The Projection of Slideluck Potshow

Posted on: November 11th, 2009 by: Zack Seckler

I met Casey Kelbaugh in 2004, we were both budding young photographers who had recently moved to New York City. Casey would throw these parties in his apartment every few months where he would invite artists to bring their own food, drink and most importantly images of their work to share in a group slideshow. It was a novel idea and a really big hit. Over the next year or so I would notice that the parties would get bigger each time, people would be overflowing from his apartment into the street. Soon that overflow was too much and Casey and his producer Alys Kenny would have to rent out large venues in the city just to contain the crowds of people wanting to be a part of this hot new artistic event. Fast forward a couple years and now “Slideluck Potshow” is now in over 45 cities around the world. It’s been truly incredible to see this phenomenon develop and I’m particularly excited for the Fourteenth Slideluck Potshow that will be happening in New York this Friday. Lesley A. Martin, head of the book-publishing division at the Aperture Foundation, curated this show along with Casey and the list of artists includes influential names like Chuck Close and Vincent Laforet along with many emerging artists (I am flattered to mention that I am among the list of artists chosen to present their work).

This Slideluck Potshow will be at The Aperture Foundation (547 West 27th St, 4th Fl in NYC). Doors open at 7pm, show up early or buy tickets ($10) in advance.

I’ve asked Casey if he could answer a few questions about Slideluck to give everyone a deeper perspective about the genesis and future of this unique event…

What is Slideluck Potshow?One of the Slideluck Potshows. Image © Casey Kelbaugh.

Slideluck Potshow is a 501c3 that aims to build and strengthen community around food and art.  We host multimedia slideshows combined with potluck dinners in about 45 cities around the world— from Stockholm to São Paulo to San Francisco.  Each show is localized and the idea is to create a new platform for artists— primarily photographers in our case— to present work to and engage their community.  We show 5-minute slideshows of everything from fashion to still life to reportage and some of the artists are household names, while others are emerging, and some are non-professionals.

Where did the idea come from?

I started Slideluck Potshow nine years ago in my Seattle backyard with about 50 people.  My intention was, as it is now, to bring people together.  Back then, most of the photographers I knew were still working in their darkrooms and studios.  I looked around and realized that I knew so many creative people— photojournalists, ceramic artists, fashion photographers, painters, still life photographers, architects, and portrait artists— that were doing great work, but none of them knew each other.  My thinking was to bring a wide variety of creatives, who also happened to be great people, together in a positive, non-competitive and congenial way.One of the Slideluck Potshows. Image © Elizabeth Leitzell.  I felt like each genre, be it the photojournalists or the fine art photographers, was so insular and clannish and I wanted to kind of break through that.  I also felt, as I do today, that all of the channels for one to succeed in the, say, gallery/fine art world, the editorial world, or the advertising world, are so hierarchical and opportunities are hard to come by. This is such a shame because there is a lot of talent out there that is never even given a chance!  I realized that there was so much great work being produced that never sees the light of day, and I wanted to give people a chance to step out of their darkrooms, studios, or get off their computers, and let their darlings go.

Slideluck started out a small meeting of and has expanded to an international phenomenon, how did you make this happen?

Really I think by keeping with it. Our development has been so organic, and in a sense, quite slow.  We’ve made changes and such over the years, but what is probably more significant is how much we’ve kept the same.  I do think we have a lot to owe to word of mouth, the internet, and blogs like this.

Almost all of Slideluck Potshow’s growth has been by demand.  In fact, we are not physically or financially able to keep up with this demand.  At this point, we are the bottleneck.  In the last few weeks, we’ve had invitations from Boston, Manchester, Dallas, Rekjavík, Indianapolis, Florence, and Tokyo.  Some of these people are reaching out us from institutions that have the funds to bring us there, and some are individuals, or groups of individuals, that have heard about what we do and want to bring it to their community.  Our aim is to accommodate all of these requests, and we are actively doing all that we can, but being under-funded and under-staffed really makes this a challenge.

One of the Slideluck Potshows. Image © Elizabeth Leitzell.What has made Slideluck such a success?

I think what people are responding to is authenticity.  At almost every turn, we face a world that is ultimately leaves us dissatisfied because it is too commercialized, superficial, derivative, disingenuous, and predictable.  There is something very simple and affirming about getting together with a group of people, eating together, drinking together, and sharing artwork with one another. Sure, not everyone likes the potato salad or the photos of naked soldiers, but there is something thrilling about seeing what your neighbors are up to. More often than not, Slideluck can be a truly educational experience.  In a few short hours, you are exposed to so many varied and sometimes conflicting ideas, techniques, subjects, genres and approaches.  I find it fascinating to observe the incredible range of subject matter that people choose to explore and inspiring how great the possibilities are for those bold (or mad) enough to do so.

