Posts Tagged ‘Patagonia’

Small Town, Big World

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010
Bobby Hart gets it.

Bobby Hart gets it.

I get a global look at things through my photography business, which has web strands anchored to many countries. I see something first hand, that many do not have the personal luxury of acquiring: a broad economic  and cultural perspective.

This country is in the single greatest period of change and challenge since the Great Depression. So what to do, as assets dwindle and fiscal potential narrows? For the answer,  look to the past.

About a year ago, a group of people met in my little town. There were a series of meetings actually. No official city committee was involved. No State or Federally appointed grant commissions were tapped. The consensus was, that our town was hurting, and consequently, change was being wrought that could forever alter the things that make Ventura a unique and authentic place to live.

Christmas Wishes and Our Friends

Christmas Wishes and Our Friends

My friend and colleague Shawn Alladio, (also a member of “Team Betty” as Donna calls her girls)  runs another global scope company called K38 Rescue. Shawn always tells me that doing something, action of some sort, is the best answer one can give. Too many people forget that action part.

So that group did something. Each one. Individually and collectively. Even as some saw the US fiscal collapse bring the fight to survive right to their front door, they resolved to contribute. They became agents of change.

I am not talking about peanut sized problems. Some of these people lost homes, businesses, commercial holdings, marriages teetered. It is the stuff we read about occurring in that Great Depression: suffering.

It is no secret that in many ways, American Small Business is the fiscal backbone of this country. But what happens when a Government gone over large and linked to big business, looses focus and leaves Small Business in the lurch? What then?

The answer lies in your own community. Each member has assets of a sort, but more to the point each PERSON is the single most important asset that there is. People are what matters in this world of ours.

When a community comes together, it is entirely possible to fabricate a cultural and economic micro climate that can be vital, and buck National trends. My home town of Santa Barbara has always done this. It is one of the reasons I know this works. SB has always maintained a fiscal integrity separate from the rest of the US. Even now.

Many people think that it is due to the uber rich living there. That has not been my experience. As someone who ran businesses there starting at the age of 15, I learned that SB was a microclimate unto itself because of its sense of community. Santa Barbara works together.

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara

So I had a look back at the past. There are many stories that have stood the test of time, that have brought hope. People need hope. So we tell stories. It is what journalists and photographers do.   But the world requires action to be taken as well.  Being stuck at home, due in part to the collapse of paper publishing, I began to organize my own resources as a writer, photographer and film maker, and turn my global focus back on to my own community. It is not unlike what one would do as a child: playing with a magnifying glass.

For the first time, my own town would become my primary focus, along with the imagery that has contributed so much to my commercial library. Hopefully things would warm up as a result of the action of my own magnifying glass in our chilly local economy.

So “This Is Ventura”, a video montage, was created to communicate what makes my town unique. It showed first as an expression of gratitude during Artwalk. It may, in title at least, become the calling card for a collective of local residents to unify a town by focusing on small business and the tenets of inter community support.

Community involvement makes for a more robust source of income for the City and allows for the advance of Art, Culture and Creativity, which in turn provide a foundation of hope. It is a strong hedge against the forces which seem to be dragging our country into the gutter.

Last week, my friend Kat Merrick, (one from that original group) via Facebook, let us know that she was planning a get together at a local Restaurant and bar. Jonathan’s is located across from Mission San BuenaVentura.  Well known local musicians, Bobby Hart, Eric Lemaire, and others, were going to perform. It would be a good time.

My girlfriend, Donna Von Hoesslin, who heads up yet another globally connected small business that is based here (Betty B) told me that she was in desperate need of images for a new line of jewelry which is designed by members of Team Betty.

Donna Von Hoesslin

Donna Von Hoesslin

So we dropped in on the party at J’s, sat in the window booth and shot the girl’s designs there as Bobby and crew rocked. Typically we would do this away in some distant land, or somewhere on the coast. Definitely not associated with any particular business. (I actually have developed a penchant for Ventura night, street shoots) But deciding to both take care of Betty B’s business needs, and provide bodies, texture and a few extra dollars to the day’s till at J’s, allowed for an exponential increase of benefit for everyone involved.

Here is a video that explains in 4 minutes, the gist of Donna’s remarkable company. We did the piece for the Intuit Small Business United program. It helped Donna win a 5000 dollar grant from Intuit, which she used to help fund her Bali expedition.

