Archives for category: Friends

FistbumpIn my ongoing attempt to learn more about photography and try new things, Smokes and I set about to try our hand at an action-figure photo shoot. We collected some action figures, some poster paper stock and set up a little studio on our dining room table at the Warehouse. There’s an actual professional photo studio in the first floor of the building and while I considered asking if we could use it for our little project, I decided against it and went for a more DIY approach.

The result is a set of macro photographs of action figures is primarily a series of lighting experiments, humorous expressions and other whimsies and mistakes.

I don’t have a lot of lighting equipment (yet!). Just the camera, a tripod and a Canon Speedlite. I’d received an off-shoe bracket as a birthday present about a year ago. So I decided to use a birthday gift certificate pick up the requisite off-camera shoe cord (thanks Dugie!) so I could finally use the bracket for the shoot. We didn’t have umbrellas or remote triggers. And our key light could only be a could only be a foot or so away from the camera due to the length of the cord. That was our setup. It was enough variables for us to play with. We played with reflecting bounce flash light to backfill and minimize shadows. We used some of scientific equipment Whirl has collected over the years as props. We even deployed a flashlight as a spot to light up the plastic flame of the Green Goblin’s pumpkin bomb.

Doomed!Of course, the idea of two grown men — now in their 40s — playing with action figures is something that is going to engender some amount of scorn and ridicule. We knew that. We welcomed that. We were not disappointed. Bitsy and Whirl were quick to jump in and start things off with offers to provide appropriate snacks: celery sticks with peanut butter, Fruit Roll-Ups, and grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup. Tea made sure we had plenty of Capri Sun juice pouches.

So it was with the cynicism of our generation that we set about our shoot, finding humor and irony in the mudane. Ideas included:

  • Iron Man and Colossus embracing in reaction to the overturning of California’s Proposition 8
  • Green Goblin adding pumpkin spice to his homebrew beer wort
  • R2-D2 and C-3PO relaxing to some Daft Punk

The highlight photograph came at the end of the second day when Smokes came up with the idea of recreating the look of the conspicuous awkward prom photographs from high school.

See “Green Goblin and Spider-Man Go to Prom” after the break.

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Wille-Van Dyke Wedding 03Yesterday our friends Brian “Steamboat” Wille and Melissa “the Hurricane” Van Dyke were married. They held the ceremony and reception in their home in West Lakeview, Chicago. Whirl and I were among the small group invited to attend. I first met Brian through Mooch in 1996 when Mooch and I worked together. Several years ago Brian brought Melissa around to a poker game to meet the usual suspects. That’s when I first met her: at that game at Mooch’s place.

The highlight story of that poker game involves Melissa naively digging through the discard pile to try and recall what she’d folded. Her first offense garnered a warning and a pass. The second offense earned her a full-throated series of harsh rebukes from most of us: the callous, self-declared leather-assed poker old-timers. We made Melissa cry. But Melissa picked herself up, came back to the table and never repeated the mistake. Two years later, she was winning tournaments at Binion’s Horseshoe. I was the one reduced to bankrupt tears over beers at the loser’s bar.

The effect Melissa has had on Brian has been remarkable. Early in their relationship, Melissa served as a stabilizing influence. She buoyed Brian when he got down. She encouraged him to try new things. She made him laugh. — I could keep the cliches coming, but I think you’ll appreciate it if I stopped here with a simple summary. Melissa made Brian happy. Brian with Melissa was a happier Brian than I’d seen in a long time. Happy was not a condition that I often associated with Brian over the many of the years I’d known him before Melissa.

It hasn’t been a one-way relationship with the two of them. The effects went in both directions. Brian’s intellect and introspection have challenged Melissa. She’s working full-time and going to school full-time and when she gets out the other side of all of this will be a force to be reckoned with. They bring out a level of competitiveness blended with cooperation and coordination that makes both of them stronger, better individuals.

The four of us became close friends. Brian and Melissa were there for me when I got hurt. We’ve traveled together to Las Vegas. Gone to Blackhawks games together. We’ve hung out with her family, her brother her parents. They’ve taken us out with them to poker games held in the suburbs by collectives of manga artists. I taught them about phở in Little Vietnam. Brian and Melissa have become instrumental members of our urban tribe.

So when they told us of their intentions to get married a few months ago, Whirl and I were ecstatic. The two of them had planned a simple ceremony for family and asked if I would mind being a backup photographer: they explained they had a relative to shoot the event for them, but if I wouldn’t object, could I get a few pictures of the reception. I agreed. Yesterday when I arrived, I learned that the primary shooter had decided against shooting still photography and wanted to focus exclusively on video. Tag! You’re it! I set about shooting the wedding. I’ve never done this before — not in any significant way. I’ve shot some personal shots at weddings. But this was me shooting the wedding for the bride, the groom and their families.

I did my best to set my anxieties aside and just have fun with the shoot. These are people I really care about during a watershed moment in their lives. I could have drawn a much worse hand with which to go all-in. I’d been invited to share in this experience — to share it in a two-fold sense: to be a part of the moment itself, and also to record it, to share it to the broader world on their behalf.