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The Blight – Photography by Neil Girling    » Underground

The Blight, © Neil Girling, 1998-2017

Archive for the 'Underground' Category

Seven days at Occupy Wall Street

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Anonymous protestor—”I could lose my job for having a voice”

NYPD clears Washington Square Park and then pushes pedestrians down sidewalk Saturday night

An Occupy Wall Street General Assembly Sunday evening

Today marks the seventh day I’ve been at Occupy Wall Street in Zuccotti Park / Liberty Square in downtown Manhattan. I’ve got much to say—and another day to photograph—but you can see my current work up 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.

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The Blight at the company picnic

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

Burning Man Camp Map 2010

Ladies and gentlemen, preparations for our yearly company picnic are well underway. We have reason to believe that the above map most accurately reflects precisely where your intrepid narrator will be located on the playa this year (the X, if you will).

So, one way or another, we should be right on 3:30 between the Esplanade and Athens. Look for a row of black and white flags, and if I get my affects in order, a sign that says THE BLIGHT. See you in the dust.

PS: If you have any ideas for a photoshoot, right now would be a great time to contact me.

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!

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.

Obsequium Funeris — Final Rites of Orbis Nex

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Serpentine bellydance from Portland, Oregon

With Saturday’s passage came too the end of Orbis Nex, one of the bastions of Bay Area underground venues. Though the reasons were different than budget and economy, it follows a long list of other recently closed venues that will also be missed: the Xenodrome, the first underground I called a second home; Ace Auto, where Death Guild set up Thunderdome and Cookie Mongoloid growled out his ode to cookies; and the Parkway, which I only recently rediscovered several months ago after first being dragged to a Rocky Horror Picture Show there some five years prior.

Final rites at Orbis Nex

Being the last night of a space so infused with the heart and soul of its curators, it was steeped with ritual and ceremony. And from Portland, the world-class Tuvan throat-singer Enriqué, performing as Soriah and joined by Serpentine delivered a staggering performance.

The Tuvan throat-singer Soriah

Orbis Nes is dead and buried, and she will be missed.

Please find a small gallery of the final turn of Orbis Nex here.

Orbis Nex was fronted by Patricia Cram of the darkly beautiful Vial Magizine.