Archive for May, 2010

From the Visual Research Dept.: Right now (through August 30th) the Neue Galerie in New York is showing the work of Otto Dix. His portrait of Laryngologist Dr. Mayer-Hermann from 1926 is a favorite of mine and always reminds me of August Sander’s image of the baker, another masterpiece of that era.

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Whenever I’m getting ready to go on a well deserved vacation, I struggle with the same question that has tormented photographers for thousands of years: Should I bring the lights?

And the right answer is: Yes.

I was traveling in Puerto Rico, driving through the El Yunque rainforest when I came to this beautiful spot. A window in the otherwise dense canopy opened up to reveal a view of sky, sea and a bit of civilization in the distance. I set up a 7b with 2 heads (regular reflectors) left and right of camera. I had to put a plastic bag around the pack because the ground was so wet that it kept sinking in. The camera was a Rollei 6003 with an 80mm, which in my humble opinion, is still the best camera I’ve ever shot with. I took a polaroid or two and then I exposed 2 rolls of Kodak NC 160, varying the light slightly and getting some different cloud patterns.

This image became my best-selling landscape with Getty back when there was still such a thing as a selling landscape with Getty, and I’m still having fun looking at the large print of it in my living room.

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From the Visual Research Dept.: There is a treasure trove of beautiful imagery and old-school Japanese whoop-ass to be found in the amazing series of “Zatoichi – The Blind Swordsman” movies on Hulu.

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One of the bigger photographic challenges that I’ve had to deal with on a regular basis is the corporate office.

I’ve had my fair share of portrait jobs involving people from the worlds of finance, academia or management and a solid majority of them work in a place that can only be described as “visual hell”. The standard issue place of employment is a combination of cubicles, private offices and conference rooms. There is usually grey carpet on floor, walls and sometimes ceiling, and everybody looks good and healthy in strange-colored office lighting.

The young up-and-comers live in cubicle land, with plastic desks and quite often a half-hearted collection of action figures or novelty footballs. The more established ones reside in private offices furnished with the finest Staples oaks. There is usually a picture of your subject shaking hands with Ronald Reagan or Tiger Woods or a right-wing astronaut. There might be a few inspirational posters about leadership illustrated with pictures of lone eagles. Like, who the heck was ever led by an eagle? The bird is called “lone” for a reason.

The conference rooms are usually a tragedy as well. Scuffed walls, banged up tables and piles of video conferencing equipment. Well, you get the picture.

Once you stopped crying about the location, you check out what your subject is wearing. Sometimes it’s cool, more often it’s an ill-fitting suit, a terrible tie (golfers, Santa Clauses, etc) and one of those tent-like shirts that gives the gent a lot of room.

Now, sometimes it’s ok to go ironic and just work with what you’ve got, sometimes you find that little corner or window that somehow saves the day, sometimes you can get your subject to leave the office and hit the streets with you, but sometimes it’s just a full blown mess.

And this is my full blown mess insurance set up.

It’s a Super 8 movie light from God knows when. It creates a nice over-the-bathroom-sink kind of lighting. It works on a regular outlet, it is set up in under a minute, it makes people look good, and it lets me get close so I can cut out the background clutter.

These images were taken with a Rollei 6003 and an 80mm lens with a Tiffen +2 close-up filter. I shot Kodak NC 160. The usual exposure with this light is 1/60th at f 4 at 100 Asa, so the depth of field is very shallow.

The gentleman on top is Lee Remmel the longest-serving employee of the Green Bay Packers. I photographed him as part of a story for Brand Eins, a fairly elegant German business magazine. The budget was tight and I had to work without an assistant, so the easy-to-carry aspect came in handy as well.

The gentleman below is Alain Belda, CEO of Alcoa. We photographed him for Money Magazine. He was very stylish and didn’t need the emergency treatment, but looked good in it anyway.

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Louise Cypher and her doomed luggage carriers made it into the Slide Luck Pot Show at the New York Photo Festival. The event is this Saturday, May 15th from 6:00 pm to 11:00 pm in the archway of the Manhattan Bridge. The roster of photographers includes among others Richard Renaldi, Philip Toledano, Finn O’Hara, and Spencer Tunick, so it should be a lot of fun. Plus they will try to break the world record for the biggest pot luck dinner that night, so dust off your cooking spoons and come out to Dumbo.

For more info.

For tickets.

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This is a story about how inspiration can emerge out of the darkest circumstances.

I was standing in line to pick up a package from the post office on 14th Street and Avenue A, feeling real sorry for myself. Why was I feeling that way? Well, you’re probably not from New York. Here, everybody knows, that the post office on 14th Street and Avenue A is the worst post office ever, definitely in New York but most likely in the entire universe. And any day I have to go to there is a sad day for me.
Anyways, I was standing in line, minding my own business, when I saw a weapons catalogue abandoned on a table. A weapons catalogue!!!! in a post office!!!!!!

I mean, come on, do you really have to give them ideas?

So, I took it to make sure that it wouldn’t fall into the wrong hands, and since I was standing there for a very, very long time I gave it a pretty thorough look. One of the funnier things I came across was a camouflage suit made entirely out of artificial leaves.

Now, the American obsession with camo is kind of fascinating to me. Especially since a lot of people I’ve seen wearing this stuff are xxxx large, which always makes me wonder: if you’re trying so hard to be invisible shouldn’t there be a little less of you?

In any case, I eventually got out of there, disposed of the catalogue and went on my merry way.

A few weeks later Betsy Keating from Money Magazine called me up, and with beautiful serendipity asked me to shoot a photo for a leaf blower test they conducted. There would be a model and we’d go somewhere in the country side to blow some leaves. Of course I immediately remembered that glorious suit, and after a quick Google search, sent Betsy a picture of it.

Betsy liked the idea and lobbied everybody at Money to go full camo on the shoot.

She asked me if there was a model I could recommend for the job and I thought of Juan, a guy I worked with once before on a Photonica shoot. He was a good sport and a pleasure to work with and looked like a suburban homeowner. I sent over some pics and Betsy liked him too. Juan was ready, willing and able and we had our model.

Jane Clark, the main PE at Money had a nice little house with a big garden / back yard upstate and we had our location.

Probably the hardest part was finding dried leaves to blow around since this shoot was in the summer and all the trees were still going strong. Betsy somehow worked her magic and organized a few giant garbage bags of fall foliage from some store in midtown. You just gotta love NYC.

There were two assistants on set.

There was also a guy from Stihl, the company that made the test winner. He supplied us with the actual blower, the goggles, the ear muffs and the gloves. Always remember, kids: safety first!

I shot with the usual RZ and Phase One P25 back and a 4 head, 2 pack 7B set up. We used a mix of regular reflectors and gridspots.

We shot a few different versions of the image. Here’s one with Juan in regular suburban sweat shirt and slacks. Betsy did the styling.

For lunch Jane supplied us with fruits and veggies from her garden. It couldn’t have been better a better outing.

In the end, to everyones delight, the most iconic image of the day was used (see top of post).

I tried my best finagling to get the suit after the shoot, but someone at the magazine had the same idea. I don’t know who ended up with it, but if you don’t see them, you know why.

Here’s a little epilogue:

Betsy and Jane were amongst the first people to ever hire me in NY. Year after year I got some very nice jobs from them and always enjoyed the cool, calm and collected professionalism they brought to the table. In a sign of these shitty times, neither Jane nor Betsy are with Money Magazine anymore. Both are gifted PE’s, great to work with, and even better to hang out with.

Best of luck to both of them.

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I’m proud to announce that one of my Giddy Up pics got chosen for the American Photography website. Yeehaw again.


3rd one from the top.

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