Gum Tree Farm
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
Barber Martin for Virginia Lottery
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
SmithGifford for MyEyeDr
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
Miss Piggy Goes to Washington
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.
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
Mother & Child
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.
The Evolution of Over War
3-days, 50-Portraits, A Collective Voice. The Evolution of Over War
The Beginning. Being Understood.
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.
Moving On the Wind.
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.
Fly on the Wall
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.
The Final Product, CadeMartin.com/OverWar
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
Rosetta Stone 25th Anniversary Portrait Project
Rooftop. Flower District. L.A.
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.
La Traviata, Washington National Opera
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.
Delta Blues Promotional Package
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.
Character, Not Characters
O Museum in the Mansion
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.
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.
The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
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.
Geeking Out On the Job: Face to Face with C-3PO
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.
Wish You Were Here – the Mississippi Delta
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.
Enjoying the Sights on Mercy Street! – PBS Mercy Street
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 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.
Barney Smith for Clorox’s Ode to the Commode
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.
Be Street Smart
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
TENSE, DARK AND STRONG FOR THE WASHINGTON NATIONAL OPERA
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.
Add Your Heading Text Here
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.
Woolly Mammoth - Season 37
or 2017, their 37th season, I reunited with the creative mind of Jamin Hoyle for second helping of posters for Wooly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington DC. Collaborating with the talented theatre team, we worked with custom-painted canvas backdrops, and a home-made space suit to achieve this series of dramatic, theatrical and provocative posters – perfectly suited for a theatre that always pushes artistic boundaries.
Check out the making of video here!
For 2017, their 37th season, I reunited with the creative mind of Jamin Hoyle for second helping of posters for Wooly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington DC. Collaborating with the talented theatre team, we worked with custom-painted canvas backdrops, and a home-made space suit to achieve this series of dramatic, theatrical and provocative posters – perfectly suited for a theatre that always pushes artistic boundaries.
Check out the making of video here!
Trend & Tradition
Growing up in Richmond, VA, trips just an hour or so southeast to Colonial Williamsburg were common weekend fare. I have really fond memories of my time there so when I was approached by Trend & Tradition: The Magazine of Colonial Williamsburg, to shoot a cover, it felt a bit like going home.
More than just a school field trip destination, Colonial Williamsburg is a true link between the present and a past that speaks to the very origins of the European settlement of the United States. Trend & Tradition is dedicated to telling the stories of 18th century America through a modern point of view.
For this Summer edition cover, I was asked to photograph the Fifes & Drums, a group dedicated to the tradition of military music dating back to the Revolutionary War. Boys and girls ages 10-18 apply to join and practice for 8 years through high school graduation, educating the public about the role of music in the 18th century military. Beyond the music, the Fifes & Drums are a group that speaks to the ideal of working hard and earning your place. Through their hard work and dedication to both the musical and historical disciplines, members move through the ranks in pursuit of a few highly coveted leadership spots in the corps. While the original fifers and drummers of the 1700s were exclusively boys, this cover represents the changing face of the group and the bridge to the present with a Junior Corps that is now over 50% female. The girl on the cover represents that shift. Working with these kids was so cool – they worked so hard and showcased incredible discipline to get this iconic image. It was clear that they treat their place in history and their role in shaping the future with real reverence and respect.
Yes, that Tom Robbins, iconic American author.
I grew up in Richmond, Virginia and went to VCU. Tom Robbins grew up in Virginia, south of Richmond and went to VCU. One of us is an iconic American author, one of us is me. I get wind that he is visiting VCU for a book signing. He has created some of the most memorable and eccentric characters in recent literature, and I’m a sucker for a great character.
What if I could photograph the character behind these characters? I jumped on the chance and went to work on getting a few moments of his time.
A few connections, a little luck, someway, somehow it worked out.
Our visit was short – but Tom was an enthusiastic subject and was more than happy to try a few things out. I stayed on task, not wanting to burn his time and also very careful to not get into a verbal ping-pong match, which I would be sure to lose. Tom Robbins is one of a kind, sincerely nice and generous, and whiplash quick and verbally creative, even in our brief one-on-one interaction.
I wanted to shoot film for some reason, it just seemed right. Though we didn’t have one of those modern monitors to review the images, looking later he seemed to really like the image and he pushed to use it on the book jacket of “Wild Ducks Flying Backwards.”