Industry heavy hitters have been known to show up at these events, any success stories of an unknown artist being “discovered” after participating in a Slideluck?

There are tons of examples of people finding reps, getting gallery shows, new clients, and even meeting their husbands/wives at our shows. One story that I found interesting, because it came from such an unexpected direction, is this:

I met Michael Foley last December at Art Basel in Miami, and he said, “Hey, I’ve been meaning to thank you!”  I was perplexed as we had never met.  He went on, “I read about what you were doing in the 2007 New York Times article and there was a sentence about the ‘audience being rapt as Jessica Dimmock’s work about heroin-users played across the screen.  I thought that sounded interesting so I approached her and asked if she’d ever considered doing a gallery show. She agreed and it ended up getting us a great review in The New Yorker, which then led to another show in DC, and eventually a book deal.  But it all started when I heard about her participating in Slideluck!”One of the Slideluck Potshows. Image © Casey Kelbaugh.

Slideluck is in dozens of cities, has an active social networking component and even a charity (the Slideluck Youth Initiative)…what’s next?

Hopefully more of the same!

Our goal is really to bring this positive, arts-appreciating, community-building initiative to as many communities as will have us.  We are exploring ways of how to feasibly accomplish this, while maintaining quality-control, and not denigrating the product that we have worked so hard to refine over many years.  Our current stumbling blocks are time and money.

We of course have tons of other ideas swirling around— publishing a book or a quarterly review, bringing the Slideluck Youth Initiative to other cities that host Slideluck Potshows, creating a lecture series, connecting artists with those that buy art, and working on shows that focus on a specific issue, in order to draw attention to it. That being said, we are taking things one step at a time.

Magazine Ads Adding Up

Posted on: November 10th, 2009 by: Zack Seckler

I came across this article in the New York Times reporting that some of the “Mass-Market” magazines are actually showing  improvements in ad sales this December compared with December ’08. The food photography industry should take note:

“One reason for those increases: food advertising. Brands like Heinz and Hellmann’s are increasing their ads, , trying to raise market share at a time when more people are cooking at home. In the third quarter, magazine advertising in every category except food declined compared with the third quarter of last year, according to Publishers Information Bureau. Ad pages about food and food products rose by 3.9 percent to 3,014 pages. “

The article has more hard numbers but it’s worth noting:

“Family Circle increased pages 12 percent, Fitness 9 percent, Ladies’ Home Journal 3 percent, and Better Homes & Gardens and More 2 percent. The December issues had huge increases at Better Homes & Gardens, where ad pages were up 42 percent to 176 pages, and Ladies’ Home Journal, where pages increased 29 percent to 123 pages.”

It’s no secret that many many magazines are suffering big-time but the light at the end of the tunnel (and let’s hope there is one) has got to start somewhere right?

What the blog?

Posted on: November 2nd, 2009 by: Zack Seckler

You may have noticed that this blog has been about as active as your 1987 slide projector tucked under the box of Polaroid film in your closet. Not to worry. The blog will be back, and in a new and better form, in the next few weeks. Stay tuned.

Zack Seckler,
Editor & Publisher

Kurt Stallaert

Posted on: November 1st, 2009 by: Zack Seckler

Written by T.K. Dalton
Edited by Jesi Khadivi

Final imageBelgian photographer Kurt Stallaert imagery is as broad as it is idiosyncratic. He shoots fine art, fashion, advertising, and more recently motion pictures. His work is united by a shadowy cheer and quirky humor in striking images. For these reasons, and because of his inexhaustible drive, his work is distinctive and has earned him dozens of major ad campaigns and from many top industry publications. Few of his images demonstrate his creative prowess and his tenacity on the set more than our featured image which was featured on the cover of Luerzer’s Archive.

Advertisements for paint companies are typically about as interesting as watching paint dry. This campaign for Belgium-based paint company Levis certainly splashed new color on the genre. Ad agency TBWA had the idea of promoting the “Fashion for Walls” concept (paint Fabric used to visualize initial shape of paint dresscolors inspired by the latest catwalk trends) somewhat literally: turn the paint into a dress. The idea was brilliant and the execution of creating the image had to be similarly brilliant or it would fall flat. Stallaert approached the project initially thinking CGI was the answer but quickly realized that that technology was best for reproducing something that already exists and that wasn’t the case here. Once the decision was made to do everything in camera he started out by putting fabric on a mannequin and blowing it in different directions with a wind machine to get an idea for basic shapes that could be made with the “paint dress.” Once he and the ad agency were happy with a shape they proceeded to get down to the dirty work.

