HESO Magazine

Photography, Music, Film, Hitchhiking, Craft Beer – Cultural Pugilist

Tag: Krzysztof Kieślowski

© Billy Gomez

Modern Loops Interview with Photographer Billy Gomez

© Billy Gomez

© Billy Gomez

Third-party marketing content, Wikipedia-plagiarized articles, hateful commentary, Fox News–it’s easy to be negative about the internet. It’s also impossible to deny its positive impact. Whole photographic communities have formed due to the largesse of Flickr and Instagram, to name a few. Yet the net that spreads wide also has large holes. Many talented, young artists experimenting with technologies both old and new fall through the cracks due to the sheer numbers of Neue Artistes simultaneously populating the aether. Lucky then I managed to hear about Billy Gomez through a still occasionally Flickr grapevine. Spooling through his photostream one quickly tires of the limitations of the smallish flat screen device on which the women and men and children exist in the small places in between conversations of light and shadow dialogue. Caught between wanting to see more and wishing to seem them as large prints in a gallery setting, I wondered, Who is this mystery man capturing poetic loops of the visible spectrum, who is Billy Gomez? Best to let him answer for himself.

Billy: I’m originally from Los Angeles, although I’ve been in Seoul for the last six years. Came out here to teach. The plan was to do it for a few years and then head back. Six years later…and going back is still nothing more than a plan. I didn’t expect to see and experience what I did. The isolation and anonymity kind of allowed me to re-invent myself creatively. If I wasn’t teaching, I was in the lab experimenting…still am to be honest.

HESO: Talking about “The Plan”…they never do go the way we plan them, do they? When did you first pick up a camera?

Billy: I think I picked one up a long time ago, but I never held it long enough to form a vision, or develop a voice, or think about what I wanted to do or accomplish with it. I would just shoot a few rolls here and there. I was around talented people who were doing amazing work though, Aloysious and Danny Dougherty. Seeing them grow as photographers and artists instilled a degree of what a work ethic would consist of…it was definitely a reference when I came to Korea and began to bury myself in my little creative endeavors.

HESO: Your work is like a cross section from a very distinct portrait artist which crosses traditional boundaries into street photography. How did you get into photography?

Billy: I just started taking pictures of people. Nothing more. This was at the end of 2007. Around the same time I discovered Flickr. So I would go out all day and take pictures…then see what all these other people were doing around the world. Comparing what I had to what was going on in all these other places, kind of gave me a reference for what worked and what didn’t. So strange to become interested in a kind of photography and have access to all these communities and people, that you’ve never been to or met, but sharing mine and seeing theirs, was really instrumental. Flickr definitely had something special for a while there.

HESO: That was exactly like our photo crew in Tokyo. We all met through Flickr. Now we are all lifelong friends. Seeing what “all these other people were doing around the world” let’s us understand and relate better to our own. Does the medium affect what you do? Do you prefer analog to digital photography or vice versa. Or is it not important? Explain.

Billy: I could care less. It’s a tired argument. The only thing that matters is the music. The instrument you use is an afterthought. Being productive is paramount, plain and simple. Shoot a shit-load of whatever medium or format you choose…and be happy. I’ve said this before, but it’s funny how the militant advocates on either side of the argument all have the same thing in common…their work tends to always be less than mediocre.

© Billy Gomez

© Billy Gomez

HESO: Militancy has that affect on people. What technology can you leave behind? Alternatively what can you not do without?

Billy: I make music with a drum machine that’s almost 25 years old. Definitely can’t do without that. Interestingly, I just got an iPhone about a month and a half ago and I think I thought of it more as a phone purchase, as opposed to being a camera purchase. Good lord what a mistake that was…I have been shooting with it a lot as of late and it’s changing the way I work and think entirely. I’ve been playing with a handful of apps as well. I definitely saw the need for an iPad after trying to edit with those apps on the iPhone’s tiny screen. Man, I don’t know, I am incredibly late to the party but I am really enjoying the workflow these two devices afford you. The more I use them, the more I learn, and the more excited I get about the possibilities. Having only used them for the last month and a half, I could definitely live without them… but it would be sure be a shame.

HESO: You get up in the morning, pick up your camera, where are you going?

Billy: To work (laughs). Sad to say, I rarely ever get up with the sole purpose of taking pictures at that time and it’s definitely something I should change. I’m definitely a morning person, but I just end up tinkering with other things at that hour. However, I will say that when I went home to Los Angeles for the first time after having gotten into photography, I had a newfound appreciation for the light there. I was much more inspired to get up and take advantage of it when I was visiting. It’s definitely something I think a lot about too…about going back to L.A. to do a ton of street work. It would be a great challenge, the thought of what I could produce with that kind of light available essentially all year round, excites the hell out of me.

