My City Rocks: Memphis

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According to the 2011 federal census, Memphis and its surrounding counties form the poorest metro area in the United States with a population of a million or more. Almost one in every five of its residents lives below the poverty line. A quick ride down the streets of the River City transforms these black and white statistics into harsh reality. Once you escape the areas where the haves have so successfully and obviously secluded themselves from the have-nots, you encounter a sea of urban blight, of failed business, closed doors, broken windows, and “For Sale” and “For Lease” signs grown dusty they have hung for so long in windows that barely warrant glances from passing motorists. Shattered dreams litter the concrete. Memphis is poor, really poor. And it shows.

But there is something else here, embers of something that can’t be extinguished by hardship and poverty, that is fed, fueled, flamed by times as tough as these, times tougher still. There is a beauty here, roses amongst the thorns of economic woe, the beauty of hope. It’s this hope that spurs a person’s dreams, these dreams, gilded with the promise of a better tomorrow, that turn them into entrepreneurs and small business owners, and it’s these small businesses that are the primary focus of these photos. Or rather, the signage associated with these humble start-ups.

These images, created from scraps, outside of the realms of formal training, transcend the advertising origins that let us know what commodities, be they haircuts, smoked sausages, or statements on the human condition, lie inside the walls from which they scream at us.These are the things that mark this city for what it is, more so than the obvious landmarks that end up in the travel guides.

The Pyramid, Graceland, The Hernando Desoto Bridge – these things, while iconic in their own right, do nothing to highlight the fact that, while Memphis is a city of slim wallets, it is also a city of stout hearts, of dreams and hopes and gazes towards a tomorrow that is wishfully better than the day at hand. It’s these hand crafted works that marks this city for what it is, that hold its beauty and soulfulness, that are the real landmarks of Memphis, and I am glad, humbly so, to share them with you.

Joshua Miller
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The Roy Lichtenstein “Oh Jeff…” Costume Tutorial

Most of the items needed for the costume can be found in your house thus making this an inexpensive project. The majority of the costume is makeup.

  • Plain tank top (or in this case, polka-­‐dotted top)
  • Any primary colored belt & bracelet, (funky earrings optional)
  • polka-­‐dotted shorts
  • old phone
  • yellow (not blonde!) wig
  • cardboard or cardstock
  • blue, white and black acrylic paint red-­‐brown face/body paint permanent marker
  • barrette white thread liquid eyeliner pink lipstick

1. Study it!

Really look at the work, deconstruct it and look at it for what it really is. The common mistake, and I unfortunately made this too (not by choice-­spilled paint on my only clean black tank top!) is that if it’s Comic/Pop Art than the whole thing has to be dots. Wrong! Looking at “Oh Jeff”, you will notice that the black tank top isn’t dotted, and neither is the hair, quite a few of the objects found in Lichtenstein’s works are flat and singularly colored.

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The Phone and “bubble” should be worked on in advance, as both of these items require an excessive amount of drying and painting time. Bubble requires white paint, paintbrush, white thread, permanent marker and a barrette.

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2. Prepare

For the bubble, you will cut out in either cardboard or cardstock the desired shape. Paint with 2-3 coats of white paint-­ allowing for dry time in between each coat. When completely dry, you may then write with permanent marker the message needed and completely outline the edges with the marker as well.

Next, the barrette is to be added. Place the barrette in the side of your hair where comfortable and hold the bubble on top, placing in the desired spot according to the original piece. While still holding the bubble, unsnap the barrette and remove together, attempting to hold the barrette against the bubble as you will need to permanently attach it in this spot.

Once removed, begin to attach the barrette to the back of the bubble with white thread, sew in a couple of areas with continuous loops. This will keep the barrette from sliding. DO NOT USE HOT GLUE. When the barrette flexes shut into the hair, it will remove itself from the bubble. With thread, this will allow the barrette to be opened and closed and will flex in unison with the bubble, not against it. White paint may be added on top of the thread to further blend it in.

