10 Questions and A Youtube Video: An Interview with Lou O’ Bedlam

March 1, 2009

Lou O’ Bedlam

Remember chat rooms? For those of you too young to know what I’m talking about, back in the early 90s when AOL actually WAS the internet and there was no such thing as Facebook, Myspace, or even Wikipedia, people used to “log-on” and “log-in” to these things called chat rooms. They were basically iChat, but with a whole bunch of strangers. You know how X-box live allows you to talk to people while you’re playing? It was kind of like that, except aside from sheer boredom, you had no real reason to talk to anyone.

Chat rooms were the beginning of the internet predator. These creeps would prowl chat rooms looking to prey on young children. They’d befriend them, win them over by offering them something (typically salt-water taffy), and eventually invite them to meet up somewhere. Upon meeting the child, the predator would then take advantage him. At the height of chat rooms, it was a real problem. Every week you’d hear a story on the local news about someone being abducted or taken advantage of by someone they met in a chat room. It was a scary time to be on the internet.

These days, like so many arcades, the chat rooms have all been boarded up. Social Networks and Forums, have rendered them virtually obsolete. Nowadays, if you want to meet a stranger on the internet, you can’t just run into a crowded room and start yelling. The social landscape of today’s internet can be compared to South Florida. It’s essentially made up of gated communities where everyone is welcomed, but to actually meet anyone you have to contribute to the community. Sometimes that contribution is as simple as leaving comments. Other times, as in the case of sites like match.com, you actually have to pay money to meet strangers. There’s very little room for the internet predator in today’s internet model, because no internet predator is going to spend weeks building up his credibility on a World of Warcraft fan fiction message board only to have it destroyed by a single trip to the wishing fountain at the local shopping mall. Moreover, it is a widely known fact that all kids today have cell phones and know Karate.

A child unleashing fury on a slab of board.

So, you see, I had no reservations about meeting up with Lou O’ Bedlam, an amazing photographer whose work I came across on Flickr, one of the internet’s largest gated communities. His portraits typically feature an attractive young woman, bestrewn with light, in varying landscapes all perfectly captured and considered. He has a way of photographing his subjects that make you feel as though you’re finally getting to meet that person who, for years, you’d been eyeing from afar.

Lou O’ Bedlam

Since Lou lives in LA, we had to arrange a meet-up in Lincoln, Nebraska, roughly the halfway point between NYC and LA. It was a long journey, and I actually started on foot sometime last year (I’ve been updating from the various internet cafes along the way) but I finally made it to Lincoln, where Lou had been waiting for about a day or so. He agreed to meet me at Ali Baba Gyros, which had gotten lackluster reviews on Yelp, but apparently has the best Tandoori Chicken in all of Nebraska. After exchanging the customary fist-bump, Lou and I settled into our booth.

Having walked nearly 1200 miles, I was completely wiped out so I handed Lou the sheet of questions I had prepared and promptly fell asleep. When I had awoken some forty-five minutes later, Lou was gone but he was nice enough to answer all the questions. For your enjoyment, I’ve taken the liberty of making it seem like an actual conversation.

Me: So, what’s your real name and what exactly are you? I mean, if you were to give yourself a title, what would that be? Also, where did the name Lou O Bedlam come from?

LOB: My full name is Luciano Augusto Noble II. I have no titles, I am just a man trying to get along in the world. The O’ Bedlam handle was something I thought up to use as a Flickr name. They use to call the asylum inmates in England Tom O’ Bedlams, sounded catchy.

Me: When did you start taking pictures?

LOB: I started taking pictures back in 1996, with a Polaroid sun600. I used that until 1999, when I bought a Polaroid Propack. I began getting into photography seriously in 2005, when I bought a Polaroid 680, which was perfectly suited to the kind of shots I liked taking.

Me: I noticed pretty much all your photos are of attractive young women, where exactly are you meeting these women, and how do you convince them to let you take their picture?

LOB: At first, my models were all friends, or friends of friends. The more I shot, the further out that circle became, and eventually I started asking people I didn’t know, on the internet, Flickr, mainly. I don’t really do much in the way of “convincing.” I usually just ask, show ’em my photos, and that does the trick.

Lou O’ Bedlam

Me: When selecting a subject, are you looking for anything specific?

LOB: Not really. Someone I find attractive, or interesting in the face.

Me: You know how some artists are primarily concerned with doing what hasn’t been done before – what are you trying to do with your work?

LOB: There’s no big Grand Intent behind my photos. It really depends on the situation. Sometimes I’m just trying to take a very aesthetically pleasing photo, sometimes I’m trying to show something authentic about my subjects. Often I’m trying to capture a beautiful aspect to my subject that perhaps they’re unaware of. I would never say I’m trying to accomplish something that’s never been done before, I think there’s an excellent case to be made that such a thing is impossible. I think the through-line in my work is that I’m trying to achieve a degree of truth in each shot.

