John Brian King

Photography

Nada (Short Film)

Nada

by John Brian King


John Brian King is the photographer of LAX: Photographs of Los Angeles 1980–84 and Nude Reagan, both available from Spurl Editions. He is the writer and director of the art house film Redlands (2014) and the short film Model Test (2016). Visit his website here, and check out his latest photography series Sick City.

We will be selling John Brian King’s two photo books at Lit Crawl SF on October 20. Come see us!

Photography

Desert Mass (Short Film)

Desert Mass

by John Brian King

Desert Mass is a new short film by John Brian King, art photographer and director of the feature film Redlands. In Redlands, King eschewed typical film editing techniques, featuring instead eight-minute scenes without any camera movement or cutting. Reviewer Angeliki Coconi commented on Redlands: “[It] sits still while everything happens. It doesn’t follow its characters — it watches them. It doesn’t admire or criticize them; it simply looks at them.”

Filmed in Palm Springs, California, King’s latest work Desert Mass focuses on the strange, the disorienting, and the decaying. Its austere style, reminiscent of Redlands, often takes on a dream-like quality, and the accompanying hypnotic organ music underscores the film’s theme of a Satanic mass in an arid, artificial land. Interspersed between alienating landscapes, filmed with the detachment of a wandering traveler, are scenes of two women, each alone in an anonymous hotel room — their distress, which is never explained, surreally related to the unease of the city. It is a brilliant, unconventional work, which you can watch in full above!


John Brian King is the photographer of LAX: Photographs of Los Angeles 1980–84 and Nude Reagan, both available from Spurl Editions. He is the writer and director of the art house film Redlands (2014) and the short film Model Test (2016). Visit his website here, and check out his latest photography series Sick City.

We will be selling John Brian King’s two photo books at the Philadelphia Art Book Fair on May 5 and 6. Come see us!

Publishing, Photography, Literature

Portraits of Spurl

Portraits of Spurl

Andy Adams  @FlakPhoto

Andy Adams @FlakPhoto

Kim Cooper  @kimcooper  / Larry Edmunds Bookshop  @LarryEdmunds1

Kim Cooper @kimcooper / Larry Edmunds Bookshop @LarryEdmunds1

Edward Carey  @EdwardCarey70  / bought at  @MalvernBooksTX

Edward Carey @EdwardCarey70 / bought at @MalvernBooksTX

Naomi Fry  @frynaomifry

Naomi Fry @frynaomifry

Stephen Sparks  @rs_sparks  / Point Reyes Books  @PointReyesBooks

Stephen Sparks @rs_sparks / Point Reyes Books @PointReyesBooks

Alex Maslansky / Stories Books  @StoriesEchoPark

Alex Maslansky / Stories Books @StoriesEchoPark

Kliph Nesteroff  @ClassicShowbiz

Kliph Nesteroff @ClassicShowbiz

Grafiche Morandi

Grafiche Morandi

Clare Kelly  @NewAgeSext

Clare Kelly @NewAgeSext

Denise Enck / Empty Mirror  @EmptyMirror

Denise Enck / Empty Mirror @EmptyMirror

John Coulthart  @johncoulthart

John Coulthart @johncoulthart

Kathleen Graulty and Julian Lucas / Mirrored Society  @MirroredSociety

Kathleen Graulty and Julian Lucas / Mirrored Society @MirroredSociety

Small Press Distribution  @spdbooks  / New Museum  @newmuseum

Small Press Distribution @spdbooks / New Museum @newmuseum

John Coulthart  @johncoulthart

John Coulthart @johncoulthart

J. M. Schriber  @roughghosts

J. M. Schriber @roughghosts

Ed Turner / Biblioklept  @biblioklept

Ed Turner / Biblioklept @biblioklept

Thank you to all of the wonderful, sensational artists who have taken part in PORTRAITS OF SPURL, and who are are not ashamed to read and sell our misfit books!

