Society for Human Resource Management
Another project with SHRM, a favorite ongoing collaboration. Each year, we explore how to highlight the host city for the SHRM Annual Conference.
Sometimes an area highlights itself….Vegas, baby.
Another project with SHRM, a favorite ongoing collaboration. Each year, we explore how to highlight the host city for the SHRM Annual Conference.
Sometimes an area highlights itself….Vegas, baby.
As a photographer, the camera can default to something we hide behind, letting our finished images communicate for us. But it can also be a tool to connect through.
Whether it’s hosting a monthly yoga class in my studio, or time spent talking with the brand innovators of tomorrow – I want my work to go beyond the images I create, to be a part of the creative community.
This project wasn’t a feat of post-production, everything was practical -floors were built in stables and pump houses and carpet was really laid down outdoors.
It was a pleasure to work with Creative Director, Jeremy Estroff, of 3 Atlanta
The Smithsonian is an American treasure, full of American treasures. Whether you’ve been there or not, the name Smithsonian points to our collective national history. Within the walls live stories in 3D, a narrative made more whole, more revealing and more resonant by objects preserved. Simply, it is the stuff of moments and eras, and it is really cool.
I’m extraordinarily fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Smithsonian on a variety of projects …and when I say variety I mean from Judy Garland’s ruby slippers to C3PO to James’ Brown Hammond Organ. Each project with them is a bit like the best day in History class.
On top of all the objects I’m lucky enough to get close to – my projects with the Smithsonian are always unique from a photography standpoint. Because of the sacred/fragile/protected nature of so many artifacts in the Museums, it’s often a dance with the curators in regards to approach. Production solutions range from (but are not limited to) photographing through glass the objects on display, working after hours and under limited time constraints that our created light can be shining on an object. And there is always the challenge of hopefully capturing the beauty or weight of objects, that have been seen so many times, in a way that invites another look.
While I can’t pick a favorite shoot for Smithsonian, photographing the Blood Relics from the Lincoln Assassination sticks with me. Each of the 13 items I photographed alone represents an aspect of that watershed American moment – panic, politics, revenge, compassion and loss. But to see them woven into the full story through the collector’s lens of James L. Swanson in his piece for Smithsonian Magazine, moves them beyond the simply historical. Written for the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s 1865 assassination, you feel his reverence for these artifacts as well as a bigger call to collectively recall.
These aren’t just photographs of beautiful people, in beautiful clothing, in a beautiful setting.
These are clothes, woven from the wool of sheep raised on this land. The images captured still moments, while just out of frame and between locations, we heard, saw and smelled the motion of life and work of a farm.
Thank you Gum Tree Farm, Franny Kansteiner and Beverly Kansteiner Burden
Concept by Sandra Ranke
What does a “Just Cuz/If I win I’ll give you half/Yaaass/aw, you shouldn’t have” – gift look like?
I’m not sure anyone would have given me half, but it was a fun, happy shoot that captured the possibility that is the lottery.
Creative Director: Ron Villacarillo
Senior Producer: Wendy Dunn McCallum
Producer: Wylie Moran
One of the things I’ve come to value most about being a photographer is the opportunity to learn from every project.
Case in point, when working with the team at SmithGifford on the MyEyeDr. “Resting Squint Face” campaign, I learned there’s a name for that look, you know the one. “RSF” is that sideways glance or squint, created when a person isn’t seeing too clearly, that can result in a perpetual look of anger and distrust in just about every situation.
Not only is the campaign lighthearted and funny but I could very much relate — I totally get #RSF.
Ultimately, we had a lot of fun. We played around with not only the cast and the crew but also worked to ensure we brought attention to these misunderstood squint lines, with our lighting.
Creative Director: Bill Cutter
I love working with Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. Their productions are always so creative and diverse, and it translates into really fun shoots. Woolly Mammoth’s 2018-19 season features an energizing array of plays by new voices, Woolly veterans, Obie Award-winners, Pulitzer finalists, and familiar partners: Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Rajiv Joseph, Heidi Schreck, Aziza Barnes, Mike Daisey, The Second City, and the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.
Thank you to Director of Brand and Marketing Gwydion Suilebhan
Hair & Makeup by Dean Krapf lluminaire Salon
The Jim Henson Legacy Foundation donated 21 Muppets to the Smithsonian. Smithsonian Magazine hired me to photograph Miss Piggy visiting a couple of the most storied objects housed there.
Pairing Miss Piggy with the Hope Diamond involved a secret, predawn escort to the Natural History Museum and an armed guard at the museum’s Gems Hall. I got to photograph the Muppet Diva wearing the necklace holding the 45.53 –carat stone.
It wasn’t your typical fashion shoot.
Miss Piggy wanted to try on Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers. I scouted the slippers which were on display, and visited with the curator who was nice but told me that the Slippers couldn’t come out of the display case – don’t even THINK about taking the slippers out of the case – and to figure it out. So we moved in the day of the shoot and well, we figured it out, photographing thru the display case – careful to not have any reflections.
You’ve got to make the Muppet, and the curator, happy.
Working with SHRM is always a treat – they think big. And the host city is an integral part of their marketing.
In these images, Chicago’s grand architecture and iconic urban vistas serve as an ideal backdrop to promote the largest HR conference in the world.