Me: So, what’s LA like? Everyone seems to always have something bad to say about it. It’s kind of like the New Jersey of The West, or maybe Long Island (not that there’s any difference between the two).

LOB: What’s LA like? It’s an enormous sprawl of a city, with too much traffic. Other than that, it’s perfect. A multitude of cultures, easy weather, quick access to several other climates (the beach, the mountains, the desert, the forest), food made by most of the peoples of the earth, pretty faces, laid back people. No hurricanes. No tornadoes. Every once in awhile you see someone famous walking down the street. Roving Korean BBQ taco trucks.

I think you can find someone to say something bad about any city, frankly. Never put much stock in that sort of thing.

Me: You ever been to Jersey? If so, what do you think of Jersey? If not, what have you got against Jersey?

LOB: Never been to Jersey. But I will say this: I’ve met a lot of people who like LA, a lot of people with bad things to say about LA, but I’ve never heard anyone ever say anything nice about Jersey. Not even from the folks who live there.

Me: So what’s a day in the life of Lou O’ Bedlam like?

LOB: A day in the life of Lou O’ Bedlam? There really isn’t a typical day for me, at this point. I work part time, so some days I work, some days I don’t. Some days I go and take pictures, some days I go eat with friends. I try not to pack too much into any particular day, like taking my time getting out of the house. Some days I’ll stay in and watch movies. Some day I’ll just chat up folks on the internet. Leisurely pace, that’s the aim.

Me: There’s a great community of super talented photographers on Flickr. Do you find your work being influenced by what you see on Flickr? If so, do you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing?

LOB: I don’t really think I’m much influenced by the work on Flickr. I think most of the work on Flickr, like anywhere else, isn’t very good. I’ve tried and succeeded in finding a collection of photographers I like, and while I have seen photos that really blow me away, I can’t say as I remember the last time I saw a shot on Flickr that I went out and tried to take. Nothing to do with Flickr, I just have a very clear idea of what I want from a photo I take, have for several years. I’m not very experimental, not looking to break down any boundaries, revolutionize anything. I like taking photos of people, I like getting close, I like having people not smile.

I’ve definitely learned things from Flickr, on the technical side, especially now that I’m using digital. Lots of folks more than happy to give advice, lend a hand.

Me: Any word of advice for designer folks, like myself, on taking a good portrait?

LOB: Shoot often. What’s “good” is subjective, but the more you shoot, the more you’ll see what it is you like. What kind of shot you want to take more than anything else.

Lou O’ Bedlam’s Theme Music, as chosen by Lou O’ Bedlam

Lou O’ Bedlam’s Flickr
Blog O’ Bedlam
Back Alley Tabernacle

Wikipedia: It’s Love

February 9, 2009


Ode To Wikipedia

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
For without you, in this blog, I’d have very little to write.
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee because you refuse to sell ad space.
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as you hold firm in your belief of what is Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion but I’m glad you weren’t around when I was younger cause I’d totally not know a damn thing about proper research. . .

Yeah, it sounded like a good idea in my head. Nevermind the poor excuse for a sonnet. AdAge has a nice little interview with Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, in which he discusses why Wikipedia refuses to put ads on their site. I bought this very computer with dirty money(money I made designing banner ads), but that doesn’t mean I have to like them. Or does it?

Link: Wikipedia: Massive Audience But Beggars Profit

Design Smoke, Notorious (not quite a review), and tips on getting paid (literally)

January 19, 2009

still from Design Smoke interview with Jen Forss

With the abundance of blogs out there, how do you set yourself apart from all the rest? One way to do it is to have interviews. That would only make you different from about 70% of the folks out there. If you REALLY wanted to set yourself apart, you’d get yourself a video camera, a fisherman’s cap, a canoe, and a cigar, and if you’re particularly industrious, a Midwestern sunset. Then you go out and you find some of the real heavyhitters in your chosen field and you channel your inner James Lipton and record some truly compelling interview footage. Oh, right — Design Smoke has already done that and done it quite well. Featuring interviews with folks like Steven Heller (I think I might be bordering on fanboy), and Jen Forss of Non-Format, Design Smoke isn’t so much a blog, as it is a full scale production. I have to admit that when I caught wind of it, I was skeptical, but after watching the interview with Jon Forss, I was hooked. Dude had a canoe. That’s about as ‘pimp’ as you can get. I have said enough. Here’s the link already: www.designsmoke.com.

