JOURNALISM

Talking Pictures with Clay Enos
It’s Friday, 3pm and I sit comfortably at my desk, coffee in hand and tape recorder at the ready. With the wonders of modern technology, an Instagram comment and tweet has led to a Skype call with a man who’s photography has unknowingly to some, forever defined our most beloved superheroes.
A seasoned street photographer, Clay Enos made the jump to the film set with Zack Snyder’s Watchmen and has since gone on to work on 300, Man of Steel and the upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  
Ten minutes into our conversation, its clear the New Yorker bleeds enthusiasm for the creative process, whether its capturing spontaneous moments or taking character stills of pop cultures biggest icons. “In general, I love that everyone is the same in front of the lens. There’s that little moment whether they are really famous and over it or very shy. It’s really fun when it’s levelled and you get that engagement.”
2007 saw Clay’s first collaboration with film director, Zack Snyder, who was taking on the audacious task of adapting the previously stated ‘unadaptable’ Watchmen graphic novel. The effort resulted in the release of the Watchmen Portraits, a book of 220 on-set street style portraits made during the production of the film. While the idea of hanging around major Hollywood film sets all day and taking snaps of comic book characters may seem like child’s play, the realities of modern filmmaking hit hard for Clay. “My first movie was Watchmen and that will always have a sentimental place but I will tell you that it was a brutal experience. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, movie making and movie production is vicious on your sleep cycles. It was really, shockingly hard physically.”
The internet exploded last month with the release of Jared Leto’s first showing as The Joker. Reaction to the photograph, which shows a heavily tattooed Leto with metal grilled teeth, split opinion across the comic fandom but Clay looks back at the shoot lightly. “With the recent Joker release, I had a little flash of what all the hating might be about. Creativity is stifled in our culture and instead of people engaging in a creative act, they find the criticism or “hater” mentality is the first response.”
Explaining that the photograph was taken against a piece of $12 foamcore, Clay continued; “Most of the imagery, especially this pop culture stuff, is not critiqued as a photograph but critiqued as those characters. It should be taken as just another artistic rendering, fully open to interpretation and manipulation and celebrated as a creative act.”
Away from the cape and cowls, Clay’s involvement in Batman v Superman resulted in a trip to the Congo, at the behest of Bruce Wayne himself, Ben Affleck for his charity, The Eastern Congo Initiative. Calling the experience the “highlight of the year”, Clay said; “I could just find my photographs in an environment that’s not contrived or set up and they are not photography driven in that they are beautiful but that they serve to make the world a better place and that’s really rewarding. I couldn’t have been in the Congo if I wasn’t on set for Batman v Superman as it was conversations with Ben Affleck that gave me the opportunity to shoot for him.  On set, i’m the set mosquito. If i’m in the way in any way i’m hindering the filming process. That’s the biggest difference.”
An enthusiast user of Instagram, Clay happily replies to those who wish to learn more about his work and consistently pointed out his desire to inspire others. When pushed for advice for a budding young photographer like myself, Clay responded in affirmative fashion. “Don’t waste money on gear. Just use what you have and explore. Photography is so much more than gear so work with what you have and find your voice given the constraints of the medium. Be critical your own work and try and find productive critiques you can then engage. Look at your own and be an artist.”
As for the future, Clay is expected to be an integral part of the future of the DC cinematic Universe which has releases scheduled until 2020. Ever the professional, Clay tip toes around any discussions that may fragment into serious NDA violations, much to my inner fanboys distress.
You can learn more about Clay and his work at www.clayenos.com and follow him on Instagram at @clayenos.
Wild Thing - Through The Eyes of Daniel Funaki
There are few places in the world that can inspire likes Los Angeles. It’s a bubbling hotpot of creeds and cultures, an unparalleled and unforgiving creative hub and photographer Daniel Funaki has the ample task of capturing and documenting such unpredictable forces. Equipped with just a Canon AE-1 and the thirst for intensity, Funaki comfortably takes his place among the cogs of the machine that is Wild Records, his images every bit as raw and real as the musicians who grace the label.
Daniel Funaki grew up in the San Gabriel Valley, Los Angeles. The son of Japanese immigrants, it was influence at home that set him on his way down 35mm Avenue.
“My dad had an old picture album shot in the mid sixties in Japan of him and his friends during their trips. The album had captions to all the photos and it was a picture diary right before my dad came to the US and his life would change forever.”
A veteran street photographer, Funaki lurked the pavements of LA before and after work, taking in and embracing the diversity and characters such a city provides, sometimes ruffling city-dweller’s feathers along the way.
Glancing at Daniel’s shots, a combination of portraits and spontaneous moments, it doesn’t take long to see the striking similarities with the works of New Yorker Dennis Stock, the celebrated photojournalist.
“He took the iconic photo of James Dean walking in the rain in an empty Times Square in New York City. That image inspired me to look at the details of images and create a mood for the viewer.”
Assignments for magazines, periodicals and clothing companies ensued but it was music that came calling, more specifically, the savage sounds of Los Angeles’ premier rock ‘n’ roll label, Wild Records.
“The first Wild band I heard was the Vargas Bros. I started going to shows and got to know the other bands on the label. In 2010 I was on assignment for L.A. Record magazine and got an assignment to shoot a Wild Records event.“
The rest, as they say, was history. Funaki was picked up by Wild’s head honcho, Irishmen Reb Kennedy, and quickly installed as the label’s official photographer. The Hollywood based Wild Records has continued to grow since its inception in 2001, initially incapsulating California’s Hispanic community’s penchant for 1950’s rockabilly before incorporating a wider range of underground sounds. Despite an award-winning documentary feature and an array of independent music magazine coverage, it remains one of the West Coasts’ best kept secrets.
“I love shooting musicians. If a band inspires me and I love what they do because they do it from their heart, that inspires me. I like to shoot behind the scenes, candid, raw and unposed. When a musician is totally lost in the moment and I capture the intensity that really inspires me and hope it inspires others.”
“It was Wild Records that saw potential in my work and because of Reb Kennedy and the artists’, my work is seen all over the world now.”
Much of the aforementioned work are focused on Marlene Perez, the fiery red-headed, powerhouse vocalist for The Rhythm Shakers. Along with the likes of Omar & The Stringpoppers and The Delta Bombers, the band have become a staple of the international rockabilly scene and the sound and image the label projects.
“I really enjoy shooting Marlene. We have worked together on various projects and she is always up for pictures and I am really proud of the work we have done together. I hope that with we keep pushing our creative boundaries and make images that will stand the test of time. I think of it as creating a visual document of the label.”
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