Alan Hawkins! West Coast Trip Part 3

My final stop on my west coast trip is Seattle. One of my favorite cities next to Chicago. In fact, if I didn't love Chicago in the way I did, Seattle would be my choice. I saw Independence Day the day it came out at a theater in Seattle. But more awesome than that will be seeing my friend Alan Hawkins.

Web graphic Alan created for our podcast "The Doomed City Podcast"

Alan knows how to wear a suit! 

I don't know what year Alan and I met. It was during a particularly fuzzy part of my life. I had stage fright, but I could still tell stories. My friend Chris Biddle had gotten the go ahead to remount a Chicago show called "The Sickest Fucking Stories I Ever Heard" and asked me to co-produce it. It was the perfect show for me because I could tell terrible stories from my experiences and not feel that dread of having to make something up on the spot. And we got to play poker while doing it. Our shows never brought in that large of an audience, but one night after a show Biddle introduces me to this bald giant who'd just moved to town from Los Angeles, Alan Hawkins.

He looked like he had come straight off of good behavior at the Cook County lock up. In fact, I think I made it a point to avoid him that first night. I didn't know what to make of him. He said he might have some good stories and after talking to Biddle we scheduled him for our next months show.

Well good stories he had. I can't divulge any of them on this blog, suffice to say you should get to know Alan better. Because that boys seen some shit.

Along with being a good story teller, Alan is an incredibly creative graphic designer. Ninety percent of the graphic design you see on my web site, or my farms website, is from Alan. He did most of our show posters, and if I posted a cool photo of something, Alan would always jump in and throw something creative on it. 

Over the years we became close friends. I ended up moving into his neighborhood which gave us more opportunities to hang out. Every once in awhile I'd get to watch his dog, a tiny pekingese. Perfect foil to a bald giant. 

Alan, Biddle, and I on Michigan Ave. Photo by John Dart.

One day Biddle, a longtime fan of the movie Ghostbusters, said he wanted to have a proton pack. Alan immediately said "I can build that". Alan had a background in prop building while living out in Fresno and LA. He doesn't see things as impossible. He immediately sees opportunity. So we decided that the three of us would go as the Ghostbusters for Halloween (at that time still a few months away). We would set up build days at his house or in my garage and work together. Laughing, telling stories. All while wiring Christmas lights into pink housing insulation.
Our first packs were admittedly a little ramshackle. But we did it. We went to Deja Sue's Halloween party (an annual affair that she went all out for). We partied, said a couple lines from the movie, and then went home triumphant.

Alan, Red Rum, and myself at C2E2

Proud to show off my original Hawkins!

But for Alan that was just the beginning. He started joining online Ghostbuster communities and saw just what was possible with pack building. He got in to pepakura (folding paper and then putting a strong bonding agent on top to seal it and make it hard like plastic) and made his next GB pack entirely out of paper. Then he found other techniques and slowly started building a new pack for me and new props for Biddle (who had bought a pack from another GB by that time). Alan is really good about sharing and posted the entire build process for my pack online for other Ghostbusters to follow. And consequently, when walking around conventions sometimes people will recognize my pack as a "Hawkins".

Ranger Smith ain't going to like how much I love Alan Hawkins.

Almost a year ago, Alan and his family picked up and moved to Seattle. His wife got an awesome job out there and they've got room to grow out there. But every day I miss having Alan around. He's been a great. Alan I love you. I'm so excited to see you again.

Michael Davenport! West Coast Trip Part 2

I've been hanging out with Deja Sue for a couple days now. We've hit San Fransisco for two burlesque shows. I've gotten tattooed. Photographed two tattoo shops. Seen Pismo Beach. And now Deja and I are driving to Sacramento which brings us to my next good friend, Funny Mike D, Michael Davenport.

Mike and I in a booth at the Pick Me Up Cafe in Chicago. Photo by Steven Townshed, with whom we were discussing art, women, and... that was probably it.

Mike always had good facial expressions. He's often compared to Jim Carrey.