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3. Practice

Practice is crucial; I learned that red lip liner does not work for the dots as it instantly rubbed off and cream (or stick) eyeliner is pretty much the equivalent of grease when trying to remove. I’m not lying when I say that I scrubbed my face three times with an exfoliating cleanser before all black lines where removed. For best results on the dots use face/body paint as it will adhere to your skin like normal paint but won’t come off as easy as makeup. Use the end of a paint brush, approximately 4mm in diameter or smaller and dip into the paint and apply to the face. Only liquid eyeliner should be used as it will stay on all night and come off in one exfoliating wash!

Set yourself up so that when you look in the mirror, you can see your image behind you. This is so that your face is now exactly in the same position as the work of art to be copied. So if in the mirror the face is turned to the right, you’ll turn your head to the right. Practice a couple of dots-­‐always go at a diagonal line, and practice your black lines. * If there is a line in the painting, then it needs to be on your face. Do not just outline your eyes, lips and jawline. There are little wrinkle lines on the nose, eyes and forehead that need to be added and the nostril must be lined as well! This is why step 1 is so important. Really study and pay attention to each little detail! It may be a pain but it’s going to allow you to really do your best on the day of the party and quickly assess any mistakes that might be made!

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4. Start getting ready!

Yellow wig is required with black acrylic paint.

The wig can be saved for the day of the party if there is adequate time available as it only takes roughly a little less than an hour, (it took me two-­ but that was through process of elimination) but keep in mind that Makeup can take up to 3 ½ hours.

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Start with the Yellow wig. I found mine a costume shop and only set me back $15. It was already the perfect shape and cut so no scissors were needed! Pin your hair up and place the wig on. Just as with the practice makeup, you will set your image up behind you in the mirror and look at which strands need to be black. With gloves on, pull a desired strand up and coat with black acrylic paint. Evenly coat until the section of hair is completely black. Carefully lay the strand back down into the desired spot and bobby pin if necessary. Repeat for each strand needed. When complete, you may leave the wig on while it dries or gently remove. To Speed up drying time, you may use a blow dryer on the cool setting.

Once the wig is completely dry, the strands will have become hard and plastic like. Comb each strand out as best possible. Some will remain hard but the idea is to make them more ‘hair-­ like’ again. After they have been combed you can bobby pin them back into place. This is to make sure the wig stays looking exactly how you want it.

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5. Makeup

It’s advisable to NOT wear the clothes you intend to wear later that night, but something comfortable and easy to change out of. Set yourself set up the same way as you would when you were practicing or with the wig and start with the face. First, apply a base cover-­up to face. If you’re like me and have tattoos, a thin layer can be applied, as this allows the dots to be seen better. Again, work in diagonal rows using the end of a 4mm wide paint brush. Do not try to work with the contours of your face, work against them and try to make it as flat as possible. If the dot runs onto your eyelid, so be it! Make sure that you work over top of your eyebrows, as they will be painted back on later.

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Dot the entire face and blow dry on the cool setting in between. Work in sections on the neck and continue to blow dry, this will speed up the process. Make sure that you have someone around that can help with the back of your neck and any other difficult to reach places. (Besides, they can bring you mojitos, blowdry, and even give you a break and take over dotting for a minute! )

Continue to work in sections ( remember to take your time! ) until the entire front area is complete.

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After all dots on the shoulders, neck and face are complete, start on the lines. Just like when you practiced, pay attention to every line and take your time!!! It is extremely important when working on the eyes and eyebrows to make the same face as the artwork and then draw them on. It may be difficult to hold, but will create the best results and the lines will match perfectly. Remember to add little wrinkle lines like the artwork and outline the nostril, jawline and the side of the face.  Before adding lines to the lips, apply pink lipstick. Lines are also to be added to the inside of the mouth. This will later come off when eating or drinking so make sure that you either drink through a straw all night or bring the eyeliner for touchups!

6. Put it all together!

Once the face work is done, you can start getting ready. Put all items on first and then the wig. Once the wig is on correctly, attach the bubble barrette in a comfortable spot as you would in your hair and check in the mirror against the original piece for placement.

