Diana Garcia Los Angeles Artist Portrait - Venice Beach

Diana Garcia Los Angeles Actress Portrait

To add to my ongoing series on local artists, I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with the multitalented Diana Garcia at her home in Venice. Being an accomplished actress, model, artist, animator and entrepreneur, she’s a busy lady, so I appreciated that she was willing to give me some time on this unusually hot day in February as she was preparing for an event in her home country of Mexico. While she’s appeared in numerous films, commercials and magazines, what I first recognized her for were her playful street art drawings of octopi and her “UNIWOLFCHEETAH” hybrid which began popping up a few years ago on walls around the city, most notably on the building exterior and menu of the notable local restaurant Gjelina on Abbot Kinney Blvd. Her pieces are imaginative and fun, and are frequently accompanied with the phrase “Be What You Dream.” In addition to her Los Angeles installations, she has shown similar work throughout Mexico and in Miami, New York and Austin. In one medium or another, I’m sure you’ll be seeing much more from her in the near future. In the meantime, hop over to her website to see some of her great work.

Los Angeles Celebrity Actor Portrait Photographer - Melvin Rodriguez

Los Angeles Celebrity Actor Portrait Photographer - Melvin Rodriguez

Los Angeles Celebrity Actor Portrait Photographer - Melvin Rodriguez

I’ve been shooting a lot of artists over the past few years and was excited when actor Melvin Rodriguez agreed to stop by the studio a couple weeks ago to be a part of the series. You might recognize him as one of the lead actors in the HBO show “Getting On,” or for his recent appearances in “Better Call Saul” and, as of this week, as one of the only four remaining people in the world in Will Forte’s new comedy “The Last Man on Earth.” I first became friends with Mel and his wife when they came by the studio some 4 years ago at the invitation of our mutual friend and would occasionally see them at parties after that. Over the years, Erinn and I would sometimes see him in cameos on popular shows such as “Community” and “Workaholics,” and go “Hey, it’s Mel!” Since 2013 though we rarely say that as he’s a regular on half of our favorite shows.  He also has numerous film credits I wasn’t previously aware of, including “Little Miss Sunshine,” and in 2013 had a starring role in the independent film, “Fat,” which was a hit at the Toronto Film Festival. It’s been cool to watch the evolution of his career and I’m sure it’s only just getting started. We couldn’t be happier for him.

For the shoot Mel and his wife came with their newborn baby in tow, excited that afterward they were going to take her to the beach for the very first time. Mel’s great in front of the camera and was equally comfortable giving me an unguarded portrait as he was hamming it up and stripping down to his boxers and a tank top. Lot’s of great shots were made. Here are a few favorites.

Aaron Axelrod Ayahuasca Purge

I recently spent some time with LA-based artist Aaron Axelrod at his studio in Hollywood to photograph him with his newest creation, “Ayahuasca Purge.” The piece is a rather ingenious video installation that has numerous video feeds mapped onto a cluster of white boxes affixed to the wall. The images vary from solid blocks of color to multicolored zig-zag designs that scroll across the surface of each plane. The viewer sits or stands in front of the cluster and is treated to a unique visual and aural experience as music plays and the images move and change along with the mood of the sound. The artist is also able to change the images at will throughout the show, so each experience is unique. Unfortunately the piece is only on display at his studio for the moment, but I’m sure there will be some public showings in the not too distant future, and I’ll be sure to spread the word if I hear of something. Click below to see additional portraits, a behind-the-scenes GoPro video I shot during the shoot and a video Aaron posted that gives a good approximation to what it’s like to view in person.

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Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Late last year I spent a roller coaster of a day with two groups comprised of some very passionate soccer fans. The groups – the Union Ultras and Black Army 1850 – were two cheering sections for the now defunct Chivas USA soccer team and the event we were all there for was the final game of the team’s existence following the announcement that the owner would be selling the franchise back to MLS, who in turn would be shutting it down for good. Chivas USA soccer had occupied much of these fans’ lives for the past 10 years and was moments away from vanishing into thin air. But the fans were not about to go quietly into the night.

