lunes, 27 de diciembre de 2010

THE DAY I SAW JAMES HETFIELD SMILING IN THE BACKSEAT // A SHORT STORY WRITTEN BY JESUS RODRIGUEZ

Photograph taken from the web / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

Today it’s December 27th. Merry Christmas everyone! I’ve been checking my email and some folks have been asking me to write some kind of Xmas special for the blog. I’ve been asked to write any anecdote or funny story that happened to me as a photojournalist.

I built up this blog to write about the work of photographers I really admire but I guess it would be nice to share an anecdote with you friends so you can get to know me better. So, I hope y´all like it. He we go!

THE DAY I SAW JAMES HETFIELD SMILING IN THE BACKSEAT

As soon as I step into the so-called "Third Press-van" I know it´s gonna be a long trip. Not because it is rush hour in Caracas, or because the drivers of the white vans (there are three of them) are standing away from the vehicles receiving instructions from a 19 years old girl who thinks she´s the queen of the galaxy. It is because I’ve been sent to a van where some (not all of them) passengers are known for their big egos, rather than for their work.

The so-called "bad boys reporters" of music and entertainments are chattering loud and clear about some groups they discovered on youtube. Serge Gainsbourg is singing loud in my IPod but I can´t remember if he is singing “Initials BB” or “L'Homme A Tete De Chou”. I move carefully to not touch or throw some TV cameras and cokes inconveniently placed along the corridor and I finally make my way to the nearest seat available. Seated next to me, a photographer I’ve met probably 3 years ago welcomes me and we shake hands. After some daily bases questions, such as "how you doing?" / "what camera did you brought today?" / "do you work this weekend?" and "Hey, I saw you on TV taking a photo in the National Assembly or was it covering a riot?" I feel more comfortable in the Van.

I realize that a freelance reporter for the Latin American issue of the Rolling Stone Magazine is seated in front of me (That´s what he says). The reporter starts yakking about U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jimi Hendrix, Pete Townshend, John Frusciante, Jack White, Meg White, Shakira and some others guitars players, he is sounding off like he had read all this stuff the night before. I can hear the last lyrics of “Five Years” by David Bowie and I turn down the volume. I try to start a conversation with the photographer next to me, asking him about a photo he took a couple of days ago that I recently saw published in the newspaper, but the rolling stone guy keeps yakking to the whole Van about U2. He giggles as he ask; -"how come everyone likes U2?. U2 is like one of those bands that everyone loves even when they don´t know why!" he laughs and acts like he´s thinking waiting for an answer. Some people laugh and others ignore him brutally. A few seconds later I can hear one of the drivers whistling and calling the other two drivers. It´s almost 6 o´ clock and I want to get out of the Eastside. I’m about to see one of my all times favorite band and I don´t want to be late.

Mick Jagger from The Rolling Stones (ironically) sings “Well, You´ve got your diamonds / and you´ve got your pretty clothes (…) But don´t play with me, ´Cause you´re playing with fire”. I hardly hear another joke from the Rolling Stone reporter and I can think of an obvious nickname for him; The Comedian. Unfortunately, the song is too short and I catch the intro of his next joke. Randomly I skip a few songs and I can hear Chick Corea and Bella Fleck having fun playing “Mountain”.

I get out the Van and I find out we´re not even close to leave. I looked up to the sky and I can see it´s about to rain and I grumble because I don’t want the weather to take part of the event today. As I’m standing in the street, next to the van, I say hi to some colleagues I’ve met over these 3 or 4 years I’ve been working as a photojournalist and we shake hands. A Production assistant brings a box of cold cokes and water and I reach out for a cold coke, while the guys inside the van do the same. I can feel the raindrops falling in my arms and I cover my two cameras and the big 300mm 2.8 lens I’m carrying in my shoulders as fast as I can. I stay under a small tree next to the van and drink my coke slowly. After a while I realize it´s gonna take some more time to get out of this parking lot.


The "press guys" or the people responsible of coordinating this whole thing are expecting more people to come, some friends (I guess) and some other photographers and reporters. People get tired of waiting in the van and they get out to breathe some fresh air. The raindrops are all gone by now and I’m still under the same tree when I see the so-called "photographer of the moment" approaching to the third van. "Mr. Exclusive" or Mister "I-make-miracles-happen" takes a look around and after he sees me he remains in the same spot for maybe minutes checking his cell phone or pretending to. I´ve never been in a fight with another photographer or anything like that but I can´t remember why he doesn´t say hi to me.

Others photographers apparently get tired of the van and they all come out from the first and second van to talk. They all see me and say hi to me and I shake hands with most of them. After a while, a circle is formed and Mr. "Exclusive" is hesitating about taking part of it or not. I decide to get out of the comfort zone of the tree and I walk in their direction. Mister Exclusive joins the circle as well and i say hi to him while he replies with no particular expression in his face.


