The Blight, © Neil Girling, 1998-2019

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‘Tis the season

Monday, August 3rd, 2009


This is a best-guess on my part from the preliminary placement data they gave us.

The Burn this year is a go. I once again serve on the art documentation team, meaning I’m supposed to take photos of things. It’s a job I can handle. This year you may find me within the Fandango Village, and we are conveniently located at the 3 o’clock plaza (Adapt and 3:00).

Galleries from prior years: 2008, 2007, 2006

UPDATE: This map is a best-guess on my part.

A change of course

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Savannah, Raven.

White Witches — Savannah, Raven. Touch to view large (and larger).

For the last few years, several times a week could you catch me at some event or another, camera in hand. (You may have noticed). Though I’ve picked up many a trick over time to get photos sorted, archived, edited and uploaded in as expedient a manner as possible, it’s still a rather… large amount of work. And doing so has prevented me from experimenting with other avenues of photography, which I have wistfully lamented.

It’s time for something different.

By Streetlamp

Lulu de la Calamité by midnight. Touch to view large (and larger).

Vignettes and glimmers will be my focus for a spell, shooting in my (brand-new!) studio or on location, working with (mostly) cooperative subjects, as opposed to performers on stage. And I’ll be in control of the light for once. The above two photographs were shot Friday and Saturday night of this past weekend; I would call the experiment a success (if I may be so bold (and I am)).

This doesn’t mean you won’t see me out-and-about with some degree of regularity, like-as-not with camera in-hand — but if you do, I don’t want to hear an exclamation of incredulity on your part; for what else do I know how to do at an event, anyway? I just don’t want to have the responsibility and requirement to cover every act and aspect of a show and editing hundreds of photos later. Maybe I’ll get two shots instead, and perhaps they’ll be something completely different than before. However they end up, though, they’ll be on my terms, and I find that exciting (and a relief). Unless you want to hire me. In which case, we should talk.

So, do you have an idea that you’d like to turn into a shoot? Send me a note and give me your thoughts. I’m looking for models and locations and projects and what-have-you. (I reserve the right to be picky). I have a studio in Oakland and will work on-location anywhere in the Bay Area for the right project (or travel for the really right project).

In other news, I’ve updated my portfolio (with special higher-res versions).


Spy on me on Twitter! Written last night while sipping San Francisco’s own Old Potrero Rye.

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.

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.

A Year in Review Part 2 — 2008

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

I shall continue where I left off in Part the First, no less tired this time around, but a scant few hours before my self-imposed bedtime — and if I don’t finish it now, then when? Indeed.

Once again, the full gallery of my Year in Review photographs can be seen here — I have selected one photo per thousand I shot all year (45,000 in all), picking ones I thought particularly interesting in the story they told, amusing somehow, or just a personal favorite.

The first image is Magdelene Veen, formerly of Abney Park, at the Emerging Illusions fashion show with Creatureform Designs; she reposted several of these photos titled “I am some sort of demon crow.” Her act was that of a ballerina; and this shot, though backstage, reminds me of the same flow and movement (though I’m not sure she even knew I took this).

We of course love the Dresden Dolls, those purveyors of punk cabaret and one of the first mainstream underground (yes, I’m aware of the contradiction) acts to combine musical and non-musical performance acts on their stage — for, in 2005, as a fan of the Dresden Dolls, how else would I have been introduced to Vau de Vire Society but by seeing them perform onstage alongside a favorite band? The rest is history. Pictured here is Brian Viglione at the Fillmore, where I was brought in to shoot the show (and I had dinner with Brian, Amanda and Meredith Yayanos beforehand: they’re all amazing sweethearts).

Hiding ‘neath the swirl of the skirt here is Leila Bazzani of Black and Blue Burlesque, performing with the Yard Dogs Roadshow at Lightning in a Bottle 2008. You may notice a similarity to a certain other photo of mine, which just so happens to be her partner in crime, Tuesday Blue.

Please see the rest after the cut (even if it’s just to browse the photos…).


Two-Thousand Eight — a Year in Review (pt. 1)

Friday, January 16th, 2009

With 2008 growing colder by the day in the grave, it’s time to pay our last respects and take a quick look at the events that transpired during that time. It was a momentous year for me: I spent my first time ever without a plan, being homeless on a clown’s couch for two months whilst much rockstardom was had, until I got a call out of the blue and a job offer fell into my lap (after a technical phone screening and a grueling six-hour interview with some of the brightest engineers I’ve ever met). Some have said good riddance; I heard the same about 2007. Not so, here — 2007 was the year I hit my stride with photography, and saw extensive growth technically and in my relationships with performers, and ended with my graduation from University and my move to San Francisco (finally). 2008 continued the upward momentum, and every month it seems I can look back at the one prior and think, “Really? That’s the best I could do?”

