Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Photography in Prague

Okay, enough about horsemeat, Elvis impersonation and alien abductions. No, waitaminit, that last one wasn't mine...

I've recently been thinking about the types of photography I do to make a living vs. what I do for 'art' or 'personal satisfaction.' My main income is derived through wedding photography, portraits and photojournalism in Prague and Central Europe. I also like to troll through the countryside snapping pics of castles and castle ruins. That would qualify as the non-paid part of my photography. But I also get personal satisfaction out of every picture I take.

For the longest time I had this notion that I had to separate the 'commercial' from the 'artistic.' I suppose this idea was instilled in me early in life; perhaps it was my upbringing in middle class America, where everybody hates their work and seeks personal fulfillment through either hobbies or chemical substances. I maintained that as a photographer I would never 'sell out', 'go commercial' or some other such crazy notion.

But I really love photography. All of it. Every job, every situation, every type of work that has come my way. And photography has taken me in the strangest directions. Last weekend I was caught up in the middle of one of those British stag group parties in Prague--aka 'the Big Prague Piss Up.' I was hired to document the occasion of a stag party. I was thinking to myself how I could make something artistic out of something so, well, blatantly hedonistic. This past week I have also been simultaneously working on a document of a Czech-American family, their roots, ancestral homes, etc. On Saturday I was taking portraits of senior citizens sipping coffee surrounded by antique furniture. On Saturday night I was taking pictures of a stag hanging out of the top of a stretch limousine with an inflatable sheep in one hand and a champagne bottle in the other. Quite a contrast.

I'd like to post some of the photos I've been taking to illustrate, but the hungover and apologetic stags told me not to do so, in no uncertain terms. I suppose they have bosses, wives or girlfriends who might frown upon the staggering stags and their hedonistic persuits. In future blogs (between slices of Prague life and general ramblings) I'll post some of my documentary photos (including the Czech family portraits). Maybe I'll even risk putting up a stag photo or two. I could put those black bars over the eyes of the inflatable sheep to protect the innocent...

Thursday, November 10, 2005


Look, it was an honest mistake. I assure you I am in SHOCK. Who would have thought that modern Europeans would put HORSE MEAT IN THEIR FREAKING SAUSAGES?

I should know better. It's not their fault. I mean, I spent 10 years as a vegetarian, scrutinizing labels to make sure no piece of flesh would accidentally slide down my gullet. So why didn't I notice before that the package of smoked sausage contained MR. ED?

I moved to Prague years ago and maintained my vegetarian diet for a couple of years. Then I started feeling weak all the time. This is a meat eating country. I was living on fried cheese. I became a meat eater. I had to. First it was chicken. Then ham. Then all other pork items.

The Czechs eat a helluva lot of pork washed down with beer. In fact, I ordered something called a 'stuffed pork pocket' at a restaurant the other day. It was a grilled pork steak stuffed with ham, bacon and cheese. They REALLY like the pork here, okay?

But what gives? I was comparing prices on smoked sausages at the market, wondering why the ones I had bought a few times before were so much cheaper than the ones I was contemplating buying. So I compared the two side by side. One was about 3 bucks for two. The other pair, which I had bought and consumed several times, was only a buck and a half for two. I read the labels: THE CHEAPER ONES CONTAINED HORSE MEAT.


There it was below the harmless 'veprove maso' (pork meat), a few rows down below the fillers and additives: 'konske maso'. Kone is horse. Maso is meat. Do the math.

And I was wondering why I was getting the 'trots' at least once a week in the past months.


Saturday, November 05, 2005

A hunka burnin' karaoke love

Okay, I'll fess up: I'm an Elvis Impersonator.

This isn't something I'm ashamed of. It's not a 12 step program ala 'Hi. My name is Craig. I dress up as Elvis.' Nothing of the sort. I just didn't want to scare you.

The fact is, I'm missing karaoke right about now. Normally on Friday nights around midnight I'd be getting my Elvis freak on. But the clubs the kj and myself normally play are on hiatus, on vacation, or just overtaken by those Limey hooligans I mentioned earlier in my blog. I host karaoke with my kj friend and partner in karaoke krime, Killer Karaoke Ken, the KJ with the AK, the Master of Disaster, etc, etc. I dress as Elvis. He dresses as a gas station attendant. Together we rock the karaoke universe as it is known in Prague, Czech Republic. I am known by the karaoke alias 'Melvis.'

It all started in 1994 as a gas, a goof, a bit o' the old fun in a London bar. Why not? I was in kollege and krazy, my first trip abroad, and most of the kids in the bar were singing with me. I sang Frank. I sang other things. But I didn't yet sing The Elvis. Karaoke is a long and winding road.

Years and yards of custom tailored polyester white jumpsuit later, I kroon on the karaoke stage in Prague clubs. Sometimes they cheer for me. Other times they call me names (well, they're mostly those Limey piss up hooligans, whaddaya want from inbred Island Monkeys?). But I get into the jumpsuit and I get caught in a trap, I can't walk out, because I love karaoke, baby. Sometimes middle aged couples who actually remember The King get up and dance. Sometimes the younguns get up and shake their booties to the radical swing of my Melvic region. I've even been on stage twice at the Czech karaoke championships held in Prague. The first year I was 4th place. This year I was a close 2nd. Hey, the suit only gets you so far in the kutthroat kompetition of karaoke life.

I chose the white jump suit because I admire the Viva Las Vegas Elvis. The Vegas Elvis is probably a metaphor for the American idol in decadent decline or something. Not for me. I just happen to be closer in appearance to the the bloated greasy dude in the jumpsuit than to the young pompadour in tight leather.

Once I rode a tram through Prague all the way from the airport dressed as Elvis. I had an interview there with some karaoke kids. On the hour long ride back nobody even bat an eye at me. Most Czechs on the tram are taciturn and grumpy even in the face of absurdly dressed people. I managed to plop myself down next to a nun on the Prague Metro. She seemed a bit put off. Maybe my white costume and rhinestones clashed with her black robes and rosary. I'll never know. Maybe she hasn't had the divine pleasure and the very religious experience of singing karaoke. How sad for the poor sister.

Karaoke in Prague: www.karaokeaddicts.com

Karaoke film: 'Duets' (Gwyneth Paltrow, etc. All actors sing in their own voices):


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Flix for the Eye People

I'm pretty excited today: I finally found a copy of the most beautiful film ever committed to celluloid--'Wings of Desire (der Himmel uber Berlin).' It has always been one of my favorite films--largely because of it's cinematography, atmosphere and mood. I'm not going to launch into a film review here, mainly because films are largely subjective.

Needless to say: it is a strongly visual film. It is shot in black and white. It screams 'ZEITGEIST!' loud enough to make you want to look up the word. And I finally found it in Prague. It can be ordered online in 'the West' on Amazon or whatever, but sadly it's hard to find in Prague.

I managed to find a copy in a small arty dvd rental outlet next to a popular Prague disco (Radost FX). Not that I'd ever go to a freaking DISCO.

I'm not feeling particularly verbose this evening, so I'll cut this blog short. In the future you can expect some shtuff with themes/titles like this:

- ‘everyone should impersonate Elvis at least once in life’

- the weird, wild, wacky world of filmmaking in Prague

- erasing communism: fruity-colored panelaks, malls built over socialist statues, etc.

- how to convert a gray soviet housing block into a luxury high rise apartment block; or ‘you can frost a turd and call it a wedding cake…’

And I'll probably post a link to a Czech-English dictionary for the occasional Czech word that slips out of my blogging mouth.

See you next post..................praguelodyte