Chris Floyd: Clean Living Under Difficult Circumstances.

Clyde Biggins: The Legend Of BBQ

Posted in Film, Inspiration, Me Myself & I, Personal Projects, Video by Chris Floyd on December 30, 2012

Clyde Biggins. Dallas, Texas, September 8th 2012

I was down in Dallas in September 2012 to photograph a story on high school football and was staying with an old friend who lives there. He and I both like to take the opportunity to enjoy high quality meats whenever the chance presents itself. The American South, of course, is the place to explore what the meats are capable of giving when cooked on a barbecue pit. Each state has its own methods and techniques and, I’m sure, if you want to get really picky you can find those who believe it varies dramatically from county to county too.

A few days before my arrival, my friend, Trent, sent me an email with a link to a post on the Texas BBQ Posse blog, strap line, “In search of the greatest smoked meats in the greatest state in the union.”

Gary Jacobson, who wrote the post, began by explaining that he had recently been the recipient of a letter from a man by the name of Clyde Biggins. Clyde claimed that he had once been the owner of “Clyde’s Old Fashion Hickory Smoked Barbecue” on Westmoreland Road in Dallas.

In 1993 he had been convicted for his part in a conspiracy involving illegal drugs, was convicted and now almost at the end of an eighteen year term in a federal prison.

The piece went on to explain how Clyde was looking to get back on his feet when released and could the members of the Posse do anything to help in that regard. You can read the full text at the link below. It’s a great read and is a story that contains the mouth watering seeds of the possibilities of redemption.

http://texasbbqposse.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/clyde-is-back-cooking-some-of-best-bbq.html

To cut a long story short, Clyde has been unable to secure the food licences that would allow him to once again set up shop in Texas. To get around this he has put together a mobile rolling barbecue and positioned it in his front yard. Food is free but diners are encouraged to leave a tip. He invited the Posse over to try his cooking and Posse member Jim Rossman revealed, “Clyde’s the real deal. The meal I had would easily rank him in the top 5 among Dallas-Fort Worth BBQ joints, plus he has a great personality. That’s a winning combination.”

“Watching Clyde work that pit was like watching a great conductor lead a symphony,” Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins said. “No thermometers, gauges or gimmicks. It was old school cooking by feel alone.”

Clyde was reluctant to allow the members of the Posse to reveal his address on their blog, for fear of being shut down by local officials, despite the fact that two Dallas cops stopped by that afternoon to pick up some takeaway, so there was no way to locate him.

After reading the story I sent back a reply to Trent: “Your mission? Find Clyde.”

In the lead up to my arrival Trent reported back regularly with the news. No dice every time. All through my stay the backdrop to the hundred and five degree heat was the hunt for Clyde. Still nothing until, on my last full day in Dallas, Clyde joined Facebook. Trent sent him a message with his phone number and within five minutes Clyde had called back with an invite to come on over and “sample some meats”.

I didn’t go over there with the intention of doing any filming but I took my camera anyway, mainly in case I got the chance to do a portrait of him or something. When we got there, the mid afternoon sun was beating down but in the shade of some big, heavy trees everything just seemed so much more mellow and amenable. We sat down on some chairs in front of his pit while the smell of pecan smoked meats drifted on around and he was more than happy to tell us his story. So, I had to use what I had and I shot this short handheld with one 8gb memory card and interviewed him with the voice memo app on my iPhone. Someday I’d like to go back there with a jib, a dolly and a crew worthy of the subject.

If you’re ever in the Dallas area make sure you take some time out to find Clyde. He really is the real deal. In the meantime, this short film might give you a flavour of how good his food tastes.

Advertisements

The Way I Dress: Mr Santa Claus

Posted in Commissioned Work, Film, Inspiration, Me Myself & I, Video by Chris Floyd on December 18, 2012

As the public face of an iconic brand, Mr Santa Claus needs to send a consistent visual message to potential customers. In this exclusive interview he allows us a glimpse of the extraordinary wardrobe he keeps in his contemporary home, reveals that he believes he works in the creative industries, rather than the retail sector, and shows off a previously unseen tattoo.

