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“Come to the NY opening of Dirk Anschütz’ new solo exhibition of his fabulous portrait series The Sultans: Turkish men of a certain age in all their patriarchal glory. As I’ve mentioned before, Dirk is a most entertaining photographer and story-teller, as evidenced on his blog. You can read the back story on The Sultans at TheHeavyLight.com ” – Julie Grahame, aCurator.com

“Dirk’s work is wonderful. Be sure to come to this event.” – Stella Kramer

“I couldn’t have said it any better.” – Dirk Anschütz

The Sultans will be on show at NYU’s Deutsches Haus from January, 28th to February, 25th, 2011.

The opening reception will be on Friday, January, 28th from 6 to 8 pm.

Deutsches Haus at NYU
42 Washington Mews
New York, NY 10003
212.998.8660
http://deutscheshaus.as.nyu.edu

Hours of operation:
Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu: 10:00 am – 9:00 pm
Fri: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sat: 10:00 am – 2:00 pm
Dirk Anschütz

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First things first before it’s too late: Happy new year to all you faithful readers (and of course to the faithless ones, too).

The Heavy Light is getting a slightly tardy start into 2011 partly because I’m still a little comatose from eating a ton of Janet and Joe’s christmas cookies (mmmh) but even more importantly because The Sultans are getting their own show at the Deutsche Haus at NYU.

Visitors can admire the glorious geezers in spectacular printed matter and in majestic sizes up to 30×40 inches; jaws will drop, i-phone affected minds might get blown!!!(!)

This will be my first solo show and as I’m writing my own hyperbole (any PR person looking for an internship?) I’m also a wee bit nervous about figuring out the whole process, especially about recouping the costs of the show or (dream big alert) turning a profit with it.

Over the years I’ve purchased a nice little collection of art but my continuing problems with buying other peoples’ work are that I have limited real estate for it, that it’s hard to come up with the money for something striking, and that I’m not sure what to do with it in the long run.  I have some paintings, drawings and photographs on my walls that I dearly love (the art, not the walls) but after looking at them for years and years I wouldn’t mind a change.   It’s pretty much impossible to sell the pieces since most of them are not collectables from big name artists, throwing them away would make me a bad person, and storing them (which is what I do) is a drag in New York.

So, here’s what I’m thinking:  Renting art work.  I know it’s done on a corporate level, so maybe it could work on a private level as well.  Instead of selling a framed and mounted print for let’s say $1200 you could rent it for the first year at $400.  If you really like it you rent it for another year ($350), if you really really like it you extend the rental ($325) and after 4 years and $1400 it’s yours.  It’s a little more than buying outright but this way you can be sure it really goes well with the sofa.  For the same price as purchasing one image you could also exchange it after one year for another Sultan and then for another.  After that you could hang up a picture of a naked lady and look at that for a while.

So, now my question to you dear reader is:

Does renting art sound like a good idea to you, or more to the point, would you (yes, you) personally ever rent a piece of art for your home or as a gift?

Please respond via the comments on this site or if you’re the shy and private type I would love to get an email, a call , a letter or a visit, too.

Thanks for helping me out with this.

Mark your calendars.  Remember:  Jaws will drop.

The Sultans-recent photographs

Deutsches Haus at NYU
42 Washington Mews
New York, NY 10003

Opening Reception: Friday, January 28th, 2011, 6 to 8 PM

on view:
January 28th, 2011 – February, 25th 2011

Hours of operation:
Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu: 10:00 am – 9:00 pm
Fri: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sat: 10:00 am – 2:00 pm

The Sultans-Part 1
The Sultans-Part 2
The Sultans-Part 3
Coda: The Sultans get their Name

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Merry and Happy

Meery, merry. Happy, happy. See you all again in the new year.

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Dr. Pfeil, a general practitioner, has been a medical institution in my German hometown for as long as I can think. I never really knew him though since I went with my troubles to Dr. Ertz, the other local medical institution. Like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones or Michael Jackson and Prince, it was one or the other. My mom took me to Dr. Ertz when I was a little boy and that was that.

In one of my early works I photographed Dr. Erzt and the mother of all desks.

