I recently spent a morning at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, Calif., photographing Dr. Rahuldeep Gill, an associate professor of religion, and Dr. Leanne Neilson, the provost, for a story on diversity hiring and the school’s changing demographics for the Chronicle of Higher Education. As a Sikh, Gill had often felt like he didn’t belong at the university, to the point that he considered not returning following time away on sabbatical. He did return, however, and is now, along with Nielson and others, a member of the university’s “evidence team,” a task force created to help the university recruit and retain faculty of color to better reflect the changing demographics of their student body, which has shifted in recent years from predominantly white to about 50/50 white to non-white. It’s an interesting topic. If you’re a subscriber you can check out the full story here.
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!
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Not long ago I found myself bobbing, weaving and trying to hold focus as a fierce woman with a two-toned mohawk swung large purple boxing gloves at my face. Usually I don’t appreciate that sort of behavior while I’m trying to take a picture. In this case I’d asked her to do it, so it was okay. My would-be attacker was Hollywood super-cool stuntwoman Petra Sprecher, who I was photographing on Venice Beach for a profile to be published in Migros magazine, a publication from her native Switzerland. She may not look familiar, but you’ve probably seen her work! She’s performed in numerous big-time films, including Minority Report, Eagle Eye and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, to name a few. Prior to that she grew up performing in circuses, ultimately touring with Cirque de Soleil’s Quidam. Circus to stunts seems to be a natural transition. The other stunt performers I’ve known were either trained gymnasts and/or parkour runners. Who else would be capable of jumping off rooftops or falling down stairs? Unfortunately timing didn’t allow us to shoot her doing those things on an actual set, so we did the next best thing, having her demonstrate some of her training exercises, also stopping to take some standard portraits. It was a fun afternoon and we were both thrilled to see the work chosen for the cover.
I recently met up with the talented and extremely photogenic actress and dancer Jacqueline Yunez at Concrete Studios in downtown Los Angeles to shoot portraits for part of an ongoing portfolio of LA-based artists. A Chicago native who moved here to pursue a career in the arts after graduating from the University of Tennessee, Jacqueline combines an urban aesthetic with a sort of laid-back, midwestern politeness that made working with her a pleasure. Here are a few of my favorites from our afternoon together.
Special thanks to my go-to hair and makeup artist, Bethany Ruck, for kicking things up a notch. And to Concrete Studios for the great space and rooftop location.
In December I photographed financial planning expert Liz Davidson at her business Financial Finesse in El Segundo for the cover of Financial Advisor magazine. The editor had requested a mix of environmental portraits and portraits against a backdrop so there would be options for both the cover image and the inside pages. When we arrived we found a great rooftop waiting for us and decided to set up there for our backdrop shot and one of the environmental shots. For the backdrop we taped paper to the wall to maximize the shooting space, which was in a small shaded sitting area where the sun wouldn’t be a factor. We also planned an additional setup that was an easy pivot from the first one that used the slate grey lineup of the building’s offices, which provided a nice clean backdrop and an appealing architectural element. From there we moved the shoot inside to the second floor loft where shot her in the common space of the office before moving to a nearby open-air conference room for a final shot using natural light. Liz was high energy and a great sport throughout and her team was very helpful making sure we had everything we needed for a successful shoot. Financial Finesse, which she founded in 1999, is a business specializing in helping other businesses educate their employees to ensure their financial well being. You can read more about Liz and her business on the Financial Advisor website.