Party photography is about as old as stumbling in the dark with your piss-soaked pants around your knees and a puke-stained lampshade on your head. That is to say, documenting the party is about as old as partying.
You can bet your vomitorium that there were desperate Roman sculptors who spent their weekends carving out recreations of other people's orgies. And what was the Renaissance if not one big pouty-lipped, cleavage-laden party pose?
For most of human history, the medium has been fairly predictable. That is, until Bleeding Palm made its mark on the form with a wholly unique, no-holds-barred kind of psychedelic impressionism. And when Crossfade was putting together a checklist of essentials for our shamanic pilgramage to Voice of The Valley Noise Rally, photographer and animator, Ronnie Rivera, was at the top of our list.
Rivera is a Miami native who cut his chops with Lucha Workshop, an apparel company that started out producing politically left-leaning merchandise, "but evolved-slash-devolved into crude drawings of weapons and monsters."
This is not Bleeding Palm's first rodeo. Last may, Rivera traveled to Washington D.C. to document a different kind of rally: Jon Stewart's "Rally To Restore Sanity," an event he describes as "a bunch of people laughing at internet memes on a Jumbotron."
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Crossfade: How long have you been a photographer? Any formal training/education? Or are you entirely self-taught?
I've been shooting pictures since 2008. I don't have any formal training in image editing or photography. I have read almost half of my camera's instruction manual. I just experiment with things. It's the way I learn the best.
Bleeding Palm was born out of my lying about shooting for various media outlets. People would always ask me what I shoot for, I would lie and say I shot pics for one of the local papers/blogs. It was a running joke with my friends. Saying this, coupled with my familiar face, often got me free drinks and free entry into clubs. One day I decided to publicly share the photos. The site was up a month later.
If you're willing to disclose your methods, what kind of camera and what computer program?
I shoot with a Digital SLR 10 megapixel camera with a lens covered in dried beer. (You bastards.) I use an image editing program and an animation program. Most of what we do can be done with free and open source programs like Gimp.
Bleeding Palm has a very specific aesthetic. Who and what might you cite as
an influence, concrete and/or abstract?
We are inspired by surrealist artists like Rene Magritte, current digital artists like Uno Moralez and Rafael Rozendaal, and '90s drug art, including Lisa Frank and those black light posters people had. Miami and internet culture are big influences as well.
Party photography is often about glamor and vanity. But Bleeding Palm portraits are not always flattering. Have you ever received a hostile reaction to your work?
Not hostile, but definitely negative. I've had people ask to have their photos removed from the site. Only one photo has ever been removed from the site, though, as it was a potential legal matter for the individual. I've had a couple of people regret posing for photos after I told them I was shooting for bleedingpalm.com.
In many ways, the party photographer exists on an in-flux spectrum of noble documentarian, leering voyeur, and agent provocateur. How does Bleeding Palm relate to and affect the events it documents?
We like taking candid creepy pictures as well as getting people's reaction to the camera.
There's a fine line between being in the middle of the action and just ruining shit. I'm sure it's obnoxious to be at a small event or party and have some jackass blinding everyone with a flash, so we try to keep that to a minimum. We recently attended an event where the sound of the camera's shutter was louder than the performance. We tried to shoot photos during the louder moments and took it easy on the flash. At rowdier events, I shoot more pics.
You document a wide breadth of scenes and styles. What are some generalities you can make about the contrasting, reoccurring subjects like certain house party spaces vs. certain nightclubs? Do these assorted demographics photograph differently?
Yes, they do. It's the little things really.
At some places, the beer being thrown in the air is PBR or Colt 45. At others, it's Sierra Nevada. At clubs, people give the camera their fuck me face. At shows, people give the camera their fuck you face.
Stayed tuned to Crossfade for more about our trek to Voice of the Valley Noise Rally 2011. P.S. Check out the official On The Road... Facebook event. P.P.S. Bleedingpalmdotcom and Rooflessrexdotcom are cool too.