-Hey man! - says one photographer to Mr. Exclusive with a twinkle in his eyes. –I turn down the volume of my IPod for a good reason; Boston is singing “More than a feeling”.
-I couldn´t believe it was you on the news last week man! –says the photographer amazed. He waits for a response that never comes. Then he adds-: You, in the middle of that mess, taking those photos man like a crazy!. I watched you on TV, and later I checked it out on youtube man, it was awesome! - He waits again for a response-. Mr. Exclusive looks to his left, up to the horizon acting like he is about to say something big, he takes a big breath and laughing out of guilt he says; “It was me!”. -He smiles and raises his hands like a Southern preacher. 3 seconds passes and he finally adds; “It was a mess dude”.


I have no idea what they´re talking about. I haven´t heard about any riot or any looters running around across the city in these last weeks, but I finally get the joke when one of them talk about the band korn and the concert they performed in Caracas some time ago. By the time I try to remember what I’ve read about that concert, I notice they already changed the topic. Now the “miracles maker” brags about how many magazines are going to buy the pictures his going to take tonight at the Metallica concert. I turn up the volume and I listen to Otis Redding singing; “Rock me baby” and he says something like: “Roll me Baby / Roll me like a wagon wheel, no / Keep on rollin´, rollin´”.
And I wonder if we ever are going to leave this parking lot.


The Queen of the galaxy, a blonde, brown eyed and pail cheeks kind of girl with an intergalactic silver belt, starts asking everyone to get in the van because it´s almost 6 o´clock and we´re behind schedule. Everyone do as they told, probably because some people saw her kind of “talking” to the bus drivers before and I find quickly myself seated behind the Comedian, who is yakking this time about the last concerts he attended. He throws away a few names I’ve never heard of and he finally says that the last concert he attended was performed by Carlos Santana and no one seems to be surprised. The photographer seated next to me tells out loud his experience covering that concert and even when I also covered Santana and I took -what I consider a good photograph of “Devadip”, a nickname given to him for his former Guru Sri Chinmoy- I don´t feel like joining the conversation and I let it pass.
Devadip means “"The lamp, light and eye of God".


We leave the parking lot and as soon as the van is on the road the driver turns up the volume and we all can hear some vallenato, a Colombian popular folk music. Some self-proclaimed journalists of rock and roll yell at him and ask him to change the music. One of them, who didn´t have the courtesy to buy an original Album of Metallica, hands over a burned copy of the last album of the boys from L.A. called "Death Magnetic".


The driver grumbles and kills us all with his eyes, but he put the record on anyway. Death magnetic starts and everyone seems to have a rock hard erection for Metallica. Suddenly everyone is a hardcore fan and my years as a child listening Metallica in my sister´s bedroom seems to mean nothing compared to this excitement.
For a brief moment I remember my sister when she was about 14 years old telling me that she loves Metallica but beyond the music itself, she really likes the way James Hetfield calls us “friends”. I wake up from this daydream by the time Iggy Pop finishes abruptly “I´m Bored” and my IPod is going out of battery.


I try not to fall asleep. I’ve been working since 8am and I listen (barely, because Dylan is loudly starting “To be alone with you”) a senior journalist talking to some colleagues about some radio shows. I think I met him probably a couple of years ago and I notice that even when I know he isn´t a Metallica fan, he seems to know about a lot about Metallica or more than some of the prima donnas seated in front of me. The only thing is that he isn´t bragging about what he knows. I take off my headphones and the van is quieter than I remember. A couple of girls, probably between 21 and 25 and obviously fans of john Mayer, are shaking his heads trying to follow the sound of “My Apocalypse”, the tenth song of Death Magnetic and the last one. I pull out my phone and I try to text my sister to tell her that this is the day I finally will see Metallica live, but while I’m writing an income call from a photographer I met probably 3 and a haft years ago interrupt me.


I barely talk to him because “My Apocalypse” is in the best and heaviest part. After He hears me saying "what?? And "come again?" again and again it´s pretty clear that we can´t really have a conversation. I put my cell phone back in my pocket and I totally forget to text my sister. I notice that we actually are pretty close and I take my headphones back on. Queens of the Stone Age welcome me with a song and I keep humming it until the van suddenly stops. I look through the window and I can see probably about 6 or 7 police motorcycles, plus a couple of blue fellas with mean faces ordering the bus driver to pull over away from the road.


The bus driver grumbles for the second time in the day and does his best to pull over away but he doesn´t have space to do so and he stays almost in the same spot. 3 black S.U.V(s) are passing by fast and furious and a couple of more motorcycles of the military police do the same. The photographer next to me is still talking to the yakker and I have to move to keep my eyes outside watching whatever is happening outside the van. Suddenly a lonely motorcycle passes by and later another black (but not as fast as the others) SUV passes by with the back seat window rolled down and I can see clearly Mister James Hetfield smiling in the back seat. His arm is resting in the window while he seems to be enjoying the view. For a brief moment he looks at the van and I can see his sunglasses reflecting the dying sun light in the city. He smiles again even when I’m pretty sure he can´t see inside the van and he turns his back letting me see his red and green casual plaid short sleeve shirt that reminds me the perfect outfit for rock stars.
The SUV leaves me biting the imaginary dust and some stupid asked loud and surprising "was that Metallica? I mean...James? -Everyone ignores him and I feel speechless.


