I’ve been shooting for over twenty years and during my early career I was fortunate to work in the couture fashion and beauty industry. Over those years, I’ve shot many faces and developed an acute skill in recognizing extraordinary talent. I recently met a special young girl with real potential. She’s 5’11 at fourteen years of age. She’s humble and active- known as the “Three point assassin” on her basketball team. It’s humbling to have shot a personal project for her, which you can see in a previous case study. As I anticipated, three major agencies are pitching her to sign. I’ve always like to think of myself as a mentor, explaining the importance of saying no if it doesn’t feel like the right fit. An agencies job is to place a model in the right area that suits her potential as opposed to doing what’s right for their agency. This becomes apparent right away. It’s important when testing new talent to shoot what they look like naturally without hair and make up. Often during casting and presenting talent to client, their portfolios are outdated or over stylized which doesn’t represent what you be may pre-visualizing. This test was shot in the studio a day after a conceptual fashion spot on location with her. I’ve been doing some work for a cosmetic company and I’m excited to work her on this project before her schedule priorities change in a bigger market. My focus is on youth culture including what comes naturally to me and most importantly what I’m passionate about. Some refer to this as a niche, which I think is important to realize. “Passionate thinking is a great way to live if you’re fortunate enough to realize it”. My most rewarding goal is sharing my production depth with respect to younger generations to genuinely help them, whether they be art directors, artists, crew, designers, fashion stylists , street wear designers, musicians, or talent. My door is always open and I enjoy listening.
Still life is one of my specialties in that I have the opportunity to style what I shoot. One of my “Guilty Pleasures” is listening to an object- finding or fabricating background elements for conceptual shots. Lighting plays a paramount role in complimenting still life but shouldn’t dictate the approach. Glenn White is a drummer and fashion designer whose launching a new line, DRMHDFLY, focusing on new trends in “Hip Hop Culture” such as the snap back trucker’s cap and scoop cut shirt. He brought the clothes and accessories down to the studio and hung them on the rack. My initial reaction was to contrast- breaking away from traditional street wear imagery creating what I consider “Objects Of Desire” with high key lighting, styling sculptural forms and auditioning props that have a playful sophistication. Ultimately Glenn gave me complete creative freedom, which is a trust that I respect and rare. I organize my work by deciding which items lend themselves to props then shooting the largest objects first down to the smallest to work efficiently. Still Life is inherently very staged so I like to shoot a set up then reset breaking it apart- moving it in different directions to see perspectives I may not have retentively taken into consideration. Glenn said he’s excited moving forward to the next step producing his line, which is the best compliment I could receive. I’m passionate about every aspect of what I’m fortunate to do so- letting inspiration find me and seeking it. I left Glenn with an idea of shooting a Caucasian blonde girl with intricate big volume braids against a really simple background to show how clothes fit and feel. He’s down with it and we’ll move on.
Sissy walked into to my studio with a swagger and disregard for the establishment. She’s tough in the ring and knows exactly what she wants with an undeniable confidence. I was asked to shoot her for a National Rodeo Association. My job was to capture an image for a PR release. Typically, my objective is to capture an apparent appearance but with this subject, something struck me different. Most people have a preconceived notion of how a rodeo queen should appear. I found a different way. Her clothing options she brought, quickly spoke to me and gave me inspiration to see her through different set eyes. I quickly put aside choices, making an edit of her wardrobe and accessories on the clothing rack, which would play well to her beauty while not taking away from her “Thick Skin”. There were textures, attention to details, and style reminiscent of couture fashion. After talking to her she became more comfortable and opened up which inspired me to change my approach in lighting her. She needed to be outside in daylight under a large overhead diffusion with negative fill underneath her to cut extraneous light. The background was artificially lit “Hot White”, then I pulled back camera back a bit to reveal set to invoke a sense of a fashion shoot. This image was successful because of he collaboration of a team and ultimately having Sissy leaving wanting more and expressing that she really had fun.
