True Believers and Tallywhackers (The Elephant’s Underbelly)
“Lord, lift us up where we belong….”
Oh no, it’s not a humming of a romantic theme from the film “An Officer and A Gentleman”, but, an undertone score of those who benefit from the perks of marrying well.
One might think that if someone mired in the off-the-wall conspiracy swamp of election lie lunacy tried to take one toe onto the grounds of the White House, that person would be turned around and be noted as persona non grata.
Yet, for a lady who married well, she is given carte blanche on not just entering the White House grounds; but, escorted into the office of oval. She comes with lists of ‘wants’, from suggestions for employees throughout an administration to propelling legal theories into overturning a failed re-election bid.
Some in the administration may humor this woman, while others may be humbled by which elite plateau she exists upon.
Oh yes, this lovely lady is a light in the darkness to show the way to victory. In fact, her maiden name was Lamp. But, that was before she wed a man in black. A black robe that is. Her name is Virginia and her beloved’s name is Clarence.
Virginia ‘Ginni’ Thomas is a conservative activist and her husband is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. In the land of D.C. power is a key. The accelerant of power is a key to unlocking doors that the commoners shall never hold.
A question: Who is more powerful, a President who serves four to eight years in office; or, a Supreme Court Justice who has a lifetime appointment?
Ding! Ding! Ding! I hear a symphony!
Answer: Justice is Supreme.
Some may see the attack of January 6th as an isolated event. But, the fact is that it actually was just a mid-way point in an ongoing scheme of fallacy involving a tiny man with a bruised ego of not wanting to admit his loss in an election. It didn’t begin one day in January 2021, but ten months prior.
Screeches from Donald Trump’s mouth on the campaign trail starting in April 2020 about a possibility of him not being elected as being due to fraudulence and outright theft in that upcoming election of that November were just the greasing of the wheels in getting his supporters to believe his lies were truth and the truth were lies.
With the panoply of titled configurations in the conservative bloodstream known as ‘Stop the Steal’, ‘The Madison Sweep’ and all other kind of calliope chaos under the circus tent to keep Donald J. Trump in office by any means necessary, the planning and operation of Trump’s Big Lie came vividly to life.
Sandwiched between two pardoned felons, Steve Bannon and Mike Flynn is pillow-pusher Mike Lindell. No, that’s not some sort of double-entendre. Mr. Lindell really pushes pillows for a living as CEO of a pillow manufacturing empire. Alongside as crisp pickle in this buffet of audacity was another pardoned felon, Roger Stone.
As to Mr. Stone, it seems Roger always has a way of inserting himself in the middle of one thing or another. But, I shall get back to him a little bit later in this article.
With that being said, there is another person in the linkage of this chain of conservatives. His name is Mark Meadows, former White House Chief of Staff to Donald J. Trump and former Republican member of Congress from North Carolina’s 11th district. Both of these titles of Mr. Meadows have placed him in quite an interesting position of being point-man in this see-sawing situation.
Ginni Thomas is not some over-eager, collegiate, campaign volunteer stuffing envelopes, door-knocking, lawn sign posting, and silk-screening t-shirts for the cause. Far from that lowly place, she is at the pinnacle of power; where all that is needed is the right name and right spouse to be granted anything that is sought after.
Days after the election of 2020 to before the inauguration in 2021, a back and forth of text messages numbering 29 was sent from Mrs. Thomas to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, proving one thing was clear; Ginni is a true believer in the labyrinth of ideological extremity. She isn’t even on the same page of working the type of self-aggrandizing grift that Donald Trump is. From jowl of Powell to the esoteric of Eastman, Virginia Lamp Thomas is earnestly all in for countering what she calls President Joseph R. Biden’s election win as ‘the end of liberty’.
Ginni Thomas being a true believer in whatever she believes in wouldn’t mean much to me or any other citizen of the United States of America, if she had remained Virginia Lamp. Yet, she is who she is and her husband just coincidentally happens to be one of nine persons who rule supreme.
The first black Supreme Court Justice was Thurgood Marshall, a legal lion who earned his roar from winning the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case, which desegregated public schools. As civil rights legend Marshall had announced his retirement, many wondered who would possibly be a replacement upon the bench.
