all images copyright kate levy 2011. all rights reserved. use of images is strictly prohibited without express consent of author.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

This evening

what a beautiful rugged city evening. Dear ones. Rode bikes along the rocky train tracks towards the orange sky and mountains downtown past the dumbfounded security guard. Did not photograph. Fell three times. Decided to stay present. Rode into the train station to see how much the cheapest ticket out of this state was. $60, so decided to stay. Smoked a cigarette outside the rockies game. Rode bikes home and the fall smelled like air. Passed an overly conceptualized art show. Stopped in. Something about newly fabricated satchels designed to look old, while speaking to the ratio of age to artistic reverence. The shadows the hanging leather sacks left on the floor and walls were far more interesting. Talked about passion. Talked about fabrication. Talked about all that is burgeoning. Made spaghetti on the grill. Smoked a bowl. Burned my hand. Ate the spaghetti. Delicious. Listened to Modest Mouse. Talked about the continuity of love. Talked about the concepts of growing alone and growing with someone. Talked about people identifying some of us kids at a young age as "different" and then trying to fill that role our entire lives. Talked about seccumbing. Talked about passion, about Odelia and about moving. Joked about the lingerie. Talked about babies. Talked about age and about predicting the future. Talked about urgency, and the fact that lingerie becomes more risque the older we get. Talked about changing in front of the window despite the high school across the street. Talked about patience, about courtesy and talked about what to wear. 

Monday, September 21, 2009

Kids in the Neighborhood-and an age old question to the answer of "Documentary"

More images following the writing

There is something so inherent in this world that protects us from external influences that we do not need.
It is inherent for human beings to laugh. and it is inherent for human beings to fight.  Why do we build such polar stigmas around these two acts, if when we experience them outside the context of time, as present human beings, we find in those moments that they are made of the same basic energy-release.
When one is completely present with an inherent, sacred respect for life, acts with violent or erratically joyful undertones do not kill nor prescribe the future, rather they present opportunity for energetic renewal.
This energy that keeps us present enough to balance the forces of destruction and creation is the same energy that protects us from those external influences.
The kids that live and play in the neighborhood i reside in in Denver channel this charge and are able to exist fully amongst an environment that has been otherwise categorized as dilapidated.

