I was having a super late post-party supper with a group from Tank while in London and the fash ed started talking about this really far out stuff and, as you’d guess, my interest piqued. It was a film. I won’t belabor the specifics here, but will only repeat what she said, it is amaaaaazing, then said again after a dramatic pause to assure my full attention, amaaaaazing. So I watched it.  It’s called The Holy Mountain, by Alejandro Jodorowsky, and, I agree, it is most certainly incredible, but…wow.

video: trailer to The Holy Mountain

Nearly makes Barney’s Creamaster Cycle seem par for, er, normal.

video: Trailer for Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle.

On a completely different note, standing applause for Visionaires #56 solar-powered book. Putting up a good fight for why the printed magazine/book will always have it’s place.

photo: from Visionaire 56, ©Richard Burbridge

photo: from Visionaire 56, ©David Sims

More a regurgitation of a conversation, but after all, it’s a blog: so: while having lunch in Tompkins Sq. yesterday with photo-friend, Aaron Binaco he gave me some, how should I put it, neat shit. My first sun-drunk-enthusiasm was for that by now well known moment when Avedon went to take Freidlander‘s portrait at his home, and how Freidlander, being a really real photographer (see note), also took Avedon’s portrait. I said I could find the Avedon picture, but have yet to be able to find the Friedlander. Well, Aaron found it and sent it to me. I imagine a sort of stand-off of great personalities, great wills face to face, and even if they were cordial and kind on some level it must have been profound-intense. Either as a matter of attrition of neither ever giving in, or maybe rather of two old masters being able to wink and nod, knowingly.

photo: from Aperture #188, Lee Friedlander by Richard Avedon (left) and Richard Avedon by Lee Friedlander (right)

Both Aaron and I grew up racing bicycles, so then he started on about this Scottish trials rider, saying, “he’d ride up that tree over there and just chill out,” while pointing at this giant bloody elm that a cat could maybe climb. I called, hyperbole!, but then he emailed me this link and jesusmurphy…if you’ve ever ridden a bike you should be able to appreciate this video:

And, yes, I am in fact posting on extreme sports youtube video…sigh, probably a slippery slope, so I’ll post this to balance it out:

photo: Corvette I saw in soho which I voted best possible prop of the day and sent it to a fashion editor with a synopsis of a story involving Death Valley, Bottega heels, and a Camio by Dennis Hopper (as eminence grise, naturally). Fashion editor responded, I weep.

Note: “real photograher”: I was shooting on 5th ave by Tiffany’s on Saturday morning, and I saw this old timer shooting people fast with an old Nikon. I guessed maybe he was part of the old-Magnum-guard. I said, hello, asked his name, he said, Bill Cunningham, didn’t ring a bell. I asked him if shot there much, if he’d seen Bruce Gilden out, he’s always shooting on this corner. He said, I have seen him in the afternoon; how is Bruce? I said, I’ve no idea, I just see him, can’t catch him. He said, now that’s a real photographer. I liked that. Since there was truth in it. We chatted a bit more, then he took off after this super chic blonde to photograph. I thought, huh, mildly-licentious, but, yeah! It wasn’t until I mentioned it later in the day in passing that someone explained to me who Bill is. Love it. Before he ran of he waved and said, keep snapping kid. I offer the same good-bye, keep snapping, Bill!


photo: (on tv, late night, Tropicana, Las Vegas, NV). ©Graeme Mitchell

Director, Cary Joji Fukunaga for Interview, May 09.

photo: Cary Joji Fukunaga, Brooklyn, ’09. ©Graeme Mitchell.

Oh, and I just caught Cary’s new film, Sin Nombre (here).  I was speechless, really incredible work for a debut at the ripe age of 30.

Photo Assistant: Aaron Binaco
Fashion Editor: Miguel Enamorado
Grooming: Daniel Martin (w/ The Wall Group)
Location: Brooklyn, NY

Cali-pop-rocker aptly named, Wavves, for Interview, May ’09.

photo: Wavves, NYC ’09. ©Graeme Mitchell.

Hear some of his tunes, here.

