Back Cover StoryI had lots of ideas for the back cover but at the end of the day, I wanted to do a classical author photo like they do on hardcover books. I was inspired by the back cover of Howard Stern’s book Private Parts where he is pictured in an antique chair, smoking a pipe, with a hot chick leaning over to display her ample cleavage. I thought that picture was cute, but it wasn’t great. I like the idea of a regular guy putting on the guise of a serious author when the work that they have created is so non-literary.
My friend, co-worker and super-photographer Garett had an idea where I would wear a skeevy overcoat with my arm outstretched, like a street hustler trying to move some stolen watches. Instead of watches, I would add all of my other products on the inside of my overcoat, like buying something from me would be a sleazy transaction. I thought it would look fake and silly, so I thought of this instead.
I decided to sit with all of my stuff and smoke some weed. I actually don’t like bongs and bought the one in the picture more as a prop than anything else. I had it in my head that a purple glass bong would photograph really well but when I went to buy it in a head shop on 8th Street, the glass bongs were really expensive. It just wasn’t worth it to me, so I found a more reasonably priced one in plastic and decorated it with ladybug stickers that my wife uses when she leaves me sweet notes.
The hardest thing about doing this was that in order to capture the mood and lighting, Garett needed to leave the shutter open for a long time. That meant that I had to make some kind of pose and hold it for a few seconds. Both the front and back covers were shot with a Nikon D100 digital camera and about two weeks after we shot it, Garett got the Nikon D1X, which for any photo nerds out there is a like going from a cheap Honda to a fully equipped Lexus. Most of the pictures that were taken were immediately deleted because I couldn’t sit still and the longer I sat there smoking, the harder it got for me to hold a pose. Garett did a good job getting me to focus and sit still and I think the pictures are all interesting.
I brought a mock-up of the cover on photo paper and we used double-sided tape to affix it to some classical old book that Garett had. There was no position I could find where you could see the cover and I didn’t look retarded. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the book idea was stupid and I gave up on it.
This is the final version of the back cover, color corrected and heavily tweaked for lighting and effects. The flame is actually 100% real and is the result of a long exposure, not trickery. The smoke coming out of the top of the bong is real, too. The only thing I faked was the wisp of smoke coming out of the bong. My wife gave me a pen that lights up in a cool neon blue and I put it in the bottom of the bong to light it from within. After smoking and taking pictures for forty-five minutes, I was really stoned and the pen was covered with a sticky resin. I also decided to remove the art from the T-shirt that was hanging on the chair because I only have 6 left.
Web Bonus Info:Some day I will make all of the cover props I’ve used available, either via an auction on eBay or as a prize in a contest. Or my wife will make me throw all of it away. I still have the charred remains of the first flag that we burned, signed in ink by me, Peter & Garett while it was still warm. I also have the bong from the back cover, the mutilated Rosie O’Donnell doll from NegCap #2 (it still speaks sometimes, but she now is suffocating in a garbage bag in the back of my closet, that fat bitch!) and many other props and items that I have used in the production of Negative Capability.