Turning The Community Inside Out

_DSC5778  “Art-Cities” are rather prevalent these days.

In the US, New York is a given.  Philadelphia, and Boston are also getting pretty influential.  Of course there are a whole bunch on the west coast, as well.  But, when it comes to the Midwest, it’s not so much the city-proper that are havens for artists, but the smaller communities that make up portions of downtown.  Detroit is a great example.

It’s actually gotten to the point that the art and creativity is spilling out of the few neighborhoods and showing up on city-maintained structures like early-century corporate buildings, public transportation vehicles, and a lot of the general infrastructure of the city.

The best part is that while downtown is letting its creativity fly free, a lot of the suburbs are following suit and encouraging artists to publicly display work and construct customized installation pieces.

In fact, the Detroit Institute of Arts has gotten very involved and has begun donating replicas of famous works for public display on local communities.  Check it out –> http://www.dia.org/get-involved/community-outreach.aspx

Some of you may have heard of JR.  He’s a French artist who won the TED Prize in 2011.  Here’s his talk:


As you can see, his concept of a world-wide art project is pretty grandiose and wide-sweeping.

Well, it’s working –>  http://www.insideoutproject.net/  and Metro Detroit is taking part.  The city of Walled Lake is digging into the art world and will be playing host to the DIA’s project, JR’s Inside Out Project, and a whole slew of work from local artists this spring.

Be sure to check the city website for details and swing back here to see some of the shots!

– Jon

Getting into Character

Through a fortuitous chain of events, I was recently introduced to an acting group in the Canton, Michigan area by the name of the “Spotlight Still Got it Players.”  They are the senior acting troupe associated with The Village Theater At Cherry Hill.  Recently the Still Got It Players, picked up a stage play by a Mr Howard Kingkade called “One Foot In The Gravy.”

They, being performers, and I, being a photographer, naturally found ourselves in a mutually beneficial situation.  A couple nights ago, I stopped by the theater to get some headshots and a few candids for their promo in the local news outlets.  Of course none of this seems terribly interesting, but please try to remember that I am (somewhat) unused to the presence and mindset of actors, backstage.

I arrived before my contact –  the only person from the group  that I knew or had ever even spoken to.  When I went in to study the building and find the best place for lights, I met a rather friendly gentleman who had no idea who I was, why I was there, or even that I was planning on taking pictures.

He also happened to be holding 3 incredibly over-padded bras, trying to decide which was the best fit…  Also keep in mind that I had no real idea what the play was about or who the actors would be portraying.

So of course, as friendly custom dictates, he inquired as to my opinion on the bras and which he would look best in.   That was my introduction to these people.

These folks are HILARIOUS.

We started off with the head shots and I don’t even want to elaborate anymore.  They each sat down, INSTANTLY got into character, and I got awesome shots in less than a minute per person.  Straight “pro” all around.

Check it!

– Jon

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Windy Travels Part 2.

Back in October, I took a trip to Chicago.  Afterward, I processed my 17 gazillion images from the adventure and wrote you fine folks a blog post about it.  At the end, I mentioned that more images were to follow and that I would relate my experiences with my new favorite hotel chain.

Promptly after writing the post, I completely forgot.

My bad.

So, here we are.  4 months have passed and you still wake up in the middle of the night wondering whatever became of that followup post…  OK  That’s probably a bit hopeful on my part.  But still – true to my word, I shall visually enthrall you with more optically-dazzling imagery.

FIRST – the hotel.  For those of you that spoke with either myself or my lady friend, you know that Ashly and I had been planning this trip for something like 5 months.  However, when I say “this trip” I mean a trip.  Somewhere.  Anywhere.

In the end, we actually planned out 5 different trips… in about 3 weeks.  We considered Maine, Kentucky, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, a perimeter-tour of the lower peninsula, and Chicago.  Chicago won out simply because of the mind-boggling selection of educational day-trip destinations.

We like our learnin’.

That little back story may not seem relevant, but oh how wrong you are.  See, 5 days before we left for Chicago, we hadn’t even begun considering going there.  We were still in the planning stages of a Michigan road trip.  I don’t really remember how we ended up switching to Chicago, but it happened and we found ourselves with slightly over 72 hours of time to organize an itinerary, buy tickets to stuff we wanted to see, and find a hotel whose room fee didn’t require a bank loan, gold bars, an arm and/or a leg, or a first-born child.

In the end we ended up staying damn-near 45 minutes outside of the city.  Were it not for the downtown parking situation (which were completely unaware of) it wouldn’t have been an issue.  In fact, all things considered, it was one of the better snap decisions we’ve made.

We found ourselves at an Extended Stay out past Downer’s Grove.  At first glance it looks like a normal over-niter for business travelers.  We found out that (as the name suggests) it’s designed for people to stay for over a week or 2.  But enough rambling, here’s what makes it so awesome.

  • Long-term stay means people need more elaborate forms of equipment to use.  Example:  A FULL KITCHEN.  Now, this might not seem like much to you, but I cook.  A LOT.  It was awesome.
  • No explanation needed: It was one of the cleanest hotels I’ve ever stayed in.  Period.
  • Lastly and most importantly: In order to keep the charges down on a room rental that may go past 3 weeks, the hotel got rid of one of the staple functions of most chains.  There is absolutely no maid service.  While at first you may think that seems cheap, remember that I am a visual artist in a digital age.  I take a LOT of really EXPENSIVE gear with me everywhere I go.  I don’t need to drag my lights and laptop with me every step of the way.  The fact that no one (trustworthy or otherwise) would NOT be coming into to move things around took my nervousness level from my standard 362% to effectively zero.