In other news, I was generously given a ticket to see Notorious this past weekend. While I’m going to refrain from writing a review, I will say it’s definitely worth seeing. If you can you should fly out to Brooklyn and watch it at The Court Street Cinema. Only there can you see the movie and have the entire crowd sing along to pretty much the entire soundtrack. It’s a messed up thought but I think hip-hop might have its first Rocky Horror Picture Show. Maybe not. Sadly, my question regarding the identity of the Ready To Die baby was not answered. Although, my friend tried to convince me that she was, in fact, the Ready To Die baby. I don’t think so, lady. Good movie though. B+

What else, what else? I only recently became aware that I could have clients pay me via paypal. I hadn’t even told anyone that I was accepting paypal, when lo and behold I got an email saying I had a payment on paypal. Funny how the world has a steady current. That being said, if you haven’t already begun accepting paypal, you should definitely get on that. This is worth checking out too: How 20 designers charge their clients.

Happy MLK day! As always, to be sure it was an actual holiday, I checked the google homepage for affirmation.

Time Magazine Interviews Shepard Fairey

December 19, 2008

Time Magazine interviews Shepard Fairey about his iconic Obama poster. Fairey discusses how he created the poster, even touching on the process of cutting the layers out of rubylith. And here I thought the guy was just nasty in illustrator. Take a peek at his studio walls — fun stuff.

watch the interview here

People you should know about

December 15, 2008

When I think of design authors, the first person who comes to mind is Steven Heller. After that I got nothin’. In the past, it wasn’t something I’d given much attention. Lately, however, I’m finding myself just as interested in the author of an essay as I am its content. My guess is there are definitely some “heavy hitters” out there, the folks who write about design, and write about design A LOT. Ellen Lupton is one such heavy hitter.

Author of eight books on design, and countless articles and essays, her bio reads like a bibliography of design institutions and resources. She’s contributed to Print, ID, Eye, Metropolis, The New York Times, New York Magazine, and other publications. Even more incredible, she not only writes about design but is fully active in the community as a designer, curator, and director of the Graphic Design MFA program at MICA.

In her bio it says she has ‘recently focused on bringing design awareness to broader audiences’ and it’s apparent even on her site. It includes an essays section featuring writings on a variety of topics pertinent to design, an interviews section with interviews she has done with notable graphic designers (Michael Bierut, Carin Goldberg, Jonathan Hoefler, Paula Scher), and even a section with tips on how to become a design author. It’s an incredible resource for designers, or anyone interested in design at all.

I’m going to continue my search for heavy hitters and posting about them here. In the meantime, check out Ellen Lupton’s site, and definitely bookmark it.

Chicken Soup

December 4, 2008

Since an early age, I’ve been waking up at the crack of dawn. I come from a long line of early risers. My mother was a schoolteacher who woke up every morning around 5. My grandmother lives in England, and honestly, I don’t know her sleeping habits but whenever she visited during the holidays, she’d be up just as early as my mother, sipping her morning tea. Before I moved to America, I lived with my great grandmother in Jamaica. I don’t remember much about those times, but I do know Mama didn’t take no mess, and she probably had us all up before the cock even waddled its way out the chicken coop. The point I’m trying to make here is I get up early.

When I worked full-time, my days began with the typical morning routine, followed by a few minutes on the computer, checking email and reading the latest headlines. Rarely was there time to sit and recharge my senses, as your Yogi might say. These days are a little different. My predisposition to waking up early, coupled with the fact that I now work at a tiny workspace in the corner of my room, allows my mornings almost infinite possibilities. Some mornings I wake up, immediately walk to my lonely acoustic guitar and awkwardly, though passionately, finger my way through my paltry repertoire of nineties pop songs. Other mornings, I walk straight to my desk and resume working on whatever project I had been tinkering with the night before. And then there are mornings like these. The mornings you wake up and you’re so inspired you want to call radio stations. Well, not really.

Anyway, some mornings you get up feeling like TODAY I WILL DO SOMETHING GOOD. Those mornings pretty much anything you come across has the potential to inspire. Combine that with a healthy blog-reading habit and you’ve got the recipe for a Chicken Soup For The Soul kind of day. If you’ve ever read any of those books, you know that nothing inspires people more than other people’s stories. Well, this morning while browsing Design Observer (I read other blogs but Design Observer is just so good!), I came across this interview with designer, Carin Goldberg, from Success Secrets of the Graphic Design Superstars, a blog whose namesake pretty much sums up its content. Goldberg is one of my favorite designers. She’s designed hundreds of book covers, some of which I have here on my bookshelf (love these!). Her work is so inspiring to me because it appears to come from a deep understanding of design history, as well as a highly conceptual thought process. Not only that, she does what I want to do: work with writers. Every time I look at her work, I get that warm feeling inside about the possibilities of my career as a designer. Yeah, it’s being sentimental, but as the poet Beau Sia once championed, “WHAT’S WRONG WITH SENTIMENTAL?”

Get some chicken soup here
Go see Carin Goldberg’s work here