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The Blight – Photography by Neil Girling    » San Francisco

The Blight, © Neil Girling, 1998-2017

Archive for the 'San Francisco' Category

The Thirteenth Annual Edwardian Ball

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

The 13th Annual Edwardian Ball

The Thirteenth Annual Edwardian Ball

The 13th Annual Edwardian Ball

View the whole gallery here.

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

Upcoming: Edwardian Ball

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Edwardian Ball poster

I will once again be your photographer for the Edwardian Ball! Get your tickets before they sell out.

Faith and the Muse

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Monica Richards of Faith and the Muse

Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to see, meet greet and pay homage to one of my favorite artists over the past ten years: Faith and the Muse, a skillful and mercurial melange of neo-folk, goth, darkwave and rock that is wholly unique.

Faith and the Muse at the DNA Lounge

Joined by Paul Mercer (The Changelings and solo) and the sinuous Serpentine Bellydance, they had the crowd’s rapt attention well into the night.

Lucretia of Serpentine and Paul Mercer on violin

You can see the whole gallery here.

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.

Les Bal de Vampires and Dia de los Muertos

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

There are a number of new galleries for your perusal ~

Lauren at Le Bal des Vampires

Lauren the birthday girl in her red and cream cupcake dress

This past weekend saw Les Bal de Vampires, a  in Alameda by PEERS. See the gallery here.

Calamity Lulu at the Day of the Dead parade in San Francisco

The second day after Halloween is Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. The Mission District of San Francisco, having a very Latin American demographic, celebrates each year with a parade and altars honoring the dead. The gallery is here.

Also in the not-too-distant past:

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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Bohemian Carnival & Hubba Hubba Revue photos, and ABC vs. DNA

Saturday, March 7th, 2009

Gravity Plays Favorites at Bohemian Carnival

Photos from February’s Bohemian Carnival and Hubba Hubba Revue Mardi Gras are online!

Madame Chartreuse at Hubba Hubba Revue

You may have noticed by now that a very large portion of my photo galleries come from events at the DNA Lounge, the staple of independent underground performance and live music in San Francisco’s SoMa district.  You also may have noticed that they recently received an all-ages license, which is important as concert-goers are usually in the age group of 16-25, a large portion of whom are under 21. The DNA Lounge was originally denied the license, but won it on appeal. That’s when the funny business started.

The DNA Lounge has been accused of running a “disorderly house injurious to the public welfare and morals,” and are trying to permanently revoke their liquor license (essentially shutting them down). Besides the obvious “wtf?” such a statement should elicit from any thinking individual (“what right do they have legislating and enforcing morals,” I hear you ask) it appears they’re doing so not only in retaliation for appealing and winning the all-ages permit, but doing so by specifically targeting the gay and lesbian club nights.

From the DNA Lounge blog :

  • Though it is clear to me that ABC’s investigation of our gay events is retaliation for our successful conversion to an all-ages venue, the events they are citing us for were 21+ events.
  • The majority of the offenses they are charging us with were dancers flashing for just a few seconds. We’re talking about some guy mooning the audience for three seconds. That’s the level of these offenses.
  • The people doing these things were not DNA employees.
  • The ABC considers “several” fully clothed pelvic thrusts, as a part of a comedy routine, to be an illegal “simulated sex act”. There’s hardly a music video in the world that would pass their standard.

posted by Jamie Zawinski, owner. Read the full post to learn more.

The DNA Lounge employs people, and is a second-home for many of us. This petulant gesture by the ABC reeks of discrimination and retaliation, and is an utter waste of our tax dollars.

What you can do.

(more…)

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 Zombie Prom with Hubba Hubba at the DNA

Monday, February 9th, 2009

…wherein I made a surprise appearance on stage (as a photographer, I’ll have you know) and got my tasty brainmeats eaten by a zombie (the lovely and aptly-named miss Calamity Lulu). Of course we botched our routine (almost entirely my fault since hey, that’s why I’m usually on the other side of the camera). Oh well, I hope it was entertaining. That’s all we’re really going for, right? My mistakes included missing queues and moving too quickly (must delay more!) and laughing too hard to assist in the tasteful undressing of hot zombie girl; she forgot to unclip her garters and ended up slipping on the fake blood (I hear she bounced when she hit, too). Hah!

Pictured above is the aforementioned Calamity Lulu after I shot her in the head (with a cap gun, people) and actually took photos while on stage during the routine (what do you expect?). See the photos here.