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Archive for October, 2010

I’m vacationing in the land of my youth.  Cheers.

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There is a little beach in Brooklyn, between the bridges in Dumbo, that is one of my favorite spots in New York. Whenever I’m there I have this phantasy of going for a quick swim to Manhattan. So, when I was planning an urban sports shoot with my friend and Getty AD Sarah Foster, the image that popped first into my head was of course a swimmer preparing to cross the East River.

We mapped out a few more scenarios at that location and also scouted the beaches at the Far Rockaways in Brooklyn, since they were nice and deserted during a weekday. I didn’t want to pack the day too tightly since this was one of my earliest shoots with my (then) new digital back and we figured we’ll keep it easy all around by just shooting one model.

When it came time to cast I turned to trusty old Craigslist. I’m always amazed about the great talent you can find on this internet standby for apartment shares, used electronics, and sensual spankings. So, I sent the call out and got (amongst the usual fair share of weirdazoids) an email with the picture of a woman with an amazing body and in a pose that clearly shows that she knows how to run much better than the rest of us. I asked for a few more images and they were consistent with the first one. I gave her a call to see if she was available for the shoot and asked her if she was a runner.  The answer was yes.  Then I asked if she was a good runner.  The answer was yes.  Then I asked if she was a competitive runner.  Yes again.  And that kept going until I asked if she ever competed in the Olympics.  And again the answer was yes.  Then I fell off my chair.

The runner’s name was Aliann Pompei and she was an Olympic 400 m runner and a gold medal winner of the Commonwealth Games!!

We did the first shoots at the Dumbo beach and tried to cover certain variations of running, triathelon and swimming.  We worked with two assistants and Alliann provided the running wardrobe, while I brought the swim outfits.

One of the weird things about shooting sports for stock is the need to remove any logos, which in case of Adidas gear means that you have to turn them into the brand with the 2 stripes.  That always brings back childhood memories of anguished shoe store arguments with my mom who insisted that the cheaper sneakers with 2 stripes are as good as the ones with 3, and that no one would ever know the difference.  Yeah, right.

Alliann worked up a sweat in seconds thanks to a spray bottle.

We had 4 heads with regular reflectors on 2 Profoto 7bs that we positioned around the model, or as close to it without putting them in the river and the camera was a Mamiya RZ 67 with a Phase One P25 back.

One of my favs was the jump-the-city set-up.

After the Dumbo beach we drove to the Rockaways.  First was a close-up of Aliann’s legs on the boardwalk, which turned out to be much harder than anticipated.  It took us an uncomfortably long time to get the timing, focus, and lighting all in a row, but in the end we came up with an image that’s been selling surprisingly well, and I’m glad we stuck it out.

On the beach we shot with only 2 heads since the surf made it too dangerous to put the 7bs on the ground.  Each assistant carried a head and a pack and I shot on card instead of tethered.

At the end Aliann gave us a “game face” that I’ve been trying to emulate in every beer league soccer game since.

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There’s a new gallery on my website with some of the fixie (fixed gear bicycle) riders I photographed during the summer in Red Hook, Brooklyn. To my enduring surprise I actually shot still lives as part of the project, and liked it. I guess stranger things have happened, but it can’t be many.

The title “One is all you need…”refers to the fact that fixies have only one gear, just to clarify it for people living under a rock or outside of Williamsburg.

Anyways, I’ll do a post about the shoots soon and I’ll keep working on this project, so there will be more images coming.



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Claudia Hehr is a young, talented New York-based photographer transitioning from assisting to shooting full time. Obviously never an easy step, it is probably even harder in these tough times of ours. A great thing to do for a young photographer (or an old one, for that matter) is to work on a good project. Hone your craft, build a showpiece and be a good human being, and that’s exactly what Claudia Hehr did with NAKED, her beautiful, unflinching reportage about a woman’s struggle with breast cancer.

Dirk Anschütz: Claudia, how did you get started in photography?

Claudia Hehr: After I finished High School I came to the US for one year as an au-pair. As part of the au-pair program, I took some photography classes at a local college and that’s when I fell in love with taking pictures. After going back to Germany, I decided to become a photographer against the advice of friends and family (laughs). I apprenticed with the Fashion photographer Burkhard Hellwig in Stuttgart for 3 years and then moved to New York, where I started assisting a variety of photographers.