Literature

The Fall (Short Story)

The Fall

By Virgilio Piñera

We had scaled the three-thousand-foot mountain. Not to bury a capsule there at the peak, nor to raise the flag of the bold alpine climbers. After a few minutes, we began the descent. My companion followed me, bound, as is usual in these situations, by the same rope that ringed my waist. I figure we had descended exactly ninety-eight feet when one of my companion’s cleated boots glanced off a rock, causing him to lose his balance and somersault ahead of me. Since the rope wound between my legs, it jerked me hard, and to avoid being tossed over the edge, I had to twist around backwards. He, in turn, directed his fall to the spot I had just occupied. His decision was neither ridiculous nor absurd; on the contrary, he was responding to a profound understanding of those situations still unlisted in the manuals. The force of his movement caused a slight adjustment, and I suddenly saw my companion passing like a meteorite between my legs, and then the jolt from the rope—fastened, as I mentioned, to his back—turned me around into my original position of descent. He, undoubtedly obeying the same physical laws as I, and having traveled the distance permitted by the rope, was flipped over backwards, which naturally brought us face to face. We didn’t say a word, but both of us knew that the headlong fall was inevitable. And so it happened that, after an indefinite period of time, we began to fall. Because my sole concern was to avoid losing my eyes, I put all my effort into preserving them from the terrible effects of the fall. As for my companion, his only worry was that his beautiful beard—colored an admirable gray like gothic glass—reach the plain intact, not even slightly dusty. So, with utmost determination, I covered the bearded portion of his face with my hands; he, in turn, placed his hands over my eyes. Our velocity was increasing by the second, as is required in these cases of bodies falling through space. Suddenly, I looked through the slight spaces between his fingers and saw a sharp rock raze the top of his head. Suddenly, I had to turn my own head to confirm that my legs had been separated from my torso by a rock, possibly of calcareous origin, whose serrated edge severed anything that came against it with the perfection of a saw used in the construction of ocean liners. With some effort, it is only fair to admit, we were saving my companion, his beautiful beard, and me, my eyes. It is true that now and then—every fifty feet or so, as I calculate it—a part of our bodies would be separated from us. For example, during five such intervals, we lost my companion, his left ear, his right elbow, a leg (I don’t remember which), his testicles, and his nose; I, the upper part of my thorax, my spinal cord, my left eyebrow, my left ear, and my jugular vein. But this is nothing compared to what followed. A thousand feet above the plain, all we had left respectively was the following: my companion, his two hands (only to the carpal bones) and his beautiful gray beard; I, my two hands (also only to the carpus) and my eyes. A slight fear began to possess us. What if our hands were torn away by another boulder? We kept falling. Approximately ten feet above the plain, a pole left out by a worker capriciously caught the hands of my companion. Seeing my orphaned eyes left totally unprotected, I must confess with eternal, unforgettable shame, I withdrew my hands from his beautiful gray beard to protect my eyes from any impact. I was unable to cover them, for my hands were immediately caught in the same fashion by another pole pointing in a different direction from the aforementioned pole, at which point we were separated from each other for the first time during the entire descent. But I couldn’t complain; my eyes landed safe and sound on the grassy plain and could see, a little ways off, the beautiful gray beard of my companion, shining in all its glory.

1944


This story is an excerpt from Cold Tales, by Virgilio Piñera, translated by Mark Schafer.

Virgilio Piñera (August 4, 1912, Cárdenas, Cuba—October 18, 1979, Havana) was a playwright, short-story writer, poet, and essayist who became famous for his work as well as for his highly bohemian lifestyle. His best collections are Cuentos Fríos (1956, Cold Tales) and Pequeñas maniobras (1963, Little Maneuvers). Piñera’s stories blend the fantastic with the grotesque, with touches of paranoia, and even with madness. [via Britannica

Mark Schafer has translated poetry, novels, short stories, and essays by many Latin American authors, including Alberto Ruy Sánchez, Virgilio Piñera, Jesús Gardea, Antonio José Ponte, and Sonia Rivera-Valdés.

Featured image from the series “Sick City” by John Brian King.