The only fitting and proper (and believable) way I could discuss 2008 is through the use of photos. Briefly: in 2008 I shot 85 events spanning 104 days, totaling 45,000 photos. This summary contains one photograph per 1,000 images I took last year, with a brief vignette as to why I thought it pertinent or amusing. Everything is in chronological order. You can click here for the full gallery of images.

I ended 2007 and started 2008 I had the past several years, at the San Francisco Concourse Exhibition Center with Anon Salon for Sea of Dreams. This year I was hired by Vau de Vire Society to work the show with them. I have something of a tradition of getting photos of myself in whatever mirror I can find, primarily through necessity: if I don’t get one, it’s likely no documentation will exist (people always forget to get pictures of meeee).

The Hot Couture fashion show marks the last event I’ll ever work for the Crucible as long as Michael Sturtz is running the show: on one occasion alone (at the Fire Arts Festival in 2007) he treated me more rudely than every other person at every other event I’ve ever worked has treated me (and that wasn’t the only event where it happened!). Other than him, I think the Crucible is great and does marvelous things for the community. I look forward to working with them again, either via a change in heart or a change in leadership.

Please see much, much more after the cut. (Really. I wrote a lot. At least skim the pictures?)


Trip to New Orleans — Queen of the Damned Ball and Endless Night

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

Erica Mulkey aka Unwoman playing at Queen of the Damned

Eschewing the damp weather of our foggy city, The Blight did set sail for New Orleans this past weekend with Unwoman to join Jill Tracy and Paul Mercer in the French Quarter for two shows — Anne Rice’s Queen of the Damned Ball at Rosy’s Jazz House on Halloween, and Endless Night on Day of the Dead at the House of Blues.

Eli at Queen of the Damned

Departing on a red-eye flight, our travel was not without incident: the x-ray machine operator, upon examining my large green German army-surplus backpack — then re-examining, and then once more — laughed to himself and shook his head before calling out “BAG CHECK.” My bag — and I — were escorted off to the side where a bored TSA agent rifled through everything. “Um, Supervisor?” she called out. “There’s residue here.” I respond helpfully: “You mean playa-dust? This has been to Burning Man.” Unconcerned with reasonable explanations — and perhaps due to the soothing voice declaring our threat level “Orange,” they decided a swabbing was in order. The bizarre contraption helpfully declared, in bold red and all caps, “EXPLOSIVES DETECTED.” Great. Because I handle many of those. I’m glad it didn’t beep and flash strobes and demand I grab my ankles. After every minute detail of my bag was painstakingly unpacked and no bombs were found (the gunpowder plot wasn’t for another six days) I was free to go (“let me repack my camera, you nitwits”). We arrived at about 8AM New Orleans time and checked in early to our hotel. “Are you here for the International Gay Rodeo Convention?” ” … No, but that’s fantastic.” And it was (fabulous sequined cowboys — I did titter with laughter).

Sasha at Queen of the Damned

The Queen of the Damned Ball, ostensibly for the born-again author of questionable literary prowess and the pretension* of goths who make up her fan club, but in reality a good excuse to dress up fabulously and hear some good music while sipping a (watered-down overpriced) cocktail, was something of a letdown. While the costuming was indeed fabulous, and Jill Tracy and the Malcontent Orchestra (in this incarnation, consisting of Erica Mulkey (Unwoman) and Paul Mercer (the Ghosts Project)) never cease to amaze, the other performances were uninspiring at best or downright bad at worse (caveat: I may have missed something). We departed on the earlier side and, after dropping off our gear and dealing with the insane mayhem that was the French Quarter on Halloween (read: similiar to Burning Man in the number of costumes, the loud thumping music and the free-flowing alcohol yet with less flame and dust and nicer weather) we snagged beignets at Cafe du Monde and sat sipping drinks and listening to obscure darkwave (Switchblade Symphony I can understand, but how did they ever even hear of Autumn Tears?) at the great bar Pravda on Decatur at Urselines.

*A Pretension of Goths: a new collection noun I coined. It’s true, and sometimes self-referential.

