Jacqui both ways

Jacqui 113011

Kind of a lazy post.  I will write more later about why I choose black and white or color for my photos.  For now though, this quiet moment that Jacqui gave me feels about right for how I'm feeling.

Jacqui 113011


What is in a name?

I have a unique last name, Sutphin.  I rarely run into other Sutphins unless they are close family members.   It is rarer when I see my name on a sign.

Sutphin is a Dutch name.  It was originally Van Zutphen when my ancestors got on a boat in the 17th century for the New World. There is a a city in the Netherlands called Zutphen.  According to Wikipedia,  "The name Zutphen (first mentioned in the eleventh century) appears to mean 'zuid-veen', or in English, 'south-fen'."

Sutphin Boulevard is a long street in Queens, New York.  It is in the area called Jamaica.  Last Sunday I walked a stretch from one subway station to another.  The weather was a perfect fall sunny day.  Along the walk I tried to take a photo every unique sign with my last name.  Below are some of the Sutphins I ran into along the way.

Sutphin BLVD - 112711

Sutphin BLVD - 112711
Sutphin BLVD - 112711
Sutphin BLVD - 112711

Sutphin BLVD - 112711
Sutphin BLVD - 112711

Sutphin BLVD - 112711
Sutphin BLVD - 112711

Sutphin BLVD - 112711
Sutphin BLVD - 112711

Sutphin BLVD - 112711


NY again

Unique Forms of Continuity in Space - Umberto Boccioni - MoMA - 112211

I got back Monday from a four night trip to New York.  This was not a work trip, nor a photography class trip.  This was a "me" trip.

During my extended break of the last two months,  I traveled with and to see family twice.  I got to do a lot of alone traveling up to Montana, but the family was part of it.  I needed this trip, my trip.  My trip to be alone and let myself choose the paths of the day.  I had to take this trip because I probably wont have a block of time off like this ever again.  I rarely take big trips for myself. 

My hotel was near Penn Station on 29th St.  Nothing fancy, but was clean, had free breakfasts, and convenient to multiple subways.  I went to many museums, walked all over the city in beautiful autumn weather, visited a few places again that I needed to feel a part of and explored a few new ones.

I did not give myself any city photographic assignments while their except one. I knew I was going to see lots of the city so I was sure I would photograph something.  I visited one neighborhood with a special name that I wanted to visit for years.   My one photographic city theme I self-assigned was personal, deeply personal.

I photographed two models separately, Megan and Valya.  Valya referred Megan for a special project I am working on.  We had a short thirty minute session where I got what I needed.  Megan did a great job and was pleasant to work with.

My session with Valya was an artistic gift, as always.  I will post a few photos from our session and write about it in a few days.

This trip turned very personal for me during my wanderings about town.  I had time to think of the city, my life, my choices, and who I am.  I didn't get many answers, but at least I found some questions I can stop asking.  I also realized that somethings are still too close to push into the past.

I left Monday to return home.  As I got into the taxi to go to JFK, I realized I was at a border moment of my own.  I had to either go home to San Francisco that moment or I would need to leave my California life, and all it held, and lose myself in the sea of anonymity and clean slates that New York could provide.  At that moment, I thought about cancelling the cab and walking away to disappear.  New York does that to me.

New York isn't self destructive for me.  Every time I go there I get pulled into a world where no one knows me, has expectations of me, or really even cares about me.   We all coexist, weaving in and out of each others' lives on the sidewalks, in the subways, and through out our days in the city.  Even though we see each other and may even say something like "excuse me", our lives will probably never intersect again and the mutual anonymity keeps our hearts quiet and private.   In a way, that is more liberating than anything I have felt in my life - to feel the world let go of me and just let me be.


Another one

Jacqui - 111511

It is a Tuesday and my time off is closing soon.  A few weeks ago I wrote of my change in plans that I would not make it to New York during this time off.  In place of that trip I planned to go to Vegas for an extended stay.  Now that trip has changed due to a few postponements in other personal areas.  So, NYC is back on.

I leave later this week and get back next week.  I hope to visit some old haunts, see some new things, meet a few friends and have a great weekend.

Another of Jacqui from the beginning of the shoot.

Jacqui - 111511


New stuff

Jacqui - 111311

Last Sunday I drove down to the central coast to visit my photography/model friends Jacqui and Griffin.  It was great to see and work with them again.  I photographed Jacqui for my Borders diptych series I am almost finished with.  I will post that series and write about it at a future time.
Jacqui - 111311

You may remember Jacqui from some photos I took of her in my truck.  I knew I wanted to work with her again.

The photo up top is one of my first shots with Jacqui from this session.  We warmed up with some simple nudes and then worked hard going for the stuff I needed for my project.

After the nude work, I made some portraits of Griffin and Jacqui for my photographer portrait series.  I will share those later as well.

Thanks to Jacqui and Griffin.  You two continue to inspire and push me on.

Jacqui - 111311


mirror, mirror on the wall...

Kristin - 111111

How would you like to live in Looking-glass House, Kitty? I wonder if they'd give you milk, there? Perhaps Looking-glass milk isn't good to drink... Through the Looking Glass - Lewis Carroll
Mirror, mirror on the wall, which of me is the fairest of all?