We finally get into the backstage and the "press guys" ask us to do a line in order to enter to the small set built for the press conference. We do as they told and because I’m one of the first to enter inside the improvised room, I find a nice place between two grumpy cameramen that can´t see the time to get the hell out of this place. A translator announces herself as the moderator for the occasion. She speaks Spanish with some mixed accent I can´t tell, an accent between Mexican and Argentine. She ask the journalists to not ask the band questions about napster, the last time they were in Venezuela (she says they probably don´t remember anything), Jason Newsted and pirated or burned Metallica albums. Most of the people ignore her accent and 10 minutes passes until I see Kirk (far away) drinking some kind of tea just before he shows up with the other guys to start the press conference.


Robert Trujillo seems to be really relaxed as he walks in, while Lars, wearing sunglasses, takes a look around before he finally seats. I can see that James changed his shirt and he is wearing a black t-shirt now. Kirk looks kind of like a surfer but with some features of a spiritual guy or something like it. A journalist asked a stupid question about Metallica using some kind of strategy to not make a new album in 9 years. One of the guys says; “What´s she trying to say?” and Lars replies to all of us but specially to her saying; “what she´s saying is that it takes us nine years to get out of the bed” and we all laugh at her stupidity. After 20 minutes the press conference is over, the guys stand up for the photographs and I don´t have time to change my lens, so I improvise with what I got. I watch them leave the room and I check the photos I took during the press conference as I hear Mr. Exclusive SAYING; "LOOK WHAT I GOT!...something, isn´t it?" a couple of times to others photographer while he shows his photos to them.

Photograph taken by Jesus Rodriguez / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

The journalists are talking to each others about the attitude of Metallica and sharing some quotes and comparing notes while the grumpy cameraman in my right is picking up some cables and murmurs something I can´t hear clear enough. The other in my left side sighs and adds seconds later; "Metallicaaaaa" but I can´t tell if he is saying that because he is a fan or because he thinks they are "a bunch of losers" like Jeffrey Lebowski said in the 1998 movie "The Big Lebowski".


I walk away from the cameramen and Mr. Exclusive put his camera in my face repeating the same thing; "LOOK WHAT I GOT...something, isn´t it?". I honestly don´t have an answer to his question and because I’m still thinking about the movie, I end up quoting “The Dude” and I say to him; "yeah man, it really ties the room together". The “Miracle maker” doesn´t understand the joke and he walks away to show other people his photos.


All the cameramen are shutting down their light sets and the room is now getting dark. I walk out and I find outside 4 or 5 photographers I didn´t see in the parking lot. I walk to them and as soon as they see me, one of them says; "ohhh!! Wait, wait!" - The rest remain in silent- "Mr. Omnipresence is in the house!". Everyone laugh and I reply; "well, That´s pretty much the benefits of being a correspondent here man!". One of them adds; "that! Or the benefits of being an exploited photographer". -Everyone laughs again-. I come closer and I say; "well my friend...(I make a pause to create a bit of suspense) in my position I’ve been able to share my days with rich people, poor people, presidents, musicians, actors, writers, politicians, babies, models, homeless people, thieves and a bunch of other people. I´ve seen the face of this society fellas. -Would you change that for... (everyone is looking at me and I add with a funny French accent) being all day with the crème of the crème, attending playboy house parties, photographing hot babes, picking up girls you don´t know and later make out with them and finally...if you don´t have enough, there is always a night event you can attend with no invitation at all, (because your camera is your ticket! -I add whispering) and drink all the whiskey and wine you can handle for free "all you can eat-kind of style" and...Let´s not forget...let´s not forget! Every aspiring actress in town will want a piece of you. So... (Everyone acts like they´re considering what I’ve just said) so I ask again; -Would you change my experiences for this? -One of them says; "my life is boring man, I totally would!" and we all laugh.


The music is extremely loud and we are standing at the right side of the stage. Some dj is putting rock and roll music with no particular order at all. It seems to me that rock and roll isn´t his favorite music but he had to take the job to make some bucks. I can barely hear the photographer who called me "Mr. Omnipresence" trying to explain to my colleagues why he calls me that way and I try to find a bathroom looking over everybody’s head (unsuccessful). After a while, the others finally get the joke (about me covering all kind of assignments and occasionally being seen on TV photographing models, actresses, presidents, street riots or anything at all) and I say; I guess everyone´s nicknames are rising up to the surface tonight, eh?!. One of them asks me why I say that and because I don´t feel like explaining that, I pretend I don´t hear him.


I can hear the dj turning up the volume of AC-DC´s classic song: For those about to rock. It’s a live version, probably from the 1991 Donington concert. One of the "Press guys" yells "Everybody! Follow me" and I feel like an actor in “The Messenger: The story of Joan of Arc”, being directed by Luc Besson and all. I sing "we roll tonight… to the guitar bite" as I walk behind my colleagues. I approach the so-called "leader" or "organizer" or whatever and I ask him if there is a bathroom or something I can go before the concert starts. The “Joan of Arc wane-be” has the balls to tell me that there is no time for a bathroom break. I look at him for a couple of seconds killing him with my eyes and look over and I find a bathroom way ahead of us. -There is one! I say to him. -He says that if I go I’ll be probably left out from the group and I won´t be able to walk into the front of the stage to take photos of Metallica.


