January, 2013

10 (or 18) things about mca photographers part 2

First of all, thank you to everyone who sent me their best guesses as to which of the MCA photographers was checked out by Nicole Kidman and which was a NY street mime et al. I promised the answers last week but was having so much fun with the responses that I couldn’t resist waiting just one more week.

So here they are, the highly anticipated answers along with a few stories and photos. Next time we see you at a portfolio show or on set, please feel free to ask Christine Alicino about her days playing in a punk band or RJ about his days as a Judo champion. And of course feel very comfortable with the knowledge that Matthew Turley prizes saving a hard drive with his client’s images on it above grabbing his own suitcase when fleeing a hotel room during an earthquake.

I hope you enjoy getting to know the photographers I work with as much as I enjoyed writing this blog post.

Which photographer boasted at her 1st grade Show + Tell about winning 3 ampules of bull semen? Margaret Lampert

“I had gone to a national cow sale with my father. This was where the most prized breeding bulls were brought—the ones whose semen was ordered from all over the country. I decided to enter a lottery for three ampules of bull semen from a very famous bull, Gene’s Captain. When I won I thought it was worth sharing at my 1st grade show and tell. My teacher didn’t feel quite the same and quickly ushered me to my seat.”

Which photographer was named “Best Free Show in town” as a street mime? Jim Salzano

“I became a New York street mime on a bet. I was dating a dancer with the Paul Curtis Dance Troupe.  All dancers have pantomime as one of their training exercises, like scales for voice training. It came very naturally to me and our friends thought it was funny that I picked it up so fast. I saw on TV how some guy was doing mime on the street and thought I could be better. They said it was hard and bet me I wouldn’t do it. They picked the place—Washington Square Park. It was very crowded and I went out and had a routine and put the hat out and people put money in the hat. So I won the bet and got hooked. It was fun performing. It turned into a real interesting thing I did for a period of time. And it really supplemented my income for two summers while I was assisting.”

Jim Salzano as a NY street mime

“At one point I was asked to perform in the window at a NY furniture store. New York Magazine featured me as one of the best free shows in New York. One night  Jerry Stiller and Ann Meera came by and thought it was a great show.  Years later I was shooting them for a campaign and I asked them if they remembered me and said they totally remembered me and came back with Ben.”

Salzano Studio guest book

Which photographer was in a Sony Classics documentary? See below.

Which photographer narrowly escaped death in an avalanche? Matthew Turley

“I came within a few feet of my life while filming Steep, a Sony Classics ski documentary. We were filming an expedition in Iceland when three of us got caught in a massive avalanche. I came within 6 feet of a cliff and the other guy was swept to the side. I learned in a few fractions of a second that you have no control. The avalanche owns you. It’s like being dropped into the middle of a raging river. You are completely at the mercy of the avalanche. I got turned face down and was heading right for an 800 foot high cliff. I saw it coming up and was absolutely positive I was going off of it because it was a massive moving pile of snow. But somehow it came to a complete stop and the snow on either side flew off. People in towns 4 – 5 miles away heard the avalanche. The film rating went from G to PG because they picked me up saying ‘holy shit’ during the avalanche.”

Still image from “Steep”

Still image from “Steep”

Which photographer grew up on a dairy farm? Margaret Lampert

This one should be fairly obvious after learning that Margaret Lampert won bull semen at a cow sale. Margaret grew up on a dairy farm in Topsfield, Massachusetts just outside of Boston where they had a world-record-holding cow named Primrose who was honored at a World Fair for being the world’s top milk producing cow.

Which photographer had a shoe shine service? Jamie Kripke

“For my first paid job, I went around our neighborhood and put flyers in people’s mailboxes offering shoe shine services with free pickup and delivery.  I took them home and shined them for $2/pair.  It was my dad’s idea. I also sold and installed driveway reflectors for $1/ea, so that after it snowed, people would know where the edges of their driveways were. Also my dad’s idea. Neither business went public.”

Which photographer played bass in a punk band that performed with Dead Kennedys, the Avengers and the Go-­‐Go’s? Christine Alicino

“I was a member of an all-girl punk band, The Urge, in San Francisco. We played Mabahuy Gardens. Played with The Go-go’s at Madame Wong’s in LA. Dead Kennedys, The Offs, and The Avengers. I played bass until I traded in my bass amp for a camera.”

Urge on Christine’s Thunderbird (Christine is on the far right)

Urge “Bit by Bit” Album Cover

Which photographer was part of one of best Judo teams in country, winning 44 national collegiate titles? RJ Muna

Don’t be fooled by the 3rd person, these are RJ’s own words…not true except for the part about his college Judo career, but his words…

“In Viet Nam, RJ spent most of his tour slogging through the swamps outside Da Nang. There were some intimate encounters with leaches. But, no harm, no foul. When he got back to Berkeley, where he grew up, he developed a fanciful relationship with LSD, which led to his unnatural fear of paisley. Back in school, he found himself needing an outlet for his war Nam duty and his college Judo team seemed just the ticket. The clothes were simple and the there were no belt buckles. He went on to be part of the best Judo team in the country winning 44 out of 49 national collegiate titles. Most of the time he got his ass kicked, but the outfit was fetching enough to stick it out.

