The American Society of Media Photographers recently released their new book, The ASMP Guide to New Markets in Photography, and I’m proud to say that I’m profiled in Part III, “Case Studies for the New Economy.” This final section of the book features selected photographers and what they’ve done to adapt to a changing photographic world.
There’s a lovely three-page feature on changes I’ve made — increasing the production value in my testing and my editorial shoots (to create advertising-level portfolio images), creating unique personal projects to separate myself from the crowd, focusing on relationships with clients and potential clients, and using my imagination and concepts to distinguish my work (lots of people can light a portrait well; not everyone has ideas and imagination and an offbeat point of view).
I know, I know … it’s been so long. And I feel guilty, blog, for neglecting you. It’s not that there’s been nothing to say. It’s that there’s been too much. This year ended up extremely busy, and the ride is finally coming to a stop for the the holidays. So let’s start catching up.
First up, one of my favorite shoots of the last few months:
The boss will see you now.
This is Carter Fortunato, in an outtake from a shoot for The Wall Street Journal. He is as dry-witted and intelligent as he looks. Once in a while you get a gift when you shoot editorial, and this was one of those times. So you step up to the plate and make it a much bigger production in terms of lighting, styling and set design. Thanks to the Fortunatos for allowing me to make their son the star.
This is what happens when you reprint your portfolio in a home with a cat who loves new surfaces.
Using up one of her nine lives.
I knew I had to do it sometime, and I was dreading it.
In this best-of-all-possible, wired/multimedia/rich-content world, photographers are being asked to shoot motion in addition to stills. What? But I shoot decisive moments and artfully crafted tableaux! Video is outside my comfortable bubble!
Then two friends of mine, a husband and wife who have written for television for years, asked me to be director of photography on their new project: a trailer for their screenplay. I read the script, a noir thriller with a bit of horror and a darkly comic edge. Not my bright, poppy commercial work, but the kind of thing I love to watch. I signed on. Forget getting your feet wet; this was total immersion in the deep end.
I began with research and testing. Then the lighting design from the ground up. Then the look and feel of the footage. Then came the immersion: 25 long days of filming, some of the best working days I’ve ever had. Distilled to the two minutes below, whose every second I lit and shot. I also worked as second-unit director on all the B&W segments of the trailer, creating the scenes and directing the actors in addition to handling the lighting and cinematography.
And I realized: You know why people make violent movies? Because, in part, they are a lot of fun to make. It’s pretty mind-blowing to capture a room being lit up by machine-gun fire or bodies being being buried by car light.
I’m omitting the film’s and actors’ names at the request of its creators, who are still editing it. It’s going to be great, and not for the squeamish.
I’m proud to have this large-format image in the APA’s “Off the Clock” exhibition, curated by the Getty Museum’s former photography curator, Gordon Baldwin.
The aftermath of my niece’s 6th birthday party. Shot on film with a big, bad 4×5 camera. Scanned with a 400-pound drum scanner.
The exhibition is currently hanging at TBWA/Chiat/Day in Los Angeles, then moving to Crispin Porter + Bogusky in Boulder in the fall.
If you want to see the exhibition, you can either get a job at one of those agencies, smooth-talk your way in, or become a courier or something.
Shot three home-magazine covers recently. First, a little background.
For years I’ve shot homes and their owners for editorial: about 30 for The New York Times, 20 for The Wall Street Journal and 50 for Angeleno and Riviera. Long, hard days, but with enough thought and lighting and effort, in nearly every home you get a gift. By that I mean shots like these:
The harder you work, the more gifts you get. And once in a while I shoot a cover — a much larger, more collaborative effort. I’ve shot the latest three covers for Angeleno Interiors and Riviera Interiors, gorgeous, oversized magazines here in Southern California. Have a look.
#1: Spring 2012: a home in Beverly Hills:
#2: Summer 2012: another home in Beverly Hills:
#3: Summer 2012: down in San Diego:
What always amazes me is the openness and trust of the homeowners. They let us move around all their stuff. They head off to work and leave us alone in their homes for 10 hours. They feed us. One couple asked us stay for their dinner party. Another gift.
Posted in editorial, interiors, lifestyle
Tagged architect, architecture, brett farrow, designer, exteriors, interiors, jane buckingham, lifestyle, living, modern, natasha baradaran, shelter
The Huntington Beach ad agency Innocean recently hired me to do a lifestyle shoot about and for the agency itself. The goal was to portray the agency as a modern, fun, creative place where interesting people work on interesting ideas. Which wasn’t hard, since it’s a modern, fun, creative place where interesting people work on interesting ideas.
The hard part was shooting eight setups in a single day, which took rigorous pre-production, a ton of lighting, a great crew and an art buyer doubling as a talent wrangler.
You know what this shoot made me realize? People who work in offices have it really good. They take breaks, get an espresso, chit-chat with their colleagues, flip through graphic-design books, maybe even shoot some hoops if the office is that cool.
See what I mean? They don’t even know how good they have it.
Look how psyched he is. Because he works at an office.
That guy in the center really does bring his surfboard to work. Not many freelancers I know work across the street from one of the best breaks in Southern California.
Dusk comes late here in the summer. Everyone’s gone home except me and my lights. I wrap at 9:45 pm and get a huge burger down the street. Life is good.
Well, do ya, punk?
If you said, “a young Clint Eastwood” with a little swagger, this is not your lucky day. That’s his son, Scott, whom I shot recently for an editorial spread. Nice guy. Funny (in the article, one of his dislikes was, “people with celebrity parents.”) A quintessential North County (San Diego) surfer bro. And a good actor.
