Category "The Daily Edit"

The Daily Edit: Michael Friberg: GQ / By the Olive Trees

- - The Daily Edit

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GQ

Design Director: Fred Woodward
Director of Photography: Krista Prestek
Photographer:
Michael Friberg 

 

I’d imagine shooting highly produced live performance of a legendary rock band could be anyone’s dream assignment; it’s about the access, up close and personal. What type of obstacles did you run into on this assignment?
I’m too young to really have any real knowledge of Motley Crue other than what I’ve seen on VH1 specials about their legendary debauchery. In highschool I grew up going to punk and hardcore shows in abandoned warehouses and rented storage spaces. Super DIY so this type of thing was totally foreign to me and I was excited for the visual excess that awaited me. I had delusions of grandeur thinking I’m gonna be like Annie Leibovitz with the Rolling Stones or something. Unfortunately the reality was much much worse. Their time and access was over promised and I had to fight tooth and nail to even get the band together for a quick portrait. It was a pretty acrimonious setting, I felt like I was in a real life version of Spinal Tap.

How did you deal with things dissolving around you? 
I was definitely stressed out but I try to keep a sense of humor about things. It was my first time working for GQ so I wanted to do a good job. Luckily Krista had been dealing with their people for a while before I had and she was really understanding about how challenging it was. You never want to be the photographer making excuses for why something didn’t work out. The whole situation was so restricted it was comical. On the first night they let me shoot the first song from about 200 feet back from the stage by the sound board and then escorted me backstage. I was sitting side stage watching this insane spectacle of a show. Explosions and dancers and a crazy light show and I didn’t have my cameras. It was killing me. I was kind of panicking because I didn’t have anything so I snuck out and shot some more photos. That didn’t turn out too well but I got some more photos that I needed. I really don’t like being in a position where I’m having to sneak around. I’m a pretty easy going guy and I get along with most people but the assignment was definitely in jeopardy so I felt like I needed to take some drastic measures or else I wasn’t going to have anything. I got busted and the whole thing sort of exploded in my face but it lead to the magazine negotiating better access for the live show the next night so I guess things worked out. I was heavily babysat from there on out though.

Was this your first assignment for GQ and what about your work/situation awarded you the job?
This was my first assignment for GQ. I was pretty surprised to get a call from them because I had always had a really hard time even getting a meeting there. The assignment came from Krista Prestek the director of photography there who I had never had any interaction with. It turns out that in a meeting the photo editor Katy Dunn who was freelancing there had apparently mentioned my name. She actually gave me my first magazine assignment ever when she was freelancing at Businessweek in 2011. You never know where people will end up in this industry.

What drove you to be relentless about getting the shot and what did you learn from this assignment?
I never want to be the photographer that is making excuses for why something didn’t work out. Even if its true, it doesn’t bode well for you. The editor hired you to get the job done and that includes adverse circumstances more often then not. Sometimes you just cant do it but i’m going to bend over backwards to try and figure something out in the mean time. When the photo director at a magazine hires you out of the blue for an assignment that most people would kill for you need to make sure you do a good job one way or another.

How much time did you actually get with the band?
I thought I might have been exaggerating when I was telling people I got 30 seconds with the band but I just look at the time stamp on the first photo of the band and the last photo of the band. 21 seconds. I didn’t have a choice where I shot it. They told me I could shoot the band backstage on the ramp right before they went onstage. I shot two or three frames front lit and then had my assistant Cole run around behind them and backlit a couple frames and we were done.

I know there is interpersonal band tension which makes it hard to shoot them as a group, how did you resolve that?
I didn’t even really interact with the band. We had negotiated them all being in this place before they went on stage. I don’t even think I introduced myself. When I finished,Nickki sixx said “Fuck yeah! that was quick!” and gave me a fist bump. That is the totality of my interaction with the band on the two day assignment.

What surprised you the most about this assignment?
The flame thrower/bass that Nikki Sixx plays. Its a functioning instrument but it also shoots fire 25 feet in the air. Despite how tough the assignment was logistically, it was pretty awesome to be witness to such a crazy spectacle. Having the opportunity to shoot a bunch of stuff explode while some aging rockstars play “girls girls girls” is a pretty sweet gig no matter what happens.

How has living in Salt Lake City shaped you as a photographer?
I’m originally from West Texas but after high school and one semester of college back home, I decided I needed to get the hell out and get to the Mountains. I didn’t know anything about Salt Lake City, other than that it was the headquarters of the Mormon Church and that its name kept appearing in snowboarding magazines. I went to a small liberal arts college here and snowboarded 4 days a week and occasionally went to class. It was great. Once I got into photography, I thought I needed to get out and get some experience in a big city so I moved to NYC for a year and assisted and starved.I learned a ton but I was running out of money and I wasn’t really shooting any personal work and my girlfriend (now wife) was in graduate school in Salt Lake City so I moved back and licked my wounds. The plan was to move to a big city when she finished school and I would try to freelance but life had different plans. I got a couple random jobs and worked part time, lived with a handful of gross dudes to keep rent cheap and spent all my money on shooting personal work. I always feel like I end up being defensive about living in Salt Lake but I really love it here. Its pretty cheap considering the incredible location. The airport is awesome. Its not really that hard to get a beer despite the rumors. I have the best community and group of friends i’ve ever had here. I slowly started getting regional work and I would go back to NYC and do meetings once or twice a year. I got married in the summer of 2011 and I was still working at a pub part time, shooting part time. I was really lucky that my super gracious wife had a “real” job and it afforded me the space to save up some money and quit the day job and make a run at the freelance thing. A lot of the first assignments I was getting were pretty routine. I was only getting hired because I was a guy with a camera who was capable. The first people who really hired me and encouraged me to do my thing were Businessweek. Specifically David Carthas when he was still there as the director of photography. Early on before anybody else was giving me cool assignments, they were. I am really thankful for that because it helped get the ball rolling and helped me get out of the “regional photographer” rut.

