In an age when Photoshop reigns, the Imps of Marge and Fletch bring a stylized, cinematic sensibility to digital photography, shooting as much as possible in camera. The L.A.-based art collective is named after the intersection of Marguerite and Fletcher in Glassell Park, where Scott Garrison, Todd Daniels and Nicholas Kirsten all found themselves living together during the film and television writers strike of 2007. The lack of work inspired the three motion-picture industry professionals to shoot their own film-inspired stills, and, after putting together a 2008 calendar, the Imps of Marge and Fletch were born.
A prop master by day, Todd Daniels took on the role of the Imps' art director, and Nicholas Kirsten, a professional grip, wound up as the group's producer. Meanwhile, camera assistant Scott Garrison became the Imps' official photographer.
Kirsten and Garrison have since moved from the Imps' eponymous headquarters, but every day, after clocking out from their various day jobs, the three men continue to work tirelessly on their pet project. They're wrapping up their inaugural Facebook-based photo contest, and are trying to raise funds for The End of the World, a photo book about a 2012 "patsy messiah."
"We approach all the photos from the film aspect of trying to capture a frame from a film," says Daniels. It's this painstaking approach that pays off in the end, yielding a wide-ranging, if somewhat odd body of work that's made the Imps of Marge and Fletch an international sensation -- even if they're still almost unknown in their own town.
Their style is hard to pin down, which is one reason why this group of artists is unique and true to its name. The Imps are partly influenced by animated shorts, from vintage Hanna-Barbera and Ren and Stimpy to Spongebob Squarepants. But while their inspiration might come from animation, the Imps create make-believe freeze-frames from a kind of imaginary, demented infomercial or cursed film production -- were it directed by someone like David Lynch or Jill Greenberg.
Instead of being landscapes, portraits, or snapshots, the Imps' photographs manage to be all -- yet none -- of the above, leading to an aesthetic that seeks to capture the climax of a situation, a time when proportion and perspective tends to becomes skewed. It's this kind of experimentation that's one of the reasons they're so popular abroad, where both technical and conceptual risk-taking is more highly prized than in Hollywood. "But all in all," says Garrison, "it's about creating a frame that will force the viewer to keep staring until they see all the details."
We asked the Imps of Marge and Fletch to share a few of their own favorite pictures from the last five years to see if you agree. The comments are from Garrison.
"From our 2011 calendar. Really, really proud of this shot -- how I accomplished the lighting and that we did everything in camera for this one." --Scott Garrison
"Our friends, and my favorite band in Los Angeles, Kid Infinity, for what was supposed to be a compilation 7" picture disc."
"This is by far our most popular and famous picture, also the second one we ever shot. I'm not really a fan, but people love it."
"Polly Perrette came out last-minute and filled in for a flake model who cancelled the day of, and killed it. From our 2009 calendar."
"A couple artist friends of ours from Austria, Lukas Gansterer and Clemens Wolf."
"That kid is absolute gold, never took a bad picture: Anoeil Morekhandi."
"Based off a song Todd wrote by the same name. The baby was really there and totally cool with it. I loved how everything turned out a little skewed."
"Another fake ad with comedians Kate Micucci and Nick Thune from the 2011 calendar."
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"Us in our underwear in Mount Washington, a little treat for the joggers. The cover of our 2011 calendar."
"A last-minute shoot we did for Shooter Jennings -- so much fun, he was so nice and was down for anything. An excellent subject."