Mike and I met in our first improv class at the Annoyance Theater. This was the same class Deja Sue and I were in. We all met at the same time.

Mike and I fell right in together. We'd do improv scenes and we absolutely could not keep from breaking. Every scene. It was terrible. I don't know if that means we were really funny, or just terrible actors. Probably somewhere in between.

I was dating my first girlfriend around that time. Deanna. Mike was a dog walker and used to walk a dog near my apartment. Every other day he'd come by with a dog and we'd walk and talk life, improv, and girls. He gave me the false confidence that when Deanna and I broke up I'd be just fine. I wasn't. But I had Mike. And honestly, with how long we've been friends, I got the best end of the deal.

Mike and I took every class in Chicago that we could. We'd often set a goal to break an instructors lesson. That sounds like dickish move, but it was really effective and helpful. The premise was, whatever the instructor asked us to do we'd go way over the top with it. If the goal was to find "objects" in the "space", we'd go around touching everything. If the goal was to play an emotion hard, we'd take it as far as one possibly could. If the goal was to have no silence between dialogue, there was no silence. We were always pushing. Trying to be as good as we could. 

There is nobody I trust more to push the boundaries than Mike Davenport.

We had one class with Susan Messing and everyone had to get into pairs to do a longer form two person scene with a Q&A in character with everyone in the class. Immediately we snapped into what would become a recurring set of characters for us. Jack-O and Landrover. Our characters cooked meth in our grandmothers basement, and every scene ended up with us wrestling on the floor. Basically we invented Breaking Bad.

At some point, I started getting stage fright. I could no longer perform on stage. I started pulling away from the community. I was ashamed and didn't know how to handle my anxiety. Mike never stopped believing in me. He would often ask me to direct, or take part in whatever he was doing. That led to the greatest directing experience of my life. Melange. We did a short run at The Second City on the ETC stage, and that group killed it. Every once in awhile during rehearsals I'd jump in and play. I never felt uncomfortable with that group. And Mike was a big part of it.

But hat only paints part of the picture. Mike was also one of the biggest fuck ups I ever met. He would drink until he was passed out in someones lawn. He lost several jobs, and had to move around a bunch. There was a brief time while unemployed that Mike would board the CTA in the morning during rush hour and tell jokes for money. I don't know that he ever made back his train fare, but he hustled.

After a few particularly bad benders, Mike came to live with me. I lived in a two bedroom place at the time and had recently broken up with my second girlfriend. Mike and I became roommates. That was a difficult time. Mike had an abscess in his *mouth and his body was literally poisoning itself. Mike would have loud nightmares. Or he would come home absolutely shitfaced. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a difficult time to be his friend. Every day I dreamed of kicking him out. 
But Mike was my friend, and if I have a fault it's giving my friends a really, really long leash.

*Eventually Mike got his tooth fixed and wouldn't you know it, he started feeling a lot better.

Before Mike's wedding, we dragged him down to a river and baptized him. Ray did the honors, being the minister/officiant. 

Eventually Mike moved out, and then decided he was stagnating in Chicago and needed to move for a new challenge. He picked up and moved to Oakland. "A dumb idea" I thought at the time.
We would talk on the phone about some show he was trying to put together or some improv team he was trying to join. I remember after he had burned some bridges with a local group he decided to form his own theater. He put together some improvisors and found some jazz sax player and a poet to perform at an art gallery. That sounded interesting. Then Mike started talking about going to kinko's and making flyers and how he was walking all over town promoting this show. He'd talk to everybody.

And slowly that became a thing. Mike worked his ass off promoting, teaching, and performing until he finally had The Magic Jester Theater. He had a troupe of people following his lead. With the distance between us, it was harder to notice subtle change. All I saw was Mike going from a crazy uncontrollable force, to a focused mindful artist.

He would eventually meet his wife through that theater. That's a phrase I never thought I'd write. But it's amazing. I'm so happy for Mike, as I was standing up at his wedding.

Mike and his wife Jessica on their wedding day. I stood up for this guy!