Mr Claus made his name with his pioneering business model, which sees his organisation give away a vast number of children’s gifts each year, to publicise its bestselling range of Christmas merchandise. Between his ranges of cards, sweets, toys and decorations, not to mention the licensing of his image for adverts, and his employment agency, which supplies stores all over the world with look-a-likes, Mr Claus’ trademark appearance is big business. No wonder he puts so much time, and investment, into his remarkable visual identity.

Asked during filming about his plans for 2013 Mr Claus mentioned the fortnight he takes each January to recover from the Christmas rush – he likes the Amandari hotel in Bali – and the annual February awayday he organises for his team to brainstorm ideas for the year ahead. However, Mr Claus wouldn’t comment on recent speculation in the financial press that he’s considering taking on the confectionary industry with a new Easter project, although his reticence may be due to his recent run-in with the regulatory authorities over monopoly issues.

Directed by Chris Floyd
Art Direction by Jacopo ‘Jay’ Maria Cinti
Text by Mansel Fletcher

Bedroom Eyes: A Short Film About Eyelashes

Posted in Commissioned Work, Film, Inspiration, Me Myself & I, Video by Chris Floyd on November 13, 2012

Back in the summer, when the days were all that stood between us and the horizon, the pollen lingered wistfully in the beams that sliced through the blinds and the ringing of the schoolyard bell was still far enough away to echo only momentarily before drifting and dying in the buzz of the lawnmowers outside, a group of us stood in a languid London bedroom to make a short film about eyelashes.

Nina and Max the founders of London make-up brand, Eyeko, had asked Kay Montano and I to create something for them that would allow people to see just how good their products are.  As well as being a great friend, Kay is one of the finest make-up artists in the whole wide world.

We all stood in that bedroom and as the afternoon light gathered about us I turned to Kay, nodded at our model, Jess, and said, “Only one road to go down on a day like today, with a girl like that, in a room like this. It’s got to be Marilyn.”

‘Marilyn in Bed’ at the Bel Air Hotel by Bert Stern, 1962.

No one really needed to say much more. As Kay put it herself on her blog, “we trusted in the osmosis of a lifetime of iconic films and beauty icons in the forefront of our nerdy minds to guide us.”

The music is ‘Again’ by  Tamara Schlesinger and was suggested by my ever patient editor, Dani Jacobs.  Having Dani on my side is one reason why I love making films.  The opportunities to collaborate and allow others to add value are endless, as long as you are prepared to leave your ego at the door and welcome them in to the process as equals.

The Way I Dress: Mr Joshua Kissi

Posted in Film, Inspiration, Me Myself & I, Video by Chris Floyd on October 23, 2012

Straight out of The Bronx, New York, Joshua Kissi, who can often be found on Instagram posting up his late night bike rides through the city that never sleeps, is one half of influential style blog, Street Etiquette. On the subject of to roll or not roll up his trousers he says, ” I roll up everything, some people make fun of it, some people don’t like it but, hey, it’s your personal taste.” And his personal style, “Sometimes Afro-dandyism, sometimes mod, sometimes punk, a touch of prep, a touch Americana, colours, patterns, silhouettes, jewellery…….it’s an amalgamation of everything I’m interested in. My style is just style. I wouldn’t put it in a category.”

Filmed om location in Brooklyn, New York, September 2012

The Way I Dress: Mr Nick Sullivan

Posted in Commissioned Work, Film, Inspiration, Video by Chris Floyd on October 2, 2012

Mr Nick Sullivan is the fashion director of US Esquire. He was born in Dorset, England, but is now based in New York City. “I think I probably picked up a few things about style from my dad, and I’m slightly inspired, in a way, by photographs of him from before I was even born.”  On the difference between fashion and style, “There are two camps, one worships fashion and the other worships style. To me the difference is less important than what they add to each other.”

