Grant Keltner

Matt Dillon

Matt Dillon

I have a photography background, been involved with photography for years; I took my first class with photography when I was in high school, a black and white photography class to be exact, I took the class my junior year, learned about “F” stops and Aperture settings, learned about I.S.O. and White balance, I learned how to develop film and make prints.  I learned about burning and dodging, worked with enlargers, learned about tripods, it was fun.  I loved looking at the work of Ansell Adams, Imogene Cunningham, Edward Curtis, Margaret Burke White, and Robert Frank in just naming a few famous photographers.  I loved Vanity Fair and Life magazine, loved the portrait shots.  I took photography classes while I attended college at the University of Oregon.  I took advanced classes working with 35mm cameras.  I’ve been taking photographs most of my life.  I prefer landscape photographs.

As a kid my father was always buying me cameras, I think he was trying to tell me something at a young age.  I had an old Kodak Brownie and a Polaroid Swinger, they were great cameras.  After graduating from the University of Oregon I got a job working for the Northwest Examiner newspaper which is located in N.W. Portland.  It’s an awarding wining bi-weekly newspaper.  I was hired in taking photographs of local events; I worked with the Examiner for almost eight years.  I covered several hot topics in the neighborhood at that time.  I photographed several writers, politicians, community gatherings, rummages, neighborhood events, court hearings, legislation that was taking place in the neighborhood.  I covered people getting elected, school events, new shops opening in the neighborhood, sporting events, you name it I photographed it.  I shot a lot of film.

I covered many memorable news events while at the N.W. Examiner, the demolition of old homes in N.W. Portland was a very memorable news event, or should I say a series of news events that I covered with my camera.  We saved two homes from the wrecking ball (when I say “WE” I should clarify that my assignments came from the editor of the paper, Mr. Allen Clausen.); we saved homes from the wrecking ball back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.  One of the homes we saved was a famous old captains house built in the 1880s, the other home we saved was a really nice old N.W. home located on the corner of N.W. 23rd and Northrup.  We covered the demolition with certain sections of the neighborhood, the demolition was ordered by a developer by the name of Phil Morford.  Phil bought several homes in the neighborhood during this time, bought them from a well to do doctor, this doctor owned several homes down off of N.W. Pettygrove, N.W. Overton, N.W. 24th, N.W. Thurmun and N.W. Upshur.  He destroyed about twenty or thirty homes or so, scraped them in a matter of minutes; it sure caused a commotion in the neighborhood.

Mr. Morford caused a lot of ruckus, he kicked renters out of the homes he owned, several people had been renting there for years, some of these people got mad, the neighborhood had changed, and it was 1992 or so.

I was down at a protest one day, I was sent in to shoot the protests over Mr. Morford tearing down some of the older homes in the neighborhood, down off of N.W. Pettygrove.  I got to the protest, there were several people with signs, police stopped in with their lights flashing, arguments broke out, people got mad, a small riot broke out, somebody threw a rock, someone took a swing at a cop, a police officer came up to me and got tough when I started to take photographs, he yelled at me, wanted me to get out of the way, I thought my camera would be broken, people got arrested.  It was a pretty ugly scene.

The neighborhood was upset at what had been done to the homes, the protests continued; old folks with limited incomes were forced to leave their homes.  A few months after the arrests some unknown person took a torch to one of the newly constructed wood framed condos.  The fire caused damage to three of the units; old Victorians use to sit on the ground that now had rows and rows of condos.  Fire trucks were called in to put out the fire, the fire was on local news.  People got mad, real mad, more protests followed.

Laws were passed; several people tried to put new rules and regulations in place in not allowing historical homes to be torn down in N.W. Portland.  We got landmark legislation in place in not allowing people to tear down these great old homes, are whole idea was to bring attention to what was being done, how these beautiful homes were being torn down.  This assignment went on for almost three years.

There was the time I did the photo shoot at the Northwest Animal hospital.  Two of the veterinarians at the hospital were standing out front when I got there with my trusty camera.  There was a miniature collie and a big tabby cat being held by each vet.  I took a portrait of the two doctors holding the collie and the tabby, it was a nice shoot overall and was included in an informative article about new changes that were being done at the hospital, a benefit to the community.

The funniest photo shoot I ever was involved with had to have been the shoot with the movie “Drugstore Cowboy,” filmed in N.W. Portland.  I talked to my editor in getting the O.K. in shooting the movie set; I was instructed to get a pass with clearance.  The film was filmed by Gus Van Sant; the neighborhood had movie sets in certain sections of the neighborhood associated with the movie.  I called the city of Portland and got the pass, the pass would let me get on the film set and photograph the actors and actresses.  I went down town and got the pass, pinned it to my jacket and got all my photograph equipment ready for the shoot.

