Posts by: Heidi Volpe

The Weekly Edit
Variety: Chris Mihal and Bailey Franklin

- - The Daily Edit
(photograph by  Francois Dischinger )
(photograph by  Jamie Chung)

Variety Magazine

Creative Director: Chris Mihal
Director of Photography: Bailey Franklin
Art Director: Cheyne Gateley
Photo Editor: Janine Lew

Variety has seen some changes recently with the redesign, going to a weekly. In terms of keeping the magazine moving forward what do you hope to do with the project?

Chris: I just put together a presentation for the group last week. It started with asking them to think back where they were 5 months ago, proceeded by showing images of old daily Variety pages. Followed by some of the highlights from that week’s issue. In this business we tend to forget how fast it’s moving and how far they’ve come in such a short amount of time. Robb Rice and Nelson Anderson did such an amazing job setting up an informative and smart product, but we need to keep working with the staff to keep it evolving and growing. I used the analogy of buying a Porsche but not knowing how to drive a stick. I figured automobile references were appropriate for LA, especially with our owner Jay. But keeping it moving forward, I think we need to be better at pacing throughout the book, planning, short form storytelling. We’re falling into the trap of thinking of every piece of content as long-form which is a tough newspaper mindset to break, but we’re getting there slowly. Planning is a big issue for us when approach celebrities and getting them to commit to shoots.


(photograph by  Jamie Chung)

You came from managing several different titles both weeklies and dailies, (Creative Director at Asbury Park Press Design Studio-Gannet) how is it to focus just one one project? What’s been your biggest challenge?

Chris: Ya, I came from a big operation of doing 15 daily newspapers and its weeklies with a staff of over 70 designers. In a situation like that you have to accept the idea of picking battles and living with a lot of simple, rudimentary pages and content. At Variety, it’s the opposite. We place a premium on every single page and these books are anywhere from 100-120 pages a week (150 for Cannes). We’re putting out a magazine that’s bigger than a lot of monthlies, so it gets pretty intense but that’s what makes it exciting. On top of that, I walked in at the worst possible time. It was two weeks before we started doing daily issues for the Cannes Film Festival as well as the weekly issue. That was then followed by putting out standalone issues for the Emmys during June which recently concluded. So there have only been a few weeks to focus solely on the weekly. But I think my previous experience prepared me a little for that workload, but it was a very intense first two months.

Tell us about the cover direction, is it mostly image or concept based?  What direction are you moving towards in terms of photography?

Chris: We try and keep a good balance of illustration and photography with the cover. Our stories tend to be more on the conceptual side which is what separates us from our competition, but I’m a firm believer in never limiting our tools to tell a story. I’m lucky to have rockstars like Bailey Franklin and Larry Williams to really think out how to best tell the story visually. We’ve run into subjects that want a little too much creative control, so we’ve taken the approach of finding the right image and pairing it with illustration. We’ve run into the issue of having to visually represent something as abstract as TV Upfronts, so we went with Andy Samberg who was staring in one of the more anticipated shows to be picked up. Right now we’re still building up a reputation for smart visual storytelling and photography, so getting access hasn’t been easy. But the more we shoot and the better we get at planning, the access issues will go away. We’ve done some of that by shooting Samberg, Steven Spielberg was on the cover a few weeks ago. J.R. Mankoof did some amazing work for us when we were doing panels for our Emmy content. But part of me is glad it’s hard to get access because it keeps us balanced with our approach. Otherwise we might fall in a rut of shooting celebrities for each cover and we start to look like every other magazine.

 

(photograph by  Brian Finke)

Heidi: How much movie Hollywood knowledge did you have coming into this project?

Chris: I remember sitting in the first edit meeting and thinking, “What the hell are these people talking about?” Names were being dropped left and right. Variety is well known for developing it’s own terminology, so for the first few weeks I had to preface my questions with “I hope I don’t sound dense, but …” It has probably been the hardest adjustment since taking on the new job. But luckily I have a staff that’s well versed in the industry from years of experience as well as Nelson to answer any stupid questions I might have.