The film was shot in his house in Brooklyn, New York and the music for this new series is by my very best New York friend, Mr Jason Darling, who I first met in a bar in London’s Soho, way back in 1998.  Finally, we get to collaborate.

The Way I Dress: Mr Simon Hammerstein

Posted in Commissioned Work, Film, Inspiration, Me Myself & I, Video by Chris Floyd on May 29, 2012

The third in the new series of films for Mr Porter. Simon Hammerstein is the founder of The Box, which is 2 nightclubs, one in New York and one in London. Hammerstein’s family have had their iron in the showbiz fire from a time when the Dead Sea was still alive. His grandfather, Oscar Hammerstein, along with partner, Richard Rogers, was the man who gave the world such songs as ‘Ol’ Man River’, ‘Oklahoma’, ‘Some Enchanted Evening’, ‘Climb Ev’ry Mountain’ and ‘The Sound Of Music’ among many others.

This film was shot in a suite on the 8th floor of the Standard Hotel in New York City.

The Way I Dress: Mr Matthew Moneypenny

Posted in Commissioned Work, Film, Inspiration, Me Myself & I, Video by Chris Floyd on May 15, 2012

The second in the new series of 5 films for Mr Porter, shot in an apartment in Paris.  Matthew Moneypenny is the CEO & President of Trunk Archive, the people who represent the absolute best and greatest in photography that is available for licensing usage.  I know photo editors who spend their lunch hour looking at this site because the work they represent is so pleasurable to look at.  I would say that though, I’m lucky enough to have my archive represented by them too.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/42199127]

The Way I Dress: Mr Waris Ahluwalia

Posted in Commissioned Work, Film, Inspiration, Me Myself & I, Video by Chris Floyd on April 25, 2012

The first of a new series of 5 films for Mr Porter. This was shot at the Mercer Hotel in New York City in February 2012.

One Hundred And Forty Characters: The Book

One Hundred And Forty Characters: Front/Back Cover and Spine Proof. Designed by Wayne Ford.

This feels like it will never end.  While everybody else came to the party, stayed for a drink and left, I have been stuck in the room with all 140 of them for almost a year.  It has taken me that long to gather up written pieces from as many of them as I can.  Those that didn’t get back to me are too late.  I tried, oh I tried. Nevertheless, over 120 people worked their brains to a pulp to give me something insightful, revealing, funny, thoughtful, worrying and optimistic on Twitter, photography, being photographed, 9/11, society, evolution and a thousand other things, as well as collectively creating an impression for future generations of what it means and feels like to be alive today.

The end result is a fantastic 172 page book, featuring written contributions from almost everybody who took part in my 2010/11 quest to photograph 140 of the people I follow on Twitter, as well as the portraits themselves.

One Hundred And Forty Characters: Front/Back Cover and Spine Proof with Blind Emboss Outlines. Designed by Wayne Ford.

In all the talking I’ve done on this project over the last year, time and again I have come back to the role technology plays in making human lives infinitely more convenient, while at the same time conspiring to drive a wedge between us physically.  This has been so ever since the invention of the telegraph.  The overwhelming response to ‘One Hundred And Forty Characters’ has been positive.  The trolls have been contained to an area the size of a trolley and I am convinced that this is because the people who have seen it have innately understood and recognised that deep in our make up we understand that we are pack animals.  We need to meet, gather and be together in common cause.  OFC is that writ graphically and simply, only made possible because of technology, a lever to allow the conversion of potential energy into kinetic energy.

This has happened in several phases and stages.  One, I invited people to my studio via Twitter.  Right there they are out of the Twitter window and through my door, in my face.  I can see how tall they are, what they sound like, what sort of phone they’ve got, where they came from and on and on. Two, when the project ended there was an exhibition and about 100 of the 140 came to the opening night.  This made real a physical manifestation of Twitter’s daily virtual world, where they could all get up in each other’s faces and find out the same stuff I did, but with added alcohol. Finally, all of them are brought together for posterity, into hard copy format, ink on paper, with their thoughts to stand beside them.

