Waking up in a tropical paradise after being locked in a dreary and cold winteriness for months is one of the quickest ways to rejuvenate the spirits. This year we did something a little different and traveled to Florida, land of the whiteheads, and took some time on the beach as a family. The weather was balmy and the water was crystal clear and the food was not terrible, and with the exception of one minor meltdown from my oldest daughter, everything went swimmingly. With my younger daughter acting as my muse this series of images materialized.
Every year we pack up the car and drive to Cape Cod. One time we stopped at a strip mall to pick up some supplies and there happened to be a “Car Show” taking place in the parking lot. I absolutely LOVE old cars so I had to take a walk through. When I was in high school in the 70′s the 56 chevy belair and the 68 GTO were the hottest cars in the world. The 65 Mustang and the 67 Camero were also pretty badass. Anyway I found this one roll of film mixed in with a pile of other contacts from that trip. I could have sworn I shot more film and maybe someday I will find another roll of these amazing beasts, but this is what I have for now. What’s crazy is how time consuming it is to make scans and adjustments from one roll of film. It takes all day to make 6 photographs! The old Rolli just can’t compete with modern technology. I do feel that no matter how “good” digital cameras get, there is just something unique and spectral about the look of film. I certainly would rather drive a vintage Chevy than any of the numerous un-distinguishable modern plastic toy cars that they make today. One of these days I’m gonna get one for myself!
I made this video for Mike Edison to help him promote his new book DIRTY! DIRTY! DIRTY!.OF PLAYBOYS, PIGS, AND PENTHOUSE PAUPERS, AN AMERICAN TALE OF SEX AND WONDER. Mike is a great writer and spoken word performer who tours with a back up band called “The Interstellar Rendevous Band” This particular line up includes Jon Spencer from The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Mickey Finn from Boss Hogg and Dee Pop from the legendary Bush Tetra’s. We did it in one take and lets face it, they aren’t the most attractive bunch, so I thought that it would be cool to spice it up a little and “enhance” the look with a few editing tricks. Even though the video is chaotic and crazy, the devised formula was fairly systematic in its structure. But who really cares about that? Its just fun to watch! You can also watch mike perform a segment from our shoot called Hugh Hefner Hates Girls here.
10 years ago I beat Jeffrey Wright at a game of chess. Granted, I got really lucky, plus I don’t think he would ever admit it, but its true. I was hired by HBO to photograph the image campaign for Boycott, a mini series about the Martin Luther King Jr. that Mr Wright was staring in. We were on set in Atlanta and Terrence Howard and Jeffrey had been playing a lot. During one of our breaks I sat down at the table and somehow was able to pull off a stunning checkmate. It was awesome! When I got the assignment to shoot Mr Wright again I was excited, not so I could remind him of our match but because I personally believe that Jeffrey Wright is one of the greatest underrated actors in Hollywood and I was looking forward to having the opportunity to work with him again. I can’t say he remembered me but he did tell me that he met his wife Carmen Ejogo on that production which I thought was pretty romantic. And except when we had to beat back the paparazzi during the outdoor setup, the shoot went pretty smoothly. In the end I didn’t have the nerve to mention our game that day in Atlanta, but working the chess board into the shoot looked great!
After waiting for years I finally had the opportunity to make it to the Sundance Film Festival in Park City Utah this year and now that this major Rite of Passage has been completed I am reporting back with some images I made while I was there. Sundance is famous for its glamorous party’s but my focus was to be inspired by watching as many films as I could, and I cannot think of anything more inspiring than watching 23 films in a row. I have become fascinated with story structure and obsessed with directing techniques and writing styles so hanging around and talking about film with loads of movie geeks was really fun. I did a blog report for BUST Magazine on some of the women in the festival, which you can see here, and these images were originally posted on Filmmaker Magazine’s blog, which you can see here. Now its time for me to get back to work!