The assignment was for Howler magazine, a beautifully produced quarterly publication focused on all-things pro soccer, who just published a great article by Mark Edward Hornish that tells the back story of the franchise and the two fan groups. Therefore I won’t go into too much of the history of the club or why there are two fan clubs instead of one. But I will say that being there was quite an experience.

The day started out generally calm as the two groups gathered in their respective areas on the northern exterior of the Stub Hub Center in Carson, Calif., to tailgate before the game got underway. There was plentiful beer and homemade food, including a pot of homemade birria, or goat stew, that makes my mouth water just thinking about it. They were so hospitable, I of course had to try some. Everyone was in fairly good spirits considering the knowledge that this would be the last time they all gathered for this tradition. But as the game got underway things quickly intensified. For the next 90 minutes there was a constant clamor as the groups banged drums, waved flags, tossed streamers, cheered and chanted through the entirety of the match. The fervor spiked when the Chivas scored a goal against their opponents, the San Jose Earthquakes, late in the first half, giving them the chance to go out with a win. With my eyes on the fans, I had no idea what was happening in the game, but could get a sense of the action by watching their faces. As the second half progressed, the energy and the cheering continued to swell, coming to a crescendo in the final minutes and punctuated with the release of two smoke bombs that engulfed the Union Ultras in a pink cloud of sulfuric smoke. Between the breathless singing and the cloud of fumes it’s a wonder no one passed out. Finally, the final whistle blew and the bubble burst, sending many of them into uncontrollable, cathartic sobs that continued until the teams had left the field. The Chivas had won, ensuring them a tiny victory in that they would not finish the season in last place. Many of the players stopped by the fans’ sections to thank them and sign autographs on their way out. A weird combination of sporting event and funeral, it was a unique experience, both exciting and heartbreaking to witness.

Following the match the fans seemed resilient as they gathered to eat at a post-game barbecue the club hosted for the fans. Those I saw afterward seemed to have left it all on the field and were now calm and resigned to the fact that it was all over. Smiles returned to their faces as they joked and enjoyed their food and friends in the afternoon sun. There was already talk that the MLS might be creating a new team in LA, but no one knew for sure at that moment. The next day the MLS did in fact issue a statement that the team was officially shut down. In the following weeks there was also an announcement that a new team would likely be coming to LA in the future. The article goes further into this, but at least there’s hope that they may soon be able to cheer for a new team. Most of them despise the Galaxy, so that’s out of the question. Whatever happens, the next object of their enthusiasm will be very fortunate. Here’s hoping it’s not long before they find it.

 

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

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Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

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Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Tearsheet - Howler Magazine - Los Angeles Editorial Photographer

Tearsheet - Howler Magazine - Los Angeles Editorial Photographer

Tearsheet - Howler Magazine - Los Angeles Editorial Photographer

 

This is a time-lapse showing the second of two amazing days spent producing a portrait series on the Venice Beach Boardwalk last week. With the invaluable help of Erinn and our assistant Marlena I shot 144 people from all walks of life and numerous countries. The plan as of now is to share the finished body of work in March and then go on to create a book and gallery show. Please check back next month!

Corporate executive portrait composite  Georg Fischer

Corporate magazine photography Los Angeles Georg Fischer

Corporate Magazine Tearsheet

Corporate Magazine Tearsheet

 

Problem: You’ve been assigned to photograph the presidents of two neighboring divisions of a major corporation, but neither of them will be in town at the same time prior to your deadline.

Solution: Composite!

