Architectural Digest China
Talent (Indigo Communication): Michelle Liu
Visual Director: Leon Sun
Photographer: Ben Miller
Creative Director: Magnus Berger
Design Director: Pierre Tardif
Photography Director: Jennifer Pastore
Photo Editor: Damian Prado
Art Director: Tanya Moskowitz
Assistant Photo Editor: Hope Brimelow
Photographer: Lawrence Beck
Heidi: This is your first editorial commission, congratulations and what a treat for WSJ. What was it about this project that made you accept?
Lawrence: The Diego Della Valle/Coliseum shoot seemed the perfect subject for my first editorial commission, in addition to the fact it was for the WSJ magazine, which is beautifully printed and of very high quality and content, the subject matter was right in line with what I’ve been working on for 4 or so years in Italy, and more specifically in Rome.
The most captivating element of photographing nature and the union of human-made and the natural, has been the core subject matter of my photographic oeuvre for more than 15 years. I was extremely lucky growing up in a beautiful setting such as the Italian Alps in summers, and being able to look at great artworks in Italy, fresco cycles being amongst my favorites. The “Thickets” series represents a kind of “all over” photography, relating to Pollack’s drip paintings and abstract-expressionism as a whole, and the notion of “all over painting”. The “Italian Gardens” were inspired more from early Renaissance painting were perspective was just being figured out and has a similar look and feel to the inherent flatness of a photograph, specifically in artists such as Masaccio, Piero della Francesca and even from Giotto, who painted a century earlier.
How did Italy’s crumbling Colosseum and the Italian billionaire (Diego Della Valle) who’s funding its restoration project come about? What intrigued you about this?
The commission from the WSJ came about through the gallery that represents my work, The Sonnabend Gallery in New York. There was interest shown in my photography because of my concentration in photographing gardens, villas and ruins in Rome over these last years. The idea of photographing the Coliseum made me happy and stirred up excitement within me, though the prospect of making a portrait of Diego Della Valle was intriguing mostly because the vast majority of the portraiture that I have done over the years is of my family, my wife and my young daughter. The whole thing became a challenge, shooting digitally, which is not what I normally do, and having time constraints which is something that I’m not used to. With my own work, I still shoot film and use a view camera, which allows me to utilize the inherent camera movements that come in very handy in certain cases of fine focus and depth of field. It would have been much more difficult to shoot a portrait with a 4 x5”, so I shot with a DSLR and a medium format digital camera.
What are you considerations when executing this type of work? Did you propose this project to the magazine or did they reach out to you?
Diego was extremely friendly and generous with his time. We basically started down in the Coliseum, in the cavernous ground level maze of tunnels and passages used to keep animals and the other players who performed on the stage of the Coliseum just above us. We moved to the top level of the edifice and that is where I ended up getting the best shot of Diego, used in the magazine. The project was not something that I had considered bringing to the WSJ personally, not really knowing that this is something to consider, though in hindsight, it worked out beautifully and opened a door to editorial photography. I fully enjoyed the experience, and have a greater understanding of the technical challenges inherent in this type of project, along with the logistical problematic such as the trip from New York to Rome.
Your work is so dramatic and refined, how do you feel about the quickness of imagery floating about today. Can you share some of your more personal work from your iphone and your thoughts on the brevity of images these days.
Do you enjoy instagram?
For many years, I shied away from digital capture, believing that it was not true photography, but was forced to learn it when ektachrome was discontinued and reproducing artwork (painting and sculpture) had to be done digitally. What has really intrigued me is phone photography, the immediacy and quality of the image and the ability under the proper circumstances to make a decent 8 x 10” photo. I have come to fully embrace the digital medium, learning Photoshop in the process and being able to use this brilliant new tool, which I believe is one of the greatest inventions in photography.
Are your editorial projects mostly headlines that have to do with style/fashion?
Headlines and typographic treatments work well for editorial pieces. But I have also worked on logos / idents for titles such as Wallpaper* and Wired.
What made you choose that particular color palette for the headline, Best Dressed?
I worked closely with the Vanity Fair Contributing Art Director, Hilary Fitzgibbons to decide on the type and palette. We wanted something bright and engaging on the page, but a palette that felt fashion led.
How long did that headline take you create? In total, it was probably around 5 days – including initial sketching, experiments, computer work and crafting the final piece.
Do you send out promo’s to magazines? How did they discover you?
A few years ago I sent out quite a lot of promo material to magazines and potential clients, which lead to some nice projects. I also seem to get a lot of work through various blogs and previous projects. The great thing about the internet is that your work can take on a life of it’s own, cross international boundaries and reach people you could never have imagined.
Heidi: Are those different widths of string or are they doubled?
Peter: It’s actually a bit of both, to add interest to the piece I decided to add as much texture and change of density as possible.
What was it about a road trip across America that inspired you to do this work?
When we were driving across America, we had a paper road map. Each night we marked our progress on the overview map of the country, It was great seeing our route develop in front of us in a very analogue, permanent manner. Between the five of us, we must have taken around 5000 images, narrowing these down to just a couple of images to print and frame for the wall proved impossible. So I set about capturing the trip in an analogue hand crafted manner. The materials referenced naval / military maps and traditional book binding techniques.
Do you mind sharing you process? Are you using a paper piercer and then straight edge?
Each piece varies slightly depending on the subject matter, but the general process is the same. I collect source material for research and sketch out ideas. These ideas are digitised in order to create templates and guides. The guides arranged, and using a standard dressmakers pin, I pierce the paper. The paper is then stitched by hand.
For the architecture pieces are you tracing photographs/blue prints. Tell me how you executed the empire state building.
I tend to use a combination of photography, tracing and sketching. The Empire State Building image was taken in person on the upper viewing deck of the building. The image was simplified via a process of sketching and tracing, and a vector outline was created which was used as a guide for the final hand stitched piece.
Do you think you’ll ever create portraits, landscape? ( meaning drift out of type and architecture )
I have created a couple of abstract landscapes previously – Sau Paolo and Los Angeles. Portraiture has always interested me, so I think I will experiment with this at some point.
Do you shoot your pieces or send the originals?
The images on my website are shot by me, but the client tends to shoot the originals for the final print version. A lot of my clients are global, so it’s easier to send them the piece and allow them to experiment with lighting, angles and crops, ensuring the get images they are happy with in a short period of time.
Jonathon: Photographing accessories can always be tricky but the challenge to make a still object look beautiful and interesting is something that I really thrive on. For this story my goal was to capture a mood and make the items glow. To bring out the crystals and jewels it was really about creating texture. My lighting process used soft light to create an edge on the items which separated them from the black background and then I mixed that with a harder light to create texture. The combination of this lighting was key to making these items sparkle.
The creative direction and inspiration for this assignment was to have a bunch of flares exploding off of the jewels. I figured the best way to capture this would be to photograph them on black. This complemented the accessories well and set a moody background to create beautiful and sexy lighting.
