I shall call it Cletus.

Outtakes - Jonathan Macken, for Seattle Metropolitan magazine. © Ryan Schierling

I have a photograph in the November issue of Seattle Metropolitan ("I Shall Call It Cletus") of Jonathan Macken, a hardcore gamer that took vacation time from work to coincide with the release of the revolutionary/evolutionary computer game Spore. Although his work hiatus ended a bit earlier than he would have liked, I was still able to spend a bit of time with Macken, observing his progress/process at a game described as "Sim everything," including this time-lapse sequence of two-and-a-half days of play that may as well be a Coke Zero advertisement.

Thanks to Macken and writer Emily White, as well as Seattle Met's Chris MacManus. 


"Oh Lord, bless this thy hand grenade, that with it thou mayst blow thine enemies to tiny bits, in thy mercy." And the Lord did grin.

Brother Maynard, the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, and the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog. © Ryan Schierling

We celebrate two holidays here pretty religiously. Every fourth of July, we invite everyone we know over and we eat and drink and make some serious merry. Last year's Independence Day celebration included every type of hot dog you can imagine, and every type of condiment to go along with it. If you wanted a proper Chicago dog with sport peppers and neon green relish, you were in luck (right down to the homemade poppy seed-flecked buns). If you wanted that crazy sweet onion tomato-based topping that you can only find on a New York dog, we had it. Slaw dogs, chili dogs, perros caliente or a Chehalis Cor-Dog Bleu. We don't mess around.

And when it comes to Halloween costume parties, we're of the same mind.

This year will be the fifth annual Ghetto Melrose Halloween Party – the kind of party where folks begin planning their costume for the next year when they're swerving out the door and catching a cab at 3 a.m. 

We've had celebrities (Britney Spears, Drew Carey and Mimi, Clint Eastwood w/ "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" theme music), we've had politicians (California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, President Martin van Buren), movie heroes and villains (The Rocketeer, Jedi knights, Foxy Brown, Jay and Silent Bob, the rabbit from Monty Python's Holy Grail) and we've had some serious oddities (Dimebag Darrell, a Netflix DVD and mailing envelope, the greasy mechanic played by Billy Bob Thornton in "U-Turn").

And how often do you see a photographer in full ice hockey gear (including skates) shooting portraits? 

(Granted, I had to drop the gloves to do it.)

It's a grand time, and we wouldn't have it any other way.

(Clockwise from top left) Britney Spears and paparazzi. Nick Nolte. Mimi and Drew Carey. Aztec priestess. © Ryan Schierling


Pan Cubano.

(Left) The bread-making process. (Right) Cuban sandwich w/ ham, slow-cooked pork, swiss cheese, pickles and mustard, pressed between hot cast iron skillets. © Ryan Schierling

With all of my posts from the "Ugly Food" series, I figured it was time for a palate cleanser of sorts. Something a little prettier.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, there are quite a few demographics that are woefully under-represented when it comes to cuisine. We're about as far away as you can get (geographically and culinarily) from Cuban food, and there's only one restaurant that I know of in Seattle that can make a proper Cuban sandwich. (Don't even get me started on the dearth of Mexican restaurants around here - I think it's half the reason Wm. A. jumped ship for L.A.)

I suppose I could have just stopped at Paseo, but being an adventurous (read as: occasionally impulsive and foolish) sort, I decided to make Pan Cubano. 

So, while the pork shoulder was slow-cooking in a mixture of onions, garlic, apple juice and hot sauce, I demolished the kitchen by making bread. At the end of the day, I had more fresh bread and pork than I knew what to do with – and I couldn't possibly eat any more Cuban sandwiches – so friends and neighbors were fed as well.


Imposter cheese.

Imitation cheese (w/ ink transfer from wrapper), from the "Ugly Food" series. © Ryan Schierling

Pasteurized process cheese product has a very low milk solid content, but there is still dairy in the cheese. Imitation, or analog cheese, uses vegetable oils instead of milk solids. The absence of dairy product makes imitation cheese inexpensive to produce, so it's affordable (16 slices for $1), and the shelf life is about six months. 