But I think maybe this is their kingdom, and they aren't aloof to it as exactly how it is. They just see the textures as backdrop for their adventures and those little cardboard tubes I found them with as a way to see me--themselves on the other side of the lens. At least that's what they told me it was about when they were peering vigorously through the tube pressed up against the unfiltered glass and I asked them if that was why they were doing it. They nodded vigorously and pressed their eyes back up to the tube. They coulda been fronting.
So within the first thirty seconds of seeing those kids with those tubes, I remembered the humble beginnings of this little project I had articulated in some half-assed way...Something about the energies of fighting and laughing presenting themselves as blatantly as shadows and highlights. So I slyly asked those kids--"Hey, have you guys ever sword faught?" Immediately I stopped myself in my tracks with a vigorous judgement about teaching kids violence. But I combated that judgement. I told myself that if realized that if they found themselves hurting one another, I could use it as an opportunity to educate them as about handling vigorous energy gracefully-as a good coach would do, and not the violence of backalley-matress-dropping cardboard tube-fighting--Is anything really all that it is?
I could have taken one of two takes on this abomonable act I just commited against the holy name of Documentary Photography.
1. I just committed the ultimate sin. I am an isolationist and the truth ensues on its own. (EVEN THOUGH THIS DOES NOT ENTAIL FULL TRUTH, ASSHOLE!) But does that make truth more valid?
2. I  showed the motion, sped up the process of what may have been inevitable, so I could photograph to fulfill the purpose of giving voice and contribution to the world in which I primarily exist, and satisfy the viewer with a little chunk of time to doctor and nurse. I did, as I should, interact with what I am photographing in the sense that I am an adult who possesses (I'd like to think) a consciousness about being good to other people while enjoying the necessary release of sport, as a good coach does.
 As a photographer, I completely reject the need to record exactly what is happening when you are not a part of it. We cannot avoid our own subjectivity. We are a part of this world, whethere we like it or not. If we are merely recording here for something else there, it is impossible for us to have any impact because we are not really present-anywhere! Even rockstars need homes. This world is a complete organism, and unduely sever ourselves from that organism is our biggest wrong. What are we trying to prove in this lifetime that it is so important to piggyback solely on the coattails of someone else's energy-because when you take and do not give, you are stealing people's hard earned energies. And I would rather give those people the benefit of the doubt that they actually earned those energies because the skillet can't call the kettle black.I think that I pray to the universe for the conviction to uphold many different (often conflicting) truths all at once; salivate for double-entendres.
As artists, aren't we just a bunch of relativists anyways-so if we give power to our negative intentions, they arise; if we give power to our positive intentions, they arise. As photographers, we are not obligated to name, we are only obligated to participate and frame, and if the frame is genuine, it will not confine to only mean one thing.
What does it mean to steal energy? What does it mean to be a selfish photographer? Was it selfish to covertly position events that I knew the inevitable outcome of, even though I saw a fit lesson in it all. What does it mean to be a mover in a relativist, go with the flow world? What does it mean to be a a solipsist, a pure subjectivist in regards to yours and everybody else experience, in a moving world?
Can we really control our own decisions in any other place but the instant. Before your words are coming out if your mouth you have complete potential to change your mind-until the words are said. During the time we speak, our mind is busy forming the syllables to experience live and up-to-the-minute updates from our heart and our guts, right? And after you say the words, they inevitably change the course of life and seem to rudely invalidate anything feeling, right? Unless we somehow magically integrate our gumption with our know-how with our vision. Unless our tongues are valves, ventricles and atriums all at once. Maybe then our decisions beacon more present existence when we are present to begin with.
As a generally perplexed, and often bitter photographer, I do have moments where I experience the intense privlege of simultaneously extending time into omniscience, assigning new meaning to it like a poet would, and participating in the best way that I know how, I realize how incredibly important and honestly good it can be to exist as a photographer. Perhaps this is why I am so drawn to music--it parallels what photography has the potential to be in its best light. The musicians are present in their interactions with one another and themselves within the act of music, just as the photographer is completely involved in her own world that only exist because there are subjects. And please don't lie to yourself, no one is ever oblivious to you and your fat ass fucking lens unless they aren't present and it isn't very fair to photograph someone without them being present because you aren't giving them a chance to interact in the glorious interaction that is about to take place. Unless its some funny ass candid camera shit and you know and love them well.
Sometimes we photograph in solitude just as sometimes musicians play alone. But there is still subject-a building, ourselves especially. But there is stillness and interaction with the present that often trumps the image made (although not always)--in which case, the image still serves the purpose as a humbler to viewers. And the music still comes out of the soul of the sax player, and he knows, and the concrete and blowing leaves and echoes in alleys know that in order to breathe, you have to take in everything that is in the air.
We have many conversations, these days, about the honest-to-god point of any of this art-making business. Mostly us musicians and photographers. Why on earth am I spending my time finishing these images if the best of it was consumed in the incessant photographing and photographer-subject interactions? Because I am obligated to follow the image through. See it to the last branch, where it seamlessly enters back into the universe. By not sharing these images, I am not holding up my part of the bargain--I am photographing to give voice, so I must amplify the sounds of these voices. I am photographing because you asked me to assist you in seeing. If I don't photograph in a way that i interact with the voice of the subject with my own, the sacred moment of photographing crumbles and so too does the image built on the empire/franchise of the moment. (I say franchise instead of further pursuing a long, exhausting conversation into the night about the cliche of the moment). Now look. And the univrse gives me everything I need if I am doing exactly what I need to be doing. I thank the universe further for the internet in order to assist me in this matter.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Savory Cafe in Ned