On Bali last season, Hailey and Sierra Partridge, Jeanette Ortiz, Mary Osborne, and Donna, did a Betty B design trip. Each one of the girls worked with the local artisans who comprise a portion of Donna’s creative team, to produce collection pieces that exemplified themselves as ocean connected women. Each young woman then selected a cause or charity, whereby Betty B would donate a portion of the income from sales of each piece.

Donna’s company is a very active member of yet another organization, which was the brainchild of Ventura’s Chouinard family (Patagonia), which is called One Percent for the Planet. Through One Percent, Donna and other companies support David Booth’s fantastic Organization, the East Bali Poverty Project, which literally is changing the face of Bali, by educating the youth on their connection to the environment via the Arts and cultural action.

So with our country on the ropes, it all starts here. With me. With you. In our own back yard.

The answer is right there in your community: your dollars are a part of your voice. Now do something. Do it for yourself. Do it for your town. But more importantly: do it. By acting locally you affect Globally, as well as Nationally. Do it.

A Global Doorway

A Global Doorway

This song from John Mellencamp is very appropriate. Our past is our future. It begins today.

So after several days of post production that Betty B shoot has 120 images in the final edit. Those images will go various places. General commercial use for Betty B, the girl’s individual projects, to my agency rep at Corbis images, and to various editorial concerns that continue to use my work. I never know where an image will find an eventual home. I am often pleasantly surprised to see a billboard, or international ad campaign base itself on my work.  But it is especially nice to know that those moments were created here,  in Ventura, California.

The following montage is from that Betty B shoot at Jonathan’s,  and is an example of what the group, which has taken the name of Totally Local VC, wants to do: bring us all together. Together, we win. Click on any of the images for a larger view, and to toggle through as a slide show.  Then go patronize a local merchant, and change your world.

Organic Reprisal

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009
Awash on Bali

Awash on Bali

We leave the troubled shores of the US soon, for the exotic environs of Indonesia where Donna Von Hoesslin’s creative muse lies, on the Isle of Bali. We are a tightly knit crew, who all will donate time and our own efforts in a collaborative endeavor to contribute to something that matters, and in the process, create something beautiful and compelling.

The excursion will be a little different than Donna’s usual solo pilgrimage to her mecca of creativity and harmonic bliss. This time she brings along a group of young women whose names have become synonymous with her Ventura based fashion accessory company, Betty Belts-Betty B.

The group will experience the process of design and symbiosis that occurs between US and Balinese culture through the sustainable philosophy of Donna’s eco based product line.

Taking an ensemble of beautiful, talented young women, and throwing them into the chaos, mayhem and exotic allure that is this ancient Hindu based culture, will launch the crew on a voyage of discovery, designed to acquaint the uninitiated with what really goes on behind the scenes in developing the humanitarian ethics of this unique company, whose product line is emblazoned with the names of an extensive collection of powerful and talented women.

Myself, and film makers Aaron Marcellino, and Jason Wolcott will take the viewer on a richly textured, exotic and visceral look at Balinese culture, that examines the impact one woman’s personal vision can have on two very separate worlds as we produce a film, magazine feature work, and art.

So off to Bali we go soon, where we will get to spend time with David Booth (see one of his projects here), whose East Bali Poverty Project transforms the world by educating one child at a time, one village at a time, in the remote communities of Bali. David changes the world through his vision of implementing sustainable solutions. We are blessed that he has invited us to contribute.

Mary Osborne, Jeanette Ortiz, Hailey and Sierra Partridge are physically very attractive women. But having traveled and trained with them, even doing Ocean Rescue and operations training with Shawn Alladio of K38 Rescue, I have seen them demonstrate their prodigiously considerable skills in the most stressful environments imaginable.

What the four bring to any creative and ambitious project’s table is so far beyond modeling, surfing or any of the action sport related activities that they are experts in. I would go anywhere with them and rely on them to watch over me. There are not many people in the world that I would entrust myself to. But I do them.

Seth Godin here on taking initiative.

Though I do not know exactly the nature of what will happen, I do know this, that a lot of love heads from our little corner of the world, in this unique visit to a land and people who are remarkable. We will see, and listen, and hear.

I love this. It is so this endeavor. As my friend Drew Kampion has suggested, regarding what we will produce: “Get weird”. We are about to. But then we already are. Why else would we go? Oh yea, that’s right: love.

