About Me

I am a photographer based in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Interview with Photographer Celin Serbo
for A Steady Drip Magazine

My friend and fellow outdoor photographer Celin Serbo recently photographed a campaign for Eddie Bauer's First Ascent line in Norway. Celin spent 2 weeks this February with FA athletes Chad Peele and Carolyn George sieging multipitch ice in the western fjords region and came back with awesome authentic images and video.

When its just you, a camera and a couple riggers keeping up with top climbers in the wild, it takes more than just camera skills. Celin earned his chops from a lifetime spent in the mountains, and more recently as a professional guide. This kind of shooting - especially done for top commercial clients - is rare these days, and I wanted to talk to Celin about this shoot because it speaks to what great adventure photography is all about. 

I've known Celin for years as part of that "brotherhood" of climbing photographers that you run into/hear about/recognize over the years, and like most of those guys we are both part of the Aurora Photos agency's Outdoor Collection. Celin is based in Boulder, Colorado.

All images (c) Celin Serbo
Serbo Screen Shot
TBM :Bio?

Serbo : I got introduced to photography when my stepfather gave me a fully manual medium format film camera in the early 90's. Long story short, I had a lot to learn and started by reading books, spending a fair bit of time in the dark room, and lots of trial and error. During that time I was pretty passionate about climbing, skiing, and biking so a camera was a natural additional piece of gear to bring along.
From 1997 thru 2004 I worked as mountain guide for the Colorado Mountain School, in areas such as RMNP, Eldorado Canyon, Ecuador, Mexico, and Peru. I also guided for Jackson Hole Mountain Guides in for a couple seasons.This gave me incredible opportunities to meet high caliber athletes, travel, and shoot. I was encouraged by friends to submit some photos to Patagonia, and to my surprise, got published. I continued on the path of guiding and part time shooting until 2004 when I made the decision to pursue photography professionally. 

I'd love to say, "that's when it all took off for me" but that's not the case. It's been a slow but steady process that is still evolving. I've had to work hard to expand my skills set and marketing strategies to reach a more varied clientele. 

TBM : How did the Eddie Bauer shoot come about?

Serbo : I did a 3 day ice climbing shoot for them in Ouray, CO in March of 2009. That shoot was a success and it seemed we were on the same page with regards to their image needs. Their First Ascent line is a relatively new brand so the need for image content is pretty substantial. One of their athletes put in the trip proposal for Norway based on the incredible amount of unclimbed ice within the western fjord areas. Everything seemed to line up with schedules and budgets and I was asked to join the trip.
Due to budgets, I could not bring an assistant with me so I had to be as self sufficient as possible. It was mainly about documenting the climbs and keeping pace with the athletes. We did have two riggers, which was a huge help.

TBM : Your riggers were locals, I assume, who knew the area well?

Serbo : One of our riggers (Seth Hobby) is an American guide working and living in Norway. the other rigger (Adam George) was the husband of the one of the athletes and is a tremendous climber/guide in his own right. Seth knew the area fairly and steered in the right directions. Even with seth's help, that terrain is so big that there was alot of scouting involved.

(c) Celin Serbo
Serbo Screen Shot - FA2

TBM:  How did it compare with some other shoots you've done, keeping pace with the
athletes on the EB shoot?

Serbo : A lot of the work i have done has been with high level outdoor athletes so this shoot wasn't too much of a departure for me. however, it does present additional challenges. Fitness and a certain level of competence with regards to the activity/sport you are shooting is a must. Even though the athletes are well aware that they are involved in a photo shoot, they move fast. Keeping up and still creating compelling images can be challenging. I find that the athletes respect and appreciate it when you can display a reasonable level of competency in their environment and are much more willing to work with and for you.

Serbo Norway Video

TBM What did you use to shoot the behind the scenes video? Was video a component in your contract for EB?
Serbo : I shot all the video and stills with the Nikon D300s. I was really impressed with cameras performance. It gives you an amazing amount of creative freedom to switch back and forth from stills to video. We had some pretty nasty weather as well and the D300s handled it with no issues. Video was a component in the Eddie Bauer contract. The primary focus was on stills with a secondary priority of video. They are very active in multimedia content for both their website and in-store flat screen displays. I am finding more and more of my clients embracing this trend.

TBM : Do you see doing more video in the future?

Serbo : I am planning on shooting more video. I think in the very near future, [video] will be an expected component to any commercial or editorial assignment. While the DSLR HD video is incredible it does have many limitations compared to dedicated high- end video. I think the crux will be understanding these limitations and finding the appropriate projects and platforms for this technology.

You can see Celin's work on his website at www.serbophoto.com.
Check out some reports from the trip on the Eddie Bauer First Ascent blog here.

This interview is for A Steady Drip Magazine, an experiment in distributed publishing. Click here to see the Table of Contents.
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Great shots and great adventure!