Stallaert and his team built a basic set consisting of two Chimera soft boxes attached to one Broncolor power pack each. One soft box was placed about three feet directly above the mannequin (which was used in place of the real model ) and the other about 12 feet to the left of the camera position at about four and a half feet above the mannequin. A Hasselblad with an 80mm lens and a Phase One P45+ digital back was brought in for image capture. One of the many paint splashesAfter the gear was in place came the plastic tarp. The whole set was meticulously covered in plastic to prevent any of the splashing paint from wrecking the gear. Once the set was done came the fun part: the team proceeded to throw about 25 gallons of red paint at the mannequin as Stallaert snapped image after image of mid-air paint mayhem. The goal was to get a range of splashes that could then be melded together in Photoshop to create a whole dress. Afterwards they setup a duplicate lighting setup with a human model and created images that would be composited onto the paint dress.

The shoot went as planned and the client was happy with how things turned out but Stallaert and his creative partners at TBWA weren’t quite satisfied with the shape of the paint dress. So a week of work was scrapped to start the whole process over again. The second shoot fortunately produced a more perfectionist pleasing range of paint shapes. They used the paint images from the second shoot along with the original model shots to create the final image in Photoshop.

The amount of planning and dedication Stallaert gave to the Levis campaign is no less then what he puts into a personal project. He recently shot a big budget personal shoot based around the concept of children with large bodybuilder type bodies. He captured these Reviewing images from the shootsbeings, existent only in the world of Photoshop of course, in somewhat surreal situations—carrying each other like surfboards, oddly squeezed into a housekeeping uniform, or seated at a card table with bulging legs visible and Bicycle cards swallowed by their tan, oiled hands. The personal project began as a passion, and evolved; Stallaert says the same thing about his start in the business, which he calls typical. “You have to be a little bit lucky to get the good jobs and to make good pictures. Yet continuously, I’m looking for new techniques, new evolutions, that’s something I have to do to do all time. I don’t want to find a technique and to keep this technique for the rest of my life.”

Stallaert was interviewed by our Editor Zack Seckler about his career and his craft:

F STOP: Let’s start talking about the image we’re feAn image from Stallaert’s portfolioaturing, the Levis image how did you created this image?

Stallaert: Every year or so European paint manufacturer Levis asks a famous designer to create some special paint colors for their Fashion for Walls concept. So this ad was created to promote their new color. It was a rather difficult job for me. When I saw the layout I was immediately thinking about 3D in combination with real paint. But CGI is good to reproduce something which already exists and then mix in something new. But this was a shape which had to be invented. It’s wasn’t a good option to use CGI so I decided to shoot everything in camera. I started out using fabric to get a basic idea for shapes we could eventually create with paint. The fabric was only used as a guide to creating realistic shapes that would ultimately be made with real paint.  We used the fabric to give a rough idea to show the client what kind of shape we wanted to make and once we agreed on that then we started with paint. We used wind machines blowing into the fabric to create an elegant and natural feeling. Ultimately the fabric shapes ended up being much too simple so we threw a lot of paint also in the air with different intensities and different amounts of paint in the bottles. We also threw it on a female mannequin to see how it would look on a real person. All these little things we used to make this model.

F STOP: Tell me about the actual throwing of the paint. It must have been very messy.An image from Stallaert’s portfolio

Stallaert: It was a mess. The stage was full of paint. Lamps, lighting, everything was full of paint because you cannot control it. We threw it and then it just splashes down everywhere. We’d laid lots of plastic down, of course, but it was quite a mess.

F STOP: The main part of the ‘paint-dress’ is so smooth especially where her thigh and leg area is how did you accomplish that?

Stallaert: It’s almost one shot.

F STOP: Really?

Stallaert: Yeah. The middle part is almost one shot and then you have little parts that are left when it came out of the can. The left and the right side are little splashes but the middle is almost one shape.

F STOP: Why do you think you were chosen to do this project by the ad agency?

Stallaert: I am somebody who jumps into a project and just goes for it, and I am not happy when it is not good enough. This project we had to go as far as we could. It was quite a hard job. In the beginning we had another shape we created for the paint dress and after retouching the client was already happy but neither the creative team nor I were happy so we had to restart everything. It was almost one week’s work for nothing. They didn’t like that a lot, but now they are very happy they restarted it. I have a good feel for sensual An image from Stallaert’s portfolioimages that are not too perfect. My images are not too retouched. We do a lot of retouching but I’m not the kind of photographer that’s going to make images look too retouched. This is an image that has a natural feel to it, it’s not too perfect. I do not like images that are too perfect, I don’t feel that they are realistic.

