So in the past year or so since I last posted, life has moved pretty quickly in the Merritt household. I’ve shot a major in-store campaign for Sharpie pens, my wife gave birth to our second child Archibald, I’ve shot the Concours d’Elegance at Pebble Beach for Bentley Motors, and I’ve even updated Hot Doug Sohn’s head shots for his new book coming out this summer. Obviously these are just the highlights but It’s been a wild ride. And now it’s time to post some images. I plan on doing this more and more this year as I explore some interesting new work, face new challenges behind the camera, and try to decipher where my career is headed. Also, I’ll tell you about the time a $20K piece of camera equipment died in the middle of a shoot with 3 main models and 35 extras dancing in a night club at 11:45am. Long story. Enjoy some car porn in the meantime.
In my last post I showed off images from the interior of the Farnsworth House. Today’s images are a mixture of exterior shots of the house and photos from the set of the Japanese commercial shoot. It was a rather prolific shoot for me as there was always something to look at and different angles to decipher. It was such a great experience as a whole and the amount of excellent photos = many.
Not only did I get to hang inside and outside of said icon, I also got to see a RED camera up close and personal. Combined with a SuperTechno 50 crane, the TV commercial side of the shoot was amazing. What a crazy combination of cool devices. A tip of the hat to A.J. Rickert-Epstein (featured at the helm of the RED controls). He’s a fantastic Director of Photography with an impressive aesthetic eye.
This entire experience was splendid to say the least.
Alright. Silversun Pickups is one of my guilty guilty guilty pleasures. They have picked up where various ‘Oceans of Guitars’ styled bands left off. One that comes to mind as far as sonic intensity is the Champaign, Illinois indie greats, Hum.
While garnering quality radio play with this single, SSPU has solidified themselves to have at least a couple more records paid for and released by the underdogs at Dangerbird Records. Hook laden shoegaze is hard to come by but this quartet really knows how to put the elements together.
In most shoe gaze bands, a two guitar drone would lead the attack but the SSPU’s employ a keyboardist who fills in the gaps with gigantic blips and chords. But the secret weapon in SSPU arsenal is their bass player, Nikki Monninger. My god. She belongs in the ‘Female Vocal Hall of Fame’ right next to Kim Deal. Right around the 4:29 mark Nikki’s voice overpowers this song and wrestles it to the ground. She really ties the room together.
| currently listening to: Alone Again Or, Calexico, Convict Pool EP, 2004 |LINK
The Farnsworth House is an architectural legend. Designed and built by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe himself, the house is a living icon to American creation and ingenuity. A while back I was lucky enough to not only get to visit the house and was given carte blanche by the preservation society that oversees it but some Japanese businessmen decided it was a good idea to pay me to photograph it. I don’t have enough time on the train ride home to make this scenario up. Japanese businessmen.
The project came about because a friend of mine from LA was hired to shoot the house for a Japanese real estate commercial. They needed a still photographer for a print ad that would accompany the commercial. Plano, Illinois is not exactly the easiest place in the world to get to.
In a word, the Farnsworth House is ‘Exquisite’. It is the envy of all architects and industrial designers across the world. This set of interior images were the closest I have come to perfection, not with the images themselves but with where they were shot. I love love love the way this house looks, smells, breathes, etc. The floors produce radiant heat. It was a pleasure just to wear socks and slip around with a tripod for the 35 minutes I received inside. It was calm and beautiful. I will post more photos from the shoot and of the exterior later on. For now, just revel in the awesome that is Farnsworth House.
SIDE NOTE. I was given such a small window of time inside this house and I was pretty much allowed to touch nothing. This meant that I had to make due with the natural lighting that was given to me. Which is how I would like to do it. But I was not allowed to choose which time I would be able to take the photos. If it were up to me? We’d be in there at 7:30 am when the light outside would be perfection. Did I mention it’s a glass house?! I think it works. Emily Gilbert is totally going to critique the hell out of it…
Calexico is one of those niche indie bands that everyone will tell you they like. Mixing the best of classic Tex-Mex music with some down-home indie rock, Calexico has mutated from one sound to the next without losing their authenticity or their Arizona roots. It’s been a wild ride.