The only problem is that it has no actual nutritional value.


Salting the earth.

Small fries for $1, two fancy ketchup/catsup packets for free. From the "Ugly Food" series. © Ryan Schierling

Did you know that two ketchup packets have more sodium in them than an entire McDonald's small size order of fries? 


The King vs. The Clown.

Burger King bag; two sandwiches, deconstructed, from the McDonald's dollar menu. From the "Ugly Food" series. © Ryan Schierling


Limited palette, limited palate.

Spaghetti-O, pair from the "Ugly Food" series. © Ryan Schierling

What can you eat for one dollar?

Ingredients: water, tomato puree, tomato paste, enriched macaroni product (wheat flour, niacin, ferrous sulfate, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid, high fructose corn syrup, salt), enzyme modified cheddar cheese (milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes, water, disodium phosphate), vegetable oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil, soybean oil, enzyme modified butter, oleoresin, paprika, spice extract, citric acid, nonfat dry milk.


The lowest common denominator.

Spaghetti and Meatballs. © Ryan Schierling

Recently, I decided to revisit a project I started a few years ago called "Ugly Food."

Originally, the concept was a lowbrow response to overly fastidious food and equally fussy food photography. I mean, I cook like mad but I can only look at so many shallow depth of field photos of roast rack of rabbit with ramps and radicchio. It's an easy way to shoot pretty food (and I've done it too) but, I mean, it's the same kind of formula as using a 400mm f/2.8 lens for shooting sports – you open it up to get the nice background blur, point it in the right direction and lean on the shutter. 

So, I shot a series that had to do with some of the messiest food ever – barbecue – and believe me, none of it was pretty. Let's just say that Saveur and Bon Appetit and some of the other glossy food porn magazines weren't breaking my door down to get those nasty shots. (Although NAMPLA* (the North American Man Pork Love Association) keeps inviting me back to their annual barbecue year after year...)

This time around, since the economy is a little, shall we say, depressed, I wanted to focus on photographing bargain basement super-cheap fare – specifically, pre-processed, packaged comestibles and fast food that anyone can eat for one single solitary dollar. Which, almost by virtue of being inexpensive and incredibly low quality, are ugly. Not pretty food. No way.

The first series of large prints are tv dinners, the kind you probably used to love as a kid but wouldn't be caught dead buying nowadays. 

They don't exactly look like the pictures on the fronts of the boxes. 

But, that's the idea – to frame them as aseptic and nearly flavorless (albeit colorful) combinations of miscellaneous protein, starch and vegetable that are deceptively plumped with saturated fat, have ridiculous levels of sodium and are chock-full of chemical additives and preservatives, and yet, are still considered a "value."

More soon.

*As far as I know, there is no such organization. But there should be.

Glamour shots. © Ryan Schierling


Gavin Rossdale.

For Seattle Metropolitan magazine. © Ryan Schierling


Life imitates art.

Rubbernecking a stock market plunge. © Ryan Schierling

"Well, ladies and gentlemen, we're not here to indulge in fantasy, but in political and economic reality. America, America has become a second-rate power. Its trade deficit and its fiscal deficit are at nightmare proportions. Now, in the days of the free market when our country was a top industrial power, there was accountability to the stockholder. The Carnegies, The Mellons, the men that built this great industrial empire, made sure of it because it was their money at stake.

Today, management has no stake in the company! All together, these men sitting up here own less than three percent of the company. And where does Mr. Cromwell put his million-dollar salary? Not in Teldar stock; he owns less than one percent. You own the company. That's right, you, the stockholder. And you are all being royally screwed over by these, these bureaucrats, with their luncheons, their hunting and fishing trips, their corporate jets and golden parachutes." 

– Gordon Gekko, Wall Street, 1987.