Photo Assistant: Aaron Binaco
Fashion Editor: Miguel Enamorado
Grooming: Benjamin Puckey (w/ See Management)
Location: Shoot Digital, NYC

‘I always wanted you to admire my fasting,’ the hunger-artist said. ‘And so we do,’ the foreman said obligingly. ‘But you shouldn’t admire it,’ the hunger-artist said. ‘Well, all right, we don’t,’ said the foreman, “but why shouldn’t we?” ‘Because I have to fast, I can’t help it,’ the hunger-artist said. ‘Well, I’m blowed,’ said the foreman, ‘and why can’t you help it?’ ‘Because,’ the hunger-artist began, lifting his head a little and, with lips pursed as if for a kiss, speaking right into the foreman’s ear lest anything be lost, ‘because I’ve never been able to find the kind of nourishment I like. If I had found it, believe you me, I’d not have made this fuss but would have eaten my fill the same as you and everyone else.’ Those were his last words, but his shattered gaze retained the firm if no longer proud conviction that he was fasting yet.

from Franz Kafka’s short story, The Hunger Artist.

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

As per the title, my shadow after Friedlander,

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

and then some more,

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

Mikael Jansson (w/ Wilson/Wenzel), has been respected in the fashion world for decades, and lately has become know as the cover/feature shooter for Interview, where he’s been defining himself as excellent portrait/celebrity shooter, so I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed his book, Speed of Life, b/c I don’t necessarily figure many fashion guys can shoot motor-sports, and, furthermore, b/c I’m not even into cars, not even a little bit. Maybe it’s not world changing work, but I don’t think photos have to be to be good; sometimes I think it’s enough to see s photographer work on something you can see they’re passionate about.

photo: from Speed of Life, ©Mikael Jansson

photo: from Speed of Life, ©Mikael Jansson

There’s an interview from Vogue with Meisel, here, which as most of you know, is a rare thing indeed.

photo: by Steven Miesel

So on and on and on clamoring-out-of-some awfully mean trench of the soul.  Or like floating-up-on-an-acme ecstatic full of awe, the only time I ever ever want to be between is when I sleep, and even then I hope for fury dreams or unsettling oblivion, ahhh, Yes! to sustain a real grimace to that limit. Limit of nothing left limit of nothing more…of nothing more but then one step again, one step again.  Or wait but it’s not “I.”  Let me emphasize that this point is key.   Key.  This has nothing to do with me.  The concern the motivation the resistance is of something else other than I, bigger than I, smaller, different.  Empty myself vanquish delete and go to that furyfull maximum as a vessel to open up and to relinquish control and to let all flow and ebb right through where I once was, What I once was, Like a silent wind-chime or like: or like: A bellowing exclamation of,,,of of…Because, now get this, because, does not one small truth allow for a million others? – to know that that bird against the sky fluttering sinking turning moving like a dream figment…  To know that bit is real and true and to be sure of that.  Image that!  An exclamation of a common miracle…Of something.  Of anything!  So go forth, on on on, as a gale force as absolute as nature herself, and give yourself, everything will pass through and then emit from you, tingle and glow, a paradox of finally existing by not being

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell

I know I’ve been mentioning films a lot here, but movies are very influential to my work, as I think they can be for many photographers.  So bear with me…but, I watched Andrei Tarkovsky’s, Stalker last night and my jaw was like hanging to my lap for the entire 2hrs.   Geeked!  Remarkable…no, a brilliant film.  I’d never seen any of Tarkovsky’s work and had no idea what to expect, so it totally side-swiped me.  Yeah, it’s sorta an old-arty film, so it takes some gear shifting, but it’s not French New Wave, so don’t drug yourself just yet.

photo: still from Andrei Tarkovsky’s film, Stalker.

Now I need to see Tarkovsky’s, Mirror and Solyaris.

photo: still from Andrei Tarkovsky’s film, Mirror.

Still, I appreciate that it’s not for everyone.  Talking movies while on set today I lit up and got really excited about having seen Stalker and I could tell pretty quickly nobody cared to hear me wax on about it, let alone log into netflix for it…

…so if it’s not your bag, here’s a link to some crackin-beats: Pete Tong Essential Mix. (FYI, download button is towards bottom of the song list.)  Thanks Mr. Diggles for that link; he’s my defenitive line to all things techno and all things Hi-Tech.


Saw this gorgeous Lanvin look in the windows of Bergdorf’s the other day and immediatly sent it to a stylist on messanger:


“Me: LOOOOVE this Lanvin look!
Her: Love it and love each and all things Lanvin.
Me: Sigh”

(BTW, feel like you’re a photographer that gets the photos but is dumb on the clothes, well the Bergdorf windows are about the best crash course in fashion you’re going to find.)

A reader sent me these questions regarding getting work in editorial fashion photography, politely asking me for any feedback.  I though that they were specific enough that they’d be good discussion starters, and I stress, discussion, b/c as usual, I neither want to be didactic nor pedagogical here…or anywhere really  – it comes with too much responsibility.  Furthermore, as a man much wiser than myself once stipulated: there’s no right answer in this field…but there are certainly wrong ones.  So take what bits help, leave the rest, and add what you will.