What were the draw backs if any for living in SLC and a smaller market?
I definitely don’t work as much as my peers in big markets. I think everybody assumes everybody is doing better than them but I probably only have 4 or 5 assignments a month. That is totally fine with me because my cost of living is low and I really like to focus on making personal work and having a good quality of life. One drawback of being in a small market where not a ton of stuff is happening is that I end up on the road a lot. It usually goes in spurts. I’ll be home for three weeks and then spend a month bouncing around. There definitely isn’t as big of a creative community as there is in larger cities. Not all of my photo friends live elsewhere but most of them do. I have had a much harder time breaking into the commercial market being here. I think it is a bit harder to be taken seriously when you live in a smaller market. I used to resent that sort of “NY or nowhere” attitude that existed in the editorial world but I definitely think that is changing.

Aside from snowboarding, what brought you to SLC? Were you aiming to start a photography career?
Like I said, I grew up in West Texas where creativity wasn’t exactly flourishing so I had no idea you could even make a living doing something like that. I didn’t discover photography until my sophomore year of college.  I wasn’t at a super art heavy school but I pieced together an education between class and the internet and photo books.

How did the lower cost of living, smaller market help you develop your photographic voice?
I think I sort of answered this earlier but I really can’t stress enough how important it is to spend money on your photo projects. Photo projects are expensive. Film, traveling etc etc it all adds up. For a while I would spend money on gear expecting that to solve my problems but my problems weren’t technical. My problem was that I had no vision or voice or experience. Being a snow bum translated well to becoming a photo bum. When I was in college, I would share houses with tons of my friends to keep our rent as cheap as possible to be able to snowboard as much as possible and work as little as possible. When I started trying to make it photographically it was an easy transition. I still had tons of room mates and my rent was around 200 bucks a month. I would shoot personal projects and travel and spend all of my money on film.

You have quite the client list for shooting full time for just short 4 years, how did you get started?
Like everybody else, I would go to NYC a couple times a year, meager portfolio in hand, and do meetings with photo editors. Even when these meetings weren’t getting me much work, It was hugely educational because you see your portfolio a whole different way when somebody else is looking at it on a table. You can also see what people are and aren’t responding to and learn from that. I slowly started getting work and then I got a couple cool assignments that helped me really show my style and voice and that helps immensely when you can show commissioned work to editors rather than just personal work. The gap between shooting editorial and shooting personal projects is huge. Some of the photos might look similar but the process of shooting them is so different its crazy. On a personal project, if the weather or light sucks you just come backtomorrow but on an editorial shoot you can’t come back tomorrow you just have to make something work. I feel incredibly blessed to have been entrusted with the assignments I have been given. I think a lot of photographers feel entitled to cool work but its important to remember that when some editor is hiring you and you are young and untested, that that person is putting their ass on the line for you. I have no idea why some people gave me some of the assignments I have been given. I didn’t have a single celebrity portrait in my portfolio before Sundance last year when Bailey Franklin from Variety called me. How did he know I wouldn’t melt down and blow it in all of the chaos of photographing over 100 people in four days in a tiny improvised studio?

What’s the best advice you have for any photographer starting out?
Spend all your money on personal projects. Have a low standard of living when you are starting out, that way you can work on projects you care about rather than just doing everything for money to survive. When people can really see you in your projects you will get hired to do the same type work. The hardest thing about photography isn’t taking pictures, it’s figuring out how to communicate what you want about a particular subject and executing that. Getting access, planning, logistics, executing ideas, these things are all the things that you learn by trial and error when you are shooting personal work.

What can you say about your generation of photographers, how is it different from the previous generation?
The internet, for all its faults and insanity, has been instrumental in building a creative community for me. People I met through online channels have become mentors, real life friends and collaborators. I can only speak to my personal experience but in my particular peer group in the photo world, it feels much less competitive and cut throat. When I was first trying to get meetings, my friends were not only giving me people’s email addresses but also doing email introductions on my behalf. Some of these people are technically my direct “competition” but I feel like my friends are operating out of an economy of abundance rather than scarcity. Being a freelancer can be terrifying and screw with your head and you can think every job is your last or freak out when the phone doesn’t ring for two weeks but I think being around people like this has helped me have a much healthier attitude about all of it.

Your work has a vast range of reportage, portraits, details, long narrative arcs. How has that range become an asset to your career?
I personally really like shooting a huge range of things. I think sometimes it makes my work seem a bit schizophrenic and all over the place but it keeps things interesting. The trick is being versatile while still finding a way to put your own personal stamp on it. Thing can easily get generic if you don’t find a way to do that. I definitely think I get hired more often to shoot feature essay type stories that need a few different things photographically to illustrate a story. A lot of the time I end up doing a seamless portrait and then also doing reportage in the same day. Ultimately that is my favorite type of photography. Its cliche but telling stories and interacting with people is really why I got into it and figuring out creative ways to do that is always really fun.