There is a crazy amount post work that can be done now a days, but I always approach every assignment trying to capture as much in camera as I possibly can. There were a few techniques I used with lighting and lens filters but in the end the intensity I desired for the flares could not be captured in camera. On-set my retoucher and I played around with different techniques in photoshop to create these intense light flares. It was a lot of trial and error. We would see how one flare would look and then I would go back to my set and light the accessory in a way that would naturally complement the flare that was going to be added. It was really about experimenting with adding and subtracting the flares and lighting until it felt perfectly balanced. Post work is so important, especially with still life photography so I have had to learn and really understand what I need to do in camera to create a seamless and natural transition from capture to final retouched image. As a photographer you really need to not only think about what you are shooting but also plan before you shoot and after during the post production processes. It is really important to be very detailed oriented through out each one of these phases. My retoucher and I have been working together for a good amount years now. We have really learned a lot from each other and it has been an excellent collaboration.
These items were actually black with clear and black beaded jewels. I originally shot the items as they were designed with no color and they looked very beautiful, but the editor in chief really wanted to see color in these shots. Adding color brought out an other dimension and in the end it was very fitting for this story.
I always feel like the biggest challenge in photography is visualizing an idea in your head and trying to translate that into a successful photograph. It is really about problem solving. For this specific assignment the flares needed to be added in post, which created a huge challenge; on-set there was no real reference point to start with while I was shooting. The hardest part was visualizing the right lighting for the accessories that would look natural and balanced with the flares that were going to be added. The key to making this story successful was having a deep understanding and connection between what I capture in camera with lighting and what needed to be accomplished in post.
Do you shoot for Marie Claire often?
Over the past year I have shot numerous accessory stories for Marie Claire and it has been an incredible collaboration. Their creative team is so talented and comes to me with fantastic inspiration and they really push every story to the creative max. It is obvious that we want to create thought provoking imagery of accessories and I think we have managed to accomplish this ambition successfully. It is an absolute wonderful creative process and I am really proud of the work we have accomplished together.
Prop Stylist: Robin Finlay
Is Robin Finlay whom you always work with for props?
Robin is my wife and creative partner. We collaborate on everything from the conception of ideas through the final delivery of a photograph. We have an intimate understanding of each other’s process, and are both passionate about our work. We’ve very much evolved into a team over the past few years.
How did the concept evolve?
Details is wonderful to work with on conceptual images because they tend to avoid literal visuals. They open the door to abstract ideas that we generally aren’t able to pursue. We can brainstorm and sketch outside of the box. Although we concept many of the images we execute for them, this wasn’t one of them, and the egg wasn’t the original idea. We were asked to create a wall with a hole in the shape of a fleeing figure, as though someone had run screaming and crashed through the wall. Robin built the wall out of sheetrock, cut the figure, styled broken 2x4s and crumbles of shattered wall. But on the morning of the shoot we received new direction. The new concept was a shattered egg that is being held together by tape, glue, stitches, any possible means.
Is that a real egg? if not what materials did you use?
Real. Since we were down to the wire on time Robin ran to the store, bought a few dozen eggs, and started breaking them, then gluing them back together with super glue while I pre-lit.
How much of this is post?
Everything but some of the glue is added in post. But it was pretty seamless. While I photographed a few of the eggs Robin made stiches in paper. We gobbed some hot glue on paper, and crumpled tape on paper. Then I chose the egg I preferred and started photographing the elements to match the lighting and angles on various parts of the egg. Then it was just a matter of dragging and dropping the elements onto the egg. Easy stuff.
What is the actual size / scale of the egg?
Here IS one we concepted. The story was about working out so hard that you damage your body. Apparently you can stress to your cardiovascular system and build up plaque by pushing yourself to extremes. We drew a handful of sketches based on anatomical hearts, the vascular system, and I always like to set things on fire so why not a flaming shoe? This image was selected and we went to town. The execution was straightforward. Burning plastic is pretty foul so we dawned our respirators, turned on the vent fan and started to torch the thing. Burn. Shoot. Burn. Shoot. Repeat until done.
I’ve noticed on the newsstand this week the interplay between type and image on opening spreads.
When it comes to space, the church and state of headline and image have seemingly come together in a happy union, sharing the same space, rather than the type getting designed into negative space or pockets of openness here and there.
Perhaps this is a reaction, creating a feeling of depth and layering that we don’t really get so much from a printed page, or it’s a space issue with the word count, or just creative expression and a sign of the times.
Apps seem to be inviting images and text as well, you can check them out here.
Pinterest even has a page dedicated to headline design.
Here’s a small scene from a favorite author, Annie Proulx, in the film “The Shipping News” and is often used when describing how to write a great headline:
Publisher: It’s finding the center of your story, the beating heart of it, that’s what makes a reporter. You have to start by making up some headlines. You know: short, punchy, dramatic headlines. Now, have a look, [pointing at dark clouds gathering in the sky over the ocean] what do you see? Tell me the headline.
Protagonist: HORIZON FILLS WITH DARK CLOUDS?
Publisher: IMMINENT STORM THREATENS VILLAGE.
Protagonist: But what if no storm comes?
Publisher: VILLAGE SPARED FROM DEADLY STORM.
Is this publication available on the newsstand? My guess would be no from the discreet use of cover type. Is the magazine both digital and print?
Bloomberg Pursuits is a global luxury and lifestyle magazine published quarterly and sent to Bloomberg subscribers all around the world. It is not sold on newsstands.
Bloomberg does have a Pursuits section on their website which features some of the articles in the magazine as well as providing a link to view the entire magazine digitally and a link to download the issue for free on the iPad.
Tell me about the editorial planning process, and how big is the staff?
Ted Moncreiff is the Editor of Pursuits, Anton Ioukhnovets is the Creative Director, and I am the Director of Photography. Our planning and production process is the opposite of having too many cooks in the kitchen: Ted comes up with ideas for the articles, reaching out to writers and editors he knows to help him gather as many leads as he can find. The three of us brainstorm on which stories have the most appeal to our readers both in terms of content and visuals. Similarly, we collaborate on how we want to treat and approach each article visually and the other photo editors, Lauren Winfield and Manuela Oprea, pitch photographer ideas according to the approach we have discussed for the articles they are working on. It is wonderful to be part of such a small team that works so closely in building a brand.
What are the differences coming from national titles to custom quarterly titles aside from schedule? (Pro’s Con’s.)
I am also the DOP of Bloomberg Markets and work with Lauren and Manuela on that monthly as well so we do end up being busy! Markets and Pursuits are such different creatures so we never tire of any particular photography genre.
As far as the difference working for a national title and a custom quarterly, because I am working on both Markets and Pursuits, my day to day experience remains pretty similar to what I had experienced working at other newsstand magazines. Markets has a much larger editorial staff, so I am still going to as many meetings and dealing with as many editors as I did at other newsstand monthlies I had worked on previously.
How much synergy to you have with Bloomberg News both creatively and editorially?
Ted does have some Bloomberg writers and reporters pitch ideas for Pursuits articles that end up running in the magazine, but he also hires many outside freelance writers. As far as photographers, so far I have always hired outside freelance photographers to shoot for Pursuits.
You are hiring the cream of the crop, what is the running thread in all the images you commission? Describe the magazine’s aesthetic.
There is no ironclad aesthetic for the publication. We actually want to have a variety of photographic styles because of the variety of topics addressed.
