The tattooed men in Rhys’ life: March


March: Ken Samuels, vinyl collector, pancake expert, husband of former New Times arts editor Erin Messer

Rhys doesn’t have many people in the office who are willing to indulge his fondness for babbling about sports. We’re just not a very sporty office, which should be immediately apparent to anyone who knows us. Colin frequently rants against sports fans who use the term “we” when talking about their team of choice; “Oh, did you get your ass off the couch and score a touchdown?” Colin will ask. And he’ll deliberately confuse his sports terminology so that if someone’s talking about football, Colin will ask whether the bases were loaded or how many people struck out. It’s childish, but it’s a good method of discouraging sports talk in the office.

But there was one person willing to talk sports with Rhys: former arts editor Erin Messer’s husband, Ken. Fortunately, Ken also happens to be sporting a half-dozen tattoos based on characters and illustrations from children’s books. So, it was pretty obvious that Ken would be the best candidate for a sporty pin-up photo shoot.

A very long time ago the office decided it would be fun to play basketball together on Saturday mornings in Emerson Park in San Luis Obispo. After a great deal of arguing over how early was too early—there was a camp that held that anything before 1 p.m. was obscene on a Saturday—we did manage to schedule a couple games before the effort just sort of petered out and we all went back to sleeping in really late. Rhys quickly took on the role of coach, which none of the rest of us encouraged or wanted, but he just couldn’t help himself so he gave shooting advice and the rest of us kept performing poorly and mostly ignored his advice. The best part was that we’d sometimes get writers straggling in an hour after we’d started, beer can in hand, smoking a cigarette—which I, as office mom, feel compelled to discourage. So, as you can see, it was a pastime that we all took very seriously.

We decided, in honor of our few brief and embarrassing games at Emerson Park, to do Ken’s pin-up shoot there. Coming up with poses for this particular concept was easy—Ken, spinning the basketball on his finger; Ken splayed out on the basketball court with the basketball; tossing the basketball with a seductive leg kick.

And luckily Erin was there as well to help as art director. It’s difficult for Colin to provide helpful advice for the model, who might not realize they’re scrunching up their face every time they leap into the air or that their raised arm is blocking the view of their tattoo. Having a second set of eyes is essential to getting a good shot. The photographer could, theoretically, just shoot hundreds of options and hope one of them works out. And I do recommend shooting hundreds of options either way, but having an art director to look critically at the model’s poses and clothing during the actual shoot can dramatically increase the quality of the photos overall. And we had two extra pairs of eyes that day, which was especially nice because Colin usually has me stationed near the model with a giant reflector that blocks my view of what’s happening.

When I look at the final shot we chose on that day, I can’t help but think that there’s something so characteristically San Luis Obispo about it. Maybe it’s the palm trees or intense blue sky, or the fact that I know there are enormous Victorian houses worth millions of dollars in the background. Or maybe it’s just reflective of MY San Luis Obispo—a city where adults play basketball on lazy Saturday afternoons, an adult playground essentially.


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