A few years ago though I started to get to know Dr. Pfeil, through a common friend. He is a passionate hunter and has a great dog (always a good sign in my book) named Quitte. The Doctor and his family including the dog modeled for me on a few occasions and Quitte (which is the German word for Quince) actually ended up on the cans and boxes of a line of German dog food with this idyllic shot.

In any case I wanted to shoot a somewhat formal portrait of Doc and Quitte and after picking his best looking rifle we walked to the edge of a nearby field. We positioned 2 heads on a Profoto 7b and 2 heads on a Hensel Porty around the two, but made sure we didn’t overpower the lovely evening light. We shot with a Rollei 6003 with an 80 mm lens on Kodak Portra NC 160.

Both were a pleasure to work with and I really enjoyed our time together, but then again I might feel different about them if I was a forrest dwelling quadruped.

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I’m vacationing in the land of my youth.  Cheers.

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Once a year, I usually go back to Germany to visit Mama, bond with old friends, and make sure that nothing crazy happened while I was gone. I also try to work on some personal or stock projects when I’m there, since I like working outside of New York in general, for the obvious reasons like cheaper, easier, nicer, and with parking. So, when a friend told me about a kid near my hometown, who was supposed to be a crack BMX’er, I thought this could make for a nice little Getty shoot.

The rider’s name was Johannes Burg (which would’ve been funny in South Africa) and he was just a hint over 18. We talked about the shoot and he was totally into it, so we decided to meet at his local BMX track, a dirt loop with plenty of built-in jumps that was pretty much abandoned when we got there. Ideal circumstances. We started off with an easy shot to warm up.

Johannes had to go full speed into a bank, pop the front wheel a bit and then avoid the lights and the camera.  We had this shot after a few tries and moved on to the next and more difficult scenario.

For the next shot he had to fly off a jump and I had to catch him in mid air.  We picked the jump with the nice tree details in the background and set up lights from the 4 corners.  We had one Profoto 7B with 2 heads and regular reflectors on one side and and a borrowed Hensel Porty with 2 heads and regular reflectors on the other side.  We did a few trial runs to see where I could set up the camera and to get the timing down since I couldn’t see him (and he couldn’t see me) until he was in the air.  We nailed it pretty much straight away.  This was the second frame we shot:


And we should have moved on, but we didn’t.  Why, you ask?  Because we were stupid, that’s why.

Johannes and I looked at the good frame and we felt that if we can get that on the second jump, we can get something even better if we keep trying.  During the next few jumps I kept inching in with the camera for something a bit more straight on and Johannes kept trying to get more height out of the jump.  Finally between my moving the camera closer to the landing spot and Johannes changing the line of his approach we created this situation:

Johannes came over the hill and he was pointing fairly straight at me.  I let out a mighty gulp, clicked the shutter way too early and tried to hustle out of the way with a tethered Mamiya RZ and a tripod.  Johannes tried to change his trajectory in mid flight, which is never a good idea, though I’m still grateful he did.  He was way too high anyway and came down hard in the flat part after the jump right next to me.  He fell and slammed into the next bump, breaking his hand and his bike in the process.

There was a pretty depressed drive to the hospital, that didn’t get any better when he realized that he would miss two major championships he was training for.  Johannes got his x-rays and his cast without any trouble thanks to the German healthcare system and the most positive take on the situation was, that it could have been worse.

I had a miserable, sleepless night after this disaster and felt out of sorts for a few more days.  Mostly because looking back I couldn’t believe we kept repeating a dangerous stunt for no good reason and getting sloppier and sloppier as the shoot went on.  I felt like an amateur and a moron.

I saw Johannes again a few days later and he was back in good spirits  ( I guess, if you’re a serious BMX’er, you can’t dwell on spills and injuries ) and that in turn made me feel better.  He was not pressing charges against me (yeah) and I reimbursed him for his smashed up bike parts. The lessons of that shoot are still with me of course: Don’t push your or other people’s luck, stop when you have the shot, be in control, don’t egg each other on, work precisely and carry insurance.

The most interesting part of that last shot, is an extreme crop, because this is the face of someone, who knows he’s in trouble.