Another collaboration with Malina Jacobowitz, Conference Marketing Manager.
Producer: Monica Zaffarano
Savannah is a city that makes you feel something – the heat, the history, the mystery. Making images to convey the unique personality of one of the most iconic American cities was the best kind of challenge. These images are grounded in the historical grandeur and natural beauty of Savannah, and lifted by a wink of surreal Southern charm.
Yes, he’s real!
Legends like Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and the Bermuda Triangle were as much of an influence to me growing up as the Lone Ranger, Zorro and the Two-Gun Kid.
Smithsonian Magazine Associate photo editor Donny Bajohr reached out to see if I was interested in taking on an assignment photographing Bigfoot.
THE Bigfoot?! Count me in.
I always love working with the Smithsonian, and they thought it would be cool to create a miniature set in the vein of the famous grainy “video footage” from the Patterson–Gimlin film.
Bigfoot will be September’s “American Icon” featured in the Prologue section of Smithsonian Magazine.
I am honored to have my C-3PO images for Smithsonian Magazine selected in the Editorial category for the juried Communication Arts 2018 Photo Annual issue. It won’t ever not be exciting to be included in those pages.
Each project I do hits home for different audiences in different ways, but these C-3PO images have been some of my most widely resonate. This droid has a firm grip on our national (and beyond) cultural memory. It was a unique challenge to photograph this icon as a piece of machinery, a sum of metal luster and wires – apart from but as a compliment to everyone’s knowledge of and affection for this American character.
I photographed C3PO for the National Treasures feature of Smithsonian Magazine (as apt a place for him as you could come up with) where it was selected the Most Powerful Image for that publication for 2017.
Thanks to Smithsonian Photo Editor, and frequent collaborator, Jeff Campagna. And to Communication Arts
Hager Sharp is an agency that prides itself on creating work that fosters meaningful change in the world. They’ve been at it for nearly 40-years now, so it was a privilege to be asked to partner with them on a campaign for USDA WIC Breastfeeding Week that encourages low-income moms to breastfeed.
I love what has come through in these images — a testament to honoring the bond between mothers and their children, and the obvious love and pride parents have for their children. They are such intimate images and yet represent something so natural and universal.
Agency: Hager Sharp
Mike Gallagher, SVP, Creative Director
Aaron Murphy, Creative Director
Natalya Malteva, Art Director
Jerold Williams, Production director
Special thanks to U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutritionists Valery Soto and Cheryl Funanich.
There are people who understand you well enough to challenge you, but in that if-you’re-not-pushing-boundaries-you’re-not-doing-it-right kind of way, people you ultimately trust to have your back and your best interests at heart. Kate Chase, my friend, former rep and now producer, is one of those people. She’s the engine on this project – and while there were more than a few times that I was called to step outside of my comfort zone (I might devote a separate story to this), I’m really glad I answered.
Kate’s beloved uncle “Moose” was an Air Force pilot who had served in Vietnam, and flew the F-105, as a Thunderchief. She had heard from her mom that he would be attending a military reunion in San Antonio with other Thunderchiefs and she believed that I, as a photographer who chases characters and follows faces, should get myself there.
And I was off to San Antonio. I have always been up for adventure with my camera in tow, if there’s a whiff of a kernel of a spark of an idea for an interesting photograph, I’ll follow it on the wind. I packed up and showed up with a key crew. Texas was hot, the hotel nondescript. But what awaited us inside was a rich chapter of American history that I believe is unknown to most. These retired pilots are an often-overlooked part of the Vietnam War – itself by the year further relegated in our national narrative.
I stood with my camera among these pilots who have not forgotten any detail of how and why they are connected.
The beginnings of the portrait-making. Setting up, observing, I never know what I’m going to encounter in my personal portrait projects, how a day will go. It’s the beauty of the unknown.
With the Thunderchiefs, I felt like a reverent fly on the wall as they warmed up, and fell easily into their friendships forged in the most difficult of circumstances.
I like to go to the source for these group portrait projects, embed myself in the space and community they share. I’ve used the technique before, creating a studio of sorts in the very middle of the space inhabited by the group I’d like to photograph. Here we set up in a rented conference room and pulled each pilot aside during breaks in their conversations. They didn’t say much when they stepped away from their fellow pilots, they didn’t need to it was there on their faces, the brotherhood, support, joy, pain, pride and life shared.
As they talked to each other and then later through interviews, I heard the things said echoed in what I saw through my lens.
The prevailing stories and images from this controversial war, are almost exclusively those of the grueling ground war, while these airmen remained mostly stoic and silent about their experiences. The exception, I discovered, takes place at these reunions where these men with similar experiences could enjoy the precious, and blood-earned, crucible of comradeship with fellow warriors.
Upon seeing the final product and her husband’s portrait, Jan Lockhart shared these heartfelt thoughts with us:
“To say I was moved by it is a gross understatement. As I scrolled down the piece, I saw many of our old and dear friends, and was so moved by the comparisons and the memories of the brave young pilots they were to the old warriors we see today. When I scrolled to the picture of my husband, I just burst into tears. His portrait, as so many of the others, looked through his eyes and into his soul…to the thrills and the tears, to the joy and the heartbreak of those days flying that wonderful machine in the most difficult air war ever waged.