“It was in this spirit in 1981 that I joined the Administration as an Assistant Secretary in the Department of Education. I had, initially, declined taking the position of Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights simply because my career was not in civil rights and I had no intention of moving into this area. In fact, I was insulted by the initial contact about the position as well as my current position.”– Clarence Thomas, Chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 1987
Back when Clarence Thomas was nominated and introduced as a nominee for his current position to the American public by President George H.W. Bush on a sunny July day in 1991, little did the majority of us know of the variables which would surface during his confirmation hearing later in that year.
On September 10th, 1991 when the Senate Judiciary Committee (whose chairman was Senator Joseph R. Biden of Delaware) began an average, advise and consent confirmation hearing of reviewing the then Judge Thomas’ rulings over the years, it seemed as plain as vanilla.
Nothing to see here, nothing to cause a rumble or grumble. It was just your mellow tedium of questions and responses over precedents, legal codes, law articles, and judicial philosophy.
By September 27th, 1991, the hearings had come to a successful end, as Thomas was voted out of committee for a full floor vote to a somewhat speedy confirmation for him to become an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Preparing for the final Senate vote on Thomas’ nomination after debating on October 6th, 1991, suddenly everything was set off course for the heralding of a new Supreme Court Justice.
A leaked FBI interview with a former underling of Clarence Thomas when he chaired the EEOC named Anita Hill had been reported by NPR’s Nina Totenberg on October 6th. For the next five days until October 11th, the heat was on the Judiciary Committee to allow the University of Oklahoma Law Professor to testify on the character and fitness of a man who was to be exalted into a job with lifetime tenure.
Quite ironic it became when things turned unpleasant for Clarence Thomas, for although Anita Hill sat at the table giving her testimony about him; there was a shadow which hovered over the hearing room.
Daniel Arthur Mead played a part in how history of that moment in time now hangs in perpetuity for any retelling of the events of those days back in 1991.
Mr. Mead was mentioned only by his unforgettable stage name – Long Dong Silver. Anita Hill’s mentioning of this porn actor whose claim to fame was his above average asset was just part of what she had to deal with in being put-upon by her supervisor at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Clarence Thomas.
Oddly enough of what the EEOC is meant to prevent is not lost on anyone who still shake our heads in disbelief that Thomas wasn’t a protector of women, but more in the mode of a predatory archetype.
Anita Hill’s recollections of Thomas’ pornographic extravaganza of long dongs and amply bosomed women, down to just his creepy come-ons to her, hit a nerve for many women who were in her same position. Yet, even though Clarence Thomas was confirmed by members of the United States Senate, it was her courage and exposure of what kind of character that man actually is which has remained a lasting hallmark of Anita Hill’s heroism to this day.
The lives of Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas intersected in 1981 to 1983, when she was an attorney-adviser to him at the United States Department of Education Office Of Civil Rights and she served as his assistant when he became chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1982.
After exiting her job at the EEOC in 1983, Anita Hill went on to becoming an assistant law professor at Oral Roberts University until 1986 when she became a member of the faculty at the University of Oklahoma’s College of Law.
Professor Hill was dignified and determined to move on from the events she encountered with Clarence Thomas back in the 1980’s, yet a person who had no first-hand knowledge of her life or even his back in 1981 to 1983 decided to ring her up from out of the blue in October 2010. It was good ‘ol Ginni Thomas, who had married Clarence in 1987, leaving Hill a voicemail in requesting her to apologize for the testimony given back in 1991 at the confirmation hearings of her husband. What is funny about that telephone voice-mail message that was left for Anita Hill is that it is based off of what Clarence told his wife about whatever occurred back when he was alone with Anita Hill.
Well, I guess that proves Ginni is a true believer in all sorts of spheres; believing anything told to her from a man she wasn’t even with back in 1981 to 1983, as if he were Moses bringing down the tablets from off the mountain.
You would figure that some cases that are brought before the Supreme Court would be difficult for Judge Clarence Thomas to even touch with a ten foot pole. But, oh no – he goes chin forward without blinking or wondering whether it might make him look bad in the public eye. Public be damned! Decorum be damned!
One example of this is the case of Vance versus Ball State University.