Q: “What were some of the first paid mag assignments and how did you get them? Do you really think it is a pyramid process where you have had to start small and then work your way up? Or do you think it is better to get your book seen and higher level mags?”

A: It’s not really this clear cut.  First off, until you’re major, forget including magazines and getting paid in the same thought, especially for fashion.  You’re probably going to have to foot most of the costs for these shoots.   A lot of people ask about this and look stupefied when I respond there is no pay, but here’s the thing: 1) this work should be the some of the most exciting and fun work you do professionally, and, 2) you need to look at it as part of your advertising budget, as it’s years of meager but fun editorial work that is going to build you and make you known, generally.  The exception to no budgets is regional magazines out of smaller cities. B/c they don’t have the immense, transient talent pool to milk like the A-markets, they tend to have some money to motivate with.  They can be a good place to get your feet wet with the whole process.

Now, the actual act of breaking into it is SO different for everyone.  Don’t look for a formula.  Some people nail it and pick up right away.  Some it takes decades and decades.  I’d suggest not to expect the standard 2-3 year get in the black or close the door business model.  It takes patience and attrition, but again, I think the part that a lot of people leave out when talking about how hard it is is that it is also a lot of fun if you love pictures and fashion.

As for showing work, well, in retrospect I think I showed too much work to too many people early on.  Then one day I realized where I stood (an important and difficult piece of perspective to develop).  After that I totally backed off and spent three years tuning things.  I’m still tuning, but now, I show work to very specific magazines (basically ones I think would be a good fit), but even then I don’t show or hustle as much as I should.  Alas, I’d rather spend the day out shooting on the street.  I know people that live for the hustle and bustle and networking though.  They don’t really do better or worse; it is simply different personalities and different ways of going about things.  I think at the end of the day, if you’re consistently present in a good market and you’re getting work out, and it’s good work, people will notice.  But don’t be surprised if it takes 2 years or so of subtle schmoozing and boozing to get into a magazine.  And then don’t be surprised if they use you once and never again.  It happens.  Lots and lots and lots of politics.  I personally ignore that as much as possible for my sanity and concentrate on good pictures.  Again, though, this is just me, and I’m by no means a staple fashion photographer.  I love it, but I also have my own perspective that makes me do things my own way.  I suggest the same to anyone, just for life in general.  Be good and honest and deliberate about it.

And, if in doubt, as a prison guard told my kid brother at a Med/Max prison while he was standing with a fearing-for-his-life gaze across his face: “Mitchell, keep moving, and look like you know what you’re doing.”

Finally, on this point, I think there is a common misconception of making it, so to speak.  As you get further in your career, I think you can rest a bit on some fronts, but I don’t think you can ever back-off.  Many of the big guys that line the rosters of the big reps work at this stuff as tirelessly as they did when they were young.  It’s an illusion that they’re sitting back and the work is rolling in.  The business is constantly shuffling and reorganizing, and everyone is trying to get ahead or hold their spot, no matter if they just moved to the city from a small town or whether they’re on the roster of A&C.

Q: “For the original fashion stories in your book, how did you put them together? Did you find people off Craigslist willing to do work for free? I’m not really clear on how this process works when you are starting out and don’t have a “Name” or connections.”

A: Find MU and hair reps and call them, ask them for names of people who want to test.  Find stylists assistants and ask if they want to test.  If your not in a big city, my first suggestion would be to find a local modeling agency (the best one you can) and talk to them about testing.  They’ll usually have connections with hair and MU people too.  This part seems intimidating, but once you start doing it it becomes second nature to produce for yourself.  One person leads to another.  You jive with some, you don’t with others.  Be up front that your testing, but if you love it and believe in your idea, others will get on board and work on it.  Don’t be insulted if someone says, “I don’t test any more,” just politely ask them if they know of anyone who does.  Over time you get better, and the people you work with get better.   It’s part of a process, and like I said, for editorial fashion starting off, there’s no money, so you eat rice and beans, you live in a small rooms, you learn to shoot cheap, you learn of networking while making friends, and you do everything you can to make it the best you can.

Q: “I read on your blog that you were in London a few weeks ago and read the article by Sebastian Kim. Do you think London is more receptive to young photographers than NYC or is it pretty much the same everywhere? Tough.”