This was the situation on a recent shoot for Globe magazine, the in-house publication of the multinational Georg Fischer corporation who wanted to highlight how two of their divisions were now working under one roof at their new facilities in Irvine, Calif. In order to deliver the shot they needed, we decided to shoot both executives individually in the chosen location — in front of a large aquarium that serves as a centerpiece to their office showroom — and later merge the portraits together. In this case, the company has its own in-house capabilities for post-production, so with the actual Photoshop work taken care of, my main concern was to shoot nearly identical frames taken a week apart. For prior composite work, such as the Macklemore tour poster I photographed a couple years ago, the task was made easier because everything was shot the same day and the camera never moved. In this situation, however, leaving the camera mounted on a tripod in the middle of their offices for a week was not an option! So, I had to set the lighting and camera up again and, with the help of a reference photo on my laptop and using my assistant as a stand-in, find the exact framing. I wanted not only to make the task of compositing easier, but assure that the result was believable, so it was important that the subjects be shot at identical angles. In the end, the images blended together seamlessly and the client went away happy. Hooray! The rest of the spread, as you can see, consisted of documentary-style shots showing employees working in various departments, as well as tighter portraits of some of the featured employees who play important roles in the two departments. While there, we also shot a group portrait for the company’s annual report, which has yet to publish. Once it does I will be sure to share it here.

 

For bookings visit www.davidzentz.com or contact us at dz@davidzentz.com or 310.745.9854.

Musician Vinnie Venice Beach coffee shop

Musician Vinnie Venice Beach coffee shop

 

Walking through the neighborhood recently I came across local musician Vinnie Caggiano, who was perched on the sill of the Groundworks coffee shop talking to our friend Petey Pete and strumming on a beautiful orange guitar. Of course I couldn’t help but take a few pictures. A native New Yorker who relocated to LA in the ’80s, Vinnie is a talented guitarist who occasionally plays the boardwalk, but mostly takes local gigs and teaches. You can check out his work and sign up for a lesson here: http://vincognito.com.

Hayward Nishioka portrait - judo

Last year I had the unique opportunity of trailing judo legend Hayward Nishioka for a piece on the declining role of physical education at colleges and universities for the Chronicle of Higher Education. At 72, Hayward, a 7th degree black belt, has long since retired from professional competition and has been teaching judo at Los Angeles City College since the 1970s. Among his numerous accomplishments in the ’60s are being a 3-time U.S. judo champion and a gold medalist in the 1967 Pan-American games. He is widely considered to be one of the best ever in the sport. While this is impressive and rather intimidating, in person Nishioka is a soft-spoken, gentle man with a good sense of humor, and was a pleasure to spend the day with. And a full day it was, starting with me knocking at the door of his San Pedro home, just steps from the Pacific, at 6 a.m. and ending around 8 or 9 at night at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in Garden Grove in order to create a day-in-the-life style profile piece that could accompany the story. The day consisted of a wide range of activities, starting with a stop at the neighborhood market near his home in San Pedro for coffee and danishes, followed by a 45 minute drive in his blue Prius to teach introductory judo classes at LACC, lunch with his girlfriend, a stop for ice cream, a visit to East LA’s Abell auction house — not far from the rough neighborhood where he grew up and where the staff know him by name — a kendo demonstration (another martial art, in addition to karate, that he excels in) on a homemade dummy in his backyard, takeout dinner on a San Pedro bluff a short walk from his home and finally to Garden Grove for yet another judo session. Along the way we had great discussions, ranging from his recalling his heyday as a champion to his earliest days where he and his family were interned at Camp Manzanar during WWII to how one can determine the authenticity of a lithograph. His time in Manzanar, as you can imagine, has greatly influenced his opinions on today’s wars and the public’s common misperceptions of muslims. He also let me give it a go with his kendo sword, which he swings 1,500 times a day. Typically a fairly light, wooden sword, he fills his with lead to increase his strength and control, the object of his training being to stop the sword as close as possible to the dummy without actually hitting it. After about 20 swings my forearms were on fire and I maybe stopped the sword from touching the dummy once. Maybe I’ll be better by the time I’m 72. All in all, a fascinating and humbling day!