“It’s a confessional, a Samaritan, a water cooler and a soapbox all rolled into one.”

– @mostly_grumpy

'One Hundred And Forty Characters' at Foto8 Gallery, London - November 2011

As the years pass and we travel ever further into a world where online relationships will be nothing more than our daily reality, this combination of portraits and words will come to serve as a big old time capsule of what we thought social media was in its earliest days.  Oh! how we will look back and laugh at our naiveté, I’m sure.

‘One Hundred And Forty Characters’ is available as a 172 page book, printed in England by F.E. Burman, in a limited edition format, on Fedrigoni Xper 140gsm with a blind embossed cover on Fedrigoni Xper 320gsm.  Thank you to Wayne Ford for his beautiful design and art direction and also, Eleanor O’Kane, who proof read every single word and made the necessary corrections to the text.

The book is available directly from here for £35.00 for UK buyers. Click on the first link below:

For buyers from outside the UK the book is £40.00 and you should click here:

Finally, one more treat for you.  So you can see just what you’ll be getting for your money, here’s a great little video of the book’s text pages, with a voiceover by me, that took 14 attempts to nail.  Lots to look at, lots to read, get yours today.  Thirty years from now your kids will be staring at this in wonder thinking, “How did they live like that?”

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/40528037]

The Way I Dress: Mr David McAlmont

Posted in Commissioned Work, Film, Inspiration, Video by Chris Floyd on November 22, 2011
[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/32224296]

The fourth of five films for Mr Porter, men from whose style book we could all take a leaf.  Click here to see it on their site.  This is David McAlmont, one of my favourite singers, a man made from the same vocal DNA as Al Green.

The Way I Dress: Mr Sean Avery

Posted in Commissioned Work, Film, Inspiration, Video by Chris Floyd on November 4, 2011
[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/31619767]

The third of five films for Mr Porter, featuring well turned out gents ruminating on how they arrived at their personal style angle.  Click here to see it on their site.  Also shot in New York, this features Sean Avery, a professional ice hockey player, originally from Toronto, Canada and now playing with the New York Rangers.  Watch the way he does a little cleansing rub of his hands after he completes each piece of the dressing ritual.  I love that stuff.

The Way I Dress: Mr Douglas Friedman

Posted in Commissioned Work, Film, Inspiration, Video by Chris Floyd on October 24, 2011
[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/30746436]

This is the second of five films for Mr Porter – click here to see how it looks on their site.  This was shot on a 99F day in Brooklyn, New York in July 2011.  My subject was Douglas Friedman, a New York based photographer.  If we allow ourselves the space then the minutes when a man gets dressed can be the most calm and reflective of the day.  That’s what I have tried to evoke in these films.

The Way I Dress: Mr David Macklovitch

Posted in Commissioned Work, Film, Me Myself & I, Video by Chris Floyd on September 27, 2011
[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/29686533]

This is the first of five films I’ve made for Mr Porter, the recently launched menswear version of the Net-a-Porter womenswear site.

I’ll post them up here as Mr Porter unleash them, which is going to be on a weekly basis I believe.

There is some blurb that goes with the film on the site.  Here it is:

“MR PORTER has collaborated with photographer and film-maker Mr Chris Floyd on a series of films in which well-dressed men explain both the tangible and the intangible elements of their style and their wardrobe. “The time a gentleman spends getting dressed in the morning can be a reflective moment, before he charges forward into the world. I wanted the films to feel contemplative rather than dictatorial,” explains Mr Floyd. “They’re an opportunity for these men to explain how they arrived at their notion of style.” First into the fore is the ever-dapper front man Mr David Macklovitch of the Canadian electro-funk duo Chromeo. Quote to listen out for? “One of the first things I noticed with hip-hop music is that a lot of the clothing that people like Biggie was wearing was the same thing my Jewish grandfather in Florida was wearing.”