A couple weeks ago, I went up to Nederland, Colorado (outside of Boulder) to take pictures of my friends Heather and Kim's restaurant, the Savory Cafe. We had a BLAST...and the humor and love of food got the best of us.
Honestly, I asked Heather to pay me in food. She is one of the most talented chefs I have ever encountered, and she cooks for me...suckas! She can cook for you too if you visit her at the Savory Cafe in Nederland. They are located at
20 Lakeview Drive
Nederland, CO 80466
(303) 258-7329
 We used to have these "Iron Chef Heather" nights, where we would get together and bring RANDOM ingredients-like starfruit and beansprouts and she'd have us drooling over ourselves with the five course concoctions. She has worked in restaurants all over the country and she's happily settled in Nederland-for the time. Catch her while you can!
My recommendation: go on Sushi night-Wednesdays
Here are a few faves from the shoot:

Some lovelies from the Mackinac Island Music Fest

I love shooting images at concerts. And the scene that congregates around them can either make or break the resonance of the music (deadhead, anyone?) If the wonderful people backstage at the music festival, where these photographs originated, were front and center in the Jerry era, maybe he'd still be alive. (Okay, maybe not..)

Let me preface these images:
1. The Music Festival is an event put on by the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau, working closely with the Mackinac Arts Council. The musicians at the event hail from various backgrounds--Detroit rock, folk, bluegrass, Americana, Celtic, Blues, Jazz. All of the musical acts have a connection with the island-whether it be Michigan roots, good friends, or just a general love of the place. Many of the musicians commingle as well, playing sets with eachother. The festival always ends with a mix-up jam session spanning all of the downtown bars. (Oh the bars-another interesting facet of the ever-expanding sacred island engulfed in light; lets remember Shambhala Buddhist prince Chogyam Trungpa, Rimpoche had Rolls Royces and OH, THE WOMEN!)

2. The theatre exists on the grounds of Mission Point Resort (which actually used to be a (loosely) Christian higher education institution. The building itself has been a part of many productions, including Somewhere in Time, filmed during the 1970s, which stars Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymore. (Those Somewhere in Time enthusiasts that make the pilgrimage to Mackinac Island like everyone else does for other reasons would probably love to see these images, but...whatcanyado?)

3. The people that work backstage for events all live on the island; most have lived there their entire lives. They are the ones who deserve to so closely experience the music inspired by the island, because many of them have been here longer than the soundstage/theatre in which the concerts occur. I study these motherfuckers (calmdown! I used a term of endearment!) like a meteorologist studies the ocean--if you live near it, it dictates everything. And if you don't, its effect trickles in still. Something to that effect. (I am somewhat absolved in the sociological study of Mackinac Island you will notice.) These people take their children to school on the back of a snowmobile and ride around on bikes all winter. They wrangle tourists like horses and work with horses as a way of life. Many people who live year-round on the island are closely related, grew up together, and have a way of remembering that moments are inconsequential in the lasting scheme of family, but so pivotal to enjoying life. A discerning crowd, really, yet they were nothing short of ecstatic to be in the presence of such wonderful music.

A Mission Point employee taking a break outside before the show

Bobby Roach, reporting for duty.

Mary McGuire conversing with slide guitarist Kraig Kenning, in front of the set from this year's middle school play.

Johnny Ray Gallagher. Lived here all his life. He knows. Later that night he asked me if I would like to "sit on his face." I graciously declined, "No, Johnny Ray. Would you like to sit on mine?"Oh, he laughed! I truly appreciate everything candid, nonchalant about this man, as he is great at turning what would ordinarily be inappropriate into good, clean fun! And he cares for those around him, and that's what really counts.
Whether you deteste or whether you love, it doesn't always change the situation, and that's okay-so why not love?

