Anastazia (Bad Unkl Sista) had informed me she intended to do a performance; I was there and lo and behold, she did appear with a beautiful, dark and heavy butoh piece. However, I’m certainly one to appreciate irony, so when I spied a group of Pabst-swilling, song-singin’, Confederate flag wavin’ rednecks, and saw they were the White Trash Procession, I couldn’t help but laugh and split my shooting and attention between Anastazia and serious and the white trash and ridiculous. I don’t believe either detracted from the other; in fact, I think each helped emphasize and accentuate due to the extreme contrast (had they been actively interrupting, there would have been trouble). They were not fifty feet apart. It was definitely my day’s moment of zen.

Watching Farktronix (Sugar Shot!) and Evan (“Little Person”) with my friend Star channel Laurel and Hardy and take over the Red Eye Diner Tuesday night because no one was manning it and, apparently, the diner’s neighbors wanted grilled cheese. Little did they know what they were getting themselves into. The best part? A line of forty people out front who had no idea we were in no way affiliated with the diner. (To anyone from Red Eye who reads this: perhaps it’ll explain where all your cheese went…). Who wants a fuckin’ sugar shot?

Finally, showing up to the Dust City Diner late one night, and not fifteen seconds after stepping up to the bar, Kendra — one of the waitresses — calls out, “Is anyone here a photographer? We need a photo taken” and having my (rather large) camera being set down on the counter met with cheers. (It’s not often us photographers get cheered — ours is a background kind of work, appreciated (sometimes) much later). It was serendipitously awesome.

There are an infinite number of vignettes not told here, many good, some bad — for it wouldn’t be Burning Man without them, sometimes minutes apart. Am I glad to be out of the dust, heat, and wind? Yup. (I like showering at least daily, thankyouverymuch). Am I glad to have my life back for a while, all my spare time not eaten with a thousand projects and massive logistical undertakings, preparing for the apocalypse? Good lord, absolutely. Am I looking forward to next year? Damned right I am (though my camera may not be — see below. Thanks for Martin for the photo).

Pre-Exodus, Burning Man 2008

If you haven’t already, see my entire gallery here — 344 out of 3,116 photos (that’s 38GB, folk). You may feel free to blog my images (give credit as “Mr. Nightshade, theblight.net”) and link back to the gallery; I’d also be happy to sell you a print, or license for publication — contact me and we’ll work something out.

Live from the Dusty City – Burning Man 2008 update

Monday, August 25th, 2008

Bex Workman of senior staff

This morning greeted the new Burning Man arrivals (thousands and thousands of them) with a crippling white-out storm. While the wind isn’t as bad as it could be (gusts are currently up to 45mph, but 60 is rumored) the dust kicked up by all the newcomers is blowing straight over the city.

Pictured above is Bex Workman of senior staff at Burning Man, protesting against the wind: and that was yesterday, before today’s storm. The forecast (that I overheard in the daily briefing to the various law enforcement agencies (crap, nosebleed, standby…) this afternoon says the storms should continue throughout tomorrow until perhaps to mid-Wednesday, when “normal” Burning Man weather returns.

Half-moon over Center Camp Saturday night

I have managed to explore the open playa somewhat, by following roads created by heavy equipment and vehicles working on the various art pieces; but deviating from the tracks results in fishtailing and utter immobility. Then you have to walk your bike until you find suitable hardpack to get anywhere.

Dust be damned, today three of us donned miscellaneous European army jumpsuits and held up traffic, investigating contraband with a plastic squeeky dog an demanding papers; the two below joined our party and contributed to the shenanigans, entering RVs and frisking our detained suspects.

Dusty troublemakers

The Blight is still missing a core crew member, missing in action since an engine died; our camp is dusty but in good spirits. I returned today to find one of our tents upside down and mine barely holding together (I wasn’t aware fiberglass rods could bend that far) so we broke it down and covered it in 2.5 gal water jugs. I’m currently holed up with Bex in her trailer (spending way too much time trying to obtain a wifi connection) and drinking Moscow Mules. My apologies to anyone with whom I had plans, but I’m currently closed for business and am waiting out this weather.

Revolution Fundraiser for Big Top Magazine at Fat City, San Francisco — photos

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

See the gallery here.