I would like to say a big thank you to Jeremy Langmead, Jodie Harrison, Leon St. Amour and all of the good people at Mr Porter who not only gave me a free run at making these films but also were really, really gracious in letting me make the films that I wanted to make.  Good people.

One Hundred & Forty Characters

One Hundred and Forty Characters: The Poster! See how to buy one at the end of this post.

In July 2010 I decided to begin photographing people that I follow on Twitter.  The idea for this came at a moment when I realised I had not seen or spoken to any of my best half a dozen real and actual friends for over a month. Some of those people on Twitter I communicate with several times a week, in bursts of 140 characters or less, and yet I had never met any of them. As we are now well and truly living in a digital age I am aware that this state of being is only going to deepen and the traditional forms of friendship, although they will not go away anytime soon, are going to have to make more room for the new way of doing things.  Where Facebook might be considered as the place in which you tell lies to all the people you went to school with, I had begun to think of Twitter as the place where you tell the truth to all those that you wish you’d gone to school with.  The project rolled on indefinitely for almost a year but when, one day, I counted up the number of subjects to date and came to a number in the mid one hundred and thirties, I immediately knew where this had to end.  So here they are.  My new friends.  140 characters.  No more and no less.

I am one week short of taking a full year to get to this point and, for those of you that are interested, here is the original post from July 2010, explaining it all right at the start.  Reading it back, I am struck by how much my inspiration stayed the course.  The digital nature of being a photographer today remained the prime raison d’etre for the project.  Humans are pack animals, despite what we may or may not believe at any given point in our daily/weekly/monthly/yearly cycle of highs and lows.  I am definitely happier when in the presence of stimulating company and the demise of film and all the trips to film related places (photographic stores, labs, printers etc) has played a big role in the erosion of those opportunities, as well as leaving a huge social void that is yet to be filled by something equally physical or new.  Nor is anything likely to, we are too wedded to the convenience of the computer and the immediacy of digital delivery.  I mean, come on, who is going to go back to sitting around waiting for clip tests ever again?  Or be full steam ahead with heavenly raptures of transcendence for the deadline dodging motorcycle courier?  Then there’s international clients.  Fedexing contact sheets?  You’re out of your frigging mind.  So far, Twitter has plugged the hole, in the sense that it has created an opportunity for me to talk to people on a daily basis while I’m at work.  What constitutes me being at work is vast swathes of time during the week, where I am sat alone at a computer for hours and hours and hours.  The furthest my intellect gets stretched during these periods is when I get to do ‘Ctrl+C’ followed by ‘Ctrl+V’.

In addition, I’m also really, really nosey and I wanted to see what all these people that I had begun to ‘talk to’ were like and, equally importantly, what they sounded like.  I needed to meet them. Further down this post is an audio/visual slide show that features a whole load of the one forty alongside an audio edit of many of them talking about Twitter.  What it reveals, that Twitter does not reveal by itself, are the accents.  I love just hearing all the accents and I love that the British Isles, despite what we may think about the gradual homogenisation of our regional dialects, still throws up a wonderful ploughman’s platter of chat.  I played it to my dad, who is a 69 year old retiree, out of the world for 4 years, and does not engage in Twitter or any other forms of social media.  After listening to it he said: “I’m not so pessimistic for the future after hearing that.  In fact, I’m quite optimistic. People are still thoughtful, still intelligent and still funny.  We’ll be alright.”

I never joined Facebook, or any of those other ones, so why has Twitter, after two and a half years, remained entrenched in my daily life?  I can only come to one conclusion. Whereas Facebook seems to allow the user to construct a perceived or projected existence for themselves through the deployment of various convenient aids, Twitter just strips it all away and leaves the user with nothing but the utilitarian tool of 140 characters and the imagination of language.  Over a sustained period of time or patch of ground you are always going to betray yourself.  By that I mean that you will, layer by layer, reveal who you are and this will continue to be an ongoing and ever revelatory process.  Other users will continue to be attracted to that or not, and vice versa.  It’s really quite binary, whilst being relentlessly deep and wide, which I like.  A lot.