Bloomberg subscribers are mainly men so there is a tendency for us to work in that vein, but overall we are a general interest magazine for Bloomberg subscribers, noting that Pursuits addresses the readers’ life outside of work, their time off. Since Anton and I both have backgrounds in men’s magazines, we are very much aligned in what we do like coming from that background and where we would like to break the mold and not follow traditional visual approaches to magazines created for mainly male readers.
Anton’s design sense is, in my opinion, stunning, and it is his design of the magazine that keeps the overall aesthetic consistent. We are both passionate about photography so ultimately I think we are always trying to come up with the best photographer and photographic style for each individual article –the nature and content of each story-and it is his design that pulls it all together so well. We are trying to make beautiful images that sometimes may have an element of surprise to keep things fresh and exciting.
Beginning production of a new publication definitely had its challenges in the beginning because we did not have a product to show or a brand’s reputation to rely on (we are just finishing our fourth issue next week). We therefore relied on the relationships we already had with photographers and their agencies for the first issue and with each issue it gets easier, of course, to bring on the caliber of photographers we want, as we now have something to show and the response has been great.
Beyond the relationships we already had established with photographers before beginning production on our first issue of Pursuits together is the fact that Ted comes up with such amazing editorial ideas and content that photographers are excited to shoot for us. Just three issues in we have been fortunate to be able to attract and assign some really fantastic photographers such as Richard Burbridge, Simon Norfolk, Ralph Mecke, Dan Winters, Horacio Salinas, Kenji Aoki, Tom Schierlitz, and Jamie Chung.
The Gander airport shoot was stunning, how hard was it to produce a shoot in a defunct airport?
It was Anton’s idea to shoot at Gander Airport. He had seen some images of the airport and realized what a fantastic location it would make for a shoot. This Newfoundland airport was an essential refueling stop for transatlantic prop planes from the time it was built in the late 1930’s until the 1960’s. But with the advent of jets in ’60’s, transatlantic refueling fell from favor and thus so did Gander. After that the airport has mostly become the province of cargo planes so it’s 1959 interior has remained absolutely pristine, frozen in time.
While I immediately agreed that it was a wonderful location for our Fall fashion shoot, I knew just as quickly how challenging it would be to get everyone and the wardrobe itself up to Gander. Flying people from both Europe and the U.S. was tricky because there are so few flights going into Newfoundland, let alone Gander, none of them direct. Beyond that, however, is that the planes flying into Newfoundland are so small that they have very tight luggage limits so we had to make sure that the clothes and accessories were being checked in by as many people involved in the shoot as possible. Lastly, we didn’t book our models until the week of the shoot and I wasn’t sure there would be any room left on the few flights that could get them to the shoot in time. A bit of a nail biter but it turned out beautifully thanks to Anton, Azim Haidaryan, the photographer, Markus Ebner, our contributing Fashion Director and a wonderful, flexible crew!
Why did you start this project? What sort of market space were you hoping to disrupt?
After my son was born, I was still busy shooting for clients but stopped shooting personal projects almost completely for about a year. I was kind of going crazy not being able to shoot for myself so I set up a project in Montana to just go shoot a lifestyle project/test in a part of Glacier National Park. Once I did the Montana shoot I realized that big lifestyle shoots like I had done had the potential to be a magazine.
The pictures that are expected for traditional travel magazines are not as interesting to me over time. A hotel bed, a cup of coffee, and a romantic landscape type of imagery is nice to see but after many years shooting big lifestyle productions, those pictures feel not as compelling to make. I want people! And I want people to do all the stuff there is to do in a given location.
On the flip side, with commercial shoots, you do all this planning and production and activities but viewers never know where you are, where you stayed, who your awesome team was, etc. Additionally with commercial shoots you have budget but obviously a lot of decisions about the content of images (and choices like styling) are made based on a client’s needs and not only your vision. Tiny Atlas seemed like a place to put those things together.
Big beautiful travel stories filled with people experiencing the places we wanted to go, or had been and wanted to share. I have so many creative friends who love travel (and are already traveling for work) and who also yearn to work on projects of their own devising that I figured we could band together and make it happen.
Tell me about the evolution of this, and how it’s either exceeded or disappointed your goals?
I can’t quite even remember how we got started. I had the idea, I spoke with my friend, our art director Liz Mullally, who had just left Apple after many years to move to LA. Liz had some time to think about a new project while she was in transition and we got started. My husband Jake built Tiny Atlas. He works full time as a UX designer but we have always built my sites together. A big part of the fresh quality of TAQ comes from the UX and that is credited to Jake mostly, or our collaboration.
Tiny Atlas has grown so much and it is becoming very exciting. The magazine hasn’t disappointed me but it has sapped my business financially and time-wise.
You must have had space in your mind in order to think up this type of project, did you have some slow periods with your photography?
Well after you have a child you both lose a lot of free time and then gain a lot of time where you have to stay home at night because there is a baby sleeping in the other room. My husband and I used to go out all the time and now it is pretty rare. A lot of Tiny Atlas happens between 8pm-midnight.
How will you monetize this?
We have purposely put in all the production info and links so that potential branded partners and advertisers will see the opportunity and how open we are to work together, but also so that when the time comes, readers will not be surprised about the more branded connections being made. We are thinking of lots of ways for brands to work with us, but we have kept the magazine really beautiful and grounded and it will never feel commercial. All of the places, clothing, activities have come from our creators . They are OUR favorite places, and our favorite clothing and we want to share them. But we are open to sponsors and the great ideas they can bring, as well. There is also the potential to have an online marketplace for our imagery and favorite crafted objects and destination suggestions in a curated way. We’re starting to examine ideas such as this, for example, in a small way with our Oakland gallery show in conjunction with our Kickstarter campaign and possibly in a popup gallery/shop in the new year in Oakland, as well.
In a perfect world how do you see this taking off?
In the perfect world, places with fascinating stories, writers with a taste for exploration, and beautiful exciting destinations (on or off the radar) will approach us with projects they want to collaborate on and we will choose the right ones to shoot/write about/collaborate on. This will be in addition to just going to places we want to share with our readers who will hopefully support the printed magazine/shop.
Why Kickstarter and not private investors?
Tiny Atlas has been completely created by me and a growing group of artists that have a lot in common. We are interested in personal stories and personal vision and we want to share work that feels intentional but also casual and real. Unfortunately we are at a point where we can’t continue to share this work without funding. But, there seem to be many individuals who appreciate what we are doing and a general interest in small magazines with unique vision. We hope to connect with all these affiliated folks directly through the Kickstarter campaign and expand on the groundwork we have done as well as listen to direct thoughts from our readers about what they are liking about what we do. While we are not opposed to funding, we want to continue to grow what we already have going and not to change focus.
How did you start your career in photography?
I went to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and got my degree in English Literature and creative writing/poetry. For me photography has always been visual storytelling and poetic editing mixed together. I grew up traveling a bit with my family and I developed a pretty strong love of travel. I took photo classes in high school and university, but I also did a study abroad in Chile where I had an internship as a photojournalist with the national daily newspaper in Santiago. Everything came together for me there. I wanted to shoot and travel. After my study abroad I traveled alone through parts of Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina for a few months. I thought I would become a photojournalist and travel and shoot, but I was not interested in war as much as humanity. My husband and I met when I was a few months out of college trying to be a stringer for the AP (at 21 years old) in SF and he was an art director at the SF Bay Guardian where I started getting portrait assignments. I excelled far more at that than taking pictures of Willie Brown shaking someone’s hand for a Thanksgiving benefit for AP.
