Una Pura Verdad: a film by Flemming Bo Jensen

Several years ago, while I was still working as a photographer, I received a call from the marketing director at Blurb who asked what I was working on. She explained that Blurb had a film crew and was looking for a photographer who was mid project. I gave a quick explanation of my New Mexico Project and film crew said, “Yes, yes, yes.” Several weeks later I met up with the team in Southern New Mexico and we spend three days together. It was a great experience, and the resulting film really took on a life of its own.
New Mexico 201209. Una Pura Verdad
Fast forward to 2012. Early in the year I taught a workshop in Peru and one of the students was this photo-Jedi from of all places Denmark. I’m a product of the public education system here in the good old US of A so I was VERY well acquainted with Denmark. A red and white flag of some sort, reindeer and people who live in mud huts, but what was puzzling to me was the photo-Jedi himself. He went by the name Flemming Bo Jensen, which in itself was complicated and confusing but nothing compared to the language he spoke when he we first met. If you haven’t heard Danish please look it up online. It turns out the perpetually traveling Dane was an encyclopedia of anything Star Wars and would often times reenact entire scenes, playing all characters and reciting dialogue to perfection. Talk about a great skill to have. He was also an accomplished photographer and technology dude of the highest of levels. After the workshop we remained in contact and ultimately made plans to connect when his travels aimed him toward the American Southwest.
New Mexico 201209. Una Pura Verdad
I was continuing to work on my New Mexico Project and began to realize how advantageous it would be if I had another film to play with. Blurb had plans to release their rich-media platform, so I knew I would have a home for both the original film and as many other motion pieces I could create. I mentioned this to Flemming and asked if he would be up for working together. He was.
New Mexico 201209. Una Pura Verdad
So, we formed a plan, lit some candles, sacrificed a few, small woodland creatures(kidding) and set out into the Land of Enchantment. As with all things in my life, I didn’t have much time. I took a week off from work and we did what we could. Some things worked really well and others not so much, but what I can state with absolute certainty is that we both learned a lot. I did audio recordings of text I had already written, and tried to wrap my head around an edit that might be interesting. Flemming was buzzing around our tiny house like an angry bee, shouting instructions in Danish and waving his arms in a figure eight pattern as he talked about growing up on a farm in Degobah. At the end of the week I departed for California and Flemming rented a supercharged Dodge and continued his travels.
New Mexico 201209. Una Pura Verdad
Over the past few months the film began to take shape. Flemming approached a local friend and guitar player, David Goldberg, who agreed to do a soundtrack. I processed the film and made my selects. Flemming, through his Danish music scene connections, began to polish the sound and edit. Ultimately what was born is the film you see below; Una Pura Verdad(A Simple Truth). If you want to know the technical details and read Flemming’s take on the matter you can read his post HERE. When the film was finished Flemming and I made the instant decision that the finished film was more of a opening than a closing. We both know that filmmaking is going to be a big part of our future, probably more for Flemming than me, just based on time, but we already have plans for a future meeting in Santa Fe with more films on the visual horizon. This film was a tremendous amount of work, and I wish I could say it will repay us with fortunes in lost gold and invitations to late night parties in Hollywood, but the reality is this film was a labor of love that will, chances are, end up costing us several thousand dollars to produce, more if you count the time and travel. It’s something we did because we felt we needed to do it. It’s a personal project down to the DNA. Many thanks to Flemming, my wife Amy, David Goldberg, the Copenhagen crew and also photographer Arthur Drooker who led this horse to water. Siempre junto.

Una Pura Verdad from Flemming Bo Jensen on Vimeo.

42 responses to “Una Pura Verdad: a film by Flemming Bo Jensen”

  1. Hannah Kozak says:

    “The light’s good and your hearts just pounding. ” – So relatable, Daniel. Loved learning about The Burning of Gloom; Zazobra which is Spanish for anxiety What a wonderful way to destroy the worries and troubles of the previous years in flames. Like you said, when you don’t feel like you have a choice to make a project, that’s what makes it authentic. Wonderful work by Flemming Bo Jensen and Daniel Milnor. Gorgeous guitar soundtrack.

    • Smogranch says:

      Thanks Hannah,
      I love the soundtrack too. David is really talented. This project really haunts me. I was recently asked if I could go anywhere in the world and work on a project where would it be. I said, “New Mexico” and the person asking was floored.

  2. Interesting. Thanks for this, Flemming and Daniel.

  3. Jeff Frost says:

    Daniel, to put it simply this is great photography. I love the concept and narrative, and it echoes many of my childhood experiences in the remote parts of Utah. The New Mexico project, and the documentary by Flemming (which I didn’t want to end), has a real and vital personality that I find incredibly compelling. More from both of you, please!