As someone said to me, Twitter is “a huge, massive, endless free flowing conversation with lots of interesting, witty people.”  What more is there to say?  If you don’t get it, then you just don’t get it.

Not Actual Size

To celebrate the end of the project I have commissioned a limited print run of 500 posters.  Designed by Wayne Ford, the posters (shown above) are A1 in size (840mm x 594mm) and were printed in England using a lithographic tritone process consisting of a warm grey 4, a book black and a process black on 135gsm Omnia paper stock. They are £30 each, including delivery.  Mine is framed and on my hall wall.  Hit this little button here and Paypal will make it all nice and smooth.


As if that ain’t enough! Here is a 14 minute slideshow of all the portraits that were produced for ‘One Hundred and Forty Characters’ accompanied by a fantastic audio edit of many of those who took part talking about Twitter with wit, thoughtfulness and insight. Warning!  Contains accents.

And finally, if you’d prefer to just listen to the audio, which is just the straight 14 minutes of  human ingenuity and interestingness on one subject all by itself then click here to listen to an Audioboo file while you go about other important tasks.

 

A Long Way Back To The Start From Here

Posted in Film, Inspiration, Me Myself & I, Personal Projects, Video by Chris Floyd on December 1, 2010

Still from "A Long Way Back To The Start From Here'

 

The idea to make the film above was a natural progression from the photographs that I wrote about in a post called  Three Chords & The Truth earlier this year. In summary, I suggested that to put up a white sheet, or paper backdrop, outside in diffused, flat daylight, preferably against a wall that faces away from the sun, and photograph people against that backdrop was the photographic equivalent of learning to play basic three chord rock & roll.  The post was illustrated with a series of portraits I had made in that way of duathlon competitors immediately after crossing the finish line.  What interested me, and still does, is the unadorned,raw, naked vulnerability of those people at that moment.  They have trained well but are exhausted.  On that day, of maybe 30 people that I asked to photograph, not a single one declined.  I would take charge of them as they crossed the line and guide them to my camera and backdrop.  They were, right there, as small children willing to be told what to do.

Still from "A Long Way Back To The Start From Here'

As I was photographing I realised that a 60 second filmed study of the same subject matter would have to come next. As soon as I got home I began to research where I might be able to find that kind of thing.  It wasn’t difficult and sometime in June of this year Sarah, my assistant, and I met up at 5am one morning to get to the finish line of an Olympic standard triathlon on the edge of London, in time to set up and wait for the first ones to finish.

Having done it once in a still format and seen how the majority of the competitors were at the finish, I had learned that most of them were simply too well trained to give me the impression of being at death’s door, despite the make up of the Olympic level: 1.5Km swim, 42km bike & 10km run.  Instead, I realised that what I needed to capture was a minute from each person of what I like to think of as ‘exposed honesty.’  In these few minutes after an endurance of this type, I found all of the people in this film to have a quiet and confident, yet vulnerable, plaintiveness to their countenance and it’s possible to convey that more powerfully in moving form than still.  There simply is no way to show, in still form, someone shivering because their body is cooling down too rapidly after such a prolonged and heat generating endeavour.

Still from "A Long Way Back To The Start From Here'

As the camera moves in or out from each of their faces you find yourself adapting your breathing, in empathy, willing them to make it through this last and unexpected trial by camera, to hold it’s gaze and not be beaten now. Why should they though?  They know that what they have done is an achievement, their own quiet, private achievement.  None of them are professionals, just people with ordinary jobs finding it in themselves to pull something extraordinary from within at the weekend.  I suppose that what really gives each of them that resolute way of facing the relentless glare of the camera is the knowledge inside that, in a world where front and flim flam often seem to carry the undeserved to such heights, they are the ones who are just doing it.

