Three Imaginary Girls

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Seattle isn’t just known for great rock music. It’s also known for its great rock music photography. Three of our favorite imaginary photographers — Ryan Schierling, William Anthony, and Bradley Hanson — have teamed up to create an exhibit called 3 Punks, which opens this First Thursday May 5, 2005 from 6-9p at the Vera Project, and will run through May.

3 Punks
{3 Punks. Photos by: William Anthony/Brad Hanson/Ryan Schierling.}


We caught up with these mega-talented fellas to learn a bit more about the show, their fashion faux paus, and their Fight Club tendencies. The following interview was the result…

Three Imaginary Girls of course loves that you are called 3 Punks. Any explanations for how you came up with your name?

WA: Well… Three Imaginary Girls was already taken. We had our hearts set on that name. Oh well. The name has multiple meanings — most importantly, the show is three different perspectives on punk.
BH: Additionally, the way the show will be presented in framed triads emphasizes the integration of the photographers’ three different visual styles.
RS: We were all inspired by punk culture as kids, except Brad, who I hear wore pegged pants and eyeliner.
BH: Still do. As bad as the 80’s look in hindsight, I can’t let go.
WA: Everybody cut footloose.

Please tell the imaginary readers exactly what the 3 Punks exhibit is all about.

WA: Basically we wanted to showcase the all-ages scene in Seattle. Specifically, an all-ages punk show at The Vera Project. Vera is really a unique place, a real gem in the community. We wanted other people to see it, but not in the standard format. What better way to show what they do than highlight the people that make it work as well as it does?
RS: And to my knowledge this hasn’t been done before in Seattle, in this visual format. So it was long overdue.
BH: I recall the original idea was Bill’s, and I think it’s a great one. We all love each other’s work, and recognize the uniqueness of our own styles. The idea of showing the same event through these three different perspectives was exciting, and the final product was stronger and even more cohesive than we could have imagined. The final touch is hanging everything in groups of three, the specifics of which we agonized over for a long time, in order to have the strongest presentation.

{3 Punks. Photos by: Brad Hanson/William Anthony/Ryan Schierling}

How did you three all meet?

BH: Ryan and I met at the X show at EMP a year ago, Bill and I ran into each other buying $200 underwear at Barney’s. Once you try the nice stuff, it’s hard to go back to Hanes, isn’t it? Anyway, we were aware of each other as we all do work for The Stranger.
WA: I’ll pre-emptively answer the next question… boxers. Actually, Ryan and Brad e-mailed me through my website. I had known about both through different channels and respected their work. We quickly became friends and started shooting together on related projects shortly thereafter. Brad’s a great family man. Ryan has special-needs cats.
RS: Brad and I met while doing X a year ago, and he and Bill were boxing over this guy Barney’s underwear. I think. My memory’s not so good any more.

Do you guys ever feel a competitive nature within the group, and if so, how do you handle that?

RS: It’s like fight club. We kick the crap out of each other.
BH: I have a cage at my house — two men enter, one man leaves.

Ahh, so is the first rule about the 3 Punks that nobody talks about the 3 Punks?

WA: (laughs). I usually just sit back and watch. I love Tina Turner. Sometimes I borrow Jenny Jimenez’s Lita Ford wig, put on the animal skins and ram-horn headpiece and act as fiery emcee.

Which photographers have you been following as of late? Have they been any part of the inspiration for 3 punks?

RS: I finally met Bootsy Holler the other day. I’m definitely going to follow her around.
WA: I don’t think she means it like that, Ryan.
BH: Maybe she did.
RS: Actually, I always keep an eye on what Steve Gullick‘s doing, and I really like Walter Iooss, Jr. Christopher Morris is a fabulously-talented photographer that I enjoy. I think my visual style has evolved from being a photojournalist, and I always remember what Windy Osborne said back in the mid-80s — “fill the frame with exactly what you want to see.”
BH: Ralph Gibson is probably my biggest influence, not only in terms of tight composition, but tonality and emotional content. Looking at his photography in the early 80s was influential on my proximity to the subject, elimination of the superfluous, and finding beauty in the ordinary. I finally met him at a week-long photography workshop in Vancouver, B.C. He’s one of the reasons I picked up a camera in the first place. I also love Anton Corbijn, who has a unique approach that is refreshingly reckless. I guess I’m always drawn to deep contrast and rich tonality, and my experience with graphic design and page layout carry over directly into image composition.
WA: A very close friend of mine is a huge inspiration to me, Catherine Ledner. She’s out of L.A. and her portraiture style has been a big influence on me. She also has a genuine chemistry with her subjects. I learned a lot from watching her interact with them during a photo shoot. She has a knack for bringing out a lot of character in people. In particular, the people who say the patented “I hate having my photo taken.” Also, I recently met a personal hero of mine, Danny Clinch. I met up with him on a recent trip to New York City. Really great guy. Loves hats.

3 Punks
{3 Punks. Photos by: Ryan Schierling/William Anthony/Brad Hanson}

How is music photography different in the Pacific Northwest versus in New York City or Los Angeles or anywhere else in the country? Are the working conditions among the big city crowds so different that they affect the outcome?

