SOVO // Photography & Writing Samples
SOVO// PHOTO BY MILANA BURDETTE, 4x5 FILM
SOVO// PHOTO BY ASHLEY GUO, 35mm FILM
SOVO// PHOTO BY ADAM HUTSELL, 120 FILM
There is no single iteration of Miles Davis. If you met him at 11 in the morning, you might describe an entirely
different person than the Miles you’d meet at 11 pm.
Many artists are not challenged by knowing where to begin, but rather knowing when it is complete. Miles, on the other hand, seemed to have no issue deciding when he was done. His art and his music parallel in that way— he possessed a genuine creative hunger that did not allow space for him to question or ruminate on works. The frenetic pacing of his life seemed to be a need, rather than a choice.
According to his family members, it was nothing for him to go through head-to-toe wardrobe changes as many as twelve times in a single day. And if the clothes make the man, it makes sense that this mood-stone exhibited personality transformation as well. It’s no secret that Miles raced through musical styles as quickly as he did ties, hopscotching between genres at breakneck speeds, leaving listeners and critics playing an eternal game of catch-up, trying to make sense of
Written by Amanda Roberts
what they heard. Each work, a beautifully articulated
Excerpt from Miles Davis First published in SOVO// Issue 2
piece given to the masses to savor while he was off mastering something new. This degree of creative restlessness was not exclusive to his music making. If you were to walk into Davis’ north Malibu home in the 80s and early 90s, you might be overwhelmed by the smell of paint, turpentine, canvas, and from what I am told, the best homemade popcorn in the world. You’d likely catch his son, Erin Davis, and nephew, Vince Wilburn, hanging a fresh painting from the second story interior balcony, while Miles inspects it from below before he signs it and moves to the next one.
SOVO// PHOTO BY TYLER HUBBY, 35mm FILM
SOVO// PHOTO BY VIKTORIA RAYKOVA, 35mm FILM
SOVO// PHOTO BY MILANA BURDETTE, 4x5 FILM
Beneath the sunlit forest eaves of Southern California, Nedda came across a scene by the side of the road that broke the monotony of her daily commute. Curled up by the side of the road, in the illusion of sleep, lay a freshly deceased fawn. Struck by a seductive melancholy, the firmament of the universe seemed to wink at Nedda, laying bare the hair’s breadth boundary between life and death. This vision of contradiction between youth and beauty, between death and decay, broke her heart as the words “muted fawn” coalesced in her mind, a verbal memento that remained with her from that point onward.
Over the years, Nedda’s efforts have earned her welldeserved popularity, and along with that popularity has come misunderstanding. Press coverage regularly categorizes her work as “fetish photography.” While the majority of her work can be superficially placed within that genre, Nedda rejects this classification, citing it as a crude limitation of both the past purpose and future aspiration of her work. Regardless of whether the photos have any erotic intent, her work is undeniably steeped in the visual language of erotica. Consequently, her models often appear in fetish gear. More often than not, the sexuality seen in the photos is oversimplified and over-interpreted, as many of the photos are more deeply concerned with the dynamics of power, pain, and divinity. For this among other reasons, the “fetish photography” label is ill-fitting. In fact, Nedda assured us that she has no interest in dictating interpretation: she has no overt political point to make, despite her identity as an Iranian-American woman. Her investment in her work is not at the level of representation. Rather, she focuses on the much more personal level of self-identity. Photographing her models in intimate and transgressive scenes serves as an outlet for Nedda to explore her own relationship to power, pain, and femininity in the ways that were forbidden to her in her youth.
Written by Arjun Ray Excerpt from Muted Fawn is an Alias First published in SOVO// Issue 4
10 SOVO// PHOTO BY MILANA BURDETTE, 4x5 FILM
11 SOVO// PHOTO BY KEMAL CILENGIR, 35mm FILM
12 SOVO// PHOTO BY VIKTORIA RAYKOVA, 35mm FILM
In the pitched attic tucked away above the second floor, Durk guided us into the bedroom where Tom lived and worked. We sat on the bed and presented our concept to Durk, who leaned over and spoke to us in an endearing tone, almost as if we were his grandchildren. He told us that many others have attempted to recreate Tom’s drawings over the years. While it frustrated him in the past that so many people wanted to try, he now realizes that this is a means of honoring and showing admiration for Tom, similar to when small children put on their father’s shoes.
Finding ourselves gifted with privileged access to Durk, the TOM House, and TOM’s men, we decided to truly challenge ourselves. To honor the Tom of Finland Foundation, SOVO// would recreate some of Tom’s best-known illustrations on film, and we would do so with accuracy and authenticity. SOVO// photographer Viktoria Raykova, who was raised by a family of European scientist-engineers and finds mathematical, technical endeavors to be exciting, was up for the task. Durk understood our endeavor and its intent, telling us that “I really think the whole thing we nurture here is taking his influence and re-expressing it in another form, and that’s what you’re doing. You’re taking his drawings and you’re reinterpreting them again, and you’re using live people so [the illustrations] get to have a human experience.” He gave us his full support, and within three days, Tom of Finland curator Marc RansdellBellenger, resident artist Jordan Michael Green, and model Michael Issa pulled together all the arrangements, brought whatever clothes and accessories they could find around the house, and met us at the studio. Durk provided one piece of true advice, telling us with all seriousness to “Have fun when you fail.”