Eventually his wife got an amazing job in Sacramento. Mike had to leave his theater behind, but he's unstoppable. He started another theater in Sacramento that is growing. Morpho Theater. I couldn't be more proud of my friend. Mike, I love you. We've been through so much together, and I look forward to going through more.

My friend Mike and his wife Jessica. I love them both so much.

South America Prologue: My Friend Christian

Christian holds his thermos while drinking mate, a daily ritual.

The beginning. In the coming days and weeks I'll start posting stories and photos from my 45 day trip around South America that would take me from the waterfalls of Iguazu, to the southernmost tip of Cape Horn, to the Atacama Desert in Chile, and finally to the Inca trail and Machu Picchu. It was an amazing trip. Truly life changing. And I'm happy to finally share it.


But there is one person I want to talk about before I can get into the trip. Mi amigo Christian. Christian accompanied me throughout the trip (with the exception of Panama), and it's important to know who he is before I can talk about what we experienced together.

Christian and I met in 2007. We were both working as maintenance men for a high rise in Chicago. That means we used to vacuum floors, wash windows, and fix peoples broken sinks. Not glamorous, but it was steady work.

Christian emptying the trash.

When Christian started working at the building we immediately became friends. We'd cover for each other when one of us would screw something up. We'd get hot chocolate for each other on cold days. And generally we got along famously. Christian is Argentinian and maybe a year before that I had been to Buenos Aires. So I was always pressing him for information on his home and what it was like to grow up there. 

He'd tell me stories of Diego Maradona but that he prefers rugby to football. Or that when he was a kid everyone called him flip flop, because of the shoes he was running around in. We'd talk about his family, and how hard it was to be living in the US and only talking to them over the phone. 

When Christian first started at the building he was married, but I soon learned he was going through a divorce. Thanksgiving was coming up, and I couldn't imagine Christian having to be alone for a holiday, even an American one. So my family took him in and we'd spent the next several Thanksgivings, Christmas', birthdays, and any other gatherings, together.


Christian would move on from the job at the building, I would too. He did several other jobs in Chicago. More maintenance and some work for the Anti-Cruelty Society working with animals. He loves animals. But we maintained our friendship. One of his favorite things was to come visit our farm and cut grass with the tractor. Christian has always loved big machines.

Christian mowing the grass at our farm with the tractor. Christian loves big machines.

One more of Christian on the tractor.

In 2012, Christian made the decision to return to Argentina. After nearly 10 years away from his family, it was time to return. I was sad. The night before he left we shared some deep dish pizza, went to the lake and took a picture of his favorite skyline. I dropped him off at the airport in the morning.

Christian with his favorite skyline in the background, just before leaving for Argentina.

Goofing around.

I didn't know under what circumstances I'd see him again. I was working a 9-5 desk job at the time. Feeling low. And one day I decided to quit. And I decided to take a trip, because those always made me feel better. And what better place to go than Argentina to visit my big brother Christian. So we started planning and a short trip turned into a 45 day adventure with one of my best friends.

Christian, I love you.

Stay tuned for the photos and stories from our South American adventure.

Christian tells us what he really thinks.

I'm in print!

Emma Glitterbomb recently wrote an article detailing having her picture taken as a performer, discomfort with never feeling like she photographed well, and then coming into MY studio and being proven wrong. I love her message and I love how powerful it can be to see yourself in a photograph. The following quotes come from this article.

The photographer, Greg Inda, is an integral part of the company. Capturing dancers in their natural habitat is a tricky business (I mean, we’re constantly moving!), and this guy’sgood. Seriously. Check out our Facebook page. He’s gotten photos of my butt that make me cry, they’re so awesome. 

Maybe it was the fact that I felt comfortable with this photographer, that he talked me through the entire process — from what top would look best with what lighting, to how to “turtle” my head forward and not put my chin down so much, to anecdotes about how even Brad Pitt didn’t know how to look his best in pictures when he was young. Whatever it was, this photo shoot was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Self-image will always be a struggle for me, but I’m starting to think it’s possible to evolve. To look at photos and go, “That’s me, and I look pretty good.”