When I reflect on the year that unfolded in front of me and now sits squarely in the past, tumultuous is the word that comes to mind. It’s impossible to condense a whole year into a single blog post but as life passes us by the least I can do is point out a few noteworthy markers from 2011. It goes without saying the most powerful force that we all confront in life is death and this last week I unfortunately met him at my door. Three of my neighbors passed away this year and without getting into the details, we discovered that one of them had died alone on Christmas. I was witness to his body and it was unbelievably disturbing. Literally the next day our beloved dog Sunny finally succumbed to a long protracted illness, which was the saddest day I have ever lived through. It’s been a heavy week but it wasn’t all doom and gloom this year for there were a rash of babies being born to many of our friends, most notably my dear friend and ex assistant of many years Danielle St Laurent and her husband Paul, who gave birth to the beautiful Jon Carlo! Also there were several wonderful weddings, including our friends Sheila and Pete’s wedding at Frank Sinatra’s house in Palm Springs. Here is a picture of my wife Laurie and myself in front of the piano shaped pool. We celebrated our 19th anniversary this year, which is nothing to sneeze at. Isn’t life wonderful! My oldest daughter is a senior in high school, which means that we did the college application process this year and anyone who knows me knows that it pretty much kicked my ass. She is a smart kid and will get into a good one I’m sure. Also, note to anyone planning a family: Don’t have your children 4 years apart and live in NYC or you will have to do the college AND the high school application process at the same time. Now you know why I haven’t done a single blog post in the last two months.
And of course I’ve been busy with my photography. I traveled to LA twice just in December, once to shoot the fabulous Maya Rudolf and once to shoot the legendary Ian Astbury and his band The Cult. I had some great assignments this year including the opportunity to shoot the actors Michael Shannon, Kevin Bacon and Jeffery Wright. I had an 8-page fashion story in Esquire with Dominic Cooper and I got to go to Australia to work on the image campaign for the Fox TV show Terra Nova. I spent a fair amount of time working on a short film I made called SWAN DIVE, a dark and tragic tale about a man and a bridge and I loved every second of it. But also this year has been about downsizing and this is the year we sold our country house. We had the house for 14 years and we loved spending time there but eventually it just became too much of a burden and I couldn’t manage it any more. After 6 months of throwing out stuff, packing and garage sales, we finally sold it and moved out. Super traumatic, but what a relief! So yes it was a tumultuous year but now that I don’t have to paint the deck again, all the applications are filled out, and my poor sick dog is resting in peace, I am feeling a strong sense of rebirth and freedom and energy, ready to move ahead into 2012!
For your viewing pleasure I am presenting two short videos that I have recently finished. Both of these videos were shot while on assignment for stills, but due to favorable circumstances I was able to squeeze in a little video on the back end of each of the shoots. The Gisine video was shot for RunnersWorld in Vermont. Gisine was wonderful to work with and an amazing pastry chef to boot. The back story on Gisine is pretty fascinating: she was a big time Hollywood producer (and she happens to be Sandra Bullocks sister) for many years but couldn’t stand the craziness of the movie business so she quit her job and moved to Vermont to become a baker. More power to ya Gesine!! You can check out her blog here. The Harrah’s video on the other hand was an insane (and insanely fun!) trip down to Atlantic City shooting a “lifestyle” story about how exciting it is to hang out at Harrah’s. All I can say is that I now know where they got the idea for the show “Jersey Shore”
It’s the fall season and the networks are cranking out the hits. Terra Nova is finally being broadcast over the airwaves and the image campaign that I shot for FOX is plastered all over the city! It’s always thrilling to see a bus drive by or a billboard covered with images that you’ve taken. And believe me, we worked hard on this job, going to Australia twice to get all of these images made. I wrote an earlier post of my first trip down under, which you can read here, but I did go back in May to supplement the campaign. The second time around wasn’t quite as rough being that we had a lot of the gear issues worked out. (and it wasn’t raining!) One of my favorite pieces that we made was a breakthrough of sorts for me, shooting video for a living one sheet!
Frank Lloyd Wright is one of my biggest hero’s. Visiting Fallingwater, the visionary house that he built for the Kaufmann family in 1936, has been a dream of mine for many years. The house sits over a river called Bear Run, about an hour and a half southwest of Pittsburg. My daughter is a senior in high school and luckily for me, one of her top choices for college is Carnegie Mellon, in Pittsburg. It’s a pretty long drive but we loaded up the car with the whole family and made a road trip out of it. The weather wasn’t exactly on our side and it was a dark, rainy afternoon when we finally arrived for the tour. Whenever I go anywhere of note, I bring my rolliflex camera. I’ve had this particular rolli since the 80’s and needless to say I am very attached. Right before the tour I was loading a roll of film and I noticed that the aperture adjustment lever was broken. Shit! I waited all this time, came all this way and my camera was broken! I surmised that the camera was in fact still working, but that I could not change the aperture unless the camera was open and I was looking through the inside of the lens. At least though, I was able to set the camera once per roll and thankfully, a fair amount of the images came out fine. Despite the rain, Fallingwater was magnificent and spectacular and beautiful and we had an amazing time on our tour. Now maybe if Olive gets into Carnegie Mellon, I might have to opportunity to come back to Fallingwater on a sunny day, and this time I’ll bring my Leica.