The song is finishing and I know how it ends. Joan of Arc looks at me waiting for me to say "I can wait". Instead, I yell at the same time of Brian Johnson; "Fireeeeee!". I get into the bathroom while I can see him turning his back mad!.


By the time I get out the bathroom I hear the drums beats from "Welcome to the jungle" and the voice of Axel making wild the crowd. I walk to the line of photographers and cameramen and not much had happened since I left. A roadie put his flashlight in our faces to check our credentials. He yells something like: "Ok! Guys, you have 3 songs to take your photos, and you guys (pointing at the cameramen) you can record only the first song. And after the 3th song, you guys have to leave, no more photos allowed". –“None of them speaks English!” Says Joan of Arc laughing. "I´ll tell them what you said" says the stupid. The roadie nods and Joan repeats everything in Spanish. Most of the guys ignore him or don´t hear him because of the voice of Axel screaming "Yeahhhhhhhhh".


The red light of the roadie´s walkie-talkie starts flashing. I can see it because everything is as dark as it gets in this kind of situation. No one seems to care but quickly I prepare my two cameras. One of them, the oldest doesn´t want to turn on, I freak out. I try again to turn it on unsuccessfully. I have to remove the lens and I forget about this back stabber cameras. The other one is working fine and I put the lens I removed inside my right pocket. My camera is ready to rock and roll and the roadie come closer and say to us; "guys, go ahead, enjoy!".

Photograph taken by Jesus Rodriguez / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

Apparently some guy kicked out the dj and I can start hearing the wonderful intro every fan of Metallica would recognize in a second; “L'Estasi dell'Oro” / The Ecstasy of Gold. One of my favorites musical compositions by Ennio Morricone. Images of the movie The Good, The Bad and The Ugly are in the big screens placed at the sides of the scenario. The people start to scream and my heart starts beating faster. At this moment I can´t see anything, not even my own hand in this darkness but I can feel my camera and that´s what counts. My ears feel the noise from the big speaker in front of me as someone screams “METALLICAAAAA” so loud that I can hear it even this close to the stage. The show is about to begin and I think to myself; my goodness… all this years...


Lars comes out of nowhere! I can see him screaming and probably cursing for maybe a second on top of his drums. Faster than a bullet he seats and the music starts. A blast of sound shakes me and blows my mind. I try to get my things together and stay emotionally cold to be able to do my job right, but while I’m at it, I can see James running wild in my direction with his guitar shining (probably because of the lights properly placed in the stage) and he starts to screams something I can´t even translate in my coolest time. I interpret it as a "long time no see friends" but I know He probably just made a face. Robert Trujillo walks into me as a spider rocking his bass guitar like a caveman and I can´t believe my eyes and I try to find Mr. Hammett quickly. I can see him playing an insane solo, a “face melting solo” with the energy of the universe.


The drums are so loud and strong that my dead camera shakes against my stomach. I check my good camera before I start shooting and Mister Hetfield welcomes us saying; "Caracassssssssss". CREAPING DEATH sounds so loud that I think every newspaper and all the magazines covering this concert should write the whole article is CAPITAL LETTERS. I shoot some photos and I realize the ISO is kind of high. I adjust it as fast as I can and I work on the proper speed. James is moving insanely fast and so are the rest of the guys. I walk fast to the right to take some photos of Kirk but I don´t stay too much time there because a lot of photographers are at that spot pushing each other. I move to the left to where Robert Trujillo is and after I take some snaps I decide to change the lens. It’s time for the "Fatso" I think to myself. I put the 300mm 2.8 lens, a heavy weight lens, and I take some really close up photos of Trujillo shaking his head as a maniac, as a real rocker!.

Photographs taken by Jesus Rodriguez / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

James stays in front the mic and I can see his tattoos with this lens. I shoot some more photos of James with the “Fatso” and I sing along James: "Now / Let my people go / Land of Goshen / I will be with thee / Bush of fire / ALLRIGHT!

By the time Metallica finish his first song, it passed 7 minutes and 52 seconds since the whole thing started. James quickly says: "Caracas...Metallica is with you!". -Lars hits the drums loud and “For whom the bell tolls” begins. I’m having troubles changing the lens, I can barely see where they are and the weight of the “Fatso” is making my work a little harder. I search in my pocket and I pick up the 18-55mm lens. There haven´t been an opportunity when James and Kirk are playing together and that´s one of the photos I’m looking for. Everyone is playing on their own space and dedicating every moves to the audience that it´s getting wilder and wilder. "Take a look to the sky / Just Before you die / It´s the last time you will" screams James and the house lights are off for a second. Once the lights are on again I can see the roadie checking us out. The cameramen are already coming out and he is making sure no photographer is recording anything. He looks at me and I nod at him, but he doesn´t seem to care about me.


I look at the stage again and James is next to Kirk playing and laughing together. I take a few pics and the caveman Trujillo is acting like a spider again. I look at him, enjoying the performance for a while before I take a couple of photos. Next to me, there are probably 10 or 15 photographers walking and moving like crazies in the dark, trying to get the best shot. I remember I got to take a good photo for the first page and it should be a vertical one. I get as close as I can from James and I wait for the opportunity. James is moving across the stage until he stops in the center and after some lyrics he sings madly he pick up the microphone and aims it to the audience. I take the photo I needed right there.

