Archive for May, 2009

Holga / California

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New York is our home, but we love a good road trip out west.

Horse Soldiers – NYT Book Review

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In terms of our nation’s recent military history, Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton is wild, loud and bizarrely funny, but it’s tempered with a fairly damning coda. In terms of making an image for it in the Times’ Book Review, it’s an embarrassment of riches in the idea department.

The book plays as part historical document, part action movie. In reviewing it, Bruce Barcott even compares much of the drama and action to Clive Cussler. The whole story would have probably played out more heroically if not for the bruising reality that the early successes that these soldiers had in the early stages of the war in Afghanistan gave Donald Rumsfeld the bright idea to sell the war in Iraq as an operation that could be done with minimal troops and minimal bloodshed. It is still unconfirmed as to whether or not Rumsfeld has yet learned how to pronounce the word ‘oopsie.’

The book chronicles the small rag-tag groups of special ops C.I.A. agents who teamed up with Afghani freedom fighters to attack the Taliban in Afghanistan during the months immediately following 9/11. Given the urgency and suddenness of the mission, the C.I.A. ops didn’t have too much time to prepare for their journey, so they grabbed whatever gear they had laying around (like REI tents and low rent GPS devices) and headed for the mountains. Upon forging such an unlikely alliance with the Afghani fighters in such a rush, there was one small wrinkle that hadn’t been explained to the Americans until they were already suiting up for a firefight in the mountains of Afghanistan—“nobody told the Special Forces guys about the horses.”

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The Afghani fighters traveled and fought almost exclusively on horseback, while the American Special Forces had little experience of the kind. This was reconciled with a blunt, impromptu crash course on steering, advancing and disciplining one’s horse. It happened quickly. Their united offensives were launched promptly afterward. One tactical attack after another, their sweat and vigilance contributed significantly to the U.S.’ early victories against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Standing in contrast to the more life-threatening particulars of paratrooping into the Middle East, learning how to ride a horse and battling an unseen enemy in caves, building an illustration that attempts to capture such an experience was downright pleasant, even if you include all the willful procrastination, self-loathing, heavy sighs and staring at one’s feet that often accompanies the assembly of comps. Nicholas Blechman, once again, graciously allowed me to run wild stylistically for the initial ideas and for the first time in a long, long while, we had enough interesting things to work with such that picking an out-and-out favorite between the two of us required a genuinely critical process of elimination. Below are the ones that we cut:

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***REAL Bullets(!)

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I held a personal soft spot for the horse composed entirely of spent ammunition (as did the wife) as well as the re-interpretation of the flag of Afghanistan with the horseshoe and bullet, but ultimately, the freakish horse/comic hybrid seemed to come closest to seizing on the wild polarities of historical documentary and chest-beating testosterone fest that both the article and book jump between. Thusly, it was decided.

Many thanks to both Mr. Blechman for letting me go insane and also to the Westside Rifle and Pistol Range on West 20th St., who were incredibly generous and helpful in providing spent ammunition shells for a comp that went ultimately unused.

Business Week: The Shift to a Social Web

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Art director Victor Williams helped me to set a personal land speed record for completing an assignment for this 2″ x 2″ spot for Business Week. The image concerns the suggestion that social networking sites such as Facebook, Flickr, MySpace etc., are on course to compete with and potentially replace sites such as Google and Yahoo as people’s default destination on the internet. Their versatility and general lean towards group connectivity establishes them as hubs for links, news feeds, shopping and inane status updates from your twice-removed high school acquaintances. Compiling all of this information on a central, personalized web hub like Facebook as a one-stop shop suggests an interesting take on the future of the internet.

Victor hit me up about this around noon on a Monday, specifying that he would need it quickly that afternoon. By 3:00, we were looking at comps, which is admittedly fast for me. It helped considerably that the ideas were blunt and simple. Many of which, pictured below, were killed ultimately nixed (with good reason).

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