Photography

Punk Daze (photography)

Punk Daze

by John Brian King

In the early 1980s, John Brian King was photographing the stranded travelers and unfrequented places that would later appear in his unique, wonderful book LAX: Photographs of Los Angles 1980–84. At the same time, he was going to punk shows, desecrating L.A. industrial lofts, meeting John Lydon (!), and hanging out with some spectacularly dressed friends. He brought his camera along to capture the odder moments of his youth. His color photographs are vibrant and unaffected; his black-and-white shots are stark and impulsive, reminiscent of his work at the airport. “Punk Daze” is a casual, personal look into the photographer’s life, revealing, little by little, the anarchic ideas behind his artistic accomplishments.


John Brian King is a Los Angeles native who graduated with a degree in photography from the California Institute of the Arts. His photography books LAX: Photographs of Los Angeles 1980–84 and Nude Reagan are now available from Spurl Editions. He designed the film titles for over thirty films, including Boogie Nights, Punch-Drunk Love and The Ring. Additionally, he wrote and directed the feature film Redlands, an examination of creativity and horror in relation to photography. Visit his website here, and follow him on Instagram.

Photography, Publishing

Podcast: John Brian King in New Books Network

The photographer Lorena Turner spoke with John Brian King about his recent and not-so-recent artistic work in a podcast for New Books Network. They discuss everything from Nude Reagan and LAX: Photographs of Los Angeles 1980–84 to King’s cryptically titled series “Hospital.” Seriously, King’s scathing description of Ronald Reagan is not to be missed, plus King brings up one of his sources of inspiration for Nude Reagan that anyone who is reading this page is sure to love: J. G. Ballard’s short story “Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan.”

INCIDENCE OF ORGASMS IN FANTASIES OF SEXUAL INTERCOURSE WITH RONALD REAGAN. Patients were provided with assembly kit photographs of sexual partners during intercourse. In each case Reagan’s face was super imposed upon the original partner. Vaginal intercourse with “Reagan” proved uniformly disappointing, producing orgasm in 2% of subjects.

Photography, Publishing

An Ugly Seduction: “Nude Reagan” Reviewed in Flavorwire

The day has finally arrived: John Brian King’s Nude Reagan is available! Or, to christen this monumental new public holiday properly: Nude Reagan Day is here! You can find John Brian King’s deviant oddity on our website and on Amazon (not in bookstores).

Flavorwire’s Moze Halperin got a sneak peek at the book, and he had some lovely things to say:

Reagan as a symbol whose repercussions still feel forced upon American citizens makes for rather disquieting photography, particularly when they seek to highlight, as the press release describes, Reagan’s “own frozen, Brylcreem-lathered satanic countenance” against “mold green…muddy gray… brilliant white…[and] dense, all-encompassing black” and resting imposingly atop displays of bare female triumph, self-presentation, and sexuality, complicating the country’s fervent obsession with and the Right’s frequent rapturous praise of the former President. Here, he’s both a grotesque imposition and an ugly seduction.

So enjoy June 1 – Nude Reagan Day! And don’t forget to take 10% off orders over $50 and over with the promo code: spurl.

Photography

Photographer John Brian King Releases Short Film

MODEL TEST

A Short Film by John Brian King

model – n. One that serves as the subject for an artist, especially a person employed to pose for a painter, sculptor, or photographer.
test – n. A procedure for critical evaluation; a means of determining the presence, quality, or truth of something; a trial.

Photography, Publishing

“LAX” makes the Sunday paper edition of the LA Times

LAX: Photographs of Los Angeles 1980–84 made the Sunday paper edition of the LA Times’ Arts & Books! Pick up a copy or read it online for a fascinating article by Carolina A. Miranda, featuring an interview with photographer John Brian King.

Available now. 24 cm x 22 cm softcover, shrink-wrapped, 132 pages (117 black & white photos), limited edition of 750 copies, afterword by the photographer in English, German, French, Spanish, and Italian.

Photography, Publishing

An Interview with John Brian King, a Playlist, and More

The photographer chatted with Impose Magazine writer Matt Draper about his book LAX: Photographs of Los Angeles 1980–84The article features other photographs taken by John Brian King in the 1980s (including photographs of Disneyland and the band Public Image Ltd/PiL), as well as a playlist of what the photographer was listening to at that time.

That, and a few choice quotes, like…

“Los Angeles in 1980 was the year Dorothy Stratten was murdered and Kim Kardashian was born – and I know which celebrity I prefer.”

