Sequoia Capital photo shoot, aka herding billionaires

Well, hello there. It’s been so long. Perhaps you think the blog’s been quiet because there’s been nothing to report? Quite the contrary, my friend. There’s been too much. Let’s start catching up.

So, I recently did this giant, crazy shoot for Forbes up in the Bay Area. It’s out on the cover of this year’s Midas List issue right now. (aphotoeditor¬†also picked up the shoot for its headline article today. You can read our interview and all the details in their “Weekly Edit” feature.) I’ll try to give you the best tidbits here.

handsome group

The billionaires that had to be herded, all founders of companies originally backed by Sequoia venture capital

1. Count up the people on the cover. Do you count 12? There were only supposed to be 12 (and figuring out how to arrange 12 people vertically was sort of hell). Imagine my surprise when it was all over and I counted 14. No wonder we ran out of apple boxes to stand people on. I have no idea who the extra two billionaires are.

2. Doug Leone, head of Sequoia Capital and a very interesting and enjoyable guy, refused to stand where we planned. He was supposed to be front and center, the leader of the pack. But he wanted it to be about the founders, not him, which I get. We compromised on second row, just off-center.

3. We had about 35 minutes to do two big setups. And half an hour feels like five minutes on a busy shoot. After a variety of cover shots, we ripped away the background — yes, literally ripped away the gray paper — and shot them with the Tesla Motors factory behind them. An amazing place with shining car bodies and sublimely beautiful, sort of creepy robots.

Billionaires just want to have fun.

Billionaires just want to have fun.

4. I wish I could say I got to know them and learn from them. They were all very nice, and short on time, and toward the end a couple of them started grumbling about needing to be somewhere. Of course they all stood around and chit-chatted when it was over. I wondered if anyone would just toss a spare million dollars my way, since a billion is a thousand million, and no one person could spend all that. Didn’t happen.

5. Still, it was a lot of fun. I fielded a surprising number of questions beforehand about what they should wear.

6. Next morning, 4 a.m., we arrived across the Bay to do this:

7. Those are the venture capitalists from Sequoia. They rented that Formula One car, plus a NASCAR car as back-up. These guys do nothing halfway. They even became decent actors for the shoot. Except maybe the guy in the top right corner. He’s not really selling that jack he’s on. These are the things you see in the files afterwards.

Still, he’s trying.

8. Before I make too much fun, this shoot would not have happened without a ton of help from Sequoia. They coordinated the founders for the cover, they helped fund and produce the shots, and they were game for whatever we wanted to do. You can’t ask for much more than that.

4. I ran out of gas on the freeway in the middle of scouting all these locations and producing the project. With all the texts, emails and phone calls coming and going, I forgot the fuel gauge was past E.

I need to thank my very hard-working, talented crew: first assistant Brad Wenner, second assistant Jonah Podbereski, prop stylist Shannon Amos, makeup/hair stylist Dawn Sutti, retouchers Rebecca Bausher and Gretchen Hilmers. Plus Bob Mansfield and Meredith Nicholson at Forbes for bringing me on board and giving everything the green light. Special thanks to Andrew Kovacs at Sequoia for co-producing this odyssey.

About ethan

A Los Angeles-based commercial photographer shooting advertising and editorial imagery for local, national and international clients.
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