Written by Farida Amar Excerpt from Tom of Finland First published in SOVO// Issue 4
14 SOVO// PHOTO BY ADAM HUTSELL, 35mm FILM
15 SOVO// PHOTO BY SHAUN LANG, 120 FILM
16 SOVO// PHOTO BY JEFF LEAVITT, 35mm FILM
I think about the spectrums of gender and sexual orientation: useful tools that attempt to show me what can exist (perhaps even to indicate that there are
extensions, hills, and valleys) in an individuals identity.
My identity is vapor. It’s around me. I can distinguish something there, and though it may gently direct me, it continuously slips through my fingers. The truths I seek seem to exist behind an infinite, impenetrable veil. I strain my eyes, trying to see beyond and into the obscured, hoping to catch glimpses of clarity.
Yet a spectrum leaves me cold; it feels rudimentary, incomplete, too boiled down, with much to be desired and endless questions unanswered. An implication always looms: accepting an identity, or assigning one to yourself, seems to dictate who you are and who you must be. From the deciding moment on, you will bear the weight of this identity, complete with all of its context, expectations, rules, and clubs. Individuality
Written by Vanessa de Horsey
comes second to the institution housing, and identity
Excerpt from Identity is a Universe, Not A Spectrum First published in SOVO// Issue 4
can easily function in both subtle and glaring ways as an institution. Those who are more experienced in exploring their sexuality and gender identities tend to look at the respective spectrums not as maps on which to place yourself, but as guides to understand the many places where you might fall. They see the fluidity, the flexibility, the ability to expand and contract, to combine, subtract, and evolve their identities. They don’t see a final state they see different ways of existing. They see a universe of options.
18 SOVO// PHOTO BY GINA CANAVAN, 120 FILM
19 SOVO// PHOTO BY JENNICA MAE, 35mm FILM
20 SOVO// PHOTO BY MILANA BURDETTE, 4x5 FILM
21 SOVO// PHOTO BY LAWRENCE LANOFF, 35mm FILM
In New York apartment fashion, Betty’s office space is in her bedroom, which is sparse, organized, monastic. A box of vibrators sits behind me. The bed across from us is covered in a black duvet. She’s just gotten up, but her bed is already made. Betty shuts her eyes, remembering a private moment when she went too far. Spontaneously, she laughs out loud. “I mean, how
do you know what too far is unless you go there? And
My mom’s famous words to me were, ‘Betty Anne, you always go too far,” says Dr. Betty Dodson as she sips her vodka and orange juice, leans back in her burgundy office chair, and ponders.
even then, when I’ve realized I’ve gone too far, I’ve had to push further.” Freedom is there, in the sparkle in her eyes. They are direct, open, mischievous—unlike any 89-year-old I’ve met before. She knows a secret. Or many secrets about life, sex, and the simple realities of an aging
Written by Lawrence Lanoff
Excerpt from Betty Dodson First published in SOVO// Issue 4
“I get to spend most of my time now doing things that I love. That’ freedom. And everybody could do that,” Betty says. “But they feel like they have to suffer in life. You can thank religion for that one. I ask Betty how she feels about being almost 90. “I have no problem with death. If you’ve really lived, then death is not a problem. My sadness is for people who haven’t done anything. But I have definitely lived. I’ve been doing it for almost a hundred years now. As long as I can get up and walk into a living room full of women, I’ll never stop.
23 SOVO// PHOTO BY NIKO SONNBERGER, 35mm FILM
24 SOVO// PHOTO BY ASHLEY GUO, 35mm FILM
25 SOVO// PHOTO BY VIKTORIA RAYKOVA, 35mm FILM
On my first visit to A.G. Geiger Fine Art Books and Press, Chung King Court is overcast and empty. I arrive before Delgado and have some moments alone
in the shop; it is smaller than expected, occupying
Michael Delgado is compact and laughs easily. Our safe word is “Marlowe” established in case Delgado becomes uncomfortable with a line of questioning. This sparks some confusion, as Marlowe is also the name of Delgado’s pug. As with any lively meeting, mirth is forecast.
