29
Jun

Vince Mira Live in Seattle

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Celebrity, Tear Sheets

Vince Mira Portrait.  Tear Sheet from Seattle Metropolitan.  Photo by John Keatley.

Vince Mira Portrait at the Gum Wall in Post Alley.  Photo by John Keatley.

I have really been looking forward to posting these portraits and videos.  I had so much fun working on this assignment with Vince, and as an added bonus, the story is one of those rare page turners that doesn’t come around all that often in a magazine.  For me, it’s right up there with the Wired article on Dan Kaminsky which I worked on last year.  Here is the intro for Vince’s story, which is in the July 2009 issue of Seattle Metropolitan.  The link to the entire article is further down.

Billed as the Second Coming of Johnny Cash, a teenager from Federal Way wowed rock stars, morning news shows, Ellen DeGeneres, and the Cash estate.  There’s just one problem: Vince Mira is done parroting the Man in Black.

There was a moment in September 2007 at the Cash Cabin, the studio built by the late Johnny Cash outside Nashville, when everyone froze. In the room were musicians intimately tied to Cash and his music—his son John Carter Cash, his bass player Dave Roe, and Jamie Hartford, who played guitar in the Cash biopic Walk the Line. Vince Mira, the Federal Way teen flown in for the recording session, had just crooned the last line of his “Cold Hearted Woman,” a twangy harangue against a cruelly apathetic succubus (“…as far as you are isn’t far enough for me”), leaving his audience speechless.

Finally, Hartford, who’d been scribbling music dictation in a notebook, dropped his pen and paper and turned to the producer. “John. Carter. Cash. Does that freak you out?” John looked up, “Yeah, that freaks me out.”

John Carter had just heard a familiar voice pour from the mouth of the teenager. The producer had agreed to record an album with the talented teen—already making a name for himself with Cash covers—on the condition that “We don’t just record a bunch of my dad’s old songs.” Now, here was Mira performing an original, but his voice, a haunted baritone, was spot-on Johnny Cash.

- James Ross Gardner.  Read the entire article (here).

Before this assignment, I had heard stories over the past couple of years about Vince Mira, the young teenager who was discovered playing Johnny Cash songs on the street.  I had seen the YouTube videos from Ellen (here) Good Morning America and a few others, but I didn’t become a fan until I heard him perform live.  Wow.  This guy is talented.  He is the real deal.  There are a lot of people out there with a gimick, or who sound like someone famous.  But Vince has huge talent, and he can stand on his own.  His similarities to Johnny Cash provided him with a great start, but it’s exciting to see him head out on his own now and show people what he’s got.

The first video above is Vince Mira performing an original song, “I’m a Goin Back Home”.  The second video is a Johnny Cash song, “Folsom Prison Blues”.  Both were performed at the gum wall in Post Alley, Seattle.   I asked Vince to play one of his songs so I could film it, and it didn’t take long at all for a crowd to gather.  After he finished the first song, someone yelled out, “Play ‘Folsom Prison Blues’!”.  Even though he is trying to get away from that, he didn’t seem to mind.

Vince has an album out now, called “The Cash Cabin Sessions“.  It was recorded at the Cash Cabin Studio by John Carter Cash, Johnny Cash’s son.  It’s a great album.   You can also catch Vince every Tuesday night at the Can Can in the Pike Place Market in Seattle.  For now at least.  I don’t know how much longer he will be playing there, as he has already toured with Pearl Jam, and played on some pretty big stages.

Vince Mira – Folsom Prison Blues from John Keatley on Vimeo.
Vince Mira – I’m a Goin Back Home from John Keatley on Vimeo.

* If you are using a blog reader, you may need to visit my actual blog to see the videos show above.

29
Apr

The Cat Ladies

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Tear Sheets

Janis Newman

Vicki Farretta

This assignment really surprised me, and made a big impression on me.  I’m not talking about being surprised by the locations that I shot at, or some impossible circumstances that came up during the assignment.  I’m just talking about being surprised by people, and gaining an appreciation for the fact that everyone is different.  Vicki and Janis love cats.  As do many Americans.  I am actually allergic to cats, so although I do not hate cats, I don’t really get excited about them either.

These two ladies love cats so much, they pour almost all of their time and energy into making the lives of feral cats as comfortable and safe as possible.  As the tear sheet indicates, they trap, neuter, and release or find homes for feral cats.

I spent two days shooting this assignment, and on the second day, Janis drove me around her hometown to show me some of the feeding spots and cat shelters that she frequents.  As we drove around, she would stop every few blocks, and fill up empty feeding dishes.  I was amazed by the number of cat shelters and bowls that were hiding in the bushes, and behind businesses.  Sometimes there were bowls right out in front of a business.  It was a hidden world, like the Troll Market under the Brooklyn Bridge in Hellboy II, for those of you who saw it.  You might walk by a cat shelter, or food bowl in public every day, and never even notice it.  I can’t recall ever seeing one in my life, but there were dozens of stray cats living behind, under, and in front of buildings just within a few blocks.  And all of these cats are given fresh food and water every single day by Janis and some of the other ladies who are involved.  That’s a lot of money when you think about feeding hundreds of cats everyday.  

While we were driving around from location to location, it really hit me.  Every day, for years, these women have been caring for cats all over the city, and making a big difference.  They prevent thousands of kittens from being born into difficult situations, and provide much better care for those cats that are already living without homes.  While we were at a trailer park on the first day of shooting, a lady came out of her home, and thanked Vicki and Janis for what they are doing.  She said that since they started fixing and caring for the cats in her neighborhood just weeks earlier, things have gotten much better.  Cat’s were no longer urinating all over the place, and the frequent cat fights had pretty much stopped. 