Calexico members have had their share of indie rock greatness while in Giant Sand w/Howe Gelb and in forming the great Friends of Dean Martinez. This EP shows off their musical chops. Especially in this SPOT-ON rendition of the Love classic 1967 track.
| currently listening to: Go Ahead, The Rosebuds, Loud Planes Fly Low, 2011 |LINK
i grew up in a small town not unlike many small towns across rural america. Charlotte, Vermont is a shrinking farming community that has morphed into a rural suburb of Vermont’s largest metropolitan area. Charlotte is a sleepy town with an interesting population that is made up of old school Vermonters, long-term transplants, and flat landers who have recently found themselves living next to the 13th largest lake in the US.
Charlotte is interestingly divided into two distinct groups of people; those who shop at Marble’s Store (Eastside) and those who shop at the Old Brick Store (Westside). It’s not a bicoastal ‘Rap Battle’ but more of a quick determination of what side of the local K-8 elementary/middle school you live on. Does this representation of the locals cause a rift in the population? Not really. But it does lead to some interesting bus routes once you get to high school.
As a child of the eastside growing up, Marble’s Store was my Mecca. Less than 1/4 mile down a rather big hill was the key to my summer as a young adult. I could meet my east side friends there, buy a candy bar, a Mountain Dew in a glass bottle, pick up the paper for my old man, and be ready for the adventure of biking to whomever’s house was designated for the whiffle ball game that day. It was a meeting place and a place of great comfort to those of us who looked at Marble’s Store as the center of town. It was as if Marble’s was placed on this earth to be the VFW for anyone between the ages of 10-14 complete with cheap beer, movie rentals, and various animals, animated townspeople, and local legends floating around at all times. Obviously we only took advantage of the cheap beer later on in our lives but you get the picture.
Two weeks ago marked the 11th straight year that Marble’s has been the home of the Charlotte Tractor parade. What started out as a gathering the first year when a dozen tractors paraded outside of the store in the fall of 2000, has blossomed into the fall assembly of the year for the town with more than 130 tractors prancing down the street.
A small petting zoo, food trucks, t-shirts, and plenty of people watching make the tractor parade the perfect stop for an 18 month old. This year Teddy began what I hope will be a long standing tradition of visiting Grammy and Squid (yes, my dad’s nickname is Squid) during October to see the locals and collectors from afar pull their tractors right through the center of my young adulthood and beyond. It truly feels great to pass on my childhood places and experiences to my son and to my wife. Charlotte, Vermont will always be home to me. and I love making it feel like home to them.
My goodness. I could talk about the Rosebuds for pages and pages. In the beginning, they were a jangling garage rock trio with melodies ripped more from Buddy Holly than the Ramones. These days their music is much more than Elvis Costello rave-ups and the band has expanded to cover more than just schoolyard relationships as they have grown. With five full length records and a smattering of singles, 7 inches, and one EP, the Rosebuds have solidified their place in modern Indie Rock Lore.
The key to their success? I mean beyond the fact that Ivan Rosebud has a voice that will melt even the staunchest hipster… The key lies within the relationship of the two leaders of the band, Ivan and Kelly. Once married, now divorced, their adult lives have been played out over lyrics, during live shows, and worn on their sleeves.
Their newest record is a collection of statements that ring like questions. Statements to each other, to their fans, to their individual futures, to their collective future as a band, and to no one in particular. Go buy it. It’s beautiful. The audience is not questioning them as a creative entity. We know that they will go on.
| currently listening to: Slack Motherfucker, Superchunk, s/t, 1990 |LINK
Portrait #39 is anna
anna is one of those few art school attendees who is living the dream. born and raised in the midwest, anna is a graduate of the School of the Art Institute and even though her career is just taking off, she has already designed for some big names including Ecko, Calvin Klein, Kenneth Cole, and Target.
while many teenagers enter art school with dreams of a career in the creative sector, very few actually stick around to see their dream job materialize. anna has been lucky enough to embody the rare combination of hard work, determination, and creative talent… did i mention that she’s talented? but it’s not just talent alone that allows her to run her own clothing design company. while many of us in the creative world struggle with carving out our own space, anna seems to do it effortlessly. am i jealous? of course.
one of the most unique things i learned while hanging out with anna is that she has found a way to stay connected to the community. by finding and utilizing local vendors, (that’s right, all of anna’s clothes are made in chicago) she’s supporting the local economy. that is truly refreshing to hear. in fact, i think more people in the manufacturing world should follow suit.
so how does someone who comes out of art school make it in the real world? how do you move from the creative academic bubble and keep your artistic integrity intact? how do you find a job and keep your eyes on the prize without needing the constant praise and codling that comes from being in school?