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By the Olive Trees

Design Director: Fred Woodward
Director of Photography: Krista Prestek
Photographer:
Michael Friberg  and Ben Rasmussen

Tell me how By the Olive Trees developed and why this was important to you?
I originally got into photography because I thought I wanted to become a photo journalist. After realizing that that particular style of working wasn’t for me, I started doing a sort of documentary/art/editorial hybrid that really seemed to suite my way of seeing well. I had photographed in Africa a couple times and really wasn’t happy with how things had come out. After doing a couple years of editorial work bouncing around and not really working on anything serious, I was reading an article somewhere about Syrian refugees in Jordan. I felt like the photography for these stories didn’t really match what I was reading. For instance: 2/3s of the refugees in Jordan were living in urban settings, not living in a refugee camp but all of the photos I had seen were from the really sensationalistic, highly visual Zaatari refugee camp. I felt like the refugees were sort of being used as props to illustrate a point. Ben Rasmussen and I had been talking about collaborating on something for a long time and we both were interested in working on something more serious than just photographing wacky stories for magazines. I’ve always been interested in social justice issues and this seemed like a way to participate in the conversation. We had no experience at all in this area but we bought two plane tickets to Jordan, found a fixer and headed over. The experience was definitely life changing and really helped solidify the type of work I want to be making. Ben and I really tried to slow down and photograph these refugees like we would shoot a magazine assignment in the US. Ben was shooting 4×5 and I was shooting medium format, lighting some portraits and reportage. We also did long form interviews with the refugees and got them transcribed.

When we got back, we put together the work for a multimedia piece commissioned by Dirk Barnett the creative director of The New Republic at the time. After making that, Dirk offered to design a book for us. Ben and I had been talking about this but we felt like an expensive photo book might not be the best outlet for this type of thing. At best, we could probably afford to make 500 copies and the people who would buy them would be the people who were probably already familiar with the conflict. I had a couple friends who had made newsprint zines and publications and it seemed like a really great way to use the newspaper medium to communicate information cheaply in a different way. the newsprint allowed us to run large chunks of text straight from the refugees mouths. We had self funded the shooting portion of the project and had managed to come close to breaking even after a couple outlets ran the work but we definitely didn’t have the money to do a large print run of the newspapers. The kickstarter was pretty cool to see because people really got behind the idea. We printed 4000 copies of the newspaper and the cost of each one was a little under 3 dollars for an 80 page full color publication. The low cost meant that we could ship three copies to each supporter and they could become distributors for us. People were leaving them in doctors offices, coffee shops and giving them away. It was cool to see where they ended up. We were definitely surprised at how much support we got. We exceeded our original goal which helped us to print more copies. The goal for the newspaper was that they would always be distributed for free. Now you can order copies on BytheOliveTrees.com for just the cost of shipping.

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How did you meet Benjamin Rasmussen?
I met Benjamin Rasmussen when I saw his work on tumblr, read his bio on his website and thought we had a lot in common. I emailed him to say hi and we struck up a friendship that has been hugely important for me photographically and personally.


What’s next for this project?

I just returned from Jordan about a month ago where I was working on a project about Iraqi Christian refugees who fled Mosul when ISIS took over. I’m going to be working on a long term project about the country of Jordan and how the influx of refugees is affecting the country. Currently nearly 1/5 of their population is made up of refugees which is a really staggering statistic. If that happened in America people would not be that hospitable. There are refugees from Central America coming even as we speak and people are picketing the buses that are transporting them to detention centers. I’d like to go back to Jordan in May to keep working on this project but I just had a grant proposal rejected so if anybody wants to send me back I’d be grateful…

The Daily Edit – People Magazine Oscar Portfolio: Brenna Britton

- - The Daily Edit

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People Magazine

Creative Director: Andrea Dunham
Director of Photography: Catriona Ni Aolain
Deputy Photography Director & Multimedia: Christine Ramage
Deputy Photo Editor-Entertainment: Brenna Britton
Deputy Design Director: Dean Markadakis- Designed this layout
Photographer+Director: Peggy Sirota

Heidi: We all know Peggy is a star, what was it specifically that made you choose her?
Brenna: Creative Director, Andrea Dunham, Director of Photography Catriona Ni Aolain, Deputy Director Christine Ramage, and myself wanted Peggy for her signature style, which means you’ll get the most stunning light, effortless moments of cool, and everyone looking beautiful. And for all those reasons, celebrities love to shoot with her. Working with Director of Visual Projects, Blaine Zuckerman, we also wanted a video series in Peggy’s style, to differentiate from the typical photo shoot interview, and have continuity from the still image portfolio through the video series.

With the Oscar’s coming up, how did you hope to set your portfolio apart from the media frenzy around these subjects
The original concept was to do a day in the life of Oscar, with a photojournalistic approach. Inspired by Paolo Pellegrin’s 2008 portfolio for the New York Times, we wanted each nominee to represent a slice of the day. Obsessed with Pellegrin’s image of Sean Penn making a sandwich in his kitchen, most photo editors and photographers dream of that kind of access, with that caliber of talent. That image gave you a private moment with an actor at the least private of times, awards season. To be able to photograph any of these nominees outside of the Beverly Hilton, or any other Hotel on the awards show conveyer belt is a miracle.