Thank you Emma! (And yes, the headshot posted below this was from our shoot!)

The shoot that was a year in the making...


fop |fäp|
a man who is concerned with his clothes and appearance in an affected and excessive way; a dandy.


It all started Valentine's day 2009.  I was hired by the Belmont Burlesque Revue to set up a photobooth for patrons, and also to photograph the show.  This was a special show titled "Broken Hearts Burlesque Ball" and was held at the Abbey Pub here in Chicago.  For those of you not familiar with the Abbey, it's a larger venue than the BBR normally plays, making this show more of a rock concert than a vaudeville theater experience.  Burlesque performers from around the city came to perform.  Chris, who usually plays Second Cousin Joe in the show, wanted to do something different since this was a "Ball."  He wanted to come in as a fancy gentleman.  Top hat, tux with tails, cane, etc.  But when he went to Chicago Costume, the owners son had a very different definition of "Fancy Gentleman."

Chris made his grand entrance as Lord Toppenbottom.  A mask wearing fop, prepared for decadent fun.  He was an instant hit as he walked around the floor playing with the crowd.  It was the ultimate in audience participation, patrons would walk over and spank Lord Toppenbottem.  Ask to have pictures taken with him.  He would cap any encounter with a laugh straight out of Amadeus.  It was a HUGE hit with the crowd.  Chris really owned his character and made a big impression on all of us.

Ever since that night I had been thinking of ways to capture the Toppenbottom experience.  But what would I do?  Period shoot?  Burlesque shoot?  What tells the story?  I decided that the only way to tackle this was to charge in and hope the dice sing (D&D expression).  The initial thought I would riff on was "Party like its 1710 in 2010."  I'd need a fop and modern girls dressed like they were going out clubbing.

I talked to Chris about models and gave him the ultimate decision who he wanted to work with.  He came to me with Natanya and Elise.  Both of whom I hadn't worked with, but have known for a long time.  Chris explained the basic concept to them, they'd need clubbing dresses, and that we might strip down to bra and panties.

I arranged to meet with Chris at Chicago Costumes.  I arrived before Chris and really had no idea what I was looking for.  It was close to closing time and we were having some trouble finding Chris' costume based on my rough description.  After about 20 minutes of me pulling pirate costumes that could work, Chris came in, walked right over to the rack and pulled the exact same costume he had for the Abbey show.  Chris regaled the clerk and I with stories from the year before, being made to look like a fop by the owners son.  Everything came together when the clerk found the poofy horn wig that ties the whole outfit together.

Chris and I left with our rental and met up with my girlfriend, Shauna, for pizza.  I tried to explain what I was going for in the shoot.  A few basic ideas, but nothing fleshed out in the slightest.  I could see Chris getting a little nervous that maybe this wasn't such a great idea getting involved in this... what would I make him look like?

That night I put some more thought into the shoot.  A few more ideas to riff with.  My new take on things was "One of these things is not like the other."  Lord Toppenbottom, in all his decadent glory, would be mirroring what the girls did and exaggerating what the girls were doing.




We shot everything on a white background, with the lights close to the subjects to gray it out.  I shot mostly with an 85mm 1.8 lens on my Canon 5D MKII.  This shoot was an absolute blast to work on.  I recommend Natanya, Elise, and Chris as excellant models.  Shauna was an excellant assistant and DJ.  I can't wait to work with this crew again.

As always, I'd love to hear your feedback.


 EXTRA TIDBIT - The following photo is not safe for work, but I'd feel awful to not post it.  It was one of the last set ups we shot and was Shauna's idea.  If you were wondering what Lord Toppenbottom has in common with Mine That Bird...







Not at work? Click for larger version.


Sassy and Trashy

I had the pleasure this past Monday to photograph one of the first friends I made here in Chicago.  It was around 9 years ago we were both taking improv classes at the Annoyance Theater.  We both had dreams of "making it" and while I found my calling in photography, she continues to work as a singer/actress/model.  And she's a damn good one.

