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Burning Man 2013—Cargo Cult photos

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

View my Burning Man 2013—Cargo Cult photos here.

The Man Burns, Burning Man 2013
The Man burns Saturday night

Truth is Beauty by Marco Cochrane at Burning Man 2013
Truth is Beauty by Marco Cochrane

The Charcade, Burning Man 2013
The Charcade from atop the Ardent Mobile Cloud Platform

Iscariot at Video Bleep, Burning Man 2013
Iscariot spins at Video Bleep—listen to his fabulous mixes on Soundcloud

The Temple of Whollyness, Burning Man 2013
The Temple of Whollyness

My Burning Man: a portrait. #notposed #postdontstop (credit: @msunsinkable)
Your Intrepid Narrator may work too hard.

View the entire gallery here.

On the ground in the dirt — Burning Man 2010

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

The Man and Fire Conclave burn night

We arrived Saturday afternoon under iron gray skies. It had been an effortless jaunt from Sparks; we had taken a lazy lunch in the parking lot where the weather alternated between chilly in the shadow of the clouds and blazing hot when the sun poked through. We had heard the reports: that though last week had hit 115°, this weekend promised rain, and the forbidding horizon did not dispel that fear. But we were not worried: we’re varsity. We’ve done this before.

Replicating the success of last year, we — my old friend and stalwart companion, Evan — packed little past essentials and stayed the night in a hotel in Sparks. Too tired (unmotivated?) to move our gear inside, plan “Let’s Leave it and Hope For the Best” was successful, and our pickup truck of dusty gear was unmolested in the morning. Refilling our ice chests from the free hotel ice machine, we headed to our usual supermarket to load up on water and last minute essentials (beer we had in spades; Irish cream, cup-o-noodles, eggs, cheese, crackers, some vegetables, more ice were procured) and we were off.

The Temple of Flux; us photographers all discussed how we didn’t really know how to capture it.


The Wedding, Fireworks and Tornadoes

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Simon and Julia exchange rings at their wedding in Venice. See the teaser gallery here.

Saturday morning I rose from the couch: wedding preparations were soon to descend upon the living room. It’s a hilarious contrast between men’s and women’s styles of getting ready: The women are a flurry of chaos, with mirrors, exploded makeup boxes, a surgeon’s array of tiny brushes and tweezers, all the while cooing over each other and hming and hawing and cooing and fussing. The men, on the other hand, are boring. Walking into Simon’s room, the lights are dim, one man taps quietly at a laptop, and Simon’s just trying on his coat. And that’s it.

I depart with Julia, resplendent in her cream and gold dress and brilliant one-of-a-kind custom brass laser-cut Venetian half-mask (on a short handle) and other members of the wedding party via water taxi directly to Torcello (much faster and more private than taking the Vaporetto, the public water bus). The bride’s attendents (and your intrepid narrator) ensconce themselves in a wing of the Locanda Cipriani (hangout of Hemingway) while the rest of the party arrives. Random Italians periodically pop by to take pictures of Julia: we’ve caused something of a stir. Finally, it’s time for the ceremony — game on for me.

The crowd is assembled underneath large umbrellas (so crushing the heat of the sun) on the lawn in a beautiful garden; Julia walks, alone, down the verdant green covered walkway with stately grace. Simon’s grin splits his face. The ceremony is brief, personal and sweet; Julia and Simon have asked the guests to, on their own, come up with and provide vows for them to swear to each other. As this draws to a close, Julia’s sister, Diana, is to present the rings… and they’re missing. Her husband, Todd, runs off to find them, only to return moments later empty-handed. Diana hurredly whispers “We could make a ring…” but Todd runs off again and finds them, thus averting a crises. The crisis turned out to be more of a blessing, because people then felt compelled to fill the intervening space with something… and thus provided even more vows, promises, and pieces of advice; people that would not have done so if the ceremony had run its intended course.

Then it’s my turn to be in charge and — viola — group photo. Now, drinks and service. We eventually make our way over to the two large party boats we have reserved — carrying about thirty people each (so the entirety of the wedding party and guests and a few random Italians) and we slowly make our way to the harbor in front of the St. Marcus Square, near the Salut and the Church Redentore while storm clouds move in, finally obscuring the malevolent sun. From one boat’s rooftop to another we have the bouquet toss, and the water fills more and more with a tremendously large flotilla of revelers on all matters of craft: From massive three-story yachts (one was named “Quantum of Solace.” There were *three* of these damned boats!) to a pirate ship, and even single-person inner tubes (with an outboard motor). The party continues into dusk, and the clouds have moved on letting the last rays of sunset strike us before dipping behind the churches. As a prelude to our fine firework show, lightning flickers continually and ominously in the distance (but without rain or thunder).

The fireworks display is one of the best I’ve seen, with both technical and aesthetic artistry. It also helped that we were atop the roofs of boats and could actually *see* the mortars firing and the fireworks launching into the sky. It was an unforgettable moment, and all the while an Italian bluegrass band from Trieste played on saxophone, violin, trumpet and the like, singing songs in accented English and Italian (Bella Ciao!).