Still from "A Long Way Back To The Start From Here'

How They Get Dressed: Charlie Davies

Posted in Commissioned Work, Editorial, Film, Me Myself & I, Video by Chris Floyd on October 26, 2010
  Charlie Davies

This is Charlie Davies, a football player from Boston, and a strong fixture in the United States world cup squad prior to the tournament in South Africa.  He plays for F.C. Sochaux, a French team from near the Swiss border.  The club was originally founded by Peugeot factory workers in the nineteen twenties.  On October 13 2009 Charlie was smashed up pretty badly in a car accident in Washington D.C., whilst back there for a world cup qualifying game against Costa Rica.  A 22 year old girl, who was a passenger in the car with him died at the scene.

Scarring from work done to relieve brain swelling

I was sent to France to photograph some of his scars for  ESPN The Magazine’s annual ‘The Body Issue.’  He gave me far more time than was required and, in the day we spent together, he showed no signs of any of the behaviour that we have come to expect from some of our native football players here in England.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Charlie was an out and out gentleman.  For a start, he only had one phone, as opposed to the usual two that most other players I’ve met seem to possess – one for the wife and one for their life, as the saying goes.  And secondly, he seemed positively thrillled that his girlfriend, Nina, who he met in college, spent the whole day with him on the shoot.

Scarring from the repairs to lacerated bladder

At the end of the shoot we had half an hour spare, which just about gave me the time to shoehorn in a quick go at making something for my “How I Get Dressed” series that would allow to Charlie show us that he’s ready to get back out there and start scoring goals  – 28 in 78 appearances prior to the crash.  And what better way to do it than to ask him to put his kit back on.  There was not the time, however, to get him to do a voiceover for me so I’ve gone a bit off piste here and done one myself, so as to explain the story behind the film.

The link to the film is underneath the picture below.

How They Get Dressed

Posted in Commissioned Work, Editorial, Film, Me Myself & I, Video by Chris Floyd on October 3, 2010

Patrick Grant (left) & Theo Hutchcraft (right)

This is my first post for about 2 months and like an unpaid bill or bank statement, I’ve really been putting off opening it.  This blog business moves so fast and there’s so much coming at you that it often feels like you need to be out there showing off some shiny new project every damned day.  The simple fact of it all is, however, that sometimes, in fact, for weeks at a time I don’t really have all that much to say at all.  Like everybody else I’m just trying to get by, earn a living and stop the bank from getting too curious about what  I’m up to. After that, I try to find the time to produce interesting things.

It’s now the first week of October and this post can trace it’s roots back to mid July when I was commissioned by The Sunday Times Style Magazine to photograph three men for the Mens Fashion Special.  They were Patrick Grant, director of Norton & Sons and E.Tautz, a pair of Savile Row tailors; Joseph Corre, founder of Agent Provocateur and now the driving force behind A Child of the Jago; Theo Hutchcraft & Adam Anderson, who make up the duo, Hurts.

The original call was to simply produce a portrait of each man depicting his personal approach to the daily ritual of dressing.  However, I had also been recently asked by Kate Suiter, the photography director of Style, to give some thought to the possibility of producing some short films for the Sunday Times website.

This story seemed to lend itself not just to the moving format more than the still one, but also to the audio format.  I’m very aware, as a photographer, that if I want to make the move into film then it’s extremely important that I pay attention to the narrative and the sound, as much as, if not more so, the imagery.  The mantra has to be ‘no story, no film’.

Kate and I agreed that I would photograph each of the men and also make a short film on the theme of “How I get dressed.”   Apart from that, she had the grace and confidence to let me get on with it without questioning or dictating my methods and, remarkably, did not even ask to see anything until the deadline day, which was the Thursday before the Sunday of publication.  I really do believe that it’s possible to do your best work when the client gives you the space to do the very thing that they hired you to do for the very reason that they hired you to do it, and Kate has done that consistently throughout the years of our working relationship.  So, big ups to her.

