By Ryan Schude
7 Feb 2008
The lamp photo started it all back round '03 when a small house party presented itself as an opportunity to make a portrait of my friend Colin. He had told us the story of a night when he was jealously attempting to own a corner of the couch but couldn't shake the attention of an over eager table lamp which repeatedly chose to remind Colin of it's presence. The struggle sounded too delightful not to re-enact and so while the remainder of the party people played poker and imbibed, I set to scrounging around the garage building the set with whatever barney rubble I could find. 3 hours of ghetto digital polaroiding ensued, which entailed fooling the long exposure setting on a point and shoot elph in order to hit the strobe while the shutter was open, building cardboard snoots around duct taped flashes, and finally we were ready to shoot. Problem was I had a house full of saucers with little patience for my repeated focus checks on a beat up Hasselblad from the 70's. As you can see from some of their expressions, none of them are actors, and although now looking back I realize how many ways this photo missed the mark, what stands is the birth of a whole new way for me to create that I never knew existed.
Surely people had been making photos like this forever but it was like that feeling you get when you discover a band on the radio you had never heard before and are all excited to show your friends only for them to say, "duh, I've been listening to them for decades." As the ideas began to elaborate so did the excitement during each actual session a picture was made. Next came the egg nog photo. This time the event was thrown around the single focus of making the photo as opposed to the other way around. We didn't tell the guests what was going on except the two principal stars who had to toss and receive a healthy dose of egg nog to the face respectively. A quick practice throw was initiated outside against a fence and then as soon as they were in place there was no time to stall before the expressions of the fellow noggers would have been spoiled. One shot was all we had for this one and a lucky one it proved to be. Now I understood the room for error with trying to bootleg the darn thing and so began the need to control more and more of the process.
With each new photo, everything from the planning, to the shooting and, begrudgingly, the post production, became more intense. The results all make it worth while but the rush that accompanied watching that mask of egg nog take shape in one chaotic moment can only be matched by standing engulfed in a painfully cold suburban night with a freshly packed snowball and lacing the next car that strolled it's naivete our way only to wait until their door closed in plain view to start running the route towards safety.
Ketchup in kiddie pools, flying suitcases and tortoises are fun too I suppose. Not to mention the prospect of how much sillier and random it can all get quite tickles me purple so let's just say the exercise is a give and take. Progression abounds and so long as the thrill remains intact, only a welcome embrace of the bigger and better is in order. It's all about the hustle though so no doubt once the process becomes routine, reinvention will Napolean itself right back to the basics, guerilla style without proper regard towards decency or restraint.