Later (in the 80’s) RJ joined the Pips. Not Gladys Knight and the Pips – just the Pips. But that’s a very long story. Truth is, RJ has a hard time with Reality. He’s never really sure what is real and what is fantasy. Being an advertising photographer hasn’t help the problem. In any case, be wary when he starts telling his stories about Nam, the Rodeo, and the Convent. Mostly it’s the LSD talking. Except for the part about the Judo team. That’s the gospel truth.”

Which photographer was in the Air Force? Michael Lamotte

Which photographer tried to suggest design and color ideas to Lego 
headquarters in Denmark, at age 9? Jamie Kripke

“At age 9, I wrote a letter to the Lego headquarters in Denmark to suggest new designs and colors for their product line. They wrote me back, thanked me for the designs, then told me that legally they were not able to use my ideas.”

Which photographer was detained in Saudi Arabia for 24 hours by the 
military? Jim Salzano

Which photographer’s first year of co-­‐ed high school had ratio of 10:1, with 
350 boys to 35 girls? Margaret Lampert

“Needless to say, this gave me a skewed notion of what life would be like…”

Which photographer was personally blessed by the Dalai Lama? Jim Salzano

“I was covering a conference for the exile state of Tibet in America. The Dalai Lama wanted to bless everyone who was working at the conference. After he blessed everyone, he stopped me and said I hadn’t been blessed and gave me a personal blessing.”

Which photographer can say that Nicole Kidman “checked him out,” and has 
witnesses to prove it? RJ Muna

RJ would never have offered this one up on his own, so this one is courtesy of me – “RJ, Quinci and I were having a pre-awards ceremony cocktail at the Mercer Hotel in SoHo the evening RJ received the ICP Applied Photography Award. Wearing a tux, he was looking rather dapper and James Bond-like. Nicole Kidman walked by, not once but TWICE and most definitely ‘checked him out’ both times. As I said, he has witnesses to prove it.”

Which photographer was in the 2011 Christchurch New Zealand earthquake, 
awoke to plaster hitting him in the face, was knocked to his knees twice, ran out of the hotel room without a shirt, but grabbed the hard drive from a recent shoot? Matthew Turley

“I was in the tallest building in Christchurch on one of the highest floors during their biggest earthquake, a 7.4. I woke up to plaster hitting me in the face. All the plaster and drywall was cracked and the lights were off and the water lines were all broken. The earthquake lasted over a minute. I got knocked off my feet twice. It was like an invisible ninja kicking you down as I was crossing the room convinced that the room was going to pancake down. I thought I was dead, that it was going to hurt really bad, but only for a moment.

I had just finished a job for Bolle sunglasses. When I managed to leave the room, I didn’t grab my shirt but I did grab the hard drive, my pajama bottoms and my coat. I called the art director a couple hours later and told him I’d done everything I could to save the pictures. 

My car was one of the few the valet could get out of the garage. It was chaos. There was no manager and no one was in charge. The milkman was delivering milk while buildings were falling into the street. I snuck back into the stairwell, grabbed my skis and bags, loaded up my car and got out of Christchurch and met up with some guy who wanted to ski in back country. I knew avalanche danger was severe, but when I drove out all the peaks had avalanched because of the earthquake. We looked at each other and said that we thought the backcountry was as safe as it was meant to be. We ended the day skiing this amazing powder above those gorgeous blue lakes. It was surreal because I woke up to plaster and drywall hitting my face thinking I was going to die and ended the day skiing into a beautiful sunset.”

Which photographer traveled across country in a school bus doing theater and performance art? Christine Alicino

“I traveled across the country in a school bus with the theater group Collaborations in Space. We had a grant to travel to communities of people that had left the city centers and help them start theater groups. Some of them were starting to fall apart and we worked with them to create stories about their towns and experiences, to talk about their dying chickens in a theatrical way. To make art out of it. It was very avant-garde theater with the goal of helping them staying together.”

Which photographer grew up in Berkeley? RJ Muna

RJ began his professional career at the age of 16, shooting street demonstrations in Berkeley during the Vietnam War.

Which photographer worked at McDonald’s? Michael Lamotte

“My first and only job other than a photographer was at McDonald’s as a fry chef. I worked there almost a year and did every job in the restaurant, including making the hamburgers which was everyone’s favorite station. This was back in days when french fries were made from scratch.”