I'm a photographer and writer for a Seattle alt-weekly run by Dan Savage called The Stranger. What do you need to know about me? My photos have been published in national music mags and I’ve had a couple solo shows: “One Hundred Balls” showcased the nutsacks of my dude friends, and “BOYS” displayed, um, the full bodies of my dude friends.
My day job takes me on assignment all over the city to shoot drunks, bands, food, news, and more. I can't describe how much I love this place. I’m originally from Detroit and although I’ve lived in Seattle for 16 years, there are some aspects of NW living I wish someone would’ve given me the heads up about. These are 12 small things I think everyone ought to know about my hometown.
The only thing worse than 183 days without a lick of sunshine is the guy who’s constantly reminding you that it has been 183 days without a lick of sunshine. Get over it, dude. WE KNOW. Yammering on about the rain is boring. Oh, hey, maybe you’d enjoy the weather in Florida!
Mount Rainier – a massive volcano that was called “Talol” or “Tahoma” by the Native Americans up until Admiral Peter Rainier and his buddy Captain George Vancouver decided differently – is always “out.” I look for it several times a day from different vantage points around Seattle. It’s like searching for the familiar face of a family member.
Forget all the coffee and the fish throwing at Pike Place Market, this is Weed Town, USA. I don't smoke much, but when I do, I try to go to one of our many (gorgeous) city parks. And at least if you see something really weird when you're stoned there, it’s generally Mother Nature inspired.
Each week I try to find a different subject – someone who’s having way more fun than anyone else. I took this photo at Pony, my favorite bar in Seattle. The place is usually filled with hot punk rock gay boys. The walls are covered in vintage porn magazine pictures, and there’s a stripper pole and a glory hole here. This photo doesn't necessarily represent a typical Pony patron, but it does champion the fact that you never know what you’re going to see when you walk through the front door.
I've lived in Capitol Hill for almost two decades. The Hill has more bars, clubs, restaurants, and street action than anywhere else within the city limits. People flock here – straight, gay, whoever, and whatever. If you love ALL KINDS of people, you live in this neighborhood.
Capitol Hill doesn't have much late night street food except for hot dogs. Being from the Midwest, it feels weird to pay more than $5 for a hot dog. I'd rather eat a Narwhal Ball from Unicorn. They're made of Swiss cheese, mashed potatoes, and mayo. They’re pure fried delicious-ness. There are also veggie corn dogs and a deep-fried hamburger that lives inside an elephant ear. Unicorn will fry anything you want. Owner Adam Heimstadt told me they once deep-fried the cell phone of a customer's ex-girlfriend.
Sometimes long lines and big crowds are too much for me. Downtown Seattle has some great bars, especially along The Strip on Second Ave. There’s also more grit down there. It's easy to find unusual people to photograph downtown – Drunk of the Week or otherwise, including another of my favorite subjects, the illustrious NW Juggalo.
Before it housed hip Seattle hair salon VAIN, this building was the home of a music venue called The Vogue. The Vogue was the second place within Seattle city limits that Nirvana played in 1988. (The Central Saloon, still open in Pioneer Square, was the first.) Many say the show was pretty horrible. Rumor has it Nirvana played 14 songs, opening with “Love Buzz” and ending without an encore. You can read lots more about the band’s early days in Gillian Gaar’s brand new book, Entertain Us: The Rise of Nirvana.
Tubs Seattle was a hot tub rental facility until 2007. Some used to call it a “soak and poke” because the rent-by-the-hour rooms came with a hot tub and a bed. I rented a room there once to shoot a movie for HUMP!, The Stranger's amateur porn film festival. The Tubs building is currently a free and legal graffiti wall, thanks to owner Eric Sun and artists NKO and DK Pan of the Free Sheep Foundation. The wrecking ball is coming soon, though. Before year’s end, the building will be demolished and replaced with an apartment building. There's a documentary film, now in production, about the building's strange and iconic history.
This mural pays tribute to slain Native American woodcarver John Williams. It was painted by the Seattle graffiti artist known as No Touching Ground. There’s also a new totem pole, carved by Williams’ family members in 2011, near the Space Needle, to honor the memory of Williams, who was shot and killed by a Seattle police officer on August 30, 2010. I was the photographer for much of The Stranger's reporting on the shooting, and Williams’ story is still close to my heart.
This photo was taken of two dancers from Yakima, Washington, at the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation’s annual powwow at Discovery Park. The event averages around 500 dancers and several thousand spectators every July. I spent two summers photographing the Washington State powwow circuit after my father passed away. In my experience, the music and ceremonies have a healing energy that extends out to non-Native Americans.
And the best place to have sex outdoors is Volunteer Park. I mean, what else is there to do when it's been raining for 183 days straight? (Hence all the silly books with titles like Best Places to Kiss in Seattle coming out of this city.) There's more than a little tongue action going down at Volunteer Park. I thought it was an old urban myth that people – mostly gay men – got it on in the bushes here. Then while I was there recently I heard giggling coming from a shrub. The giggling may or may not have been connected to this photo.