How did your experience at Apple fold into the evolution of this project?
Apple was amazing for my career. I started shooting for them on lifestyle projects when I was still just working editorially mostly. They had a lot more freedom in what they were looking for from photographers than other commercial clients so the goal was to take great images of people-often real families on real trips. But they put production muscle, great producers and amazing vision behind what they do and it set my course for making images.
Does your agent support you on this project?
Bernstein & Andriulli has been very supportive. Carol Alda and Howard Bernstein have been especially helpful in getting the word out. They are enthusiastic about my work coming in from Tiny Atlas and they are excited to share it with their clients and network. It feels fresh and relevant to them and that feels good to me.
Why do you think this style of photography is emerging and becoming valuable?
I think lifestyle is maybe coming into its own as a genre. Lifestyle is not a great word and the connotations aren’t amazing- you think, backlit happy people, but that is not why lifestyle is popular. It’s popular because lifestyle images are taken from the perspective of individual experience.
For a time documentary was predominant for so much of photography. Then it split back into categories, portrait, nature, etcetera. This is a little off track for Tiny Atlas but I guess my point is that lifestyle seems like the new documentary. Its a ubiquitous form that seems current and real and relatable. Lifestyle images can be profound or disposable but they are all fitting into the same bucket right now.
The source/credit information about the shoot is shared, are there direct links out to contributors sites? Do you think that can substitute as payment (essentially it’s free advertizing )
I think people want information to be free online and I think it actually should be. The internet is for sharing information and I hate paying for any content online personally. I don’t want people to pay to be a stylist or photographer for Tiny Atlas. I do want to find partners- be they readers who will pay for a beautiful inspiring quarterly or annual magazine in print to keep at home (or tear apart and put on their walls like I did as a kid), or shoot and put on their pinterest, or an airline that wants to promote their new direct service from SFO to Copenhagen, a gem of a national park, an amazing campground, a gorgeous boutique hotel, a delicious local food or restaurant, an old resort that is not trendy but it’s still awesome, or a clothing brand that wants to share a new type of jeans that are actually super flattering. I want to know about all of these things and I think the Tiny Atlas reader does too.
Certainly there is an amount of luxury in any travel magazine but while we want to go everywhere in the world I think the best journey is really just about experience ultimately and not price. I talk about this below but one of my best trips ever was taking buses and hitch hiking around South America in college with money saved from waitressing between college semesters. The biggest luxury for any trip is the time to do it.
Is the entire team friend and family?
The team is friends and family first but has been really growing. I think 45 people had a hand in the last issue or more. Lots of people have reached out to collaborate and if their work is the right fit we are happy to get new people in the mix. I am meeting lots of new people both near and far, virtually and in person. I recently met one of our contributors, Ashley Camper when I was in Hawaii shooting. I also just met Erin Kunkel in person- who is another great bay area photographer we are working with in the next issue and on the Kickstarter campaign. We just tried (and kind of failed) at having a global TAQ Google+ hangout the other day but the experience was fun and we hope to do more things like that as well as connect in person with each other both on our travels and in the gallery/popup in Oakland.
Will you ever do a print version?
Yes! We are going to do a limited run annual for the Kickstarter with an edited version of all the work from Tiny Atlas so far, including our new issue that will come out in November/December. If it goes well we might go to a printed quarterly, or just keep doing the annuals and keep the quarterly online if it feels like the right timeline.
What is missing?
We are missing WRITING! I want writing that is excellent writing with a strong sense of place. The writing format is open to poetry, fiction, memoir or straight journalism, but it should ideally be great storytelling. Sentences should sing and make you happy to read them- is there a happiness-in-reading-something well-written word, like farfegnugen? I want that.
Even though I went to school for writing I don’t know many writers anymore and we are hoping to have budget to seek out excellent writers or ideally expand enough so that writers with a similar vision come to find us.You can follow Emily and the project:
Heidi: You are well versed in fashion with your former experience as Photo Director of Teen Vogue Magazine and the Associate Photo Editor of T: The New York Times Style Magazine, and most recently Contributing Photo Director of Bazaar. How do you hope to set WSJ apart from those titles as they all share some of the same photographers/strong fashion sense?
The WSJ readership – and our ability to appeal to that readership – is what distinguishes us. We reach over 3 million highly sophisticated, well-educated readers worldwide, including the US, Europe and Asia and we always try to keep in mind the broad interests of our demographic when we commission stories and photography. The magazine comprises a wide range of content from art, fashion, design, travel and food to business and technology, which makes it very exciting in terms of the types of photography that we can commission. In recent issues, we have been fortunate enough to work photographers including Alasdair McLallen, Juergen Teller, Nan Goldin, Terry Richardson, Josh Olins and Mikael Jansson for portraiture and fashion as well as William Eggleston, Olaf Otto Becker, Harf Zimmermann and Robert Polidori for travel and features. By frequently encouraging photographers to explore subjects that they don’t typically shoot, we’re able to create vibrant and unique stories. For example, Ben Hassett, who’s well known for his fashion photography, recently went to Spain to shoot portraits and food for a story on the legendary Arzak family and their eponymous restaurant in San Sebastien. For the June issue, Harf Zimmermann, who traditionally shoots landscapes and architecture, went to Milan to shoot several pieces from the late Anna Piaggi’s extraordinary fashion collection as still life. In my experience, photographers enjoy these unexpected assignments/commissions, and the result is a portfolio of beautiful and often unexpected photographs.
How would you like people to get into touch with you?
The best way for people to reach me is via email, preferably not through a list serve or automatic e-blast service as those tend to get stuck in my junk mail.
Has there been a place where you discovered new talent that surprised you?
Instagram has been a great way for me to follow photographers, artists, stylists and editors. I not only see what they are working on and whom they are working with but it’s also a great place to find new talent, new locations etc. I don’t necessarily find photographers by looking at the images that they post but if someone’s visual perspective on Instagram is intriguing, then I will often visit their website if it is listed in their profile to see their work. I also love going to photography festivals. For example, this past July I traveled to Les Rencontres d’Arles for the first time and spent time with photographers, gallerists and fellow photo editors in a beautiful village in the south of France. It is a wonderful way to share knowledge and discover talent as well as seek out more obscure photo books that feature talent I may not have come across through the more traditional channels.
How much to you look at social media, blogs or instagram for new talent/inspiration
As I said, I am really enjoying Instagram right now. I also spend a good amount of time looking at blogs dedicated to photography, fashion, interiors, food and design. That said I try not to go overboard in the social media space. It is important to me that I am able to get out to see photography in person. There is nothing that makes me appreciate a photograph more than seeing a print on paper, and experiencing its artistry and beauty directly rather than on a screen. I am also fortunate to work with two very talented and resourceful photo editors, our Photo Editor Damian Prado and our Assistant Photo Editor Hope Brimelow. They are always finding talent on obscure photo blogs and in books as well as at established galleries and shows. I can always count on Damian in particular, to find incredible talent in the most unlikely places. Also, our Creative Director, Magnus Berger is of course another great source of inspiration and talent. He, Kristina and I are always discussing the people that we are excited about, the references that we love and who we want to work with next – it is a real collaboration here.
