To New Beginnings

New Beginnings

Unpacking

For the last 7 years I’ve got up every day to go work at the Dallas Museum of Art. It was a dream come true to work with artists, curators, trustees, 3 different directors, 2 deputy directors and the best staff of colleagues anyone could ever ask for. People there touched my life in a profound way that’s difficult to even explain. I’m honored and humbled to have been a part of this incredible institution.

I came home every night and weekend to work on my second passion which is producing a photography show on the internet. This started to become successful as well. I’ve worked with a wonderful staff at YouTube and iTunes as well as some amazing sponsors and advertisers. I’ve been more fortunate than I could ever have expected to be.

This year I realized I’ve come to the crossroads and I have to pick one job over the other. I decided the best way to move forward was to sadly leave the DMA and start a new career producing my own work. It was a difficult decision, but this is the best way I can move forward and push myself to a new level personally and professionally.

Yesterday I went to work for the last time. It was an emotionally exhausting day filled with laughter, hugs and tears as I realized how much I really love the people I work with. Part of me didn’t want to leave. If you’re reading this, you know who you are and I’m humbled and honored to have had the opportunity to work with you. I’m 2 miles away from the DMA and my lunch calendar is filled pretty much for the rest of the year making sure I keep up with the dear friends I have made.

The DMA changed me. My work matured both artistically and professionally. I learned new skills and made new friends and professional colleagues both at the DMA and other institutions all over the world. I met my wife the first day on the job. I made relationships with people who I’m proud having in my life. I leave with new talents, great memories, amazing friends and the prettiest girl in the museum.

But now its time for a new beginning. I start day 1 with a smile on my face, a mess of boxes all over the floor and a warm optimism of the giant mountain before me.

I’m now producing the Art of Photography full time and will soon be adding new shows in the coming months.

I’m excited.

Life is good.

Hillman Curtis Remembered

image by gabrieldeurioste

UPDATE: I didn’t see this earlier as the poster frame is an image from an earlier video he had done. Its not – Hillman knew his time was short and got this out. I got pretty choked up seeing him in this. Not how he looked as much as the words he gives. What a great man. God I miss you Hillman. I’m so lucky to have gotten a brief moment to work together.

On April 18th, 2012 one of my heroes left us. Hillman Curtis died at 51 from a battle with colon cancer. He is survived by his wife and two children. Hillman had a profound impact on my life that I don’t think he knew. If you’ll indulge me for a moment I want to share my story with you.

First – this is the video I’m talking about:

Back in May of 1998, the dot com boom was in full force. I had been working at a studio producing CD-ROM content and saving my money. This was the month I had left the job and was busy doing freelance web design work. Flash was the hot new technology at the time and I was diving in full speed. I remember the first time I found Hillman Curtis’ website like it was last month. It was nothing short of outstanding, inspiring and mind-blowing all at the same time.

You have to remember that at this time most people were still on dial-up internet connections. Only a few businesses were lucky enough to have ISDN lines. The web was a much different experience than what we’ve got today. Web video was miserable at best mainly because of the lack of broadband delivery. Design on the web was something at that time as well. Most designers were not yet taking it seriously so most of it was made by computer geeks.

What I remember about seeing Hillman’s work for the first time was that it was sophisticated and mature… but the shocking part is that he was producing motion graphics that came right up without waiting while watching a preloader. You’d go to Hillman’s site and it would come alive with a magic seen no where else. To top it off he was communicating smartly in a visual manner. Hillman was a master storyteller who seemed to use technical limitations to his own advantage. His work was innovative, intelligent and never gimmicky.

I bought his book the next day. Over the next few years I watched his work evolve even more. I’d check his site almost daily for new work. I was a fan.

A few years later I served on the board of the Dallas Society of Visual Communications. As a board member I was given the task of finding a monthly speaker and getting them to Dallas. Hillman was my first choice hands down. I remember calling his studio figuring I would get weeded out by a secretary beginning a long process of hunting him down.

The phone rang 3 times. “Hello, Hillman Curtis.”

“Hi may I speak with Hillman Curtis?” I asked.

“This is he”.

I was stunned that Hillman answered the phone himself. I instantly went into a panic rambling on about who I was and that I wanted him to come speak in Dallas. As we spoke I calmed down a bit largely due to Hillman’s charm and personality. He couldn’t come speak as he was inundated with work, but he told me I was welcome to call again any time.

The next year the same conversation went down. No avail – I had to get someone else.

Finally a third year came around and I dialed the number again. Hillman said he remembered me, but I thought he was being nice… He politely turned me down once again – could have done a month later, but not the one I was given.

A few weeks later my phone rang one evening. When I saw Hillman Curtis Inc on the caller ID you could have knocked me over with a feather. I picked up the phone. Hillman said he saw on the DSVC website that we had Stefan Sagmeister coming in 3 months later. He said he and Stefan were friends and he had a new gig with Adobe creating some artist videos. He was working on filming Stefan and very humbly asked if he could come too.

I went back to the board and pitched the idea. They went for it – we had a double meeting with Stefan and Hillman.