After they wrapped up, one boat — the varsity partiers, mind you — went to the island of Lido, the long and straight seawall running north and south at the mouth of the harbor. At the souther end we disembarked and hauled our gear out onto the beach where a long row of bonfires were lit, revelers all about. Lightning continued to puncuate the darkness, as the half moon had set after dark but long before midnight. The air is great, and the water perfect. Twiddling one’s fingers in the sea was met with green flickers and flashes of the phosphorescent plankton. Kicking one’s foot lit the water from below with a flash; walking forward in waist deep water, you send a gentle circular ripple atop the inky-black glassily-smooth warm Venetian water, a ripple glowing green at its crest. My mind is still blown: Words cannot possibly do this wonder justice. Flashes of lightning still lit the silhouettes of the partiers from behind.

A few hours later, the wind abruptly changed: this was a sign of worse times to come. Soon the first rain drops fell, and the wind picked up and battered us with fine scouring sand. I hunkered down and kept my eyes shut (so bad was the blowing sand) until we decided to quit this place. Cut to a textbook-wrong exodus, and you have us arriving at the door to our flat the same minute as Simon and Julia–who left the beach over an hour later than us. Oh well. If that’s our only complaint from the Big Day, I’ll keep my mouth shut. (Long story short: we departed, got caught by the beginnings of thunderstorm downpour (wearing only light summer clothes, took a bus, waited forever at a packed Vaparetto station with drunk revelers (and the rain), couldn’t get on the first boat because there were so many people, ended up being on the wrong line and having to transfer, and finally walking the distance back to the flat, schlepping gear all the while).

Congratulations to Simon and Julia on their fairytale wedding: it was quite the splendid gala, one I’m sure will be spoken of for quite some time yet.

See the teaser gallery here and the rest of my Europe travels in this collection.

Praha to Venezia

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Prague Castle
Prague Castle across the river Vltava — click to see the Prague gallery

I’ve made it from Prague to Venice.

Bags packed, I took off a little after 9 Wednesday morning to get myself to Rome by air and then to Venice by rail. Turns out my flight’s delayed, now leaving by 1:30pm, and I finally arrive in Rome a bit after three; still suffering from gastro-intestinal distress and now wilting from the heat (how quickly one goes from shivering on the plane to melting in a heat wave), I didn’t make to the railway counter quickly enough. When I did, I got a reservation on the high-speed rail from Rome -> Venice, departing at 5:45pm. I asked the ticket agent (twice!) if the train was leaving right from the airport station, and he said yes. Lesson learned: double check. The train I needed was departing from Roma Termini, and all the trains from the airport go there (about a 40 minute ride). I then naively wait until 5:45 to board the train… and realize I’ve now missed my reservation.

We roll into Termini at 6:21pm in terminal 1, and I see that trains leave to Venice each hour at 45 minutes past, so the next train leaves at 6:45pm — but it’s also the last of the day. Fortunately, terminal 26 is as far away as it is possible to get from terminal 1, so I hoof it over there. I again make a naively strategic error and go to “1est” thinking it’s terminal 1 — but it turns out there is terminal 1 and terminal 1est, and 1est is out in the god damned boonies; I had actually -passed- my Venice train to get out to it. It’s now 6:41, so I turn around and literally run, backpack and camera bag and all, to catch the last train from the station. I am successful.

I do not, however, have a reservation, and the train is packed. I end up standing in the space between cars for a while, before wandering around and finding an open seat next to a well-dressed woman in her late thirties/early forties who seems none too pleased with having a traveling bum like me sitting next to her (I am admittedly disheveled at this point [and might smell]).

Risking causing further irritation to the woman next to whom I’m sitting, after a long period I ask to get my laptop from my bag (which is up in the storage rack above). Then, upon reviewing my email, I see that Julia (the bride) requested that I text her when I got on the train so that they could send someone to pick me up, but I was never able to find a prepaid phone (or wifi for Google Voice). I’m now considering what to do when I arrive in a strange town without a map long after dark. Twelve hours into my travels so far today, I do not relish the task of schlepping all my gear and finding their house. What if no one answers? Serious considerations of sleeping on the curb versus sleeping at the train station enter my mind.

In a divinely inspired moment, I open up Lightroom to poke around a bit through my Prague photos and — immediately — notice the formerly irritated woman sitting next to me taking a keen interest. I take off my headphones and she asks “did you take these?” in accented Italian. I turns out she’s a classical architecture professor at an Italian university (specializing in 17th century Baroque). We chat for a while, and I tell her I usually shoot portraits, and not buildings. Her brilliantly poetic response: “No, these are portraits of cities.” I then ask a favor: might she send a text message for me?

She gets a response 5 minutes later: “We’ll be waiting at the end of the platform.” My day is saved.

Benvenuto Venezia!

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.


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,

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/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.

Live from the playa

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

$teven Ra$pa at Burning Man 2009
$teven Ra$pa at the Regionals Soiree

My third batch of Burning Man 2009 photos are online. You may see them here. (Photos are in chronological order in the set).

Tree, Burning Man 2009
Tree sculpture, Burning Man 2009

Deathguild Thunderdome at Burning Man 2009
Deathguild Thunderdome pranked as Hot Topic

Click here for the full gallery.

First photos from Burning Man 2009

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

The Man, Burning Man 2009The Man at Burning Man 2009

It’s dusty here. I have some photos online; perhaps you wish to see them?
Nifer in her Carhart corset

Nifer in her Carhart work corset

It’s still early in the week and many pieces aren’t finished quite yet, so check back again soon for the next batch of photos.