Archive for April, 2009

The Bodner

Thursday, April 30th, 2009


Ever have one of those friends who is just, well, there when  you are together? They are always so present in the moment, that they perpetually gloss over tidbits you would really appreciate knowing about them. Everyone enjoys bragging on their pals and assorted loved ones.  Some people truly are ignorant of their own genius and opt to not give us the chance.  Their vocation is just what they are, so what could the big deal possibly be?

A year ago I met Jessica Bodner and her boyfriend, Robert Catalusci. They had recently relocated from San Francisco to Ventura. Two artists with eclectic backgrounds, but a long track record from what my girlfriend Donna and I could surmise, in producing art. Robert though almost equally obtuse in describing exactly what he does, unwittingly let the cat out of the bag during a housewarming at the industrial space which serves as the joint production studio for the two. He showed us a video segment toned to match the color of the evening sky. Turns out it was an art concept projected on to a big screen built spanning some buildings adjacent to the 280 freeway in SF. The display had stopped rush hour traffic as an array of huge military jets engaged in an ominous dogfight that offered little clue the show was projected. Two days later, the Gulf War began. That is Robert.

But Jessica, wow, nothing but: “Oh I am a welder who makes lamps and has done some sculpture”.

That was the extent of it for the year, till an e mail dropped in containing a photo of a smiling Robert standing next to a large object that looked like a beehive. I am nothing, if not curious. I went by the shop where Jessica was busy welding away. The piece was a large, intricately engineered and fabricated metal sculpture with a value-scope that would be hard to measure in dollars. Yes, it was a lamp.

Over a period of two visits I documented the final construction and Jessica graciously exposed what an amazing talent she is. I needed to know more and the following text was sent to me by her Father, artist Stanley Bodner, who I had met while working on the Ventura Film Festival.

Stan Bodner: “I’ll give you some thoughts from my perspective:

Early on Jessica exhibited her unique view of the world. Sometime after serving her toddler-ship, she asked me what I thought of a miniature drawing that had she made. I don’t remember what I said exactly, it may have been something like “That’s a cute kitten.” I do, however, remember her response. She said, “That’s not a kitten daddy. You can’t see it, because your eyes are too big”.

That was the last time anybody ever mistook what she created.

Jessica’s mother, Alexandra and I both spent our pre-digital lives in front of an easel or behind a drawing table. Jessica spent most of her childhood under the drawing table.

Her summers were spent on the farm with her grandparents. Her grandfather was–before he retired–a welding foreman for Chicago Bridge and Iron. He kept a shop in the garage. As you know manipulating metal became her chosen media.

Yes, Jessica had an inordinate amount of exposure to Art and media, but it would all have been for nothing, without her extraordinary talent and desire to create.

She also had a poem published in grammar school, and was a finalist in a statewide public speaking competition.

Prior to moving west, Jessica graduated from The Chicago Academy for the Arts (a collage preparatory high school for the arts in Chicago). She continued her schooling in LA and San Francisco where she received her BFA.

There is one additional observation that I would like to share;
I made an unannounced visit to the principles office at CAA late in her sophomore year. The office was adorned exclusively with Jessica’s paintings and renderings. This had happened before in Jessica’s Grade school!

I hate to use the phrase “proud to be…” in describing my feelings. I like “lucky to be…” fits so much better.

She is “The Bodner”.  I am, “The Bodner’s father.”

Alexandra Navickas  studied at the Chicago Art Institute and Graduated with a teaching degree from U of Illinois.
Alex worked as a commercial artist designing and photographing fashion catalogs. When Jessica was born, Alex concentrated on her painting, later to be exhibited in Silvia Siegals Oak Street Gallery. After painting, she became a photographer specializing in hand-colored photos, for 15 years, then a few years designing African-American greeting cards, and then on Jessica’s suggestion, began making lighting fixtures 10 yrs ago for her business,


Stanley Bodner recipient of the “Alexander” and “St Guardens” medals for art New York High School system.

Graduated Cooper Union.  After an internship lasting a few years, I started my own Graphic Art Studio. My clients were Advertising Agencies, Mills, Manufactures and publications. I made the transformation from drawing board to computer early on. My introduction to the Mac happened in 1985.

I haven’t shown a portfolio for many years, however, I will e-mail you some current samples under separate cover of Alex’s and my work.

Oh, I just read your mighty blog. I am impressed. One favor I would ask; Please leave the Warhol bit out. It is somewhat demeaning sounding like sour grapes, and I do not wish to bask in reflected glory. Yes, he couldn’t draw, but he was a terrific designer, not unlike the many famous artists that have impressed us through the years. In my opinion, Edgar Dagas could draw, Renoir couldn’t. Both are geniuses.

