Posts by: Heidi Volpe

The Weekly Edit
Michael Muller Shark Portraits II

- - The Daily Edit

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.

You were wanting to complete this shark project with one last series, which for you was the shark breaching. How does one encourage a breach?

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.

You had a film crew and scientists along for this trip. What role did science play in timing your trip and picking a location?

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.

What is the hardest part of waiting for the universe and mother nature to cooperate? I mean, you can’t direct a shark, or can you?

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.

What did you do to pass the time and how long did you wait between shots?

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.

What did that patience and loss of control teach you? and does that ever translate into your commercial work?

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.

What made you bring a Gary Baseman Chew toy?

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

Questions for Alison Kock, the Great White Scientist Research Manager for Shark Spotters in South Africa.

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.


Fact-based information is surprising low when compare to other life threatening risks.
Why do you think the hysteria around shark attacks has developed?

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”.

How do you think Michael’s images will shape this notion about sharks either positively or negatively?

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.


What has your research uncovered thus far about the influence of environmental variables (eco tourism) on great white shark movement / behavior?

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.

Are there any new shark safety technologies and developments you can share with us?

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.


What is a shark shield?

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%.


Your organization was founded by Greg Bertish of True Blue Travel and has come a long way from the days of cell phone calls from an overlook.
How does the spotting work now?

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.

If I wanted to donate to shark spotters how would I go about doing that and what would that contribution be supporting?

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.

 

The Weekly Edit
San Franciso Magazine: Claudia Goetzelmann

- - The Daily Edit

 

San Franciso Magazine

Design Director: Ellen Zaslow
Art Director: Ron Escobar
Director of Photography: Ilana Diamond

Photographer: Claudia Goetzelmann

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.

 

The Weekly Edit
Amy Feitelberg : Los Angeles Magazine

- - The Daily Edit

 

Los Angeles Magazine

Design Director: Steven E. Banks
Photo Director: Amy Feitelberg
Senior Art Director: Carly Herbert

Photographer: Henry Leutwyler

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.

 

The Weekly Edit Interview
Fast Company: Aaron Fallon

- - The Daily Edit

Fast Company

Creative Director: Florian Bachleda

Photography Director: Leslie dela Vega

Photographer: Aaron Fallon

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.

What sort of volunteer projects are you involved with?
Over the last few years I’ve tried to find a way to use my photography in a beneficent manner.   When it comes to pro bono work, I’ve found that it really depends on the project as to whether or not it’s going to be both positive and fulfilling.
Above images attached are from one of the Taproot Foundation projects I worked on for A.C.O.F (A Community of Friends) “a nonprofit affordable housing developer for people with special needs.” that also “serve homeless and low-income persons, including transit-oriented developments, supportive housing for veterans and mixed-population housing”
Above images from working with KCRW

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/).

I also work with KCRW on occasion (the awesome NPR affiliate for Los Angeles and surrounding areas) , which is a lot of fun.  The people that work and volunteer there are great.  I’m happy to help them out, and sometimes I get something interesting for myself as well.

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…

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