Now, roll up your sleeves and start on dotting the arms and hands. You do not need to worry about the palms, or even how good of a job you do on the hands as you will end up washing your hands 2 hours into the night and it will all disappear. Lines can be added to the hands and the nails can be polka-­dotted for added effect.

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Then you’re done! I attached my phone to my belt for easy carrying all night and make sure you have your pose down! Know which angle is going to look the best in photographs-­ as you will be asked for them all night!

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Sarah’s advice for picking your costume 

Pick a work of art that is universal.

Even if no one knows the exact work itself, they will still recognize its qualities through popular culture-­‐ example, A few individuals didn’t know the exact artist and piece I was portraying, I received a lot of “ANDY WARHOL!!” and “ IT’S A COMIC!” but it still worked for them, because they understood it regardless of specified education or backgrounds. I’ve found over the last few years, the Halloween costumes that are most successful are the ones that A. included a lot of hard work, whether through the thought process or the crafting itself and B. evoke a sense of Nostalgia.

Photo Essay – The COCA COLA DREAM

by Giulia Piccari

The idea of the “Coca Cola Commercial” came to me in a dream long time ago, right when i was looking for an inspiration. I literally dreamt a of bottle of Coca Cola inside a fridge and the day after, in studio, i decided to make a photo essay that could express my personal idea about the American drink.

Made with an old optical bench and wanted to have 6 different subjects to describe the illusion of this beverage. This work is about the ideas I had about America before I decided to come and live here…

Giulia Piccari is an Italian photographer based in NYC since march 2007. After studing in London and in Rome, she won a photography contest where the chairman was the italian famous movie director Giuseppe Tornatore. After that she decided to move to Florida where she took the idea of “ON_MY_WAY” that is now become a photography exhibition in NYC. She currently works for runway shows, backstages, concerts and movie sets which is her strongest passion and her american dream… To see more on Giulia’s work, click on www.giullipet.jimdo.com

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Aspects of Urban Life

  

When street artist Cadu Confort emailed me pictures of his drawings that he said were inspired by “aspects of his urban life”, I admit I sighed before opening any of the attachments. We repeatedly hear these well-worn terms about what stirs an artist, but rarely do we get to see it. I suppose that’s the diplomatic way of my saying – ‘saying that doesn’t necessarily mean the accompanying work reflects that’. But the more we corresponded, the more I became interested in how his work correlated to the life in Brazil he so often mentioned.

“Would you be up for shooting some pictures to show our readers what inspires you?” I asked him.

 “Sure, it will be a pleasure and a challenge. Some of my favorite places are sometimes far from home … I’ll ride my bike through the city and shoot those pics.”

He warned me that he wasn’t a professional photographer and that his camera was “shitty.”  But a few weeks later I received photos that embody that oxymoronic term “pretty-ugly’” –  they are gritty, unfocused, random scenes that depict an honesty far beyond what I could have imagined from that now altered term “aspects of urban life.”  – Ginger

The message Cadu sent along with the following photographs…

 

“There’s a gap between what inspires me and what I do with these inspirations. It’s a little hard to relate the pics with the artwork directly, because there is a strange process in transforming what I see day by day into what I do. The imagery leads me to do the artwork. I got used to all the ugly and sketchy stuff you can find in a big city. So I try to transform all those things in something ”beautiful” or funny, but the real deal is that I can’t get rid of the ugliness, the cranky faces, the visual pollution and all those ”bad” things… especially because I live in Rio and I stay far from that colorful- beach-life-rich-nature-happy-people stuff!

There are some pretty sketchy places here in Rio, and they are usually my favorite places when it comes to aesthetics, but I had problems because it’s really not cool to shoot photos of it … at least here in Rio. It’s a shame because I’d really like to show you the “worst”(as people use to say) side of the city that I love. Stuff like having a hot dog and a good chat with old hookers in Copacaba, funny kids on the streets making fun of rich people. Drunk people. Bar life. This kind of stuff you can only find in the night of big cities.” – Cheers and Abraços, OBRIGADO !  