Flash forward a year or so and I was on a project in Washington state, I called Tom and stopped by for a quick visit – good things happen when you operate fueled by “why not?” I was traveling with a friend, but I didn’t tell him whom we were visiting. Tom was a gracious host, and as we visited, he casually mentioned something about being a writer to my friend. The friend politely asked what type of books he wrote – still oblivious as to whom he was talking to. Tom said, ” I write funny stories about serious things, sort of like Tom Robbins.“
Maybe my friend should pay attention to those photographs on book jackets.
Addendum: In addition to the Wild Ducks Flying Backward jacket, this impromptu portrait session produced an image that will now be featured on the cover of the German edition of Tibetan Peach Pie, (Tibetischer Pfirsichstrudel – rolls off the tongue) It’s no small honor and I’m grateful all over to have had the chance to meet and photograph that Tom Robbins
Supporting the Arts
The image, “Supporting the Arts,” is the result of a project with RP3 for Norfolk Southern Railway. Norfolk Southern has been a titan of American industry for over 35 years, with roots in some of the Eastern United State’s first railroad companies. To promote and recognize their support for the performing arts, I had the pleasure of working with the energetic and really fun Jean-Pierre Bovie, Creative Director at RP3. For this dramatic, photo-driven print ad I worked with a ballet dancer to have her shadow create the shape of a horse, which mimics the logo of the railway. With a clean background, the final image is uncluttered and focused like a spotlight. The juxtaposition of art and industry was interesting to conceptualize and capture.
I am honored to share that for our efforts, we were honored that this ad received a Gold award at the annual American Advertising Awards DC, held at The Newseum. This award show is always a great time to catch up with people and to see the cool work – from the funny to the sublime – coming out of the DC scene. Thank you to AAF DC and all of DC’s brilliant ad shops for another year of exceptional advertising.
Down in Mississippi...
I’ve always had a fondness for the Mississippi-Louisiana corridor, the Delta in particular, where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the Devil at the Crossroads – rich in food, textures, characters and of course, the blues, this region lives in me. It was a place I traveled to during summers as a child with my family and am so fortunate to have made numerous return trips to the Delta to make photographs both personally and for work. The Mississippi Delta has produced more blues musicians than any other region, and it’s really not even close. On one visit to Clarksdale, MS, a local told me about the Riverside Hotel, which I visited and made a portrait of “Rat”, the owner at the time. The unique story of the Riverside and its historic place in the fabric of the Delta are tangible to me in the image.
The Riverside Hotel has been in operation since 1944. The hotel is one of many historical blues sites in Clarksdale and is famed for providing lodging for such blues artists as Sonny Boy Williamson II, Ike Turner and Robert Nighthawk. At some point in the mid-1940s, Ike Turner moved into the Hotel and wrote and rehearsed his song “Rocket 88.” Turner’s bedroom is said to have been in what is now room #7.
Before being born as the Riverside Hotel, the site was the G. T. Thomas Afro-American Hospital, Clarksdale’s hospital for African American patients. In September of 1937, famed singer Bessie Smith was taken there for treatment after being involved in a car accident, which later proved fatal, outside Clarksdale.
The original structure had eight rooms. In 1943, Mrs. Z.L. Ratliff rented the property from G.T. Thomas for use as a hotel. Ratliff drew up plans that expanded the building to include 21 guest rooms over two floors. Thomas assisted her in this renovation and it opened as a hotel in 1944. Ratliff purchased the building outright from Thomas’s widow in 1957 and it has remained in the hands of the Ratliff family ever since. For much of that time it was run by Frank “Rat” Ratliff.
The portrait of “Rat” itself was very simple. He gave me a tour of the hotel and I asked if I could make his portrait sitting on the edge of the bed in one of the rooms. He was game and we had nice window light. The camera was hand held with transparency film and after couple of quick snaps we were on our way. It was just a quick moment, nothing fancy but I enjoy the image, of a character of the Delta in his element. I was lucky to have had the experience and interaction with him.
“Rat” passed away in 2013, but the Riverside Hotel is still in business, currently run by his daughter Zelena Ratliff.
Baby Screams Miracle
My partnership with Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company has yielded a collection of posters as interesting and wide-ranging as their productions. The New York Times does a monthly piece that explores the story and the art behind theatre posters, aptly titled Behind the Poster. And what do you know, February featured a poster I did for Woolly’s first play of the 2017 season, Baby Screams Miracle. I’m proud to work with a theatre that always pushes artistic boundaries, and this write up is a pleasant surprise.
