This is going to be a long one. I’m really far behind on a lot of things simply due to the craziness of my recent travel and shooting schedule. So, if you’re content to read it all in one go, grab a cup of coffee, a snack, and let’s get caught up. I’ll wait.
Good to go? Alrighty then.
Mario Barth’s “Biggest Tattoo Show on Earth”
AKA: Amazing People, Terrible Lighting.
This actually happened about three weeks ago, which is crazy to think about since it seems like I was just there. I was invited down to the Mario Barth’s Biggest Tattoo Show On Earth by my best friend, Stephen, who was working at the show with the company he works for, Anatometal. His boss, and owner of Anatometal, Barry Blanchard, is a bit of a photog, so the offer was extended to come down and shoot for the show. It wasn’t an actual paid gig beyond what I can license out, but it was worth it for the people I met and the shooting I was able to do. I had a lot of exclusive access to show happenings, so that was a good time. I shot thousands of photos and I’m still trying to process the backlog of them all. The odds of anything significant coming out of them are low, but it did lead to some other opportunities and potential work.
I’ve been disconnected from the body modification scene for a while. I first got pierced when I was 16 (ears/tongue/nipples) and tattooed when I was 18 (my 2nd day after moving to NYC). It’s been part of my life for a long time, but my involvement in the community fell off drastically when I started touring for a living and especially now that BME‘s “IAM” (an amazing social network that existed before social networks were even a thing) has seen its last days. There just isn’t the time to devote to it. My arms remain unfinished and I’ve removed a lot of my facial piercings and while I don’t really see the need to get any more piercings, I do want to finish my tattoos, and get a few more.
Being in Vegas, though, made me realize not just how disconnected I’d become, but also how much the entire industry has not particularly changed that much. The events are still kind of gimmicky and a lot of the industry still deals with a lot of cliché and stereotype. Granted, you kind of have to be when so much of the business is based on the general public. While I do not doubt the creativity, talent, and artistry involved, the whole industry could still use an injection of professionalism and organization. Administrative bodies like the APP have gone a long way with that, but given how old the trade is, I’m surprised it’s still as slap-dash as it is. I do love the people though. The unique expressionism, attitude, and overall acceptance of the community is amazing.
I got to meet Bill Tinney and his wife at BTSOE, which was a huge highlight. He is an incredible photographer and old hat to a lot of these events. I got some great advice from his wife over the weekend and I’ve taken it all to heart. It offered me a bit of an unexpected perspective change and I am certainly grateful for it.
The Monday after the show, I had a long talk with my dad about life and business and travel while I waited for the bus back to LA. It was right on time. I jumped on and headed back to Los Angeles without incident. Not bad for $25.
So yeah. A long, introspective bus ride both ways, through the desert. It provided further affirmation for me though that my personal values seem to exist in a space that is just not aligned with the majority of people I know. It doesn’t affect the work that I am able to produce on a technical level, but the longer I’m around people in a “professional” setting, the more I find I have to just isolate myself and work on my own level. I was kind of hoping it was just the result of working around people I’d never worked with before (aside from Stephen) and who are from a completely different industry. It’s not that there is no common ground, just highly different values and operational procedure. I end up hearing the same thing I’ve heard my entire life… “Why are you so serious all the time?” The post right before this one expands on this concept. Little did I know this would come up again, in a much more exaggerated fashion, a couple weeks later.
So, like I mentioned, it was a long bus ride through the desert back to LA from Vegas. I’ve made that drive many times in my life. On the way back, they showed “Despicable Me“, which I’d never seen and thought was pretty funny, “500 Days of Summer“, which I’d also never seen and didn’t particularly enjoy for personal reasons, and “When In Rome“, which I have, amazingly, seen before but cannot remember where. I listened to my usual podcasts and did a lot of staring out the window.