DA: Tell me about NAKED.

CH: When Meredith Gray was diagnosed for the second time with breast cancer, this time with a more aggressive form of the disease than the first time, she decided to have her struggles documented in a film and photo project.
Meredith wanted to use her situation to help other women that had breast cancer or would get that diagnosis in the future. She wanted to show the process of treating cancer, since women who get diagnosed don’t really know what’s in store for them, and she wanted to send out a positive message that there is a community and that you’re not alone with that disease. She also wanted to show that the beauty of a woman is not defined by her breasts, that a woman doesn’t have to define her femininity over her breasts. The mastectomy and the resulting change of self-image can cause tremendous difficulties and mental anguish for women.

I think having this project also helped Meredith during therapy.  It occupied her and the production of it gave her something to focus on beside her illness.

Meredith wanted to give a message of hope, while showing what happens during the therapy and that was an approach I could really identify with.

DA: How did you meet Meredith?

CH: Meredith is a fashion stylist and when she got sick, she sent out an email to the photographers that she knew, among them Jack Deutsch, whom I assisted at the time. Jack thought that I would be perfect for that project and forwarded me the email. I sent Meredith some work and a link to my website and when we met we immediately clicked. We decided to do the project together after maybe 10 minutes.

DA:  How did you approach the different shoots?

CH:  The idea was that I would be there for every surgery and major medical treatment as well as for some key moments like buying a wig or her returns from the hospital.  We also did several portrait sessions during that time.  We had to negotiate with the hospitals and get model releases from the staff.  We originally had permission to photograph the mastectomy but unfortunately the hospital people changed their mind.  They weren’t comfortable with a photographer in the OR.  Other than that the doctors and medical staff were extremely helpful and really embraced the project.

All in all we did between 10 and 15 shoots.  Sometimes we would shoot over an entire weekend.  I would take the train up to Meredith’s home in Connecticut and spend the evening before a surgery with her, than accompany her to the hospital and go back to her house when she returned home.

We spent so much time together that we quickly developed a comradery and friendship.

DA:  What equipment did you use?

CH:  I shot with a Canon 5D Mark II and a Canon 5D.  The lenses were a 24-70 mm, 2.8, a 70-200 mm, 2.8, and a 50 mm, 1.8.  I used mostly daylight but I also shot with a bounced Canon Speedlight and occasionally used Dynalite strobes for the portraits.

DA:  Did you work with an assistant?

CH:  No.

DA:  Why did you choose Black & White?

CH:  Very early on, when Meredith and I talked about our vision for this project, we decided to present it in Black & White.  We wanted to really concentrate visually on the essential parts of the story and we thought that color might be distracting.

DA:  There was also a film documentary being made at the same time.  How closely did you work with the film team?

CH:  For the big shoots like the surgeries or when it came to get permits we worked as one team and I also made my photographs available for film stills.

A lot of times we kind of worked parallel to each other but a lot of times both Lisa Simmons (the director) and I worked alone with Meredith, too.

DA:  What was the biggest surprise to you during the project?

CH:  It was how strong Meredith was in dealing with the situation.  Because of that strength, I never felt sorry for her.

We also laughed a lot and had a lot of fun, I didn’t really expect that.

DA:  What did you do with this project so far?

CH:  The biggest thing is probably that Meredith and I set up a Facebook  Fanpage that developed into a community.  We have now over 3100 fans.  Our mission was to educate about breast cancer and to give courage to people who have the disease, and the fan page has been quite successful with that.

Some women shared their cancer stories on the page, some wrote to support Meredith or some to support each other.  Overall we’re very happy with how that page developed.

One problem though with Facebook was that they banned some of my images because they showed nudity.  And strangely nudity in the US seems to be defined by a woman’s nipples.  So, the topless images before the mastectomy had to go, the topless images after the mastectomy  and even the ones after she got her implants but hadn’t her nipples reconstructed yet, could stay on Facebook.

DA:  How is Meredith now?

CH:  The reconstructive surgeries are done, Meredith is cancer free and she’s doing well.

DA:  Thanks a lot for the interview.

All images are in chronological order.

To see more of NAKED go to Claudia Hehr’s website and look for the “NAKED” tab.

You can also check out the Facebook page or go to the NAKED website.

All images in this post © Claudia Hehr.

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