First, a little backstory. Jodi Lomask of Capacitor approached me to make some imagery to be projected during her stage piece called “Synaptic Motion”. Since we were shooting for the performance we decided to make a freestanding video piece that we could show in the lobby after the show and online (and enter into some competitions). The specs for the projection screens had not yet been figured out by the time we needed to shoot so we had to try and cover a few format options. We had the forethought to set a camera overhead and one at ground level. The choreography had been created by Jodi and performed by Michelle Ellis (who would also perform it during the live performance). We spent the afternoon gathering footage of both camera angles. We all went back and fourth about which camera angle would provide the key images for the video.

Then on to editing. Sam Chase, who manned the ground level camera and is also my editor, made a comment after looking at some footage from the overhead cam on set about how it looked so interesting that we didn’t need the ground level footage. The problem was that the ground level footage was also very interesting and had some qualities the overhead footage didn’t have. We decided after one of our typical disagreements/arguments/excuses-not-to-work that we’d make two pieces and see which we liked better. So after rough editing both pieces – still no decision. A little more editing later and both were just looking better on their own. So, purely as an afterthought we said “What’s the harm in having two pieces?” (actually at this point we already had two pieces). 

For the performance, footage from the overhead camera was used because the screens that were designed were vertical, and overhead footage works in any orientation. That part of the problem was solved. Still, we didn’t have a clear winner.

We thought to enter them both into some festivals and we’d see which does better. That brings us to today. One piece was a winner in the AI-AP International Motion Art Awards (“FORETHOUGHT“), and the other was accepted into the San Francisco Dance Film Festival (“AFTERTHOUGHT“). Both were entered into both festivals. So, which one was better? You decide…

Sunflower Seeds, Legos, Dancers, and the CA Photography Annual – The Backstory

It started with Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei. I had first seen his work (in person) in 2010 when I serendipitously walked into the Tate Museum in London to see the entire main floor covered with 100,000,000 hand painted porcelain sunflower seeds. (And, no, there are no extra 0’s in that sentence.) Nothing could have prepared me for that encounter. Needless to say, I was in awe.

Fast forward to 2014. I had heard that Ai Weiwei was creating an installation to be shown on Alcatraz. It was right about then that Brenda Way of ODC/Dance contacted me to see if I would help out with a show that they had been asked to perform during the opening night gala of the Ai Weiwei @Large exhibit on Alcatraz. So it began from there. I created a video piece and some lighting concepts for the ODC site-specific performance. Thanks to Cheryl Haines (of San Francisco’s own Haines Gallery), opening night included an exclusive Ferry ride out to the island, a sit down dinner, a performance by ODC, and of course some art by the Sunflower Seed guy. One of the pieces included Lego portraits of 175 “Prisoners of Conscience” made from 1.2 million Legos.

Rivaling the Art in sheer spectacle was the opening itself, with tickets ranging from $1000 to $10,000, and a good number of guests’ outfits going for even higher yet. I just have to say “Thank you Cheryl”, for a really well stocked bar.

It’s too bad Ai Weiwei couldn’t be there himself. He is, after all, under house arrest and not permitted to leave the country. The only thing more ironic was the Ai Weiwei Luggage Tag that was neatly tucked into the Swag Bags.

Fast forward to the ODC 2015 home season which was to be an evolution of the show that was performed on Alcatraz. For the season show in San Francisco I created some more video (for the performance itself) and, of course, these pictures. They were used in all the promotion, advertising and programs during the home season run.

I bring all this up because I was also fortunate enough to have these images chosen for the Communication Arts 2015 Photography Annual.

I’ve heard that every picture tells a story. I know that I will never look at sunflower seeds the same. As for the rest, I can only say “Everything is Awesome”.