A: Everywhere is tough.  London and NYC are pretty tied, and the community is small enough that most of it is overlapping and people know of one another, but there are some differences.  NYC has more money (or did ?), but it’s also much more commercial both business wise and aesthetically (think Vogue, Vanity Fair, etc.  W is amazing, but huge.  V is great, but still big name.  etc etc.).  London has a larger base of indie publications (Dazed, i-D, Tank), that tend to have more progressive work in them and more room for younger talent, b/c of this I’d argue it might be a better place to build a look and gather momentum.  On the other hand, an advantage to NYC is I find that here everyone just wants to connect and work…at least amongst the younger crowd.  People are excited to meet and give each other a shot, it’s a constant buzz.  So it may be easier to get things going in that respect.  While London, in my very very limited experience, has a bit tighter of a circle to get your foot into.

All these are generalizations.  I’ve honestly not figured this part out yet myself, and am in a way still floating around trying to find magazines that fit.  I thought of a move to London for the reasons above, but after being there for just a few days I realized how much the day to day energy and people of NYC inspire me…even the light in NYC is something I constantly watch and learn from…and those sort of thing’s, right now, are more important to me.

Hopefully this kicks off some discussion or thoughts.

Oh, and to keep you on your toes, to show you what I mean by “good” work, here are a few younger guys doing rad shit:

Sebastian Kim (w/ Jed Root),
photo: ©Sebastian Kim.

Josh Olins (w/ CLM), (duder, way to go on pwning that first issue of LOVE),
photo: ©Josh Olins.

Chad Pitman (w/ CLM),
photo: ©Chad Pitman.

Benjamin A. Huseby (w/ Rep Ltd),
photo: ©Benjamin A. Huseby.

Chadwick Tyler,
photo: ©Chadwick Tyler.

There is a lot of art I love, most of what is considered good I can manage to find some bit of sanctuary in, or come to some sort of terms with, but on the other hand, when I consider owning art, or decorating with it (a completely hypothetical consideration, as I neither own nor decorate with it in any manner as of yet) there’s really remarkably little I’d be genuinely interested in.  (Of course this is aside from photography).  So it is surprising even to myself to admit that I could enthusiastically imagine a Jeff Koons‘ “Balloon Dog” in my foyer…or front yard. (A glorious (and gloriously priced) middle finger to nearly any neighborhood association).

photo: Jeff Koons “Balloon Dog” on the roof the the MET, ©Lloyd Ziff (in NYMag, here)

I can’t help but marvel at most of his larger installations.  They’re beautiful in their grotesqueness.  Adorably troubling.  Like a child’s dream after going to Coney Island then watching Gilliam’s, Brazil.

photo: still from Terry Gilliam’s film, Brazil.

What’s attractive about that, about some subaltern-figment-of-the-psyche getting it’s say in huge colorful steel?  Well I’m not sure exactly.  Except to say that there’s a lightheartedness to it, a punctuated absurdity, a “b/c I can,” and there’s sometimes not enough of that in life that isn’t fabricated/fed to us, that is honest like art is.

I’m bringing this all up b/c Koons is speaking at Strand bookstore downtown on April 13.  Details, here.  If you live in NYC, and can sweat the crowd, I’d check it out.  (Although, last time I was there Eliot Erwitt was signing books and, maybe, 15 people showed up, which sorta depressed me (is this what it comes to?) but that’s another story.)

For those of you who didn’t hear, Helen Levitt passed away last week.  She was a slightly lesser known but no less wonderful NYC street photographer who did a lot of work circa 1950s.  Her person and career gives me a heartfelt grin, since photography, and especially street photography, is so much a boy’s club, that I love that a women came and conquered her own place in it.  There’s a NPR interview with Levitt, here.



That last picture made me think of this phenomenal film I saw while away, Killer of Sheep.  Really really turned my mind around in a way that I didn’t expect, and it was so remarkably shot that I went back and watched a lot of it again w/o sound.  The phrase, far out, describes that quite perfectly.  Try it…if you want.

It makes me want to begin to shoot motion.

BTW, I’m back, and while I don’t expect you to be excited, after having been traveling the last 6 of 7 weeks for work I’m glowing to be home and to get back to life here.  I’ve been shooting for Adidas, Interview, Dazed.  I can’t share anything ’til stuff goes to print.   Mostly I’m excited to be back to get personal projects going and some fashion stories.

Oh, and on the topic of fashion, I want to point to the story Sebastian Kim did for Numero in this month’s architecture issue.  Excellent.  I enjoy his work b/c it’s rare to see heavily conceptual work done so, well, uh, well…or with such taste.  (There’s actually an older interview with him, here, which is worth reading if you’re starting as a photographer b/c he had a rather unique start to his career having assisted both Avedon and Meisel for extended periods.)