It would be nice to share some tips about action sports photo and video editing. I would definitely be an avid reader. :-)


(04.29.10 @ 04:14 PM)
Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Celin Serbo Shoots Eddie Bauer for First Ascent Line . TrackBack URL for this entry: http://theblindmonkey.com/darkroom/mt/mt-tb.cgi/51
I first met David McLain a few years ago at an agency meeting in the Maine woods. He showed us a video called Santiago, and some of the multimedia projects he was working on for outdoor clothing maker Horny Toad. I was impressed by the mix of his editorial eye and commercial polish, and his innovative use of stop-motion and still photography. We had a conversation afterwards about the impending convergence of still and video technology and he said something about a "still/motion camera" that led me to use the term "stillmotion" for my work.

To prep for my workshop a couple weeks ago on stillmotion and breaking into new media at the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar, and following on the interview with photojournalist and multimedia pioneer Ed Kashi, I spoke with McLain on his career with National Geographic and his multimedia production company, Merge. It's a look at how an established photographer is wasting no time taking risks and breaking new ground to keep things fresh. Listen up!

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AK: How did you get started working for National Geographic? 

It had been a dream of mine since high school.  I took the slow approach.  I'm a big believer that you gotta walk before you fly.  Basically I shot non-stop at newspapers and smaller magazines for about a decade.  Jose Azel helped me get a tray of slides (yes, i'm that old) together to bring down to DC and Susan Smith was nice enough to take a chance on me and give me a really small assignment which led to Zip Code assignments which led to feature assignments.  Without Jose or Susan Smith it is very safe to say I never would have got the chance to shoot for National Geographic.  You can check out the most recent story I shot for them in the January 2010 issue of the magazine.

Santiago from Merge on Vimeo.

AK: In 2003 you produced a short piece called Santiago. It's a short fluid motion piece filled with still images and sound that seems to bridge the gap between stills and motion picture. What was special about this piece?

To me what was special about the piece was that early on, Jerome Thelia (my business partner in Merge) and I started thinking about how we could bring his knowledge of post production together with my knowledge of photography in a way that pushed both of us forward to places we could not get on our own.  While our techniques, tools, technology, and approach have changed since then, this is still the driving force behin Merge.  

Medica from Merge on Vimeo.

AK: How did you take that concept and create a production company around it? Was it hard getting clients on board, as a small boutique competing for campaigns against traditional big commercial production houses?

Well, we were both so busy doing our own thing, me with photography and Jerome with Post production for feature films and spots, that Merge was always a collaboration that happened when things happened to come our way.  This was usually the result of clients that knew my still photography hiring Merge to create motion content.  We're going to bump it up a notch next year though.  2010 will be the first time we are going to fully commit to Merge and be more strategic about growing it.

Saturday from Merge on Vimeo.

4. Though Merge seems to be mostly focused on commercial production, Your style is really authentic, with a sort of core outdoor lifestyle look, and your client list reflects that. Who have been some of your favorite commercial clients over the years? Do you ever turn a project down because it doesn't fit with your style?

Horny Toad, the California based clothing company, is the best client ever.  Their CEO Gordon Seabury is really smart and their Art Director, Cari Carmean is one of my favorite people to work for.  Gordon gives us the freedom to do our thing because he trusts us and Cari, Jerome, and I work in a very collaborative way.  Its all about mutual respect and elevating each other.... you  know, the 1+1=3 thing....  That's why we definitely turn down work that does not fit with our style.

AK: You shoot a lot on Red. What brought you to this particular setup?

It was a completely logical progression for us just as Scarlet and/or Epic will be.  With Red and Jerome's back end system which includes Scratch, we own the means of production to shoot, edit, and post a feature length film.  Think about that.... its incredibly powerful.   Check out Jerome's post on our site about it for a more in-depth explanation.

AK: In maybe 5 years the technical landscape has changed radically with the convergence of still and video cameras. In 5 more years it will no doubt be radically different still. What is this convergence doing for storytelling? For commercial advertising production specifically?

We could talk for many beers about this but what is clear to me is that technology has opened up new production models for creating content and new channels to distribute it.  At Merge, we spend a lot of time thinking about both of these things.  Stories will always need to get told but moving forward the way in which many of them are produced, distributed, and consumed will change quite a bit.  In light of this, it might be a mistake to stay totally tied to the old ways.

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7. You strike me as adventurous in terms of embracing technological change and experimenting, while staying true to your style. On the other hand there is a lot of pressure to find simply chase new revenue streams, or to use new technology as a means of creating buzz. In the commercial advertising world, maybe that is still a valid approach. How do you strike a balance here?

