Wednesday, July 29, 2009

LA part II, or: Seeing Two Of My Heroes In One Place

I wasn't going to make the flight. It was full and I was flying 'non rev,' which is fancy airline employee-speak for 'stand-by.' I had gotten up at 3:30 am, sped to the airport, gone through security, missed my first flight, and after all that - I wasn't going to get on. I headed back to my chair, to my magazine, to my iPod and most likely to sleep. Then something weird happened. As it turned out, the woman who was to occupy the last seat on the plane was late. Not absent, mind you, but rather - stuck in security. She was in a wheelchair, after all, and the plane wouldn't wait. I was offered her spot. Moments later, as I stuffed my camera bag under the seat in front of me, I tried my hardest not to fixate on the bad karma that was undoubtedly in the mail. 

I land at LAX, excited not only for the four days I will spend in La-La Land, but for the journey to SF, Portland, all the way up to Seattle and back down to Reno in the week that will follow. With my head still buzzing from the strangeness of making it there, who should I spy across the walkway from my gate? None other than fellow Texan and all around editorial photo giant - Dan Winters. Mr. Winters is one of my favorites in the field, responsible for a career full of enviable imagery:
He had, I supposed, been on my flight from Austin. He was in line at the Starbucks with his assistant and I - unable to think of anything more intelligent than "I'm a really big fan" - passed on the opportunity to meet the guy. But hey - I'd been in LA for, what? Five minutes? And already, I'd seen someone whose work I really admire. Probably the highlight of the trip.


My buddy David Lowery had introduced me to a tiny little tiki bar where ordering a concoction called the 'Uga Booga' leads to a fairly entertaining show, the substance of which I cannot betray. As is the custom, I paid it forward by taking some of my friends there. Across the street, I spied the unmistakable tell-tale signs of a location photo shoot: grip truck, mountain of sandbags, an apple cinema display atop a mag liner, a couple of assistants setting up an elinchrom octabank. My focus narrows on a tall guy with a shaved head and a beard...
Couldn't be. Right? 

I make the block to take a closer, yet hopefully unobtrusive look-see. I know Dan Winters usually gets the kind of assignments most shooters only dream of, and I'm curious who the subject is. All I can see at first is the guy's back. He's cutting up with some people on the crew, and as he turns to address one of them, I recognize him right away: Spike Jonze. 

Spike has been a visual hero of mine for a long time. He was shooting skate videos around the time I was first discovering photography. I was an avid - albeit, terrible - skateboarder and I watched a lot of his early works. As he moved on to direct clever, visually stunning videos for musicians I absolutely loved, my admiration grew for him in kind. Then he did 'Being John Malkovich.' Just incredible. 

And now this:
Where The Wild Things Are was a huge inspiration and a shocking jolt to my imagination when I was a kid. I didn't think a live action version of the book would be or even could be possible. But Spike's taken me to amazing and strange and impossible places before. I can hardly wait. 

Now to help promote something for both of these extremely talented artists - just in case you haven't already bought/seen/heard of them already: 

Dan Winters has a new book, 'Periodical Photographs', which you can (and should, dear readers) pick up here. Spike Jonze has a blog which strives to bring attention to some of the artists that inspire him. It's called, aptly enough, We Love You So. It's an amazing blog, and hours of fun to read. Check it here.

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