Mind Over Matter

I’m not sure whose idea it was to make a brain out of human bodies (hmmm, actually I think it was mine…), but Jodi Lomask, director of the dance company “Capacitor”, was intrigued. Jodi was making a piece about what happens in the brain when one participates in the act of creating. What does creativity look like? We were tossing around ideas for images to promote a show she was making called “Synaptic Motion”. More facetiously than anything else, I noted how closely the folds of the brain resembled folded up people. Never one to miss an opportunity, Jodi said “I think that’s a great idea – can we do that?”. I thought for a minute and said, I think it would take around 20 people, and of course, they would have to be naked”. Without a moment’s thought, Jodi said “20 sounds about right, and of course, they should be naked. How soon can we do it?”

That next Saturday, 20 people showed up at the studio and about an hour later everyone was naked and trying to figure out what shapes they should be making and where on the brain they should be. That’s where the trouble started. You’d think 20 naked people would be fairly easy going. I mean, you’d think if you were willing to spend the day naked, climbing all over 19 other people (some you’d never met), “easy going” would be sewn into the DNA.

People started dividing themselves up according to brain function – you read that right – Brain Function. “I’ll be anywhere on the Frontal Lobe, but I’m just not the Cerebellum type.” said a couple of naked people. Another exclaimed “Jodi said I could be the Broca Area – it’s that or nothing!”. And, two other naked people jumped up and, almost in unison, said “Yeah, and I was promised the Occipital Lobe!”. And so it went for about an hour. “I was a Parietal Lobe in college – never again.” and, “After 12 years of Yoga, I’m feeling Temporal Lobe…” “Primary Somatosensory Cortex for me – I ain’t Secondary to nobody” Jodi looked at me and said “What the hell is wrong with these people?”

Then a crack. Someone generously said “I don’t care where I am as long as it’s not the Stem.” It was something anyway. Then someone said to the group “Hey we’re all mature brain parts, can’t we just climb all over each other and get this thing done? I know we’re all Visual Cortex types, but can’t we all be Left Brained, just for the afternoon?” Then another voice rang out “You’re right, let’s hug it out and get back to work makin’ brains.”

For all the headaches, the trouble was over as quickly as it started. Twenty naked brain parts came together as one, and in the end, even the Brain Stems were feeling fulfilled.

Capacitor Brain image

Great News, Great News

First the great news. One of my films was accepted into the San Francisco Dance Film Festival. It’s called “Alter Ego“. It has great dancing with Kate Fisher and Natalie Lomonte, and great choreography (also Kate Fisher and Natalie Lomonte). The music is by the great Mick Rossi. The editing is also great (Sam T. Chase). Personally, I think the film is pretty great. But don’t take my word for it, watch the film.

Now for the great news. One of my other films was accepted into the San Francisco Dance Film Festival. It’s called “Flock“. It has great dancing with Ismael Alvarez Acosta, Marlowe Bassett, Jamielyn Duggan, Sarah Griffin, Emily Kerr, Kristina Lind, and Micah Walters and great choreography by Jodi Lomask of CAPACITOR. It was filmed in an abandoned train station. Great place. The music performed by Julia Ogrydziak sounded really great there. Sam  T.  Chase also did some great editing on this film too. I’m very pleased with how the film turned out, and the experience of making it was, well, great. But, again, don’t take my word for it, watch the film.

The film will be screened at the Brava Theater (great place, by the way) during the film festival November 6-9th, and if you show up and say really, really good things about the films, I’ll buy you a drink.



Two Addicts, Same Drug

I had the pleasure of sitting down with friend and colleague, Jamie Kripke for a conversation about our lives in photography. It’s always surprising when two people from different backgrounds end up not only doing (essentially) the same thing, but how similar our perspectives really are.

Live From Lincoln Center

If a film screens in front of a live audience, is it “Live”? What if there are live performers and no audience? “Live?” Hmmm, one hand clapping I guess. In any case, two of my films will be screening at the Dance on Camera 2014 Film Festival in front of a live audience at (of course) Lincoln Center. Even better they will be showing on opening night (Friday, January 31st). The films are titled “Crosswalk” and “Dervishes”. “Crosswalk” is performed by Felipe Barrueto-Cabello and Jessica Swanson (both are still alive). “Dervishes” is performed by Katherine Helen Fisher and Jaime Verazin (also both still alive). Both films were edited by Sam Chase, and at last check, he too is alive.