Photographs taken by Jesus Rodriguez / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

“For Whom the Bell tolls” ends with intensity and James says; "GIMME FUEL! GIMME FIRE, GIMME THAT WHICH I DESIRE!- OH!". I remember for a brief moment my sister singing that song in her bedroom, my friend Juan singing that song in college, my friend mike complaining about that song, myself singing it this morning on my way to work. I take more photos and I realize I already have enough for the newspaper and for my own ambition, so I decide to watch the guys for a while. "Burn baby burn" says James and Kirk makes an awesome guitar solo. "Burn Baby Burn!" says James again and I notice that time flew and this is the end of the song.


The roadie is there taking out the photographers and I take a few last pictures. The roadie kills me with his eyes and I nod at him again but now I know he doesn´t care at all. "Thank you guys!" says to us while he is walking with us to the closest exit and I can hear James saying; "Hola Caracasss! -He pauses-. It´s good to finally be back! Did you miss us? -People scream-. He adds; "Oh we missed you too! Were you here the last time?-People scream “YEAHH!”-. I guess he points out a guy in the crowd and says; "No, you´re too young!" and later he laughs.


Once we all are outside Joan of Arc tells us that if we want to stay and enjoy the concert we need to get rid of out photograph and video equipment. We all agree like school boys being instructed by the teacher and we go to the van we shared on our way to the concert. I leave my cameras and lens in my seat and Joan of Arc tell me that I have to come back in 30 minutes or the van is going to leave without me. I nod and say; “If you got to go…colleague!” as I accept the fact I don´t have any other choice. I come back faster than the speed of sound to the concert. 30 minutes passes and after a tear I dropped in one of my favorite songs is dried, I go back to the white van that takes us away from the show. This time I seat next to the driver, I don´t feel like talking and I can see everyone is checking their photos in their cameras. Even the grumpy cameramen are watching the video they recorded. I check the hour in my cell phone. It’s almost midnight and I watch the road getting as dark as it gets in this kind of situation. I watch the driver, who is getting sleepy and I make myself comfortable in the “co-pilot” seat. I close my eyes.


I wake up in the same parking lot where it all began. The music stopped. Ball´s over.

Photos taken by Jesus Rodriguez published on the newspaper / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

Happy New Year Amigos!
Take care!

Bye!
Written by Jesus Rodriguez
Feel free to comment!
jrphotojournalist@gmail.com

martes, 23 de noviembre de 2010

On How Street Photographer Wee gee sold out his friend Arthur Fellig for the pleasure of voyeurism (...)

*Original title: On How Street Photographer Wee gee sold out his friend Arthur Fellig for the pleasure of voyeurism, some taste of raw street frenzy and an unlimited membership to New York finest late night space odyssey.

Photograph taken by Wee-gee / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

Arthur Fellig, better known as “Wee-gee” or “Wee-gee the famous”, was a loner. I know it´s not the best way to start this story, but what I found fascinating about this guy was exactly that! Whether you like it or not, that´s a price not every photographer is willing to pay with a smile on the face, right? And to be honest, I think that “lone ranger” kind of life was a key factor for his success in photography. And you can see it in his photographs.

Photograph taken by Wee-gee / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

The day I met (or heard about Wee-Gee for the first time) I was kind of feeling pretty lonely. An old friend of mine showed me a book titled “Wee-gee (Aperture Masters of Photography)” and immediately I felt intimidated for the pictures and the stories inside every frame. Intimidated? Yeah, of course! Not everyone got that cold raw nerve to be like him.

Book and Photograph taken by Wee-gee / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

Photograph taken by Wee-gee / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

I remember I thought, how the hell didn’t I know about this photographer before? - Wee-gee´s photos made me an impression I couldn’t forget. I felt an instant bond with that guy. I understood why some folks don’t find his photos valuable or even “civilized”, (it might takes a few looks to process the whole thing for some people) but I felt a great affection for all the people he photographed, completely outsiders, out of the “decent society” or off the books of the bourgeoisie.

Photograph taken by Wee-gee / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

Some folks said Wee-gee used to photograph only freaks or “damaged merchandise”, but I didn´t mind being considered damaged merchandise if it meant a lifetime membership to the Wee-gee´s club. And I haven´t changed my mind since then.

Photograph taken by Wee-gee / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

Fellig's nickname was a phonetic rendering of the famous game the Ouija. I’m pretty sure not only he wanted to sounds off interesting but also mysterious. Wee-gee was known for being present at the hot scenes only minutes after the crimes, fires or other emergencies were reported to proper authorities.

Photographs taken by Wee-gee / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

Of course, a good magician never reveals his tricks to anyone but later on it was known that in 1938 Wee-gee was the only New York reporter/photographer with a legal permit to have a portable police-band shortwave radio (what a great advantage! Some colleagues said). But that wasn’t the only card Wee-gee had to beat out the competition, he built up a darkroom in the trunk of his car to make sure to deliver all his photos on time to newspapers, ain’t that something?

