The Blight, © Neil Girling, 1998-2017

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Photos from the Edwardian Ball 2011

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Photos from both Friday’s World Fair and the Ball Proper on Saturday are finished and online! If you’d prefer to see them on Facebook, go here [Friday | Saturday]

Edwardian Ball 2011
Guests at Saturday’s ball proper

Dark Garden at the Edwardian Ball 2011
Dwoira in Dark Garden’s fashion show at Friday’s World Fair

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!

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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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.

Photos from the first-ever Edwardian Ball Los Angeles 2009

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

Whitney Moses in Dark Garden

Having not yet recovered from the tiredness built up from last weekend, Friday night I embarked on a whirlwind trip to LA with my good friends Nifer and Slim to do it all over again: the first-ever Edwardian Ball in those hot southron lands at the delightfully decrepit and partially restored Tower Theater in downtown Los Angeles. Being familiar with the otherworld couture of the cocktail costume party that is the Labyrinth of Jareth Masquerade Ball that takes place yearly in Hollywood, I was curious to see how the LA installment of the Edwardian Ball and the costumes thereof would compare: I was not disappointed.

The weekend itself was a blur of fantastic things: we arrived late in the night and crashed at the Brewery, and then spent Saturday afternoon on a well-planned and better-executed thrift-store shock-and-awe campaign which resulted in bags and bags of magnificent wearable bits of awesome (my favorite score, found and suggested by Slim: a vintage tuxedo jacket with tails so old it’s literally falling apart, a perfect match for the Tower Theater). At the Ball I got to spend some time with Nadya and Meredith of Coilhouse, though we never found Zoetica for the group photo; I met many really great people, and this time — for once — shot no performance on stage (with the notable exception of Jill and Paul), eleccting instead to focus solely on my portraits which I felt much more important for an event like this where it is the attention to detail in each individuals’ costume, not something on stage necessarily, that makes the event what it is. I delight in the attendee-wide participation.

Sunday was simply the long-haul back up the 5, and was proceeding without incident until just before the Grapevine when I got a phone call from Paul Mercer whom, with Jill and Evil Sarah, I had just passed. Their thought was “Mr. Nightshade should have that license plate … oh wait, he does!” We stopped for coffee and gas in some desolate tourist trap (after a long dearth of nothing, there’s always a gas station with INCREDIBLY over-inflated prices for gas in the midst of absolutely nothing, so in desperation, you pay for it; a scant few miles up the road is a veritable oasis with a whole town and trees and restaurants and gas stations charging the state average price for gas. It’s really annoying.), and then off on our separate ways went.

I hope you enjoy the photos. I had a great time making them.

Photos from the 9th Annual Edwardian Ball Sunday Gorey Sunday

Friday, January 30th, 2009

With the final installment of the Sunday Gorey Sunday gallery, pictures from all three days of the 9th annual San Francisco Edwardian Ball are now online. Sunday took place in the wood and red velvet room at the top floor of the Regency Ballroom, and was a decidedly more intimate (and dimly lit) affair. Performances included those by Oryx Incruentus (Andrea Zerilli, guest Paul Mercer) performing to the 1911 silent film “L’Inferno,” The Ghosts Project (Paul Mercer, Minka, Davis, and guests Jill Tracy, Nathaniel, Erica) with Finn from Abney Park dancing,  Shovelman, Lee Presson, Alison Lovejoy, and Agent Ribbons. Non-musical acts included Finn from Abney Park dancing to the Ghosts Project, Evil Sarah (burlesque), Helios Jive (the buffoon clown), Fou Fou Ha!, and several vignettes from the Vau de Vire Society (like the incredibly-difficult-to-photograph swinging-’round-the-room rope act pictured above).

Tonight, via horseless carriage, I do depart for the arid southron lands of the City of Lost Angels for their installment of our grand affair at the historic Tower Theater tomorrow night. Go here for details.

Edwardian Ball photo galleries from Friday and Saturday

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Eva, aka Miss Never — click for Saturday’s photo gallery

It is one of the “only in San Francisco” sort of affairs in which we love to indulge, with thousands of people decking themselves out to the nines for three days of decadence in the extravagant and recently beautifully renovated Regency Ballroom center (Mike Vau de Vire told me they were pulling the blue painter’s tape off on Friday during setup). Having moved from the Great American Music Hall, where the Ball has been held in prior years, there was some concern as to whether the much larger Regency Ballroom could be filled; after three days of packed halls, that question has been answered.

The Ballroom Saturday night — click for Saturday’s photos

Saturday was the main night of the ball, with the headliner and chanteuse Jill Tracy playing with the Malcontent Orchestra, and later the hosts Rosin Coven, accompanied with performances by Cirque Berzerk and Vau de Vire Society.

These may be my favorite costumes of Friday night — click here for the gallery.