These reunions are special in ways few people even realize. I have been going for a long time, and one of the things I have observed is that no one…not wives, nor children, nor parents, nor friends…truly can understand what those guys faced in combat during that war. They alone can truly know each other…the very young men they were, how they felt about everything involved in that war, how they all loved that particular airplane, and the comradeship and respect of the men they are today. I think it is one of the most important things they do…slap each other on the back, catch up on kids and grandkids, and be able to know that the men in these reunions truly KNOW them.”
So while it might be easy to mistake stoicism for a lack of opinion or an absence of emotion, a few minutes in their presence and a good look through the camera, provided a sea change of perspective.
As a photographer, I am comfortable looking for what needs to be communicated in the architecture and life found in faces and places. What I initially saw was a group of men bonded by experiences that only they understand, so much of it a glimpse into the worst of humanity.
Yet it’s as though the solemn reality of what they did, saw and lost, allows them to cherish the good stuff. Observing them and their wives, taking that closer look I could see how valuable that is, where it fits in their stories.
While I have many personal projects under my belt, I can say that Over War has been one of the most in-depth thus far; evolving from what I had envisioned as a series of Air Force pilot portraits to a project that – fifty years later -ultimately gives voice to these men who had a unique vantage point on the Vietnam war – an airborne perspective as they flew over the conflict below.
During this process, we’ve also been fortunate to cross paths with a number of people who are working to ensure that the individual stories and first person accounts of these men who put themselves in harm’s way are being told. Because many of the pilots did not speak about their experiences when they returned; and it seems because few had asked and even fewer were interested, we’ve come to understand that information is difficult to source. These first-person accounts are invaluable.
And while there are not many Thunderchiefs left that can give us a window through which to view and learn from their experiences, we believe it is important that we are careful stewards of their stories, that we do what we can to make sure they are able to speak their truths, to help us and generations to-come, accurately view the war.
It was an honor – and an extraordinary privilege to be a witness to this gathering, listening to the conversations and banter buzzing through the room. These men are cut from a rare cloth – living links to our collective history. They share obvious love for one another, a direct result of being together with the truest friends, forged of the same realities, culture and mindset.
And my forever thank you (again) to the team that made this all come to life:
Producer: Kate Chase
Story & Design Director: Ron Walter
Copywriter: Molly Leutz
Photo Producer: Amy Whitehouse
Lighting Director: Chris Bisagni
1st Assistant: Matthew Lemke
2nd Assistant: Robert Amador
Digital Tech: Kirsten Wyss
Post Production: Sugar Digital
Military Adviser, Archival Photographer, Thunderchief: Ed “Moose” Skowron
Website Developer: Chris Hull
SHRM is probably one of my longest standing clients. And I’ve gotta gush – I love them, I really do. They are incredibly kind and easy to work with, and beyond that, the work we’ve done together is creative and fun. This year’s SHRM18 conference in Chicago is no exception.
The theme for SHRM18, the largest HR conference in the world, features larger than life objects set throughout the host city of Chicago.
SHRM HQ is in Alexandria, VA and each year the conference visits a different city. That’s where I come in. They hire me to go to that city in advance and create the images to draw people to attend their conference in that place. SHRM doesn’t just visit a city – they do a non-hostile takeover. A sense of place is really important to SHRM, and I like that challenge. I’ve really enjoyed working on these city campaigns, trying to create a different take on often-photographed and well-documented places and landmarks.
I think of this Chicago campaign as a double take project – in that it was almost a snap shot of the Chicago scene that you have seen a zillion times before followed by a double take – is that a giant coffee cup?
While the images are obviously not real, we worked to keep them from veering into looking too clearly imaginary. We wanted to inspire the reaction, “did I just see what I think I saw?”
Real people, not actors. It can be a cliche of a line. But for their 25th anniversary, Rosetta Stone wanted to highlight their users – people who have learned a new language as a way to change the world, in big and small ways. There were so many personalities captured in these portraits – so many faces of curiosity, of determination, of understanding, of wanderlust.
It was a pleasure working again with Andy Steenberge, Creative Director of Rosetta Stone. His vision and passion for this series were such assets to ending up with the portraits we did.
On a break during a project, a client and I got to talking about tattoos, and a potential portrait project involving tattoos. She mentioned a tattoo festival being held the following week in the Washington DC area. I didn’t have any tattoos myself, but was totally intrigued. The thought of all those people with their stories essentially written on their bodies was something I immediately wanted to photograph, these were characters I wanted to capture. From there I rented a space and set up a photo booth. Similar to how I worked at Comic Con, we asked people walking around the convention if I could create their portrait. I photographed everyone against a grey backdrop. In postproduction, I collaborated with the re-toucher and sampled the tattoos on each person’s torso; from there we created a unique personal tapestry background for every subject. Everybody I photographed had amazingly detailed, as well as personal, tattoo work, it was such a clear commitment of time – and money – on their part. In addition to capturing this in the portraits, the background helped showcase and amplify that investment in expression. The whole experience turned out to be a blast – talking and working with people from all walks of life bonded by their ink. I followed the DC shoot with another tattoo event south of LA and it was another outstanding experience, both as a spectator and as a photographer. It’s been amazing to spend a few minutes with these people and to see how they are expressing themselves – I find it captivating, mysterious and revealing. But, I still don’t have any tattoos.