Muncie, Indiana’s Ball State University was sued by Maetta Vance, a server who worked for Ball State University Dining under the catering supervisor, Saundra Davis. Vance contended that Davis made the workplace odious due to physical actions and racial harassment against her.
In a 5-4 ruling of the Supreme Court on June 24th, 2013 of a case involving workplace harassment which ruled in favor of the defendant, Ball State University; it proved once more that the little guy or in this case, little gal seems to always be up against it.
And, guess who was one among the five who voted in the majority against the plaintiff, a woman suing her employer for workplace harassment by a supervisor. Yep, you guessed it – Thom Ass. Oops, I think I worded that wrong. Or, did I? (lol)
“I join the opinion because it provides the narrowest and most workable rule for when an employer may be held vicariously liable for an employee’s harassment. “ – Clarence Thomas, re: Vance v. Ball State University
Odd isn’t it, to see a concurrent opinion of the Vance v. Ball State University decision from the Supreme Court about a rule for employee harassment is written by a man who has his own questionable past with a person when he chairing the EEOC.
Is Clarence just a man of such high morality and unimpeachable virtue that has been misunderstood by so many of us for so many years? Or, is this just a dirty talkin’, ass-grabbin’, long-dong envyin’, big boob admirin’ man? If you want to think, hmm, to each his own, then on the other side of that it means keep them hands to your damn self, grubby grabber.
Yet, first impressions have a way of being set in stone. In the case of associate Justice Thomas, it might be the marble of the Supreme Court where he is ensconced within.
As with the aforementioned dangle of hung Silver in the land of public virtue and private vices, there’s more to be seen of the elephant’s underbelly.
What’s in a name, some might wonder.
In the Republican cage-match otherwise known as “Who Can Be the Most Vile?”, there is one person who is in the running for the title. His name is Representative Madison Cawthorn. And, he is shining star and a thorn all rolled up into one.
“XX chromosomes, no tallywhacker” – Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-North Carolina
And, to think the man who followed in the tracks of Mark Meadows in representing the people of the 11th District of North Carolina is the same man who has such a way with words. I guess you could say Representative Madison Cawthorn is on a roll with letting it all hang out.
Speaking of which, Cawthorn’s big mouth has a way of getting his hand spanked by House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and defended in a nice, long stroke by a man who knows of dirty deeds first-hand.
Referencing of ‘first-hand’ and ‘tallywhackers’ – wow, the elephant’s underbelly definitely continues to be stroked mighty well and mighty hard. Ha! Ha!!
The GOP and cocaine orgies? Oh, Madison, make them clutch their pearls in hearing their dirty little secrets being revealed by you. McCarthy dismisses you, not because what you say. But, the fact that you said what you said for public consumption. Now, just the opposite you get defended by Roger Stone.
“And I can see why Washington elites would now be scrambling to try to deny it because maybe the voters back home won’t like what they’re hearing.”- Roger Stone
Oh yes, that same Roger Stone, who’s dirty tricks and dirty deeds go back many a year. Having described himself as ‘try-sexual', raunchy Roger knows of what he speaks when he stands up in defense of Rep. Madison Cawthorn. Using pseudonyms of “Swash Buckler” and “Nikki”, the adventurous Stones have been a couple of extraordinarily friendly and social beings in havens far from the pristine crowd.
Snark-Boy Rep. Cawthorn isn’t alone on the crazy train of blabbering when he talks about coke orgies, as Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene tosses and stirs in some unappetizing words into the political pot also.
With fervor in her voice, trying to earn some political brownie points from the whacked-out right wing, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene spouts off in defense of some of the January 6th capitol rioters. Calling the jail where they are being detained a ‘gulag’, she attacked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over ‘gazpacho police’. No, you are not reading the wrong word. This is the word that came out her mouth. She said it and didn’t try to correct herself or even possibly stop the recording and then re-record what she wanted to say.
With both of these blockheads, one thing is for sure; if you say something with vigor and a sense of righteousness, then by God, it has to be held upward on the side of the angels. Ya’ both are lying like vipers in the pit; but, hey you guys keep on saying stuff over and over again. And, maybe just maybe you’ll believe your own hype one day. For now, ya’ll just keep thrashing your tallywhacker and swimming in your soup.