Cadu

 

Abandoned Shopping Car

Abandoned Shopping Car

Afro Devil's Mattress

Afro Devil’s Mattress

Bad Grafitti

Bad Grafitti

Illegal Electric Wire

Illegal Electric Wire

Trash

Trash

Evil Saint

Evil Saint

Dirty Bar (Boteco)

Dirty Bar (Boteco)

Sheraton Hotel From The Bus

Sheraton Hotel From The Bus

King's Palace

King’s Palace

Lonely Security

Lonely Security

Rainy Ipanema

Rainy Ipanema

Way Back Home From The Bus

Way Back Home From The Bus

 

Wanna check out some of Cadu’s work …then click here.

Individual Desires – The Work of Lauren Withrow

 

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This short and ongoing series was meant to hi-light the struggles of acceptance and many individual’s desires to become anonymous and detach themselves from society. It is not meant to be happy, but powerful enough to evoke a reaction in someone to change their thoughts.

When I was younger I would spend the summer writing in this little journal of mine and I would even fill up the pages to the brink in which it would fall apart. And no matter how different the plot or the characters or the settings were, there was always this similar theme of mystery, despair, and death. This sounds horrible, I am aware, but these writings and eventually my photographs were influenced greatly on the films The Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands and Beetle Juice by Tim Burton. Like these films and many of Burton’s other work, I want to create a deep, sometimes comical or magical, story behind my images.

These films, and my own personal feelings, led me to create these images of detachment and anonymity. I spent hours sketching out the photo ideas, gathering every detailed prop and outfit, and heading out to the field to shoot. Each image was carefully planned, and I set out with the determination to capture the image no matter what events may happen in between. Next came hours spent in photoshop, compiling the images into a finished project, a task that was tedious and consuming. Many of the images were a combination of over 10 separately taken images, dozens of layers and filters, and textures galore, all to create that specific atmosphere and surrealistic feel behind each one.

One of my greatest desires as an artist, like any artist really, is to extract an emotion, reaction or even a question out of the viewer – the desire to detach one’s self.

 

To see more of Lauren’s work, visit her site at www.laurenwithrow.com

 

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The Breakdown of Which We Used To Know

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 The Rescue

The Los Angeles Immigration Rally

by Kristen Piechocki

On May 1, 2010 I attended the Los Angeles Immigration Rally to experience and photograph the intensity of emotions surrounding the newest law in Arizona. We arrived at a stage that was set up with Mexican Polka music playing, people holding signs, sporting protest shirts, and many people waving flags. The majority of the flags were American flags waved with pride and fervor. As I looked down the street the crowd seemed to snake down the pavement. One speaker came to the microphone and said they estimated nearly 500,000 people were there and honestly from my 15 minute walk to the site I would not have been surprised if that was the actual number.

The mayor of Los Angeles spoke to a warm reception and there were a few other speakers, one of whom was a Catholic priest giving his support to the rally. Many of the signs were insightful, amusing, and one was downright appalling. A very large banner showing President Obama with a Hitler moustache and many were responding to it, mostly with dislike. Many people were screaming, “GET THAT OUT SIGN OF HERE!” I think many felt the sign was inappropriate to the cause of the rally; the sign said, “From hero, to heroin” implying that Obama is the kingpin of the drug cartel importing opium from Afghanistan. Security running the rally soon came to the two young men carrying the banner and asked them to leave the area. They were asked to stand behind barricades where they would not be blocking people’s view of the stage. I was glad to see that they didn’t have many supporters; although I did see the press taking photos of the banner. It’s a shame how so many people speaking about important things can be overshadowed by two knuckleheads soaking the entire spotlight onto their ignorance.

When we got home we heard on the news that they said there were 60,000 people in attendance – they downplayed the rally. Yet, in one of the suburbs there was a group of 25 people who gathered to show their support for the Arizona law and they were given more attention and time than the thousands of people against the law who gathered downtown. The media’s inability to show balanced news is quite discerning and it’s sad but more then often it influences how many people then view the issues.