The light is a lot less unforgiving in Korea. During parts of the spring, fall, and summer it can be interesting. But for the most part, air pollution and intense weather patterns keep it so scrambled and inconsistent. Waking up to golden sunlight is not a common thing here, though we’ve actually seen a little of it this past week…conveniently coupled with 100 degree heat and humidity. Most of the pictures I take are while commuting to and from work. I’ll do a walk here and there on the weekend, but I have to say that there’s definitely something different in the way people look and act at that time. During the week, the pinch is on, you know…the weight of the world is in those eyes and on those shoulders. That same emotion just doesn’t seem as frequent on the weekends.

© Billy Gomez

© Billy Gomez

HESO: Some of your photographs seem like stills from a film. Is this intentional? Do you like film? What particular genres? Favorites?

Billy: That’s a very nice compliment. And yes, I think films have had a huge influence on the type of photography I do. I’d be lying if I said otherwise. Watching La Double Vie de Veronique by Krzysztof Kieślowski was the first time I wanted to know the directors name when the film was finished. I looked for everything I could find of his at the video store and library and then I started ordering his films off of ebay because most of them were impossible to get otherwise. Wong Kar-Wai is another director I definitely connected with before I ever started taking pictures. The slow motion, the lighting, the color, it was all pretty goddamn hypnotic. The key component in both of the aforementioned is how they both told a story without anyone saying anything. Go figure.

HESO: The technical portion aside, what do you look for in shooting a photograph of a stranger? What grabs you and shouts at you to, TAKE ME!”?

Billy: Interesting faces, interesting light–the same thing everyone else seeks out, right? And the two either arrive at the same time or I end up waiting for one or the other. Changing the subject abruptly, I really admire people who are able to capture scenes, as opposed to portraits. It’s something I really want to work hard on. These nameless ghosts though, they kind of haunt me…I can go out with the intention of wanting to capture scenes, and then a certain person will just glow in a crowd, and then the scenes go right out the door and I’m doing the same thing I always do. Patience must have something to do with those scenes, I suppose. I’m a work in progress.

HESO: We all are. Who are your favorite photographers?

Billy: To tell you truth, I don’t even know many photographers…and it’s nothing I’m proud of, or anything like that. I think I’ve gotten more inspiration from my family, Aloysious Dougherty and Daniel Dougherty, than I have from any of the so-called masters. But there were a couple of instances where certain work found me. One of them was the work of Sebastião Salgado. Like Kieslowski, it was the first time I saw a picture in a magazine and wanted to know who took it. Not long after seeing that picture, I went to the library and checked out all his books. Taking an interest in him lead me to War Photographer, the documentary on James Nachtwey. That kind of photography is mind boggling to me and I have to say, I think I have more of an appreciation for it than any other form of photography.

HESO: Where are you now and what direction are you moving in?

Billy: I’m in Seoul and in the time I’ve gone through these questions and answered them, it has dawned on me that a change of some sort is imminent. I have had an amazing time in Korea. It has changed my life forever. But seeing more of the world is a must for me. I feel like every year here is a lateral move. To move forward, I think I need to move on. Again, it’s a work in present… and these feelings on the matter are something that have manifested as a result of doing this interview. So I appreciate that, very much. Probably more than you’ll ever know. I have a set on Flickr called ‘The Roots of Imperfection‘ which is a collection of stories that accompany images. If I was a drug dealer that would be what they call a taste.

HESO: Thank you for your time.

Billy: I appreciate anyone who stuck around long enough to read these words.

Billy Gomez

Modern Loops: Interview with Photographer Billy Gomez is part of HESO Magazine’s ongoing Summer Interview Series, where we interview photographers, musicians and artists about their work and what they think about the world of 2012. We may ask them similar questions, but the answers have been anything but the same old canned responses. Check out the entire series here.

Best Movies To Travel To

Best Movies To Travel To

It’s summer in most of Asia, which means heat, sweaty, hot, shirt sticking to you no relief in sight mold literally growing on you dampness. Rather than another boring “How To Beat the Heat” post, which never really work, how about just distracting that part of your brain always reminding you of the barometer reading with some classics from the closet? Don’t have the money to travel the world? Why not take a trip of the mind? Put down the magic mushrooms and let HESO come up with the best movies to travel to. This is what I watched as I country hopped across the globe without a plane.

