A photo series, created through long-form improv on the streets of New York, following fictional young couples from dating to marriage.
I still need your help!! The project reached it's minimum goal Saturday night, but I and my actors still desperately need every little bit we can raise. Your donation in these last few hours is so tremendously needed and appreciated. Thank you!!
A fine art narrative photography project that follows young couples at the beginning of their relationships over a series of 20+ images, from dating to married with children, and is staged on location in the streets, apartments, markets, and cafes of New York City. The finished pictures will ultimately be submitted to photography competitions, sold in art galleries, and displayed in museums.
In the fine art tradition of Gregory Crewdson, Cindy Sherman, or Kelli Connell, we stage scenes like you would for a movie, with locations, sets, lights, actors, and costumes—but instead of using action and dialogue to tell the story, we get a single still frame; it's similar to the paintings you see in museums, like the narrative paintings of Edward Hopper or the 17th-century Dutch realists. The pictures rely on a telling prop, an expression, a small gesture by one of the characters to convey the story surrounding this frozen moment. Then the viewer gets to fill in the details, to elaborate upon what happened before we arrived and what might happen after we leave.
Last fall, I held auditions and cast a group of actors to play several young couples at the beginning of their relationships. We spent four months rehearsing together to create characters, pulling ideas from people the actors knew. Through long-form improv, we began to craft the first faint sketches of who these characters were and where their stories together might be headed. As part of this process, we took the characters out of the rehearsal space and into the real world to learn how they moved, what they sounded like, what the rhythms of their life were—not as a test run, but as a major part of the process. It resulted in spontaneous encounters—interacting with the checkout lady at the supermarket, the homeless guy on the street corner, the stranger looking for a record producer, or the pigeon who tried to steal a character’s salad in the park—and it taught us more about these characters than I think we would have learned otherwise. It was a joy to follow them and a privilege to witness these private moments. And now I want to start capturing these as still images to share with you.
I used to work on movie productions, so I know that staging something like this is complex, with lots of moving parts, and the costs start to add up quickly. So far, the actors and crew have been generously donating their time, but I need your help with the equipment and other physical needs of the production. The goal of $15,000 will cover the equipment part of this project: the cameras and the lights. That’s the minimum needed to make this project, but I’d like to set the sights higher: raising $25,000 would cover the additional costs of set dressing, costumes, locations fees, city permits, and transporting all of this stuff to and from set. I’m proud to say we have zero overhead at this point, so every dollar you give will show up in print in the finished image. And through some of the rewards for donating (listed in the sidebar), I’m looking forward to getting copies of those images into your hands.
A Cool Project to Give To
This project feels like the culmination of a long journey for me. It merges my interests in photography and filmmaking, telling stories and working with actors. And since I've spent the last several years overseeing locations on movies, I have a practical understanding of how to shoot on location and the skill to put together the required elements. This series also differs from other photographers working in this genre through the use of recurring characters appearing over multiple images and a long-term commitment to see the characters age over time. When you combine all of that with our improv-heavy approach to shooting, I think this project has something genuinely unique to offer viewers and will ultimately interest art dealers and museum curators—and that interest will grow, the longer we can shoot for.
Help me make that possible by donating. And check out some of the exclusive rewards on the right you can earn as a result. I appreciate your support in this so unbelievably much. I’ve never been more serious than when I say I could not do this without you. So thanks.
When I was fifteen, a photography teacher showed me the photos of Gregory Crewdson. Those images stuck with me all through high school and college. I’ve been shooting pictures as long as I can remember—first with disposable Kodak cameras I took to summer camp, then with Dad’s SLR, then Grandpa’s SLR. I went to college for filmmaking, but I realize now I went because I love telling stories, like the ones I told in the twenty or so short films I made in high school and the half dozen I made in college. I studied acting for two years here in New York to develop my skills working with actors, like all the great film directors I admired: Robert Altman, Stephen Daldry, Sam Mendes. I started dreaming about doing a project like this four years ago while working in film, but working on movies is so all-consuming that I had to just let it percolate until the time was right. Sometimes I shot documentary photos and events for friends, while my film work involved organizing the details for each location—not unlike what I’m doing for this project. It feels like all of these seemingly different tangents have been winding their way toward this. And now I have the chance to do it.
They always say to write what you know. Well, my wife and I got married five years ago, so we fall in that “young couple” category, and a lot of our friends do too. We've watched them start dating, struggle, miscommunicate, break up, get back together again, get married; some even have kids at this point. Many of the artists I respect focus on isolated people cut off from one another—Edward Hopper filled his work with that, as did many of the realist painters of the last few centuries. Much modern fiction, including Lorrie Moore’s short stories (which I love), does the same. But our life together and the life we share with our friends has been made up of and suffused with a different quality than this isolation, and so I'm hoping and working to put that into these pictures.
First, it's a problem of time: with a documentary project you must constantly be with your subjects, waiting for the moment to happen. It can take years with a subject to get the kind of openness necessary to capture the honest moments I’m looking for. The second factor is proximity: how close can I get, or how close am I willing to get, to someone in the midst of a real and deep emotional experience? Do you give your subject distance out of respect for what they're going through? Or do you jump right in and snap away because it's your job? Two of the filmmakers I respect, Krzysztof Kieślowski and Kore-eda Hirokazu, started out in documentary, but I get the sense in looking at their body of work that they may have realized something—that in documentary, there was still a level of distance between them and their subject they couldn't bridge—and so they both eventually moved over into narrative filmmaking. Yet even when crafting fiction, they both still maintained a documentary approach, seeking the truth of a moment, in their work. That is what I aspire to.
The stories we tell in our culture often try to understand people from a singular moment or a singular action they take—whether it’s by the career path they chose when they were nineteen or a crime they committed. Or think of the movies that put their characters through a single nightmarish day to see how they respond or rise to the occasion. But the thing is, people are unbelievably more complex than that. Context makes a big impact: we act differently when we’re with family than when we’re with friends, or when we’re in a new place meeting new people for the first time. Whether we’re in a crowd or a small group makes a big difference as well. And if we’ve experienced something before, how we respond in that same situation the next time around often changes, especially as we age. Each of these situations, each of these contexts, brings out a different side of ourselves, and how we behave or react is different each time. My hope is that by following the same characters over time, the viewer won’t be able to reduce them to their most basic elements, but instead will be forced to struggle with the often contradictory behaviors of each character and thus reconcile for themselves the different facets that make up who each character is.
I have a website in the works that will launch in the next few months. It’ll host both the finished pictures as well as document the process of making them. Until then, sign up for my newsletter and I'll let you know when the site is launched: http://eepurl.com/f5AWv