I showed up on the set, it was early in the morning; there were a few trailers, lights, and wires draped out along the street.  I was walking down the sidewalk towards the set.  Stepping over the wires and cables attached to cameras and lights.  All of a sudden here pops out Matt Dillon, walking out of one of the trailers.  He looked at me and gave me a funny look, looked at my camera.  He was about 5’8” or so, he started to get tough with me, flexing his muscles.  He made a few tough guy faces at me; it reminded me of a Popeye cartoon.

“What are you doin’ here?” replied Matt.

I was taken a back, I couldn’t believe it in a way, and there was Matt Dillon, standing right in front of me.  He was dressed in a dark black sir jacket and was wearing worn black jeans, smoking a cigarette; he tried to get tough with me, looked at my camera and stuck out his chin at me, he had a nice square chin, he gave me his best Marlon Brando impersonation and wiggled his eye brows at me.

I looked at him and smiled.  I really couldn’t believe I was standing next to Matt Dillon, I had seen his movies in the past, liked him in Rumble Fish, and a few other films with his earlier work when he was just a kid.  He always played a tough kid that smoked and had a lousy attitude, usually causing trouble in his early movies.  I loved Drugstore Cowboy and Something about Mary and Crash, their all great movies.

Well there he was, he moved towards me, I thought he was going to grab my camera, he looked like a burglar.  I was concerned for the safety of my camera.

“What are ya’ doin’ with that camera?” he barked.  He was kind of whipping his nose as I stood in front of him.  His hands were on his hips, his head was tilt to the side.

I backed away; he looked like he was going to tackle me or maybe wrestle me to the ground.  I looked at him, gave him a glare, gave him my best Bruce Lee.

“I’m here on a photo assignment, I have a press pass right here,” I pointed to the shiny piece of paper hanging from my jacket.

“Yeah, well tough, I don’t want ya’ to take my photograph, I didn’t give you the right to take my photograph, ya’ can’t take my photograph, I have my rights, who gave you the O.K in taking my photograph?”  He babbled along and I kept looking at him, I thought maybe his underwear was on to tight.

He started to move closer to me; I kept backing off, gradually taking tiny steps in the other direction.  He started to make more goofy faces at me.  I shook my head, and asked myself how do I get in these situations?  Was this part of his method acting classes?

I had my press pass, I was fine I thought to myself, he continued to give me dirty looks, I kept taking his photograph.  I backed off and walked down the sidewalk past big movie set lights that had been set up in shooting the movie.

He kept looking at me as I walked away, he went into one of the trailers, and shut the door, I made my way back to where his trailer was, I sat down on a stair attached to one of the apartments on the set, checked my camera settings.  I sat across from his trailer for about ten minutes and then eventually he came walking out, he glared at me as I sat there with my camera.  He started to walk up to me, hunched over, acting like a character from one of his movies I thought.

“If you do anything to my camera I’ll punch you!  I don’t want any of that Hollywood Pavarotti stuff!”  I barked at him.

He started to laugh at me, he laughed like a mad scientist, and I started to take his photograph.

I kept walking back down the street, he kept coming towards me, and I kept looking over my shoulders as he followed me.

I turned around and kept taking his photograph, he started to get closer to me.  I kept going down the street.  He yelled something at me:

“Reper’ stipper’ madder jabber tribley melt!”  I was standing twenty yards from him, I couldn’t hear what he was yelling, he was well dressed, as far as I knew he could have been drunk, his hair looked good, he was yelling at me and I couldn’t hear a word he was saying.  It sounded like someone that had marbles in his mouth.

I smiled, flipped him off, and then walked down the street.

I got home and had Pro Photo develop the film, got the proofs back, I had some really funny shots of Matt Dillon.  I wish he would have been cool, let me really take his photograph and be able to capture a nice portrait of him.  I got his mad Popeye shots, got shots of him smiling, got shots of him laughing, looking grumpy, and it was a good shoot I thought to myself.

Looking back I wish he wasn’t such a curmudgeon, he could have been easier to work with, I thought to myself, I have a guest pass, I’m legit, no reason in being a brat, or a wanker.  I think I could have gotten a real nice shot of him, a photograph that people would have enjoyed.

I took the photographs to my editor, he looked at them, and laughed as I told him the story about the shoot, we chuckled about it.  We picked out a photograph that looked good, lots of contrast, portrait shot of him standing on the sidewalk looking tough.  We put the photograph on the back cover of the newspaper.

I liked the movie he shot here in Portland, after everything was said and done I thought Matt Dillon did a great job in the movie, I just wish we could have gotten along a bit better.

Leave a Reply