What is it about the Hammond Organ that had such a profound hold on the Godfather of Soul?
“The Hammond electrified faith, and it electrified the faithful, too, because it had a way of projecting its fervor out onto the streets of America. People took the crazy feelings the Hammond unlocked and blasted them past the church into the rec room, the jazz club, the honky-tonk. A whole bunch of new feelings, mixing sacred spaces and public places.” – RJ Smith, Smithsonian Magazine, April 2018
How could I say it better?
I am always awed by the history and stories that radiate from the objects at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, and being able to take this image to accompany RJ Smith’s fascinating piece about the Hammond Organ and James Brown was as great as you’d imagine.
Photographed for Smithsonian magazine
With the release of the 2018-19 WNO schedule, I am thrilled to share these rich, dramatic portraits that give promise of the story these actors will tell as Violetta and Alfredo when they take the stage for the new production of Verdi’s “La Traviata” in October.
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. is a legendary institution, and it is always an honor to work with them and Creative Director Scott Bushnell.
The intersection of what we love and what we do – that’s the sweet spot right?I have always had a deep affection for the Mississippi Delta, and I’ve been making photographs for what we’ll call a good while now. This blues portrait project was that spot; just me and my camera in Clarksdale, Mississippi, capturing the characters of the blues. Making the images is what I do. Sharing them is someone else’s sweet spot. To share these I turned to designer David Calderley of Graphic Therapy. And at the intersection of that brilliant designer – who also happens to be a guy with whom I’ve shared both beer and adventure, I ended up with this. Both- pulp board. Die cut containing 10-panel concertina fold – and a short story about what I do, and what I dig.
The tagline of the The Mansion on O & O Street Museum begins with “everything is possible.” With my first exhibition of photographs hanging in the galleries of this most iconic of institutions I am inclined to agree.
People end up at the Mansion and O Museum in so many ways – stories you likely wouldn’t believe. As DC resident, I know these tales as a part of the character of this city. I once thought “if I could get one image on those walls…” and today, I am one of those stories and you’ll just have to believe me.
On a shoot break, talking tattoos with a friend from the Melanoma Research Foundation, a planted kernel of an idea, the DC Tattoo Arts Expo, conversation with H, and now twelve prints 41” wide on 49×62” paper hang in the O Street Museum as my first exhibition: Character, Not Characters.
The other part of the Mansion on O tagline is “Dare to be different.” In my photography, I’m looking for the stories and characters that reveal themselves when you look at things differently. These tattoo portraits are a closer look at stories told through ink – mysterious and intimate at once.
If you’re going to do something, might as well do it right. Having my work, my first exhibition, at the O Museum in DC is about as right as I can imagine. A huge thank you to O Mansion, H and Ted for giving me this opportunity.
Character, Not Characters is at the O indefinitely. If you find yourself in DC, book a tour.
Check out more about this project here http://aphotoeditor.com/…/the-art-of-the-personal-project-…/
40 Faces. 40 Photographers. 40 Years of Choice.
5-years ago I was asked by @GMMB for NARAL – @Prochoiceamerica to make portraits for a project in commemoration of Roe v Wade’s 40th anniversary, called “Choice Out Loud”, to be one of 40 photographers who took 40 portraits of 40 faces of choice.
With this Monday now the 45th anniversary of this landmark ruling, as well as 1-year since the Women’s March, I can see clearly that this project was much more than a look back, it was a look ahead, a call to action for many.
I was inspired by this project then, and I am inspired by now.
Mexico. It’s a recurring theme in my personal work because it’s a place that has had a hold on me from some of my earliest memories. My family traveled here when I was a boy and I have revisited countless times, drawn by both work and play to this beautiful country.
After a full year of work, I returned with my own family on a holiday for the holidays.
No work I said. I made a point to leave my camera at home.
But, crazy thing is in the “Shot on iPhone” world we live in, we can’t really leave our cameras behind. And maybe a photographer can’t not be a photographer.
So when we went to the famous Museo De Las Momias – the Museum of the Mummies – in Guanajuato, I found myself in the phone in hand crowd, mesmerized and compelled to capture what I saw.
There is such history and such mystery in the faces of the mummies, once ordinary people caught and frozen in the Cholera pandemic of the 1830s. The hastily buried masses were later disinterred to make room in overcrowded cemeteries, their relatives asked to pay a tax for permanent burial. Those whose families could not pay were put on display.
There is something equal parts morbid, fascinating and foreign about death on display. Moments of almost awkward levity as we pose in coffins and imagine these mummies as they might have been as people. A mix of curiosity, chills and reverence, a bit like a film where you’re scared, but enjoying it enough to watch though a few fingers. Or your iPhone camera.
I’ve been working with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for approximately 10 years, and it has been one of the partnerships that I’ve been most proud of.
I can’t even remember now how we were first introduced, but so much of what we do is about relationships and how you connect and get along. Partnering with the CF Foundation team has been incredibly rewarding – they are really great, very positive, empathic and obviously passionately dedicated to what they do. Quite honestly, when I began working with them I didn’t have much more than a vague idea about Cystic Fibrosis, but I have a learned a ton, gaining so much understanding through the CF Foundation’s advocacy and education.
