Posts Tagged ‘West Cooke’

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‚Äôs, sat in the window booth and shot the girl‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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.

Project Cupcake

Friday, July 17th, 2009


What started out as a Facebook discussion on my friend West Cooke’s mad cooking skills, and his hidden away restaurant, Cooke’s Smokehouse (A couple blocks away from the location of one of my old surf shops) got a little out of hand. Funny what can inspire us to create something special. It is remarkable what can arise in both cause and affect via inspiration.

A few of us had been joking around online. Kat Merrick, Jim Scolari, Jim Rice, West, the usual multifaceted blend of community that is the town we all refer to fondly as Ventucky, our land of eclectic madness by the sea. Jim and his wife, Donna and I, wound up at Cooke’s one evening for my first visit, where we were treated to a pretty amazing, albeit calorie rich example of fire grilled meats, Hefeweizen on tap, and assorted goodies that the memory of is making me hungry, in spite of just having had breakfast.

At the end of our repast, someone mentioned cupcakes. We were full, but I remember thinking: What the heck, its only a cupcake,  and ordered two, which we shared. Those cupcakes were unlike anything I have ever experienced or tasted. They exemplified an obvious flair for creativity and generosity  in what would as a rule, be a mediocre at best, stab at the art of baking.

Those cupcakes said a lot to me about how our lives could work and what a world could be, if we found enthusiasm and creativity in our little segment of a daily existence that at times, for even the most creatively inspired, can wax mundane. We all go through it in family, work, sports, art: that “what is the point?” query.

Here is the point. When we engage our endeavors with creativity, and flair, and have it matter to us, it will make a difference somewhere down the line and matter to others. One never knows what results will spring from your diligence and attention to what is right in front of you in your life, at this exact instant.

So I went by Cooke’s after the Facebook reparte, and the promise of a cupcake from West. I picked up two very stunning pineapple upside down beauties, glistening with a pineapple reduction glaze. West had zero idea what I was up to.

Now the last time I really shot food, was quite awhile ago. The shots, for another pal of mine, wound up in a display at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. He is a great chef, and cook as well. But I had been hired to shoot some menu items for the restaurant.  The images developed legs of their own, and found a home that I would never have imagined.

I have had multiple works show in museums around the world, and not a one of those instances was by design. Some curator happened to notice a burst of inspiration that had I had been standing around holding a camera of some sort for. I simply documented the event. It serves to illustrate what can happen when you choose to engage a task alight with the realization that it should, and could, be done well. So you personalize the effort.

I took the confections home having thought about the subject, and inspired, shot cupcakes. Even had a little joke with my editor at Surfer, Jean Paul Van Swae about it (You won’t believe what I am doing JP!). The short of it is this, West’s passion for his business and love for his community birthed¬† something new, and my own homage to the source of my inspiration.

That is how we all ought to be, inspired by one another. I am constantly amazed by the bright lights in my life, and am convinced that without their illumination, contributions, enthusiasm and participation, that the world around me would be pretty freaking dark.

A young photographer, who in spite of his low key demeanor has always impressed me with his quiet inner confidence and steady rising glow, is Kyle Sparkes. His latest blog illustrates a vital aspect of the creative process in a very personal way.

Here is a great example of creativity and flair produced by TKO Media. Thanks to Al Grizwold for pointing it out. I grin at just the thought of it.

Seth Godin has an amazing ability to locate me, and you, in his daily blog. Here is what he has to say regarding cupcakes.

Think that you have nothing special to bring to the table? This quirky music video may convince you otherwise.

Go ahead, do it. I know you are stuffed.  But you will enjoy the results, and so will everybody else.

Have a bite.


© 2009 David Pu'u. All rights reserved.