Take a look and if you want a little behind the Behind the Poster, my photographers take:
For Woolly Mammoth’s 2017 season – their 37th – I reunited with powerhouse creative director, Jamin Hoyle for a second helping of posters for the DC fixture. Working closely with Gwydion Suilebhan, the theatre’s director of brand and marketing as well, we aimed to capture the feeling of both a physical storm and one raging within. Baby Screams Miracle, begs for a dark and atmospheric look. The hand painted backdrop is a dark blue-green with brush strokes that mimic the movement of a storm. Our model is pregnant and made to look wet and wind blown. Her shimmery, smoky eyes give us a gateway into her internal storm as the viewer is challenged to read her ecstatic expression as laughter or tears. For the subject to appear to be solely lit by candle stub and proudly all captured in camera, I staged our lighting to simulate what would be cast by a candle stub in the rain, mainly her face illuminated with the murky suggestion of the whipping wind and rain behind her.
Countdown to Mercy Street
Nice to see these portraits being put to work. Only 3 more days until the Mercy Street drama debuts, congratulations PBS.
You can learn more about this series and characters here: http://www.pbs.org/mercy-street/home/
I first heard about 2 wolf-boys in Mexico 20+ years ago. It was a legend, a character that stuck with me and I couldn’t shake them. This past Thanksgiving I ran into Guadalupe Ortega Ramirez, a long time producer friend from Mexico City, and for some reason I asked her about what I had heard all those years ago. Guadalupe knew what I was talking about and, via an article in the UK that I came across, she found one of them, Jesus Fajardo Aceves, on Facebook of all places. We both friended and connected with him there and found out he was in a small traveling circus, Circus Golden Bross, and (as luck would have it) outside of Tulum for a few days. I love Tulum. And the draw to follow – and unpack the truth about – this character that had so captured my imagination was so strong that I packed a bag to find him, on 2 days notice.
Now that I had located him and was on my way to meet him, I began to look closely into his story and transform the tale into the man. The condition Aceves has is hypertrichosis, which is simply an abnormal amount of hair growth over the body. The other “wolf-boy” from the stories of my youth turned out to be his cousin. Hypertrichosis runs in families and Aceves’s two daughters have it as well. As is so often true of how people deal with the unknown, Aceves was bullied and gawked at. He sought a “normal” existence outside the circus and sideshow circuit and in 2005 the BBC did a documentary, It’s Not Easy Being a Wolf Boy” on his efforts to shave and look for employment. Aceves has since returned however to the familiar world of the circus.
On to Tulum. Guadalupe & I traveled, scouted and went to the circus. There I finally met the wolf boy – now a man. And Jesus Faiardo Aceves is one of the nicest guys I’ve met, both gentle and shy. He graciously sat for my photograph which ended up being a tight portrait to show the architecture of his face, his warm eyes and hint of a smile. I also wanted to show detail of the hair as it is, not as our imagination might create when we hear “wolf-boy.”
Youthful fascination. To photograph him was like my Scooby Doo mystery, like scratching an itch I’d had since I was a little boy. The legend of the Wolf-Boys had lived in my mind like those of the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot. But to make a human connection with the legend was to find character and humanity in the man beyond the stories told late at night by flashlight.
While photographing Aceves at the circus I ended up creating images of a captivating contortionist as well. Who can do that??! All in all, a very inspiring day at the the circus.
Growing up, basketball was the only thing I was interested in and the Showtime era Los Angeles Lakers were my team. I know competition and sports analogies wander easily into the realm of cliché, but they have resonated and driven me over the years as I’ve worked for myself.
As luck would have it, I was hired to photograph Earvin “Magic” Johnson for a Support for Public Schools campaign for The National School Board Association. Showtime.
We went to his office in Beverly Hills where we preset four different setups so we could move quickly and efficiently so not to waste any of Mr. Johnson’s time.
I rounded the corner and there he was. I froze and was a teenager all over again – what in the world do I say to him, to Magic? Digging deep (sports analogy!) to find the professional photographer in me, and getting through the first image and moving on to the second, I sheepishly asked if I was allowed to ask him any basketball questions.
He said “Sure.”
Me: “Ok, who would be your top five NBA starting line up, by position.”
Magic: “All time?”
Me: “All time.“
Magic: “Hmm, let me think about that.”
After the shoot, I wasn’t going to let him off the hook without an answer and asked again who was on his team. He seems to be quite humble and wouldn’t name himself but he listed a pretty good team. I asked if he would like to hear my team and he did. “Well…I have you at guard.“
Very surreal and it was a wonderful experience to have.
When we wrapped and I said we were all done, he said “no we’re not” and he had everyone on the crew come take an individual photo with him.
Magic Johnson wasn’t just putting on a show on the court. He has lighting bolts shooting out of his eyes and an amazing smile, he seems to be a genuinely nice guy.