Well, i've never been about chasing gimmicks and have always gravitated toward timeless visuals so its never really been hard to keep a balance.  Sometimes, if you are being paid really well, money is a perfectly fine reason to take a job but most of what we shoot is exactly what we want to.  While Merge provides new revenue streams for me, that is not why I co-founded the company.   If you want to make money, go to Wall St. don't become a photographer.  Merge is about a way to expand my craft and get the same stoke I got watching my first print develop in a tray of Dektol 25 years ago.  I believe in evolving and life long learning which is why I am so into Merge.

AK: Feel free to let anything else fly if you have something burning to say. Thanks again for doing this.

Here is our  new explanation of how we partner.  We spend a lot of time thinking about it and I think it addresses many of the questions you bring up.  Also, we should have some new work up on our site by the end of the month so be sure to check it out....

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Merge conceives and creates visual content for the web, broadcast, print and beyond.  We spend a lot of time thinking about shifts in our industry and evolving our craft: a combination of timeless imagery and fearless embrace of technology.

Merge unites the eye of a National Geographic photographer with a technical fluency built from two decades of post-production and production expertise.   We cut our chops the old fashioned way but are not beholden to habits or structures that no longer make sense.   The old paradigms for content creation, post and distribution have changed.  At our core is an ability to to take traditional needs and seamlessly express them in old ways, new ways, and ways that have not been thought of yet.  Whether it is our nimble production model, a blend of art direction and improvisation, the integration of stills and motion, site specific POS video installations, or the use of dynamic technology like 4K RED and Scratch.  What people who have worked with us understand is that we are naturally adaptable and thrive at the intersection of tradition and change.

Our new model for creating visual content combines the right mindset, experience, and toolbox to offer high production values and efficiencies to our clients.  We think of ourselves as partners rather than vendors and seek collaborations with clients that allow us both to get to places we would never arrive at on our own.  To Merge is to break new ground and grow together.

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Michael Carney:

inspiring. That's the only thing I have to say about that. Thanks Andrew and David!

(12.18.09 @ 06:26 PM)

Very inspiring. Thanks.

(03.01.10 @ 05:15 PM)
Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Merge Lane: Interview with National Geographic Photographer and Producer David McLain . TrackBack URL for this entry: http://theblindmonkey.com/darkroom/mt/mt-tb.cgi/42

In the course of producing videos I scan through a ton of music to find just the right track to use. Of course, if you are on a budget, limiting yourself to royalty-free and creative commons music outlets, it's slim pickins. That's where the independent musician comes in. Once upon a time I aspired to be a professional violinist but quickly learned it took way more talent than I would ever have, so I have great respect for anyone who has figured out a way to make it their life's work.

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Charles Allison is one such musician, out of Chattanooga, Tennessee. I met Charles through my friend Mark McKnight at Rock Creek Outfitters, who suggested Charles as a source of music for some spots I was producing for their trail race series. He owns a recording studio called Spanner Sound.

Charles has a really cool "Song a Week" project going on his blog, charlesallison.org. One thing I like about the music he is producing for it is that every week he experiments with something new. It reminds me of the approach I've been taking with my climbing video series this year, The Beta. And everything sounds great.

I recently spoke to Charles about his Song a Week project, and about what it takes to make it as an independent musician today. I think there is something in here for any creative struggling to make it happen. Click on the players below to hear some of his music from the project:

Week 3-Truth has a way of hitting its target by Charles Allison 

AK: You strike me as not only a musician but a student of all things musical. Did you come to music by the standard route of music lessons as a kid or was there a different path?


I never had any lessons or pressure to play something like a lot of people did growing up. I got a used electric guitar for my birthday when I was about 13. I played around on it from time to time, but skateboarding was my true love at that point. In high school some guys asked me to be in a band with them. I don't think I really even played anything in that band though; I was the singer. I started home-taping in about 1997 with a four track and knew pretty quickly it was something I wanted to get really into. Over the course of recording all the time for the last 10 years, I studied a lot of physics and electronics that all apply to music and why things sound the way they do. I love making things that sound cool, but I'm technically pretty ignorant about music theory and all that.


AK: Your MySpace page lists a lot of wide-ranging musical influences. A lot of times our musical interests are intertwined with important moments in our lives. Put some of your musical tastes in context for me: When and how did you resonate with some of the more dominant ones.


My first pivotal experience with music was listening to my brother's records when he was out on weekends when I was about 9 or 10 years old. It was mostly british new wave and 80's synth pop kind of stuff. When I started buying my own music, it was either punk or alternative. I lived to watch 120 Minutes in high school. I worked in a record shop at some point and definitely honed in on some of my touchstones during that time. I never really stopped listening to anything I ever liked though, just kept adding to the collection. The harder to classify, the more I like it generally.


AK: With no physical boundaries to collaboration these days, seems like young people have more opportunities to express themselves musically. On the other hand they might be robbed of the kind of focused insulation that can foster an authentic style...