Right among the conspiracy cacklers and disuniting schemers is Ginni Thomas, who has an ace up her sleeve to be on the side of what she considers righteous. As the wife of a Supreme Court Justice, she needn’t have to tell her husband of her wishes and wants, for each knows the other’s heart.
With the loose ends of court cases involving that which happened before, during and after the election of 2020 making their way up through the courts of appeals and making the final landing before the Supreme Court of the United States of America, anyone who has a spouse that has a vested interest in the ruling of a case should step aside and let the other judges do the judging.
In a time where the American system of democracy has never been before, as an overturning of an election and systematic coup is too close to being fulfilled; there must be a rejoinder. And, even the rarified bubble in which the members of the Supreme Court exist must be pierced and a code of ethics needs be implemented.
All other levels of the judiciary have a list of standards for conduct for the men and women who sit upon the bench. Yet, the Supremes get to just make up their own rules as they see fit.
Being blunt, it is as if some of the justices who sit on that bench exemplify the RDA principle of ‘rules don’t apply’; just for the sake of because they can. They sit up there in their robes of black and act like their decisions that affect each and every person in this country are handed down from a Celestial plain. Yet, they are above it, for they need never live under the same standards, laws, regulations or coda that the rest of us have to.
But, in the end, when they are addressed by any of us common folk, they are bestowed a title before their surnames are mentioned – Justice.
Thus, Justice Clarence Thomas goes on grinning with a (cow) chip on his shoulder and gravitas because of his point of position.
Alas, as Thomas prepares to slide back onto the bench at the Supreme Court, he will have a new colleague before the new session begins. She is associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first black women on the bench of nine.
During her Senate confirmation hearing, the then Judge Brown Jackson was asked about recusal in an upcoming case that would be before the Supreme Court, involving affirmative action admissions policy at Harvard from where she is a graduate of.
Without hesitation or playing a game of weasel-words in answering this question from Texas’ tacky n’ trollin’ Senator Ted Cruz, this forthright woman said she would recuse herself.
Now, the balls of his wife’s conspiracies, contradictions, and cravenness are in Clarence’s court, to show how stand-up or stand-above (the rest of us) he actually is.
I guess you could say her jewels of favor are in his hands. Or, maybe it’s his jewels of favor that are in her hands? Yeah, that’s the ticket. It’s all about friendship.
“My wife Virginia, my best friend in the world” – The Honorable Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice of The United States Supreme Court
Lucky by confirmation’s fateful thumbs up, a man of dubious honesty is granted an imprimatur of being honorable.
Will Justice Thomas set himself on a perch of propriety and judiciously stand on the side of recusal or, will he flip us the bird in the same fashion his late colleague, associate Justice Antonin Scalia did back in 2004, when giving a mocking retort during a conflict of interest dust-up over a case involving his duck-hunting buddy and then vice-President Dick Cheney’s role in the George W. Bush administration’s Energy Task Force policy. Never a shrinking violet, Scalia rubbed salt into the wound of those calling for his recusal of the case with a pithy quip of the following pair of words – “Quack, quack”.
A roadrunner may catch the worm, but an appearance of conflicted interest can’t make a person who thinks any sort of rules don’t apply to himself squirm.
If past is prologue, good ‘ol Clarence will take the road of the long dong or the dirty bird, and so-called equal justice shall be bastardized and splat downward from up where he and his ‘best friend’ Ginni soar.
Thinking about this cuckooing (or, coup-coup-ing) couple brings an apt lyric from the magnificent Cole Porter to my mischievous mind:
“If you’re ever in a jam, here I am
If you’re ever in a mess, S-O-S
If you ever feel so happy, you land in jail, I’m your bail.
It’s friendship, friendship, just a perfect blendship.
