Hanging Out With A Bowling Samurai

Hanging Out With A Bowling Samurai

A string of photo assignments had me in the South end of Washington a couple weeks ago. It being quite a drive from my place in Tacoma, I decided to negate a lot of driving back and fourth by staying down in the area with an old friend, Ryan, in Longview, WA. I was born and semi raised in Longview. Due to work related reasons, my parents moved us a lot all over the state of Washington, but for a number of years (off and on) I called Longview home. The majority of my moving from my middle school years and on kept me on the I-5 corridor, always within an hour or so of Longview, so Ryan and I’s friendship remained active. Our friendship started way back in the third grade (apparently that’s how we track our childhood memories, by the school grade and not age; kinda weird but it works), and we used to everything together back then. Of course when you are kids and can’t drive you bike and roller blade everywhere (don’t hate, roller blading was a big deal back then). We spent countless hours traveling the decent sized town just getting to and from each others’ homes or the various points of interest. We were those kind of friends that didn’t need anyone else to have a blast all day long. We’d play just about every sport, and we’d invent variations of each game to make them entertaining in a one-on-one scenario, even baseball. Even after I moved out of town we’d find times to hang, though not as much, and now as “responsible” adults, we get the chance a few times a year. The photos you see here are from our most recent hangout.

Ryan has been a bowler for as long as I’ve known him, and as we’ve well-established, that’s good number of years. He still participates in bowling leagues and tournaments, so he knows his way around the alley and bowls a clean game. I wish I lived closer so I could bowl with him. Short side story – in college I took a bowling class. The first day of class I found myself walking into the Ellensburg bowling alley to see a man standing up in front of the students sporting a long grey pony tail, gold and silver sparkly bowling shoes, and a hook for a hand. I wish I was joking, but… I’m not. Can’t make this stuff up. The movie ‘King Pin’ immediately raced through my head, and I quickly looked around the roomfor a camera, as surely this was a gag. No camera, no gag, this was the bowling instructor. Anywho, I’ve done my fair share of bowling and enjoy it, even if I do have both of my hands…

I called Ryan up and told him that I wanted to take some fun photos of him bowling when I knew I was going to get the chance to come hangout. The bowling concept started in one place and eventually worked it’s way to what you see here. Essentially just a wacky, retro-like bowler. I asked Ryan to wear an old bowling shirt of his, one that doesn’t really “fit” him anymore. I definitely wanted to feed the well-known fact that the typical bowling junkie isn’t exactly defined as an athlete in the peak of physical fitness. Not to say that a consistently great bowler doesn’t require dedication on a number of levels to hone skill, it does, but it’s not a physically demanding sport. I’m sure we’ve all seen ‘The Big Lebowski,’ and that was a partial vibe I wanted for this shoot. We found a box of vintage 60’s and 70’s sunglasses in the back of the store him and is mother run, and paired them with sweatbands, jean cutoff shorts, and tall tube socks. This was the out-of-place fashion I wanted, a ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ feel for our bowler. That sense that when you see this guy, you are not quite sure if he is aware that he looks like a fashion train wreck or not. The skull-encased bowling ball, which Ryan already owned, was a great touch to the character.

I had already made some sketches coming into the shoot, some key compositions that I wanted to snag. Even though I do have a good foundation for a concept when I approach a shoot, I always keep my eyes open when on-location. Often times the sights, sounds, and smells will inspire something completely random, creating an image better than anything that was planned. For example, the top image of Ryan “meditating” is probably my favorite from the shoot, and something I came up with right on the spot. Talking a good friend into dressing like a dork and posing for pictures in front of a busy bowling alley for a couple hours is already asking a lot, so Ryan gets extra points for agreeing to do this pose sitting at the top of the lanes. Totally worth any possible temporary embarrassment, if you ask me.

The last time I visited Ryan it happened to be during his bowling night. He introduced me to what they call a “tube of beer.” What bowling experience can confidently be called a success without a beer or… 10? Once again, a comical side to the sport of bowling. Beer – the Gatorade of the bowling world. Desperately need to pick-up that 7-10 split? Just guzzle another beer, that should help. Anyways, Ryan and I split a tube of beer, which you can find pictured here. Essentially it’s a tall tube of beer impressively displayed for all beer drinkers to idolize while you hurl heavy balls down a long wood floor, trying to knock things over. Pretty much a perfect dude evening. The thing even has a cooling system built into the base to keep the beverage cold, as it does take a while to finish. Revisiting the alley this time, I definitely wanted to incorporate this into the shoot to add a little extra… class. Add a plate of nachos and you have a perfect dietary pyramid (don’t quote me on that).

We had a lot of fun making these images. I’m glad I got to photograph Ryan doing something he truly loves, and is pretty darn good at. I also appreciate, in the effort of making some interesting images, he allowed me to dress him up in an outfit that is otherwise pretty ridiculous. Below are a couple shots of the two of us at the very end. Turns out I still bowl like I did as a teenager – immaturely.