There is also a curious little aside to the story:  I promised Johannes to get him some bike parts from the famous S&M Bikes in California.  All the parts he wanted had names like Beringer Fork, Beringer Stem, Beringer Bar, etc. , I didn’t think anything of it until I met Matt Beringer himself last year on another BMX shoot.  And there you have it, it is a small world.

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Riding a bike was part of my growing up, but not exactly my favorite part. The only times I was very, if briefly, excited about biking was when I was given a banana seat bike, and again after I got a snazzy 10 speed racer. For the most part though I only biked when I was too late to walk someplace. My biking career ended abruptly and not surprisingly on the day I got my driver’s license.

To my amazement though, biking has made a strong comeback in my personal life as well as becoming an important part of my photography. I thought it might make for a nice intermittent series of blog posts to write about the bike shoots I have done.

It all started with me still being a committed pedestrian, when my good friend Silvia (a journalist) and I teamed up as a writer-photographer combo. We were mulling over possible projects to propose to German publications, when we came across ” The Ride of my Life” the autobiography of Mat Hoffmann, the daredevil BMX champion and later Jackass semi-regular. The book was highly entertaining as it described the growing-up and daily brushes with death of a child/man with no fear. Anybody reading the book would seriously question his/ her desire to become a parent, since one would suffer at least 47 heart attacks if fate would bless one with a little Mat Hoffman. To read about it though, was great.


©Unknown Photographer

Silvia and I wrote up a proposal to portray Hofman and send it to a high-brow weekly newspaper in Germany, that has a section somewhat comparable to the NY Times Magazine. They liked the idea and hired us, but then our arrangement kind of backfired on me.

On a previous job I did for the paper the expenses ran (not terribly) high. Not completely because of my fault either, but my invoice was definitely higher than usual. Then the editor for the paper called me up to suggest that I pay for part of the unexpected expenses by lowering my fee. After a bit of arguing back and forth I agreed to do it, if and only if he payed the same amount as I towards the bill. I thought it would be only fair if we both help the paper financially since we were both involved in the production. For some weird reason though, spending his own money was less attractive to the editor than spending my own money, and he agreed to pay my invoice in full. Of course little victories like that often come back to bite me in the ass.

And now was ass-biting time. When Silvia and I got the assignments to produce the Hofman story, the editor presented me with a budget that was so tiny that I had to work for free instead of very cheap, which was normal. I would have never done that, but here he clearly had me by my huevos. If I just turned down my assignment, they would have sent (and paid) another photographer to shoot my story. If we had turned it down as a team, I would have cost Silvia her job as well, and they might have sent another team to do our story. Silvia graciously offered to share her fee with me, which I didn’t take because of course it was more the principle then the dough. In the end we did the story and I was glad we did, but I never worked for that paper again. To paraphrase Paul Simon: There must be 50 ways ways to lose a client.

The shoot was taking place at the Universal Studios Theme Park in Orlando, FL. We flew down and up in one day, and sans assistant of course. To transport my equipment ( 1 Pro Acute 1200 with 2 heads) in the park, Universal gave me a hard plastic double toddler stroller. It’s always important to travel in style when on a job.

Mat Hoffman and a bunch of fellow BMX’ers were doing a regular show there that summer in a bike park in an amphitheatre. I looked for a quiet location that didn’t scream theme park and provided us with some privacy and a clean graphic background. I found it behind the theatre. After an hour of corporate interference we were finally allowed to shoot there.
In the first portrait I tried to come up with a classical pose in which he can be clearly seen and can make eye contact with the camera, yet in which he also shows his athleticism. We talked about this, and Mat came up with different suggestions. Finally he busted out the one seen on top. I love how he looks like he’s just loitering on his bike with a half-bored sarcastic ta-daa pose. I used a little slower shutter speed to get a little bit of movement in. This way you realize that he’s not just leaning against the wall, but rolling down the lane.

For the second picture I asked him to take off his shirt. I’ve been around athletes a lot and have seen some banged up people, but no one ever came close to Mat Hoffman. We talked about his knee, which was his injury-du-jour and he showed me how he could move his kneecap around in ways that made you question every assumption you ever had. His torso doesn’t look so terrible until you start zooming in on all the scars and bruises hidden in plain sight.