And also ’cause the per night price gets cheaper the longer you’re there, our week’s stay cost us something like $50 a night.

Conclusion: Extended Stay: Do it.

Oh and hey – MORE CHICAGO PICTURES!!

– Jon

Reclaim Detroit

In case you haven’t heard of the “Idle No More” movement, it’s essentially a continent-wide collective of all indigenous peoples, who are now using their numbers and modern media channels for a wide array of purposes.  These may include forming political pressure to have sacred locations renamed, re-appropriated, and/or recognized as such.  There is also an internal movement designed to teach their own members ways and reasons to respect their heritage and culture.

There is also, of course, the long standing cause: to finally get legislatures’ attention regarding their complete and utter disregard for nature.  Well, as we all know, short of a smack in the face (that might not even work) the only way to get noticed when it comes to creating new policy is by getting EVERYONE to say something about it.  This is where Idle No More comes in.

For quite a while now, the movement has staged “protests” in cities across the continent, drawing attention to the people and the problems.

Today (Sunday, January 20th, 2013)  they held an event in Detroit, discussing their cause, giving a blessing to the Detroit river, and presenting in front of Cobo Hall.

Here’s some of the goings-on.

– Jon

Back In The Day

Yesterday, I got a chance to revisit my childhood.  It was an… altered experience.

Went up to Crossroad Village, in Flint, Michigan.  For those of you unfamiliar, it’s kind of like Greenfield Village (a city of historical reenactments) set in the mid to late 1800’s.  This time of year is specifically interesting there because they break period-character a bit and deck the entire place up in quite a lot of Christmas lights.

When I was a wee lad, it was just crazy to go to a village in the middle of nowhere and see people who still live just like they had 100 years prior.  I would take the train ride out into the country and wave to Santa, who would have, of course, been kind enough to grace us, and only us, with his presence as we rode the tracks, listening to the most traditional, old-timey of Christmas carols (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer).

Now the illusion is a bit lost on me, but that’s not to say the experience is not enjoyable – far from it.  In my current mentality of “if there’s something I can learn, you best be sure I’m gonna learn it,” the magic of the holiday spirit has been replaced by super-fascinating historical facts.  As an example: The train you can ride (on the Huckleberry Railroad) is actually a real-life coal-burning engine from the late 1800s, pulling a dozen cars from the same period.  This, of course, is quite an accomplishment, since people have had to maintain the machines in working and aesthetic order for over a century.

A little side fact:  Reindeer are ticklish… let me explain.   In the spirit of all things festive, a reindeer had been brought in from a local farm for photo opportunities.  As you enter the barn, there is a sign near the entrance instructing you not to touch the reindeer as it is “too ticklish” to them.  Being a reasonable adult, I deduced that the comment was a friendly, whimsical way of keeping children from taking an antler to the face.  Of course, if I were to wait for the impressionable youth to leave I could have an adult conversation with the reindeer’s handler and explain that I would very much like to pet the reindeer and that I would not do something stupid like hang my coat on it.  She informed me the sign wasn’t actually a joke and demonstrated by VERY VERY LIGHTLY petting the reindeer.  If the reindeer could have spoken it would have said something akin to, “What in the hell do you think you’re doing?!  Get away from me.”  In conclusion, reindeer do not like to be petted.

While the antique train and the reindeer with personal space issues were fascinating, the clear winners of my trip were the historical actors.  It wasn’t so much the convincing illusion (they didn’t wear Wolverine work boots back then) but the nerdy factoids these folks had in their heads.  I got to see a 100-year old typesetting machine printing a news article, found out that frontier towns sprang up based explicitly on the vicinity to the blacksmith, and learned how to use a straight razor (which I was just recently gifted).

And, OF COURSE, there were some pretty nifty photo opportunities.  Here are a few of my favorites.

– Jon

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OH MAN!! I am pumped… like REALLY pumped.

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So, you see that big star-looking thing over there on the right, sticking out of the button that says “CLASSES?”   Well, I’ll betcha you’ve already figured out what’s going on.

I’M TEACHING COURSES!!

There are currently 6 courses being offered at 5 venues in the metro area.  The site is chock-full of all kinds of handy info, like course descriptions, info about all the venues, links to super-talented photographers, and lists of local and digital photo stores!

In the next few weeks, I’ll be adding…. well heck!  All this stuff is over THERE.  Go check it out.

And if you’re interested, join the mailing list and be the first in line for info on all the new developments!

– Jon

Gettin’ All Kinds Of Corporate

On an occasional basis, I do some work with Third Estate Design, a graphic media company out of Tecumseh, Michigan.

In October, they forwarded me to a client who needed some imagery of their keynote speaker.

Vital Skills Intl. Is a unique and interesting company based in Rochester, Michigan.  They essentially teach companies and employees how to achieve consistent results through an understanding of proper confrontation and conversation management.  As an added bonus to the job, I’m picking up quite a few tips and tricks.

The job is 3 stages long and I’ve just finished up the first part – Candid Event Coverage.

Stay tuned for updates featuring portraits and video spots.  And be sure to check out their site!

– Jon

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