I personally have no ability to know exactly how many people were at the LA rally but being there, there is no way overlook the many people walking all around downtown those that chose not to stay at the main rally site and took their protests to the overpasses, to the tourist areas like Olvera Street, and to the surrounding area. Even if the numbers of people at the rally wasn’t 500,000 there are clearly many people all over the country who dislike the idea of police hassling people because of their appearance or the language they speak. Everyone understands the problems with illegal immigration but as one of the most memorable signs stated, “What does an illegal look like?”

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Photo Essay – Pec

 

The best way to explain this part of my work is to tell you how I took the photographs.

In 2007, I was studying sociology at Nanterre University, near Paris. It took me an hour and a half each day to get there via bus and train.

I chose a seat that I sat in every day, in the last car, near the heater and next to a window, in the middle. It was quite comfy. So every morning, instead of reading books or learning lessons, I looked out the windows or at the people sitting in front of me.

I spent a lot of time looking at this world, a quite peaceful world, where people traveled quietly from suburbs to Paris. The only times people talked to each other was when the train ran late.

I was at my seat, quiet like the others, listening to music, lost in the constantly changing landscape. Time to time I thought about taking pictures of this underworld life, trying to guess which way was the best to show it as I was looking at, as I was living it. I figured it out and started to grab my camera and photograph it as I was seeing it.

Transportation was at that time some sort of obsession; I was always thinking about time and the train.
Thinking back to these pictures, I believe they are quite successful. I’ve had success showing this world as I saw it, as another world.

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Photo Essay – Rick Alarcon

Protest Series

Not officially being French, I try to remain an observer of the lives in my immediate Parisian orbit. Besides witnessing the ins and outs of the horrific French bureaucratic system, the daily strolls of over-perfumed older women, the long-legged fashionistas, and the museums full of both contemporary and classical art, I have been an eyewitness to yet another typical French institution: the protest.

As we speak, those in the milk industry are dumping hundreds of gallons of milk in French fields in protest to rising costs, a controversial vote is due at the end of this week as to the privatization of postal service, students begin their yearly rounds of boycotts and sit-ins, and perhaps more internationally publicized, the covering of Islamic women with burqas or hajib has become a hotly contest topic within the French republic. Each one of these topics has brought the country’s temperament to the boiling point and forced the people onto the streets, with signs held high and protest slogans ringing through everyone’s ears.

With my photography, I hope to cover the culture surrounding these events and individuals. I aim to not take a side with their causes, but to present their needs to have their voices heard, regardless of the standpoint they may take on a particular issue. The conviction for such causes can be so great sometimes that they can become hateful and antagonistic, thus demonstrating that at all levels, we must learn to reach compromise.

The meeting of the stoic and opinionated protest culture with everyday society can sometimes lead to moments of light-hearted, sarcastic, and ironic circumstances. Though not to take precedence from their causes, these moments can sometimes help to amplify their importance. My photography does not aim to make people chuckle, however, but to highlight society’s programming to not attribute the proper attention that may be necessary for such causes, and perhaps can be indicative of our inability to deal with the serious issues that surround us. But I will be the first one to admit that some of these photos put a sarcastic smile on my face.

I present to you a series of photos of my work dealing with protest culture. For presentation’s sake, I show you the photos in black and white form at the same dimensions so as to neutralize any one photo holding sway over the others. I have also included work outside of France so as to illustrate that this is not a uniquely French aspect, but one in which we are all participants. What is important to me, and perhaps more important to the causes and people illustrated by my work, is the fact that the right to assembly is not only an inalienable human right, but that it is also a right that needs to be examined in detail.