Photographs taken by Wee-gee / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

There are some allegations that some photos were staged and some ex-fans are criticizing all the juxtapositions they found brilliant, but it´s up to you to believe whatever you want to believe. What I can say is that Wee-gee was a self-taught photographer with a basic plan; (basic press photographer equipment) + (4x5 Speed Graphic camera) + (f/16) + (1/200) + (flashbulbs) + (a set focus distance of ten feet). Needless to say, this equation never failed.

Photographs taken by Wee-gee / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

The fame and work of Wee-gee was not only for the pleasures of tabloids and readers, some filmmakers lined up to be his fans as well. One of them was a young and promising New Yorker man named…Stanley Kubrick.

Photograph taken by Wee-gee / Stanley Kubrick setting up a shot/ Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

Stanley Kubrick was very influenced by the work of Wee-gee in his first films. The filmmaker admired him so much that later on, he asked him to be the still photographer and also a special effects advisor (uncredited) for his movie Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb].

Photograph taken by Wee-gee / set of the movie Dr. Strangelove. / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

New York Times critic Holland Cotter called Wee-gee the photographer "who first made night a symbol, an existential condition." And some say Wee-gee was the first “poet of the night” for embracing a viewer’s desire for both experiencing; the grotesque action and being a part of the crowd.

The master himself, Wee-gee the Famous / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

If you like to watch films, you should watch the movie The Public Eye, with Joe Pesci as a 1940´s tabloid photographer who has a police radio in his car. Sounds familiar? IMDB trivia notes state that some of Wee-gee's photographs are shown in the film (as having been taken by Pesci's character).

Promotional poster of The public eye, a movie based on photographer Wee-gee / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

If you like big stars, like Jude Law, in the 2002 film Road to perdition he portrayed a crime scene photographer based on Wee-gee. Some photographs of Wee-gee were used in the film as well.

Photograph of a scene of the movie Road to Perdition. Harlen Maguire, a character loosely based on photographer Wee-gee / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

And, if you are a fan of the TV series The X-Files, you probably didn´t miss the chance to watch an episode where agent Dana Scully is assigned to work with a crime scene photographer named “Alfred Fellig” whose subjects may in fact be his victims.

Photograph of a scene of tv series The X-files. Character Alfred Fellig is loosely based on photographer Wee-gee / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

And finally, if your thing is music, well, you can check out George Michael's second solo album "Listen without Prejudice" which features a Wee-gee photo on the cover.

Photograph taken by Wee-gee used on the George Michael second album / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

So, I hope you're now more excited to keep learning more to Wee-gee, check out the official site or buy a book, you´ll really enjoy it!

Photograph taken by Wee-gee / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

Take good care amigos, See you on the road!


Bye!
Written by Jesus Rodriguez
Feel free to comment!
jrphotojournalist@gmail.com

lunes, 25 de octubre de 2010

Stanley Kubrick: the youngest photographer to be called a "veteran" or how the world gave birth the first “visual poet”.

Self-portrait of Stanley Kubrick with a Leica III/ Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

Stanley Kubrick for a long time was just a filmmaker for me. I’m pretty sure that to a lot of people he still is just “that”. But way back in my college years I found out that he wasn’t just the greatest filmmaker for me, he once was a boy wandering in New York City with a camera, and guess what? He was a freelance photojournalist.


Photographs taken by Stanley Kubrick / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.


But being a photojournalist ain´t exactly a walk in the park. Everyone can buy a camera and take pictures, that´s for sure, but to cross from amateur skills to the PRO status, well… that’s something everyone ain´t willing to do.

Stanley Kubrick was born on July 26, 1928 in New York City. His father brought him a camera when he was 13 years old and from that moment on he developed almost an obsession and fascination for still photography. Needless to say, once he learnt how to use his camera, he was the official photographer for his High School for a year.

Photographs taken by Stanley Kubrick / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

He also made some contacts and sold various photos to Look Magazine while he was trying to make some money playing chess in New York. But it wasn’t until 1946 that he became officially a photography apprentice at the Magazine and later a full time staff photographer. A remarkable achievement for such a young man.

Self-portrait of Stanley Kubrick / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

At some point Kubrick knew that cinema was somehow his truly passion. Photography was sort of like a vehicle to him to improve his technical perfectionism (which the audience was about to enjoy a few years later) but what I think Kubrick really understood right behind the camera, right there as a photojournalist, was basically how to make or find his own visual style and from there he started to work deeply in elements in photography that depends entirely on the photographer, such as the light or absence of it, composition and what I consider his recurrent theme, and most important; the search for a subject that truly matters to him and through that show a palette of human characteristic such as emotions, fears, frustration, bravery, hope, sadness and joy.

Photographs taken by Stanley Kubrick / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.
*This picture of a newspaper vendor reacting to Roosevelt's death was considered the one that turned the amateur photographer into pro. Kubrick sold it for 25$ to Look Magazine. Years later, according to some people, Kubrick said he staged the photo.