I did appreciate the Pink Champagne he would send around Christmas. “A toast to Andy Warhol”.

Cheers, to Stanley and Alex (and yes,  Andy too). You’ve given us a true light in The Bodner.

Click on any image to  see the full frame view.

Cira and The Mermaid

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009


Not many people know this, but when I began working in editorial as a writer and shooter, Europe was my market of choice. Not sure exactly why, but it seems like the editors who most frequently get it with me are from across the pond. It has always been that way.

I first was introduced to Cira Riedel, editor of the multi lingual action sport, art centered magazine 7Sky, online. Cira was looking for content for an issue he was putting together. A couple e mail image tosses back and forth via the inet clothesline and we were done. The next year he showed up in the US and spent some time with Donna and I researching for a magazine on creativity.

Imagine my surprise when he turned out to be a statuesque she. It had never occurred to me that it was a woman I had been chatting away with online. Says something about gender bias I suppose. And myopia.

Cira is one of those great individuals one wants in their circle. Artist, singer, writer, global thinker, she has a clear understanding of how things ought to be,  and how things that she is involved in should go. So while she was here we introduced her to some of our friends. Singer, songwriter, Hawaiian Justin Young who we went to LA to listen to. (Later that year, Justin was booked on to the Tonight Show) Artist and all around genius Edem Elesh. Writer George Orbelian. Historian Tom Stone.  It was a long list. Cira came back months later with the most amazing magazine.

A few months back I sent Cira my Mermaid image collection. It is an art based series which I had shot in the Maldives (An atoll nation south of India) with Hannah Frasier Rastovich. I had narrowed the final file down to 80 images and sent the collection out to all of the people whose critical opinions I value, and asked for their choices on best images in the group. Each responded in different fashion to the others. That is how my colleagues roll. They are complete individualists. Each response and selection was unique

To my surprise, Cira came back with a feature. It is in long form below and is characteristic of her wonderful perspective. Have to love a good editor. They make us what we are. At least in the eyes of the public.

You can see a motion picture segment of Hannah from a  film we are finishing here.


My Agenda

Monday, April 27th, 2009
Pelican Eye

Pelican Eye

The blog to do list waxes long and there is so much to communicate. But at the top of my list is a chain of creative people. Artists, writers, film makers,  dancers, musicians, photographers and business owners, whose work and bright glow I hope to share. It will need to be fun, inspiring and encouraging, because that is who and what they all are.


Making a fiscal way in Photography

An examination of technology and how it affects man.

Technology and Green.

A look at Canon’s new 5D Mark 2 and what may be the most amazing imaging tool yet.

Sustainability: concept and goals.

Surfing, my favorite images.

Waves, best selects from a 10,000 image file

Dolphins, best selects from a 2000 image file

Interspersed will be quick glances through pertinent issues that all of you can affect.

Nothing inspires order like nature, and none aspires  so well as he who can exist in harmony with it. Ask a surfer.

Click on the links and follow them. Frequently they are the best part of this blog. Like the one right here from Seth Godin.

Thanks for reading!

Click on any image for a full view and a back story on the image.

Metaphysical Momentum: Water Carriers

Monday, April 27th, 2009


Ventura has been in the throes of an art boom the past few years. I have watched amusedly as a diverse group of people have been drawn to our little berg from far flung corners of the earth and served as cultural and intellectual fodder for a renaissance of sorts. Creative seedlings they all are,  putting down root, bearing fruit that the town will benefit from.

No where has this been more obvious to me than in the recent Ventura Film Fest event where during a period of four days, film makers, artists and musicians mingled with a diverse cross section of the public to create an organic phenomenon that served to inspire and connect people.

The driving forces behind the festival are myriad, but when one needs to put a finger on the actual pulse, it was film maker and writer Lorenzo DeStefano whose vision for a festival that focused on interactive participation and community based cinema,  fostered what proved to be a unique experience. Simply put, Lorenzo wanted everyone to come and stay four days. What would arise was intended to be a collaboration of sorts that would motivate both film makers and art enthusiasts of all types to migrate here every year to experience, create and encourage. Though I could only attend for two of the days, my own experience illustrates well what happens when the creative commune. The following is one of many stories that developed.

I had been in an entertaining discussion with Director, Writer and Producer Robert Young, whose fantastic career was being profiled at the festival, when I was reluctantly drawn away  to shoot something.  I was collecting some stills and video footage for the VFF. It was a difficult conversation to leave since Robert was being incredibly generous.