    • Smogranch says:

      Jeff,
      Coming from you this means a lot. I think you and I share a few ghosts so to speak, at least in terms of childhood. Flemming and I are actively planning mission number two. Thanks.

    • I agreed that it was too short. You can easily make a hour long documentary about photography and new mexico and sell it to networks or other broadcasting companies. Lots of options. Cost of making would be relative low. A little critique of the short, is that Dan´s face is barely seen in it as it would be nice to put a face on who is narrating.

    • Really, you want to see more of Dan’s face? 🙂 Yeah I kinda noticed that in editing, woops, didn’t do any portrait shots at all. But I deliberately wanted no interview shots but I should have had a portrait shoot from the front.
      As for length, I had very little time to shoot, 4 days and I edited it very tightly as in threw out lots of scenes – I’m happy people want more, better than thinking it’s long and boring. That means there’s basis for much more Una Pura Verdad filming and full length feature!
      Cost of making is pretty high though, I require a constant supply of Lotaburgers, Coffee and Thai food to keep the film making engine running!

    • Smogranch says:

      FBJ,
      Yes, more of ME!!! That is the crazy part. How LITTLE time we had and how few real shoot options and yet it still worked due to magic, green chili, pixie sticks, coffee and keeping Amy at bay.

    • Smogranch says:

      Hey Per,
      I was thinking the same thing. The first film had an interview, which we might do the next time. I would also like to add more stills.

  4. Awesome as always! Although our work may be at opposite ends of the spectrum, I love seeing yours! Hope to see you sometime soon.

  5. mike a says:

    That was just cool my man. Can’t wait for the next one.

  6. Larry says:

    I’ve been looking forward to this since you told me about it. And it didn’t disappoint! Great job by you and Fleming as well as Amy. Loved the soundtrack and I think the simple narrative Fleming was going for really shines. Looking forward to Part Duex. Keep up the great work.

  7. Jason Timmis says:

    Two words guys: nailed it, yeah baby & way cool 🙂

    Really liked the overview aspect of it. It will sure help put the ‘why do you want to photograph me’ question in perspective.

  8. LionelB says:

    A reindeer in Denmark would be a very lost and confused animal, for sure. Your journey to New Mexico equals Copenhagen to Milan but the contrast that you show is a hundred times greater. Unless you count animation, television presents the USA as New York and the Pacific coast. What photographers bring back from New Mexico are endless slide shows of wind-worn orange rocks and dried river beds. For them, the state it is just an empty landscape. What you show is how vibrant it is. And how special. As an outsider, I can see that such a thing as an ‘American’ narrative does exist but I struggle to see how that can be, when the constituent places are so foreign, one from another. Somehow I don’t think the lure of New Mexico will ever leave you. ‘Long term project’ here means for as long as you have the strength to lift a camera. Lucky guy.

  9. …wow.
    There is nothing like seeing “simple” shown so well.
    Really nicely done.
    cheers
    Frank

  10. Thanks everyone for the very nice feedback, greatly appreciated. It was my first documentary, and we are definitely making more movies. Stay tuned to this great channel 🙂

  11. Wim says:

    Absolutely inspiring! I am so happy that you have a project which is really important to you. The photographs getting more powerful with a great story behind! Thanks for quieting your daily job and great job from you and Bo!! Keep going!

    • Smogranch says:

      Wim,
      I quite one and landed in another, but this one is WAY more interesting! My photography is secondary, maybe third or fourth down my list of responsibilities, but it’s in my mind everyday.

  12. greg g says:

    Saw and commented on this first on FBJ’s site and hoped you’d post it too. Easily one of the best most exciting things I’ve seen being done out there today.

    Like everybody else I look forward to more, but not just more video, more stills from the project. I think sometimes you are a bit too modest about the quality of the images you make. The project needs a book or books. I know it’s about time, but it’s not just the NM communities and people that need to see this project: as a end product or perhaps even more usefully as a work in progress.

    Anyhow, I’m just a guy that follows some blogs and struggles to make any quality images of my own, but I still think I know them when I see them, and these deserve to be widely seen.

    • Smogranch says:

      Hey Greg,

      I agree, I’d like to show more stills next time, but I really need to get out and MAKE more…easier said than done. I’ve got limited time, so I need a little luck. You hit on a really important point which is getting the images into the communities, also easier said than done. I also have to remember that a lot of folks really don’t care. This isn’t a bad thing, just a reality, but one I find interesting and challenging.