Available now. 24 cm x 22 cm softcover, shrink-wrapped, 132 pages (117 black & white photos), limited edition of 750 copies, afterword by the photographer in English, German, French, Spanish, and Italian.

Publishing, Photography

“LAX” Featured in Slate (with an interview!)

Slate writer Jordan G. Teicher interviewed John Brian King via e-mail about his photography book LAX. The resultant article, which appeared in Behold: Photo Blog on Slate on November 30, is a fascinating look into King's aesthetic and photographic process.

John Brian King was 18 when he first started making photos at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). It was 1980, and only a year earlier he’d purchased his first photography book by Weegee, who is famous for his flash-heavy, black-and-white photos of urban life. The influence is clear in King’s series, “LAX,” which appears, along with another series, “LA,” in LAX: Photographs of Los Angeles 1980–84, published by Spurl this month.  
“I think the photographs in my book stand out as documents of a disappeared time—for me and my subjects—and a visual commentary of how I perceived humanity in my youth,” King said via email.
“I loved photographing these travelers arriving at the airport, brutally assaulted by this sea of ugliness, attempting to cope. I wanted to show, through the stark art of black-and-white photography, the dry vulnerability and humor of these people.”

Available now. 24 cm x 22 cm softcover, shrink-wrapped, 132 pages (117 black & white photos), limited edition of 750 copies, afterword by the photographer in English, German, French, Spanish, and Italian.

Photography, Publishing

The Weary And Harried Travelers Of LAX In The Early 1980s

Photographer John Brian King spoke to Danny Jensen of LAist about what drew him to LAX and what has changed since he took these photos. The interview is accompanied by a slideshow of images from the book. Plus, in even more awesome news, LAX is now available at Skylight Books in Los Feliz.

Looking back on the photos, what has changed about LAX and Los Angeles in general over the years in your opinion?

LAX back then was always in a constant state of controlled anarchy; now it is just controlled, fixed and rigid. Having been to many other airports since I photographed “LAX,” I now try to avoid flying through LAX at all costs; I currently live in Palm Springs, which has a genius open-air airport designed by the noted mid-century modern architect Donald Wexler (who also is the architect of my house).

To me, Los Angeles has become banal, corporate, dysfunctional, and aesthetically inert. When I took the photographs, it was the era of punk rock shows at the Whiskey, “Repo Man” being filmed in my neighborhood, and performance art by Mike Kelley at LACE—an atmosphere that I thrived in.

Available now. 24 cm x 22 cm softcover, shrink-wrapped, 132 pages (117 black & white photos), limited edition of 750 copies, afterword by the photographer in English, German, French, Spanish, and Italian.

Photography, Publishing

L.A. By Night – Interview with John Brian King

LAX was featured in Amadeus, an arts and culture magazine based in LA, with text by Taylor Wojick. The article includes an interview with photographer John Brian King. Here's a little excerpt.

Observational documentation and archival footage is what allows my generation to gain a better understanding of the past, through an unbiased visual narrative. What sort of impact do you think these photographs will have in 60 or even 100 years?
John Brian King: To my mind, there is no such thing as an “unbiased visual narrative.” Even cameras that are technically “unmanned” – bank surveillance cameras, police dash cams, Google Maps cameras – create their own biased narratives by the very nature of the people who control them.
A hundred years from now, I hope my photographs will be viewed as another tiny blip of aesthetic evidence of humanity’s absurdity and possible decline. I would be haunting someone from my grave if my photographs were curated by a nostalgic academic who was only interested in recontextualizing them into a horrible miasma akin to “Humans of New York” or “The Family of Man.”

Available now. 24 cm x 22 cm softcover, shrink-wrapped, 132 pages (117 black & white photos), limited edition of 750 copies, afterword by the photographer in English, German, French, Spanish, and Italian.

Photography, Publishing

Flashback: Los Angeles Airport in the 1980s

LAX was featured in the fabulous AnOther Magazine, with text by Maisie Skidmore and – if we may be so bold – a terrific slideshow of images.