What’s your favorite movie?

Chris: The favorite movie is a tough question. If I could only watch one movie for the rest of my life it’d probably be Fight Club. Norton and Pitt are amazing. Fincher is probably one of my favorite directors. The story is original. And it’s completely appropriate to end every single day with the Pixies’ “Where is My Mind?”

You arrived from the East coast, so far whats the biggest difference is terms of work?  East vs West?

Chris: I think the one thing I’ve noticed is the number of creatives in editorial are far less than what I would have expected for a city the size of Los Angeles. New York goes without saying is the epicenter for what we do, but I didn’t think there would be such a disparity between the two cities. So we’re constantly looking for up-and-coming talent in LA.

Hollywood has a busy schedule, how hard is it to plan shoots and secure time?

Bailey: Scheduling is definitely one of our biggest challenges. We often have only a day or two to put together a shoot from the time that we first hear about it, so we have had plenty of practice working with the subject to quickly assess a situation and come up with the best options available. We also have to be extremely flexible as we frequently have only ten to fifteen minutes with someone, and that time frame can shift multiple times in the course of production. Fortunately, we have a roster of very creative and experienced photographers who are very adept at quickly sizing up any given location and making something happen. It doesn’t always go as planned or hoped, but I’d like to think that we are getting better at reducing the number of clunkers over time.

If I were a photographer, how would I land a shoot with you? and do I have to have shot a celebrity to be considered?

Bailey: To be honest, although we sometimes shoot celebrities, we are primarily entertainment industry focused, so a celebrity portfolio isn’t really necessary. I love getting old fashioned promo cards, and I make a point of clicking on every email link he gets from photographers. We are big believers in taking chances and working with new talent, especially if their work shows a really strong visual identity and flexibility dealing with a range of subjects and lighting situations. The more they can demonstrate the ability to create smart, fresh and compelling images out of the most basic of elements, the better!

The Weekly Edit Interview
Improper Bostonian: Nicole Popma

- - The Daily Edit

The Improper Bostonian

Design Consultant: Heroun + Co

Editorial Designer: Mallory Scyphers

Photo Editor: Nicole Popma

Photographer: John Huet

 

Heidi: How did this story idea come about and what made you choose John?

Nicole: The Boston Marathon Bombing was something that affected all of us here at The Improper Bostonian- it happened just a few blocks away from our offices. We knew right away that we wanted to pay tribute to the event but it took us some time to figure out exactly how we would do it. We chose to honor the first responders from that day and hoped that by doing so, we would be able to recognize all of the people who went above and beyond the call of duty the entire week.

It just seemed to make perfect sense to create this cover story for our Boston’s Best issue. It’s our biggest of the year, and out for four weeks instead of two. Who better to embody “Boston’s Best” than a group that represented how well Bostonians banded together in the face of a massive crisis.

We worked with John for the first time back in December and he’s shot four covers (including this one) for us since then. He shot Wendy Williams for the cover of our May 8th issue the Thursday before the Marathon and we had a scheduled call for Tuesday, April 16th, to discuss the shoot. That quick chat turned into a recap of where we both were on Monday and our days, how he’d photographed the marathon in the past and all the “almosts.” As soon as we had the green light for the project, I reached out to John.

He has this calming energy and astounding professionalism about him that I knew he’d bring to the shoot. By far the most amazing part of the day was getting to watch him shoot the individual portraits. He was able to engage his subjects in the most magical way. Very few of them had ever sat for a formal portrait before, but there was no timidity in any of the photographs- he made each and everyone of them feel completely comfortable sharing their stories and showing their raw emotions.

I am very familiar with John Huet’s work, editing his work is virtually impossible, as you could simply publish any image he turns in. How difficult was this to edit and what tools did you use when editing something so emotionally charged? Was there a process you had that was different from your other shoots?

