We Might Call It Reality

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Almost all of us, at some point in our lives, are filled with a longing desire to discover, learn, and live in the moment. This wild and innate urge is often referred to as wanderlust, our best attempt as humans at trying to encapsulate this force that pulls at us. However appreciated, this cannot sum up or explain the call. In her photography, Sydney Krantz attempts to further capture and explain this phenomenon, in hopes of providing us with a tiny glimpse of what it feels like to find your gratifying place in the universe, even if only for a moment. While many suppress and try to distract themselves from the call until the lust has quieted, Sydney boldly answers, and rather than silence her desire to explore life, she faces it head on, and shares some of her experiences with us here.

Fameless Quarterly : When did you first realize that photography was something you were passionate about?
SK: It wasn't until Junior year of high school. It was more of a hobby for my dad and his brother, so it was always around, but I never really became interested in it until I got a camera for Hanukkah or some holiday and started messing around with it. I ended up taking some photo classes in high school and learned about the history, the process, the dark room… it really just took off from there.

So it’s safe to say that while photography seems to run in your family, you took it a step further in making it something more than just a hobby?
I definitely took it a step further. They kept it as an interest, but I was the first person in my family that wanted to go to school for and pursue that as a career. To be honest, they weren't very supportive in the beginning; a lot of “What kind of job can you get with photography?” and all that, but I think now they’re just a little jealous that I’m still doing it [and loving every minute].

You’re showin’ ‘em how it’s done! It’s not uncommon for loved ones to be apprehensive about pursuing the life of a creative. Of course it’s always in our best interest, wanting something that’s more secure and structured. Fortunately, we live in a time where more than ever, artists have the opportunity to not only make a name for themselves, but do so quite comfortably. You seem to be doing very well, all in all. Way to break the mold!
Thanks!

What is the intended message that you hope to convey in your work, and do you feel you’re able to do that successfully?
If I get any type of reaction, whether it’s positive or not, it’s a good thing. I don’t have any preconceived intentions for how I want others to feel about it; I just have an idea of how I want a photo to look, and work hard at making sure the shot comes out how I imagine it. Of course sometimes it can be a surprise too, because it's all on film and I can never be certain about the outcome. I mean, the whole idea is to have that moment mean something important to each person, whether they question reality or feel a certain type of way. In the end, the goal is just to have the viewer tap into their imaginations and look at things from alternative perspectives. I try to focus on things that are constants in everyday life. Color is a big part of that in my work; it allows me to take that constant and make it into something more surreal.

Your work can definitely be described as dreamlike. It seems to play on that border between what is real and what is just beyond. Your play on the colors, exposures, lighting, and your use of multiple exposures certainly adds to that effect. What is pleasure to you? Do you feel your work represents that theme? 
Pleasure is broad; it can mean being at home for a few days or eating a good meal, but at the same time, it goes much deeper. Pleasure isn’t always so easily connected under the surface as it is above it .With my work now especially, I try to replicate moments that I find to be blissful. It’s about the little unexpected moments; anything that would be ignored and giving it a second look. Looking from a different set of eyes can change everything.

What advice would you give to other aspiring photographers?
Read a lot, especially photo books; do a lot of research online and get familiar with the work of other artists. Talking about my work is one of my most difficult and daunting tasks, so it helps to keep up with interviews and hearing how other artists talk about their work. Also, listen to your instincts. If you see something you want to take a photograph of, do it. Regardless of what teachers or friends or fellow artists might say, listen to your gut, and don't lose sight of why you started.

Would you be able to recommend a book or some photography books?
Robert Adams - Why People Photograph

Stephen Shore - The Nature of Photographs 

Is there anyone you’ve met or worked with that has influenced you or that you hold especially significant in your journey as photographer thus far?
David Hilliard, one of my professors in college. My style was very unconventional compared to my peers, and he was very supportive of my work and my vision throughout my last semester. I certainly could not have come as far as I have if it were not for his encouragement. Also the work of Brian Graf and James Welling was definitely a game changer for me, and it wasn't until I saw their work that I challenged my then, very traditional and uncertain style.