So, if you happen to be in New York and around Lincoln Center (and you are in fact alive) come see the films. Kate Fisher will be “live” at the opening, which only complicates the existential question altogether.




Seeing Red

Drive south from San Francisco for a few hours and then turn left at “Where in the Hell Am I.” Keep driving a few more hours and go just past “Middle of Nowhere” and you will have arrived at Inyokern, cleverly named by combining the names of Inyo and Kern counties. It’s still in California, though not the California that jumps to the minds of tourists. This is high desert, where shade is at the same premium as water. Just the perfect location to shoot the brochures for Mazda’s 2014 full line of cars – for seven glorious days.

Now, I actually love the desert. There’s something about being able to see 100 miles in any direction that’s a great antidote for city living, but there are a few things about the desert that are easy to forget. There’s Weather (with a capital W) in the desert. The sun can be relentless, so making shade is a priority. Also included in “Weather” would be the 30 mile an hour winds that come up around 4pm almost every day. (Coincidentally, that’s about the time the sun starts moving into position to make some pictures). Of course, the desert has different priorities – like blowing away anything that you could put up to make shade. You get the idea. We were also warned about the Mojave Red Rattlesnake and how it’s the most poisonous rattlesnake in the world. A quick Google search and, check, stay away from those critters. The skies in the desert can be awesome, in the purest sense of the word (see the picture), and I guess that would be Weather too.

The closest city that has lodging would be Ridgecrest. A lovely and flat desert town mostly inhabited by military folk and people attached to military folk and businesses that mostly service military folk. We had concerns that there would be little to do at night and less to eat. We actually did pretty well. We found a restaurant that served sushi and Chinese food. Remarkably good for not being near the sea. It had entertainment too – in the bar (which is quite common in these parts), Stacey, the bartender, needed almost no provocation to illuminate the patrons to the details of her storied, quite dramatic life. Some people can sure pack a lot into their twenties. An E! Network reality show in the making. One night we drove the 14 miles to the eight buildings they call the town of Wells. The specialty of the eatery/brewery we visited was beer, brewed in whiskey casks. It was actually quite good, and necessary to wash down the not so good food. Depending on your point of view, either the high point or the low point was coming across a bottle of Glazed Donut Vodka.

I know it sounds like we didn’t take too many pictures. In fact, we shot every 2014 model Mazda makes, several times (did I mention all the cars were red?). I have to give tremendous credit to our art director, Diana Phillips, for the fact that between all the adventures, we made a lot of work. And without the vision to take advantage of the great things our location had to offer (instead of sticking to what was in the comp), we were able elevate the images beyond where they started. I mean, really, how do you pass on those skies? It didn’t hurt that our crew was highly experienced, professional and came equipped with a great sense of humor. There was even room for “T Rex Trying” jokes (try the link if you need a laugh…) which, for some reason, seemed even more funny in the middle of nowhere.

So, a sincere thank you to Jessica, Mark, Alicia, Josh, Geoffrey, James, and the Mojave Red Rattlesnake, who was no match for our fearless leader Diana.


A Book of LINES


Last year was the 30th anniversary of Alonzo King LINES Ballet. During one of our photo shoots with the LINES dancers for the upcoming season, the idea of a book to mark the occasion was floated around. The conversation went something like this – Robert Rosenwasser: “Since it is our 30th anniversary season, we were thinking about doing a book.” Alonzo King: “I think it could be really beautiful.” RJ: “It should probably have a lot of pictures…”

Of course, it was more complicated than that but essentially it was the the beginning of the Book Project. We did another photo shoot for the book, and then another. Some pictures were used for the seasons in between and there were one or two more shoots. About 140 pictures later, we have a book (as you can see from the picture above).