I remember picking them up at the airport. They decided to rent a car and drive to another conference the day after the talk and were going to follow me to the hotel. I had to go get my car out of another lot and couldn’t reach Hillman on his cell. I’ll never forget driving into the rental lot seeing Stefan Sagmeister driving around in a convertible Mustang with Hillman (and a huge camera on his shoulder) filming away in the passenger seat. They filmed the entire drive to the hotel following me.

After reaching the hotel, Hillman talked me into putting the top down on my Jeep and we went out to lunch. Both he and Stefan were fascinating. I expected to be dealing with large egos and there were none. We went to get panini’s and coffee and proceeded to have one of the most fascinating conversations I’d ever had.

We talked about the recent dot com crash and how print and web designers were dealing with things in different ways. We talked about how clients had changed as well as budgets and the trials of doing outstanding work in a much more worried commercial climate. Stefan and Hillman were both interested in what I was doing which really embarrassed me. I was no where near their level of talent or client base and didn’t think they would ask me. I was humbled and impressed. But this is how Hillman was. He was highly intelligent, but most impressively he had a great handle on life and what was really important. He would turn down huge clients (and money offers) simply because it meant he would see less of his family. He was confident and the first person who taught me that I had the choice of who I would work for. I used to take every gig in the world – even if it made me miserable. This was life changing advice – and he lived it by example.

A few months later Adobe rolled out a few designer interviews Hillman had done which were early contributions to the “Artist Series” he’s now known for. This is the Stefan video – at the 2:33 mark the video chronicles the trip to Dallas and contains some highlights from Stefan’s talk. Of course this only tells half the story as Hillman’s talk was equally amazing. You can see me for about 2 seconds in the front row at the talk. Barely visible, but I’m still giddy to be in this.

 

Hillman and I continued to exchange email for a few years. He got out of web design and transitioned into film making continuing to be an influence on me. His artist series videos were like school for me. Now producing films for an art museum, that series really served as a basis for how I work today.

I haven’t heard from Hillman in a long time. Several years. I followed the work he did with Brian Eno and then David Byrne. I knew he was still actively working…

Then I saw Todd Purgasson’s post saying he’d passed away.

I am still shocked – I didn’t know Hillman was even sick. In many ways it doesn’t seem fair. A strong reminder of how fragile life is.

Hillman – I’m indebted to you in many ways both as a producer and a person. I’ll miss you my friend until we meet again.

New York Times Obituary

HillmanCurtis.com

https://vimeo.com/hillmancurtis/

Music for a Wet Morning

Improvising with delays and reverbs largely inspired by the rain outside.

I’ve streamlined my pedalboard a little since moving to the new studio. On this particular track I’m using the following:

Lovepedal Amp 50
EHX micro POG
EB Volume Pedal
Strymon El Capistan
EHX Stereo Memory Man (looping)
Strymon Blue Sky (modulated hall, long reverb time)

This picks up in the middle of a loop I had been building earlier which featured some sounds through the Strymon Timeline, but what you’re hearing has them thru a high pass filter and reversed so they don’t resemble much what I started with.

My 40th Birthday at the Foxtrot Oscar

I am not a chef. I am a photographer and media producer with a music background and as diverse as I try to present my own work, I keep a diverse set of things that influence me. Gordon Ramsay has always been a hero of mine. I first saw him years ago on his American debut as an angry reality host who put young chefs through the ringer. Upon further investigation I found that this terse character had (at the time) 5 Michelin stars – to date he’s got 13.

Okay so the guy can cook right? At this point in my investigation I’ve got no way of going to one of his restaurants, so I ordered a cookbook of his off of Amazon and found a few podcasts he’d done for Chanel 4 preparing dishes. My God if this wasn’t an eye opener. For starters cooking is not easy. Well cooking is easy, but cooking perfectly is not. Having a podcast of my own I really found myself enjoying Gordon’s teaching style. Its inspirational in the way he presents his energy, encouragement, standards of perfection and he has fun with the whole thing. I get the impression he really loves to share his passion. I became inspired – I wanted to bring these qualities to my own craft of photography and filmmaking down to how I even produce my own podcast. I’m no Gordon Ramsay, but he keeps me striving to make things better all the time.

This year my fiancé and I decided to go to London for my 40th birthday which also happened to be Thanksgiving day. We decided we had to go to at least one Gordon Ramsay restaurant to celebrate the week (we had plans to go to several). Well London is by far the most expensive city I’ve ever been to and we don’t make tons of money so we only made it to one. And one of the cheaper ones at that. But its what we could afford and it impressed me enough to do this post.

We picked the Foxtrot Oscar for Sunday dinner. Its a smaller 3 course kind of place but it really sounded good. Plus I love the name. Foxtrot Oscar is the intellectual way of saying, “Fuck off”. Very Gordon, very irreverent and very compelling.

We jumped on the Tube and headed to Sloane Square and walked through the cold and fog excitedly down to Royal Hospital Road and made our way to the restaurant. I was buzzing. I’ve never in my life been this excited to eat somewhere. After a 10 minute walk we arrived. The place is tiny but had a warm, modern class to it that never felt too crowded or tight. Low lighting, quiet contemporary music and beautiful black and white photographs make a lovely decor.