That is a total fact. We had hundreds of shots to choose from, each of them better than the one before. Our Editorial Designer and I went through four or five rounds of edits on the computer before printing off our favorites (I think around 50) and piecing them together. We wanted to ensure that the pacing felt appropriate and each image complimented the one sitting next to it, while maintaining a consistent mood.

After making our final round of selections we called in the rest of the editorial staff to weigh in. We were so emotionally attached to each of the images, that it was important to gauge outside reaction. And their overwhelming support of those particular photos cemented our final grouping.

What specifically were you looking for in the portraits?

We had to tread a fine line with the mood of these portraits. We certainly didn’t want them to be joyful, but neither did we want them to be too somber. We were going for proud more than anything else.

John was able to get each first responder to share the story of where they were that day- stories that they had politely dodged in our brief interviews with them. I think feeling comfortable with John, and in a way, reliving their actions that day, it would have been impossible to capture anything other than pride.

We had originally intended to run the portraits over six pages, our usual feature length, but these images were so spot on, so moving, that we were able to get an additional four pages. They are the kind of images that need room to breathe and are worth every bit of real estate that they take up.

Are photo essays something the magazine has the luxury of doing on a regular basis?

Unfortunately, they aren’t. But there are occasionally cases, like this one, where everything that needs to be said can be done so with photos. Our vision for this piece was to create a visually driven feature that made readers as proud of Bostonians as we are. John more than delivered.

What’s the best way for photographers to reach out to you?

E-mail and promo cards are the best way to get my attention. I keep all the cards I get sent in a big pile and hang my favorites up. I try to go through every few weeks and write back to all the inquiries, just so they know I’ve received them and they are on my radar. We hire per assignment so sometimes it’s a while before we actually call for a job, but we do know you’re out there!

The Weekly Edit Interview
David Needleman

- - The Daily Edit

New York Observer’s Scene Magazine

Photographer: David Needleman
Art Director: Dean Quigley
Stylist: Erin Walsh
Makeup: Christian McCulloch
Hair: Marco Santini
Retouching: Smooch NYC

========================

Heidi:  What brings you to LA?
Being from New York my entire life, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the pace of things out there.  Plus, the weather is very seductive, too.  Truthfully, I happen to love working in Los Angeles, so I very much hope to be spending more and more time out West over the next few years.

 

What were the 3 most valuable things you learned working at Steven Meisel Studio?

After college, Steven was pretty much the only photographer I’ve ever worked for and learned from, so the majority of my education came from him and his remarkable studio.  I notice the longer I’ve been on my own now, the more I’m able to reflect on how incredible of an experience it really was.  That said, I gained a very strong awareness and understanding of loyalty, and to uphold a standard of respect and professionalism with regards to the context of the industry.  Secondly, my time there taught me to understand the importance of communication as it relates to the collaborative process, and to value the subtleties and nuances that may occur within the process, on a creative level.  Lastly, it constantly reminded me and still does every day, of how fortunate I was (and still am), to have experienced so much invaluable guidance, insight, and direction from so many incredibly talented and smart people along the way.  For all this, I’m so thankful and appreciative, as it has helped me to mold the idea of what I wanted to do, and where I wanted to go within my career.

What was your first editorial assignment and how much did you prepare?

My first editorial assignment was to photograph a portrait of the actress, Jamie-Lynn Sigler (at that time, from HBO’s The Sopranos) for Abercrombie & Fitch’s A&F Quarterly in 2004.  As preparation, I remember photocopying a bunch of Irving Penn pictures from various books, and making a large file with a p-touch label, titling it the actress’ name.  I remember having a great deal of anxiety the night before, and staying up throughout the evening with anticipation — I maybe slept for 2 hours and can remember watching the sun come up that morning.  Believe me, I’m far less anxious today.

 

Your portraits have a very intimate, revealing quality to them, how do you get your subjects to open up and drop their guard to catch that moment?