Your humble narrator at Endless Night

The next day saw Jill and Erica (and my new friend Eli aka 10-9, whom I met on the DPW Parade) at Napoleon House, which, surprisingly enough, is named after the fact that it used to be Napoleon’s… well, house. A gorgeous old dilapidated thing with a wonderful courtyard garden, the service was unfortunately severely lacking. Wandering around the town brought us to St. Louis Cemetary No. 1, which closes at 3PM (what the hell? I’ll just have to go back). After getting ready, Eli, Erica and I went to dinner for the second day in a row at Oceana, where I’ve had some of the best food in memory and had our photo taken by many a normal person who found our appearance photo-worthy. We did oblige.

The villainous Jill Tracy at Endless Night

Endless Night got off to a late start, firstly on account of the show before it running much too late, and secondly for a rocky sound check. But once it did, and a slightly-irate crowd of 400 costumed partygoers joined in and hit the bars,  their complaints were quickly forgotten. Paul’s band — The Ghosts Project — consisted of Jill Tracy on piano, incredible gospel/jazz singer Minka, Davis on percussion, Sheryl on citar and Erica on cello, was amazing. For a reason I cannot fathom I hadn’t yet taken close enough a look, and after hearing just the soundcheck, I was embarrassed. Every artist in that group is ridiculously talented in their own right, and putting them together — where half the music is simply off-the-cuff — is mind blowing. You owe it to yourself to take a listen: the sound is a cross between dark neo-classical with a double dash of jazz, and a scoop of gospel mixed to the OOM-pa-pa of a waltz. No really.

Paul Mercer of the Ghosts Project

However, even with the hour gained due to the time change (“It’s 1:29AM! The last time I looked at a clock it was 1:30…”) the night was over much too soon, and still tipsy (*cough*) we quickly ran around the corner to our hotel and hastily packed all of our things, and Eli gave us a ride to the airport (thanks again!). Fortunately my bag elicited far less attention this time through security, and it was only one, long, sleepless, partially-hungover deathmarch back to San Francisco (feeling — and looking — like hell, walking down an isle at Atlanta airport, a stewardess stops me and says “my god, you look amazing.” If only I had felt that way). And as we drop our bags on the floor of my flat (in the heart of the Mission District) at 3PM Sunday, my roommate says “Oh, this is about to be ground zero for Dia De Los Muertos celebrations. Just warning you.”

If you haven’t found them already, here are the galleries:

And links to the artists mentioned:

Obama landslide victory — San Francisco celebration

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

No one can throw down and party like San Francisco. Violet Blue posts to Twitter, “Street dance party closures @ 16/gurerro and 19th/valencia, plus divisadeo/hayes and castro/market. cops are being tolerant.”

Here is a small gallery of photos from the celebration at 19th at Valencia in San Francisco’s Mission District. Extra Action Marching Band led the crowd in jubilation, and there were many cheers and chants of “Obama” and “U S A.” The mood was ecstatic, and the cops were polite and extremely hands-off; a little after midnight, when they finally asked Extra Action Marching Band — who have a reputation for chaos and noise — to start to shut down, they did so with smiles and were met with the same.

Other celebrations took place at 16th and Guerrero, Divisadero and Hayes, with the largest at Castro and Market / 18th Street, where crowds of thousands were assembled and DJs spun turntables and blasted tunes.

But to paraphrase Violet Blue, “Obama was the party, Prop 8 is the hangover.”

To New Orleans!

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Photo by the inimitable Violet Blue at the Blogger Bungalow

It is but a scant few short hours before we depart for the Big Easy to join Jill Tracy and Paul Mercer for two shows, the Queen of the Damned Ball Saturday and Endless Night Saturday. I can’t think of a better place (or better company) to spend Halloween. We’re also fortuitously escaping the rain currently gracing San Francisco’s streets (though I like the rain).

If I can steal a laptop, I’ll post photos as I can from a cafe somewhere; if not, look for them Sunday upon my return.

A small photoshoot — Lily in San Francisco

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008


Lily, on the rooftop of BMHQ

Some slight degree of trespassing and a small excursion last night brings you a small handful of photos of my friend Lily in her finest (borrowed) Victorian garb, which likely took longer to prepare than the photos did to take (and process).


Just one exposure and no Photoshop, taken on a filthy shoreline in East SF

I do in fact shoot portrait-session photoshoots (not just events!), so if you have something in mind and need some work done, let me know.