At this point I have to make an important comment. Say what you want about Ramsay but the service was absolutely outstanding. I’ve never in my life had better service than I did at one of Ramsay’s smaller “grills”. The hungarian waiter was friendly, polite, knowledgeable and honest when we asked for recommendations. My fiancé saw some tables enjoying Sunday roast and asked if it was possible to get despite not being on the menu. The waiter explained that you needed to order the roast when you made your reservation due to limited kitchen size. He then offered that if we waited a few minutes he would take another tables order to see if someone had changed their mind to order something else. After 2 minutes he returned to tell us we were in luck. There were 2 roasts not chosen at the large group who had just placed their orders.

Well we couldn’t both get the same thing! How can you try 2 dishes if you get 2 of the same… so I decided to get the beef onglet (hanger steak). The waiter said this was best cooked medium rare and I took his suggestion.

Everything was perfect. Much like the service, the food was prepared to the same tight standards that you can tell the place was put together with. Both the roast and the onglet were fairly conventional in recipe. Nothing fancy or pretentious – and they were cooked and seasoned to absolute perfection. And for the record they made the biggest home made chips I’ve ever had – simply delicious.

We went on to enjoy some wonderful deserts (apple crumble and gingerbread) along with a recommended hungarian desert wine from the waiters home country. All were absolutely divine.

Now describing food in a blog post is probably horribly ineffective – especially considering I’m neither a writer nor a food critic. However I’ve wanted to experience a Ramsay restaurant first hand for years now. It was like Christmas Eve for me to go to this place and it didn’t disappoint.

On another note – I read Gordon’s book last year for the first time and the man is a complete inspiration. He came from a challenging background and is one of the few chefs that have turned cooking into celebrity. And he’s done it on pure talent. There aren’t many people of his stature that actually deliver any goods but he does in spades. I mean 13 Michelin stars?!? 20 years ago many would have thought that to be impossible and today it damn near still is.

Gordon – thank you. You are an inspiration.

About 3 years ago I passed this place late at night on my way to go do some long exposure photographs of Battersea Power Station in the rain. At the time I was completely broke but wondered what eating there would be like. I finally found out and it didn’t disappoint. Next trip to the UK I’ll be saving to have a meal at Maze or Restaurant Gordon Ramsay.

But for this weekend? Gordon’s “Bolognaise” recipe for the colder weather…

Jean Paul Gaultier

This is one of those days where I really love my job. I got to do an interview of Jean Paul Gaultier at the Dallas Museum of Art press preview for the exhibition opening – The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier – From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk.

I filmed this with my Zacuto rig with my Canon 5D mk ii. The whole thing was shot and edited in one day.

The interview part was great. I was asked just to get him to film a “welcome” statement. I went over this with Jean Paul briefly – he insisted we film it in front of the cowboy outfits he had made just for the Dallas show. This was 1 take – he was on!

Wonderful person and one of the greats. I wish all artists were this easy to work with.

DMA Director Olivier Meslay (my awesome boss) gave him a marker and asked him to “sign” the pedestal. He took that to town just like everything else.

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier

This is a commercial I filmed and edited for the DMA’s Jean Paul Gailtier exhibition. If you’re in the southwest area you’ll probably catch this on TV over the coming weeks. Its got a pretty big network distribution.

I’m working on a blog post for the museum on a behind the scenes of making the ad. Stay tuned.

Neunaber WET Stereo Reverb

Some jamming with the most ambient of reverb pedals. I’m running my Strat through the Strymon Brigadier (another favorite) into the WET then direct into the computer via the MOTU Ultralite. I’m recording in Logic using the Amplitube Fender Twin simulator. I’ve got two virtual twins set up in stereo to really show off how wonderful Brian Neunaber’s stereo pedal really sounds.

Stagefright

Another Dave Evans cover – this guy is one of the greatest finger style guitarists ever. My version is no where close to Dave’s but its a great tune and fun to play. Used to play this on acoustic gigs with my friend Wes about 15 years ago. We’d both do solo sets and duets at the end. I did this in my solo set.

This is from Dave Evans epic release, Sad Pig Dance from 1974

Sad Pig Dance

My version of Dave Evans’ Sad Pig Dance. I used to play this on solo gigs about 15 years ago. Never grows old – Dave is one of the greatest ever. I remember having a cassette of this track years ago and went on an all out hunt to find the record (this was long before the internet). After about 5 years I found Sad Pig Dance on vinyl at a used record store in Austin, TX. It was quite a day.

Dave is an unbelievable virtuoso – technically and creatively way beyond most of the British folk guitarists in the 60′s and 70′s. For whatever reason he only recorded 3 obscure records and spent most of the 70′s and 80′s repairing guitars in Belgium.

One of my dreams is to meet this guy one day, shake hands and tell him what a badass he is and how he changed most of how I looked at guitar with 3 obscure records in the 70′s… mostly with Sad Pig Dance.