I’m going to come right out and say it. I love Amanda Palmer. She is a creative muse. Has a beautiful mind. Is a musical genius. I am inspired by every new project she releases. So when she asked for help, I jumped at the chance. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, a little back story.
I was first introduced to Amanda Palmer at San Diego Comic Con in 2009. My girlfriend Christy, who had discovered Amanda on Myspace, overheard some girls in the ladies’ room saying that Amanda was at a booth signing copies of her new book Who Killed Amanda Palmer. Christy and I tracked down the booth, and got a chance to say “hello”.
After we returned home, Christy played for me the first song of Amanda’s she had heard; “Coin-Operated Boy”. I was hooked. Her music was unlike anything I had ever heard. The video was a feast for the eyes. Since that day, Christy and I have tracked down albums of all her different projects. We have seen her in concert a half-dozen times, in various musical incarnations; The Dresden Dolls, Evelyn Evelyn, Grand Theft Orchestra, and “An Evening With…”, a performance of music and poetry with her husband, author Neil Gaiman. We even backed her Kickstarter campaign to help fund her latest album. Amanda Palmer has given us so much joy. And we love being able to return the favor.
And then, I found out Amanda would be speaking at the TED Conference just up the coast in Long Beach. Having never seen one of her trademark “ninja gigs”, I anxiously followed her Twitter feed, hoping to catch a spontaneous performance notice. What happened was even better. She put out a call for help.
I’ve got a top hat. This hat was given to me years ago by a dear friend Mickey, who has since passed. Mickey had a love of costumes. His father had worked for Western Costume Company in Los Angeles, a premiere rental house that caters to the film industry.
I hoped the hat I had would suit her needs. I had to act fast, as I knew how many people would be jumping to help. I posted this photo as a response:
One down. Now, for the milk crate. I work in a strip mall that has a farmers’ market and a Mexican restaurant. I was pretty certain I could find a crate somewhere nearby. I did a little “day reconnaissance”, and found a perfect crate behind the restaurant. I grabbed it. (The owner of the restaurant frauds the local recycling center by hosing down cardboard before taking it to get weighed, insuring a higher profit. Taking the crate was karma. At least, this is how my brain works. Shut up.) Having found the crate, I snapped a quick photo and sent it along.
Now I’m getting excited! She may actually want to use my props! I was going to do everything I could to get these to her, at least to give her options to choose from. I know there were others offering help as well. The next day, I offered to drop these items off to her in Long Beach. Then she responded with something that really inspired me!
Wow. Amanda Fucking Palmer, my artistic hero, just asked me to be creative. And with photography, my passion. What an honor! I was not going to let her down! I told Christy we were going on an impromptu photoshoot. I grabbed a few additional props while she put on one of her vintage Gunne Sax dresses. We loaded the car, and headed up to the Arts District in Los Angeles. I had some ideas for shoots. After trying a few locations, I settled on a parking lot with a beautifully-painted wall.
After the shoot, we delivered the hat and crate to the hotel. We waited around for a bit, on the chance we’d see her. We didn’t stay long, as I wanted to get home and work on our photo. I left a note for Amanda along with the props thanking her for the opportunity.
Later that evening, Amanda sent me a photo of her holding our note with the props.
Yay! We were so excited! Amanda had my hat and crate in her possession! I had to make the photo we took kickass. After a bit of tweaking, here is what I came up with.
The concept of high tea in a grungy LA parking lot with a milk crate table really amuses me. Apparently, it amused Amanda as well. After I sent it to her, this was her reaction:
I gave her my info, and left it at that.
Amanda tweeted updates about the progress of the TED Talk prep, and we followed along nervously. She posted a photo of a drawing of her Talk. And in the background were my props!
Our excitement grew. Not only was Amanda Palmer giving a TED Talk (which is huge for her), but we may have a tiny role in it (which is huge for us). Amanda gave her Talk on Wednesday, February 27. The response was immediate. She killed it. Standing ovation. Hell, even Bono wanted to take her out for a drink! We were so proud of her, without even hearing what the Talk was. But we knew it would be epic. Amanda Fucking Palmer wasn’t capable of “mediocre”.
She sent me a message that our photo looked gorgeous, and that the Talk would be posted that Friday. This was the first confirmation that our photo had actually been used. I was beyond excited. I asked if she had a pic of her on stage with my photo in the background. She replied “wait til tomorrow !!! you gonna die!!!”. Holy crap. It’s real.
Her Talk posted March 1st. And I was stunned. It was beautiful. It was powerful. It was inspiring. And we were part of it.
If you haven’t seen her Talk, give yourself a 15-minute break and enjoy.
Amanda let us know when the props were ready to be picked up. We returned to the hotel, got the crate and hat, and left her a bottle of wine and a photo I had taken of her at a previous concert to say thanks. When I tweeted to her, asking if she had received the items, she did something that I totally wasn’t expecting.
Her generosity humbles me. Christy and I are so pleased that we were able to help someone we both greatly admire. Amanda didn’t have to mention me in her Talk. She did. She didn’t have to introduce me to her Twitter followers. She did. Hell, she didn’t even have to use my hat and crate in the first place. She did.
Amanda Palmer has her critics. People accuse her of being a free-loader. But we don’t agree with that. A free-loader takes without giving anything back in return. Amanda has always been very generous to us, and everyone we’ve seen her interact with. She’s introduced us to the music of Jason Webley, Sxip Shirey, Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen, The Jane Austen Argument, Die Roten Punkte, and many others. She gives of herself first, and asks for help afterwards. Free-loaders take. Amanda Palmer gives. And in that spirit, we happily give back. We will continue to give her our support.
If you enjoy my photography, please let me know. I love receiving feedback. And if you feel that my art is worth a few bucks, I’ve set up a PayPal account to accept contributions. Prints of my work are available for sale, but if you’d just like to say thanks, I am touched.