When other friendships have been forgot,
Ours will still be hot.” – “Friendship”, words and music by Cole Porter, 1939
“When the fringe becomes normal and normal becomes the fringe; it is sanity to all that it shall hinge.” – A.H. Scott
“True Believers and Tallywhackers (The Elephant’s Underbelly)” – The Footnotes:
1) –“Ginni Thomas Reportedly Pressed Trump’s Chief of Staff on Overturning the Election” – NPR
2) –“The Real Ginni Thomas Revelation” – Vox
3) –“Why Black Americans Should Look At Conservative Policies” – The Heritage Foundation
4) –“Justice Thomas’ Wife Asks Anita Hill To Apologize” – NPR
5) –“Score One More for the Corporations” – US News
6) –“Do You Believe Her Now?” – New York Magazine
7) –’Science Isn’t Burger King,’ Rep. Cawthorn Says In House Floor Speech” – WNCN-TV, CBS affiliate, North Carolina
8) –“Party That Excused Rioters Smearing Human Sh*t On the Walls Of The Capitol Draws The Line At Cocaine And Orgy Allegations” – Vanity Fair
9) –“Roger Stone Defends Madison Cawthorn, Claims Orgies and Drug Abuse Not Uncommon in DC
10) –“Inside Roger Stone’s Swinging Marriage” – Daily Mail
11) –“Marjorie Taylor Greene Confuses Soup with Hitler’s Secret Police in Viral Rant” – CNN
12) –“‘No tallywhacker,’ North Carolina Rep. Cawthorn Says In House Floor Speech On Definition Of Woman” – WBTW
13) –“Supreme Court Nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson ’92 Pledges to Recuse Herself From Harvard Affirmative Action Case” – Harvard Crimson
14) –“Character – A Speech Delivered by Justice Clarence Thomas, February 1, 1998” – The Heritage Foundation
15) –“Scalia Rejects Pleas For Recusal In Cheney Case” – The Washington Post
16) –“Du Barry Was A Lady” – Internet Broadway Database
About The Author: A.H. Scott is a poet based in New York City and frequent contributor to Tony Ward Studio. To read additional articles by Ms. Scott, go here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/everlast-putins-war/
A.H. Scott’s book: Bad Guys Finish Fast & Good Guys Finish Last is available on Amazon!
Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2022
I urge anyone who believes that our American justice system works to get a copy of the November/December DISCOVER magazine. On page 40 you will find an article with the same title as this post. Basically, the article says that real scientists have found that ‘forensic science’ is largely hogwash – to put it politely.
The article talks about Keith Harward, who spent 33 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, convicted with junk science. In his case an ‘expert’ testified that Harward’s bite marks matched those on a rape and murder victim. After 33 years, the Innocence Project had DNA testing done that showed Harward was innocent and pointed the finger at another man. But it should never have taken 33 years. Is that justice? Bite mark comparison has now been completely discredited as evidence.
If you watch CSI and NCIS on TV, you get the impression that their techniques are infallible. But that simply is not true. The Innocence Project documented 25 false convictions based on bite mark comparison. There are probably many more.
What about fingerprints? Aren’t they conclusive? In one case, examiners matched the fingerprints of an unidentified corpse with those of a woman whose prints were on file, and notified her mother of her death. The mother grieved and prepared for a funeral. Luckily, the woman turned up in California before her funeral. The fingerprint match was just wrong!
The FBI arrested Brandon Mayfield for involvement in the 2004 Madrid train bombing that killed 191 people. The arrest was based on fingerprints found on an explosive-filled bag at the scene of the explosion.
Fortunately for him, Mayfield had not been out of the country in ten years and could prove it. But the FBI had said the fingerprint match was “100 percent” and “verified,” before having to eat their words and release Mayfield.
Scientists showed fingerprint analysts pairs of prints they’d testified were 100 percent matches without telling them they’d seen the prints before. Most of the examiners said the prints didn’t match or were inconclusive! That was 15 years ago, and every study done since has produced similar results.
There’s much more, and I urge everyone concerned with justice to read the article.
Hundreds of people are in American prisons based on false forensic testimony, and I am one of them. It is long past time that something is done about this travesty.
About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author, former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine and veteran contributor to this blog. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. He is serving the 13th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read additional articles by Bob Shell, click here:https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/bob-shell-hes-different-lock-him-up/
Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on Amazon.com . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on Amazon.com. Here’s the link:
Poetry by A.H. Scott, Copyright 2022
About The Author: A.H. Scott is a poet based in New York City and frequent contributor to Tony Ward Studio. To read additional articles by Ms. Scott, go here:https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/circus-magamus/
A.H. Scott’s book: Bad Guys Finish Fast & Good Guys Finish Last is available on Amazon!