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Photo Essay – Laurent Nivalle

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Laurent Nivalle is a French National living in Paris who was born in 1973. He spent five years studying Product Design. During his time studying, he discovered the works of Neville Brody, David Carson, Attik Agency and Vaughan Oliver, which helped develop his interest in visual culture. Since 2000, he has worked as a Graphic Designer at Citroën’s Creative Styling Centre within the Colors and Materials department, specializing in colors and materials design, 3D Graphics, filmmaking and photography. http://www.laurentnivalle.fr

Laurent Photo Essay
The background of this Dai-Dai series is that I wanted to make some portraits of a very good, inspiring friend who has a unique fashion style. He’s a talented graphic designer who has made great graphic portraits of celebrities. (http://www.behance.net/daidai)

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Photo Essay – Zephyrance Lou

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Zephyrance Lou, Shanghai-based freelance photographer, born in 1989.
This “Extra Scenes” series is part of my unfinished project “Inspirations in Dreams”. The whole project is about building a dreamy, surreal scene by compounding entities. Dreaming is my muse all the time, as it contains memories, fantasies and all kinds of poetic elements.

About cameras: I use Rolleiflex 2.8f (a 120mm TRL camera) mostly, and also use Hasselblad and Contax 645 now.

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Photo Essay – Tavinder K. Ark

 

Tavinder-Ark---Biography-picture

I’m a joyous 29-year-old nomad who has lived everywhere from a small town with one stop sign to a bustling metropolis of 1,000,000 people living within an inch of each other.  I recently wrote my first test in over five years – I’m now a poor student once again after working for many years. Although I think String Theory is the next best thing to fashion magazines, I’m skeptical about it.  If I could play Boggle all day, I probably would.  I love video games, especially the ones that you have to play in front of others while flailing your arms wildly, resulting in some funny pictures.  Figuring out what combination to eat different flavors of gummi bears is important (so far, the best combination is two red and one white gummi bears).  People ask me for help with computer problems, and I’m darned proud of it. I love hanging out in bookstores and checking out libraries.  I will always own a pair of Vans and have a packet of unopened Haribo Gummibärs in my refrigerator right next to my medium format and Polaroid film.  I have a bad habit of closing my eyes when taking pictures and hoping for the best when I open them.

My website: www.flickr.com/medias

Through the eyes of a half-an-inch-tall gummi bear

It started off with a packet of gummi bears, a Rubik’s cube and me in an office somewhere in Canada.  I was leaving a job I hated and had no more work to do, so I began playing with gummi bears at my desk.  I played with them as if they were Lego men, making all kinds of sounds effects a five- year-old would make.  I wanted my bosses to know this is how I was going to spend my remaining time at work.  I moved to New York City, and a friend introduced me to Haribo Gummibärs.  After that, I was hooked on working with these half-an-inch-tall bears.  My obsession grew into taking pictures of them in front of the famous landmarks in New York City.  I wanted to see if I could play with human perception by making the gummi bears appear as large as people in my photographs.

This led to my idea of taking pictures of gummi bears in front of the many famous landmarks around the world. So when I went to Europe, I took them with me. I always have an extra packet of gummi bears to share with the many people who stop, asking me what I’m doing.  For some reason, people get a kick out of it, and oftentimes they take a picture of me setting up the gummi bears.

There are four essential ingredients to taking pictures of gummi bears: a camera, the sun, five gummi bears and a friend. I use two types of cameras (SLR or a point-and-shoot) depending on what effect I’m trying to achieve.  The biggest challenge with photographing these half-an-inch-tall bears is fighting with depth of field.  It is difficult to take a close-up photograph of the gummi bears, almost being able to taste the gelatinous jelly on them, and keep the background in focus. Also, the natural sun is important, so I normally take gummi bear pictures on bright, sunny days.  Another essential ingredient is having a friend who can stop people from stepping on, kicking or even eating the gummi bears in mid-shot.  I cannot tell you the countless time I’ve lost my main models to a shoe or tooth attack!

 

Working with gummi bears is awesome.  They do not talk back, fight, or complain about standing for hours or being out in the hot sun.  They also seem to like my fingers, and I get to eat any defective gummi bears, so I never starve!  Through trial and error, Haribo Gummibärs are the best gummi bear models to use because they have the perfect stiffness for the essential up-right posture in my pictures, and they are more luminescent compared to the other brands out there. Plus, they are the original gummi bears.  Oh, and they are also yum-a-delicious. So suit up, put on your knee-high socks, rip open a packet of Haribo Gummibär and see life through the perspective of an inch.

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