Mitch Ryder in the green room before his set. He told me that an artist must write the songs they perform in order to be considered an artist. He told me he's worked his whole life to get to a point of where he is-and he is humble as ever, writing a musical, bursting with insight that dates back to his days as a Detroit Rocker but is grounded in centuries of wise ingenues, solid vagabonds and creators of change. And his voice is still sexy.
Mitch maintains a way of presenting himself to the world he entertains as a rocker who wears dark sunglasses. But I was so lucky to catch a glimpse of his eyes. 

Becki Gallagher, Johhny Ray's sister and dear friend of the family backstage lecturing me about not taking her picture; laughing at me, too.

Nicki Gugin in the kitchen accessible from backstage. Used for catering for weddings. I encourage anyone who has the chance to meet this wonderful woman to get to know her. Then you will realize the compartmentalization of the image is a lie in regards to her personality. 

Grimace from the drum player. Hit them harder and keep letting me witness the fascinating process of making music from the seams.

Nino came for the festival as the drummer for Ash Can Van Gogh, a Detroit band from the '80s. He's still here, living up with John and Mary and the dogs, doing landscape. Sometimes the island wins. In this case, it does. He caught me in a bar the last night I was in town last. He told me not to let life take away my creativity. 

Nicki Gugin in all her glory.

Practicing offstage.

One of the Forbes Brothers, a band that plays the music festival every year. This year, they played The Band in the recreation of Scorsese's The Last Waltz

Too see more images from the festival, please visit my 
and hit any of the Music Festival Sets

Hi There.

What an adventure! I finally have a blog to record some of it. So I take pictures. What on earth is the purpose of this enticing, exploding art form? There are so many images-bombarding our sense of sight all the while desaturating our senses of smell, touch, taste, sound, when these unsighted factors are often what inspire the photographs we use to internalize our world. Yet I scate (scantily) away with a role in this world  as a superhero where I chase light, turn light into numbers, numbers into pixels, pixels into form, and form into an experience that collaborates defiantly with the moment that induced the light. It's fun as shit. But I cannot define the hero in my superhero status as anything more than connecting unrelated people with people through an abstract emotion that I have cleverly (somehow) construed past the moment of its happening, all through a sexy, hefty machine that makes my biceps big.
So I am driving home from the airport after a flight in from Mackinac after doing some freelance jobs, bitter, invalidated after hundreds of encounters with people who have actually travelled extensively in other countries (not just naively visited for a week--but OH the capability to live anywhere in the world complicates things so much), and my friend says to me, "You know,  I think we can stick it out. I think we can stay in the United States and not just scamper off to another country when shit gets rough because its 'worldly'..easy. Who wouldn't want to leave right now? But really, as an artist, why in the world wouldn't you stay and contribute."
As a "photographer," one of my largest responsibilities is obviously to document. To be quite honest, I have never been one for..well....documentation. Ironically, I see the past as obsolete, not worth dwelling on. I see the future even more so. But then I breathe. And I realize:
We all play a role in society. I have the bombass one of taking pictures which always feels really good regardless of when and where. Its okay to be present in that. The mundane is inevitable and may as well be rejoiced in. The everyday can be shared as it happens.  We all like to see things from a different point of view sometimes. The image's matriculation into the future is an important biproduct.  
So I am dedicating this blog space for the everyday and the extraordinary, to new work and to the understanding that everything is always worth a second look. Whenever there is a new post, check the bottom for a link to a full slideshow of images that corresponds to the preview you will see here. And remember to check my updates!
It really boils down to us all experiencing life in the early twenty-first century as Americans.  Rock on. 

Denver, CO. Outside of my where I live in Five Points, the dumpster caught on fire.

Bodega Bay, California. Watching the seals.

Kimmie and Heidi in the car on the way to California. 

Mackinac Island, MI. Shay Mosley and Isiah in front of Fort Mackinac.

Mackinac Island, MI. The soundstage used in the filming of various pictures including Somewhere in Time.