  13. Harold says:

    I often write lengthy comments that I never post… anyway, a few disconnected thoughts. Numero Uno would be my mantra that “We create on the frontier, seldom in the factory.” Once something becomes too familiar it becomes “organized” and somehow the mystery is gone. Someone has to go to the frontier, do the work, make the mistakes so the history is recorded for others to learn from. And we all know what happens when we don’t pay attention to history… Jedi-Jensen reminded me of my own experience of sitting through 3 complete showings of Star Wars before I could get in to see the premier.. sitting on the floor of the Galleria in Houston. Early adopter syndrome I guess. —Nothing quite like a solo guitar to create that spatial feeling, very well played too. A feature length documentary would not be out of the question, at least conceptually. Yes, I am experientially aware of how long it takes and how much work it is. 🙂 Besides being a fascinating look at something I might not see otherwise it also helps. It helps to remind me that I used to do “projects” when I was younger and attempted things clearly beyond my skill and ability. Inspirational work Dan… Keep going.

    • Smogranch says:

      Thanks Harold,

      I don’t mind doing the film because Flemming does all the work. All he needs is a bowl of water, some rice, a slit trench for bathroom duties and enough Blake’s Lotaburger green chili cheese specials and he is totally fine. He’s a machine. Outside flesh, inside hyper alloy combat chassis.

    • Harold says:

      Must try Blake’s sometime. The Lottaburger was copied back here in middle earth. Our Friday night treat, growing up. [probably not as good as the original]

    • Smogranch says:

      It’s all about the green chili.

    • Lotaburger with green chile gooooood. Keep the Danish Jedi running for a long time. Also those Pie Town pies were gooooood. That, Thai food, and never ending supply of coffee, all I need to create a full length Una Pura Verdad. Let’s do it!
      I should do an outtakes video some day. Funniest bit is where that young girl at Zozobra wielding a light saber crosses Dan’s path and cuts him off, causing him to look very bewildered into the camera. Tiny lethal 9 year old Jedi.

    • Smogranch says:

      FBJ,
      I was powerless against her skills.

  14. Jason Timmis says:

    While working away today I had two delayed thoughts about this post & video.

    1. Did anyone else notice that Mrs Smogranch made a (perhaps unwilling) debut?

    2. Does anyone else think that to really put the Smogranch spin on this the next video should be shot on…wait for it….Super 8 ?

    🙂

    • Smogranch says:

      Jason,
      Yes, she was lurking in the shadows. And we spoke about shooting film. There are serious logistical issues, BUT, we are still talking about it.

    • 1) Well spotted! She’s in there for a few secs. The full clip featuring Amy is outstanding, so much fun.

      2) 35 or 16mm film must happen someday! Not very practical BUT it would fit so well with the project.

  15. Simone Paoletti says:

    Great video, I’m going to view it again and again … !
    Thank you Dan, Flemming !

  16. Chris Fuller says:

    I enjoyed the video, especially hearing you discuss the meaning of the project, not the gear. The shot in the film that struck me the most upon a second viewing was you driving the car with a map unfolded before you on the steering wheel. I am not sure how much people rely on maps anymore. Most of what I hear is talk about GPS units (even naming them). When my family travels we only use maps, no GPS. Only in this way can we view the context of our travels and have the freedom to make other choices. I have no grudge against GPS or digital maps (love Google maps). However, I often find them more constraining than freeing when traveling.

    • Smogranch says:

      Chris,
      I think the GPS in the phone, which I will use from time to time when I’m traveling in cities, has actually damaged our ability to navigate. People reach for that thing in their driveway. I like to try and figure out where I am based on topography and the sun, but I also grew up in the country and this was a normal thing. I also just LOVE maps. I guess it’s official, I am NOT a believer in technology cures all ills. I think it’s great, but it can work in mysterious ways.

  17. Thought you might find this of interest about Pie Town from FSA photographer Russell Lee, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/pietown.html#

    • Smogranch says:

      Hey Paul,
      Yes, I’ve seen that. And, Arthur Drooker, who is the photographer who led me to Pie Town, is also involved in a Pie Town project. A really interesting one.

  18. Really enjoyed this video. So cool to see someone shooting film on a rangefinder camera. I love the gritty feel of the resulting black and whites. Very nice. Makes me want to dig out my film body. Also nice to see Flemming’s camera work. Great work you guys! Thanks

    • Smogranch says:

      Thanks Andrew,

      Yep, film all the way for me. I don’t own a digital camera any longer. So easy and efficient to process film. No computer time…..even better.

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