The New Jersey and sometimes New York photographer returns.
I wrote this title with SEO on my mind. I’ve been elbows deep in stupid and uninspiring internet marketing research. It blows. I don’t even have much skin in the game with this website. My wedding and boudoir work pay my bills. The conceptual art portion of me is just pure personal gratification. Anyway, this is going to be a hoot because the real purpose of this blog post is to discuss a shoot that happened in April of this year. Why? Because I got fucked over by a stupid online magazine. I’m not here to bash their name so I apologize, you’re going to get that gratification. I may share with you the email correspondence between myself and said AWFUL “publication” because it’s downright comical. There were months of sporadic promises, excuses about stolen laptops, bad backs(seriously?) and then radio silence. They are a piece of fucking work. Why do I care so much? Because that’s me, person who cares so much. It’s what I do, in everything I do. I also care because this shoot took a whole lot of work. Like a maddening amount of work, people and resources. When it comes down to it, I’m just a human with a camera, so this was an undertaking.
Edit: I know your time is valuable and if you don’t want to read my humorous babble, you should just scroll down to the bottom and look at the gorgeous pictures. I won’t take offense. The photo shoot was beautiful. Enjoy it.
Oh, and the images are gorgeous! All this work with my team and we create stunning, print worthy images that won’t see the light of day? Fuck that. Instagram doesn’t get them, this stupid magazine definitely doesn’t get them. The only people that get them are ones that actually care and follow me, and know where this blog even is. So hello! Thank you so much for following my work. You know what, reach out more! I get these random messages all the time from people that like my work and I love it. Let me know your thoughts, your feelings, any particular people you like seeing me photograph. I want to hear all of it.
Oh and also, the title of my blog, yeah, I moved. I don’t really feel like talking about that aside from, yes, I am back in Northern New Jersey since leaving North Carolina. It is my first home and doesn’t feel terribly strange as it’s so familiar. But blah blah blah, I will leave that post for another day so I can dramatically talk about leaving and what it means to be an artist in a new location. Blah. Yeah blah to that.
I want to show you images and talk a little bit about them. So here goes. A photo shoot begins in your mind, from the most basic concepts to the most complex. It starts with just a thought. For this specific shoot I had three macro feelings, sad, tub, ivy. Could be the name of a burlesque dancer eh? But really, that’s all that was in my head.
So how did I get from that, to this?
Well, I mean, it’s not that far off from sad, tub and ivy, right? That’s what it sort of literally is. I believe I say this in my “about me” section of this website. I never went to art school. You are not going to get much pretentiousness out of me. I did date a girl for about 3 years that did go to art school and I saw the amount of bullshit brainwashing they put those kids through. How to be an Artist 101 doesn’t really involve making art. It involves lots of grant writing, schmoozing and general bullshit. My point is, sometimes my work just doesn’t have the faux deep meaning lots of photographers and creatives spew. It just is what it is. I like what I see and I photograph it. It’s not more complicated than that (most of the times).
If you arrive at a deeper meaning, congratulations, your not wrong, just don’t expect me to defend emotional themes and elements that aren’t there.
I had a location. My backyard. Yes, kinda bizarre. Okay, not exactly my backyard but behind the very apparent tree line of my backyard, was fucking, a Disney forest. Don’t believe me? Look kids, I almost see Thumper smoking a doobie in the back.
It’s beautiful and magical. This was the easy part. I don’t fancy myself someone who can create beautiful things but I definitely know how to see beauty. What wasn’t the easy part was getting the tub. Oh the tub.
Alright, so I start with basic idea that I like claw foot tubs. They are fun. No, not milk bath shoots, they are stupid and over done. Don’t do them. Empty white tubs also make great omni-directional soft boxes as you’ll see later. I needed to find a tub. I was not paying for one as most go for 300-800 scheckles. Aint, nobody got time for that! So, I looked around to see if anyone was giving one away. Nope. People really loves their tubs too, which I find odd because they are so heavy and most of them are in bad shape. Ah well, I started getting desperate and emailing random people on facebook marketplace, the new less shady craigslist. Through this, I found Jeff. Jeff had what I wanted, a claw foot tub within 20 miles of me. He was also willing to do something that most people refused to do, rent it out to me for 30 scheckles. A really great idea because, I’m sorry Jeff, nobody is going to buy your broken ass tub for 350 scheckles. Make a small amount of money and rent it out. I drove out to Jeff’s house which was in murderous, backwater chapel hill. No, not the collegiate, rah rah bastion of semi-progressiveness but it’s lesser known cousin, the fucking woods. I had never been to this part of Chapel Hill. I’m fine with not going back. I drove down a long dirt road and came to what looked to be a junk yard. Those are nice words I’m using. A junkyard in the woods. Rape field, sodomy factory, ice cream stand, something like that. There was Jeff and there was the tub. This transaction was kinda boring because well, that’s what it was. Here’s 30 scheckles, help me load the tub into my car.