Thank you, Heidi.  It’s not always my intent, but one way or another, I find that the connection just happens between my subjects and I.  I like to be present and in the moment with them, and do my best to observe, listen, and even try to empathize with them if I can.  When I’m taking pictures, it’s about gaining that mutual respect for each other.

How tight of an edit do you give the PE typically?

Generally, I try to release as few pictures as possible.  Maybe it’s usually my top 3 to 5 choices from each particular picture or composition.  Though, I make sure to never release anything I wouldn’t want to be published.

 

(outtake from this shoot)

Who has influenced you in the past, and continues to influence you to go forward?

I’ve been influenced by so many wonderful people in my life.  Though as far as photographers go, I’ve always been inspired by; Herb Ritts, Arnold Newman, Francesco Scavullo, David Bailey, Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Annie Leibovitz, Brigitte Lacombe, Irving Penn (my dog happens to be kind of named after him), and of course, Steven Meisel, too.  But, after surviving cancer about 5 years ago, I feel like my point of reference and perspective on how I see things and what drives me forward has changed or evolved a great deal.  Life itself — just being alive tends to inspire, influence, and motivate me to go forward with that ongoing passion, appreciation, and excitement about doing what I am doing.  Also, it prevents my ambition from getting the best of me.

 

The Weekly Edit
The Atlantic: Darhil Crooks/Erin Patrice O’Brien

- - The Daily Edit

The Atlantic

Creative Director: Darhil Crooks


What was it about Erin’s work that made you choose her for this assignment?

DC: I had a pretty straightforward concept for the shoot. The piece was about the effects of iPads on toddlers, so I wanted to shoot toddlers with iPads. I also wanted it to be more “organic”. Not too much of a set-up or concept. I wanted to see what happened when you put this device in their hands.How they held it, did the smile, were they focused, did they get frustrated with it, angry with each other? It was almost like reportage with a seamless background. I knew I needed someone who worked well with kids.

Had you two worked together before and how did you discover her?

DC: I met Erin years ago through a mutual friend back in Brooklyn and was familiar with her work. We’d never worked together, but I remember specifically the calendar she shot for her daughter’s school. I figured if someone could wrangle a bunch of 6 and 7 year olds (Is this the right age Erin?) they could handle a few toddlers. I also wanted to do something that was bright and fun. Something that Erin does well and she delivered. From the casting to the retouching of the final files. Even the untied shoelaces on the cover image…I’m not sure if she planned that, but it was perfect.

I read that you were interested in making the magazine bolder and taking more risks. Tell us a little bit about how that’s going so far and what has been your biggest challenge.

DC: When I took on the role of Creative Director at The Atlantic, I wanted to change the perception of the magazine visually. That’s what I mean when I talk about taking risks. People see The Atlantic as a publication that is earnest and challenging. Sometimes it is, but the magazine and websites have evolved into something that is more about ideas and opinions about everyday life. My job is to make those ideas more accessible visually and to have some fun with it too.
The biggest challenge (even though I wouldn’t necessarily call it a challenge because it a lot of fun) is the fact that these are ideas. Sometimes they are very complicated or abstract ideas. I try to make those complicated and abstract ideas and communicate them in the best way possible. The great thing is that every issue is so unique from the last…it keeps you on your toes. I’ve been able to work with great photographers based on each individual piece rather than a specific aesthetic for the magazine. I think it’s given The Atlantic a lot of visual variety that it didn’t necessarily have before.

 

 

Erin Patrice O’Brien

For this project, you seemed to wear many hats, was that due to budget or schedule?

I was lucky to be given a lot of freedom by the creative director, Darhil. Since I have my own studio in Brooklyn, I cast toddlers locally the week before the shoot. I used a local list serve and emailed a few parents I knew. I think we saw about 15 kids and narrowed it down to 6. With children it’s very hit or miss. Some kids are too shy but the parents don’t know that until they get in front of the camera. For the styling, Darhil wanted an authentic look. Brooklyn kids were perfect because they have a unique style of their own. Clothes are really important in my shoots so I asked the parents to bring 3 outfits for each kid and chose them myself.