How crazy is that? It’s like time travel.
He didn’t like my beach setup.
I think “portrait on a beach” immediately sounded cheesy to him, as it probably should. Still, he put up with it. Thanks, Scott. And thanks to Gillian Flynn at Riviera San Diego, the take-no-prisoners editor who has hired me everywhere she’s been since we started working together seven years ago.
Ever owe a friend a letter for a long time? And the longer you wait, the harder it gets to write back? Because you have so much more to tell?
Well, my friend, I’ve owed you a post for a long time. And I have a lot to tell. But I’m going to pretend that we just spoke, and this is simply a casual addendum. That way this whole thing is easier to write.
Last time I wrote to you, the 72″ panoramic of the San Francisco bay was my masterwork. Well, there’s a new one — the ad I’m running in Vol. 3 of Luerzer’s Archive, which is being mailed out right now. (If you don’t know Archive, it’s a magazine about and for the advertising industry, and most of the ads in it are from photographers). This time I decided to do something different with my ad.
Don’t sweat it if you can’t read all the text. Just know that it involves my new agent, a poem Andy Dick wrote for me for $1, a collection of 1970s sports trophies and a vintage meat cleaver. All brought together by the amazing Oksana Badrak and her brilliant-as-usual design. If you really want to read all the text, send me an email for a larger version: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next up: another post! So much to tell!
Hello! Pardon the absence. Sometimes things get very busy, which is good. But value and convenience is what I have promised, so here’s the latest serving.
I’m calling this my masterwork, and this tiny blog format doesn’t do it justice:
It’s the San Francisco bay, stitched together via three 39-megapixel shots. The finished file weighs in at 1.33 GB and prints out to 72″ x 20″.
The depth is incredible. Look at the detail on this docked ship, just below Alcatraz:
Now that’s what proper technique can get you.
OK, seriously. There is some nice detail in there.
For the 25 pioneers who subscribed after last week’s blog announcement, here’s a special welcome gift: the world premiere of my latest test. (Note to my parents: a “test” is a shoot I create, produce and finance for my portfolio.)
My 5-year-old nephew, Atticus.
Yes, Atticus. His sister’s name is India.
Take that, Hailey, Aiden and Madison!
The concept was to have Atticus scanning the sky for aliens while life continues unawares in the adult house in the background. We got about 60 shots before dusk and his acting ability vanished. Still, it’s remarkable what candy can do for a kid’s attention span. For a single, nasty Sweet Tart he’d manage five solid shots in a row.
Back at the computer, once I found this expression of amazement and horror, I knew I needed a beam coming down from the sky. When you’re a kid looking for aliens, the last thing you expect is for them to actually show up.
Many thanks to my crew; to Joan for the truck; and to Adam for making the antennae, overseeing the talent and allowing us to take over his entire property.
There’s blogging. There’s blogging about another blog. And then there’s blogging about your blog being blogged about. That’s where I’m at today.
Yesterday’s homepage of aphotoeditor featured a pullquote from my Feb. 2 post, I went to Texas. (For friends who aren’t familiar with it, aphotoeditor is a blog widely read in this bizarre industry.) To quote another photographer who emailed me:
jesus, man! your blog is a frickin’ WEEK old and you’re already on APE? I’d have to [commit violence to the blog's creator] to get on there, and they’d still probably get my name wrong.
Makes a father feel proud.
Last night’s wind was so strong, it tore the lid off my trailer’s skylight. Oddly, the lid only blew about three feet. That’s it in the foreground.
I used the long handle of our squeegee to drop a five-pound weight on it. I never use those dumbbells anyways.
I shot this international campaign for Casio watches a while back, and it’s time to show some finished images. The shoot began without concept or content, just a long list of watches to feature and a reminder to make them look great. Over the next few weeks, Kesha’s label and I came up with five concepts that would be doable in a single day while she was on tour.
The concepts also had to work with her tribal/pirate/hippie/punk aesthetic, which is no small feat. Kesha nailed every setup.
Notable moments from the shoot:
- Hearing Casio executives exclaim excitedly in Japanese as the images appear on the monitor.
- After spending most of the day with my standard electronica soundtrack, Kesha asks us to “play something with some balls.” Who knew?
- We switch to Led Zeppelin and the White Stripes.
- For the final setup, prop master Shannon Amos busts out the glitter gun, raining metallic confetti down on the set.
- I continue to find glitter in my lighting cases for the next several months.
Many thanks to Casio America, Sony Music, my crew and Kesha’s glam team, who always make her look great.
In late 2011 Los Angeles Magazine commissioned me to shoot Bollywood superstar Anil Kapoor, who played the game-show host in “Slumdog Millionaire” and the Indian tycoon in the latest “Mission Impossible.” He’s also starred in 100 or so Indian films, which must be awesome. Anil has a fantastic range and was a joy to work with.
I pulled out all the stops for this shoot, scouting for two days beforehand, gathering props, hammering out concepts. Throughout a long day with six separate portrait setups, Anil was game for everything I could throw at him. The longer we shot, the more he ramped it up. It was one of the best collaborations I’ve ever had on a shoot.
A few things you might like to know:
- While we had makeup artist Veronica Sinclair on hand, Anil seemingly brought his own groomer from India. “Deepak,” he’d call, and this nice Indian man would pop up to do some primping.
- That’s my grandfather’s ancient Colt .38.
- That’s also my banjo.
- I think we scared the publicist out of her wits, having Anil waving a gun and an American flag on camera like a maniac. Like I said, he was game for anything.
Thanks to the talented Amy Feitelberg at LA Mag for the shoot.