Unlike other publications that produce award season portfolios prior to the nominations, we actually wait till the nominations are out and then have about 2 weeks to produce a concept portfolio during the most hectic time for the talent. I’ll call the PR rep to ask to photograph the talent in a really soulful way that represents who they are as human beings at their home, waking up, brushing their kid’s teeth, hiking, driving, something reminiscent of the old LIFE magazine iconic images. I’ll ask for 5 hours for a photo shoot, video shoot, and interview.

The talent and PR reps are spread so thin during awards season, a possible offer of time would sound something like this:  “We have 10 mins in a corner of a hallway, after The “enter any awards event name here”, after 80 other photographers have photographed them in the same outfit, on the way out the door. You may be able to get them to actually stop for you, but I’m not sure, they have to be at Kimmel by 4:00pm, does that work? ” Not really the part of their soul I was going for, but let me see what we can do.

In all seriousness, the talent’s team is face with a mountain of asks, events and interviews, it’s a tremendous amount to juggle a successful campaign. Then I come along and ask for the most amount of time, and their soul on top of it, I’m the last person they want to hear from.  But in the end, each Talent’s teamwork to make the images happen, you have to respect what they are going through and still try to get close to your ideas.

Was this a multi day shoot?
Two weeks in Los Angeles producing what ended up being a 5 day shoot, with 2 shoots cancelled on top of that. Final outcome–5 image portfolio, 6 videos— 1 baby grand piano, 3 horses, 1 shoot cancelled the morning of, and numerous heart attacks. The only way to get through these types of numbers is with an outstanding team from Peggy, to producers Steve Bauerfeind, Cathy Mele, and numerous PEOPLE editors all-pushing to make this portfolio happen.

What type of direction did give the subjects? Were they characters in the films or themselves? 
I know it sounds cliché, but we really did want the talent to be themselves. It was incredibly important to Peggy to speak with each nominee directly, and ask what he or she really wanted to be doing during the shoot. Peggy is always looking to create an authentic environment that puts talent at ease the moment they arrive on set. Eddie is a great example. While we tried to get him on the phone with Peggy, I had done some research, and read interviews that he had a collection of guitars. We hired prop stylist Phillip Williams to get guitars, and worked on art directing the photo shoot around this premise. We had a tough time getting Eddie on the phone with Peggy, because he was filming in Germany, but they got on the phone the day before the shoot.

By the time I landed in LA, guitars had been nixed, and Eddie had told Peggy how he loved to play the piano. The hunt was on for a piano store, or a piano to be brought to set. The guitars were dropped, a vintage car was cancelled, and baby grand Piano was brought to set. I had a panic attack watching 6 guys carry the baby grand up wood steps to our Mid -Century location house and have it placed on a balcony that, to this day, I have no idea how it supported the piano, the crew, and Eddie. End result, a beautiful moment with Eddie doing something he loved.

What was the creative/video direction for this shoot? Did it all come from the photographer? 
Dunham, Ni Aolin, Ramage and myself really wanted a day in the life of a nominee, with each talent representing a different time of the day. Peggy was adamant that the talent be involved in deciding what those acts were so the image was authentic, and not just coming up with another roll for them to play. To make things a bit more complicated we had a video component that would be a trailer for the portfolio. The trailer would carry a narrative taking the viewer/reader through a full day in LA with each nominee photographed for a different portion of the day.  For example, Morning: Laura Dern with coffee, Afternoon: Keaton, riding his horses, Late Afternoon: Felicity Jones at High Tea, Evening: Eddie playing piano, and then came Late Evening: Hawke and Arquette, who where to be having dinner.

This shoot was a great lesson and a game changer to the portfolio narrative. There are the ideas you come up with in an office in New York and then there is the magic you can never predict that happens on set. It’s because of these rare moments I love my job. Everything with talent at this level is controlled and to get a true moment that’s not contrived is a gift. Both Ethan and Patricia couldn’t get on the phone with Peggy due to their schedules, but in the end, all you really needed was for them to show up. Sometimes you can get so attached to an idea that you miss the magic. On-set, you’re constantly ask yourself—“How will this fit into the narrative, the portfolio, the original concept?” You’ve got Ethan and Patricia, two people that have true chemistry, on location at Santa Barbara’s San Ysidro Ranch, at magic hour, with a master of capturing golden light – Peggy Sirota. When you’ve got all those elements together, your job is done, it’s gorgeous, and you didn’t have to do the photo shoot in a bland hotel hallway. The only problem, only one image can run in the portfolio, great problems to have! Then again, Online, Instagram, and the tablet, have solved that too.

The Daily Edit – Bicycling Magazine: Jesse Southerland

- - The Daily Edit
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Bicycling

Design and Photo Director: Jesse Southerland
Art Director: Colin McSherry
Designer: Jimmy Cavalieri

Heidi: I understand you do both the photo direction and the design direction which is becoming more often the norm. What are the benefits and the drawbacks in your eyes?