F STOP: How did you achieve that not too perfect look?

Stallaert: We left in little imperfections, not perfectly smooth areas, shadows that don’t look perfect. Like under the hands to the right, those types of dark imperfect areas. If it was perfect it would look more fluid and more uniform. But here you feel that it’s realistic. I didn’t want to make the shape exactly like a woman’s body either so that you body takes away attention from the overall look. Under the breasts you feel her shape much more, but I didn’t want to do it everywhere because then it becomes too easy. This had to be more elegant and fashionable without being too sexy.

F STOP: Let’s talk about how you started off as a photographer.

Stallaert: Like a lot of photographers, I suppose, it was a hobby. I think you have to be a little bit lucky to get the good jobs and to make good pictures. It’s still a passion, photography. I never feel like I am working. Yet continuously, I’m looking for new techniques, new evolutions, that’s something I have to do all the time. I don’t want to find a technique and to keep this technique for the rest of my life. Photography is an evolution and that’s what I like.An image from Stallaert’s portfolio

F STOP: Now when you say techniques, what are some of the techniques that you are referring to? Are you talking about lighting or retouching…?

Stallaert: It’s a combination of everything. In general I adapt my technique, my lighting and my feel of the idea. Especially when I am shooting for advertising. The idea is most important and then the picture has to explain the idea as well as possible. What is quite important in advertising is that you work in the fashion of the work and the client and not in the fashion of what you want to do yourself. I have pro bono for that and my artistic work for that. When I am working for a client it’s a combination of working together with the creative.

F STOP: The Levis campaign we’ve featured was done for the European market, which many observe is quite different from the US market. Do you think your imagery translate well a to American advertising?

Stallaert: I think my images are quite creative and not very classic. I have the impression that the American market is a little more classic.

F STOP: Now what do you mean by classic? Do you mean conservative?

Stallaert: Maybe a little less humour, more…

F STOP: More obvious humour?An image from Stallaert’s portfolio

Stallaert: Yeah I think so.

F STOP: So I want to ask you a bit about your television work, how did you get into that?

Stallaert: It started from a client that wanted to shoot stills and film. I proposed to do the film portion and they agreed to give me a shot. It was not a very difficult job as I am used to directing a lot of my models. It is completely different though. You work with a bigger team, a lot more people who have influence on the project.

F STOP: Did you feel like the technical side was fairly similar to shooting stills.

Stallaert: Yeah the camera the lights, that’s something I understand. I see if it’s good or not and I can ask to change it, it’s very much like working as a photographer. I tell my assistants how I want the light and they make those changes.

F STOP: Earlier in our conversation you mentioned how people are almost always in your images. What is it that you like about photographing people?

Stallaert: I think it is the human contact. When they ask me to make a still life shot, even for a simple thing, I am even more stressed then when they ask me to shoot several people together.

F STOP: What images are your most proud of in your career thus far?

Stallaert: The bodybuilders series in my personal work is my favourite because I like the feel of the images and the subject matter. The images are in normal situations, it’s not a An image from Stallaert’s portfoliobodybuilder flexing on a stage, it’s something more realistic. These are some of the first images I’ve created that I’d like to put in my living room. It’s not easy to make an that I’d like to look at everyday.

F STOP: How did you create the bodybuilder images?

Stallaert: First, like usual, I’m looking for good locations, good casting, perfect styling. Once all of that is together on the shoot day I first put the bodybuilders in place and photographed them in certain positions. Then I put the children in the same place. My camera didn’t move when we were shooting so it was easy to composite the children over the bodybuilders’ bodies. I used a combination of daylight and artificial lighting.

F STOP: How long does it take you to create a project like the bodybuilders?

Stallaert: The idea took me the longest. I had several ideas and I of course only want to use the strongest idea. Once I have the idea finalized it can go quite fast. I think it was done in one month.  I was looking for locations, checking locations, checking people, casting, checking stylists. I was lucky because my production company which I use quite a lot was helping me with all of this. So they did location huntinAn image from Stallaert’s portfoliog and then I checked everything. The shooting was during two days and then retouching for four or five days, almost one week. It is quite expensive, but I really wanted to do it and make it right. I enjoy investing in my own projects. The feeling I get when people buy my images, it’s so special to feel they really like my personal work and vision. I am not thinking in a commercial way when I am making my own images, instead it’s a little bit like a musician making his own music.

To see more of Stallaert’s work visit his website.