It was about a year ago that Seth Kushner asked me to hop onboard of Graphic NYC. I'd seen his portrait of mutual pal Dean Haspiel on Dean's blog and quickly delved into his personal blog and was already pretty familiar with what he was doing. Fittingly enough, Dean had sent him my way and this all sort of starts with him.
I first met Dean Haspiel in February 2007. I was working for a small publisher, and had just gotten the green light to do an entire book on Dean as the second volume of a new series called Comics Introspective. My vision was of a book series that focused on non-mainstream and indy cartoonists, complete with original photographs, panel-like descriptions in lieu of captions, and critical essays centered around a series of interviews. After dealing with censorship issues while doing the first volume (on Hate Comics mastermind Peter Bagge), I had pulled the series and was in the process of shopping it elsewhere when Seth contacted me.
Have you ever met someone and immediately recognized that you both think on the same frequency? That's how it was with Seth, photographer of everyone from Brooklyn residents to rock stars, who shares the dream of representing cartoonists as personalities rather than shadowy figures chained to drawing tables. You won't see lousy candid home camera snapshots of cartoonists only taken at conventions here. You won't read navel-gazing Q and A interviews that ramble into nothingness. You won't have to be a comics fan to learn who these men and women are. Graphic NYC is us showing you the people between the panel borders. While their work will come into play, it will only be through a critical eye that works towards creating synaptic-like connections between the cartoonist and their art. Think New Journalism by way of a fine art book, yet keeping a grounded nature that won't slip into the academic or esoteric.
nycgraphicnovelists.com is our letting you take a peek at our pet project, a preview of the essays and the people involved. We are also, hat in hand, in search of the perfect publisher for our book. So, if you're an editor and like what you see, by all means, don't be a stranger.
Enjoy, and be careful to not get too far dragged in.
1 January 2009
It was June of 2006 when I first met Dean Haspiel, at the MoCCA Arts Festival at the Puck Building in NYC, trolling the room for cool books. I was two years into working on my then-current project, The Brooklynites and, by that time had already photographed over 200 interesting people from my home borough and was looking to wrap it up. One of my past subjects, novelist Jonathan Ames, had recently recommended I photograph his friend, Dean. I was familiar with his work, mostly from The Quitter - his collaboration with writer Harvey Pekar. But, there in the Puck Building, was Dean doing sketches at his table. I introduced myself, and was happy to discover that he already was familiar with both me and The Brooklynites.
My next meeting with Dean was a few weeks later on the waterfront in Red Hook, Brooklyn, where I took his portrait. In between shutter clicks, we talked about comics. I don’t remember whose idea it was, but somehow, that day the idea for Graphic NYC was born. Since Brooklynites came out in Fall of ‘07, I felt it was time I began my next project. What else do I love as much as Brooklyn, and could devote years of my life to?
The answer came quickly – comics.
I gave Dean a call and we met on a new comics Wednesday at Rocketship Comics in Carroll Gardens, during December of ’07. We scanned the shelves and wrote the names of potential subjects on a Starbucks napkin. Dean became my advisor and tour guide into the world of NYC cartoonists, and “consulting editor” on this new project.
My goal with this project, photographically, was a simple one. I’ve been photographing celebrities – actors, rockstars, filmmakers – for years. To me, comic book creators have always been every bit the celebrity as any of those people, just never portrayed as such. So, I set out to photograph the cartoonist as I would any other rockstar, because that’s what they deserve. I would create portraits that would be meaningful, revealing, deep, and the subjects would all look COOL.
I started shooting in March of 2008 and, as of this writing, have taken the portraits of 43 NYC comic book creators. I was chased by rats with Dan Goldman in Williamsburg. I got a moving violation with Brian Wood in my car in Chinatown. I ate a homemade pasta lunch with Jessica Abel and Matt Madden in Sunset Park. I listened to stories of the early days of the industry sitting across from Irwin Hasen in the Upper East Side. I climbed out on a fire escape with Christine Norrie in the West Village. I visited the dentist with Raina Telgemeir in Mill Basin. I had beers with Jimmy Palmiotti in Kips Bay. I got locked out on a roof with Dean Haspiel in Gowanus. I visited the Kubert School and watched Joe Kubert working on his new graphic novel in Dover, NJ. I watched as Art Spiegelman drew his Maus character in chalk on a rooftop in Soho. Most of all, I’ve gotten to meet some of the most creative and artistic souls on Earth, and I’ve made new friends.
In May of 2008, I found my collaborator, Christopher Irving, again because of Dean. I was looking for someone who shared my love of comics, and who could use words in a way that would both compliment and enhance my photos. Once I read Christopher’s work, I agreed that his insightful, hard-boiled style fit the bill perfectly.
I’ve been posting the photos on my blog for months and have been getting strong reactions and will continue to do that there with the remaining subjects. I’m very excited to launch this “official” site, because here Chris and I will merge his words with my pictures (some of which have never been seen before) and the work of our subjects, to give a sampling of our finished book.
See you in the funny pages! What, too corny?
1 January 2009