Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Missy Prince: What Was She Thinking?

Missy Prince is a photographer based in Portland. More of her work can be found here and here.

I took this in The Dalles, Oregon. It was 102 degrees on a Sunday and the streets were deserted, which made for nice uncluttered views of downtown. I was originally interested in getting a photo of the little building that is in the background of the photo. I tend to take a lot of dead-on shots, and I have to remind myself to think of layers. I was trying to figure out how to make the thing I was interested in only a part of the photo rather than the obvious focal point, so I drove around the block and came to this vantage point. I knew it was the one. I didn't even step out of the car all the way. When I put the viewfinder up to my eye the Dodge Dart rolled into the frame. I was so stunned by how perfect it looked I almost forgot to take the photo. I took another one without the car just to have the version I was originally after, but it wasn't as interesting. 

It was one of those days when I was frustrated at having driven so long without seeing anything remarkable. I was a few hours from home up in Washington and kept telling myself to turn around and start the long drive back, but I didn't want to until I found something decent to photograph. I pulled over to look at the map and this is what I saw when I looked up. I figured it might as well be the photo that allowed me to go home. It was too pretty so I included the sign, which seemed relevant to my lack of photo hunting luck. I didn't expect much. I didn't even care much about the image when I saw it, but it has grown on me. I like how bright, clean, and cartoonish it is. I ended up getting a couple of ace photos on the drive home. 

Whenever I go to Mississippi to visit my parents I partake in their daily breakfast routine at Hardee's. Every morning they pick up their friend Reuben and head out for greasy biscuits and watered down coffee with a group of retirees. There is a lot of photographic potential at these gatherings, but so far I haven't figured out an approach that doesn't feel predatory so I never make a move. I took this photo on the way back to the car in a last ditch effort to somehow capture the experience before it was over. The man in the photo is Reuben. The woman is my mom in one of her get ups. Unfortunately you can't see the best part, a Romney placard pinned to the left side of her hat, but the jacket packs enough power without it. I'm usually pretty slow, but I took this one very quickly in a moment of desperation. When I composed it I thought it would be a mess, so I tried to anchor the chaos by cutting a vertical line through the middle with the edge of the wall. I can't believe I was able to think about all that in just a matter of seconds. It's a lesson in trusting first instincts.

This is in one of the neighborhoods right next to the Las Vegas strip. It was a quickie that pretty much turned out as I expected. The color coordination of yards and buildings was interesting, and the tree on the orange side leaning over into the green side struck me as funny. It's a one liner. 

I was having trouble with my Land Camera. Some of the photos were coming out black because the battery was loose, but I thought it was because the film pack was defective. I took this photo through a window just to use up the pack. To be honest I have no idea what happened. It was a happy accident. Without that sphere of light it would be a throw-away.

I went to the Clark County Fair in Washington with the intention of photographing the demolition derby, but it was a bust. Fears for everyone's safety have widened the gulf between spectacle and spectator, and getting close to the action is impossible unless you are an EMT or the guy with the fire extinguisher. The berm around the cars is so high you can barely see them. Annoyed that I had endured a long bus ride for nothing, I wandered around the fair looking for consolation photos. I don't really care about taking photos at fairs, but I tried to keep a positive attitude. I figured it could at least be good practice for stalking people with my camera. The kid on a leash was pretty great. Despite his father giving me the evil eye I took the photo. I felt like a creep, but it was worth it. When I saw the photo I didn't think it was very good, but when I posted it on Flickr people went crazy. That made me think about what makes a good photo. I had been concerned about the shitty fluorescent light and wasn't thinking about the content being meaningful enough to transcend aesthetic flaws. Sometimes I'm overly concerned about form and aesthetics and I miss the content boat. Now I really like the image. It's more dynamic, less still, than my usual fare. It has the feel of street photography, which I've always admired.

I tried to get this place for a couple of years before I finally succeeded. Daytime, nighttime, with people, without people, and from all angles. It just never worked. I had pretty much decided it wasn't meant to be. One day I was driving past and saw the Cadillacs glinting in the sun, so I stopped. This drunk guy was hanging around ranting about someone who hit him over the head with a two by four. I took quite a few photos of him flailing his arms around trying to appeal to someone's sympathy, but this one of him in the bigger picture with the cars and the club brought all the right elements together. It was especially serendipitous, because the place closed about two weeks after that. One last miracle at The Miracles Club.

I was wandering around the woods by the river in North Portland and this guy emerged from the brush with a bike on his shoulder. It looked like he was up to no good but he seemed friendly enough, so I talked with him in the hope of getting a photo. I knew he was the detail that could convey the feeling of that place. He told me a bunch of stuff that sounded like tall tales. He told me about people who live in the woods and murder unsuspecting passersby by dropping boulders on their heads but are afraid of him because he was a champion boxer of some sort at one time. Jake McFlurry, he called himself. When I asked to take his portrait he seemed uneasy about it at first and didn't want the bike in the photo, but I convinced him. I took three photos. In the first two he was kind of stiff. In the third he became Jake McFlurry. It was a great move, a great surprise, him posing like that. I told him to hold the pose because it would be a long exposure, and he was very cooperative. Whenever I get a portrait I like I wish the person could see it, but I rarely take steps to make it accessible to them. I'd like to put a 20x24 print up in those woods, but it's probably exactly what he doesn't want.


The intersection where this adult book store is located is photographic gold. My original urge was to show everything together, to fit a lot of information into a wide view to give a sense of the neighborhood. I scoped some all-encompassing angles, but every one of them promised to offer little more than a boring Google Street View style snapshot. I eventually noticed that the cheap motel across the street was reflected in the window of the book store. It was an exciting solution, the exact opposite of a wide view. All the information you need about the neighborhood is right there. The close up works well for such lurid subject matter. Whenever I look at this photo I think I should move in close more often.


Christopher Hall said...

Really enjoyed reading this post, I've long been a fan of Missy Prince. I own a print of the "Miracles Club", so am especially happy to know the backstory.

jannx said...

nice to know someone as good as Missy is has to stalk her photos too and sometimes shoots for years before it connects. Not that it has ever happened to me though.

I've got one of her prints taken in Wishram WA, love it to pieces.

Keep shootin' Missy!!

quarlo said...

Love Missy's work. Her photos are a blast of fresh air for this city boy. It's certainly not required, but looking at her flickr stream after a good rip on the bong is a real treat. Just sayin..