And the artist series rolls on. In July, I photographed artist Chong Gon Byun in his apartment and art studio. Both spaces are meticulously layered with books, sculptures and peculiar finds that he has accumulated from trips. The sheer depth and unique nature of his collection reveal decades of dedication and disciplined curation. As described by the Invisible Dog, Byun “gives found and discarded objects new meaning by using them to create sculptures and assemblages that explore the clash between post-industrial civilization and the present consumerist culture.” Many of the pieces have been modified in whimsical or quirky ways (check out poor Marilyn Monroe tied to the front of a vintage fan below). For a photographer, the shoot was both a dream and a curse; that is, while it is clearly an amazing space to capture, it is simply overwhelming.
> To see his work, come see Byun’s solo show, A LAYER OF THE #1L, from 9/17-11/06 at The Invisible Dog. I was thrilled to let him use my portrait of him for his promotional card.
Born in Korea, Byun has lived in Brooklyn for over 25 years. I asked him where he would move if he had the chance. He said it was just not possible. Can you imagine relocating every single object in his apartment? Besides a two foot pathway that runs from the front to the back of the apartment, every single square inch of space on the floor, wall and ceiling is completely filled. And he knows exactly where everything is.
Have a look at a few of the images from my shoot with Byun. Also, below my images, check out the video of his Brooklyn apartment. The video is produced and directed by Ben Wu and David Usui. Through carefully considered vignettes and intriguing pans, it beautifully captures a very complex space in a simple and elegant manner.
/// This video below is produced and directed by Ben Wu and David Usui of Lost & Found Films (lostfoundfilms.com).
As an ongoing project, I am photographing the artists at The Invisible Dog. So far, it has been a curious mix of painters, sculptors, illustrators and jewelry makers. In my most recent shoot, I had the opportunity to shoot Juan Alfaro, an ‘astronaut’ who is probably better known as a talented carpenter, welder and craftsman of fine furniture. Fascinated with space exploration, Juan designed and created an astronaut’s suit out of padded moving blankets and adapted/patinated plumbing parts. This art piece was featured at Whitney Hunter’s group show Work/Space this past February (shown in the first image). Below is a behind-the-scenes recap of the shoot, including the final image at the bottom. Huge credit goes to Juan for allowing us to dangle him from his ceiling in a modified harness in 98F degree heat while we pumped in fog with the windows closed.
After shooting Juan ‘the astronaut’ this weekend, I worked on a shoot entitled Inferno. My two wonderful models were great sports to put up with a smoke storm for a few hours in 96F heat. It would be hard to disagree that the shoot was anything but a convincing inferno – the Brooklyn Fire Department showed up with 2 trucks and 20 men! They were of course relieved to find that a neighbor’s call turned out to only be a fog machine. I heard later that one fireman, in particular, was disappointed that he couldn’t join the shoot. But after the trucks left and the smoke settled (literally), we were left with the images below.
A FAIR WARNING FOR THOSE IN THE BUILDING
THE FINAL IMAGES
Naturally, people have varying responses to my work. Some see entire stories played out. This is the first of a series of short stories written by Samuel Walcott. This image is pulled from my Commuter series.
Text by Samuel Walcott
“Live free or die. These four words are the motto of New Hampshire. They appear on most license plates, printed above the numbers. As a boy of eight or ten, I read those words. Words, I thought, that were courageous, just, inspiring.
I remember sitting in the spindly topmost branches of a maple tree, staring out over hills full of tawny fields and dark pine woods, thinking about those words. Freedom and liberty, to me, meant independence. They meant relying on no one but myself. When I grew up, I swore, I would build my house and hunt my food and I would not need anyone to help me. Then, I would be free.
And, of course, now that I am older, I buy my food in the grocery store. I live in an apartment. I have not broken free, in any true sense of the word. And I see that the words freedom and liberty have been taken from me. Used by what Joseph Conrad called “fanatical lovers of Liberty … Liberty with a capital ‘L’ … Liberty that means nothing precise. Liberty in whose name crimes are committed.”
That four word motto has become a hollow echo, a dying vestige of something that once was real.”
Shot a cover of rising-star performer Mike Daisey for CITY ARTS – a wonderful creative arts magazine out of Seattle. If you’re in the northwest, get it hard copy or read the article HERE. His show, The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs is running at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre in Seattle.
During the summer of 2010, I was accepted to show my 6 pieces at the 2nd Annual Governor’s Island Art Fair. Over 100 independent artists (painters, videographers, sculptors, photographers and performance artists) showed their work in the former military barracks on the island. For those who have not been to the island, Manhattan extends like a finger pointing south almost directly at Governor’s Island. A 6-minute ferry brings you from downtown Manhattan or Cobble Hill, Brooklyn to the 172-acre non-residential island. This aerial shot shows how the island is undeveloped, relatively speaking to Manhattan of course.
The island’s history is quite interesting. It is claimed to be the birthplace of the state of New York (1624). Originally called Noten Eylandt (“Island of Nuts”), Governor’s Island served as a military base as early as 1633. Over more than three and half centuries, the island has served many purposes ranging from the exclusive use by New York’s royal governors (1784), the site for holding Confederate prisoners of war (American Civil War), headquarters of the U.S. First Army (1939), U.S. Coast Guard base (1966) and now a National Historic Landmark district (1985-).
A fascinating place to visit and it was the perfect escape to see a great art show. Here are a few snaps I took from the show last September – the ferry ride over, the grounds and some images from my show.
Great success for the group show at The Invisible Dog curated by Whitney Hunter. All of the resident artists shared their most recent work. I presented my ongoing documentary collaboration with Tina Antolini called Musicophilia – a multimedia project that tracks musical preferences of musicophiles in NYC through images and audio interviews. Thanks to everybody for stopping by and showing their support.