Friday night was steampunk-themed (though not explicitly advertised as such so as to avoid offending us purists), but brass and goggles and steam-powered contraptions were certainly donned by many an attendee, and those self-ascribed purveyors of steampop Abney Park definitely put on a great show. Rounding out the lineup musically were those corseted and quirky Rasputina, of whom I am a fan (what’s not to like? women playing cello, corsets, songs of nonsense and tomfoolery sung with a straight face? Indeed).

Sunday’s gallery is coming as soon as I finish editing the 1,000+ photos I shot for it. Check back Thursday night — they had better be up by then, for the next eve I depart for an additional fix of hats and corsets at the Los Angeles edition of the Edwardian Ball at the Tower Theater. (You should go).

And did you know I added a “prints” section?

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.

Storytime Festival and Hubba Hubba Revue photos, and a rant on lighting

Saturday, December 27th, 2008
Angelo flies above the crowd

Each of the two shows for the Storytime Festival were divided into two halves — the first was akin to an international dance competition, featuring troupes from all over in vastly different styles, while Vau de Vire filled the second half. The afternoon show was Vau de Vire’s first “kid-friendly” and theater-style performance, as well as the largest venue at which we have performed (two sold-out shows of 1,000 people each, and the stage itself was as big as the DNA Lounge). The first show was a bit rocky, in terms of practice and other technical aspects (sound, etc.) details I’m delighted not to be privy to nor involved with (a classic example of “not my job!” and I’d only be in the way anyway).

The first photo above shows one of our lovely Vau de Vire girls doing a front-flip over a flaming rope, and the second is my favorite shot I’ve ever gotten of Angelo Rodriguez flying above the audience — I last saw this in February at the Super Bowl show we did with 944 Magazine, but the circular nature of his path makes autofocus nearly impossible. I managed to capture it this time. Go see the full gallery here.

Hubba Hubba Reuve Christmas Special took place the day before the Storytime Festival (and Dickens Fair the day after) making last weekend one of the longest in recent memory. If you’ve ever wondered why you occasionally find black-and-white photos scattered throughout my image galleries, it’s not because I’m trying to be artistic. No, let me tell you a secret: It’s because I couldn’t fix the color balance or the lighting was awful. The gentleman responsible for lighting Hubba Hubba Revue likes to wash the stage in a single color (never good) and is a huge fan of pink, of all colors (even worse). The vast majority of my post-processing time I spend on Hubba Hubba Revue photos is just trying to fix the color to make skin look like, well, skin and to provide my viewers with something other than a blasted pink landscape of pasties and pretty girls. See below for a few examples of before-and-after:

hhr_towels

Before and after, showing post-processing

hhr_bunny

Before and after, showing post-processing

As you can see, the original images on the left were lit with pink (blue and red) lights, full-on and direct, with the backgrounds largely ignored. I’m no theatre lighting expert (ask Mr. Devon aka Baconmonkey for a separate rant regarding this if you want more detail) but I know that the DNA Lounge has some excellent lighting rigs, and they’re responsible for making a show look as good as it can possibly look. And in terms of photos, while you might not notice a particular color wash when you’re watching the show, a gallery of pictures that are all lit the same become monotonous and it’s difficult to differentiate between the various acts (or even tell what color their costumes were). From a photographic standpoint, the performers themselves need to be lit with pure white light, with colors supporting the sides and background. Or at least give me a white spotlight or throw a few white lights in the mix? A camera’s sensor is a mix of red, green and blue filters, so if you only use one or two colors to light the stage, my camera can only use a fraction of its light-capturing capability, and image quality suffers heavily.

Go see the full gallery of HHR’s Christmas Special here.

Upcoming Events — Storytime Festival, Hubba Hubba Revue and the Edwardian Ball

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

Coming up on Friday the 19th of this month is Hubba Hubba Revue — Christmas Special. I shall be your photographer for the evening.

Then, on Saturday, December 20th,  your favorite circus troupe Vau de Vire Society, joined by the buffoons of Fou Fou Ha! and the goofballs of Gooferman will entertain you with not one but two (2!) shows at the decadent Palace of Fine Art in San Francisco. The first show is family-friendly (shocking, I know) and the second a bit more like you’re used to (similar to Cirque du Soleil meets burlesque with a two-drink minimum).  Get your tickets here: www.storytimefestival.org. I’m the official photographer for this event.

And, coming up in January is the inimitable and fabulous Edwardian Ball, about which I’m sure you’ve heard so much. Three days of yesteryear decadence are yours for the taking, and tickets are available here: www.edwardianball.com. I am most delighted to be the official photographer for this event as well (an honor, indeed).

Also upcoming is the Sea of Dreams New Years Eve bash by Anon Salon, at which they’ve asked be to be a photographer (but negotiations are yet underway). It’s very likely you’ll see me there, joining my friends The Mutaytor from Los Angeles.