"I don’t want to be nasty," Karl Lagerfeld told Susannah Frankel shortly before the beginning of Chanel’s S/S16 airport extravaganza at Paris Fashion Week, “but of course in an airport, with the bus tours, it’s not the same as an airport as it was in the past, with first class, when travelling was something people dressed for.” It’s an incisive observation, as it is Lagerfeld’s wont to make, but of course he has a point. “We live in another world,” he summarises, and it's this world, in which airports are no longer the domain of the rich and famous, which is the subject of a new book of photographs by John Brian King, entitled LAX: Photographs of Los Angeles 1980-84.

Releasing November 2, 2015. 24 cm x 22 cm softcover, shrink-wrapped, 132 pages (117 black & white photos), limited edition of 750 copies, afterword by the photographer in English, German, French, Spanish, and Italian.

Photography, Publishing

From Airport to City: Moody Photos of 1980s Los Angeles at Night

LAX was featured in Flavorwire over the weekend, with a terrific write-up by Alison Nastasi and a slideshow of John Brian King’s photographs.

You’re probably already familiar with the work of photographer John Brian King. He’s designed the film titles for dozens of movies, including Boogie NightsThe RingMagnoliaPunch-Drunk Love, and Lilo & Stitch. King also directed a movie called Redlands, set in the California city. But it was over 30 years ago that King first had his eye on the Golden State. 
His photographs, focused on the harried travelers bustling in and out of the Los Angeles International Airport and the gritty streets of Los Angeles at night, haven’t seen the light of day since the ‘80s. Those black-and-white negatives have finally reemerged in a new book published by Spurl Editions, LAX: Photographs of Los Angeles 1980–84, available on November 2. 
The photographer’s monograph tells a parallel story that ushers us from airport to city — the chaos of the LAX lobby to the Sunset Strip, revealing images of a metropolis that has since vanished.

Releasing November 2, 2015. 24 cm x 22 cm softcover, shrink-wrapped, 132 pages (117 black & white photos), limited edition of 750 copies, afterword by the photographer in English, German, French, Spanish, and Italian.

Photography, Publishing

“LAX” Featured in KCET’s Artbound

KCET’s Artbound features photographs from John Brian King’s LAX, as well as the photographer's afterword. 

Releasing November 2, 2015. 24 cm x 22 cm softcover, shrink-wrapped, 132 pages (117 black & white photos), limited edition of 750 copies, afterword by the photographer in English, German, French, Spanish, and Italian.

Photography, Publishing

“LAX” Featured in We Heart

“John Brian King's confrontational style ignites the tension at early '80s LAX…” writes Rob Wilkes of We Heart, a journal that combines in-depth stories with design-led news from all areas of contemporary culture. He goes on:

There’s a palpable sensation of restless tension that seems to permeate the atmosphere at airports, and the bigger and busier the terminal, the more that tension is felt. There’s simply too many people all trying to do the same thing in too little space. The stop-start queueing, the frantic dashes for a far-flung gate, or just as often the long, boring wait to be called. Lost baggage, cancelled flights, forgotten passports, screaming kids, travellers both nervous and the exhausted, bursts of joyous excitement — emotion at every step.
Even in the days before the stringent anti-terror security measures, airports were a pretty fraught experience. Back in the early ’80s, brash young photographer John Brian King threw himself into the potential powder keg that was Los Angeles International Airport with flash blazing — deliberately intrusive and often unwelcome — to see what might combust. Aside from the human drama, King was also drawn to the fabric of the building itself, and the detritus and damage left behind by the transit of so many people. Born and raised near LAX, King was fascinated by flight from a young age; his childhood home was on a street called Flight, he went to a school named after Orville Wright, and his father was an engineer on both the B-52 bomber and the space programme. He shot his airport images while a teenager before leaving for art school, later returning to take up a night-time survey of Los Angeles’ streets for a second series.
The negatives remained in a box for 30 years as King abandoned photography for writing and filmmaking, but the two series are now seeing the light of day together in this photobook. LAX: Photographs of Los Angeles 1980-84 by John Brian King is published by Spurl Editions, and due for release in November.

Releasing November 2, 2015. 24 cm x 22 cm softcover, shrink-wrapped, 132 pages (117 black & white photos), limited edition of 750 copies, afterword by the photographer in English, German, French, Spanish, and Italian.