Also I’d love to talk about the fashion piece you did with Lachlan Bailey. What a stunning shoot. How did you and the fashion director approach this fashion shoot? Did you have a concept for this, or did you want to celebrate a particular trend?
For the couture story, our main objective was to show our readers our take on the best of couture at that particular moment. Our Editor-in-Chief Kristina O’Neill, Magnus and I worked together to determine who could achieve the creative and fashion brief while keeping in mind the point of view of the magazine. Photographer Lachlan Bailey and stylist Clare Richardson worked together to bring the story to fruition, working with model Andreea Diaconu, to create something beautiful, ethereal and luxurious. We don’t have a fashion director at the magazine so we work with a small group of freelance stylists.
Do you ever do any celebrity fashion shoots? Or in your mind is that too much of mixed message? Meaning does one dilute the other?
Regarding celebrity shoots, we are starting to dip into that territory. We like to keep our readers surprised with covers ranging from interiors to landscapes to celebrities. It is really about what makes the strongest cover story.
How long did it take to produce the Daniel Jackson shoot of the curators? and what made you chose him for this portrait project?
Venice was a highly collaborative and intensely challenging shoot to put together from a photographic, journalistic and production point of view. Our Fashion Features Director Elisa Lipsky-Karasz and I worked together to “cast” the portfolio with our Editor-in-Chief Kristina O’Neill and the other editors from the magazine. Our Assistant Photo Editor Hope Brimelow worked tirelessly on the production alongside a local producer in Venice. To say that Venice is a challenging place to shoot, particularly during the opening days of the Biennale, is an understatement but that was part of the fun. We chose Dan to shoot this particular portfolio not only because of his beautiful portrait work but specifically because he had expressed an interest in doing stories that are outside of his usual purview. We had many of the subjects for as little as ten minutes and we ended up shooting over 20 people over two days in three locations so Dan certainly had his work cut out for him. It was quite a scene to watch people like Rem Koolhaas, Thomas Demand, MaurizioCattellan and Marc Quinn arriving one after another in their water taxis to the water entrance of our main location, a private palazzo on the Grand Canal.
How does the collaboration work, would you say each of you have a particular strengths, if so what are they?
Our collaboration starts with meetings. Pitching for ideas (for conceptual shoots), how to approach the shoot, deciding on lighting and styling directions, etc. We both light and style, but on set, usually, Yasu covers the technical aspect, and Junko the styling aspect. Depending on the job, we know which one of us will be taking initiative…usually, when masculinity is needed, Yasu, more delicate and feminine shoots, Junko.
Yasu: Your start was more lifestyle oriented, ( shooting family and friends ) how has that transcended into your still life work?
I’m not quite sure if I was ever a lifestyle photographer. Photography has been my love for a very long time, but as a profession, I have abandoned it at one point. When I came back to it, I had to basically start from zero again, assisting, testing, dropping off portfolios. I was already past 40 at that point. This phrase is so over used, but you are never too old to pursuit your dream.
Junko: Your start was a bit later, and steeped in still life, what called you to photography and what were you doing prior to assisting?
I studied economics in Japan, and worked for insurance company for a couple of years before coming to NY.
I always loved photography, loved beautiful objects and still life. I never thought about being photographer until I studied photography at college in New York. I’m privileged to know great mentors and coworkers. They inspired me to keep going.
Do both of you always work on the project together on set? Or do you discuss ideas and shoot separately? Meaning are you always a shooting as team?
Yes, always on jobs (so far). We are both security blankets for each other, we do shoot individually in our spare time.
Do you have a regular prop stylist you work with or are you sourcing your own items?
We used to do everything on our own when we started out. (Another strength of having two people.) Now, more and more, we are working with stylists. There are so many wonderful talents, and we learn a lot from them.
How if at at all does your culture influence your work/aesthetic?
We wonder, perhaps the general stereotype of Japanese might fit well to a certain degree. We are strongly aware of the pros and cons of being Japanese though.
What do you see as the pros and the cons?
As you may know, we have a lot of Japanese still life photographers in NY.
One reason we believe, is we had a successful forerunner, Kenji Toma from the 90’s. When something like this happens, a whole new breed of people follow that tries to replicate the same kind of success. Unfortunately, many of them also try replicating the style, which is understandable. ( for the Korean people, the forerunner being Sang An, you see a whole group of younger Korean photographers trying to succeed in the “lifestyle” field) Most of them are very technically inclined and “advertising only” minded. We do not share this approach.
For this particular piece in More, how did the idea evolve? ( the oyster and the ring ) and how does the creative process with you two.
This was a consigned work. We were given a story to illustrate, and with this piece, there was no wiggle room.
We believe the idea was given to us by our beloved editor (not sure what her title is now), Natasha Lunn.
Where did you source the perfect oyster from and how much if any post was there?
We went to fish market in new york city, and bought bunch of beautiful oysters.
About 30 dollars?
Meanwhile I had started running these semiannual events for the Society of Publication Designers called “Unsung Heroes of the American West,” where we celebrate California photographers, illustrators and designers This particular event was on artists who had worked primarily in stills and were now making interesting work with moving images. I knew I definitely wanted Tierney to be a part of it, and got a mutual friend to introduce us. We hit it off right away. I could only show two of the thirteen videos, and when I told her my two choices, she got a bit emotional. Turned out I’d picked her two favorites! I knew then that we were simpatico.
Were you surprised when she agreed to work with you? What was your first assignment together?
I was blown away. I art direct these small circulation alumni and institutional magazines. And my budgets don’t exactly compete with Vanity Fair! But I’ve also learned that if you offer artists interesting subjects and plenty of freedom, they’ll usually say yes if you can keep the assignment and logistics simple. Great artists want to make great work, regardless of the budget, as long as you take care of them.
Heidi: I know this last trip to South Africa was the punctuation of your shark series and upcoming book/film. Your next project is more land based but equally as adventurous and photogenic. What is the allure of the safari for you? And what story do you hope to tell with these images?
Michael: I have always had a passion and draw towards wildlife, in fact the first photo I can remember taking at 8years old was of a shark. Granted it was a photo of a photo in a magazine but I find it humorous how my life came full circle and I have actually made that childhood fantasy come true. I love being in the wild on land or in the water, it’s just being so close to nature and all the amazing creatures this planet has. I think people are so removed from nature in this modern age and by being disconnected we are also very un-aware of what is going on to our planet. The again people i think know but just don’t want to accept or engage it. It’s much easier sipping a Starbucks in your car and letting someone else deal with it. The problem is eventually it WILL affect us ALL. When food supplies from the ocean start to dwindle away, and the fact that 7 of 8 people on this planet live off the ocean, what do you think is going to happen when people can’t feed their kids? I think your imagination can fill in the blanks. That is what is happening, we are stripping our oceans of so many species and not giving them enough time to reproduce. That is what I hope my photos can do, maybe make people stop and take a look at our planet and say “WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP?” I have 3 daughters and some of these animals I am taking pictures of they may very well never get to see in the wild if we stay at the pace we are going. The fact is we aren’t staying at that pace, we are excelling. In the last 30 years 50% of the Great Barrier reef in Australia is GONE…. YES GONE! that shows signs of progression which means in 10-15 years it will ALL be gone. That is the largest reef on our planet, it is a very scary sign and things like this are happening everywhere what people just don’t seem to care, or care enough to do anything about it.