The fashion story that I shot for Esquire with Dominic Cooper came out this summer and I couldn’t be happier! Its always exciting to see your hard work on the stands, and very rewarding I must say. I wrote a bit about the shoot in an earlier post which you can see here but in this post I will make a technical point. For the shoot, I used continuous lighting instead of flash and I really think it freed us up to work more fluidly and fluently. I have been using this HMI lighting for my video work and I am loving how it looks so I thought I’d give it a shot. Unfortunately I did not have a second to spare for video, because it would have been really COOL! As it was, just shooting 10 looks in a day is hard enough. (So I made an animated gif instead) Here are some outtakes…
The luster of new wears thin quickly in the fast paced world of social media and lately I’ve been having trouble just finding the energy to check my facebook page or even to post a tweet. Its not that I don’t get it, I get it. I’ve spent countless hours lost deep inside comment chains, visiting with old girlfriends from high school, and watching rare music video posts but after a while the inevitable redundancy sets in and I have found myself with a pretty bad case of SM burnout. Or maybe its just that I spend all of my time on INSTAGRAM now. This summer has been crazy and I don’t think anyone would call me lazy but it sure is easy to post my nicely filtered i-phone photos for all to see. You need to be careful as to avoid killing yourself with clichés, sunsets and cats are the deadliest, but that keeps it challenging. And generally I think the visual language spoken on the INSTAGRAM feed is pretty fun to watch. Here are some of my favs…
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Even though we were “working” spending the afternoon with Kevin Bacon was much more fun than your usual day at the office. Kevin arrived slightly shy, but it didnt take long for the formalities to dissolve into a relaxing vibe, more on along the lines of a casual Friday, at the end of the day, when everyone is hanging around and laughing. Kevin was incredibly gracious and we bonded over the fact that his son was in a rock band and had just graduated from Evergreen State College (which was where I went in the 80′s) He was thrilled with my book GRUNGE and he even asked me to sign one so he could give it to him. I know he usually plays the bad guy, but it was obvious that Kevin is a really great dad! (and quite a Rocker himself. The music in the video is Kevins own band The Bacon Brothers)
Last month I was given one of those dream assignments that we all wish for. Esquire hired me to photograph Dominic Cooper for a 10 page fashion story to be shot in New Orleans. The catch: Dominic was only available for one day. We were fortunate to find a great location in the french quarter and with the help of Esquire’s wonderful fashion Editor Wendall Brown, we managed to pull off an amazing shoot. The story comes out in August so I can’t reveal any of the images yet but while I was down there I had some time to shoot some personal work. I made these with my Rollie twin lens and Tri-x film. Old school.
I get the impression that things have a tendency to happen in threes. Maybe there is some grand “Cluster Theory” floating around the universe and we just dont know it, but for whatever reason, I was given 3 serious illness assignments in a row. Usually I’m just hanging around with the cast of Glee, a celebrity chef or some hairy rock band, but in April I was dealing with people who have cancer, autism and bulimia. For Runners World I shot 8 cancer survivors in 3 different states. The studios in Austin and St Louis were not quite up to the NY standards but let me tell you, people who have beaten cancer have a certain serenity that is unmistakably refreshing.
Then I was hired to photograph the pop singer Demi Lovato for the cover of People Magazine. Demi had just finished a month of rehab for bulimia and was bravely opening up to the public about her personal trauma. She is a wonderfully talented personality who is dealing with a very serious illness and I was so impressed by her dignity and strength.
I have never shot for Parade Magazine but when they called I just assumed it was going to be to shoot Kim Kardashian or some other pop celeb. The assignment I got couldn’t have been any farther away. Instead I went to Bethesda to photograph a low functioning autistic woman named Dana Eisman. Dana is 21 years old but functions as a 4 year old and is managed by her mother Beth who is a saint by any definition. For me, spending the day at home with the Eismans was a crash course in the difficulties of Autism and a profound experience to say the least.
Oh boy, am I behind on my blog posts. Well here is one to get me back in the mood. I shot 6 different artists for this crazy BUST Magazine fashion story last month over several days. As a central visual theme I worked with the artistic fabricators of crafty creations, The Confetti System, to help with the environments for our six musically talented subjects. Bust is exemplary at discovering new talent and if I were you I would keep an eye on these musicians. I went a little crazy with the photoshop layering, but why not have a little fun every now and then!
Peggy Wang of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Lizzie of Gang Gang Dance