The projects we’ve collaborated on have ranged from in-studio portrait sessions to environmental shoots in the homes, clinics and hospital rooms of people with CF.
We have created honest images of people and families who are afflicted with Cystic Fibrosis – no makeup or glam squad, just as they look in their daily lives not defined by CF but by whom they are. A lot of the time the images are playing off of their environment – be it at home or a location that they connect with through work, school or a passion.
The mission of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is to cure cystic fibrosis and to provide all people with the disease the opportunity to lead full, productive lives by funding research and drug development, promoting individualized treatment and ensuring access to high-quality, specialized care. This organization and the work they do to make a difference in people’s lives is an inspiration I carry with me beyond our work together. If you are interested in learning more about the disease and the efforts of the CF Foundation please check out their website at www.cff.org.
Working once again with Smithsonian Magazine, I was charged with photographing C-3PO for a section of the magazine called “National Treasure” at the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC.
While we couldn’t touch him, I could see and feel the craft that went into bringing his character to life on the screen. Focusing in on the droid’s hinges, lines and luster – the physical realness of this character – I did my best to channel the cinematic origin, to capture a movie still not a product shot. Thank you, as always, to Jeff Campagna for the opportunities to photograph these pieces of history, to Smithsonian Magazine for being a true giant in chronicling the objects of our collective history and culture, and to LucasFilm and Disney for your imaginations.
While I love everything about the collaboration that comes with a commercial shoot, when it comes to my personal work, I find I am drawn to the one-on-one with real, every-day people. You can’t make any of it up or direct it – how they carry themselves or have decided to dress for the day is better than where my imagination could take it. I always go out of my way to make the subjects look their best, to present them in the truest, most sincere way- exploring the architecture of their faces, the texture of their clothes and so on.
I worked on this post-production with one of my go-tos, Sugar Digital, and that familiar relationship is great for both understanding my process and pushing me to experiment. My original intention going into this Blues project was to produce these as black and white portraits, but the more we played, the more I gravitated towards a bit of warm color that brings a little more life, as well as further defining the magnetic architecture of their faces.
Working with PBS on this project for their Mercy Street mini series was incredible and I loved every minute of it. Going in, we did not have a lot of specific creative direction other than a classical approach similar to what PBS had done with their monster hit Downton Abbey. That influence was a great jumping off point, but I was also interested in creating something a little more modern and contemporary to set this series apart. To achieve that, I set up a set within a set to create a classical look melded with a more modern lighting design and a subtly textured backdrop.
We delivered the images and I didn’t immediately hear back – crickets – I thought maybe they hated the photographs. I really liked them and wanted to plow ahead, which I did. On set (in Petersburg, Virginia) we had an old 20×20 silk as the backdrop. I also hunted down a location for the exterior images of Civil War era Petersburg, these images of cobblestone streets and buildings were layered in post with the in-photograph silks. We used the silk as a base background and I really wanted the focus to stay on the characters so the background elements needed to be a “there but not there” type of thing – providing texture and a modern nod without overwhelming the images or the subject. Working with my partners at Sugar Digital, we worked back-and-forth to find the right layering balance so that the painterly background effect was there to support but not distract from the subjects. The colors and textures of the period wardrobe, along with the actors’ faces were a striking focal point, and I was after tones that would marry well with each other and could straddle the historical/contemporary setting of the images.
With the updated backgrounds, I now loved the images and sent them to the client. This time the client responded immediately that they loved the look and wanted to create the entire campaign around what we’d created.
I’ve been working with movie lights and crews for approximately 10 years now. When the Starbucks campaign for Tazo became a possibility, I knew I wanted to incorporate a cinematic and enchanted look and feel. Lighting and location were the driving force behind this project. The Greystone mansion is an historic and cinematically recognizable location from movies such as There Will Be Blood. The interiors had windows that never received direct sunlight so everything was lit artificially. I’m a nerd, a lighting nerd at that, and I love working with continuous lights and instruments because of the natural lighting effect they create.
As is my general preference, everything was photographed in-camera so all of the elements, including the floating teapots, were really there on set. I guess things could have been photographed elsewhere and composed in post after the fact, but I jumped through a few extra hoops to create these images in camera. Special effects such as smoke were also employed on set so that I could get the clearest picture of the whole photograph as I took it.
And an image’s magic can be in its mystery – how did they do that…?
Was the teapot really floating? Retouching with my friends at Sugar Digital in this case was mainly the pleasant task of playing around subjectively with color and tones to make the images as beautiful as we could. As with most of the projects I shoot, the heavy lifting is done on set. Pre-production, pre-production, pre-production. Good planning makes for a good production and detailed pre-production makes for painless post-production. The beauty of great post-production work can be in its subtlety – the icing on the teacake if you will.
Ultimately everyone’s commitment to the cinematic influence throughout the whole process helped achieve what Creative Director Daniele Monti described as “capturing the magic and whimsy of the new Tazo brand – something in between a modern Alice in Wonderland and an iconography that pulls from different eras, places and cultures.”