Jesse: Tighter photo budgets each year are no surprise for editorial photographers, but hopefully they can take some comfort in knowing that their clients are legitimately feeling that pinch as well. Yes, in my case I have absorbed the photo director responsibilities in addition to the design direction.
The benefits have been pretty rewarding actually. Being involved from start to finish allows for better communication without as much getting in lost in translation. There aren’t as many surprises (for the most part) when the edits come in. Overall there are less kill fees which unfortunately don’t even have their own budget lines anymore. We absorb that cost out of the real budget, so it’s crucial things go right the first time. In addition to better communication, I think the process is expedited with fewer people involved. I can get back to a photographer who is on set with direct, immediate feedback. They aren’t stuck waiting as long as they would with the workflow of a traditional art department. Also, when pre shoot problems pop up I can generally get back to them within a few hours as opposed to the next day which was often the case before.
It obviously isn’t all roses. Make no mistake, there wouldn’t be a blog of this name if photo editors’ weren’t crucial to most magazines. I’m stretched extremely thin. I’m used to working ahead, but now it isn’t uncommon to be working on 4-5 issues at once every day. The time needed for photo research is greatly reduced. I love having tried and true photographers, but I miss having the time to dig deeper and find younger photographers with a completely fresh and inspiring outlook on the assignments. I feed off of their excitement and hunger. The time spent designing is the time most sacrificed. I can always pull an all nighter to lay out a feature, but I can’t stay up all night and magically produce all of the photos. So the time spent photo directing is more important for me to focus on in most cases.
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I see you have some international coverage, how are you sourcing those photographers in such remote places?
For Dario Pegoretti story, we needed him shot in his small studio in the middle of nowhere in Italy for that issue. This stuff is probably another day in the life of a regular photo editor, but it obviously takes more research and logistical communication than the average shoot. I basically scoured through Wired Italia for the coolest portraits and found Max&Douglas who lived somewhat close. They absolutely fell in love with Dario and produced some great photographs. Again, nothing crazy for a photo editor, but a huge victory in my position with such limited resources.
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What’s your approach to the overall photo direction of the magazine?
The photo direction is identical to the design direction which is identical to the editorial direction. Everything at BICYCLING is about being exciting, fun, fit, authentic and real. Ideally the photography will contain most of those attributes, but as long as the photo nails at least one of those descriptions we are good, but it has to really nail it. I am most intrigued by authentic and real. Bicycling photography can go really wrong really quick. You may have a really authentic looking person to shoot, but then they put on their outfit, then a helmet, then sunglasses and suddenly that person is reduced to a storm trooper…zero individuality. We have found tattoos and beards go a long way, thank you hipsters! The lighting and processing plays a huge role in the overall direction. When I first started I really did a 180 and completely got away from the high key, edge lit, over sharpened look and went really low fi in an attempt to feel more real. I think the result was a little underwhelming, and though it felt real/raw, it lacked an energy and excitement. I realized there still needs to be enough punch, just the right amount of polish and authentic environments make all the difference. That is the direction we strive for now. VSCO alone can’t solve all of our problems.
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How do you approach gear differently?
Gear is less about the environment and lends itself to more to studio photography which is quite unlike the rest of the magazine. We try to show gear in a very practical, utilitarian way that best illustrates why we feel the need to showcase it in the first place. Bicycling gear definitely evolves over time, but month to month, year to year, the changes appear very minimal. We are often shooting the same things over and over so I try to focus first on how can we best show what is being written about rather than thinking style and lighting first. We work closely with the editors to get a feel for what matters most. Then we go full blown “bike porn” and shoot whatever we think looks the coolest and try to get as close as we can to it. Most often that is what ends up in print, but we still listen to the editors. Also, we take full advantage of provided photography from the companies when available. I figure they have spent a lot more money than we could ever afford on these products. Bonus: they often even come with clipping paths! We have a small but scrappy art department that can comp a lot of provided shots together, add shadows and make it feel like a highly produced editorial page. This allows us to produce and afford our larger shoots.
Gear covers have an entirely different approach to the rest of the magazine. Full disclosure, I cannot get enough ring light for a bicycle cover. I feel embarrassed when I ask photographers to dust off their ring lights, but I honestly think they were made to shoot bikes in studio. Plus there are so many bikes in the advertisements and I have yet to see one shot that way, so it’s really a distinctively editorial look.
What’s the hardest part of doing a single subject title?
BICYCLING requires a direction that clearly separates editorial from advertising. We show people riding bikes and gear. The advertisements are of people riding bikes and gear. Luckily editorial trends and advertising trends usually tend to be the opposite. Cycling advertising is starting to look less produced though so I may have to rethink everything.
Regardless of the direction though, a bicycle can only fit on a 8.5” x 11” page or 17” x 11” spread so many ways. It’s extremely tough to get creative shooting bikes without sinking into a really bad conceptual idea that, at the end of the day, doesn’t even show off the bike that well. This probably has a lot to do with my ring light fetish.
What is your favorite section to design and favorite to photo direct?
I love designing a good profile feature. At previous magazines I would do around 2 every issue. Here it’s closer to 1 every three issues, so I really appreciate them when they come along. My favorite section to photo direct would be the one that requires that doesn’t require direction. That section is slowly in the making, but my goal is to have photographers shooting what they would want to be shooting anyway. I know that sounds cliche, but I really believe there is a bicycling photo culture growing in way similar to skateboarding or surfing. When you have people shooting what they love, their submissions are far better than what I could assign or direct and truly capture everything we want the magazine to be. I am also fortunate to work with editors that see the value in that and are encouraging an art first approach to our features. Hint: please send me awesome stuff.
How often do you ride? if at all?
I ride frequently now. I never did until this job, but I have drank the kool-aid and now I have closet full of tights.
What are you looking for your portraits and riding shots?
I want portraits that draw the reader in and make them spend time with it without realizing it. Something intimate that goes beyond style, but is more about the connection between the photographer and the subject. That connection gets passed on to the reader. For riding shots I’m looking for something with a more voyeuristic feel. The rider should be a real cyclist, not a model. I want the environment to be as much of a character as the rider. These  shots should inspire me to want to ride by making it look like fun, an adventure, not necessarily a workout.
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There’s a nice range to your covers in both gear, scenics and riding, is that a new direction for the title? I remember it always being riders on the cover ( and gear of course )
It is a new direction, one that is closer to what we have been doing inside the magazine. I have never wanted the magazine to exclusively feel like a fitness magazine, but rather an enthusiast magazine where getting fit is a great result of cycling, but not the sole purpose. The overly aggressive solo rider taking up the entire cover gives off a very intense, heavy, serious vibe which isn’t who we are.
What’s the best way for photographers to get in touch with you?

