I recently got together with sparring taekwondo world champion Leticia Esparza for a monotone-themed shoot at Concrete Studios in downtown Los Angeles. Besides being a badass 4th degree blackbelt, Esparza is a model, actress, stunt double and fitness trainer who has recently relocated from her hometown of Las Vegas to give it a go in Hollywood. As fierce a competitor as she is, I wouldn’t bet against her!
As promised in the last post, a shoot featuring a motorcycle-riding librarian! We had a great time doing this profile for the cover of the Library Journal, which recently honored LA County Library Director Skye Patrick as their 2019 Librarian of the Year. We met up with Skye and her executive team at the Manhattan Beach and West Hollywood Public Libraries, just two of the counties 87 branches. Both have really cool and modern architectural elements like floor-to-ceiling windows and large art installations that made them great shooting locations. Skye – who besides being a super cool librarian is a fellow Univ. of Pittsburgh alum – was a great subject throughout and made the process feel like a collaboration. Both her back story and what she has done for the LA library system in only two and a half years are impressive and worth the read, which you can check out here. One thing I learned on the shoot that the article doesn’t mention – perhaps because it doesn’t rise to the level of high brow concepts like expanding inclusivity and bringing the library into the wireless digital age – was that one of her first acts upon starting the job was to allow people to bring in coffee. Genius! So next time you’re in the mood to read at the coffee shop maybe grab it to go and head over to your local branch. It’ll be much quieter.
Happy New Year! Though you probably can’t tell from my posts, 2018 was an incredible and incredibly busy year for me. I shot and self-published a book, traveled around the country on numerous assignments and even bought a house. And if that weren’t enough, we’re expecting our first child in February! Yikes! But between a crammed schedule and waiting for numerous shoots to publish I’ve had very little to share other than photos of my pregnant wife taking down gross, old wallpaper. Which, you know… bad optics. Don’t worry, I helped too, but those are challenging selfies. Anyway, as the year begins life has slowed to a more manageable pace (at least for the now…) and various projects have finally published. So time to start sharing. I’ll kick it off with a couple of clips from two shoots I did late last year with financial publication Morningstar Magazine. Both featured prominent Southern Californians kicking butt in their respective fields. Neither shoot took place in a conference room! I shoot for a lot of financial publications and anytime we can avoid that cliche I consider a success.
The first shoot was with Tara Unverzagt, a financial planner based in Torrance, who also happens to be a competitive track cyclist. For the shoot we met her after work at the VELO Sports Center in Carson, where she trains. The idea was to show her in typical work attire in the cycling environment, so I wanted to show her with bikes whizzing by in the background. A big challenge was that there weren’t that many cyclists on the track at the time, so we had to wait for them to circle all the way around the 250 meter track and then hope that we nailed the timing on both the foreground and background. If not, we had to wait for them to come around again. Then they would take a break. Not too many chances to get it right! Fortunately Tara was a patient subject and could nail her expression on cue, so we had several good options to choose from in the end.
The second shoot featured Howard Gleicher and Greg Padilla of Los Angeles-based Aristotle Capital Management. This shoot was less concept-driven, but the building, in Santa Monica, had a beautiful courtyard with palm trees and a koi pond that provided a great setting. You’ve probably noticed that neither of those elements were in the final shot, but this wall worked pretty well too.
More new work coming soon. Next up, a motorcycle-riding librarian!
I’m very excited to share the artwork I created for latest album from acclaimed violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, Mirror in Mirror. Late last year Anne and I began discussing a trip to the desert to photograph her for a series of images to accompany the album she was working on. She describes the project — which took nearly 10 years to complete — as transcendent, reflective and very personal, so she wanted the artwork to reflect that.
After some discussion we came up with a goal of creating a series of images depicting her in Death Valley and featuring her holding her violin, the “Vieuxtemps” Guarneri del Gesu. Crafted in 1741 and in pristine condition, the “Vieuxtemps” violin is considered to be one of the finest violins in existence. It was most recently purchased at a price estimated to be north of $16 million, making it the most valuable violin in the world.
I’ve listened to the album a couple times now and it’s beautiful. It features a mixture of original commissions and arrangements with a list of composers that includes Philip Glass, Arvo Pärt and Maurice Ravel. I recommend that you treat yourself by picking up a copy here.
I’ve also included some additional publicity photos we shot that day, including a couple of black and white photos shot experimenting with an antique Graphic View camera using sheets of New55 film. Love the results!
Some of my favorite shoots involve collaborating with creative subjects, and working with Anne was no exception. She was a pleasure to work with, and I’m happy to see the results of our collaboration out in the world.
I’m excited to share a sneak preview from a series of images I made with acclaimed violinist Anne Akiko Meyers for her website and upcoming album, due in September. The shoot, which features her extremely rare and valuable “Vieuxtemps” Guarneri del Gesu violin, known to be the most valuable violin the world, took place at her home in Los Angeles. The instrument was lent to her by an anonymous collector to play for life after being purchased for north of $16 million. We had originally considered going on location, but the rarity of the violin, which is in pristine condition despite being constructed in 1741 (!), caused us to reconsider. So, we opted on setting up an outdoor studio on the shady side of her home, where we could ensure that the instrument’s perfect varnish would never see direct sunlight. Did shooting an essentially priceless piece of musical history on a live set make me nervous? Nah! Do it all the time. Did we quadruple sandbag any and every object within 15 feet of the set? Absolutely! Was I lying about not being nervous? Uh, yeah. Sorry. The winds did actually kick up a bit later in the morning, causing our backdrop to ripple, but my team had secured everything so well that it wasn’t a concern.
It was both a great honor and pleasure to work on this project with Anne. An experience I won’t soon forget. One of the highlights was realizing that we were getting a private recital part way through the shoot. Part of me wished I could stop clicking my camera long enough to really enjoy it. I can’t wait to hear the album and see the finished product. I’ll be sure to share when it’s out!
On a technical note, the scenes we were shooting for required multiple lighting sources, so we set up for a variety of scenarios that we could rotate through in order to create images that appeared to be in open shade, low morning sunrises and moonlight among others. To do this we started with a Profoto pack on a large Elinchrom Octabank to create a beautiful broad key light and then rotated through multiple variations using combinations of a soft box, beauty dish and 7″ reflector as back and side lighting. For fill we set up a Scrim Jim a couple feet from Anne, which was secured by multiple sandbags, clamps and an assistant to make sure it didn’t move an inch. We also added in a Reel EFX fan to create a subtle breeze and add movement.
Finally, I also couldn’t have done this without the great crew, listed below.
A couple months ago I spent an afternoon in the fashionable offices of Stylehaul in Hollywood photographing project manager Melanie Okamuro for their parent company RTL Group’s 2018 annual report. Stylehaul is essentially an online network bringing fashion and beauty influencers from around the internet under one roof. Founded in 2011, the young startup was recently acquired by the larger, Luxembourg-based media company. What I loved about this shoot was that the client designs their annual reports with an editorial eye, using fun, modern design and portraiture rather than the typical approach of more traditional corporate imagery. The photos really help tell the story of who their employees are and gave me the freedom to play around with various looks and lighting approaches. Melanie, who as a project manager and programmer isn’t usually in front of the camera, was a great subject. She was not only very friendly, but very patient and was willing to work with me and my team to create the best images possible. Thanks to all involved!