Steph just went from red to brown hair so she needed some new headshots to match her new look, so I set up the lights and scouted around for some good locations that would highlight not only her brown hair, but also to draw out her blue eyes. 

But its not those shots I want to show you.  After we finished with the more traditional headshots, Steph wanted to get some fun shots being Sassy and Trashy.  I'm really pleased with how these turned out.

Now thats sass!



















And thats trashy!














And now she's throwing stuff!



















Pretty great ideas that Steph totally brought in to the shoot.  We worked through all of this on the spot.  Looking for trashy spots to set up poses (we have one with Steph literally laying next to a dumpster), looking for poses to bring out this character.  Was a total blast.  After we finished this part of the shoot Steph and I moved on to shoot some lensbaby stuff that I'm really happy with.  I'll be posting that in the next couple of days.

In the meantime, remember I love comments.  So if you like these images or hate these images let me know!

Thanks for stopping by,
Greg Inda

Africa, How I Long for Thee!

Masaai tribesmen walking back to camp.Today I responded to a gear question on a digital photography forum. It was specifically in reference to an African Safari the gentleman was planning and what lenses/cameras he'd need, etc. Well it got me thinking about my Tanzanian safari and let me tell you, the memory flood gates opened wide.

I remember the first day, we were in Tarangire National Park riding around in the Landrover, kicking up dust in the morning sun. The first animal any of us saw was a giraffe and it was about 75 yards away. We all pulled out our cameras and started snapping away pictures like it was the Oscars and Angelina Jolie was walking up the red carpet. By the end of the trip we would pass giraffes within 10' ft. of the 'rover and say "Oh, it's just another giraffe... we don't need to stop."

Africa tickles the senses. By morning you can smell all the aromas of the grasslands, the flowers and dew. By night the sounds of the wild lull you to sleep, like one of those new age waterfall sound tracks you get at best buy. Your vision is constantly overloaded by amazing landscapes like your living inside a portrait.

Africa is bigger than any of us. Spending time there reminds us just how small we are in the greater scheme of the planet. I've never been humbled like I was in Africa, and not a day goes by that I don't dream of returning.

And now on to the advice I gave in the forum. Here is my full post unedited...

I went to Tanzania on a 14 day safari 2 years ago and all I brought was a 30D and a 35mm f/1.4, I couldn't afford much more than that and while I wished I had more range at times, I was very happy with the results I got.

Having done that I have some advice and mistakes I can share.

First off, the animals will be a lot closer than you anticipate (Lions would use the car as shade...). So a 24-105 should give you plenty of coverage in general. If your looking for shots of leopards in trees or lions off in the distance, then you'll probably want that 100-400. But most other animals will at some point be very close to you. Personally, I like having a wider lens on to give the animals context within the environment.

While traveling in the 4x4, you'll get covered in dust. It's unwise to lens swap unless you absolutely have too. With that in mind, your lens should give you a range your comfortable with. Every night when you get back to base camp, clean your sensor.

I can't speak to the whole of Africa, but when I was in Tanzania, from 10am-3pm the light was horrendous. Good idea to have a polarizer and maybe some ND filters. After 3pm, everyday like clockwork, these puffy clouds would roll in and the light was beautiful.

If your going to be walking through towns (Urban and tribal), take some gaffers tape and cover the Canon logo on your camera body and lenses. When people see Canon or Nikon they can get intimidated or decide your a good target to rob.

One final piece of advice, if you want animal pics just go to the zoo. Your chances to get close ups are a lot better, its cheaper, and overall its easier. If your going all the way to Africa use the opportunity to be creative. Maybe try a lensbaby or Holga. Utilize all the elements together (Wildlife, landscape, people, etc). Looking through a 400mm you can lose yourself in the lens and forget where you are. Try to bring the location into your shots and never forget that your in an amazing place. I still have dreams from my time in Africa and not a day goes by that I don't wish to return.