I have had an image in my head for the last 5 years I need to get out of my head and onto a print. That is a very tough thing when you have an idea and you have to sit with it for so many years. This image I had was a Great White shark breaching in between my strobe lights at night time. Capturing a shark breaching in the air is a challenge all its own, but to get lights out far enough and the shark to breach in the right spot in the small window of darkness needed, well that’s basically a small miracle I was trying to pull off. I have been shooting Great Whites for almost 10 years and have somewhere in the neighborhood of 80,000+ images of this animal. I have photographed it with my lights in almost every way possible, but this one. How does one encourage a Great White to breach? Well I wish it was as easy as throwing a tennis ball like I do with my dogs but it’s not. In order to attain a breach you need to tow a decoy(seal) behind the boat at a distance of 25-40 feet and hope that the shark doesn’t realize it’s not real which they do about 90% of the time.
When a shark breaches, its usually a predatory move and can involve a kill.
Did you feel like you were pressing your luck with your safety for this last trip?
I was in the boat so there is NO danger to towing a decoy. We are also towing a foam seal so there is NO killing of any animal involved. The only thing that happens is a shark waste some energy trying to kill a fake seal and probably gets a little frustration at the discovery it’s not a meal. In all the years I have spent diving with sharks, there has never been any danger presented to me or my crew from the animals. From the diving side there has, with the risk of bends and running out of air etc but never from the animals. We take every precaution necessary when we photograph these animals and treat each shoot with the upmost respect. We are dealing with wild animals so you don’t go in like a cowboy and run wild or that is when accidents happen. Ego is NOT a good thing to bring to this arena, humility and respect are key when dealing with predators. Don’t get me wrong one needs a belly full of confidence and to really have a good grasp of one’s fear and to keep it in check.
I brought a film crew on last years trip as well as this most recent one. We are cutting the footage into a show and since I was attempting to do something no one has ever done before, I wanted to have it on film for the future. I can’t go back and do it again had I got the shot so better to capture it in the moment. Yes I met with one of the Worlds most premiere Great White Scientist Alison Kock who is the Research Manager for Shark Spotters in South Africa. I met with her to see what I could learn, what I can do to help, what the state of sharks are in South Africa and that part of the World. She does amazing work tagging and fighting for the rights of these animals in getting laws passed to protect them which is NOT easy. Commercial fishing is BIG business, its like Oil and they have funds and lawyers and lobbyist that get them what they want which is the ability to make money at any cost. It is a very David and Goliath type of battle.
Everything about this shoot is hard. Waiting hour after hour with my eye pressed up against the view finder in a ball on a moving boat tracking a decoy 40 feet away disappearing behind every wave and the knots in my stomach expecting a 15ft shark to pop up any second. That is what its like to, there is NO warning it just happens and you almost can’t believe its happening. The other thing that happens is a whole bag full of “Murphy’s Law” meaning every time I went to adjust the piece of foam i was sitting on, a shark would breach. The camera man would ask me a question and I would turn for a sec to answer and the shark would breach. I wanted to rip my face off so many times because I knew I was only going to get a few chances at this if that and when those ,missed opportunies happened I was just beyond frustrated. If you want to crush your ego and get really humbled then try shooting great whites breaching off Seal Island in Simons Town South Africa. And NO I can’t be like, hey “nut Case” come back and do that again, only this time when you breach come at me belly first” and yes we have names for most all these sharks, one of which was nut case.
There is not a whole lot to do to pass the time because you are waiting for this thing to happen and have to be ready at all times. Sure we would make jokes and try to keep the mood light but for the most part the tension on the boat you can cut with a knife because EVERYONE wants to see the shark breach, everyone is waiting for this moment to happen and we are all focussed on it. There were many times that an hour would go by with nothing then we would have a breach, but most of the time there would be these times when there would be a series of like 3-4 breaches in like 15min and that would be it so you needed to be ready. At about 10am the sharks stop breaching cause the sun comes up and the seals then gain the advantage and can see the sharks approaching and since they are faster swimmers the sharks don’t waste the energy and that is when we would anchor the boat and set up my “shark Studio” which I would have multiple strobes in and out of the water set up and shoot the sharks in a “portrait” type session. That too involved many hours of waiting in between sharks coming to the boat. There would be none and then without warning we would have 5 sharks around our boat! it was amazing.
The lessons I learn are invaluable, and can be applied mostly to my kids ;) to my commercial work, heck life in general. I learned to pause and be in the moment, and to trust God. I don’t think I have ever prayed harder to the point of tears swelling up in my eyes asking god and the Universe to have that shark breach when I needed it to. I wanted it soooo bad. What I realized is I had to let it go and give it away before it would happen. When you hold on to something that hard, and want something that bad, I think most of the time you don’t get it. Only when you let it go and give it away does it come back to you. There are many times I have to apply patience on my shoots, and yes all those hours on the boat were great building blocks of patience because no person, no commercial job creates the feelings waiting and watching a 2 ton great white fly 15ft out of the water create. Also my commercial clients can talk so we can work things out, sharks haven’t learned to speak yet so until they do they are the boss and we are just spectators in their World.
Gary is a dear friend. He takes photos of TOBY, the name of that doll everywhere around the world, every day. I told him “Gary your never going to be face to face with a great white so let Toby come along on this trip and let him get to experience swimming with a shark which Gary saw the opportunity and kissed TOBY goodbye and put him in my care. I was very protective of Toby and wanted to make sure he came home with all his arms and legs, which of course he did!!!Photographs of Michael by: LELAND HAYWARD
Heidi: What was your involvement on this shooting trip with Michael?
Alison: Michael came to chat to me about the sharks of False Bay, to learn more about the incredible dynamics of the cat and mouse game between the sharks and the seals at Seal Island, and to learn more about the ways Shark Spotters was reducing human-shark wildlife conflict issues. Michael also generously donated a new camera to our research program for documenting individual sharks for our photographic-ID catalogue.
I think that people have an inherent fear of the unknown, and in so many respects we know very little about sharks. Even when there is shark news, it usually follows a bite incident, and many people only get to hear and read about this one aspect of sharks. When people set eyes on their first white shark, the words that come out their mouths are not “man-eater”, “ugly” or “stupid”, contrary, the words are usually more like “beautiful”, “graceful”, “powerful” and “humbling”.
But, the reality is that most people will never get to see a shark in its natural environment, they’ll never get to experience that insight for themselves and therefore its vital that people like Michael who do have access to broader media which is accessible share their experiences. In Michael’s case he brings a really fresh, raw angle to his photographs which depict their grace, power and beauty in a way that people can relate to and appreciate, whether they like sharks or not.
