Spotlight on Alex Goodlett

 
 
EDITORS NOTE: THIS INTERVIEW INVOLVES SOME NUDITY
 
 
TID:
 
What a surprising image!  Please tell us a little of the backstory of the image.
 
ALEX: 
 
The featured image is a photo from a current ongoing project following a group of young men from Corydon, IN. The group, which was formed under the name Cramp The Stupid, is dedicated to performing stunts, skits, and pranks on a daily basis in their community. The three members, Gary Graves, Sam Miller and Josh Zimmerman, take joy in doing what they say many frown upon. Whether it is jumping off a roof or strapping themselves to fireworks, the trio seems to enjoy the pain and attention the behavior brings. What stands out the most to me though is it’s not all for people’s entertainment; it’s just simply their lifestyle. 
 
While a lot of their actions go unrecorded, there is often a video camera present to capture what goes on. The group has been saving all of the footage in hopes of releasing a full-length film of their endeavors to show the public sometime in the future. Until then however, channels on YouTube and Dailymotion depict a small glimpse. Although Corydon isn’t a large place, Cramp The Stupid is anything but unknown in the area.
 
The image above was taken pretty late into the night during my first visit to Corydon to work on the project. The trio was partying with a group of friends, and as the night progressed things started to get a little more out of control. Everyone at the party had been drinking for a few hours when Sam began attempting to outdo himself with each new idea. As soon as I thought it was about time to call it a night, I heard Sam yell from inside about breaking some form of picture over his head. The events that followed are what created the image.
 
TID:
 
Since this is part of a larger body or work, can you tell us about it and why you're doing this?
 
ALEX: 
 
After it became clear that I would be spending my summer at home in Louisville, I began looking for a story to work on over the break. This past year I spent almost all of my time photographing sports as a staff photographer for Ohio University Athletics, and by the end of the year I felt a real desire to tell a story off of the field or court. What sparked my interest in this project however, was a cell phone picture posted online by Sam. (See below)
 
 
 
I first photographed Sam and Gary back when I was a freshman in college. A couple of my friends knew who they were because of the local skate scene, but I had never met them until I ran into them at the skate park while shooting.  That day I shot a little bit of what they were doing, and afterward we exchanged our information. I put a couple photos of them up on Facebook upon request, but nothing came of the situation for two years. I ran into them a couple more times that summer, but I think at the time I didn’t realize the potential for a project. 
 
It took a couple years for me to be away from home for the idea to click. It wasn’t until late one night when I ran across the photo of someone sitting on top of an eight-foot ladder with an office chair duct taped to the top, did I start to become more curious. What was even more perplexing at the time though, was the fact that the person on the chair was willingly sitting there with an apple cannon pointed at their face.
 
I thought about the photo for a few days and decided to contact the pair to see what their thoughts were on possibly letting me photograph them again. After a couple communication exchanges I agreed to meet with them at the skate park to talk about a possible project. I wasn’t sure at the time what to expect, but after a long conversation about their daily activities it was apparent the two live a life that I thought many would want to see. 
 
What attracts me to the group is the fact that under no circumstance do they care what others think of them. Rarely do you meet someone who could care less about the way people think of their style, personality or actions. I find this very special and it has proved for making interesting photographs. I hope to continue the project so that I can better depict the daily actions of the Cramp The Stupid crew, along with the effect those actions have on others in the community. Also, behind the gritty, punk rock attitudes are caring and passionate individuals. The project won't be finished until I tell more of their story beyond the usual antics.
 
 
TID:
 
What challenges did you encounter while working to get access to this project?
 
ALEX:
 
To be perfectly honest, access hasn’t really been much of an issue. The night I first met up with Sam and Gary I shot Sam skating nude through the public park. In the past I have found myself having trouble getting good access to a handful of stories, but I believe it came pretty easily this time for a few reasons. First, I am around the same age as most of the people in the project. I grew up skateboarding and listening to similar music, so relating to them is pretty easy. Secondly, I’ve found the residents of Corydon to be very open people. Even the older adults have made me feel welcome with my camera in tow. Lastly and most importantly, the group isn’t afraid to act like themselves in front of anyone. Their group of friends understands their behavior and accepts it for what it is.
 
A challenge I have faced, however, is keeping the moments real. They enjoy putting on a show for others, and with a camera in the room it was tough at first to get the guys to not pose. As a journalist I want to capture what happens, but I don’t want to be the reason something occurs. Also, it has been tough at times to photograph some of the activities while knowing that the result could end in serious injury or death. As a human I feel the need to interject in their actions at certain times, but as a journalist I don’t want to shape the way they think. Finding a line between the two is sometimes hard and is something I’ve struggled with so far. 
 
 
TID:
 
How did you handle and overcome these problems? (Problems are not unique, but what is unique is a photographer's ability to problem solve.) 
 