The Daily Edit – Mental Floss: Scott Dickerson

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Mental Floss

Creative Director: Winslow Taft
Associate Art Director: Lucy Quintanilla
Production Assistant: Aliya Best
Photo Researcher: Kendra Rennick
Photographer: Scott Dickerson

 

Heidi: How was being an Alaskan through and through shaped you as a photographer?

Scott: Alaska often feels like the edge of the earth. This is true not only for the natural environments I work in, but also for the business environment. I was raised with a homesteader attitude – we make do with what we have. As a creative this means not just working with the tools, subjects, and opportunities available to me, but really making the most of them. To work effectively in ‘The Last Frontier’ one must constantly adapt to the demands of nature and know how to get around. My lifelong experience and connections around the state are some of my greatest assets when it’s time to get work done.

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Post surf session selfie.

 

Last summer I put together a shoot with ROXY. They were familiar with my fly-out surf trips in Alaska and wanted to shoot a campaign based on that story. Having worked with them in the past on several projects they relied on me heavily to bring all the pieces together. And it was a lot of pieces, we had two floatplanes and a helicopter in the mountains one day and then a floatplane and a boat at a beach scene the next day. My experience working with all the service providers and knowing what was realistically possible within the budget and schedule was crucial to making the shoot a success

Patagonia was just about to introduce their new drysuit made for kiting. This is a product that makes it not only possible, but actually comfortable to kite surf in extremely cold conditions. Or at least they thought. They came to Alaska to test out the suit and get some dramatic images of what would be possible wearing this new piece of technology. I jumped in the motorhome with them and we had what they all claimed to be a trip of a lifetime. We were kiting with icebergs just hours from their arrival into Anchorage airport, over the next few days we flew in two bush planes and fulfilled long time dreams for the crew. The icing on the cake was a floatplane day trip out to a glacial lake to kite with more icebergs in a total wilderness setting. The suits were well proven by the end of the trip and they went home with some striking images.

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We took the Naish boardsports crew to this location and shot kiting, SUP, and surf amongst the icebergs.

 

Have you surfed all your life? What drew you to winter surfing and how cold is it?

I started playing in the water at a young age. Before my friends and I borrowed our first wetsuit water activities were limited to the hottest days of summer. As the available equipment improved so did the time I spent in the water. Now with modern surfing wetsuits there is almost no limit to how cold it can be and still be enjoyable playing in the ocean. What made me want to start surfing? I really couldn’t say – I’d never even seen someone surfing in Alaska when I was overcome with the desire to play in the waves. The reason I still surf in Alaska is the adventure and natural environment. Imagine seeing an incredible ocean landscape with snow covered mountains towering in the background. There is no better way to really experience that scene than to literally immerse yourself in it. Even better if you get to ride waves of energy pulsing in the ocean!

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Product tested.  A new Patagonia drysuit made for kiting in frigid water.

 

How do you capture the surf shots?

Surfing is a particularly challenging subject. The athletes and photographer are very much at the mercy of the weather and waves. The right conditions are almost never easy to find, especially in a place like Alaska. Once we do find good surf the next challenge is finding a place to photograph from. I often put my equipment in a dry bag and swim into shore, arriving soaking wet to stand around in the cold for 1-4hrs. Alternatively I might shoot from a small skiff or sitting on a stand up paddle board right next to the breaking waves – a risky place to be when your attention is fragmented, camera gear exposed, and the water so cold. If the conditions allow, I will also shoot with a water housing right in the surf which is typically cold and exhausting. The large tides in Alaska make for strong currents to swim against and diving under waves in a thick wetsuit is not easy.

Clearly you’ve incorporated your lifestyle into your work, which came first?

Perhaps this means I’ve reached the perfect blend – I can’t tell them apart anymore!

My career as a photographer was launched by an overwhelming desire to share the spectacles of nature I witnessed while commercial fishing on the Alaskan coastline. This original inspiration has stayed with me for the decade plus I’ve been making images professionally.

I’ve been careful to pursue projects and subjects that I’m passionate about from the start. The reward has been that my work and personal interests are indistinguishable.

Photography has also given me opportunities that are otherwise out of reach – I’ve always loved aviation personally, but it’s my photography work that allows me to orchestrate the flight path of three helicopters through the mountains.

I’m also the beneficiary of a trend where photographers are hired for more than just their images. Many of my clients are aware of my lifestyle and they want some of that story to show through in the projects.

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Shooting air to airs is non-stop action with all elements in constant motion – that’s probably why it’s my favorite subject.

 

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We spent a couple hours in a helicopter flying around 13 different drill rigs shooting them from all angles on this project.

 

What was your first paid assignment?

As a self taught photographer I started out small. My first paid assignments were things like taking photos of Bed and Breakfasts for local business owners or photographing the Winter Carnival for the local newspaper. Looking back it’s humbling to see where this all began. Since 2001 my primary source of income has been photography.