I've kind of approached my studio setup with a lot of consideration towards being able to do whatever I want to on my own. I love working with other people but I like to work all the time and I can't expect people to be around when I want to do something or I have an idea to try something. I definitely like having a lot of people coming through the studio to help with the workflow and just vibing off each other. I think being a good musician is very much about listening to and working with other people.

AK: The gap between corporate megapop on the one hand and indie/folk/local music on the other hand is widening. For me that means a wider range of great music to listen to on all channels. For musicians it might mean something different?


I do love the fact that you can instantly release something to the world; it's pretty powerful. But realizing success in the digital age is definitely more complicated than just putting something on the web and expecting people to flock to it. It's an ongoing process just building your work and creating a listenership for it. All the tools are there, but I think generating continued interest in your work is the most crucial element. I'm still learning a lot about that.


AK: What's the scene like for a professional musician in the South? Is Chattanooga a good spot for you right now?


It's alright, I guess. It really depends on what you're trying to do with your music. I'm tethered here for now. I would love to be somewhere that had a more cohesive music scene, with a lot of energy being exchanged between different artists. I got an arts grant this year for my work, so I can't complain about that aspect of living in Chattanooga.


AK: When did you get the idea for the Song-A-Week project?


I don't remember exactly. I started it about a week after I first thought of it though. It's not a new concept, and others have done similar projects. It seemed very much like some of the outdoor expeditions I've planned and done. I rode my bike from California to Florida in 1997 and this is just sort of an expedition of another kind. You set goals and you just do them. My reasons to do it were definitely born out of wanting to do something new with the way that I put music out. I've put out 8 records on my own and am pretty tired of that. It's more about pressure to be finishing something every week and not being too precious about the small details or obstacles, and just being comfortable in the process of making music.


AK: In Song-a-week you experiment with instruments you haven't played much before (banjo), play with binaural recording (recording using headphones instead of mics), and explore interesting sounds and effects (theremin). Yet everything seems to work really well. 


One of my main goals is to work through my skill set to a point where I feel really dialed in to what elevates a piece of work. Whatever type of music it is, just being tuned in to how music works and flows. Part of that is reaching a little bit in terms of what instruments I might automatically turn to. I'm not really great at playing any instruments, so I kinda look at it like "what the hell? Give it a whirl". Recording is really fun for me and I love to try new things. I hope for things to get really far out at some point too. I would love for people to be in disbelief that I made some of these songs.

Week 10- My spirit guide by Charles Allison



AK: You say the "depressed and awkward" are your people. What do you mean by that? Do you identify with that state of mind or is it just your sound that evokes that?


You know, I'm not really sure who my people are. I struggle with depression for sure, but my method of dealing with all that is just working as much as I can. I get really anxious when I can't make something. I do love sad songs, but I don't think that's my music exactly. I don't revel in being depressed, I just find the sound of it infinitely more interesting than the sound of being happy. That's been done enough already. I think I can make my own style of dark music.

Week 11- Take your things and run away by Charles Allison


AK: So as you are falling asleep your mind wanders into a new composition. What then? Specifically, what tools are you using to get the music out?


I don't have a roadmap at all from week to week. I take a break on the weekends but I try to start with some basic concept on Monday or so. Whether that's writing from a particular instrument or evoking a certain spirit, or working from a melody I wrote in the shower I never know. From the concept, I start to build something that becomes, ideally, whatever it should be. Part of doing this project and its length is to be exhaustive with my work process. I guess I feel like I haven't really found my voice yet and hopefully this is a good way to do that.

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Mark McKnight:

Interesting interview, Andrew. Thanks for posting. It's bee fun to watch Charles through the years as built his music from a passion to something that will hopefully pay some bills! I think the message here is to support independent music- buy songs if you like them, go check out local shows, etc. Give people like Charles the means to focus on their work and I think we'll end up with some amazing music in the world that studios and the commercial system would never be able to generate.

(12.10.09 @ 01:34 PM)
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It seems hand-crafted art is alive and well. This month, New Jersey-based artist and former Urban Climber Magazine Editor Joe Iurato landed a commission to create stencil artwork - yup thats right - for NBC Sports. The resulting piece aired on NBC's Sunday Night Football, for the (highly rated) Colts-Patriots game, on November 15th 2009. 

Here is a compilation of clips of the final product from Joe:

I worked with Joe many times during his four years at the helm of Urban Climber. He was psyched on the kind of lit climbing photography I was producing at the time, that no one else would take. The look that Joe embraced early on is now standard in the climbing world. 

I was intrigued by Joe's unique piece for NBC Sports, so I took the opportunity to chat with him about it, his work, and life after Urban Climber. What I got from Joe was an illuminating look into a true artist's life. All photos and videos courtesy of Joe Iurato.


AK: So, a few months ago, you talk to a friend about an opportunity to do something for NBC's Sunday Night Football...