God fucking damn are cast iron tubs fucking heavy. After 2 days of lifting and dealing with this thing I was ripped. My jelly had solidified into uh, harder jelly. Definitely not a one person job at all.
Sad and ivy were the easiest to find. I generally work within the realm that a concept must have a person that fits the bill. There is no one size fits all in the creative world. You’re going to have a bad time if you try and put someone in your ideas that doesn’t mesh well with you or worse doesn’t understand what you’re trying to do. This wasn’t the issue here. I had always had someone in mind for this. That person was friend and muse(a word I don’t like, let’s just call her someone on the same wavelength as I am) Kaylee Knight.
Kaylee just gets a lot of nuance without any explanation. She is so eager to create. She is so willing to try and fail. It’s an intensely wonderful set of skills to have. Oh and don’t worry, I’ll be throwing all these follow links at the bottom of this blog. So go follow her. I knew she would be the right person because I can say utter bullshit and she will make it into gold. I think I literally said to her, I want you to be sad, wear lingerie and be alone. Ooga Ooga, Mike’s description is figuratively caveman speak.
I’m a simple man, yes I am.
We got to work on wardrobe, something white, something lace and then enlisted the powerhouse of a human, THERESA BURDEN. Theresa is also another human that can spin my bullshit into something remarkable. She is that good. We did some trials before the actual shoot to come up with a cohesive look.
Oh ivy, yes, almost forgot! Aside from being a super talented model, Kaylee is all things nature. She had a ton of ivy sitting in her yard so she did what any decent human would do and hacked it to death for our shoot. Thank you! I let it sit in my tub for a while with some water so it might “perk up.” Yeah, it didn’t do that.
Lastly, I had to get the tub into place. This meant driving my car into my backyard like a crazy person and pulling it to the tree line. Then carrying it about 800 feet into the woods, over slopes, fallen trees, brush, leaves, the zeka virus and who knows what else? Probably lots of snakes but I don’t like to think about it. This was semi difficult for 2 people. I enlisted the help of an acquaintance and budding photographer Ryan. He graciously came over and trudged through the muck to give the tub it’s temporary final resting place. Temporary final? That doesn’t make sense.
I generally loathe not starting on time. Historically, all my photos are terrible when I feel rushed, especially when it involves outdoor ambient light. It’s the worst. Nothing more terrible than having to continually increase your exposure every 10 minutes because you are racing against that ball of gas 93 million miles away. Ugh. Luckily, I was working with two magical people that care about timelines. Kaylee was getting ready just down the street, as Theresa was a neighbor of mine. She came by, dropped her pants and went into the woods. I mean, that literally did happen but a couple things occurred in between. I also lived next to a state trooper. That’s fun. No really. He always had his father over to play with the grandson and of course they come outside as Kaylee is walking to the tree line, covered but still, kinda strange. I flag them down and let them know what we would be doing.
“Oh thank you for letting me know, we won’t shoot you.”
He wasn’t joking. Guns are everywhere in North Carolina. If he saw some strange people hanging out in the woods for a couple hours behind his house, he definitely would have fired off some warning shots.
We got to the spot, did some pre-shoot stretching and away we went. I’m not going to discuss how I shoot. I don’t think this blog post is about that particularly. I’m just going to show images. I’ve spoken a bit too much and I hope if you are of sound mind you’ve just rushed down to see the complete set of images.
Please enjoy, please leave me comments and questions and please know these images are not anywhere but here at my home on the web, www.michaeljbambuch.com
Photographer: Michael J. Bambuch
Model: Kaylee Knight (wanderingforestgirl)
Makeup and some hair: Theresa Burden (Theresa Burden Makeup Artistry)