Last Friday — 8-8-08 —  saw a fine lineup of performers including Vau de Vire Society, Gooferman, Bad Unkl Sista, Fou Fou Ha!, Lapsus, The Tongues, Dr. Abacus, and more. This was a fundraiser for KSea Flux’s project, Big Top Magazine, which recently won the SF Bay Guardian’s Best of the Bay Award for local zine.

We rode in on the Fandango Freedom Bus, adorned with clown-noses and rocking out to tunes from Bootie mashup, then joined the fray; and our compatriot Monica of Lollyphile fame (purveyors of the delight that is absinthe and bacon-maple lollies) took over the unattended coat check booth and proceeded to work it without permission or pay. These are shenanigans of the responsible variety.

Pictured above is a performer with Lapsus, the dark belly dance troupe.

Photos from Basura Sagrada, the Burning Man temple fundraiser

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

See the photos here!

Trash-master Shrine held his Burning Man temple fundraiser, Basura Sagrada, at the DNA Lounge last Thursday. Continuing the tradition started by David Best in 2000, Shrine is undertaking the mighty task of providing Burning Man with its temple. In 2007 he brought the Tasseograph Trash Tea Temple (pictured here and here) which has also made appearances at Yuri’s Night and Lightning in a Bottle.

Entertainment this eve included Bad Unkl Sista, donning a long strip of cloth then painted live by Shrine; performances by Vau de Vire Society and Lucent Dossier Vaudeville Cirque; a silent auction of many lovely pieces of artwork — paintings, tables, suitcases, clothes and jewelry; and a full-sized painting made live by Shrine.

Emerging Illusions Fashion Show at the DNA Lounge, San Francisco

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

I was brought in to shoot Emerging Illusions, a fashion show put on by designer and producer Miiica at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco. This was no willowy-model strut with a pouty look variety of fashion show, but instead one of numerous vignettes and performances wherein the performers and characters wore the creations of many talented local designers. They included:

  • Somnambulance
  • Wisp~Her Wear
  • Gibbous
  • Eirik Aswang
  • Lisa Goblin
  • The Window Lady
  • Creature Form
  • Chelsea Aragon
  • saKAna Designs
  • Larvae
  • Shawk Designs
  • Shadow Designs
  • Clotho Constrictor

with live music by Nezzy Idy.

See the gallery here. Pictured above is Fleeky in Eirik Aswang’s designs.

2nd Skin at the Exploratorium

Monday, April 28th, 2008

Friday night at the Exploratorium in San Francisco saw the opening of 2nd Skin, a blend of analog and digital clothing designs by a broad array of local artists, and two performances by Bad Unkl Sista with phenomenal Ashley Knight accompanying with opera.

Here are the photos.

Pictured above is Ashley Knight on the left and Amy Leblanc peering through on the right.

For higher resolution versions of some select images, see Flickr.

Black Rock Arts Foundation’s Flip Your Lid Fundraiser at Supperclub SF

Monday, April 21st, 2008

The Black Rock Arts Foundation held their Flip Your Lid (photos) fundraiser at Supperclub San Francisco last Thursday, raising thousands of dollars for community art through the auction of hats designed by local artists including Dan Das Mann and David Best.

Yuri’s Night Bay Area 2008 at NASA Ames Moffett Field

Monday, April 14th, 2008

In honor of the first man in space, Yuri’s Night is celebrated with parties around the world. NASA Ames at Moffett Field throws a particularly entertaining one. Buzz Aldrin delivered a humorous speech, and performances/artists (pictured herein) include Zoë Keating, Freezepop, Gamelan X, Miguel and Angelo, Shrine, Michael Christian, and of course, the dark and bizarre Bad Unkl Sista — with whom I was performing.

Many of these images –particularly the blurred and chaotic ones (such as Domini, pictured above) — were taken from within a performance. My role was as one of Anastazia’s characters (of Bad Unkl Sista), but also the photographer (no surprise, that). We don’t do that “tired professional” jeans-and-a-tshirt with a backwards baseball cap photographer nonsense here.

Here is the gallery.

One highlight: I saw a men dressed in a full Soviet military officer’s uniform, and exclaimed how fantastic that was to see on a US military facility; overhearing me, an older gentlemen — with a NASA badge — turns to me and says, “That’s the general of the base.” We love you, NASA.

And for entertainment value, here is my off-camera flash, disguised and very Bad Unkl (my design!)
Bad Unkl Blight Light v2000 for Yuri's Night