Yeah, long story short, my friend Vincent's a producer with NBC Sports. While attending one of my art shows, he came up with the idea of using my stencils in place of photographs during a broadcast presentation. Next thing I knew it was being pitched to the producer of Sunday Night Football, Fred Gaudelli, and crew -- and soon after that it was game on.

AK: How long have you been doing stencil and aerosol art? What's your background in this?

I've been doing this type of art for about 4 years now, but seriously for less than a year. I've always been a huge fan of street art, or public art if that sounds better. I started out by making this simple stencil of Winnie-The-Pooh holding a machine gun and wearing military attire - he became my "Soldier Bear". It sounds absurd, but that was the whole point. Though as absurd as it was that little image was also powerful, and behind it was a lot of truth. Stenciling provided me an easy way to get it out there and hopefully make people think about how gnarly and twisted shit really is these days. At UC, I would occasionally leave on my lunch break and slap one or two up around SoHo. At home, I would go out late at night and bomb around town. I'd paint it on buildings, slap stickers on phone booths and signs, hit just about anything - but at the time it wasn't so much about the stenciling or the art as it was about the subject. Nobody really knew what I was doing except my wife. Needless to say she wasn't very supportive of my rendezvous, and it wasn't long before I agreed to give it a rest. But anyway that's how I started stenciling.

Later, I developed more of a love for the craft of stenciling itself and decided I wanted to take it further. I studied the work of the great stencil artists, people like Logan Hicks, Chris Stain, C215, Blek Le Rat, Banksy, and Shepard Fairey - not to mimic them, but to get a better understanding of the medium. I learned there's really no right or wrong way to do these things, and techniques vary greatly. So, I came up with a way of doing things that was comfortable and right for me. Now, my work is much different than that first Pooh stencil; it is much more complex and carefully planned out, and I'm not out manifesting images in the street anymore. If I paint the same cut 3 times, it's a lot. Most of my work is done in my garage, on found supports like old cabinet doors and planks of wood. And when I do paint outside, it's usually on a much larger scale.


AK: You sprayed these stencils on acetate, then NBC green screened them and did the rest. Walk me through your method a little deeper. Was this your usual approach or did this particular job make you step outside a little?

Well, as for the method in this case: First, I had to tweak out the images so they'd be partially black and white and partially color as discussed. After they were approved, I had 20 of each photo printed out on 18" x 24" sheets of paper (this isn't always the way I work because it's costly, but it provides a more exacting and consistent cut). Next, I cut each layer from the photographs themselves with an Exacto knife. This is the most difficult part because it's all guesswork and preference. Everyone has different thoughts and techniques on how to approach cutting. It's completely subjective. After the layers were cut, I took them down to my garage, cracked open a bottle of wine and started spray painting. I painted each layer on its own sheet of acetate so they could be photographed individually. In total there were 41 layers for 3 paintings. I also painted one final composite of each image. Lastly, I sent them off to NBC, where they were photographed against a green screen. The final images were uploaded to an effects program and rendered as seen on TV. 

The whole thing definitely forced me to step outside my comfort zone. Aside from some big technical challenges I was facing with the stencils themselves, there was also that scary little voice that kept reminding me this was one of the biggest opportunities of my life...and what if I blew it? Without going into details, the stencils had to be cut in a way I never cut before and painted on a support I wasn't familiar with using. Take that and consider it was all being done for a primetime NFL broadcast, one of the biggest games of the year, that was only two weeks away...let's just say experimenting isn't what I would've preferred. But sometimes you just gotta run with it, really believe in yourself and bust your ass to make it happen.

AK: This seems like a pretty unique gig - custom graphic design for a broadcast network. Is this the first time you have done work where your art meets digital technology?

Definitely. Even when I was making climbing videos, I never thought to incorporate my art with special effects. That's what was so nice about this gig I think. It's not really about my art - it's the proof that even with all the graphic software out there, there's still a place for handcrafted artwork. 

AK: I like the building effect of the individual stencils that make up the final piece. Was that effect your idea?

Stenciling is naturally done in layers. The idea, which is to the NBC's credit, was that these layers would be photographed separately and then rendered in an animation where the images quickly "rebuilt" themselves on screen. One of the reasons it wasn't done digitally is because layering and color separations are two different things. In order to provide the effect they wanted to achieve, you couldn't just separate the colors. To do it digitally, someone would've had to draw these like stencils in an illustration program, layer for layer, anyway. Airing a digital illustration wouldn't quite feel the same as an authentic spray painted piece. I guess some would argue it's the difference between film and digital in photography. There are differences, and there's a place for both.

AK: How has the response been? Any feedback from NBC? You're gonna need a reel pretty soon!

Feedback was excellent. It was such an honor to have been given the chance, and I'm ecstatic it worked out for all of us. I'm looking forward to what's next.


AK: It looks like you've got your hands in a lot of cool collaboratives like Artsprojekt. 

