Our latest issue includes an exclusive article with the legendary Billboard Liberation Front.For over 30 years, the infamous pranksters and performance artists have made it their mission to “improve and clarify” Madison Avenue’s constant stream of advertising that pollutes our urban skylines.We hired photographer Joe Reifer,known for his numerous night shots, portraits of abandoned places andbeautiful photographs of junkyards,to host a rare photo session just for the article.Below is Joe’s recount of the session, with a first look at the exclusive photos which didn’t get used in the final layouts.
Billboard Liberation Front honcho Jack Napier suggested scouting an abandoned office building as the location for a Hi-Fructose photo shoot. The place was perfect — rooftop views and a gutted interior with exposed framing that would make a great backdrop. While wandering through the location Mr. Napier investigated an Elevator Machine Room by quickly removing a lock from the door. I asked if I could photograph him, as he improvised a disguise to conceal his identity using a random arm sling found on site. This photo became the opening spread of the BLF feature in issue 18 of Hi-Fructose. Before I could even pack my camera, Mr. Napier had replaced the lock as if nothing had happened.
We decided to meet 2 days later at this location to photograph a dozen or so BLF operatives. My friend and talented photographer Riki Feldmann assisted on the shoot, and we arrived early to setup the lighting and do some test shots. Soon there were 24 BLF operatives partying on the rooftop. Strobes popped, old friends reunited, and the flask was passed. We were going to mark the ground with gaffer’s tape so people would know where to stand for optimum lighting. One of the first fellows to have his photo taken spilled some whiskey during his portrait session, so we told the remaining subjects to stand between the whiskey, a puddle of water, and a dead bird (which is visible in the foreground of the large group portrait).
We were continually amazed by the variety of clever disguises. One BLF member built a costume out of a cardboard box and a bucket while waiting to be photographed! At one point two guys in suits with large bear and rabbit heads were kung fu fighting — I was laughing so hard I could barely hold the camera. After shooting portraits of everyone, Mr. Napier helped corral the BLF operatives into three group shots: original members, the middle decade, and the more recent recruits. Then we did a large group shot. After the shoot concluded the party continued on the rooftop for a while, and then adjourned to a nearby restaurant where the wildest dishes on the menu were consumed including frog, and durian shakes. Big thanks to Attaboy and Annie for sending me on one of the most intense and hilarious photo assignments ever, and a tip of the hat to the BLF for years of superb advertising improvements!