Every day I strive to accomplish capturing those uncanny intimate moments of someone’s life. Sometimes you simply don’t. Ultimately the folks who see the work either respond or don’t. I did two treatments with subtle yet complex color and black and white treatment, having pre-visualized the two upon initial consideration of the assignment. It’s my job to capture an uncanny intimate moment with a subject, a fleeting moment, if you will. I was honored to have been asked by Ree and Jun Kaneko to shoot their portraits in my studio. Jun enjoyed reading my books on Avedon and Ritts and we talked about Francis Bacon’s paintings and how his work reflected his tumultuous life – what was in front of him. Jun has been instrumental in The Contemporary Ceramics Movement in America. Over the course of his career he has partnered with industrial facilities to realize large-scale, hand-built sculptures. He taught at some of the nation’s leading art schools, including Scripps College, Rhode Island School of Design and Cranbrook Academy of Art. Jun Kaneko has worked at several experimental studios including European Ceramic Work Center in The Netherlands, Otsuka Omi Ceramic Company in Japan, Fabric Workshop in Philadelphia PA, Bullseye Glass in Portland OR, Acadia Summer Arts Program in Bar Harbor ME, and Aguacate in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. He’s been based in Omaha since 1986. I spoke to a prominent collector of Jun’s work and asked him if the work found him or if he had found Jun’s work. He replied, “I found Jun’s ceramic sculptures and they complement the architectural design of my home in Borrego Springs, Ca. Having a Dango in your home is like having a friend in the room. His red hue is unparalleled in its depth and execution.” During the shoot, McMillian Magnet Photography students came for a studio visit, which I always love. Ree and June were patient while I spoke to the kids about the fundamentals of photography and how it has changed. I told the students to take risks, challenge themselves and embrace new technologies. “Life is game that moves as you play.” One morning after the shoot Ree poured me an excellent cup of coffee as I asked Jun what is inspiring him today. He told me he is going full circle back to Raku firing his enormous pieces in a well-suited kiln South of Mexico that he found through a recent connection. The pieces are smoky with a metallic finish. When you see Jun’s work you immediately identify with his perspective. This is indicative of any artist establishing a point of view. I felt in him a pursuit to constantly refine his technique while feeling like a master of nothing. He never ceases to stop learning in an honestly humbling way.
Nebraska known as an arborist state is credited with establishing the national holiday of Arbor Day. The State is also known for agriculture and boasts some of the most fertile soil in the United States due to the Ogallala Aquifer. Antelope County, NE has the second densest population of trees planted during the New Deal’s Prairie States Forestry Project, nicknamed The Great Shelterbelt (1935-1942). The 1930s farming crisis (Dust Bowl), affecting more than 75% of America across twenty-seven states, the farming crisis resulted in inspired New Deal programs to regulate farming practices, diversify crops, and manage yield. In 1935 Franklin Delano Roosevelt further addressed soil and moisture loss with a massive shelterbelt proposing utilizing over 200 million trees to establish a 100-mile-wide, 1,200-mile-long windbreak from Alberta, Canada to the Texas panhandle. Sarah and David Karle, Professors in the College of Architecture an the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, approached me in September of 2014 to discuss capturing the current state of the tree belts in Nebraska. At the time they had been awarded various grants to publish a book on the subject. At first blush, I suggested traditional aerial photography in a high fixed wing Cessna to efficiently cover a county 24 by 36 miles in size. In January of 2015 we visited again in Lincoln to discuss strategy and schedule shoot days with respect to early spring weather. I brought up the potential challenge in producing the project during the fast and furious planting season. While they researched plot books documented current shelterbelt locations, I created an equipment list and located an experienced pilot in the area with the right plane. I explained I would need to shoot from 200 feet – 3000 feet of elevation in a high fixed wing Cessna, preferably a 172 model. In May 2015, we drove to Albion, NE and shot for two days, flying four three-hour intervals around dawn and dusk over two days. I always say “plan the work and work the plan” and sometimes find you have to embrace the chaos. Pre-production is key in delivering on an assignment. David and I came up with a plan to cover Antelope County in segments, flying East to West from North to South. We decided to coordinate the capture time with metadata of my camera and the cell phone app, Spyglass. It worked out very well. Our amazing pilot, Ken Schmitz, explained that wind direction and weather could effect our flight plans. We took his experienced advise into consideration and “worked the plan”. Naturally the morning of the first shoot day the weather did not cooperate. Through constant communications with Ken and monitoring the weather closely we flew up that evening and eventually completed the remaining fights without any problems. What I took from this assignment was the symbiotic relationship between agriculture and conservancy. Specifically how important it is for growers to remain good stewards of the land and continue to be mindful of the balance of the Prairie States Forestry Project’s shelterbelt planted to help agricultural practices. Historic images are courtesy of the USDA Agroforestry Center in Lincoln, NE.
- Canon 5D Mark III
- Canon 200mm f/2 L IS
- Hoodman CF & SD cards
- Zeiss Planar T* 50mm F/1.4 Duclos Cine Mod
- Zeiss Planar T* 85mm F/1.4 Duclos Cine Mod
- Schneider 28mm F/2.8 PC
- Kenyon KS-4X4 Gyro
- Cessna 175 Skylark