Yes, I'm involved in a few collectives and collaborations. Artsprojekt.com, an amazing platform created by artist and ex-pro skater Andy Howell, is one of them. I'm also involved with Stencil History X, NOLA Rising and most recently with Albus Cavus. I've also been collaborating on special projects lately. The photographer Transgress and I have been collaborating for some time now on a series of portraits called "Why". Photographers Craig Copelin and David Toth, musician Abel Okugawa and myself are also beginning a new endeavor, one that will fuse live music and art performances with photography and video. The past few months have brought about some other extremely exciting collabos as well, though I'm not free to talk about them just yet.

AK: As an artist, what kind of resources are out there for you to grow creatively? Financially?

Purely as an artist, there are a tremendous amount of resources out there to grow creatively. For me, the number one factor in creative growth has always been inspiration. If you can stay inspired, you can continue to create work from the heart - work that's not forced - and if it's coming from the right place, people will notice. Once you make those connections, doors also open with the possibility of earning. 

On the flipside, I'm not in a position where I can just be inspired, make lots of creative friends and live as a struggling artist. Growing financially as an artist, really growing financially, is extremely difficult. It's nothing that has recently taken me by surprise, though. I've always been a victim of my own head - my whole life has been centered around expressing myself through the arts. I've worked in some capacity with just about everything: illustration, graphic design, words, photo, video, fine art, and even some performing arts, including acting for a little while. That's my biggest problem; I never really locked myself into any one thing. I want to do it all. For instance, when I want to convey to someone the feeling of being in the mountains and climbing these huge, beautiful chunks of granite, I don't want to sit down and draw a picture of it - I want to use music and moving pictures and tell that story through video. When I want to capture the emotion of a person looking to the heavens with sadness and contemplation, I'll freeze that moment in a painting because their eyes are the story, and it's something that shouldn't fleet. There are times when nothing visual can express what I'm feeling, so I paint those pictures with words. And while it all feels really liberating to me, I'm trapped at the same time. How do I make a living and support my family with all of this? Yes, I am driven by my creative instincts, but is that enough? I don't have a formal education so it's all hustle and I'm constantly trying to prove myself. How long can I sustain being a full-time artist not knowing when and if the next project will arise? The truth is I don't know...

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AK: A lot of your work I've seen online seems to revolve around a theme of childhood...

Ever since I had my son, my perspective on what life is about completely changed. The moment he entered this world, everything I thought I knew just shattered and went away. As we get older, life becomes more and more complicated until eventually we're all just balls of information and clutter. I needed to unlearn a bit and be brought back to a simpler time. My son did that for me, and it was the greatest gift I ever received. So, every now and then I paint pictures of children because we can all learn, or unlearn, a thing or two by gazing into the wondrous eyes of a child. 

AK: I know you from the climbing world, when you were Editor at Urban Climber Magazine. From what I see now, it seems like that was a small part of a larger artist's life. How does photography and your time at UC fit in?

Climbing, and bouldering more specifically, has been a cornerstone in my life for a long time now. Almost immediately following my first experience in the Gunks I realized that it wasn't a new hobby I found - it was a real, honest-to-God piece of who I am and who I'd forever be. The day was a total revelation. And I was so intrigued by what it had done to me that I felt I needed to explore the reasons why. 

I wanted to sink every ounce of creativity in my bones into interpreting what I thought climbing was. I couldn't focus on anything else because all of my inspirations were coming from my own personal experiences at the crag. It was the kind of feeling you get when you know the answer to something but you just can't get the words out to explain it. So, you search around the question for anything that might spark the tongue to work. That's how I felt all the time. It drove me nuts because I knew it wasn't about drawing or painting a picture. It wasn't about writing a poem or creating a sculpture. I needed to be able to recall my sentiments and share them in a way others could feel what was happening inside me. It had to be fleeting, changing with each unique day. With that in mind, I decided to try something different - I picked up a shitty little camcorder and started making videos. Eventually that's what led me to meeting Mark Crowther, the publisher of UC.

I remember the day he called and asked if I would be interested in sitting at the helm as editor in chief. I thought he was joking because I didn't know shit about editing or publishing. I declined at first purely because of fear. But he convinced me by saying all I had to do was be a climber and an artist. Do what I do with video, let my passion speak and my emotions do the work - and that that I could learn the technical side of being a magazine editor. So, I held the position for almost 4 years. Not a day went by I didn't appreciate where I was and what I was doing, but the job itself never really got easier for me. I struggled with learning how to be a great editor. It was such an incredible challenge. I don't know, I still think I had a long way to go in the learning process. All I know is I loved spilling my guts out about all the things climbing taught me; I loved hearing the stories from people all over the world who shared the same sentiments; I loved seeing our sport grow and being in a position to help to push it in that forward direction; and maybe more than anything, I loved knowing the community on a personal level. You know, I didn't choose to leave UC. I found myself on a very personal mission and I wasn't done yet. But all the same, I can understand why I had to go. It's economics, smart business decisions, and that's all. I'm grateful I was given the chance. Now, I hope to find another outlet that will allow me to continue what I started. 