This season of Alonzo King LINES Ballet opens Friday, October 25th in our home town of San Francisco. Coincidentally, there will be a book marking the occasion on sale in the lobby. While I’m sure I’ve answered all of your questions, should you have any more, I’ll be on stage with Alonzo after the Sunday, October 27th performance to answer the one or two that may come up between now and then.

Under The Big Top

You would think after shooting dancers for so many years, my path would have led me to circus performers long before now. I’ve shot a few dancers that were also circus performers, but it wasn’t until a recent shoot (see below) that I really got familiar with a group of individuals in our local circus scene. Now, as a photographer, you’ve got to think Circus + Pictures has to be a good thing. And you’d be right. You’d also be right that I’m not the first (or the last) to think that. As spectacular as the performances are, I really didn’t want to tread over well traveled ground. But as time and circumstances (again, see below) went by, I increasingly counted this family of circus performers among my friends.

The photographer in me finally overcame my reluctance and the imperative to make some pictures took over. I began to notice a small overlap between the circus world and the world of avant-garde fashion of say, Jean Paul Gaultier and Alexander McQueen, only with a little more contortion and a lot less money. I also wanted these pictures to be more portraits than fashion and more fashion than performance. Truth is, the notion of what they “should” be flew out the window after the first session. I did want to shoot them all on a black background. At least that stayed true to plan.

Ladies, Start Your Engines

It started out like any other day. Unlock the studio doors. Turn on the lights. Send in the Circus Girls. Sixteen Circus Girls to be exact. No more, no less. I’m sure you’re asking “Why Circus Girls? Why not models or even dancers?” I guess it depends entirely on how one would answer a simple question – “How would you feel about getting mostly naked, getting painted for 12 hours, climbing all over other mostly naked painted women to make the shape of a car – all so we can take a picture?” If the answer is “Hell yes, sounds fantastic, when do we start?!” then you’re probably talking to a circus performer. Here in San Francisco, we have a small but flourishing circus community. They come at things a little differently than most people. First, these women have mad skills – contortionists, aerialists, trapeze artists, and ten other things I don’t know the names of. All with clear allergies to desk jobs and a slight addiction to adrenaline. Kinda like a deck of cards with 52 Jokers.

So when Dean Oram from The Richards Group called me and asked if I could make a car out of painted muscular women’s bodies for a Fiat ad, I said “Hell yes, sounds fantastic, I know just the people to call, when do we start?!” That leads us back to sending in the Circus Girls. Hot on their heels follows Craig Tracy, our Body Painter imported directly from New Orleans, and his team. Everything’s in place. The painting begins – one body at a time. The hours roll on and I begin to notice a variety of handstand push-ups, ungodly body bends and dancing to music no one can hear. I guess a mostly naked, partially painted circus performer has to spend the time somehow. Wheels begin to become clear, headlights on the sides of faces, logos conspicuously placed on a back, and slowly, a car takes shape. Everyone takes their positions and a test shot is taken. Everyone crowds around the monitor to discuss the changes. Everyone goes back to either painting, being painted, or waiting to be painted. As the hours go by, a new normal sets in. Many trips to the craft service table, lots of bending and lots of over-bending and dozens of finishing paint touch-ups. And then, finally, everyone takes their positions for the last time and we make a picture. Done and done. Champagne, collective laughter, euphoria, and a sublime realization of just how strange and wonderful the day really was.

The ad is running, appropriately enough, in the ESPN 2013 Body Issue. Also, check out the behind the scenes video on the Fiat YouTube page created by Sam Chase.

And just like any other day, I have far too many people to thank for helping make that day, in every sense of the word, fantastic. I will add that these projects don’t come together without a lot of people on the agency side pushing for a good idea and a client (thank you Casey Hurbis) who will champion an idea until it is done. Far easier said than done. Kinda like handstand push-ups.