What kind of film do you shoot, and why have you chosen that format?
I loved film from the very beginning and then I received my first DSLR. I certainly used both, but shooting with film simply satisfied me more. It took a lot more thought and concentration and it seemed more of an art form/craft than my digital camera. In my first photography class in college, we learned how to shoot with large format (4x5) cameras and how to develop our own film (b&w). It was extremely challenging, but as soon as I got the hang of it, I was hooked. Bought my own camera and everything. I moved onto color 4x5 which is unfortunate because I love it so much, but it’s getting more and more expensive to buy and develop it. I then decided to buy a Mamiya 67 (medium format) because I enjoyed being able to work a little bit faster (medium format has 10 shots as opposed to shooting one at a time with the 4x5). It was also a better option for my wallet because it allowed me to experiment without worrying so much about ruining shots. Film will always be my first love, but as an artist, I have to adapt to the current technologies which led me to investing in the Sony A7r, (a mirror-less digital camera) Such an impressive little camera, I never thought I’d be this excited about digital!

In your experience, what has been your favorite camera to shoot with?
Definitely my 4x5. I’m using it less and less these days, but each time I whip it out, it’s as magical and fulfilling as the next.

Sydney Krantz is based in the NJ/NY area

Get the Queen What She Wants!

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Schadenfreude - pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. One can’t seem to escape this feeling about the Siegel family when watching the documentary The Queen of Versailles. The film was supposed to be about conspicuous consumption, and what it’s like to be able to build the palace of your dreams, but instead the film began as a portrait of a timeshare billionaire, his ditzy wife, and their grotesque quest to build the largest house in the United States of America; The 90,000 square foot “Versailles” imitation -- "kitsch" is perhaps the best descriptor. It ended as perhaps the single best film on what happens when those pleasures are taken away from you in an instant. 

In 2008, the Siegel family was at the top of the heap with the wealthy and politically influential David Siegel running the successful Westgate Resorts timeshare business. The documentarians wanted to see what kind of people would build such an unnecessarily large house so they embedded themselves into the Siegel family. That’s when things took a turn for the unthinkable (at that time); the financial crisis hit, credit dried up, Siegel's business began to flounder, Versailles fell into disrepair and the family began to crack. "This is almost like a riches-to-rags story," Siegel tells the camera. For this over privileged family, accepting that situation proved a dispiriting struggle even as their unfinished dream home became a monument of their superficial values.

As in any good documentary, the players do all the heavy satirical lifting, in this case Jackie redefines white trash and the much older David clarifies the role men play who indulge their wives as long as they are hot and attentive. "Foolish old man" is an apt cliché for a decent guy who was smart enough to make billions, but not smart enough to avoid an indulgent wife. As the documentary glides to its conclusion, we are left with the impression of a decent man who couldn't control his appetites and an optimistic wife who couldn't control her spending. 

Other than the Michael Moore type of documentaries which have a stated agenda, filmmakers are thought to be neutral arbiters. One of the best qualities of this film is how non-judgmental it is. They film the action, interview the subjects, and edit it in a way fair to all the players. However, no matter how one edits the footage, the Siegels are going to come off looking like some horrible people. It is in the best documentary tradition: truth will out. David is 30 years Jackie's senior and now that their funds are rapidly dwindling away, he is starting to get tired of his third wife. He hides in his office (a couch in front of a flat screen surrounded by papers and food scraps) to enjoy being away from the chaos which his house has become. It shows its characters being both thoughtless and thoughtful and it gives them a chance to represent themselves to the camera; it's a movie that has no interest in being a hatchet job. At the same time, it juxtaposes their problems with those of one of their nanny's, whose situation is far sadder; it also has no interest in being a whitewash.