AK: Whats :02 for Joe Iurato?

Haha. I like that. I guess I should explain, :01 sort of became my mantra. It represents a new beginning, the very first second of movement in a forward direction. I came up with it after I was let go at the mag. It was a really difficult time for me, one that I won't go into too much detail about. I just went into a complete failure mode and I was stuck there. I started painting more and more because every time shit hit the fan in my life, painting was the drug that pulled my head out of my ass and provided some relief. Eventually I gained a little bit of clarity and focus and I told myself that I was going to move forward. I adapted :01 as my alias and it's who I've become. 

As for :02, I really have no idea. As I mentioned, I hope to come back into the climbing industry at some point, though I don't know exactly when or how. I only know I'd like to be a creative force again. Aside from that, I'm going to continue stenciling and strive to push my art as far as I possibly can. I know for sure I've found a medium that I love and won't quit under any circumstance, whether it brings me financial success or not. I've got some really cool projects and collabos lined up for the near future. It's also possible I do more work with NBC. And I have plans to paint with one of my favorite artists, C215, in the streets of Paris...which, of course, will be during my next trip to Fontainebleau. 

All in all, I really don't know too much about what the future has in store. We'll see. Tomorrow is far away. I'm still working on today. 

You can see Joe Iurato's work at www.wix.com/joeiurato/01
You can contact him at joe.iurato@gmail.com

You can see more behind-the-scenes footage of Joe Iurato at work here:

Timelapse Video by Craig Copelin (www.nilepoc.com)
Music by Abel Okugawa (www.abelokugawa.com)

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J V:

Nice Joe! This is good to see. Joe was the first unknown to encourage me, and gave me my first break into the climbing industry.

(11.23.09 @ 01:07 PM)

Joe , you really are cool ! look forward to more collabos !


(12.01.09 @ 04:55 PM)
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Symphonic Works of Ed Kashi
by Andrew Kornylak for A Steady Drip Magazine. 

click here for more content from A Steady Drip

A lot of people ask me how I came up with the idea for "Stillmotion," using a still camera to produce video-like motion pieces. Well, I didn't of course. But I was first inspired to try something like it in 2006, when I saw multimedia storytelling pioneer Ed Kashi's 2006 Iraqi Kurdistan Flipbook
Iraqi Kurdistan by Ed Kashi
Iraqi Kurdistan is an expansive look into the lives of the Kurdish people of northern Iraq. These images provide an alternative perspective on a changing culture, one different from the discord that dominates so much media coverage of the region. 

This wasn't your ordinary stop-motion piece. In Kashi's Flipbook, you'll see that the sequences sort of orbit around a central, final composition. You are following the photographer's eye as he observes the situation and then, with a snap, extracts the essence of it. Here you get to see not just that critical instant, but also the 2nd, 3rd, 4th harmonics of it, tightly punctuated by music and at a speed just under video threshhold. The result is, as Kashi puts it, a "symphony" of many equally important parts ingeniously blended together to render something somewhat new and beautiful in its own right. There is more dimension here than in a 12-shot photo essay, and dare i say, more material to ponder than in a video. The effect enhances what is already great content - the most important part.

My Stillmotion approach mostly riffs on Kashi's Flipbook, though the subject matter is radically different. I'll be giving a workshop on stillmotion and mixed media at the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar on December 4, so I wanted to talk to the mix master himself. When his Flipbook came out, there both positive and negative reaction from the bleachers, though it got heavy play at the street level, where it matters most (debuting on MSNBC.com by way of Mediastorm, and by their accounts it was a financial success), and it directed a lot of attention to the plight of Iraqi Kurds. Similar approaches have become pretty popular today in both editorial and commercial media. I wanted to know Kashi's thoughts on the whole thing.

Ed Kashi is one of the leading photojournalists of our time, a National Geographic veteran of 18 years, and the co-founder of a non-profit multimedia company called Talking Eyes Media. He is also thoughtful and humble. I was lucky enough to catch him before one of his many trips to Pakistan last week to ask a few questions about his Flipbook piece and about multimedia storytelling.

Screen shot 2009-11-19 at 9.09.10 AM.png

AK: How did you get started working for National Geographic?

I starting working with NG in 1991, just as I had finished my first large personal documentary project. It was a 3 year project on the Protestants of Northern Ireland. In early 1991 I was able to show a very comprehensive body of work and also proposed an idea whose time was right, the plight of the Kurds. That turned into a 26 week commission that took me to 8 countries. I eventually was able to publish a book, When the Borders Bleed: The Struggle of the Kurds. It also began my commitment and interest in the Kurdish cause, which was how I came back to that subject for my 10th NG feature, The Iraqi Kurds. And it was that project in 2005 which spawned my Iraqi Kurdistan Flipbook.