Do you come to the lower 48 for meetings, shop your portfolio?

I was an early adopter of digital and online so much of my work has come from social sharing or people finding my images through searches.  This has really helped me to overcome the challenge of being so far away from the major hubs.

I’ve done well over the years photographing my passions and finding a way to leverage the images after the fact. Sometimes those images are just marketing tools that attract a client, and sometimes they sell as stock. The unique subjects and locations that I photograph often market themselves with even a small amount of exposure.

That being said, my business and marketing efforts are evolving. Recently I’ve been to NAB, visited stock agencies I work with, and invested time getting to know folks at clients like Patagonia. Maybe this is the homestead way again, I look to find friends and establish long term relationships that more work and adventure can grow from.

 

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Take a deep breath and relax. It’s a relief just to know that places like this still exist on our planet. Untouched wilderness in all its beauty as far as you can see from 4,000 feet.

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Take a deep breath and relax. It’s a relief just to know that places like this still exist on our planet. Untouched wilderness in all its beauty as far as you can see from 4,000 feet.

 

For your aerial shots are you using a drone, in a helicopter?

Aviation is a part of life in Alaska. I’ve flown and photographed from almost every type of flying contraption from self propelled paragliders all the way up to Coast Guard C-140s. I’ve been toying with drones a little the last couple years but for much of my work manned aerial vehicles are still the way to go. Recently I’ve been spending a lot of time in helicopters as a Cineflex operator shooting perfectly stabilized motion content for a variety of clients with www.ZatzWorks.com. For still photography I’m usually in helicopters or fixed wing aircraft for commercial work. When I’m just itching to fly, or the weather is just right and I can’t stay on the ground I often fly myself in a motorized paraglider (paramotor).

Scott Dickerson, aerial photographer in Alaska.

Flying and shooting photos from my powered paraglider. photo © Jake Schmutzler

 

 

 

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Legs just dangling out there in the breeze. Views like this never get old – I just hope I can get old getting them!

 

Did the Adventure trips come first and then the ability to market the imagery?

First it was adventure in the Alaskan wilds and then photography brought a new richness to those experiences. Recently I’ve been spending a lot of time aboard the m/v Milo as both a photographer and USCG Captain (www.OceanSwellVentures.com). We invite people to join us as we explore the endless coastline of Alaska. The trips are roughly half for private adventurers and the rest are media productions for editorial or commercial clients like:

Patagonia (surf ambassadors on four different trips now)

Red Bull – boat based surfing adventure for the web video series – Brothers on the run
FOX (apparel brand) – photographs of professional surfer Ian Walsh surfing in Alaska
Alaskan Brewing – ongoing contract to produce Alaska adventure images
Taylor Steele surf film – This time tomorrow
Alaska Sessions – surf film trip
Magazine work includes: Surfers Journal, Surfer, Fluir, Tide, Slide, tracks, GQ Spain, Mental Floss, National Geographic Adventure (online), Red Bulletin, Wavelength, Alaska.

 

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Personal project photographing a commercial herring fishery in Alaska.

 


What’s the best and most challenging aspect of being a working photographer in AK?

The best aspect of working in Alaska is Alaska itself. The unadulterated wilderness is such an inspiration for me. When I find myself in an urban environment it’s as though I can’t take a deep breath. There’s a feeling I’ve only found in the wilds of Alaska, a chest expanding peace and connection with the natural elements – something that I try and share in my images.

The most challenging aspect is that same rugged wilderness that I love comes with a cost. It’s untamed, the weather is extreme and it’s entirely out of our control. Much of my work depends on the weather coinciding with the schedules of my clients or the availability of resources.

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As part of my work with Alaskan Brewing I always bring a few beers along for moments like these.

 

Tell me about your creative role with Alaska Brewing, how did that project develop?

My work with Alaskan Brewing started when they were relabeling their IPA. It had a drawing of a surfer on the label and packaging. The formula was being changed and they were sick of being told ‘People don’t really surf in Alaska!’ so they took the opportunity to use photography instead of illustration to prove they weren’t being phony. After a few more image sales they approached me with the idea of being a ‘sponsored photographer’. I believe the idea came about after receiving requests from adventure sport athletes for sponsorship but it never seemed like the right fit. Then they had the idea to sponsor a photographer instead. Smart thinking in my opinion. It’s a new endeavor for both of us but the first year was a great success so I expect it to continue to evolve.

The Daily Edit – Bon Appetit: Alex Lau

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Bon Appetit

Creative Director: Alex Grossman
Photo Director: Alex Pollack
Assistant Photo Editor: Elizabeth Jaime
Senior Food Editor: Alison Roman
Photographer: Alex Lau (opener only )
Photographer: Jarren Vink (inside spreads )

 

Is there any interesting backstory to that photo?
Funny that you ask. This seemingly simple opener was the subject of huge debate and drama for about three weeks in the office. There was some clash between our editors on what exactly an olive oil fried egg should look like. Some thought that it shouldn’t be too crispy and burnt around the edges, while others insisted that it was simply a quality of frying an egg with this method. It was definitely one of our more difficult openers to work on, mainly because it took a long time for the staff to come to a consensus on the shot. 