WA: Not really, I approach every show pretty much the same way. I’ve shot in other cities including
L.A. and New York City, and the crowds are pretty much the same. It depends on the venue really. If you don’t have a good relationship with the security staff at any given venue, your job is twice as hard. There’s no better friend at a show than photographer-friendly security staff.
BH: New York gets more rain, LA has that beautiful light from the air pollution, but once you get inside a dark club with 1600 film it’s still 1/60th at f2 if you’re lucky.
RS: It depends on the shows, but it’s not 1992 any more. People usually aren’t hurling themselves into the crowd after running across the stage, though that certainly makes for easier photos. I think Sean Nelson described current Seattle crowds brilliantly — “…a silent film of the audience at a typical Seattle rock club would look like a dimly lit, standing-room-only convocation of fashionably dressed alcoholic surgeons intently observing an open-heart procedure.”

If a venue were to create the perfect working conditions for a music photographer, what would the set up be? Give specifics about lighting, stage access, etc.

WA: NOT SO MUCH RED LIGHT. Great for mood, terrible for photography. Hear that Chop Suey?
BH: And the Sunset in Ballard. I do love it there, though.
RS: Access is a big issue. Being stuck stage right or left (or middle, right in front of the mic stand) is a hindrance, but it forces you to make the best of what you’ve got.
BH: Great access is always helps. Being stuck in those absurd pens just means a lot of “up the nose” shots, though you can actually set your camera bag down. Any photographer will tell you they’d like to have more control over lighting. Part of the fun is the challenge of the existing light. I rarely use flash.

I once gave a jerky ex a secret admirer present of ex-lax brownies. What’s the most “punk” thing any of you have ever done?

WA: Yeah, thanks a lot Dana. I was on the imaginaryshitter for a week. Very funny.

Have you ever been injured on the job ? If so, what happened?

WA: I’ve never been injured on the job.
RS: I ended up tweaking some muscles in my back shooting the Blood Brothers because I was being crushed at the front of the stage. I got the photos I wanted, but I paid for it for a few days.
WA: I take that back, I was kicked by the lead singer of Swell. Didn’t hurt though. He didn’t get a running start.
BH: I’ve had a few beers spilled on me, nothing worse than that.

What is the next step for 3 Punks? Do you want to take on different punk bands? Do a different genre? Or take it a step outside of music photography to anther subject matter?

WA: Wiener dog races. I’ll shoot portraits.
RS: I’ll take the race shots and photo-finishes.
BH: I think the next project will be something completely different, probably not even music.
WA: Like a wiener dog race. Man… imagine the crashes!
BH: Whatever the next project is, I’m looking forward to it already. This one was a blast. Then we all got really drunk. At least, that’s the way I remember it.

Do you have a mission statement, and if so, what is it?

BH: Ich liebe den schauspieler, nicht den mann
WA: Semper Fi
RS: Aio, quantitas magna frumentorum est

Did the exhibit turn out like you thought it would? Were there any obstacles along the way?

WA: I thought the fans would run up to my lights and ham it up more for the portraits. But in reality, I had to go fish for subjects. I still think they came out pretty cool, all shyness considered.
BH: I was dealing with essentially no light, so I was concerned about shooting in total darkness. I brought in one additional light, but still wanted to preserve the mood of the place. I handheld a lot of slow shutter speeds with the aperture wide open trying to make the most of it. Despite the conditions, the images from all of us were even better than we were expecting. The Vera really let us do whatever we wanted. I wish every club was like this!
RS: The Vera Project has been fabulous. Shannon Stewart, James Keblas, Chris Crites, Andy Abero, all of the staff and volunteers have been so supportive all the way through the process — which started six months ago. The bands were completely open and receptive to the idea, and all played fantastic sets. It was the most fun I’ve had shooting a show in quite a while.

3 Punks
{William Anthony, Ryan Schierling, and Brad Hanson at The Nightlite after shooting the show at Vera.}

If you each had to describe one another in one word, what would it be?

WA: Brad would be “rico” and Ryan would be “suave.”
RS: Brad would be “tits” and Bill would be “ass.”
WA: Thanks Ryan.
RS: You wanna go? Just say when.
BH: Time to visit the cage, boys.

If you had to describe 3 punks with one word what would it be?

WA: “Pro-bono.”
BH: Is that two words?
WA: Shut up.
BH: That’s still two.
RS: Two men enter, one man leaves.

Where can people link/go to learn more about the show?

They and

Anything else the imaginary world at large should know about this show?

WA: Nick Turner (not to be confused with Tina Turner), from KEXP‘s Sonic Reducer show will be spinning punk on vinyl at the opening, Thursday, May 5 from 6-9 p.m. at The Ver(a)rt Space – 1916 4th Avenue in downtown Seattle.
BH: We see this as the start of a series of collaborations.
RS: If we can all stay sober long enough.

{Now make sure you make it to see the 3 Punks at Vera. The opening reception is on May 5 from 6-9p at the Vera Project T{1916 4th Avenue, Seattle, WA} and is of course all-ages.}