Ted Kawalerski: Interview
TW: Let’s start from the beginning. You graduated from a jesuit college in Buffalo, New York with a degree in English. What drew you to major in English early on in life?
TK: I graduated from Canisius College in Buffalo, NY in 1970 and I received a BA in English. At this point in my life, I had no idea what my career path would be but my main skill set was writing, so English was the obvious choice for a degree. I was also a voracious reader.
TW: After graduating from college you were drafted into the Army? What were some of the highlights/lowlights of enlisting?
TK: After graduating from Canisius I was drafted into the Army and I ultimately did a tour in West Berlin, Germany. This period of time changed my whole life. Living overseas was an incredible experience since I had never been abroad. I immediately related to the German people and I also met incredible people in the Army.
TW: When you served in the armed forces what led you to your early interest in Photography?
TK: There are two factors that brought me into the world of photography. The military base that I was living in had an incredible photo facility which had state of the art film processing stations and darkrooms. The German civilian who ran the place was an amazing photographer and he loved to teach people the technical basics. Above all, he was inspirational but brutally honest when he looked at my pictures.
My girlfriend had friends who worked in various advertising agencies. They supported my journey into photography and provide valuable and critical advice.
TW: When did you decide you wanted to become a professional photographer?
TK: By the end of my tour in West Berlin, I decided to pursue a photography career. When I returned home to Buffalo, NY I intended to spend some time with my family and then head to NYC. However, I had an opportunity to work at an incredible studio, Greenburgh-May Productions. This where I really learned the business of commercial photography. I worked in formats from 8X10 down to 35mm and this experience convinced me that I was never going to pursue still life photography. I did plenty of that and I never enjoyed the process. There were four photographers in the studio and I ultimately did the small format location work that primarily involved people on location.
TW: You started your career in Rochester, New York and made a decisive decision to move closer to Manhattan in the early eighties. What prompted you to make the move?
TK: After working in Buffalo, I was married and moved to Rochester, NY because my former wife was doing graduate work at RIT and teaching art in high school. For a brief time I worked in another studio but shortly thereafter, I started my own business. I did primarily location lifestyle work and I started shooting for corporate annual reports. At this point in time this was very high level work, both in terms of quality and fees. After a few years we moved to Sleepy Hollow, NY which is only about twenty-file miles from midtown Manhattan. With two small kids, we didn’t want to live in the city. After a divorce, I continued to live here because the location is perfect for what I do. I can be in Manhattan, New Jersey and Connecticut on short notice and I am centrally located to all of the metro NY airports. When I moved it was much more important to be in New York than it is now. Many agencies and design firms wouldn’t take you seriously if you were not working out of a major city. I wound up commuting to New York so it was time to move.
TW: With decades of experience beginning in the 1970’s and enjoying huge success in the field, how would you compare the business of photography before the turn of the century to what it is now, early in the 21st?
TK: This business is completely different today than it was when I began working as a photographer. The number of photographers has increased dramatically so obviously the competition is much more intense. Art directors in advertising agencies used to hire photographers directly but now, art buyers do that. So there is another layer to deal with and the bottom line price has become much more important. Design firms directly hire photographers but they are under constant pressure to keep costs down and photographers that I know have not raised fees in 10-15 years. A problem for photographers that specialize in corporate work is that , in my view, many people in corporations that hire them have no clue about the process. The importance of Marketing / Communication departments has seriously declined over the years. At one time, these departments were run by Senior VP’s that answered directly to the CEO. Now they could be run by an unrelated department. As a result, people that are in charge of projects, very often, do not know what they are doing.
TW: For years you were at the top of the field creating still photographs for corporate America. What made you switch to motion picture production?
TK: The demand for high level corporate photography has been steadily diminishing over the last fifteen years. So, ten years ago, while having lunch in Manhattan with a friend of mine, I made the split second decision to start a small film production company. I had been thinking about doing this for several months and at that moment I felt inspired.
