Behind-the-Scenes Videos — Take Two

Posted on: June 20th, 2011 by: Zack Seckler

There’s a new twist on the ubiquitous photo shoot behind-the-scenes video and it looks less like something you’d see on YouTube and more like something you’d see on MTV (well, back when MTV played music videos). F STOP photographer Michael Levin recently showed me a stylized  short film of him shooting on the south coast of Japan. It’s stylized, it’s slick and it’s a far cry from the BTS videos that only photo geeks can relate to. At close to 75K views in just two weeks of being released it also seems to be doing a damn good job at introducing Levin’s work to lots of eyeballs. I asked Michael a few quick questions about this project; our brief interview follows below.

What was your goal in having this film made?

The film was actually the result of another project I was working on. A production company needed footage of me at work in Japan for a documentary and that’s when I decided to contact Brad Kremer. So my original intentions for the video grew into something much more as we stared filming. Brad recognized while we were shooting that the footage might be used in a couple of different ways, one of them being a short video set to music. So this is the first video in a trilogy of projects we’re working on right now. The video has provided me a platform to help expose my work to a larger audience. I think with some creative marketing I’ll be able to promote the video in areas that are photo centric based websites or magazines.

Why did you want it to be different from other behind-the-scenes video?

Well, I don’t think this is a true behind the scenes video in the traditional sense. I really think it’s a story about a day in the life of a photographer at work. It captures some of the small moments that i encounter yet isn’t really revealing in a “oh that’s how they do it” way.  After studying my photographs Brad came up with some interesting ideas on how he might want to tell this story and we ran with it. It became clear that neither of us wanted a straightforward video of me standing in front of some  picturesque scene, that’s not what my work is about. From the onset  Brad wanted to film me in ways that took my photographic style into consideration and he tried (and succeeded) to incorporate those elements into his filmic style. I think the scene at the 3:01 point demonstrates his ability to place me within the frame of something that I might shoot, yet  I was shooting something completely different. So in a way he’s taking a voyeuristic approach to filming me and I’ve unknowingly been placed within one of my own photographs. Because of the technique I use for my photographs I’m often in one location for a number of hours at a time. I was concerned that this might not be that interesting to a videographer as there’s really nothing visually dynamic going on. This proved to be quite the opposite as Brad clearly was able to make unremarkable scenes into something much more.

Why did you think Brad Kremer would be a good fit for this project?

I really enjoyed a short film he did called “Hayaku” shot entirely in Japan. I’ve visited those places that he filmed in a number of times and I really thought he had captured them in a spectacular way. It was clear to me that he also shared a true fascination with the Japan that exists outside of the big cities. The other factor was that he frequently uses time-lapse photography to create video and I thought this would be the perfect style for capturing me at work as I stood there for a number of hours in one spot.

How did you convince him to come on board?

I sent him an email basically outlining the project I was working on. We had some back and forth dialogue and within a month we were having beers and sushi in Japan.

How long did it take to create the film?

We did all the filming over 5 really long days in the beginning of January 2010. Brad and I met up in Kyushu, Japan and as soon as he arrived we started discussing concepts. Once Brad was back in the States he started assembling the rough edits over the next two months. During that time we had numerous phone discussions about the sequencing and clip choices as there was a lot of footage to go through. He then worked with his team coloring and editing the final footage to a song by Röyksopp which I think worked out quite well.By the end of May the final edit was completed, so about 4 months from start to finish.

How have your results been so far?

Once the video was completed we both realized that this was something really unique and we were both proud of it.  I’ve seen videos of photographers at work before before but nothing like what Brad had come up with.  Brad posted it on his Vimeo page and it really took off and has received considerable attention and favourable praise from around the globe. It’s been viewed over 40,000 times in less than two weeks which I think is very promising.

The Creation of a Group Show

Posted on: April 7th, 2010 by: Zack Seckler

For emerging photographers (and artists in general) inclusion in a group show at a prestigious gallery is typically one important step on the road to becoming a well-known name in the art world. The question is how are those artists chosen? Plus, where do the ideas for these group shows come from in the first place?