from my own experience, you need some realistic goals, a touch of luck, a whole lot of talent, and an intrinsic work ethic that won’t throw the towel in no matter how good quitting sounds. anna has all of these things in spades. some people squeak by on piles of family cash or on their own insane talents (only to implode later under the stress of ONLY being talented). anna is one of the few artists i’ve met who is not only incredibly gifted but who is happy to create AND to work hard to stay afloat. all of this (waves arms around studio wildly) will pay off one day. and that day is coming soon for anna.
ok, so i’m missing Pitchforkmedia’s Festival this weekend. but you know what? i’m not that into a lot of the newer bands that they are supporting these days. do i want to see Guided by Voices again? sure… Neko Case? i’m always down for a Neko set. but do i want to see these bands again with a gigantic crowd, blistering heat, and bad sound? not really. big let downs? i would love to see Fleet Foxes for the first time and see one of my favorite bands, Superchunk, for the twentieth time. but hey… i guess i’ll have to listen to Superchunk on my headphones in the Denver International Airport instead. oh well.
I once met Mac from Superchunk/Merge records before a show in Boston. my friends were on tour with them and they introduced me to him. i’m pretty sure i said something like
‘you got me through high school’
and then ran away like a school girl giggling at the boy she likes.
| currently listening to: My Coco, Stellastarr*, Stellastarr*, 2003 |LINK
the photography: there was a small break in the gorgeous spring weather here in chicago. yesterday and on into this morning, fog blanketed the north side of the city making for some awesome pictures and some wonky traffic jams. only in chicago would drivers be distracted by low lying clouds.
to set the tone of just how creepy it was outside, i also took some indoor shots of our back stairs and of our kitchen. my wife and i love to watch the CTA workers do their nightly rounds which include walking down the tracks past our house. once they hit a specific spot, they turn around and walk back up to the platform in an awkward single file line. we always joke that it’s the ‘Others’ from the the TV show Lost. last night, we were so entrenched in the cinematic quality of the weather that we actually got spooked by the whole ordeal. thus no photos of people walking on the train tracks in the fog. we were too busy hugging each other and laughing… oh well…
with the baby on it’s way any day now (holy crap i don’t know if i can wait any longer!!!!!) my blog posts have slowed to a trickle. i will make sure to post as much as i possibly can… when fog like this rolls in, i can’t help myself. i also have a good 6 blog posts (or so) containing my-trip-to-china photos waiting to be published… photos are with the 5D and the 28mm f1.8. no tripods were used. everything here is handheld. i’m still like that. enjoy.
this ode to the nose candy is one of the best radio hits that never made it on to anything but college radio. it should be a dance club favorite, it should be on everyone’s ipod, it should be the cornerstone for post 80’s revival that’s been brewing and overflowing for the last 10 years but alas… this band just never got high enough off the ground. me thinks they tried to be too much like rainer maria and not enough like the ting tings. sigh.
| currently listening to: Carry the Zero, Built to Spill, Keep it Like a Secret, 1999 | LINK
in the summer of 2006, my wife was working for the television program, Antiques Roadshow. the perks of such a job meant that i got to travel with them to film on location in hawaii. these photos are from the island of oahu where it is cheaper to abandon your car than it is to take it to the junk yard. many of these photos are from the middle of the island surrounded by pineapple plantations. the photos reflect the disparity of up-island living and not the glitz and glam of honolulu. these photos first appeared in a solo show called Dead Oahu.
| currently listening to: I am Science, The Uprights, Demo, 2008 |LINK
taking the day off and walking around the streets of chicago is one of my favorite pastimes. the city is so manageable by foot and with public transportation you can get pretty much everywhere you want to be. today’s photo is from the bus station in dublin. i was wandering around the docks a couple of days after christmas this past year. it was overcast and 40 degrees which is perfect for walking around the city without feeling too hot or too cold (it’s also perfect weather for photographing cars btw). when i visit different parts of the world i try to capture wide screen photos of daily life. if you missed the trip in person, these photos make for a boring slide show but i really enjoy the snapshots as they are my little ode to the slices of life that i witness; a guide book for where we were. the music today is the uprights. they are my friend Vann’s band and this is one of their more recent demos. it’s smooth and bright indie rock with a touch of programmed drums, echoing layered guitars, and some floaty vocals. perfect for a 50 degree day off in the midwest in march.