One of Kubrick´s heroes was "the eccentric tabloid" Arthur Fellig, known as "Weegee". Weegee usually often arrive at crime scenes before the NYPD. He was well known for his "shocking photos" but certainly he was a one of the greatest photographers at seizing the unguarded moment, which was awesome for a new photographer like Kubrick. It´s no surprise to know that this maybe was one of the first influences on Kubrick, who "emulated his patience and invisibility, spending hours on the subway surreptitiously photographing fellow passengers, or quietly capturing the apprehension of toothache sufferers in a dentist's waiting room".

First picture: Portrait of Photographer Weegee /second: Photograph taken by Weegee/ Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

His film career and how he started is a matter for a new post, but I tell you that once he felt the need to start making motion pictures, he began frequenting film screenings at the museum of modern art and of course, watching movies at the cinemas in New York.

Photographs taken by Stanley Kubrick / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

Pretty much all his work as a photojournalist for Look Magazine has been published in the book Drama and Shadows released in 2005 by Phaidon Press. But also, if you are a Kubrick fan, you can check out some of the special features on the special edition on DVD of 2001: A space Odyssey, not only you´ll be purchasing a cult movie but also you´ll find out more about what I’m writing here.

Cover photo of book Drama and Shadows / Photographs taken by Stanley Kubrick / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

Here are a few more samples of Stanley Kubrick´s work as a photojournalist for Look Magazine:


Photographs taken by Stanley Kubrick / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

And finally, if you like Charlie Rose and Stanley Kubrick, what better video than this? i let you a round table interview with Martin Scorsese, Christiane Kubrick, Stanley Kubrick´s widow, producer Jan Harlan and some clips of the documentary Stanley Kubrick: A life in pictures.




On my next post, i will talk about Arthur Fellig. Better known as Weegee... the famous street photography of crime scenes and emergencies, but he also made photographs of social events in New York, for those of you who don´t like that kind of stuff :-)

I hope you liked it! see you on the road amigos! take care of yourselves!

Bye!
Written by Jesus Rodriguez
Feel free to comment!
jrphotojournalist@gmail.com


jueves, 7 de octubre de 2010

My Multimedia projects are uploaded!

Screenshot /Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.
Hi fellas!

Usually, i don´t post here anything related to my own photojournalism work, but now that i joined Vimeo, a great site for videos, i let you know that i uploaded 3 multimedia projects i made a few months ago, and finally, yes finally!! are online!

i know this blog is a place where i share experiences and i talk about photography from a personal anecdotal point of view, but since this is my first upload in Vimeo, and ive never been posting my own work, i just thought it would be nice to share it with you friends!

These multimedia projects are very different from each other. one is about a dancer, a young dancer working and teaching tango lessons in Caracas.
The second project is about a street Preacher, an unique "teacher of god´s word" and the last one is a long term project i made with photographs i took from 2006 to 2010. Its basically a journal that shows part of the public life of the Venezuelan President Chavez.

You can click on the screenshot to check them out! or click here!

Well, i hope you enjoy those videos!

See you on the road Amigos!


Bye!
Written by Jesus Rodriguez
Feel free to comment!
jrphotojournalist@gmail.com

domingo, 19 de septiembre de 2010

ELVIS WHO??

Photograph by Alfred Wertheimer / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

I remember the first time I heard an Elvis Presley song. I was maybe 9 or 10 years old.

It was a pretty damn hot summer afternoon and we had an old mixtape cassette that somehow ended up in our house. And let me tell cousin, it was a "precious", almost like the precious of Gollum from Lord of the Rings.

It’s hard to believe or even remember the first time you do something. Memories usually are always trying to deceive facts and sometimes they don’t seem to sit well with you at all even when you do your best to memorize your whole life.

Photograph by Alfred Wertheimer / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

As an adult, I personally don’t try to remember all my movements, - I don’t even remember what I did last weekend - but clearly I still can remember when I said to my mother that I was listening a song of “Elvis I-don’t-know-what”.

To be honest, I didn’t like too much the songs of the cassette. The first one was Elvis Presley´s famous love song "Love me tender". It was a hell of a song! But of course, I didn’t know it then. It wasn’t my style, it was too slow, kind of romantic and I thought it was music for girls! - Later with years, I guess I can say my thoughts were not too far from reality.

Photograph by Alfred Wertheimer / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

Love me tender and Love me do (Elvis Presley and The Beatles) are the only songs I only remember of the tracklist, ain’t that a shame? - But those were the ones I listened the most. Specially Love me tender, which I used to hum it all day long.

After that, I listened a bunch of Elvis songs, such as Heartbreak Hotel, In The Ghetto, That´s All Right, Blue Suede Shoes, Jailhouse Rock and my mother´s favorite Suspicious Mind. All greats and all easy to dance, hum and listen in any given afternoon.

Photograph by Alfred Wertheimer / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

The second real and strong encounter with Mister Presley in my life I remember it loud and clear. My mother took me to the movies to see Forrest Gump back in ´94 or ´95. And if you watched Forrest Gump, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Screenshots of the movie Forrest Gump / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

Although an actor was impersonating Elvis Presley, I found it fantastic! And in the words of Forrest himself; “That´s all I have to say about that”.