only a third of the boxy space, and lacks pretension. The books have clean faces and strange names, mostly photo collections and monographs. Some jackets are particularly magnetic: a cowboy at dusk wreathed in flames on the cover of Cerro Gordo, or the tawdry, gold-lit motel suite pictured on Nan Goldin’s The Ballad of Sexual Dependency. Delgado’s choices, from title selection to the shop facade, reflect his preoccupation with noir. However, there is no fiction here. No graphic novels, no best-sellers, no sci-fi
Written by Anya Johnson
tucked into the back corner. Even Delgado’s favorite
Excerpt from A.G. Geiger Fine Art Books First published in SOVO// Issue 5
author, Raymond Chandler, from whom the name “A.G. Geiger” is lifted, is absent. Instead, the shop is rife with visual dedications to the shifting fiction that is Los Angeles. When Delgado arrives a few minutes behind me, he is accompanied by Marlowe, whose name, I learn, is another nod to Chandler. Delgado wears a knit cap and long sleeves; it is unusually brisk. When I ask Delgado how he chooses which titles to stock, he says plainly, “The books in the store are the ones I don’t mind people fingering.” We are dealing with a clever man.
27 SOVO// PHOTO BY MILANA BURDETTE, 4x5 FILM
28 SOVO// PHOTO BY FARIDA AMAR, 35mm FILM
29 SOVO// PHOTO BY ADAM HUTSELL, 120 FILM
30 SOVO// PHOTO BY ASHLEY GUO, 35mm FILM
Lee Kaplan has lived many lives in his sixty-plus years, but for the last four decades, he has been the owner and curator of Arcana, an art book store located in
Culver City, California. The store resembles in unequal
Humans are naturally attracted to secrets. A secret describes the magnetic interaction between privileged information and the attention of an outsider. Secrets are tended, mined, and archived by those of peculiar dedication to a given topic. In return, those people serve as arbiters between reams of esoteric knowledge and inquiring minds.
parts a museum, an archive, a library, and a record store. Rows upon rows of books sit on massive parallel shelves, individually wrapped in plastic sleeves like vinyl records. Visitors are greeted with a quiet and reverent ambiance, but also with warmth. “In a way, it’s like you’re walking into my house,” says Lee. Arcana is a natural extension of Lee’s person. Technically, the products at Arcana are the books themselves, but such a narrow definition of the store is easily eclipsed when you account for the added value of Lee’s expertise. In fact, Lee himself is the product at Arcana. Over several decades, he has amassed a rarefied and singular collection of art books. The collection orbits around his specific personal interests in art, but it also includes more shrewdly chosen titles that meet popular demand and help keep the store afloat. Many well-known artists have trusted Lee to guide them from rough sketches and half-formed ideas to the reference material that they needed in order to continue their work. Arcana hedges its continued existence on the necessity of human expertise, won over years of hard work and monastic toil, and of course, the value of owning physical books.
Written by Arjun Ray Excerpt from Lee Kaplan of Arcana: Books on the Arts First published in SOVO// Issue 5
32 SOVO// PHOTO BY MILANA BURDETTE, 4x5 FILM
33 SOVO// PHOTO BY ADAM HUTSELL, 35mm FILM
34 SOVO// PHOTIO BY MEENO PELUCE, 35mm FILM
Any architect is responding to site, but Goff spent his life pushing structural site-specificity into having a life of its own—to be more musical—reacting to atmosphere, to his own drafting process, and in particular to his clients. "Bruce always [became] his client,'' said the architect’s longtime friend Joe Price. ''It was almost like speaking to a mirror." Designing was an expression of space as a “continuous present”— borrowing from Gertrude Stein—in which the outer shell and interior, the materials, and the inhabitants all intertwine in ongoing harmony and create something absolutely new.
"No matter what you do in L.A., your behavior is appropriate ... Los Angeles has no assumed correct mode of use." Examples follow of one character type belonging as much as another—“You can watch Cops all day or you can be a porn star or you can be a Caltech physicist." In a spread-out city defined by private space, it's inferred that this unofficial civic credo takes physical form in the many housing vernaculars, from Mission Revival casitas to French Norman chateaus to Cliff May atomic ranches to Faux-talian mansions to DTLA artist lofts. All intermixed and each promising a unique lifestyle on the resident's terms. "The creative architect must be aware of subjecting his works to a 'personal style' or a 'trademark,'" wrote Goff, "each of his works deserves to become its own form and style." One needs only to pass through the centrally pivoting entry door to the Struckus House to begin to see this personal challenge in practice. Dozens upon dozens of quarter-inch wooden strips ring around a stunning abstract-bird-feathers-meetsflattened-Tiffany-lamp stained-glass composition stretching at least a yard wide. There are no other doors inside save for the bathrooms.
Written by Anthony Carfello Excerpt from Al Struckus First published in SOVO// Issue 6
36 SOVO// PHOTO BY NEDDA AFSARI, 35mm FILM
37 SOVO// PHOTO BY JEFF LEAVITT, 35mm FILM
38 SOVO// PHOTO BY ASHLEY GUO, 120 FILM
Published photography & writing samples Portfolio 2018-2019, Released Jan 2020 sovomagazine.com | @sovomagazine