Posts Tagged ‘Magazine’

When Prevention magazine’s Helen Cannavale called me up with an assignment to illustrate a story about the effects of sleep deprivation on the workforce, I immediately knew we were going to have a bit of fun on the shoot.

Based on the journalist’s findings, Helen and I bounced ideas around about what it means to be half asleep at work.  We figured the model should be wearing a night gown and slippers to make it obvious that she should still be in bed.  Then we came up with three work situations that can be caused by being overly tired.  The first being a good nap on your desk, the second being a portrait of a cold, which tired people are more prone to, and the third showing clumsiness and irritability.  Yeah, good times.

We scouted the workspaces at Prevention’s midtown office and found a corner with a few (mostly) empty rooms that worked out very nicely.  We could set up there and be out off everybody’s way for the duration of the shoot.  Then Helen worked her magic.  First she booked the beautiful red haired Jana Schoep (Ford Models), who totally fit the color palette, did some nice acting and was a great sport on top of it.  Then she got Jane Choi to do hair & make-up.  Jane is a true artist and has worked with some great photographers and film makers.  She did makeup on Bill Clinton and Christopher Walken for Martin Schoeller, for instance.  Great Stuff.  She can do nice and subtle and she can do nice and over the top.  Here she  turned our healthy, happy, well-rested model into a cold-suffering insomniac on the verge.  After Jane was done with the makeup I kept wanting to apologize to our model for still needing her around for a few hours.

Maria-Stefania (Halley Resources)  was the stylist and she put together a good outfit that worked well within that red, purple and blue color combo of a cold sufferer’s face.

We shot with a Mamiya RZ and a tethered Phase One back.  We used Profoto Acutes to light the backgrounds and as fill lights and a ringflash as the main light because I wanted to get that “deer-in-the-headlights”-feel. The ringflash produced also some red eyes in the model, an effect that we didn’t expect (this was only my second shoot with it) but that we happily accepted.  No, wait, wait:  That we didn’t lose any sleep over.  HA!

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Riding a bike was part of my growing up, but not exactly my favorite part. The only times I was very, if briefly, excited about biking was when I was given a banana seat bike, and again after I got a snazzy 10 speed racer. For the most part though I only biked when I was too late to walk someplace. My biking career ended abruptly and not surprisingly on the day I got my driver’s license.

To my amazement though, biking has made a strong comeback in my personal life as well as becoming an important part of my photography. I thought it might make for a nice intermittent series of blog posts to write about the bike shoots I have done.

It all started with me still being a committed pedestrian, when my good friend Silvia (a journalist) and I teamed up as a writer-photographer combo. We were mulling over possible projects to propose to German publications, when we came across ” The Ride of my Life” the autobiography of Mat Hoffmann, the daredevil BMX champion and later Jackass semi-regular. The book was highly entertaining as it described the growing-up and daily brushes with death of a child/man with no fear. Anybody reading the book would seriously question his/ her desire to become a parent, since one would suffer at least 47 heart attacks if fate would bless one with a little Mat Hoffman. To read about it though, was great.

©Unknown Photographer

Silvia and I wrote up a proposal to portray Hofman and send it to a high-brow weekly newspaper in Germany, that has a section somewhat comparable to the NY Times Magazine. They liked the idea and hired us, but then our arrangement kind of backfired on me.

On a previous job I did for the paper the expenses ran (not terribly) high. Not completely because of my fault either, but my invoice was definitely higher than usual. Then the editor for the paper called me up to suggest that I pay for part of the unexpected expenses by lowering my fee. After a bit of arguing back and forth I agreed to do it, if and only if he payed the same amount as I towards the bill. I thought it would be only fair if we both help the paper financially since we were both involved in the production. For some weird reason though, spending his own money was less attractive to the editor than spending my own money, and he agreed to pay my invoice in full. Of course little victories like that often come back to bite me in the ass.

