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behind the scenes
  • MAS TATTOOS KIRSTEN

    My boy MAS tattooed at my birthday.

    He's a sweet and spicy young pepper.

    He tattooed a snake on Kirsten.

    It was the biggest tattoo he'd ever done up to that point.

    I filmed it.

    Enjoy.

  • THE BEST PART

    THE BEST PART

    I took this photo of Kirsten at the Pride Parade in San Francisco in 2015.

    Kirsten and I moved to LA soon after.

    Kirsten worked for Levi's at the time and Levi's was marching in the parade.

    I'd been hired by Levi's to shoot for them for years up to this point.

    I was gonna go just to support gay rights.  I wasn't working at the parade.

    Someone from Levi's asked me last minute if I'd be willing to shoot the parade for them.

    I gave them my rate and they said, "no," and counter-offered me one-tenth.

    I was surprised.  I hadn't had that happen with them before.

    They triggered the dormant punk-rock side of me and I started thinking of Levi's as an evil conglomerate co-opting a grassroots movement, manipulating Pride into an opportunity solely for financial gain to them.

    I never thought this way about Levi's before, with regards to their prior community-activism-cum-marketing opportunities that they'd put together and that I'd been involved with.

    I didn't see this as cognitive dissonance.

    I saw one specific and measurable difference on their part this time.

    The difference was that Levi's never tried low-balling me before.

    It's not like Levi's was strapped for cash all of a sudden.

    Not only did I know that they weren't willing to pay a fair amount for this gig but that accepting the offer anyway would be setting a precedent that it was okay to low-ball every job moving forward.

    It reminded me of a saying,

    "You begin saving the world by saving one man at a time; all else is grandiose romanticism or politics." -Charles Bukowski

    Would it be wrong for me to feel slighted if they weren't willing to save me from missing my rent for the month while working for them?

    Especially when I knew enough of how the sausage was made by then to know that there was literally no reason for them to do that, other than just to be greedy assholes?

    If Levi's, suddenly and out of character, decided that they wanted me at my lowest possible price, such that my fee, prorated over time, would amount to less than minimum wage, while benefitting themselves at an obscene deal greater than that, would it be wrong for me to lose some faith in their motives and intentions across the board?

    Would it follow, then, that if I couldn't trust them to treat me with the respect and dignity I'd earned as a proven colleague, that it might also mean I couldn't believe in the veracity of their performative "cause," as they'd spun it, when it came to Pride?

    I said, "no."

    Then I showed up with my camera and shot photos.

    I was happy to see so many people crowding the streets crying tears of joy.  Gay marriage had just passed.  It was obviously an especially celebratory occasion.

    I got home, edited the photos, and put them on my Flickr account.

    Days later, I heard back from the low-baller at Levi's.

    They thanked me for coming to Pride, as if Levi's were in charge of the invitations.

    They asked if they could see, and possibly share, some of the photos that they saw me taking that day.

    They didn't offer to license the photos from me.

    They didn't offer anything.

    They wanted free work.

    I said, "no."

    Their immediate response was to act like they were doing me a favor by even talking to me at all.

    They blacklisted me quickly afterwards.

    No one at the company would tell me why, even when I broke the passive-aggressive code of corporate conduct and called out the unbecoming gaslighting tactics of middle aged people who should know better.

    I lost a guaranteed 100,000 dollars a year by sticking with my integrity.

    I held onto that and moved to LA.

    I brought the best part of Levi's with me.

    (See above photo.)

  • My Birthday: $35 For 35

    Kirsten and I threw a party for my birthday on August 4 2018.

    We had some amazing friends over.

    MAS Tattoo was tattooing in our kitchen.

    I turned 35 so he did $35 tattoos.

    MAS Tattoo:

    https://www.instagram.com/mas.tattoos/

    Me:

    https://www.instagram.com/atcwhitney/

    Kirsten:

    https://www.instagram.com/k__batt/

    An Above the Cut Film.

  • Silverlake Reservoir

    Late last year, I had to pick up a second job.

    I moved from San Francisco, where my freelancing business was booming for years, to LA, where it stopped dead in the waters of Silverlake.

    I arrived bright eyed and bushy tailed in Hollywood in 2015. The prodigal son, who left home penniless, without any direction, and returned, by most accounts, with a pretty impressive self-made business under his belt. Some of the biggest possible clients from around the world. Some high-profile projects. Even LinkedIn references, if you were asking for primary sources.

    In 2015, the Silverlake Reservoir had evaporated, and the ensuing barren landscape mirrored my newfound career drought I’d unknowingly walked into.

    I pursued my connections from San Francisco and New York, but they only lasted me a handful of months.

    I tried establishing new ones in Hollywood but I ran into that famous nepotism wall. The one the white walkers always seem to have such a hard time with.

    I tried DTLA but I was too New York for fake-New-York.

    I tried Santa Monica but I was too skeptical of the brash start-ups I figured would collapse before sending me my check.

    I even tried connections in Silverlake but it was all dried up.

    The wall is protecting the privileged of Hollywood from Wildlings: self-made freelancers who are wary of the unions (full disclosure: I’m a member of SAG) and interested in thinking outside the box (or north of the wall, if you will.)

    The wall is real. I left Los Angeles the first time because of it. And when I returned with more optimism than an MMA fighter with a burgeoning (but tenuous) potential movie career, I ran head first into it again like I’d never left.

    In San Francisco, everything clicked into place.

    But I found myself back in Hollywood.

    In the middle of a draught.

    So, after burning myself out taking freelancing jobs I was way overqualified for while being paid what amounted to less than minimum wage by the hour, six to seven days a week, for months at a time (not to mention, being treated like absolute garbage by that other famous Hollywood cliche: unhinged narcissists), I made a decision I never thought I’d make again: I took a customer service job.

    I picked my favorite coffee shop. One that, in an intentionally maudlin gesture, reminded me of San Francisco, and started working, giving up any ideas of continuing my freelancing career.

    A few weeks ago, I resigned at my toxic customer service job.

    I didn’t know what I was going to do. But I knew that anything was better than staying at that job. Even being homeless. I’ve been homeless before. It was in the Bay Area. It happened only a couple years before I started freelancing full time.

    Then, out of nowhere, a friend connected me with someone who offered me a job.

    I was to start the day before my last day at the coffee shop.

    I’m working on a project, without giving away too much, that’s connected to my favorite director, the one who inspired me in 1990 to pursue the art life.

    In 2015 Silverlake was completely barren.

    Now, from Los Feliz, I can see a shimmering surface.