The thing with creatives, is that we like to listen, we enjoy communicating, we drink of each others energies and feed off our collective experiences in a manner which in derivative fashion, expands us as people and artists. There is an enthusiastic charge that pulses through a crowd like the one at the event. You simply step into the flow and it carries you along without much effort on your own part. Easy as a languid swim in tropical waters, the experience is simultaneously  relaxing, and energizing. Once you step in.

I found myself with film maker William Farley, whose film Shadow and Light was to screen later in the day. He wanted a cup of coffee. I wanted to hear more in a conversation that had immediately hooked me: the communication of things spiritual via the medium of cinematography. As we strolled down Main St and into Starbucks we shared some of the fantastic things that we had experienced over the years in the course of our work, where when we simply listened, a project would draw us into another world and show us things, tell us tales, that we would never have expected at the onset.

As he sat down in the City Bus stop next to the Elks Lodge, coffee in hand, William expounded on metaphysical reality, quantum physics and the energy signature that is both our lives and the not so workaday process of listening and communicating the voices we hear via sound, imagery and creative intent. He recounted a few of his startling experiences in working with Native Peoples. I in turn shared a couple of mine, and for a period of time that seemed like minutes but was actually two hours, that bus stop became a heiau, a house on a reservation, a distant shore. We simply waved off the  bus drivers piloting the lumbering beasts past.

The key thing that transported us into the time and reality warp of that bus stop was the re enforcement that yes there are others like us out there. People who peer into a world possibly not evident to all, and whose prescient wish is to share a little of it.  Though at times the localized creative process may feel a little like carrying water to a desert, when one has a colleague, the task seems to become it’s own reward. I was so grateful to have been included.

Click on any of the gallery images for a larger view and a little back story on the subject.

Skinny Bitch: A Day in the Life

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009


I have a rewarding job. I get to hang out with people I really like and create images that reflect a vibrant, healthy and exciting lifestyle.  In fact, such is the appeal of that lifestyle that the world of fashion uses it’s cachet to create branding for the many products it markets.

The way my shoots come together has always been sort of weird. Sometimes I feel as if some grand conductor has launched a symphony and I simply stumbled into the performance unawares. Then it all connects and I do my portion. It truly is a small part that I play at that point, albeit an integral one.

Hailey and Sierra Partridge and I were hanging out at my home in Ventura. They had made the drive down from Santa Cruz that day. One of the girls had asked: “Have you read Skinny Bitch yet?”(Skinny Bitch is a book about diet basically.) “I want to!” I had answered. “Just have not found the time. You know what Mary (Mary Osborne) and I always say right? Binge and purge baby, binge and purge.”

Our banter though light hearted and  an ongoing joke amongst us, serves as a continual sarcastic take on popular culture’s icon fabrication  process, where one starves ones self, does the “necessary” drugs and surgeries then models or performs. The result frequently can be an image that is not based in any healthy reality for the average female. It can be” the unhealthy art”. I frequently catch myself being simultaneously fascinated, attracted and repulsed by it.

I had a very general idea of what we would be shooting. Mary had called and asked if the girls would like to get spray tanned as part of a test of her new product and company, Sol Y Mar tan.  Donna Von Hoesslin wanted some shots for a campaign for her Betty B fashion accessory line. The twins were to meet the folks at the eco fashion company, Stewart and Brown the next day about possibly representing their line. My editor at Surfer, Jean Paul Van Swae, had sent me an e mail query about doing a series of vertical frame images for the magazine masthead featuring girls. Hobie always likes to see new images of the twins who as athletes and models, represent the iconic waterman branded company. Then there was Patagonia, Oneill etc, etc… I could hear the instruments tuning up. I made a list.

By the next evening the girls were a newer shade of bronze. Jeanette Ortiz had jumped into the group and I had spent the avo with naked girls running around the house. Now a part of me wants to go: “Yep dats right!” But the reality for most guys that work closely with women, is that though we cultivate a certain amount of sexual tension in order to build emotion that adds to the images depth, we are really more like a doctor-cum- artist when we look at our female subjects: objective and level. The actual process is the opposite of what some might think and definitely far from sexy for the photographer (and the girls if the complete truth be told I think)

Mary explained it to me many years ago from her POV. “Sometimes you feel like my boyfriend, sometimes my Father, sometimes my Brother, sometimes my best friend, I have just completely given up trying to figure it all out and just go with it.” And that is exactly how it is. We all travel together, spend long periods of time together and develop relationships that span many years, so a foundation of trust and commonality of purpose arises which makes for a very efficient process when it comes time to work. We have a lot of fun, and often, some great adventures, since most of the skinny bitches have superior athletic abilities.