What was the biggest challenge overall?

The biggest challenge is the kids. They only really last about 10-15 minutes. So it’s always intense. The combination of 3-year-olds and seamless backgrounds is also anxiety provoking because the kids want to run into the sweep of paper. That day in particular, my assistant didn’t show up because of an accident, so I did the whole shoot with just my intern Julia. She totally rallied and we managed to shoot all 6 kids with 3 shots each and 3 seamless changes in 3 hours. (Did I mention the nap time issue?)

Some of your personal work is based around children, what’s the draw for you photographically?

I like making portraits of interesting people. Children are just small people. Some are quite enchanting and some are not. Just like adults. As a photo student, I loved the work of Sally Mann and Nan Goldin. Kind of polar opposites but both very intimate in their own way. Since becoming a parent myself, I’ve also become interested in the idea of education. Last year I worked on a photography project about a progressive orphanage and school called Vatsalya in Jaipur, India. I wanted to collaborate with my daughter Maya and her first grade class and the Indian children. I documented the kids writing letters to each other and made it into a short film. It was very impactful to use the medium of photography and film to teach children about different cultures.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKW7uI137cg

Currently, I’m working on a project about the stages of life, photographing and interviewing 100 people between the ages of 1 and 100.

Why do you think you were selected for this story for the Atlantic?

I had met Darhil Crooks through another creative director, Michelle Willems. I had worked with Michelle at Comedy Central on Dave Chapelle’s show. I kept in touch with Darhil while he was at Esquire, Ebony and now the Atlantic. I sent him a portrait project about seven-year-old girls. He liked it and wanted a similar tone for this article.

Pablo (on left ) with his band Contramano

I know your husband did the retouching, do you collaborate often? How much retouching was needed here?

Yes, my husband Pablo aka Pablito Retoucher, does all of my retouching. I’m lucky because he is one the best high-end retouchers in NYC. Sometimes we collaborate on more advanced compositing type photos like the Fast Company shot of Morgan Spurlock on a bed with a life size POM bottle, and sometimes he just retouches whatever I shot. For this shoot, after I sent in the images, Darhil decided to change the background color from aqua green to powder blue. Originally we had played with the idea of seeing images on the iPad screen, but it looked too fake and kind of made your eye go to the iPad instead of the overall photo. http://www.pablitoretoucher.com

 

The Daily Edit
New York Times Magazine: Chuck Close

- - The Daily Edit

Thursday: 6.27.13

Design Director: Arem Duplessis
Director of Photography: Kathy Ryan
Art Director: Gail Bichler
Deputy Art Director: Caleb Bennett
Deputy Photo Editor: Joanna Milter
Photo Editors: Stacey Baker, Clinton Cargill, Amy Kellner
Designers: Sara Cwynar, Raul Aquila, Drea Zlanabitni

Photographer: Chuck Close

 

 

 

(click ad to see today’s visual interview )

The Daily Edit
Maire Claire: Boe Marion

- - The Daily Edit

Monday: 6.25.13

Artistic Director: Alex Gonzalez
Creative Director: Nina Garcia
Design Director: Byron Christian Regej
Photography Director: Caroline Smith
Associate Art Director: Wanyi Jiang
Senior Photo Editor: Ashley Macknica Barhamand
Photographer: Boe Marion

 

(click ad to see today’s visual interview )

The Daily Edit
More: Zachary Scott

- - The Daily Edit

 

Thursday: 6.20.13

Creative Director: Debra Bishop
Photo Director: Natasha Lunn
Senior Art Director: Jamie Prokell
Assistant Art Director: Faith Stafford
Associate Photo Editor: Stephanie Swanicke
Assistant Photo Editor: Gabrielle Sirkin

Photographer: Zachary Scott

 

 

(click ad to see today’s visual interview )