I recently listened to NPR's Radiolab.  The episode was exploring symmetry and our search for it.  They had a fascinitating segment on how we are not what we see in the mirror, we are the symmetric reflection of it. 
Go to a mirror and look at yourself.  When you look in the mirror you are not looking at how everyone else sees you.  You are looking at the symmetric reflection of yourself.  Raise your right hand and touch your left ear.  Your reflected you is raising its left hand touching its right ear.  Unless you have no hair part or part your hair down the middle, the part is on the opposite side.  You are seeing your reflected self.  It is not the view of your friends see.  Only you see yourself in the mirror.

If you don't quite understand the difference between what you see in the mirror vs. the way people see you, look at the photos below of Abraham Lincoln.  The first one is the familiar view of the president.  The second is reflection of the the first.  It is how Lincoln saw himself in the mirror.  Notice the difference?

Source - Radiolab
Source - Radiolab

I am used to seeing my reflected self multiple times per day.  I am used to my birthmarks, moles, hairline, freckles, and asymmetric aspects of my face.  When I see a photo of myself, I rarely feel totally comfortable with it.  It is not the me I am used to seeing.

In the Radiolab piece, they tell of a college student that was being excluded from groups as a nerd and felt lonely.  He looked in the mirror and liked what he saw, but wondered why he was so easily disregarded.  As an experiment, he changed a key part of his symmetric self, his hair part.

Almost immediately he noticed changes in how people treated him. They were more accepting and open to him.  Some of these changes could have been an unconscious attitude switch leading to more self confidence, but he felt it was largely due to sharing how he saw himself with the world and not just the mirror reflection of it.

Movie Still
Promotional Poster

 In the Superman comic books and movies, the artists took this into account.  Clark Kent parts his hair on the right.  Superman parts his hair on the left.  This is interesting because it agrees with some of the research mentioned in the Radiolab segment.  We unconsciously tend to emphasize the left side of our faces over the right side.  This may be due to an interpretation that the left side shows more confidence, power and strength.  Clark Kent is weak clumsy and parts his hair from the right side.  Superman, the ultimate male, parts his from the left.   As mentioned in Kill Bill 2**, Superman is Superman.  He puts on the costume of Clark Kent to fit into humanity.  How does he view humanity - as weak and clumsy, all the way down to the haircut.

 Video - Note the change in hair part

As a photographer, I have to remember a key fact of the art.  Photographs show how everyone sees the subject, not necessarily how the subject sees him/herself*.  This may be why the toughest critic of a photograph is usually the subject.  I know I am when I see a photo of myself.  I like the mirror me much better.

Bonus videos
Christopher Reeves was great in the role.  I love his expression when he sees the first available phone booth.

* The camera on my iMac produces a mirror image, kind of interesting.

** Kill Bill 2 Superman dialogue.


"Death by misadventure"

Thistle - 110111

British coroner Suzanne Greenaway recorded  singer Amy Winehouse's untimely passing  as "death by misadventure".  What an amazing way to to phrase a cause of death.

Amy Winehouse died July 23rd, 2011 from consuming toxic levels of alcohol.  Her blood alcohol level was over five times the British legal drunk driving limit.  While that is a sad and early death, the coroner's reporting as "death by misadventure" is a rather ambiguous statement, and one I wouldn't mind as a label for my death.

We all have gone down the paths of misadventures and tried things  reckless and potentially fatal.  I've driven too fast for the conditions, taken dares I should have avoided, gotten into a fight or two that was more than I could handle, taken on relationships that were dangerous (and a few that were business misadventures) and bitten off more than I could chew (both literally and figuratively).   So far I've come out alive and wiser from those dalliances into the forbidden and dangerous areas.

Blog friend Carla recently wrote an article about the criticism she received for posting a photo of her smoking.  Carla does not smoke, but was willing to pose with an unlit cigarette for the photos.  Many felt she was promoting a dangerous habit by making it glamorous.  In this information age, I think anyone who has access to her image already has been told, read, and exposed to the message that smoking is dangerous.  Her photo is neither condoning or warning of the dangers of smoking.   It is just an element of the overall conceptual piece.

I've photographed three models smoking.  All three are current or former smokers.   They know the dangers they are/were  taking on and still did it.  They are willing to take that misadventure in life.  What they get/got from it is uniquely their own rewards and consequences.

That which does not kill us, makes us stronger - Fredrich Nietzsche
Maybe that is the rub with misadventure.  There are both rewards and consequences.  From misadventures we gain wisdom, knowledge, experience, thrills, scares, and great stories as some of the rewards.  The consequences can be high as well - disability, disease and death.  For each of us, we have to decide if the risk/benefit is worth it to us.  I guess many of us though feel the consequences wont hit us and we are immune and immortal so we keep living the misadventures until they bite us in the ass.

I like Winehouse's music.  She sang of personal soulfoul, painful stories.  Some of her songs were commentary on the shallow celebrity culture.  She also sang rebellious songs celebrating her misadventures while acknowledging they could lead to her demise.  I doubt her music would have been as good, or popular, if she hadn't taken advantage of her misadventures.  That willingness to go out into uncomfortable areas made her a success and also probably killed her.  Would she have been as happy to have lived a full, but dull life if she had not taken these risks?  

In the end, I think I will take the misadventures.  I need to look at them and make sure I can live (or die) with the consequences, but I don't want to be too scared to take risks.  Being that timid may lead to a long life, but how fulfilling would that life be?

PS - This is one of my favorite songs Amy Winehouse sang.  It captures the idea of "misadventure" better than any I can think of.  I hope she is kicking back in her afterlife, enjoying a glass of wine and listening to some good music.
I cheated myself
Like I knew I would
I told ya, I was trouble
You know that I'm no good

Her last recording, a duet with Tony Bennett - Body and Soul