I believe that the more we understand about the behavior and movements of large, predatory sharks, the higher the possibility of increasing water user safety and minimizing shark attacks and their subsequent negative conservation and economic repercussions. So far our research team has documented very predictable patterns in their behavior, such as low presence along inshore bather areas during winter, and high presence during summer. We have also discovered that its predominantly female white sharks present inshore during summer months, which has important management and conservation implications due to threats found in this areas. We have also discovered very strong relationships between white shark presence and water temperature and lunar phase, with the highest sightings when the water is warm (around 18 ºC) and during new moon. These behaviors and patterns are likely linked to better opportunities for feeding on their natural prey or ideal environment to be in.
There are quite a large number of products on the market already, and development all over the world to test and find new technologies which are both people and shark friendly. Currently though, there are very few products which have been scientifically verified and those that have produce mixed results depending on the species of shark and it’s behavioural state e.g. is it motivated to feed, or is it simply swimming from one place to another after already having a big meal. In addition to the Shark Spotters program, the City of Cape Town is experimenting with an exclusion (barrier) net at one of its beaches. This exclusion net is different to the traditional shark nets which reduce shark bites by catching sharks and reducing their local populations. The exclusion net acts as an underwater barrier, keeping sharks and people separate, and is an environmentally friendly way to reduce conflict. Other similar concepts are also being trialled.
A shark shield is an electric shark deterrent. Sharks have specialised sensory organs on their heads and snouts which can detect minute electric fields. They use this sense to locate hidden prey. Electric deterrents, in theory, aim to disrupt or overwhelm this sense, to temporarily cause the shark discomfort and have it move away. Research has shown that in some cases they do have an effect, and in other cases they don’t. The bottom line is that as with most safety devices, they can never guarantee safety 100%.
The Shark Spotting Program is now recognized as the City of Cape Town’s formal shark safety program. We operate on 8 beaches and employ 32 people from Cape Town’s disadvantaged areas. Shark Spotters are positioned at strategic points along the Cape Peninsula, primarily in False Bay coastline. A spotter is placed on the mountain with polarized sunglasses and binoculars. This spotter is in radio contact with another spotter on the beach. If a shark is seen the beach spotter sounds a siren and raises a specific color coded flag (diagram). When the siren sounds the water users are requested to leave the water and only return when the appropriate ‘all clear’ signal is given. The program not only offers direct safety, but provides employment and capacity opportunities for previously disadvantaged members of our community, and it conducts applied research to better understand white shark behaviour and movements, and trial and test new safety technologies. Shark Spotters’ core mission is to find pro-active, environmentally friendly solutions to reduce shark-human conflict, for the benefit of both people and sharks.
We have a number of ways people can donate to our organization. The quickest and easiest is via our PayPal account (http://sharkspotters.org.za/donations). They can also visit that link to make direct transfers into our bank account. We are a registered NPO (NPO 060-390) and Public Benefit Organization (PBO 93037 421). We are also registered under Section 18(a) of the Income Tax Act and are therefore able to issue donations receipts that can be redeemed against an individuals or organizations taxable income.
In what ways has your globetrotting life influenced your work?
As a visual artist you draw from your influences and I believe the more we expose ourselves to new experiences and foreign cultures the ‘richer ‘our lives will be. It gives inspiration and keeps the spark alive – to create and stay fresh and current with our art forms. I believe my globetrotting life has given me many of those inspirations and shaped me in many ways. The way I see the world and the way it helped to formed my vision and style in my images. I am German, so that carries a very graphic element and then all those years in Asia – that is kind of calm and zen and California is colorful.
I feel like it is all that, and maybe it is a little bit whimsical, a little bit understated. People tell me that my work is impactful but also has a somewhat playful vibe to it. It feels fun and dynamic and fresh. I think that is because that is who I am. I think I don’t take myself too seriously, and my photos reflect that. I think its because of all my travels, the countries and cultures I lived in, one has to be open minded. We can learn so much. It keeps me moving intellectually and grow as a person and as an artist.
How many languages can you speak and has that ability ever helped you land a project?
I speak German and English and I used to speak Indonesian quite fluently, a bit of French and Spanish. I am not sure if it helped me directly to land a project but I am sure it helps being a worldy citizen and knowing how to connect to foreign cultures. ( I know 5 words of Russian too!) I have been in Moscow for a job and spend a bit of time there exploring the city. So it was nice to relate to some local customs and cultural trades etc. while shooting w/ Maria.
For the design of this fashion story, it has qualities of a moving image with the layout, was that your idea to present to the magazine? ( with the smaller images like a film strip )
The filmstrip idea was a collective decision made at the magazine after the shoot. There are soo many amazing images that is was really hard to choose just one image per look/ per page. So why not emphasize the movement aspect and showcase more images at the same time. What a fabulous idea!!!
How much direction do you get from the magazine? and what specifically was your direction for this project?
When Ilana Diamond (PE) approached me about the project its was quite clear that is was an assignment tailored for me. Fashion merged with movement = Claudia Goetzelmann. The idea was to showcase the latest fall fashion trends on Maria while she is dancing/ moving around her favorite neighborhood in San Francisco.
While talking to Ilana and Ron Escobar (Art Director) it became quite clear that we also wanted to make sure Maria’s fun and quirky personality would be reflected in the images. A dream assignment for me! We scouted the area where we wanted to shoot and attached a look to each location. But we also left a bit room to play. And it was also a lot about embracing my shooting style and vision. Being as prepared as one can be in advance (the German in me takes over) it allows time to play and let magic happen. I loved shooting with Maria. She is such a pro. She knows her body and her movement so well and she loves fashion. It was such a pleasure to collaborate with her on this project!
Your cover is perfect for supporting the cover lines/logo was that shot discussed or this was an organic moment and it become a cover?
San Francisco Magazine and myself have the same approach towards cover attempts. We can aim for a particular look but should be thinking about the cover at all times during the shoot. It leaves room to play and think outside a grid. We had some generic ideas about the cover. But when Maria was wearing the Valentino Daft Ceramic Mood coat and dress it became clear that this would be an amazing cover option.
Do you supply and motion for their ipad issue?
Yes, the Magazine does, you can view it here.
Aside from shooting the fashion feature I meet up w/ Maria at the Ballet studio one morning to shoot some frames of her training – the magazine wanted to keep the visual language aligned throughout the story.
I see you also had another image in the magazine along with the feature, how did they come about?
They also asked me to shoot the LOOKER page (one cool fashion accessory) – we shot a McQueen bag and McQueen shoe. The loved both so they used one in the content page and one in the actual LOOKER page. They usually don’t do that. I feel so honored that the Magazine embraces my photography that way. I truly enjoyed working with the team. I was a wonderful collaboration from the beginning to the end.
You call your self and integrated media photographer, director of photography. What exactly are you trying to tell people with this title?
I started shooting/ directing videos a couple years back and I wanted people to know that I am doing that. I can shoot still images and also shoot the video part of the project if applicable. Its important for me to stay up and current on the latest happening and requirements of technology. I want to be able to offer such services to my clients.
I see on your site you’ve broken out SWIM/LINGERIE and LIFE/MOVEMENT what made you call out SWIM/LINGERIE and not simply call it fashion 1, fashion 2 and so on?