And now was ass-biting time. When Silvia and I got the assignments to produce the Hofman story, the editor presented me with a budget that was so tiny that I had to work for free instead of very cheap, which was normal. I would have never done that, but here he clearly had me by my huevos. If I just turned down my assignment, they would have sent (and paid) another photographer to shoot my story. If we had turned it down as a team, I would have cost Silvia her job as well, and they might have sent another team to do our story. Silvia graciously offered to share her fee with me, which I didn’t take because of course it was more the principle then the dough. In the end we did the story and I was glad we did, but I never worked for that paper again. To paraphrase Paul Simon: There must be 50 ways ways to lose a client.

The shoot was taking place at the Universal Studios Theme Park in Orlando, FL. We flew down and up in one day, and sans assistant of course. To transport my equipment ( 1 Pro Acute 1200 with 2 heads) in the park, Universal gave me a hard plastic double toddler stroller. It’s always important to travel in style when on a job.

Mat Hoffman and a bunch of fellow BMX’ers were doing a regular show there that summer in a bike park in an amphitheatre. I looked for a quiet location that didn’t scream theme park and provided us with some privacy and a clean graphic background. I found it behind the theatre. After an hour of corporate interference we were finally allowed to shoot there.
In the first portrait I tried to come up with a classical pose in which he can be clearly seen and can make eye contact with the camera, yet in which he also shows his athleticism. We talked about this, and Mat came up with different suggestions. Finally he busted out the one seen on top. I love how he looks like he’s just loitering on his bike with a half-bored sarcastic ta-daa pose. I used a little slower shutter speed to get a little bit of movement in. This way you realize that he’s not just leaning against the wall, but rolling down the lane.

For the second picture I asked him to take off his shirt. I’ve been around athletes a lot and have seen some banged up people, but no one ever came close to Mat Hoffman. We talked about his knee, which was his injury-du-jour and he showed me how he could move his kneecap around in ways that made you question every assumption you ever had. His torso doesn’t look so terrible until you start zooming in on all the scars and bruises hidden in plain sight.

His amazing pain tolerance and complete lack of fear still astounds me. A while after the shoot Mat was in a vicious car accident in which he nearly lost his right arm. For years after that he couldn’t ride a bike, but thanks to a special brace and some major physical rehabilitation he now is back on the bike again.

There is a recent ESPN movie out about Mat, that was produced by Spike Jonze and Johnny Knoxville. Looks like it could be a lot of fun.

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Second day:

After Cappadocia we traveled on to the southern coast where we stayed in a little village named Cerali. We asked Ali, the owner of the pension we stayed at, if he could recommend a local helper and he volunteered to do it himself. After walking around Cerali for a day we got the strong impression, that old men were in short supply and Ali explained to us that the older population leaves the sea side for the mountains during the summer, but that he knew where to find them. After a few days of swimming and lounging, Susie, Ali and I made for the hills. We climbed about 1600 meters ( 5250 ft) during a 45 minute drive which led to some nervous giggles amongst the non-locals.

The first people we met on the mountain top were Mehmet and his wife, who graciously invited us for tea in their “summer shack” before we started setting up.

Field Editing Station:

As our shoot with Mehmet was winding down, we saw 2 gentlemen drive by in a pick-up truck. Tied up in the back was a stately billy goat. Ali flagged down the car and asked Yusuf and (another) Ali if they would have their portraits taken. Without any questions or hesitation the two got out of the cab and climbed on the cargo bed where they immediately started posing with their (very impressive) angora goat.

I snapped a few frames with my Canon G10 and was seriously considering bringing the lights over for this scene, but I quickly decided against it. I usually try to start with the stuff that’s most important to me especially when I shoot “real” people. You always have to expect a short attention span and if you don’t get what you want in the beginning you might not get it at all.

Shooting on that mountain was one of the highlights of this trip. We would have never found this place on our own and the people we met during the shoot were interesting, gracious and very hospitable. At it’s best photography is a door into another world that you would not find without it. Plus: Another great thing was that they did their own styling.