Portrait of Alfred Wertheimer / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

Alfred Wertheimer was a struggling twenty-six year old free-lance photojournalist in New York City. He was hired by RCA in 1956 to shoot promotional images of a recently signed 21-year-old recording artist named Elvis Presley.

Legend said that Alfred Wertheimer is one of the few people in the world that had the luxury or benefit to say “Elvis Who?” when he heard about his assignment. After those words…that´s pretty much where his journal began.

Photograph by Alfred Wertheimer / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

Heartbreak Hotel was the number 1 hit back in ´56 and the music label wanted Wertheimer to delivers some nice and promotional backstage photos of the young guy with a baby face. Of course no one thought they were in the presence of the future “king of Rock and Roll” or The Tiger (Karate name), Elvis The Pelvis, Alan (Codename at Graceland), Big E! or simply; The Hillbilly Cat.

Photograph by Alfred Wertheimer / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

Anyway, whatever nicknames Elvis was about to receive a few years later, what brings us here today it´s the fact that between March and July of ´56 Wertheimer took about 4,000 photographs of Elvis in a way nobody else could ever match in terms of intimacy, innocence, childish behavior, grace, hope and somehow we are able to see a naughty and daring Elvis, especially with girls. Soon after, “Colonel” Tom Parker, Elvis’ manager, restricted media contact with Presley.

Wertheimer has shown the Elvis Presley's life on the road in 1956 on a book called Elvis At 21: New York To Memphis.

Cover of the book of Alfred Wertheimer / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

The most famous of Wertheimer's photographs is "The Kiss", a flirtatious encounter Elvis had with a young woman backstage in Richmond, Virginia before a concert. "I was more interested in the moments just before or just after the decisive moment," explained Wertheimer.

Famous photo known as "The Kiss" / Photograph by Alfred Wertheimer / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

Here´s a piece of an interview made to Wertheimer:

How did you first meet Elvis? I got this one assignment from RCA.

I was thrilled because I was going to work closely with Tommy Dorsey and I was asked to work with Elvis Presley. At that time I had never heard of Elvis. I first met Elvis in his dressing room in CBS TV Studio 50 where he was preparing for his fifth appearance on the Dorsey Stage Show... Elvis looked kinda bored. He was yawning. There was a ring salesman and Elvis had just ordered diamond ring with a horse shoe and horse's head. Elvis continued to wear that ring for a long time after.

Photograph by Alfred Wertheimer / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

What is the story behind that famous Wertheimer print of Elvis Tongue Kissing the Girl on the Stairwell?

It took place in a dark alcove behind the stage of the Mosque Theatre (Richmond, Virginia) about two minutes before Elvis went on stage to perform before 4 thousand people, on June 30, 1956. This female fan said to Elvis. 'I'll bet you can't kiss me, Elvis so there" "I betcha I can", retorted Elvis.

The whole episode took about a tenth of a second. A minute later Elvis was on stage. Just then I was coming down from the men's room and saw this scene. Of Elvis and the girl flirting, kind of having this private moment. I said to myself, "If I shot this... Elvis may have me fired and I lose my job" But then I said to myself, "What the heck I'll take the chance..." While I'm having this internal conversation I put the camera to my eye and see These two figures in silhouette with a window background.

Photograph by Alfred Wertheimer / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

So I got a little closer and closer and before I knew it and start snapping. Now they block my way so I stand up on the railing to get another angle. I get one picture where Elvis is in closel. Then Elvis makes his move... sticks out his tongue…and the rest is history.


Everyone wants to know who is the girl is in the photograph?

To this day I'm still am not sure. Several years ago, I had somebody from the South claiming it was her and she feels I should be paying her royalties. So I asked, "Look after 41 years, how old are you?" She said, "I'm 65"....

However, I suspected that this girl should have been a lot younger.

Photograph by Alfred Wertheimer / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

Then I asked her what we were doing the day before and day after this picture was taken.
She said, "Well I flew up to Niagara Falls with Elvis on the plane." I told her, "Your story doesn't jibe with the facts, so are certainly not the girl in the picture" - She retorted, "I'm sure I'm that girl"

Photograph by Alfred Wertheimer / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

So I said, "Elvis kissed a lot of girls. You might have been kissed by Elvis but this is not you. Then she set her lawyer on me. As I could prove that she was not the girl in the photo that she claimed to be... but it took me six month to resolve the issue. You must be proud that this photo has since become an icon of Elvis rock n roll era. Yes, but the biggest thrill was when Diane Keaton was the first to ever buy that photo from me. "She later wrote that this was the sexiest picture ever taken in the whole world and the history of man.... and I will admit... I agree with her.
*Source

here´s a video of Wertheimer himself:



Well, now that you know WHO is WHO, I hope you fall (more) in love with the music of The King….honestly, Elvis is one of my childhood heroes and I wish you the same passion for his music and moves that I have being feeling since I was a kid.

Photograph by Alfred Wertheimer / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.

In case you want to see pretty much all the gallery of photos, click here and enjoy!

See you on the road amigos! Thx for reading and take care of yourselves.

Bye!
Written by Jesus Rodriguez
Feel free to comment!
jrphotojournalist@gmail.com