The article just ran in the chronicle and can be seen here: http://chronicle.com/article/When-Colleges-Abandon-Phys-Ed/151109/

Hayward Nishioka photo essay

Hayward Nishioka San Pedro

Hayward Nishioka Los Angeles

Hayward Nishioka teaching judo

Hayward Nishioka teaching judo

Hayward Nishioka teaching judo

Hayward Nishioka teaching judo

Hayward Nishioka teaching judo

Hayward Nishioka

Hayward Nishioka lunch

Hayward Nishioka

Hayward Nishioka

Hayward Nishioka practicing kendo

Hayward Nishioka practicing kendo

 

Hayward Nishioka Editorial photography

Hayward Nishioka broken fingers

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Hayward Nishioka portrait

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Studio headshot - black and white publicity photo dramatic lighting

Anthony Zuiker - CSI creator portrait

 

These two shoots have something in common. One is a publicity shot for an actress named Marisa Costa who wanted to create an image that evoked a sort of noir, crime drama feel that might help her land a role on a television show such as CSI. The other is of Anthony Zuiker, the creator of the CSI franchise! He also was in need of publicity shots to promote his newest endeavor, a “gamified narrative” app called Mysteryopolis. The novel show is aimed at children and will allow them to change the outcome of the story as it moves along. Both images needed to be dramatic, but while Marisa’s needed to be dark, Zuiker’s needed to be a little warmer — so as not to scare the children — while still invoking the criminal brand he has built over the past 15 years. For Marisa we stuck to my home studio, 1320Main Studios in Venice, and kicked up the drama by casting light on the backdrop and shooting black & white. For Zuiker we went with natural light and found a place that gave us a softer version of the high contrast lighting that we needed to fit the look of the genre. I had a great time working with them both and think we achieved the looks we were going for.

For bookings visit www.davidzentz.com or contact us at dz@davidzentz.com or 310.745.9854.

Touch the Wall - Missy Franklin Kara Lynn Joyce Denver

Touch the Wall - Missy Franklin Kara Lynn Joyce Denver

Touch the Wall - Missy Franklin Kara Lynn Joyce

 

It was a busy past couple of weeks with trips to Denver and NYC for the premieres of Touch the Wall, a documentary directed by my good friends Christo Brock and Grant Barbeito focusing on the simultaneous rise of Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin and the decline of her more experienced teammate, two-time Olympian Kara Lynn Joyce. I was fortunate to be involved in the film as an additional photographer for some key scenes late in the film. So when they invited me to come along to the premieres, I was more than happy to join them, both to celebrate and help out by documenting the behind-the-scenes experiences of both momentous weekends. The official premiere was at the Starz Denver Film Festival and was as exciting a start as any small film could hope for. The screening sold out the enormous Buell Theater’s 2500+ seats, outselling the festival’s opening night. This was in no small part to the fact that Denver — more specifically, Aurora — is Missy’s hometown and has also recently become home to Kara Lynn. Needless to say, there was a huge turnout from the swimming community and locals who have followed the ascent of Missy’s career long before she had won her five Olympic medals at the age of 17. The following weekend, we reconvened in Manhattan for a private premiere screening hosted by USA Swimming at the Sunshine Theater. Though the crowd was smaller, the theater still sold out and was attended by several notables in professional swimming, from Rowdy Gaines, who hosted the Q&A after the screening, to Olympic gold medalist Davis Tarwater, as well as Olympic gymnast Nastia Luikin. Both weekends were great. Missy and Kara are genuinely a lot of fun, and I had a good time tagging along as they got the Hollywood treatment, from the red carpet to a private dress shopping visit at Nicole Miller. I also got to enjoy brunch with the Franklin’s at a restaurant high above Times Square where Missy was recognized by an adoring server and a nearby table of teenage girls.

Though my role was small, I’m really proud to be a part of this film and am proud of my friends Grant and Christo for pulling it off. Not only did they complete the film — a grueling, four-year process including two years of filming, countless hours trying to raise money and I have no idea how many hours of editing — but they managed to tell a great story that makes the film interesting whether you’re a fan of swimming or somehow have no idea who Michael Phelps is. The level of personal sacrifice they put themselves through was also amazing to me, and I truly hope they reap the rewards. To that end, I recommend that you go see it! Since it’s a small independent film, the filmmakers are trying a new approach to distribution, in which people can request screenings in their hometown theaters. There are a number of screenings already taking place around the country, and if you miss them you can request your own or choose to buy a digital download of the film for your own private viewing. All the info you need is HERE.

 

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