Archive for February, 2010
Gulf Photo Plus launches in Dubai in a couple of weeks, and I’m stoked to go back to the Middle East. This will be the 4th year for me, and the event just keeps getting better and better. Hats off to Mohamed Somji, Hala Salhi and the whole GPP crew for putting together what has become the premier photo conference and learning center in the Middle East.
Got a bunch of reasons to be stoked, principal among them the faculty who heads yearly to that strange and friendly conglomeration of concrete and glass that is Dubai. The talent and teaching that is offered at GPP simply makes me want to go to all the classes. The workshops run the gamut of skills, from photo-j, to lighting, post production, portraiture, you name it. If you got a jones about getting better at just about any aspect of picture making, this place beckons.
Also happy to participate in a group exhibit over there. My contribution is a bit of my admittedly odd dance photography. Just had the privilege of working with the magnificent dancers of the California Ballet Company, based in San Diego. Up top is Halim Seo, aboard the nuclear submarine Topeka, and below is Jenny Curry, atop the counter at the Night and Day Cafe, on Coronado Island. In the middle, and underwater, is the daring, redoubtable Samantha Knobloch, who plunged gracefully. Dancers are simply wonderful, hard working, creative people to engage with a camera. They literally leap at a creative notion, and somehow, physically transform a vaguely worded idea into something beautiful that belongs much more to them than to the person behind the camera. More blogs tk on this project.
There’s a bunch of events and shows and sponsors over there, to be sure, but the heart and soul of GPP remains the classes. David Hobby (aka St. David of Baltimore) goes every year. This year his classes cover portrait and lighting, but also still life and social media as a tool. Zack Arias brings the one light to Dubai, and Bobbi Lane does her “portraits unplugged” class, among others. (I’m hauling gear like crazy and she gets terrific pictures carrying around nothing more than a damn fill board. It’s not fair. I gotta take that class.) David Nightingale brings his HDR magic, and Matt Kloskowski bails outta Tampa for a few days to teach layers, about which he is the definitive word. (Though I have given him some pointers over the years:-)
Chris Hurtt does a great range of beginner type classes, and Joey L. weighs in on the pressures and processes of heavy duty commercial shooting. Steve Simon takes his phojo gang out on the streets, and Vincent Laforet explains the transitions and mysteries of shifting from stills to video like no one else can. Melissa Rodwell shows the ways of the fashion world, and Robin Nichols takes folks from behind the lens to in front of the computer.
Did I mention this is a candy store in the desert? The individual classes held during the week are topped off by Photo Friday, which is like a buffet of photo topics, presented in two or so hour blocks, that anybody can drop in on. It’s a bit of a madhouse, but fun. GPP, in it’s short history, has created a definitive, energetic photo community that gathers from far afield every year.
A good example: Did a class last year on location lighting. Good bunch of folks. We got back late, and unfortunately, the bus door opened right at a point in the sidewalk where there was a hunk of metal from an old sign stand poking through the cement. Fadi, one of our stalwart, enthusiastic shooters, struggled out the door with his backpack, and he came right down on the unforgiving protrusion. Boom, broke his foot. He spent the time waiting for the ambulance laying on the sidewalk and worrying about his lighting, his take, and how he would get to class the next day. We tried to assure him his first worry was his foot, which was rapidly becoming the size of the Goodyear blimp.
Next morning, we gather for class, and in comes Fadi, in pain and on wheels, but ready to talk Channel One, Group A. As a teacher, you just have to stand in service of that kind of passion. More tk….
Louis Pang and his Wedshooter TV gang have fixed up our workshop with wonderfully talented folks to be in front of the lens. Evon has worked with us for a couple days now. Suffice it to say, photographing her is a damn sight different experience than photographing this particular devotee at Thaipusam the other day.
The above was shot by Johan Sopiee, a terrific Malaysian shooter based here in KL. It’s been a pretty wild ride since we landed Friday night. Mid-week now. We’ll be cranking right through the weekend. Having fun. Malaysia’s a great place, friendly people, lotsa talented shooters. More tk…
29 hours, door to door. Check into hotel. Sleep 3 hours. Up at 4am. Go to Thaipusam.
Didn’t know about Thaipusam before this trip, and the timing is completely coincidental, but photographically fortuitous. It is one of the wildest explosions of human frenzy, devotion and religious fervor I have ever been to. It is the Hindu celebration of the birthday of Lord Muruga, and thousands gather amidst the heat, sweat and incense to seek his blessings and render homage. Many bear gifts, simple as a pot of milk, up the long walk to the Batu Caves. Others spin themselves into a frenzy, drift into trances, pierce their flesh, and hoist enormous kavadi on their shoulders. The kavadi is a physical and symbolic burden, a means of imploring help from Muruga.
Many Hindus prepare for the day by cleansing and fasting, and then, upon arrival at the shrine, shaving their heads.
Cleansing is one of the watchwords of the day, as devotees gather at the river to wash and prepare for the hike up to the caves.
It was down by the river that trances were induced and the ritual piercings began. In the intense, sweaty crush, air thick with smoke from burning joss sticks, camphor, and spice smells I had no knowledge of, people yipped, spoke in tongues and were literally harnessed for the journey to Muruga.
Yikes. My head was swirling with the smells, the beating of drums, the feverish cries and acrid air, redolent with incense smoke, not to mention no sleep and a total parachuting into a different realm of senses and beliefs. Potent stuff for pictures. I must have been wide eyed as this young boy, all morning.
Back to the hotel. Sleep. Monday’s on my doorstep…..more tk….