I feel it needed its own category. I already have fashion 1, 2, 3, 4 . There are tons of images on my site and I want to keep it simple and fast digestible for the viewer/ visitor so they can get to what they are looking for. My work lives in the Advertising and Fashion world. Potential clients who look for Fashion might not be interested in the Life and Movement part or Advertising clients might not want to look through all the Fashion. The way we live now our attention span has become extremely short. Its all about the instant. I hope by breaking out those categories it will help navigate my site and work.
Heidi: How difficult was it to produce this shoot? Sounds like the writer Chris Nichols had been working on the production of this for sometime.
Amy: It was really difficult to produce this shoot for a number of reasons. Yes editor Chris Nichols had been working on it but we thought we were going to have way more time before we were going to shoot it. Chris was slowly gathering a list but as I started communicating with the team over at the museum, I was quickly realizing they were installing everything we wanted to shoot at that very moment and we weren’t going to have access to it once it was installed.
What was it about Henry’s work that made you choose him for this assignment?
Why didn’t you consider a LA born and bred based photographer since this was a tribute to LA?
I had been in early talks with Henry about the idea of shooting this. He is definitely an NYC shooter but I thought he would want to do the project b/c it was so up his alley. At first we were going to tackle a different subject for Best of LA that would have been a sort of behind the scenes/reportagey kind of thing that I wanted him for after I spent time with his Ballet book. But when we switched to objects, I thought, well he’s still the perfect person for the job b/c he does both so beautifully. If you’ve seen his Michael Jackson stuff – it’s beautiful!
So we had had a casual conversation about this shoot that I thought we weren’t going to do until the end of May. He was coming to town for Paris photo and we were going to have dinner and discuss it. When I realized our window was closing for access I called Henry in a panic and said ‘CAN YOU STAY IN TOWN FOR THE WEEK AFTER PARIS PHOTO TO SHOOT THIS PLEEEAASSEEE!’ To add to the craziness, we were closing current issue at the time and I was committed to go to Palm Springs photo later that week and this was the last thing I planned on doing. Luckily his schedule totally worked out for it. I brought out his assistant and we headed to the basement of the museum Monday morning. Then we had a challenging task of picking objects that hadn’t yet been installed, objects that were beautiful and interesting, and ones that hit on all the major influences into the building of Los Angeles. It was really tough to get the right mix.
Where they shot on site at the Natural History Museum? Where there any special handling techniques required to shoot these pieces?
They were all shot on site at the museum and none of us were allowed to touch ANY of the objects. Beth Werling who is a historian there had to handle everything so Henry would say ‘a little to the right. now left. now up. now down.’ that kind of thing for 4 straight days.
Were you on set for this?
I was on set for the shoot. I had to run around that place like a nut for a lot of days but it was really fun. Henry and his assistant Billy Jim were great to work with. Henry shot way more than we even had room for.
Which piece as the hardest to shoot?
For the opening shot which is the map of LA, that was really hard. It’s like 20 feet long and it had already been installed. To get up high enough to shoot it from about wasn’t possible and we couldn’t turn off the lights in the ceiling to get rid of the glare. We couldn’t pull it all the way out because even though it was on rollers, it would hit the other installations. Henry had to get down in it to make it work. I was surprised how beautifully it came out considering how restrictive it was.
Heidi: How did the concept come about for this shoot?
Aaron: Kathy Nguyen (Senior Associate Photo Editor – no longer at Fast Company) sent me a detailed email explaining the overall focus of the Fast Talk section for that particular issue: healthcare — and the innovators and entrepreneurs who are leading the way in disrupting the status quo — many come from backgrounds outside of healthcare.
She also gave a me a lot of details about GoodRx and the background of the founders Scott and Doug. And she already had images of the office space as well, which she sent along, so a lot of my usual questions were answered in the very first email I received from her regarding the shoot. She also sent me a few ideas they were discussing at the magazine and asked if I might have any ideas. After looking at the location photos I sent back 4 written ideas, with sketches/mockups based on some of the concepts she had sent me and also incorporating my own ideas. (I often use location photos and create mockups using clipart. I find it helps when people can see how something might look in the actual location space, as opposed to an imagined space — then they can choose if they want to go further with an idea or not…
They discussed my ideas at the magazine and approved 3 of them. There was some back and forth about the execution of the shots, some slight changes they wanted, etc. They were very communicative and I felt the art direction was very clear and they were open to my ideas — my favorite type of collaboration!
I went ahead and scouted the location since it is close to my house and I was available. I’m glad I scouted. There was a logistical issue with one of my original concepts (that I found when I scouted) so the next best option was to move a shot into the conference room — and since I was already planning on having pills for two of the other shots (one was a setup that didn’t run in the magazine) I thought that it might be fun and interesting to litter the conference room table with pills and pill bottles.
Did you have a prop stylist to get all the pills?
I got all of the props myself. Bottles from the deep valley. Pills from the eastside.
If so were they hard to procure?
Not particularly. Apparently, empty pill capsules aren’t that difficult to come by. The pill bottles were easy. Basically, google and a few phone calls and a bit of driving across town…
Your subjects seems lively, was it easy to get them to juggle and play along?
Yeah, it was pretty relaxed. We started off with the conference room shot and my assistants and I slowly built up the table with lots and lots of pill bottles. I let Doug and Scott continue building with the pill bottles as it gave them something to do. I think props (when appropriate) allow the subject to relax a bit and giving someone something to do makes things so much more natural on camera. I gave little bits of direction here and there and let them go with it. By the time we got to the juggling shot (it was the third setup of the day), they were plenty used to it. I think this was one of the last images taken that day.
Have you been doing alot of editorial lately, if so, how do you promote yourself, what’s been most effective?
I do a moderate amount of editorial (but hey, I shot a magazine cover yesterday!) – of course, there’s always room for more! I tend to split my time somewhat evenly between editorial and advertising.
I done a few projects with the Taproot foundation that turned out well, and since then I have aimed my efforts at a project that I’m a bit more hands on from start to finish. It’s just getting started here in Los Angeles — and it focuses on young adults who have aged out, or are about to age out of the Foster Care System. It’s called The Aging out of Foster Care Project and was initiated in NYC by Maggie Soladay, and I believe a Seattle version of the project was also completed. A photo editor friend and I are starting it up in Los Angeles — and we’ve put together a small group of photographers, writers, editors, and a graphic designer. We’re still looking to fill a few of the writing positions and ultimately we plan to turn the project into a published book like they did in New York. (http://salaamgarage.com/2013/book-on-sale-now/).
As for promotion, I send print promos about every 3-4 months and epromos about every 6-8 weeks. And I try to do face-to-face meetings whenever possible. I think face-to-face meetings are invaluable when I can get them. In all honesty, I think print promos are what open the doors to those face-to-face meetings. My best guess is that most of the bigger editorial jobs I’ve gotten are due to having a fairly consistent print promo campaign. And just to kind of reinforce that idea, Anna Alexander and Julia Sabot just featured some of my print promos on their Daily Promo post. (http://www.dwell.com/post/article/promo-daily-aaron-fallon)
I also use the social networks too, mostly instagram and tumblr. I can’t say if any work or meetings have ever come that way, but it’s working for me as far as staying on people’s radar and keeping them on mine too…