ALEX:
 
At first, I wasn’t sure if blending in as a spectator would even be possible. The first couple hours of my first shoot in Corydon were a bit tough in terms of relaxing the people at the party. I explained my objective to Sam and Gary the first night I met up with them, but it was a tough adjustment. In situations that I knew were posed for the camera, I would simply lower it and watch. If they kept insisting on a picture I’d go ahead and take it, but immediately lower my camera. After a while, the group seemingly forgot I was there. Some people I’ve found are less comfortable in front of a camera than others, but it will inevitably work its self out once you spend more time with them. 
 
As far as keeping away from changing the outcome of the stunts, I’ve learned when to take a step back and let the scene unfold. Letting the guys do what they do is why I am there, so trying to stop it doesn’t help anything. They know the risks they are taking, and I’ve learned to respect that. Besides, I’ve also learned that if someone tries to talk them out of something the chance of it happening greatly increases. Being a good human is still important however, and making sure they are ok before I jump in their face with a camera is the right thing to do. 
 
 
TID:
 
Now, onto the image. Can you talk about the moments leading up to the picture and also the actual moment?
 
ALEX: 
 
As the day progressed the Cramp The Stupid members became increasingly wilder. Early that day, Sam and Gary got matching tattoos reading “CTS” under their bottom lips, and were in an enthusiastic mood to continue to display their dedication to the group. The three guys talked about doing a stunt that involved someone being knocked off a ladder by a moving car. After some serious discussion about how it should go down, it was decided that Sam would stand on the ladder while Gary drives the Jeep into him. Of course there were objections from a couple friends to the idea, but the decision had already been made. 
 

 
Earlier in the evening I witnessed someone climbing up on the roof, and decided to try it for a vantage point on what was about to unfold. The series of test runs and banter gave me enough time to set up a flash to my right since the area was almost pitch black. After about a 30 minute wait on the roof the stunt finally went down. The first try wasn’t good enough in Sam’s opinion, so the group did it again as Josh filmed. The second attempt looked like it hurt much worse, which typically is a success for these guys. A few minutes of downtime afterward led Sam and Josh to agree they needed to do something else. I believe they were drinking Vodka and Amp Energy Drink at the time, which seemed to be the motive behind the behavior at 2 a.m. Still on the roof, I listened to more banter and was able to piece together something involving a picture and Sam’s head. I raced to grab my flash out of the gutter and thought back to what my exposure was at from earlier. Testing it as I walked, I turned the corner and found Sam still shirtless coaxing Josh who was holding a picture frame from right off the wall. For a couple seconds I didn’t think Josh would actually do it, but after one last yell by Sam the frame was smashed into pieces over his head. Because of the flash’s power I only shot a few frames, but managed to freeze the flying glass. After checking to make sure Sam wasn’t to badly cut, the two had a good laugh.
 
TID:
 
What surprised you about the moment?
 
ALEX:
 
First off, I was surprised that the moment even happened. The act seemed to be a bit overboard because there wasn’t even a huge crowd around to watch. After it happened, I was even more surprised that Sam wasn’t severely cut. There was most certainly some glass sticking out of him in places, but nothing was bleeding too heavily. I was actually shocked he was still standing. After he realized he was ok, he ran around the corner and climbed onto the kitchen counter. With one giant leap he flew right into the giant cactus in the counter. The best part was he was just having fun.
TID:
 
What have you learned about yourself in the process of making images like this and working on the project? What have you learned about others?
 
ALEX:
 
Although I’ve only been shooting this story a few weeks, I’ve learned a great bit about what it takes to get a good photo. Unlike shooting a sporting event, lots of time and patience are needed before a real moment occurs. I’ve spent long hours with the guys and have started to build a more personal relationship with them. This is something I’m not particularly used to when photographing, but I’ve found it to be extremely rewarding. In a short weeks I have started to find that although the group seems rough and wild on the outside, they are actually some of the nicest people I have ever met. The experience has really taught me spend as much time with my subjects as possible, because your first couple impressions are not always correct. The idiom “don’t judge a book by its cover” is often over used, but it’s a valuable piece of wisdom in my eyes. I find this especially true as I start a career as a working journalist.
 
 
 
 
TID:
 
In conclusion, what advice do you have for photographers?
 
ALEX:
 
I am only a senior in college right now so I find myself receiving more advice than giving it, but I’d have to say follow up on your curiosity and do something you believe in. It’s been very rewarding to get positive feedback on something I am truly enjoying. Furthermore, be open to people’s thoughts, feelings and lifestyles. Spend time with people with and without a camera. It will help both your work and yourself. 
 
 
 
 
:::BIO:::
 
Alex Goodlett is a senior studying photojournalism and political science at Ohio University. Alex spent two years as a staff photographer for The Post, Ohio’s student run newspaper, and a quarter as a weekly picture editor. He now resides as the chief photographer for Ohio University Athletics, where he commonly works on event coverage and promotional shoots. In the summer of 2011 he completed an internship at The Jersey Journal, where he covered an array of assignments in Hudson County, New Jersey. Alex plans to continue his project while at home for the summer, as well as begin to focus on the forthcoming school year. 
 
 
 
 
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