I have tools

I have tools

Mary, Jeanette, Hailey, Sierra and Shawn ORT Graduation

Mary, Jeanette, Hailey, Sierra and Shawn ORT Graduation

Donna's Road Vision

Donna's Road Vision

Jeanette and Adam: ZDesert Shoot

Jeanette and Adam: ZDesert Shoot

Hailey, Sierra and Gidget for Hobie Swim

Hailey, Sierra and Gidget for Hobie Swim

Mary: Mexico: 40's pinup shoot

Mary: Mexico: 40's pinup shoot

Hailey in Stewart and Brown for Betty B

Hailey in Stewart and Brown for Betty B

Jeanette: Ventura Dawn

Jeanette: Ventura Dawn

Mary: For Patagonia

Mary: For Patagonia

Donna Von Hoesslin: Global Sensibilities

Donna Von Hoesslin: Global Sensibilities

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.

Mary Carmel Osborne: Unintentional Icon

Monday, April 13th, 2009


To call Mary Osborne a surfer girl is about as misleading a statement as calling me a surf photographer. Yes she is a surfer. But that description is a tight pigeonhole for her to fit into. It is what she is, not who.

Mary and I have history together. I doubt that there is anyone who knows me as well and anyone that I trust as much artistically and personally as her. The ability she has as an artist, producer, professional athlete, and model is often overlooked in a cursory glance. Too short to model, too nice to compete, and frequently dismissed as the stereotypical California blonde beach girl, one can easily underestimate her depth, as she is a perfect example of how appearances can mislead, and how one can be completely successful at whatever one desires if diligence, multiple talents and self confidence abide within your personal skill set.

California, Mexico, Maldives, Seychelles, Tahiti, Fiji, South America, Europe, Australia, acting, modeling, hosting, emceeing, representing, promoting, producing, teaching,  it seems the soft spoken, polite young woman at 27, has been more places and done more things than possible in several lifetimes.

I recall a funny series of phone calls  which occurred in the span of a day, between she and I awhile back. Mary was arriving on set for a commercial during call #1. It was a beach shoot. Call #2 she had just finished her stand in beach shot, and was asked to do some surfing. Call#3  She was doing a horse back segment and stunt work. The directors comment had been something to the effect of: “Is there anything that this girl doesn’t do?” Her versatility is remarkable and probably why I sort of laugh when I hear her described as a surfer girl.

Mary has been a promotional and iconic image source for a variety of concerns. I won’t list them all here. But her work with Patagonia, Betty Belts, Wet N Wild Makeup, Robert August Surfboards, Etnies, and multiple charities and concerns promoting women and female empowerment have over the course of her career helped to redefine the role of women in popular culture. Her affect has been not unlike that of the 1959 film and television series written by Frederick Kohner based on his daughter Kathy, which as the title “Gidget”, contributed and possibly generated, the huge groundswell of public interest that caused a trend boom in surfing and directed a shift in popular culture of that period.

But the main difference between the two characters, old Gidget and new, is one of scope and depth. Women long ago figured out where the boys are. Gidget to this day jokes about that. But today’s  woman wants in on the real action.  I find it interesting in looking back at the conception of Mary Osborne as a media personality, that she and I, working together and supplying imagery to editorial, preceded the media and glut of entertainment projects that eventually popularized modern surfing for women. Mary was there first. Ahead of Roxy, before Blue Crush, then through it all. I don’t think any one person ever really “got it” as the saying goes, because the world tends to compartmentalize a person in order to be better satisfied with it’s own tendency to settle for mediocrity and the mundane. In effect, the world should not ever really get it completely.

Mary is never mediocre, never limits herself, always encourages, contributes, and has been as relentless as the tide in the pursuit of her passions.

The following catalog of imagery is 1/10,000 of what she and I have produced and probably illustrates 1/100th of the subjects we have portrayed in the mediums of motion picture film, video, stills and literature. The things which we experience together as collaborators, friends and artists could fill books. It seems we have managed several lifetimes when I peruse our work.  This is truly a perfect example of how the strength of a subject defines a persons work. Lucky me that we like what we do, as neither of us really planned any of this. We were just having fun together.

Click on any image in this blog for a full view and more information. All website links are in color relief. Just click on them to open a new window.

© 2009 David Pu'u. All rights reserved.