These folks are poster children for the worst extremes of our materialistic, narcissistic culture. Their values are money, ostentation, self-aggrandizement, acquisition and mindless hedonism. They are venomous leeches on society. Yet, I felt pity for them as well, particularly Jackie. She's something of an enigma. She boasts about getting an engineering degree so she wouldn't have to work as someone's assistant, yet she mostly devotes herself to keeping herself young-looking and voluptuous (those breasts of hers deserve some sort of special effects award) so she can snag and keep a rich hubby. As her world starts to fall apart around her, she begins to have some insights about what life is really about (hint: not building the world's biggest house), yet still can't abandon her out-of-control shopping sprees or tortuous visits to the beauty clinic. The children, seem to be far more aware than their parents of the emptiness and ridiculousness of their lifestyle.

The Siegels aren’t an object of envy and even though they still have more money than you do, you would never switch places with them. The film shows laughable yet slightly shocking scenes of people who equate things with happiness and excess with success. "Versailles" is never finished (the house plays a bit part in the movie) but the home they live in is ridiculous in its own way: It's luxurious, but also filthy. 

There’s no good news in this film, it ends before the recession does. “The Queen of Versailles” is unremittingly gloomy probably because a part of us all is hidden amongst that greed. Everyone is susceptible to covetousness and an inflated sense of self. This film shows what happens when that proceeds unchecked and fueled by obscene wealth. Jobs come and go, physical beauty fades, markets rise and fall. Even close relationships can end, but true happiness lasts a lifetime.

METHOD: Tatyana Fazlalizadeh

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Tatyana Fazlalizadeh is reclaiming public space with defiant portraits plastered on buildings across the U.S. Part of an ongoing series, “Stop Telling Women to Smile,” these portraits are derived from interviews Fazlalizadah has conducted with women from all over the nation on their personal experiences with gender-based street harassment.  Powerful statements accompany each drawing, culled from the stories that the interviewees have shared with Fazlalizadah—some read, “my name is not baby, shorty, sexy, sweetie, honey, pretty, boo sweetheart, ma,” “women are not seeking your validation,” “critiques on my body are not welcome” and “my masculinity is not a threat to yours.”  “Stop Telling Women to Smile” has elicited a strong national response—spurring conversations on gender, race, autonomy and misogyny—since its 2012 inception in Brooklyn.  Fazlalizadeh traffics in the dialectics of power with her work, highlighting that catcalling is not about pleasure but, rather, control. We recently sat down with the now very-much-in-demand artist (her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Guardian, the Huffington Post and Beautiful Decay Magazine as well as on CNN and The Melissa Harris-Perry Show) to talk with her about her daily routine:

Fameless Quarterly: How do you begin your day? Do you have any morning rituals that are particularly important for preparing you to engage with the sometimes-difficult subject material you work with day-in and day-out? Tatyana Fazlalizadeh: I'm working on making a better morning routine. I've never been a morning person but I think I'd be more productive and have more successful days if I had a better and earlier morning routine. I usually wake up, drink some water, open my laptop, and start tackling emails. Some days I wake up early and go to the gym, come home and begin painting.

FQ:  Walk me through the rest of your day. Your project has received a good deal of media attention and you are expanding "Stop Telling Women to Smile" to be more participatory--spread over various locations in the U.S. You must be busy! TF: The rest of my day sort of depends. If I'm working from home for the day I'll possibly be doing one of a few things: working on back-end, administrative stuff, or painting. I prefer to paint during the morning and day, so sometimes I'll wait to handle work that's done on my computer until the evening. Some days I have phone or in-person meetings, some days I work in a local coffee shop, some days I'm out on my bike running errands. Being a freelance artist gives me the freedom to have days that widely differ from each other.

FQ: So much of your work deals with the basic ability of women to have autonomy of movement, free from harassment. Prior to this project in what ways did street harassment affect how you proceeded with your daily routine? Has that changed since you began "Stop Telling Women to Smile"? TF: The thought of street harassment doesn't really affect my daily routine. While some days I do take a moment before leaving the house because I know my outfit might elicit some unwanted attention, I still leave my house and go about my day. The act of street harassment is what affects me once it happens. It can affect my mood but it still doesn't interfere with my routine. Since STWTS, I've become more assertive in responding back to men who harass me. Responding gives me a feeling of empowerment.