Joe Corre

Each of the men was scheduled to be photographed/filmed on a different day and in a different place and this threw up the most difficult part of the series, with the emphasis on the word ‘series’.  I wanted all of it – the photographs and the films – to be of a piece.  I wanted them all lit the same and shot on the same background and I wanted the men isolated from their daily environment and put into a neutral space.

I approached each of the three days in the same way.  I and my assistants, Ben & Sarah, would arrive and while they loaded the equipment in, I would find the biggest/best space to work in and then leave them to get the lighting ready.  While they were doing that I would spend the time talking to the subject and explain the idea behind our visit.  I was looking to film a quiet, dignified study of a gentleman at the most contemplative part of his day – the time he spends dressing and preparing to face the world – and not, as Joe Corre put it, “poke around in my sock drawer.”  The photographic portraits would come first and, if the truth be told, I felt that I could get those in the bag not necessarily with my eyes closed, but certainly much quicker than the time it would take for each of the films.

In the course of shooting each of the films, I felt that I was riding a learning curve that seemed to increase at a phenomenally exponential rate.  Stills and movies are not the same thing but they certainly share a lot of the same genes, so after nearly 20 years as a photographer I have found that film making, for me, is like arriving on a planet with a lot of very familiar landmarks.

Patrick Grant

As filming progressed I realised that not only did the films need to be stylistically similar with regard to lighting and background, but also similar in composition, angle and speed/rate of cuts between shots.  All of these were edited in iMovie, the main reason being that I don’t even possess a copy of Final Cut Pro and, also, speaking honestly, I find FCP scarily complicated.  It’s a whole other kettle of fish to get into and I’m sure I will, in the same way that I did with Photoshop, organically and over a good many years so that it becomes something that I absorb by osmosis rather than in a concentrated, intense classroom way.

Once we had all the film in the can – well, digital footage shot on the 5D backed up in triplicate – we then spent about one day per film editing and then went back to each of the guys to show them their film and sit down to record their voiceovers.  Patrick Grant recorded his in his basement studio at Savile Row by speaking it off the top of his head in sync with the film.  Joe Corre watched his film in his office and used it as a visual springboard to express his thoughts on style, fashion and the power of make up, while Theo Hutchcraft and Adam Anderson, who make up the band Hurts, emailed me their monologues on the great white shirt and the importance of polishing your shoes from somewhere on the road, as they were touring and unavailable to meet me for a sit down. This is the weakest of the three.  The voiceover they gave me, despite probably being the most romantic and evocative, was also too short for the film I’d cut so I had to stretch it out by inserting silences between each of their monologues.  I’d like to have done it with them in person and teased out a bit more than what they gave me, I think it would have been stronger.

Adam Anderson & Theo Hutchcraft

The final trio of films and series of portraits is, I hope, a good start for me in the world of the moving image.  Documentary is what interests me and it’s the story that I want.  I am not a conceptual photographer so why would I be a conceptual film maker?  As ever, this is a conduit through which I can ask questions and learn about what makes people tick.  From them, hopefully, I can discover something about myself on the way.

Emilia’s Ophelia

Posted in Inspiration, Me Myself & I, Video by Chris Floyd on June 30, 2010

These little films from my shoots, I’m doing it more and more, but this is about the way I like to do it and this one is a good example.  I’ll shoot pictures but every now and then, when I feel the urge take me, I’ll just hit that little button on the back of the camera that switches it to video mode.  Then I take 10-15 seconds of footage, sometimes I tell the subject and sometimes I don’t.  In the end, though, I always tell them and check to make sure that they don’t mind.  In this case, with the actress Emilia Fox, she didn’t mind at all and embraced the situation by sliding into this enigmatic, langourous performance.  I knew what music I would put on this as I was shooting it.  I could hear it in my head as she lay in that sumptuous English meadow and let the wind carry her dreams on it’s back – Isfahan by Duke Ellington.