After my shoot with Vicki was over, I thanked her for what she is doing.  Her work may not affect me directly, or at least in a way that I would have ever known about, but it is so good to see people caring for others (cats in this case).  Trapping cats, and feeding them is not something that I will ever do, but I am thankful that there are people who do.  That’s what I love about photography.  I get to meet so many different people, and experience life from so many different points of view.  I can just imagine what I would have thought when I was younger about “cat ladies”.  Remember when so much of the country would laugh at “tree huggers”.  I’m grateful for a new perspective.  If everyone could find just one  small way to care for people, animals, or the earth ,the changes would be great.

I have just been thinking about these things lately.  Interestingly enough, some of my work has allowed me to experience first hand the needs of others, and what some people are doing to help.  Thanks for reading.  

You can read the entire article about TNR (Trap, Neuter, Release) (here).
* If you are using a blog reader, you may need to visit my actual blog to see the cat slide show above.

22
Apr

Lisa Ling

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Celebrity

Lisa Ling portrait by John Keatley

This has been a difficult year for many people.  I personally have been pinching pennies, and admittedly, things have been pretty slow at Keatley Photo as well.  But looking for a bright side to all that is going on, the downturn has offered me a chance to slow down, and think about things in a new way.  Not that I want it to be this slow for too long…  Of the photo shoots I have had in the last few months, several of them have shared a theme of social justice and thinking outside of oneself.  For so long, our country has told us to take as much as we can, and live it up, ignoring many of the problems that exist right outside our comfortable homes.  Working with, and thinking about some of these themes and issues has made a big impact on me, and is slowly changing my heart.

Photographing Lisa Ling, was one of the experiences that has made a mark on me.  She is someone who is making a difference in the world, and because of her national platform, she is able to reach a wide audience and inform many people about issues that we can no longer ignore.  Animal rights and cruelty is a hot topic these days.  I am hopeful that because of people like Lisa, and the tools that many of us have on the Internet, we can make a difference and take steps to make changes to the way that animals are treated, both domestically and industrially.  Not everyone is able to adopt an animal, or even donate to a cause for animal rights.  But we can all at least be informed, and speak out against issues such as this.

The State of Washington has recently had several raids on puppy mills, which really opened my eyes to the cruel treatment of dogs.  Lisa Ling also made a short documentary about the cruel business of puppy mills which was aired on Oprah (watch here).

Animal cruelty is obviously one of many issues that need to be addressed, but I hope that as a country, we might start to be more open and aware of the needs around us.  Lisa spoke to a group of students before I photographed her, and it was exciting to hear some of the students talking to each other as they were leaving the event.  Many of them seemed moved and challenged by her talk, and I hope that many of them will strive to make positive changes in their communities, and in the world.

Below are links to several videos and articles about puppy mills if you want to find out more.

Main Line Animal Rescue
Seattle PI video report about a puppy mill raid earlier this year (here).
PETA undercover video about puppy mills (here).
Seattle Times articles about puppy mill raids this year (here) and (here).

07
Jan

Portrait of Annie Leibovitz

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Celebrity

Annie Leibovitz Portrait by John Keatley

In the course of a conversation this past summer, it was mentioned that Annie Leibovitz was going to be in Seattle that November.  As soon as I heard this, I was gone.  Blank stare.  Absent from the conversation. I was thinking, “What would it be like to photograph Annie Leibovitz?  Would she let someone else take her portrait?  I don’t think so.  She is one of the greatest photographers ever.  The only pictures I have ever seen of her were self portraits.  How nervous would I be if I got to take her portrait?”  A couple of months later, I received an email from a photo editor at Seattle Metropolitan; “Do you want to photograph Annie Leibovitz?”

I thought a lot about how I would photograph her.  But after dreaming about some grand and sizable production ideas, I decided not to try to do too much.  I would just do what I do best, and keep it simple. We were scheduled to shoot in a private meeting room in a downtown Seattle hotel, with no chance of moving to a different location.  Because of her full schedule that day, I knew she would be tired.  An interview with Steve Scher on NPR (listen here) right before the shoot, and speaking at Benaroya Hall for ‘Seattle Arts & Lectures‘ right after.  I had a small window of time to work with her.

When Annie came into the room, she looked around at the lighting setup, and said,  “Wow, this looks scary.”  My thoughts exactly, but it wasn’t the lights I was thinking about.  We talked a few minutes about photography and cameras before she sat down.  Then I told her about my idea for the portrait, and asked if she would mind taking off her glasses. She said that was fine, and I started to shoot.  It was a balancing act trying to find the line between being in control to get what I wanted, and not being pushy.  I could tell that she was not comfortable being photographed.  She moved around a lot while I shot, and I decided to be flexible rather than push too much to hold a certain pose.  Things don’t always go exactly to plan, and sometimes this can be a pleasant surprise.  It felt like the shoot ended up being a collaboration in making the pictures.  It’s not often that I work with someone who is so willing to be expressive and experiment as she was.  Shortly after we started, the shoot came to an end, and I knew that I had the shot.  I thanked her for her time, and she said, “You did good.”  I’ll take it!  What a compliment.

The article that was published in Seattle Metropolitan, and written by Steve Wieking can be read here.

*Update* – My portrait of Annie Leibovitz was selected in the American Photography 25 Competition (AP25) and will be published in November 2009.  This is a huge honor for me!  The link will take you to a post with more about the award.