Still Life

Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln Assassination

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.


Tucker ’48


Preston Tucker and his car of the future have quite a story.

The short of it, he was a legendary innovator, and a legendarily bad businessman. But the car? It’s beautiful.

Read the full article here.

Thanks to Smithsonian Photo Editor, and frequent collaborator, Jeff Campagna.


Smithsonian Magazine: Bigfoot

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.


Robot Love

Robot Love

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


Geeking Out On the Job: Face to Face with C-3PO

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.


Lone Ranger

Clayton Moore wore this black mask at the star of The Lone Ranger (ABC, 1949-57 but I’m sure you knew that,) a Western TV series about a Texas Ranger who disguises his identity to fight crime on the frontier.  

What I love about this particular project is everything.

It’s not hyperbole to say photographing the Lone Ranger’s mask for The Smithsonian was one of the best days of my life. I talk about how legends, characters, superheroes and comic book characters shaped me, shaped my perspective. But something about this mask reminded me of that foundation so viscerally. I felt just as I would have felt if 10-year old me was behind that camera.

Hi-yo Silver, away!