File this one under the project dictating the process. For this shoot for Stelara, a pharmaceutical campaign, we needed to allow for an on-set curveball. The initial idea was the print campaign was going to play off of and use the same sets as the companion TV production, which had the model moving easily throughout the four seasons. We arrived at the studio in LA the day before TV was supposed to film to see their sets and lighting setup. Everything had been built and we were all under the impression that the sets could be tweaked for print concepts after TV had completed. Once at the studio, we found out that the set elements could not be tweaked or moved at all. We marinated on all sorts of possible solutions, even the possibility of building entirely new sets just for our print project. That night I went to bed and had the “still lying awake” idea of creating the entire background in CG. I immediately emailed the CG geniuses at Luminous Creative Imaging in Amsterdam who were 9 hours ahead of us in LA. They were game and available and I got an estimate, which I proposed and submitted to my client the very next morning.
Everything was quickly approved and off we went. We photographed the model in another studio entirely with minimal set design such as grass/snow flooring so the talent was grounded in elements she would be in for the final image. The background and field were created in CG by Luminous Creative Imaging to match the lighting design that we created on set. Color and tonal range were massaged to be beautiful, playful and pleasing as if the subject were out on a afternoon stroll. For the initial surprises, it felt so good to end up with a visually stunning image that rivaled the broadcast version of this campaign, one that ultimately surpassed expectation.
Deutsch LA, Star Wars, Target. Any one of these names alone would make an attractive project. Put them together, along with a pinch of Disney and a dash of Lucas Films and I can’t be entirely certain I wasn’t dreaming.
I was completely geeked to be considered for the brief “to photograph the latest Star Wars toys for Target” – toys which would be released for the 2016 holiday season. It was a resounding “yes” for me.
From our first call, it was clear that the agency saw what I had begun to realize – that the movies and comics of my youth have been some of my greatest and most important influences in my life and my picture-making. These were key ingredients in what they sought — a photographer that loved cinema and also harbored an inner-nerd.
There are times when less is more. With a sweeping, cinematic vision for this fantastic project that could have been a candidate for a lot of post-production reworking, I pulled back and went as old school as I could. I approached this series of images almost as an old Ray Harryhausen stop action movie. I wanted all of the elements to be tangibly together, for these toys to inhabit sets that had been built with great care and detail to evoke another world. Continuous lights were used, as were colored gels to shift the color to the worlds of the Star Wars narrative. Special effects were used on set so everything was captured in camera. In post, working again with Sugar Digital, we simply modified color and tones to play up the drama of the sets and accentuate the pop of Target red. Even when I pour myself into the in-camera construction, precise post is quietly vital to sharpen the product.
This shot was part of an impromptu personal project piggybacking a commissioned shoot in New Orleans. A location scout friend mentioned over a beer, fishing shacks you could only access by boat. New Orleans is utterly unique, its own ecosystem that’s both accessible and hidden at the same time. New Orleans and the bayou are such a draw for me, and these shacks – an hour drive and a half-hour boat ride into a different world were impossible to resist. I hired a waterman – from a line of lifelong watermen – to get me there.
The shack itself was perched low in the water and far from anything else, like a structure emerged from the brackish depths. It was somewhat improbable and otherworldly in that really New Orleans way. As I saw it in person and made my images, my mind kept wandering to what it would be like to boat up to a structure with other amenities – an even more unbelievable sight.
Besides bayous having a special meaning to me, ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved the comic strip Pogo. Pogo is the title character in a long-running comic strip that started in the 1940s by cartoonist Walt Kelly. Pogo is set in the Okefenokee Swamp of the southeastern United States. All the characters live in the swamp with Pogo the possum as the main character and his good friend Albert the alligator. Poetry, wordplay, puns and lush artwork all come together to create humor, wisdom and thoughtfulness that have been enjoyed by kids and adults alike all these years.
Another influence at work here was a childhood favorite, A Cajun Night Before Christmas, by James Rice and Trosclair. Here the classic Christmas narrative poem by Clement Clarke Moore is retold in a Cajun dialect with an alligator who helps Santa and then is left behind in the Louisiana Bayou. To finally bring my idea to life, I reached out to Souverein Weesp to help design and create these fun, dancing and singing alligators, jazz bands and the Bayou atmosphere.
When I went into this project, I knew what I wanted to capture, but as with most of my personal projects the final images were very much a product of inspiration, exploration and collaboration. On a break during another project, a client and I got to talking about tattoos. She mentioned a tattoo festival being held the following week in the Washington DC area. I don’t have any tats, but they’ve always intrigued me. And the promise of all those people with their stories essentially written on their bodies, those were the type of characters I’m compelled to chase. At the festival, I rented a space and set up a photo booth. I photographed everyone against a grey backdrop.
I went into postproduction without a concrete vision of how to make them sing. The final images are a true testament to how much the relationship between photographer and retoucher matters. There was so much professional trust and respect involved as we threw out ideas and played around. Ultimately we sampled the tattoos on each person’s torso; from there we created a unique personal tapestry background for every subject. Everybody I photographed had amazingly detailed, as well as personal, tattoo work, it was such a clear commitment of time – and money – on their part. In addition to capturing this in the portraits, the background helped showcase and amplify that investment in expression. This technique was nothing I’d tried before – and nothing I’ve attempted since – but it was truly right for these portraits. It felt as though these backgrounds allowed their stories to travel beyond their bodies.