For answers I sought out Brian Paul Clamp, Director of ClampArt gallery in New York City, who has previously written for The F STOP. Clamp kindly describes the process of molding his idea for ClampArt’s current exhibition  “The Museum of Unnatural History” (the exhibition ends on Saturday, April 10th). He continues on to explain how he came to select each artist featured in the group show. It’s an interesting process and valuable reading for any emerging artists out there.

Copyright Jill Greenberg, “Mala Centerfold,” 2005, Archival  pigment print, Courtesy of ClampArt, New York CityClampArt’s current exhibition, “The Museum of Unnatural History,” was originally inspired by a new series of small platinum palladium prints by artist, Lori Nix.  Constructing tiny dioramas of scenes from imaginary natural history museums, Nix’s images highlight the often bizarre and awkward artifice inherent in the scientific presentation of the animal kingdom.  Indeed, as it has been said, there is nothing natural about a natural history museum.

This got me to thinking about the wide range of work I have seen over the years that was inspired by taxidermy and/or natural history museums.  Once I began to brainstorm, I was surprised by how many names came to mind.

Jason DeMarte, an artist living in Mississippi, was someone I met just a couple of months past at a Project 5 portfolio review event in New York City.  His series, “Utopic” (in which he manipulates photographs of natural history museums to comment upon the relationship between nature and consumerism), was absolutely perfect for the show. His image, “Cream Filled,” was ultimately used as the postcard image to promote the exhibition.Copyright Nicole Hatanaka, “Storage,” 2009, Archival inkjet print,  Courtesy of ClampArt, New York City

Other artists whom I originally met at various portfolio review events include Blake Fitch (Rhubarb Rhubarb), Harri Kallio (FotoFest), Elliot Ross (Photolucida), and Amy Stein (Review Santa Fe).

Several artists I decided to contact for “The Museum of Unnatural History” were known to me from solo or group exhibitions I had seen in New York City, including Justine Cooper (Daneyal Mahmood Gallery, NYC), Jill Greenberg (AIPAD, NYC), Hippolyte-Alexandre Michallon (Wessel-O’Connor Gallery, NYC), and Matthew Pillsbury (Bonni Benrubi Gallery, NYC).

Richard Barnes’ work was introduced to me while I was planning the show by artist, Amy Stein.  I may or may not have previously seen his recent monograph from Princeton Architectural Press, but his photograph of a stuffed giraffe hanging from the ceiling of the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco is one of the most arresting images in the exhibition.

I first saw Nicole Hatanaka’s photographs of offices and storage facilities in natural history museums when doing studio visits with the MFA students at RISD in 2008.

Marisol Villanueva and I were originally in touch through Griffin Editions, who print work for Stan Gaz, one of the artists on the gallery’s roster. Villanueva works at the lab but is also a fine artist.  She signed up for a Project 5 portfolio review last year, and I made note of her work.  Then, while I was in the process of curating the group show, she had a solo exhibition at Wild Project, a venue for contemporary theater and visual art in the East Village in New York City, which prompted me to add her to the list.Copyright Lori Nix, “Lions and Tigers,” 2009, Platinum palladium   print, Courtesy of ClampArt, New York City

And back to Lori Nix. . .  I first saw Nix’s imagery in the mid-1990s when I was on the exhibitions committee at the Camera Club of New York.  We received a proposal from a young artist from Kansas whose strange photographs of disasters in America’s heartland completely entertained me.  After her exhibition at the Camera Club, I continued to keep an eye on this young photographer over the years, watching as her career continued to grow and grow.  Finally, in 2008, I had the opportunity to add Nix to ClampArt’s roster of artists, and we have exhibited her work ever since.  Her first solo show with the gallery will be this fall.

So basically, a large part of curating a group show means mining one’s memory banks and computer files for artists one has met or whose work one has been seen in years past.  However, suggestions from other artists and colleagues certainly play a large part in the process.  Group shows not only serve as an excellent way for me to test the waters with new artists and my clientele, but also to highlight simultaneously several of the photographers and painters already on my roster.