His amazing pain tolerance and complete lack of fear still astounds me. A while after the shoot Mat was in a vicious car accident in which he nearly lost his right arm. For years after that he couldn’t ride a bike, but thanks to a special brace and some major physical rehabilitation he now is back on the bike again.

There is a recent ESPN movie out about Mat, that was produced by Spike Jonze and Johnny Knoxville. Looks like it could be a lot of fun.

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Stephen Mallon is a Brooklyn based industrial, art, and industrial art photographer. His photographic documentary of the salvage of Flight 1549 (the one that Sully landed safely on the Hudson) resulted in some stunning art work and generated a lot of buzz in the media.  His project about the sinking of old subway cars in the Atlantic to build reefs can be seen in his upcoming show “Next Stop Atlantic” at the Front Room Gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Stephen graciously agreed to share the nuts and bolts of this project during an interview for the The Heavy Light.

Dirk Anschütz: Let’s start at the beginning. When and why did you decide to become a photographer?

Stephen Mallon: When I found out I couldn’t become a pilot (because of spinal meningitis at age 15) I started to follow other interests. At that time I had a Kodak Instamatic, after that I upgraded to a Kodak Disc Camera, then I “stole” my Dad’s Canon AE1 and so on. I took some photo classes in High School, worked for the student newspaper and finally went to RIT in Rochester.

DA: Did you shoot industrial images straight out of college?

SM: No my first passion out of school was fashion photography.

DA: That’s a hard field to establish yourself in. Did you get a lot of work in fashion?

SM: Well, I had a few jobs for Maxim which in turn led to an ad job for Canadian Club Whiskey, but…..
There were quite a few editors who liked my work, but suggested that I start using “real” people as models and take it more in a lifestyle direction. Especially for stock.

DA: So, what caused the switch to industrial photography?

SM: A conversation with my CD at Photonica Karen D’Silva. I had traveled to Africa in 1999 and showed Karen some landscapes I’d taken in Niger. She liked them, but told me that they needed some kind of human footprint to become commercially viable.

DA: So what was your first industrial photo shoot then?

SM: Well, I’ve always shot industrial stuff. Even in high school I loved shooting mechanical things. I’ve shot airplanes and airfields. Once a pilot phoned in to tell the airport that they really shouldn’t let a photographer sit on the runway. I just lost my way a little bit in college.

DA: Let’s talk about the subway shoot. How did you learn about the fact that old subway cars were being dumped in the ocean?

SM:  I’d first read about it in the New York Times in maybe 2004 and I thought that project was all finished.  But in April 2008 I spotted a barge loaded with subway cars while location scouting in New Jersey.  I drove to adjoining yard which belonged to Weeks Marine, the company that turned out to be the owner of the barge.  I talked to the security guard and told him that I was interested in photographing the barge.  The guard passed me on to Lou, the yard manager, and Lou passed me on to Jason, the senior engineer.  I told Jason about my ongoing photo project about recycling “American Reclamation”, and gave him my website.  He was himself interested in photography and liked my work, and after I secured permission to photograph from the MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority) he gave me full access to the “loadout”.

When the loadout came I drove to the 207th Street rail yard in the Bronx where the old stripped down subway cars were loaded onto Barge 297.  It took about 2 days to load the barge with as many cars as possible.  Then the barge shipped back to Bayonne, NJ where it sat for a few days.  I wasn’t allowed on the loaded barge for safety reasons. I was also not allowed to stand under subway cars for safety reasons, but I only found that out later.

Finally Jason called that they were ready to head out to the drop site. I set up on the crew boat on May 16th while a tugboat pulled the barge out on the Atlantic to a spot off the Maryland coast.

DA:  How many shoot days did you have during this project?

SM:  The subway cars were dropped off the coasts of Maryland, South Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware and Georgia.  I went to 4 drops  and 2 loadouts.

DA:  What equipment did you use?

SM:  I shot with a Canon Mark III DS and 4 lenses.  A 24-70 f 2.8, a rented 70-200 f2.8 with image stabilizer, a 70-200 f 4, and a 17-40 f 4.

DA:  What were the technical challenges?