The below text was copy pasted from an e mail exchange between Hailey, Sierra and I today. The girls have a casting call for a shoot with Vanity Fair this week and the photographer is Michael Halsband, whose work I have always admired. The correspondence offers a unique insight:

So do you know the photog? And thank you for the reassurance! :)


Nope do not know him personally, but know of his work and preferences. As long as he sees you as the real deal and unique he would select you guys. You would make him look good. Seriously. That is, if he gets to make the call. It is all about selling magazines and VF has a history, albeit recent, of attempting to portray surf culture.

You see, contemporary fashion apes surf culture in a variety of ways. One means is to steal it by doing things like this. I do not mean that in a necessarily bad way. It is the converse of what I do with fashion, whereby I import art, styling, lighting  and fashion and motion picture standards IN to surf culture via the work I produce for the surf industry etc.

Get it? Fashion borrows from popular culture since it is not a culture unto itself really. Fashion is there to sell merchandise and manipulate the wholesale and retail market into a longing for what it produces. Halsband will want that which exemplifies popular culture and makes him look good by having a facile tool with which he can build the image the photo dept and art director want. They have an idea most likely, but they are probably still looking,  trying to firm it up. That is what this modeling call is probably about.

I do this also.  But my process is different obviously. It is no accident that I chose you, or Mary, or Holly, or Jeanette or Hannah or Aubrey to work with. It was the basis of my decision to invest in little Asia as well.  My work is defined by my subjects. Fashion generally takes a different approach due to the way that business is formatted. For  someone or something to become a subject of mine it must be true and exemplify that which I wish to portray. You all do that. As people, athletes, artists/models, there really is a connection on the inside of me to yourselves. With you and your sister, as the saying goes, you had me at hello. Then as our relationship grew and we really got to know each other the entire adventure unfolded. Get it?

This is a fascinating twist and a huge step away from that last Allure shoot. This one is real. Be happy, go down, do what you know to do on the call. Be polite, direct, engaging and approach all in as intelligent a manner as possible.

They may want to portray what they are being sold (Sofia, and the contest surfers in this call, as products which exemplify women’s surfing), but my guess is that they will be looking for what surfing really is. THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT WE WERE TALKING ABOUT THE OTHER DAY. SURFING IS ABOUT SURFING AND AN OCEAN LIFESTYLE. COMPETITIVE SURFING IS A DERIVATIVE OF THAT. GET IT? One authored the other NOT vice versa.

Relax, focus, have fun. It really is just like surfing. If this is the wave you want, this is part of paddling in. If you miss it, another comes along. It won’t be the same exact wave, but who is to say that one is better than another? They are just different.

Love always,

Blogger Seth Godin points me in the direction of a fantastic video that illustrates the fashion image game, which is here.

The images below are a cull from our 24 hour shoot and illustrates the work ethic and talent of my skinny bitches. We produced approximately 500 images and the conductor that day had us in near perfect form. We had a lot of fun, well, maybe except for the 54 degree water. Click on any of the images for a full view.

Equipment: Canon 5D Mark 2 body,  and more lenses than I can carry.

Location: Ventura County

Models: Jeanette Ortiz, Hailey Partridge, Sierra Partridge

Wardrobe: Stewart and Brown, Oneill, Hobie, Patagonia

Wetsuits: Oneill, Patagonia

Surfboards: Hobie, William Dennis, Dick Brewer

Hair: Danny Moa

Location assistant: Angie Izzo

Makeup and styling: Donna Von Hoesslin, Mary Osborne (tanning tech) for Solymar Tanning

Fashion accessories and jewelry: Betty B


Steven Falconer is incredibly unique and talented.  Today he is a novelist. But his background is as a highly successful New York fashion photographer. His  former models roster reads like a whose who of  fashion. He just sent me a note back in response to the blog, some of which I can post, some which I cannot because rather well known people’s names are involved.   Here is the part of his note that I can reprint from a person with a very rare perspective:

Thanks for sharing David.  I really like this shot, the way she’s carrying the board, the light, the wave behind, her long youthful figure.  Sounds like you’re busy and having lots of fun!  I’ve never read the book, but I don’t like the derogatory title.  I have to say that most of the girls I worked with were still slender because they were so young that they had hardly grown into their tall frames yet.  They had usually been veritable beanpoles when they were younger, naturally.  They didn’t have to worry about their weight any more than I did when I was young.  My problem when I was young was that I couldn’t keep weight ON.

When I  first met Steven some months back he was in a wheelchair.  Turns out a ski-ing accident put him in it when he was young and he built his amazing career while in that wheelchair. Something about him fascinated me from that first moment. I think that it is his  intense energy. One can see how it would affect his subjects.

© 2009 David Pu'u. All rights reserved.