AK: What was your inspiration for creating the Iraqi Kurdistan piece? Did you plan the flipbook style in advance or was it more something you came to afterwards? 

I did not plan this. It was something I discovered while editing the project for the magazine story and then for my archives. It was also the first time I had shot a large story for NG digitally, so I literally had over 17000 images in one folder and one catalogue. As I edited I started to see these sequences and it sparked my imagination. I also realized my shooting style had changed from the days of a Leica and film. I was shooting more freely and this inspiration was an organic outgrowth from the work I'd been doing in multimedia and video since 2000.

AK: I think the unique thing about IK is how tightly it is synchronized with the music. The sequences seem to orbit around a final, powerful composition that is punctuated by a note of music or a pause. Where did you find the music, and did you construct the piece around the music or the other way around?

When I originally started work on this piece, it was with Lauren Rosenfeld, who was working with my wife, Julie Winokur, in our studio. I asked her to put the initial sequences together and then find music that was appropriate for the subject. Lauren did a lot of research on the internet at Iranian and Kurdish music sites to find the right pieces of music. We then handed a very rough 9 minute piece to Brian Storm and Eric Maierson at MediaStorm. They then turned it into the symphony it became. The coordination of the music with flow of images was crucial and inspired and ultimately the real magic of the piece.

AK: I understand (from hearing Brian Storm talk about it) that you used Final Cut as the sequencing tool. Had you worked with motion sequencing before, and what was your impression of working in Final Cut?  

I don't do Final Cut Pro. I work with people who know it. But from what I can tell, it's the program of choice and really gives you the keys to the creative kingdom of multimedia and filmmaking.

AK: On the Lightstalkers photojournalism forum, someone posted an early version of IK and there was an amazing amount of negativity. There was all the usual criticism to something novel ("Its been done", "technique overpowers the images", etc) but there was also some pretty vitriolic stuff ("inherently fascist" [??]). At some point both you and MSNBC Multimedia Director Robert Hood respond to the criticism. Hood had some really good points about how this piece resonated with young people, and with his colleagues at MSNBC. He just seemed to be talking about the piece on a different level than the rest of the discussion. So, a couple questions here: Do you think there is a disconnect between the work that photojournalists are pursuing and what the media and their audience really respond to? Is this a problem that fresh forms of media can alleviate or do you think photojournalists are just hopelessly out of touch? 

I feel the vitriol was for a few reasons;  people with too much time on their hands, the size and quality of the web versions (back to that in a sec) and the fact it was something very different and for new (although it's really a digital version of something that is very old). The work I produce in this form, call in multimedia or short films, is really intended and best seen on a big screen with great audio. It's a shame to show it on such small viewers, as we are stuck with for now on the internet. I'm sure that will change with time and the fidelity of web players has already improved markedly in the past few years. Also, since we created this piece, it's been accepted and shown in at least 6 film festivals, at Arles Photo Festival in France and many other festivals and art exhibits including the George Eastman House Museum.  

What this shows me is the photojournalism community, or at least as it was thinking a few years ago, is hopelessly out of touch with what we can do and what people want, or at least want they are willing to look at and appreciate. I know I took a huge risk in creating that piece, as I "showed" many less than perfect images. But the point of this piece was not to prove I am a great photographer. At this point I feel vindicated and overwhelmingly appreciated. I have also noticed that so many multimedia pieces now have at least a bit of the "flipbook" sequencing it them. I take that as a good sign that the Iraqi Kurdistan Flipbook opened up a door for other's to find expanded ways to visually express themselves and construct visual narratives.

AK: Do you think the reaction to IK would be the same had you done it yesterday?  

Only if it hadn't been done yet.

Screen shot 2009-11-19 at 9.43.53 AM.png

AK: Since IK, you have produced quite a volume of multimedia through Talking Eyes Media. Do you see the flipbook style as a one-off experiment or part of a different thread in your work?  

The Flipbook style has become a more concious part of my shooting style at times, and also a tool for visual storytelling in the final pieces. But it is not something we always do or feel is always appropriate. If it is overused, then it loses it's impact. When it's used well, it's very exciting and evocative. 

AK: The current trend of convergence between still and motion picture tools has encouraged a lot of photographers to start exploring video more and video shooters to become more interested in still photography. Certainly it is driven by the need to find new revenue streams, but what do you think this trend means for storytelling? For hard journalism?

I am loving exploring the nexus between moving and still imagery and finding new ways to employ that energy to tell compelling stories and excite viewers in fresh ways. My only concern is that I don't want to lose still photography in visual storytelling. It would be tragic if we lost still images as a form of art, education, storytelling, entertainment and journalism above all else.


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(01.11.10 @ 10:04 AM)

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(01.12.10 @ 08:40 AM)
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