SM:  On a boat everything is moving.  I had to use pretty high shutter speeds since things happened very fast.  I usually shot 1/500th at 400 ASA.  I was tracking the action like on a sports shoot.  Almost everything was shot with the motor drive on high. Oh, and one more thing: Don’t try to preview your images on the back of the camera while shooting- HELLO MOTION SICKNESS!

DA:  Tell me how this personal project has influenced your career so far.

SM:  The subway project was what introduced me to Weeks Marine, so when the plane went down in the Hudson, I called Tom Weeks to see if they would do the salvaging. When they got the job, Tom asked me if I wanted to work. I had to get permission from National Transportation Safety Board and after that got full access to the proceedings.  I had been staying in touch with Front Room Gallery for about 3 years, showing them  my work and going to openings, so when they saw my series “Brace For Impact: the aftermath of flight 1549” they decided to give me a solo show.

That work also got a Lucie Award and led to a commercial assignment for Maytag, which turned out to be the biggest job of my career so far.
The image of the floating subway car made it into the Communication Arts Photo Annual and the subway work will be shown at the Front Room Gallery in September.

It’s just great how it segued from a personal project to an art project to assignments to another project and so on.

DA: Thanks a lot for the interview and good luck with your show.

Stephen Mallon‘s show “Next Stop Atlantic” will open at The Front Room Gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn on September 10th.

All images in this post ©Stephen Mallon.

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When the big (and reluctant) switch to digital came for me, I decided to go with a medium format back instead of 35 mm setup. The price difference was a strong argument for the small format but I really loved working with the larger, slower cameras and the “big occasion” feeling they bring to a shoot. I also like how things just have a slightly different feel with the longer lenses needed to cover the same view. Unfortunately I still think that the medium format sensors are pretty close to not worth it since they’re not even 645. I wish they would finally come out with a 6×6 or 6×7 sensor, real medium format, and it wouldn’t even need a gazillion mega pixels.

But anyway, I bit the bullet and got a Phase One P25 with a Mamiya RZ adapter from Dave Gallagher at Capture Integration (highly recommended).

After I exchanged a very large portion of my bank account for a very small metal cube that I didn’t even really want, I felt an inexplicable feeling of anxiety and decided to calm my nerves (and blow some more money) by visiting a friend in Salt Lake City for a little skiing.

On a heavy legs day I checked out Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake. I was absolutely blown away by the beauty of that place. It looked like something out of “Lord of the Rings” and there was one of these great Western storms approaching. I took some pictures and was pretty much all thumbs. I took the back off the camera to change from horizontal to vertical and was immediately hit by a good old dust cloud. Fumbeling like the absolute beginner that I was, it took me forever to get the back back on. Fortunately there was no permanent damage done to the sensor, and things started to go much more smoothly in the P25 department soon after, but retouching approximately 764 dust spots was a pretty special way to start the digital era.

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We finally ended our road trip through Turkey in Istanbul where I found the name for this project.

At the Topkapi Palace is an impressive portrait gallery of the original Sultans, the Ottoman rulers of yore, and there was just no denying the resemblances of faces and postures between the subjects of the old paintings and the men we had just photographed.

Like most people who are groovy with Democracy, I’m not big on the concept of royalty, as a matter of fact it creeps me out quite a bit.   However, many of the common men we photographed had a quiet dignity that came across as noble.  The more I thought about it the more I had fun envisioning the new Sultans as working farmers, shepherds and fisherman instead of inheritors of power and wealth.


These paintings were often done by Italian artists like Bellini whose portrait of Sultan Mehmet II is at the top of this page.
As we were walking through Istanbul’s great bazaar in the following days we found simple hand drawn copies of these portraits on pages cut out of old books. We bought one of  Mehmet II, a ruler famous for conquering Constantinople, an event that eventually marked the divide between the middle ages and (more) modern times.

Another portrait we purchased was of AbdulHamid II, who was one of the later Sultans.  He was not exactly known for his skillful governing, but rather for escaping dozens of attempts on his life. He was also such a cruel, murderous ruler that he earned himself the nick name “The Red Sultan”. But who can stay mad at a guy wearing a fez. I know I can’t.

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