Back to the City of Angels
The bus actually got back to LA early, but then the LA Metro (if you can even call it that) was having all kinds of delays, so that pretty much canceled out any progress that had been made. I hoofed it back to Michelle’s place in Hollywood and got ready to jump over to my brother’s condo in Santa Monica for my last few days in LA. One of the last things I did in Hollywood was do some light wardrobe shopping in an attempt to reconnect with myself. It sounds silly, but reshuffling my clothes a little has gone a ways towards making me feel more comfortable with myself.
My brother is an interesting guy. I have no idea how he affords to live the lifestyle he does, or how no woman has yet managed to kill him for some of the relationship decisions he’s made. We haven’t always seen eye to eye, but as we’ve grown older, the bond that is brotherhood and family has pushed aside our differences. All in all he’s a great guy and I really enjoyed my time hanging out with him. His new condo is incredible and I’ve never explored Santa Monica all that much. I spent some time on the beach, staring at the ocean, shooting some photos, and spent the rest getting packed up and ready to fly back to Santa Cruz. I culled a lot out of my suitcase and considerably lightened my load. I would have to hit the ground running in SC, since I was immediately departing on a 3 day drive to Albuquerque, NM for “Rock The Ink: 2011“.
The Road There
Originally I was going to fly to Albuquerque, NM and meet up with Stephen and the Anatometal crew for Rock The Ink: 2011, a convention that Anatometal is heavily involved in. The offer was extended after my initial introduction in Las Vegas. When I mentioned flying down, Barry (the Anatometal owner) instead suggested that I drive down with him in his massive “house on wheels” RV. All I had to do was get to back to Santa Cruz. Well, it sounded like an adventure so I grabbed my camera, booked my ticket back to SC, and was on my way. It was going to be three days through the desert, not even a blip on the radar compared to my touring days, in a completely ridiculous vehicle. What’s the worst that could happen?
Now, don’t get me wrong, Barry and his 2nd in command, Tod, are two of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Great senses of humor, hospitable, generous, and fun to hang out with, Barry and I can wax photographica endlessly. The two of them represent a wealth of life experience I only hope I can one day achieve. There is one massive caveat though…
The two of them smoke more cigarettes than I have ever witnessed any human beings smoke in my life. I had an ex-girlfriend who smoked a lot, but these two put her to shame. Driving down the road, it’s no big deal. Just pop the windows open and it’s fine. I’m not a complainer and smoking in general doesn’t really bother me that much. My extensive touring experience has given me a pretty thick skin. I know how the road works. Where it killed me though, was at night when the RV is parked and closed up. I know now what it must be like to try and asphyxiate yourself in a garage. I’m not about to ask or tell a man to not smoke in his own house though.
I was willing to overlook the catastrophic effects on my health, but the damage that cigarette smoke can do to my equipment had me really worried. The gear I travel with, my camera, my laptop, my clothes… are all I have (yes, the same argument exists for my health). While I do hold the philosophical opinion that everything in my life is ultimately replaceable (with one, critical, exception), the practical reality is that I am not in a position to just be willy-nilly buying new things if they get damaged or destroyed. I understand that everyone’s situation is not the same, I only ask that they respect mine. Yeah, not so much. I did my best to keep my gear sealed up tight, but it was akin to fighting the tide.
On the way down to Albuquerque, we made two real side trips and one minor one. The first was a scant ride over to an abandoned water park outside of Yermo, CA. The second, a three and a half hour drive from AZ to Utah, up to Monument Valley that would push my tolerance to its limits. It would be the first of two times it would happen on this trip.
Yermo, CA – Abandoned Water Park
Barry and Tod had been talking about this place since Vegas. It’s just off The 15 near Yermo, CA. I was hoping for a bit more urban decay than I got, but it is still an amazing site for shooting photos. I would love to get some people and models together and go back and do a proper shoot. This trip was mostly exploratory for me, but I did manage to get some fun shots in. I have a much better idea about the site now and will definitely be returning.
Ok, that is enough TL:DR for now. Part 2 will be inbound shortly.