I contacted Matt Stanton who had recently graduated from college and had been making films since he was twelve years old. He was also a very experienced editor. We started to make a few demos and shortly thereafter, Gene Mayer came on board. Gene is a fantastic graphic designer and in a different life, he was a client. He is the producer, art director and designer.
When I worked in Buffalo, in addition to shooting stills, we were shooting television commercials and I would periodically work as an assistant director. I would occasionally be tempted to pursue filmmaking but, at that time, making films was more complicated and required more people. Today, with digital cinema cameras and digital editing, you are much more self empowered. I was absolutely ready for a change.
TW: What was the best assignment you ever had?
TK: The one shooting assignment that stands out was for Liberty Mutual. This was literally an around the world project. NY>Madrid>Istanbul>Rome>Hong Kong>Ho Chi Minh City>Santiago>NY. I was doing environmental / situational portraits of various Liberty Mutual employees. Since this assignment came down just as we were beginning the film / video business, I was also shooting video (without charging the client) to be able to put together a small film for our reel. My client loved the piece, but because Liberty Mutual’s in house production company didn’t do it, they didn’t use it. This is just another example of corporate bullshit.
TW: What would you advise the young photographer trying to make a career in the field of photography whether it be fine arts or commercial photography?
TK: If a young person is interested in pursuing photography as a career and wants to study in a university or college, I would recommend majoring in Graphic Design and Art History. In addition, of course, the student should take photography courses as a minor. A professional photographer routinely interacts with art directors and graphic designers and by understanding their workflow you are enabling a much smoother relationship. Furthermore, and more importantly, one has to develop a sense of style and composition. By studying Graphic Design, you start to understand the relationships of elements in a frame.
Studying Art History – all types of art including photography – gives one a sense of what has been perceived and recognized as “Art” – good and bad. It’s important to absorb as much as possible in order to start to develop one’s own sensibilities without imitating specific genres.
If someone wants to pursue a career in commercial photography, it is extremely important to work for an established photographer that does the kind of assignments that you would like to be doing. By working as an assistant, you learn the real world workings of professional photography. This is the motherload of technical training and business practices. This is why I do not recommend Photography as a major. I have seen too many people come out of school absolutely clueless.
I have also seen people that have never had higher education become extremely successful photographers and cinematographers, We just started working with a filmmaker that quit school when he was fifteen years old. When you speak with him, you would think that he has an advanced degree. He was a big time skateboarder in Florida and he began making videos of himself and other skateboarders. He sold them to skateboarding websites and eventually expanded into other types of filmmaking. He taught himself Adobe Premier and he does all of his own editing. This led him to work for the UN where he established himself as a documentary cinematographer.
TW: At age 73, do you love photography as much as you did when you first started learning the craft?
TK: Even though I’m not shooting very many still assignments now, I love photography more than I ever did because I am totally absorbed in my personal projects. I have been working on three different projects simultaneously. Since I live on the Hudson River and I really love the diversity of the entire length of the river, I started a black and white project twenty years ago: Top to Bottom – The Hudson River. There have been two shows and I intend to do a book. I have photographed people and places along the entire length of the Hudson River from the headwaters in the Adirondacks at Lake Tear of the Clouds all the way down to Manhattan. I periodically add new images to the collection.
Another project that I have been working on is Windows which I started shooting while traveling on assignments. I was interested in images that were reflected in windows and images that were seen in and out of windows. I knew that this idea has been portrayed frequently in photography and paintings so it’s been challenging to make pictures that I haven’t seen before. I have been throwing out many more images than the ones that I have kept. I had a show of this work at a gallery in New York about ten years ago and after reflecting on the collection, I realized that there were too many fillers. I have recently been revitalized about this work and I am making 40”X60” prints of about twelve pictures that I edited down from about thirty.
Landscapes 4060 is the third body of work that I am currently printing. I have found that this work is the most difficult to produce. I rarely make a picture that I keep. We are inundated with wide angle photos of the Grand Canyon at sunset and others like it and it’s easy to fall into the trap. After many years, I have fifteen images that work. In general, I have been brutal in the editing process. This pertains to all of my work.
REEL: Cork Factory Films & Communications, NY.
To access Ted Kawalerski’s website, click here: https://corkfactoryfilms.com