We had a great time, you can see more here:
So much of the creative, collaborative work we do is represented by what doesn’t end up as the final image or images for any given shoot. I love working with Warren Ellis and the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation – Maryland, and making this portrait of Honest Tea CEO, Seth Goldman, was a treat. Exploring his connection to Montgomery County, where Honest Tea is located, we ended up with a great image. This outtake looking up at me from that cutting room floor, reminds me of the joy of the process arriving there. The journey is vital to the destination.
One of the things I loved most about the concept was how it needed to be as much about the environment as it would be about the narrative — an elegant pied-piper in an enchanted forest setting, charming a group of curious characters. This piece brings to life the delightful sound of NY Phil’s 2016 Biennial season, entitled “Let’s Play” by combining a very magical Northern California location with the Phil’s french-hornist, Leelanee Sterrett and an audience of curious carousel-horses.
Sometimes the reality of a project dictates the approach. I generally pride myself on photographing as much as possible in camera. For this project, the client wanted me to keep with that formula and that was my initial plan. I was ready to go and after a few back and forths and with a final green light it was “let’s go find a location and put all of the elements of the image out there.” While this was a doable idea, Ms. Sterrett was leaving for a tour in Europe within the week. So we went ahead and photographed her in a studio in NYC before I went to scout the final location. Not only did I have to find the right location for the creative brief for this project, BUT I now had to find the perfect location that offered the same natural lighting that we had created in the New York studio. Working with producer Catherine Schramm, we found the forest two hours north of San Francisco and then I went to a Scooby-Doo Circus south of LA in Riverside, CA where we photographed carousel horses.
With these moving parts and challenges of time and space, the best way to answer the creative call of this project was to commit to a composite photograph. I worked carefully in each step of the shoot to ensure that every component would be as symbiotic to the whole as possible, the whole then becoming a magical sum of its parts. Aiming to have things line up seamlessly, CG horses were also created with the pros at Luminous Creative Imaging to match all of the pockets of different light that existed in the forest image – some horses are in open shade, others are back lit or side lit from the direct sun. Once each of the pieces of the image were layered and composed, the color and tones were massaged to radiate the playful feeling of a magical forest.
Our making-of is here:
Who doesn’t want to be asked to make pictures of aliens floating down from the sky, wearing cool shoes. The Mirabell Footwear campaign included a fun trip to Hong Kong, images I really dig, and definitely some adventures – and misadventures – along the way (buy me a beer and I’ll tell you more).
I have a strong affinity for Mexico, the place and its people. I have been traveling there since I was a little boy and have returned numerous times for personal and professional photography projects.
On a recent trip to Mexico, I visited the state of Tamaulipas for a couple of days and created this series of photographs on farm workers.
On a ranch just north of Tampico, I came across migrant workers harvesting onions from the fields. This part of Mexico, just south of the Tropic of Cancer and a few miles from the Gulf of Mexico, is ideal for growing onions, hot chili peppers, and soybeans – its rich, tropical soil yielding multiple crops year-round. The onion harvest is a hectic operation that involves picking the onions by hand. Once cut, they are left in the fields to dry before being trucked to a shed to be sorted, packed and ultimately shipped to market. To work the fields, a nomadic group of Tamalín Indians make a yearly journey here from the tropical state of Veracruz. Their weather beaten faces tell a story of many years of hard work in the fields under the relentless sun. I made these images in a shed and in the fields where they worked – in the middle of their day.
As a “commercial” photographer, I really enjoy what I do. Of course, there are great characters and stories to capture in any shoot – but I continue to be intrigued by real, every-day people. I try to seek them out whenever possible, like I did the migrant workers on this ranch. You can’t make any of it up – the authenticity of their faces, their culture, how they carry themselves or what they face in the reality of their day is endlessly rewarding for me.
Toilet Seats. Toilet seats in Texas. A Toilet Seat Art Museum in San Antonio. Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Art Museum. Count me in!
One of the things I love about what I do is getting access to a place or a person that I didn’t know even existed before they contacted me. A big part of what keeps me going is the love of an adventure and to have – and share – these experiences with people and their stories.
Ketchum contacted me in regards to working a project for The Clorox Company. Working with creative director, Ken Buraker, we headed to San Antonio and Barney’s museum. In addition to creating a series of images as well as a short video of Barney for a national campaign, we set up an outdoor available-light studio in the 100 degree Texas heat and photographed the objects that inspired us – Clean, minimalistic and graphically interesting.
The images were created both for use on OdeToTheCommode.com and Clorox’s Facebook and Instagram channels. For Clorox this was more about digital storytelling and celebrating someone, who shares a unique passion for toilets, than a traditional campaign.
The idea came about after Clorox saw a news story about Barney Smith. Barney is an artist who uses toilet seat lids as his canvas. Over five decades, he created more than 1,300 ornately-decorated toilet lids, some of which feature artifacts with national and international historical significance. He displays them in his Toilet Seat Art Museum, which also happens to be the garage of his San Antonio home. With Barney’s 100th birthday a few short years away, he is looking to take a step back and is searching for a buyer for his entire collection who will keep available to the public, free of charge, for years to come.