Best Movies To Travel To

Best Movies To Travel To

Yojimbo (Akira Kurosawa, 1961)

JapanYôjinbô (Akira Kurosawa, 1961)

As history has shown by the sheer number of remakes, as well as establishing the Dashiell Hammett man-with-no-name persona, this period drama of a wandering samurai amusing himself for the greater good has become the prototypical Japanese Western. One of Kurosawa’s greatest films, it has all the essential pieces of a classic: understated and brilliant acting by the exhausting Toshirō Mifune, leading a surprisingly decent cast of supporting actors, while being shot by the preeminent cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa, yet it’s the simplicity with which Kurosawa brings and keeps all of these powerful elements together, even when they one or another seems to want to strike out and imbalance the masterful story-telling at work here. Overall a great way to feel good about setting out on the unknown road and seeing where the wind leads you. Sayonara Japan.

ChinaJing Wu Men aka Fist of Fury (Lo Wei, 1972)

Not exactly “Made In China”, but set there, specifically in the foreign settlements of Shanghai, where the Chinese martial artists the story centers around are generally a pitiful bunch, beaten and bullied by their supposed Karate-practicing Japanese betters. That is, until Chen Zhen (Bruce Lee) returns to find his teacher mysteriously dead. The acting and the martial arts are as bad as the choppy-cut, off-kilter cinematography. Even Lee, acting in his second film since Fists of Fury (not to be confused with this singular tense flick…apparently only one of his fists were working at this time), is melodramatic, regularly misses cues and is generally portrayed as a fighter who is skillful yet stupid, talented yet proud and basically alienates most everyone around him until they end up dead and he finally kicks it into high gear and kicks some serious Jap ass. A must see if only for the 60s-era California surfer-boy voice-overs. Great for replacing Japanese pride for Chinese grit.

Best Movies To Travel To

Genghis Khan (Henry Levin, 1965)

MongoliaGenghis Khan (Henry Levin, 1965)

There are so many (bad) films about Genghis Khan that it was a tough choice including one on this list, yet what other movie about Mongolia (that you would want to watch) would qualify? Genghis is the end all be all Mongol and it would be pure chicanery to suggest that in one month of traveling roughshod through the country I didn’t take solace and respite in at least one film. This one beats out the recent Genghis piece done by the Kazakh Sergei simply because it stars Omar Sharif as Temujin (later Genghis Khan), James Mason, Eli Wallach as a Shah, Telly Savalas (who despite his lack of lollipop prop is oddly engaging) and white man extraordinaire Robert Morley as the Emperor of China, of course. What else need be said? Watch this and realize that this is Sharif (who also acted in Dr. Zhivago in the same year) at his peak, then go to Mongolia, get on a horse and reenact it yourself.

RussiaRusskiy Kovcheg aka Russian Ark (Aleksandr Sokurov, 2002)

More than any other film on this list, Russian Ark, is both cinematographically astounding and stultifyingly dense, and is worth watching more than once, but only by those with more than a passing interest in Russian history, (which admittedly might be a rather low number), or those who love beautiful camera work. Despite Aleksandr Sokurov’s brilliant work pulling this brash work set in Saint Petersburg’s Heritage Museum off, it is the single 96-minute Steadicam sequence shot by Director of Photography/Steadicam Operator Tilman Büttner that, more than being a merely extraordinary piece of work, embodies the dreamlike feel that film should be all about, all the time. Simply stunning.

Best Movies To Travel To

The Singing Revolution (James Tusty, 2007)

EstoniaThe Singing Revolution (James Tusty & Maureen Castle Tusty, 2006)

It’s okay to answer the question, “What do you know about Estonia?” with, “Not much.” Which is why you should watch the captivating documentary by American-Estonian husband and wife team James and Maureen Castle Tusty, who in 1999, and after extensive research, went to Tallinn, Estonia after less than a decade of independence from Soviet rule to interview and film an essential historical document about a country few know anything about, who successfully sang for their freedom from 1988 to 1991 when they declared themselves a sovereign nation, despite failed, though aggressive Soviet tank deployment. A great insight into the indomitable spirit of a largely undiscovered, beautiful land and its (women) people.

PolandTrzy Kolory: Bialy aka Three Colors: White (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1994-1996)

In France, the Trois Couleurs trilogy, based upon the ideals of the French Revolution (Liberte, Equalite, Fraternite) is deservedly famous, but has understandably lacked popular attention in the U.S. for Polish-born director Krzysztof Kieslowski. A truly amazing black comedy- and the only one of the three actually set (mostly) in Poland- this film sees its browbeaten protagonist go from put-upon pauper to super-nouveau riche while attempting to foil organized crime syndicates all in an effort to seek justice (equality) for his wife’s initial cruelty. Wow. People should watch more French films. And go to Poland: the food is good, the women are beautiful and crime is, as they say, easy.