Dead Man Walking
Some institutions live up to their legend. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. is such an institution. I was fortunate to be called on to work with the Kennedy Center again, this time for their presentation of The Washington National Opera production of Dead Man Walking. It was my distinct pleasure to have the chance to work with Scott Bushnell, the advertising creative director at the Kennedy Center. His vision for this poster was a dark joy to bring to life…or death. Inspired by the concept, I used an atmospheric approach to the lighting design, hard expressionistic light that would expose the dark side of humanity revealed in this story. The show kicked off a five show run February 25th.
Photographing the photographer. Memphis. I got wind of a juke joint festival in Clarksdale, Mississippi and I hopped a flight in London, through Chicago and on to Memphis to photograph it. It turned out to be a hurry up and wait deal when I learned the festival started a day later than I had thought. Memphis, home of William Eggleston, with time to kill. Why not? A true original in the field for nearly 60 years, Eggleston turned his lens and his attention to the commonplace, finding stark beauty in the banal, and forever changing the aesthetic of the American photographic landscape through color. A true original regardless of medium, a forever creative inspiration to me to always follow your own path.
A call to his son and I got the go-ahead, some advice only a son could give, and no guarantees that I’d get a chance to make this picture. I walked into William Eggleston’s quiet apartment and found him down a hall, lying on his bed smoking a cigarette. After a couple hours of visiting time, where he blew me away with his razor sharp memories of his work down to the camera he used in 1973, we came back around to creating his photograph. He put on his suit and ascot, I asked him for 7 minutes outside and – despite his son’s prepping me for a “no” – I was able to convince him to come to the simple set I’d built in the park across the street. I kept my promise on the 7 minutes, I’d waited patiently to hurry up and make a picture of one of the great American photographers.
As we worked outside, I asked Eggleston who was the most difficult person he’d worked with. He replied, “you.”
This personal project is no small part nostalgia, married with a visual bonanza. The people who dress up and take so much time to prepare for Comic-Con have stories to tell. 2+ years in the making, I see it as performance art and it has it all – creativity, execution, passion, commitment, celebration, voyeurism, exhibitionism and sex. It has been an honor to capture how people bring their favorite characters and vivid imagery to life.
Blues Portrait Project
I’ve always had a fondness for the Mississippi-Louisiana corridor, the Delta in particular. As a child, I was fortunate to travel there during summers trips with my parents – we explored the area a number of times. And luckily for the adult in me, both work and personal trips have taken me back on multiple occasions. It’s a place rich in food, textures and characters from all walks of life – farmers, artists, writers and musicians. This region has captivated me, especially the blues – the Delta blues – where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the Devil at the Crossroads. The Mississippi Delta has produced more blues musicians than any other region (and it’s really not even close.) I had heard about the Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale, Mississippi for a number of years and was interested in creating portraits there. Clarksdale is said to be the original birthplace of the blues and people come from all over the world to this music festival.
When I finally made it to Clarksdale it was a bit of a scavenger hunt, truly I had no idea who would be attending so I set up a photo booth and approached people who looked interesting to me. Musicians were playing sets all over town and often I had to wait until their set was complete before asking if they might be interested in getting their portrait taken. “Having” to wait was one of the greatest perks of a shoot I can imagine. I’m ill equipped to capture the blues in words, but I think this quote hits it for me “ The blues is a sound that’s about more than just catchy rhymes and rhythm. It is a language all its own. A confession, a plea, an outcry, a raw style of conversation born from cotton fields, poverty, hard lifestyles and hope.”
The images I ended up capturing conveyed both the struggle and the beauty of the blues, and the authentic roots of this iconic American musical genre that were evident in the heart of the Delta. I attempted to do really honest portraits and was interested in stripping everyone of their environment and playing off of the architecture of faces, their eyes especially as well as the textures of clothes. I was honored to capture the faces of the Clarksdale Juke Joint festival and I had such a good time as both a photographer and fan.
Southern Nevada Water Authority
A biker and a luchador walk into a photo shoot…R&R Partners have created some seriously sexy and impactful work. It was a privilege to work with the creative folks behind Las Vegas’s “What Happens Here, Stays Here” on a campaign for the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Leave it to R&R Partners to make drought compliance and civic responsibility entertaining.
For these “Be An Angel, Make Sunday a Day of Rest” environmental portraits I was charged with placing recognizable, modern tough guys into a painterly setting where the sun would act as a halo. A little Hell’s Angels meets Giotto (or we could be more abstract and say early Renaissance) made for a not so gentle reminder to refrain from watering on Sundays, and for truly arresting results.