It’s not often someone sees the potential for finer elements of the bathroom like Clorox does, so they had the idea to release a digital gallery featuring Barney’s favorite and most unique lids – an Ode to the Commode – to find a new home for the collection and share Barney’s passion for toilets with everyone to enjoy like thousands of visitors to his San Antonio museum have over the years.
The project was about creating different visuals that can live on many different platforms but telling the same brand story, and I think it’s a perfect example of where brand marketing and storytelling is going. As marketing continues to drift onto digital platforms, creating “assets” and “content” is what we are seeing more and more of in regards to needs from agencies.
I loved this project so much. It’s bananas!!
What do you do after toilet seats? What’s next? Honestly, I want to go where I don’t know I want to go yet.
*If you are in San Antonio, Barney’s Toilet Seat Museum should really be on your must visit list. Barney himself is an American treasure. And he has a ton of stories to tell. The museum is located in his garage, so it’s small but it’s overflowing with stuff to see.
This was a really fun Off-Broadway project with Naomi Usher of Studio Usher for Ars Nova. Three really distinct images, Sundown, Yellow Moon and Night Sky Backdrop, represent the arc of the plays.
K-POP: K-Pop is such a powerful cultural force that transcends music and geography. The visual cues that define the genre are such a joy to concept for photography. We used a color-block backdrop, a fierce female model in highly stylized make-up and outfit. I aimed to subvert the image to portray her energy as slightly militant, angry and icy instead of cute, poppy and teenaged. K-Pop grown up.
LUCKY ONES: We styled actress Jo Lampert in rock-n-roll angel teenager garb. We captured her sweaty, in the midst of a hard-core dance move, the effect brings on the feeling of being right on the edge of her pushing herself just too far physically. It was important for the image to invite the viewer to feelmovement, maybe even exhaustion, in this still image.
Our model is styled in a summer dress that hints at the south. Loose hair and a gaze turned to something we can’t see, though the misty, ambiguous surroundings hint at vastness. She is set in a time and place that suggests deep thoughts and big questions.
Through the “Tired Faces” project, I was surprised to learn that crashes in the Washington DC area resulted in the deaths of 66 pedestrians and 7 bicyclists, accounting for 27 percent of overall traffic fatalities in the region.
As a local photographer, I couldn’t be more proud of the efforts by the team at Sherry Matthews Marketing on behalf of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. This award-winning campaign, “Tired Faces” featuring DC residents, was recently approved for another round.
For more information on keeping your loved ones safe, check out BeStreetSmart.net
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. is a legendary institution, and it is always an honor to work with them and creative director Scott Bushnell. The Washington National Opera imported Stephen Lawless’ production of Donizetti’s “Anna Bolena”. The performance was deemed a tour de force for the American dramatic soprano, Sondra Radvanovsky, and my marching orders were to create a fitting portrait of Ms. Radvanovsky. No small feat. As Anna Bolena, she was locked up in the Tower of London, so we agreed it needed to be tense, and a bit dark. The focus on her face set off by a shadowy background that hints at the tumult surrounding her.
As an admirer of the Virginia Opera and it’s mission to create transformative cultural experiences through passionate storytelling and beautiful music, I was more than excited to get the brief from one of my favorite creative directors Jamin Hoyle, “to make opera sexy”. Ultimately that meant tight portraits that would share the page with bold text. As stand alone pieces these images are unflinching, visceral representation of each opera. They are a stark departure from any lingering stereotypes that the Opera is a stuffy affair. Pascale Lemaire, Linh Nguyen and Viktoriia Bowers were brought in for wardrobe, hair and makeup, respectively, and were so phenomenal – and their creativity and vision also pop right out of these photographs. Ultimately, the photos served as the launching point for a larger brand refurbishment that we conducted through the design of the brochure.
The Marriott team, with creative director KD Cantarella leading the way, was a true pleasure to work with. The campaign was well-received and the megabonus for us was when we heard that it got great results ending up as one of Marriott Rewards’ highest revenue generating promotions, and much of this was attributed to breakthrough creative.
For me it is so true that one thing always leads to another. On my projects, the creative people and ideas often spark and inspire my own artistic “next.”
During our campaign for SNWA, I had one of those light bulb moments. I was so drawn to everything about our wrestler, Omar Garcia. He was such a pleasure to work with – par for the course on this shoot along with the fantastic R&R team.
During our morning with Omar, I found out that he is one of two brothers who grew up in Juarez, Mexico. And I learned that their father was also a wrestler – a luchador- in Juarez and they have followed the tradition. He and his brother now live and wrestle in LA and they have their own wrestling league – Lucha Libra Alliance. The portrait gears were turning.
Me: “So, you have other wrestler friends?
Me: “Can I come and photograph them?”
Omar: “Sure thing.”
A few months later, off I went.
I photographed the Luchadores on a rooftop in LA, Omar and his friends. They carried themselves with such confidence and with an obvious pride in the traditions of Lucha Libre. Some of the older wrestlers maintained their character – in mask – from the moment they parked their car, through the shoot until they’d driven away. As someone who grew up on the Lone Ranger, on the masked hero and secret identities, I loved every second of this.
As I witnessed the honor with which these men wore their costumes, as I captured each unique mask, and each character communicating with my camera through two small eyeholes, I felt privy to the history, the care and the camaraderie.