The Sultans-Magcloud Magazine

The Sultans-Issuu

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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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I’m thrilled that Amber Terranova and Amanda Mauro posted my little diabolical photo novella Louise Cypher’s Suitcase on “PDN Photo of the Day” blog.

You can check out the “making of” a little further down this blog.

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This was a 3 night shoot I did to use for self-promotion, as well as for the fun of it. The goal was to tell a story without words while creating photography with high production values on a shoestring budget.

I’ve been toying with the idea to produce a photo novella without words for quite a while. But it all started falling into place on a bike ride along the East River last summer.
As I was commuting from Manhattan to Brooklyn the image of a Gangster looking type climbing all wet out of the river and over the guard rail popped into my mind. I started thinking how i could build a larger story around this idea and somewhere on the Manhattan Bridge I was mapping out the basic structure of a circular crime caper centered around an object of desire.

Now is probably a good time to mention 2 movies that inspired the story.

The first one is the old anti war movie “All quiet on the Western Front” which is about a group of young German soldiers in the first world war.

If I remember right there is a great tragic scene in which the boy with the nicest military boots gets killed and his young comrade starts wearing them , since they are much better than his own pair. The camera keeps showing the boots as we see the new owner getting killed and then the next owner and the next. Pretty soon we’ve witnessed the demise of several men and all we saw was a beautiful pair of boots.

The other movie is Angel Heart. A nice piece of 1980’s film making with Mickey Rourke (pre-op) as a private detective and Robert DeNiro as Louis Cypher, the devil incognito, out to get the soul that rightfully belongs in hell. I had to steal, I mean homage, that name.

Once the general outline was in place i decided to use the slick case my digital back came in as the object of desire. Thank you Phase One.

The next step was to come up with the different killing options and the necessary props for them. What’s practical can be important. For instance we decided to use a prop rock instead of a gun, because we had the rock and not the gun. Also pulling a gun on an NYC street sounds like a potential major pain in the ass.

Anyway now production started in earnest.

First up: location scouting. We had to be able to do several shoots per night, so the outside locations had to be close together in an area that’s accessible, not too crowded, rough but cool looking. All this we found in Dumbo and Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn. I went on a scout together with my girlfriend Susie, the eventual Louise Cypher and Myriam Babin, fellow photographer and office mate. We brought along the Mamiya RZ to see the locations with the camera and lenses we would be using. Susie and Myriam were the stand ins. The scout was fairly simple and we were done in an evening.

Next : Casting. Casting is super crucial for any photo shoot but even more so for one with cinematic qualities. The looks have to be right, but acting ability had to be there too. Since funds were meager I knew this had to be a friends and family production. I’m still amazed that all these generous and talented style mavens are my friends or friends of friends. But I I’ll talk more about the models later.

Scheduling: never easy with people working for food but hey, them’s the breaks.

Permits: they’re getting harder to come by every year, but still, the mayors office for film is a relatively painless operation and, as of now, still free. It’s is pretty important to have permits while shooting in New York. The last thing you want is getting chased along by a cop after you set up all your gear.

Equipment for the first 2 shoot days:

Camera: Mamiya RZ67 with a Phase One P25 Digital Back, we shot all images with telephoto lenses (mostly the 150 mm) to get a slightly voyeuristic look.

Lights: I brought my own Profoto 7B kit, borrowed another one from my good friend, photographer and Corbis AD Tobias Prasse, and rented one more from Fotocare for a total of three 7B’s and six heads. We also rented 4 magnum reflectors, a bunch of sand bags and a few c-stands.

The location vehicles were my old, semi-trusty Volvo station wagon and the minivan of my friend Pramod who also modeled as the poisoner.

Crew: The importance of the people that make up the crew really can’t be overstated. If you have a good crew even a rough shoot is fun. Claudia Hehr was assisting and working the computer and Myriam Babin was assisting and doubling as on set producer. The PA was JW Perkins who also got cast on the spot as the man with the bat.

Sabine Scheckel helped with the retouching.

Food for crew and talent was purchased at a local deli named Foragers.

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