FQ: On average how much time do you spend interviewing, photographing, and drawing your subjects before replicating and wheat-pasting their images? Do you dedicate specific days just to interviewing and photographing and days to wheat-pasting or do you only work with one subject at a time?

TF: Right now, I'm doing more pasting than interviewing. This year I've spent a lot of time in other cities meeting many women, interviewing and photographing them. I still have a lot of potential portrait subjects from all of these cities that I'm working through. I've accumulated a lot of content, and now the more important part is getting that work out to the public. I don't dedicate certain days to pasting, as long as I'm going out and doing it consistently.

FQ: Your preferred medium, and what you have always worked in prior to this project, is oil painting. Do you still have time during your day to work on painting or has your focus completely shifted to the "Stop Telling Women to Smile" project? TF: I'm a freelance illustrator so I'm always painting. STWTS requires a lot of administrative work that takes up some of my day, but I'm still very much painting.

FQ: You have made a conscious effort to include representations of women of color in your images. You have stated in the past that this is a result of your experiences as well as a way to include women of color in a feminist conversation--especially since, historically, they have been left out of these discourses. As you have continued to work on this project and have conversations with women about street harassment what more have you learned about the intersection of race and street harassment as well as race and feminism? Has this changed the way you approach your project? TF: I've learned that not everyone is harassed in the same way and that there isn't a standard definition of what harassment is. What a young black woman who lives in a black neighborhood experiences will be different from what a white woman who moves into that neighborhood experiences—or, the experiences may be similar but the perspective on harassment is very different. That's why when it comes to race and feminism, it's important for all voices to be heard and listened to. It's the reason why I'm now trying to curate the subjects in the project even more. Street harassment may happen to everyone but the way that is occurs will differ if you're a 16 year-old Latina from Brooklyn, versus a 23 year-old queer Santa Monica student, versus a 50 year-old black woman from South LA.

FQ: During your day do you often encounter men who are interacting with your art? If you do, what are their reactions to the project like? TF: No. I never see men interacting with the art. I spread these pieces out so I'm not often walking past them unless I've put them in my neighborhood. These, I don't see people interacting with them—but I do see how they evolve over time. Sometimes pieces of the work get ripped away; people write on them; street artists add slaps to them, etc. But I don't usually see anyone stopping, looking, and reacting—though I know that does happen.

FQ: Some of the pieces you have pasted around the city have been defaced. Do you replace those pieces with new work or do you leave the defaced pieces so that people can see the misogynist statements written on them? TF: I don't replace them. I let them live there as long as they can. I might revisit the same spot months later after the first piece has gone but, I don't replace them simply because they've been defaced. They are consistently defaced and that's not something I can really prevent from happening. I do think it's important for people to see the defacement because it usually highlights the point of the work—that women's bodies are abused in public spaces.

FQ: Speaking of place and autonomy of movement--do you have any favorite spaces in the city? TF: I'm kind of an outdoors girl, even though most of my time is spent indoors. I like being in the park or at the beach—I love Prospect Park and visiting different beaches. I work in coffee shops often and have a few favorites that I go to. I also love riding my bike around Brooklyn and discovering different neighborhoods.

INVENTORY: Cecilia Doan

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During a lunch break last year, Cecilia Doan’s co-worker mentioned she was coveting a pair of shoes she had seen a favorite blogger wearing in a photograph online. Cecilia blurted out the phrase “shit bloggers wear!” and an idea was born. Doan started creating black and white drawings of sartorial items that seemingly “appeared” at the same time on all of the major fashion blogs—thanks to brand endorsements—and uploaded her drawings to her newly minted website, “Shit Bloggers Wear.” The sense of humor inherent in Doan’s skillfully executed minimalist drawings quickly garnered “Shit Bloggers Wear” attention; since the blog’s inception Doan has been asked to collaborate with Topshop, The Coveteur, Fashionista, Complex Media, Grandlife Hotels, Fashion Magazine, and Of A Kind. When we meet someone like Doan it is easy to get caught up in all of their accomplishments and makes us wonder—what tools are in this person’s arsenal? So we asked Doan to sit down and document what her essentials are, the objects that get her through the day—and we aren’t talking about those Balenciaga boots.  