*Note: no photographers were harmed in the making of this campaign, though the talent was authentic, they were angels, as advertised.
Lürzer’s Archive 200 Best Advertising Photographers
When PBS invited me to create something engaging to promote Ridley Scott’s new Civil War production, “Mercy Street,” my team and I went to work exploring and transforming the fabrics and colors of the era. I created a uniquely textured and modern scene into which we would immerse the period-piece subjects. The final result is a campaign of striking, heroic portraits that promote the rich, multi-layered stories and characters of the series.
The University Of Richmond
The University of Richmond is an inexorable part of the cultural fabric of Richmond. And it’s always a treat when the university in my childhood backyard turns into a client.
I partnered with Samantha Tannich from the UR in-house creative team for this project showcasing a mash-up of disciplines using real students as subjects.
I probably photograph real people more than I do models, and there is always that bit of the unknown that I enjoy – the challenge of making someone comfortable in a short amount of time.
The University of Richmond student subjects were assigned to us and other than the concept, I had no idea who was going to show up on set or what they would look like.
Surprise! It’s a swimmer/fine arts major!
Surprise! It’s a music major/equipment manager for the football team!
Real people, old friends, cool project.
Dia de los Muertos
I have been traveling to Mexico since I was a little boy, and I have a real affection for the people and the country; as someone that great up on the East Coast, their culture of family and celebration felt so vibrant and new for me; their landscape so untamed and full of color, texture and history.
My earliest memories of my time in Mexico are in San Miguel de Allende, which we started to visit when I was 7.
Fast forward a number of years, I’m in India on a project for National Geographic and I meet a woman on a train, the Punjab Mail to be exact. We get to talking and I learn she grew up in Mexico and I ask if she had ever been to San Miguel de Allende, she looks at me funny and says she’s been going there since she was 7.
Leap ahead a few more years, we’re married and now I go back often. At some point, I realize I want to photograph people at a Day of the Dead celebration in San Miguel de Allende and once I got my permit for the town square, I set up shop for a few nights to photograph people and costumes that I found most interesting. The same magic of the place I knew with the wonder of a 7 year-old still sparked as I captured the colorful ritual of Dia de los Muertos.
These portraits are all about the faces, which told the stories of the color, texture and history of Mexico, and I can’t take any credit for that. I just had to get myself in the middle of it. I had one battery-operated light, and we set up and searched for faces from hundreds of people walking by. My job – if you can call it that – was easy. It doesn’t get much better.
Woolly Mammoth - Season 35
There are times when work looks and feels like play. Such was the case working with RP3 Agency for DC’s Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company and their 35th anniversary season. We ended up with a visual feast of these engaging and original posters that really capture the personality and mission of Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company.
When the crew and I found ourselves alongside the broadcast production, and ultimately in the position to have to reimagine and rebuild their sets; and regardless the challenge, I found this freedom a nice change of pace that allowed us to create a static version of this evolution of seasons concept with more depth, light and texture, more life than was originally envisioned. For me this campaign is a tribute to how everyone came together to make imagery every bit as visually arresting as its broadcast counterpart.
Many of my personal images happen as the result of a habit I have of seizing on an opportunity to capture a something or a someone that I’ve heard about or want to know more about. Case in point, I was in Harlem on a project with David Calderley of Graphic Therapy. We went late into the night, and decided to grab a beer. While chatting he asked if I’d like to see pictures of the town he grew up in, then on his phone he pulled up and showed me photos of Whitby, England. I wasn’t prepared for how absolutely amazing it was, and just like that I wanted to go.
So a great group of amazingly talented friends, whom I’ve met and worked with over the years, got together and we made the journey to Whitby with David, to create images in his hometown for a personal project. We played around for a couple days, acting the tourists as we went and had a wonderful time.
My inspiration going in to the Whitby project was one of Jane Eyre meets Appalachia and it evolved, as it always does, once we saw the lay of the land. Whitby is a seaside town in Yorkshire, northern England. On the East Cliff, overlooking the North Sea, the ruined Gothic Whitby Abbey was Bram Stoker’s inspiration for Dracula. So in all honesty – the majority of the visual work was done simply by my showing up.
I hoped to keep everything as simple as possible and worked with only available light. The landscape itself is breathtakingly beautiful, the stuff of imagination, and I wanted to the images to be about the environment as much as anything else. I liked having the model as a human element to help provide a narrative as well as to give scale and context to the environments.
While I am proud of the images we created – timeless and slightly haunting, it is always the case that for me the journey is paramount, the adventure reward enough – and the images – no matter how great – are a bonus.