DenmarkAntichrist (Lars von Trier, 2009)

Until I did a bit of research, Lars von Trier’s intensely phlegmatic films always struck me, as did his name, as being of German extract. Europe being of local character, and Denmark being situated as it is just to north of their attention-hogging neighbors, it is not difficult to confuse the infamous director’s chaotic and harsh settings with Nazi-period experimental films. For good or ill von Trier is confrontational and controversial simply because of the subject matter he so deftly portrays. Antichrist is no different. The beauty and horror of its imagery will haunt you, and maybe even plant the seeds of discontent in seemingly successful relationships, such as mine and my ex’s. Though maybe not. Regardless, it is devastating and beautiful. Guard your groin and watch with trepidation.

Best Movies To Travel To

Delicatessen (Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro, 1991)

FranceDelicatessen (Marc Caro & Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 1991)

Who hasn’t always wanted to live in Paris, at least for a little while, perhaps because of watching too many French New Wave films during college, perhaps to experience the “real” Patats de Liberté. Trips to the City of Light, however, often never quite deliver as much as the films of one of the most well-known directors, Jean-Pierre Jeunet (here paired with Marc Caro), have. Are you still sans beautiful French nymphette? Have you never experienced a proper public transportation strike? What about eaten Brie along with a great bottle of vintage Vin de Bourgogne and then French kissed Audrey Tautou? Nor more realistically have you eaten your neighbors, led a team of subterranean vegetarian revolutionaries or fallen in love with the landlord’s daughter. Obviously you have yet to live. Watch Delicatessen, and its sequels, and you just might.

USAIn America (Jim Sheridan, 2002)

In America is, simply speaking, one of those kind of beautiful cinematic renditions of why America is, in theory, so great. More than Jim Sheridan’s almost signature underhanded (yet somehow understated) sentimentality, the film succeeds in pulling our amber waves of grain for purple mountain majesties heart strings due to meticulous direction by famed Irish creator of My Left Foot Sheridan. Yet it is the even keeled acting of a surprisingly powerful ensemble cast (and atypically great child acting) that pulls the film into the well deserved characterization of “modern classic”.

The Atlantic OceanThe Perfect Storm (Wolfgang Peterson, 2000)

Best Movies To Travel To

Deep Blue Sea (Renny Harlin, 1999)

Taking a cruise? Ferry? Trans-Atlantic Cargo Ship? Or just going deep sea fishing for the last of the big game fish? Whatever your summer plans, better see disaster film specialist Wolfgang Peterson’s take on Sebastian Junger’s account of the storm to end all storms: The Perfect Storm. Featuring a cast much more talented than the very 90s ABC Sunday Night Movie feeling effort brings forth to the big screen, this is more a showcase of what would become Peterson’s trademark digital disaster effects. Fun with friends and alcohol.

Deep Blue SeaDeep Blue Sea (Renny Harlin, 1999)

Hands down Renny Harlin’s best film is The Adventures of Ford Fairlane (1990). No argument. Otherwise known for his sequels, he has a knack of bringing out the worst in otherwise decent actors (Bruce Willis, Samuel Jackson), while coaxing fun performances out of unexpected places (Andrew Dice Clay, LL Cool J). Despite what some would say has been a disappointing career, the Finnish-born director is persistent in working to bring his ideas to the big screen. One of the best (to drink to) is Deep Blue Sea, a story based on using DNA from “enhanced” sharks to cure Alzheimer’s Disease, a completely plausible storyline given credence by Caucasian-sounding Jackson’s command performance. Too bad the Diceman was unavailable to be the sharks’ straight man.

LostLost (J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, 2004)

Man Vs. WildMan Vs. Wild (Discovery Channel, 2006)

The last 17 episodes of the sixth season of Lost deserve to be watched back to back to back. In order to properly appreciate the confusingly profound (maybe?) final season it would be best to have already been avoiding the popular media outlets for some months. Having no idea what’s going on, nor caring, until the end, about the real world, is maybe the only attitude to take. Though one would like to make it to New York and see friends and family waving like a long lost soldier finally coming home, it’s not altogether an inexplicable thought pattern to desire for the cruise ship to crash on some heretofore yet uncharted mid-Atlantic island. Weird, isn’t it? In order to be successful to seduce stranded warrior women, hunt for tropical polar bears, negotiate peace between Good & Evil, one would do well to study Bear Grylls’ curriculum vitae of eating insects, reptiles and raw boar testicles, squeezing drinking water out of animal crap, and making rafts and signal fires out of what materials you have around. What better combination of television shows than Lost & Man Vs. Wild to keep you company on your Trans-Atlantic voyage?

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