Cecilia sent us the following collection of essentials (clockwise from top, left corner):

  1. Trader Joe's Mangoes: I always need snacks because I'm constantly hungry, or at least craving to munch on something throughout the day. So a bag of dried fruit like this will be finished in just a day or two. I actually bought the wrong mangoes this time, because they ran out of the "Just Mangoes" which has no added ingredients and tastes like the mangoes I grew up eating.  
  2. Headphones: I'm at my computer for about 10-12 hours a day. I'm constantly on SoundCloud during that time, because I'm trying to learn more about music, new music that's out by up-and-coming artists—artists of my generation. I grew up with a very narrow scope of music and I'm trying to catch up.
  3. Toki Doki for Smashbox Skin Tint: This has been mine for what, about 4 years? It sounds kind of gross because I don't think you're supposed to keep cosmetics for that long. Anyway, my natural lip color is pretty nude and I am horrible, absolutely horrible, at wearing lipstick so I opt for ‘all-in-ones’ or tinted lip balm. It requires less precision, and won't get in the way of my snack habit.
  4. Japanese Shortbread: Asian snacks are some of my favorite, especially things that are green tea flavored.
  5. iPhone Charging Cable: I'm notoriously known among my friends to always have the lowest charge on my iPhone at any given point. I don't know why, because I constantly close my apps when I'm not actively using them. This is a much needed utility, so I can continue to waste hours on Tumblr.
  6. Sticky Notes & Instax Fujifilm: Some people use Moleskins or Field Notes, I just use sticky notes. I'm a perfectionist, or a control freak, or OCD ... whatever you want to see it as. And if I used journals I would constantly be tearing out pages because I didn't like the way I wrote a certain sentence. I stick the sticky notes everywhere and they're really effective because they're constantly in my face and remind me to make things happen. As far as the Instax Fujifilm ... it's a fun camera (not pictured) that I reserve for moments with friends and family. This photograph is with my niece who actually reminds me way too much of myself as a child.
  7. Polka Dot Pouch: This is the only "purse" I carry with me. I purchased it from the Japanese Delfonics gift shop inside the Louvre in Paris. It is PVC, super cheap, and really cute. I have several in various patterns like this. They're very "CDG" (Comme Des Garçons).  
  8. Pens: Ballpoint pens make me cringe. I write and illustrate with ink pens only. Brand, type and point size doesn't really matter as long as the ink continues to flow heavy. The other pen is a Pentel Japanese brush pen for calligraphy. I use it to fill in areas in some of my illustrations. I couldn't possibly shade so thoroughly with the ink pen alone.
  9. Car Keys: I love my Mini Cooper and I'm actually pretty proud to have this round disk for a key. I've wanted a Mini since I was in high school. I finally got it two years ago and it was a huge ‘adult’ moment for me, except it drives like a go-kart and makes me feel so badass.
  10. iPhone 5: Everyone feels really sorry for my phone, which is cracked and dented to near smithereens. I dropped it in Hong Kong, after losing it and finding it again in Japan. I think it doesn't want to live any more ... but I'm making it hang on for dear life—it could be months or forever until the next iPhone comes out.
  11. Leather Notebook: Sometimes, I do take notes in these things. I bring them to meetings (along with my sticky notes) so people will take me more seriously. Mostly, I write lists in them.
  12. Hand Shit Hand Cream: Why do your hands feel so dry and gross after you wash them? I'm not devoted to this brand or product, it was just funny and I'm a sucker for anything corny.
  13. Japanese Strawberry Cheesecake Kit Kat: Did I mention I liked to snack? Asian snacks?