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How many eggs did you cook to get this image?
Our lovely and patient senior food editor Alison Roman probably cooked about 15 eggs for this.
Is an egg something you’ve shot several times as a food photographer, if so is it a challenge to make it different?
I approach eggs the same way I photograph food in general. The end goal is to make it pretty, so lighting is incredibly important. Sometimes soft light is key, while other times harsh light gives it that pop. It really depends on prop styling, what surface you’re shooting on, and ultimately how the egg is cooked.
Is there a staff kitchen you have access too?
The photo studio that I do all in-house work in is connected to the Bon Appetit test kitchen, where we constantly develop recipes for our print and web issues. A common question I always get as a food photographer is whether or not the food I shoot is actually edible, and not a glued concoction of plastic. I don’t know how other publications work, but the recipes are cooked, sent out to me to shoot, and then immediately go straight into my belly.
Do you always have a food stylist/prop stylist for your shoot?
Not all of the time. When I’m shooting in the office, I usually have one of the test kitchen editors helping me out in terms of food styling. As for prop stylists, I’ve never had the opportunity to work with one. Most prop styling is a collaborative effort between me, our photo and test kitchen editor.
Where does you love of shooting food come from?
It probably stems from my love of eating everything all of the time.
Can you cook?
Not compared to my coworkers, but I’d like to think that I’m half decent at preparing meals.
Your style is very observational rather then pretty food photos. Describe your approach to shooting food.
I didn’t really start shooting food until January of last year, despite having done photography for 5 years. I have a background in documentary photography, which I think definitely has transferred over to my approach to photographing food. I usually like to photograph food just the way I’ve found it, mainly because I’m terrible at food styling.
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Is this a Sazerac? Did you have one?
That’s Merrill and Co’s Two Stones cocktail, which consists of rye, East India sherry, curacao, and bitters. I did, and it was delicious.

The Daily Edit – Mark Peterson: Men’s Journal

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Men’s Journal

Creative Director: David Schlow
Director of Photography: Catriona Ni Aolain
Art Director: Todd Weinberger
Deputy Art Director: Kim Gray
Deputy Photography Editor: Jennifer Santana
Associate Photography Editor: Amy McNulty
Photographer: Mark Peterson

Did the magazine know you were from Minnesota and did that have an influence you being awarded the job?

When Catriona Ni Aolain the director of photography at Men’s Journal contacted me I think she assigned me because of my series Political Theatre. So I was looking forward to going back to Minnesota and photographing Jesse “The Body” Ventura.

Had you met the subject previously?

Yes. Jesse Ventura was a pro wrestler in the 80’s in Minnesota.  One of the first things I photographed when I started was pro wrestling.  Then a decade later when Ventura was elected to office in Minnesota I went back for Newsweekmagazine to photograph him.  He was always a great show, as a wrestler or Governor.

Describe your interaction on set.

I meet the former Gov. at his country club so that I could photograph him golfing. It was a cold raining November day in Minnesota so Jesse said he wasn’t going to play golf.  So we just wondered around the clubhouse looking for something that was visual to the story. Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura was talking nonstop about politics and himself so it was hard to concentrate on what I was doing.  Jesse is a true American Character…larger then life.

I love the range or scale shift in the Political Theatre gallery. Do the subjects realize you are shooting them that close or even register you are there?

The politicians know the press is there as there can be dozens of us trying to get a answer or a photo.  It’s like a kids soccer game where everyone surrounds the ball and just kicks at it.

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Is some of your close up work a result of the event “scrums”? 

I started to take very close pictures of the Gov. Christie because he has a reputation of being aggressive and I wanted to show that.  One of the first pictures I took for the Political Theatre series was a tight shot of his mouth while he was shouting at someone.  I wanted to show his aggressive appetite.

In a few words describe this body of work for us, how do you chose the edits, the direction, how calculated is this?

I started the series Political Theatre in reaction to a Tea Party rally on the lawn of the US Capitol.  The pictures I took didn’t show how fake the event was and how it was just a stage for politicians to get on TV.  So after that I started to shoot the pictures with my DSLR and then run them thru my cell phone apps to give them a dramatic look. I am trying to have fun with a subject that at times can be very boring and staged.

The Daily Edit – Dan Saelinger : Men’s Health

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Men’s Health

Creative Director:  Tom O’Quinn
Photo Director:  Jeanne Graves
Photo Editor: Don Kinsella
Photographer: Dan Saelinger
Stylist: Dominique Baynes

What sort of creative direction did you get from the magazine? 
I’m very fortunate that often times when clients approach me the direction is relatively open ended.  I think they are very aware when hiring me of the type of work I produce and that it requires a lot of thought and creative decision making on my end to make it successful.   Don Kinsella (the PE on the project) just asked the the images feel energetic and interesting and hit home the point of the content.  

What was the initial idea and how did you develop it?
The story was about paths of success to a better career and the magazine initially approached me with an overall idea of an office worker taking off or being propelled in some fashion and tasked me with creating a set of three images. As if often the case with an ambitious project we had to take into consideration budget restrictions and Don and his team decided it best to create two great final images rather than sacrifice quality to make three.  Don and I had a couple creative chats and were able to verbally narrow things down pretty quickly and settled on the idea of a guy in a jetpack and a chainsaw cutting through a cubicle.
How do most of your ideas come to life? Is there a sketch process?  
There is definitely a sketch process for the majority of my work.  I find it helps to build trust in the final concept and works as a great tool towards pushing a client into a riskier endeavor.  Also being that I’m located in Portland now I think it eases the fact that the client won’t be on set and sets up for expectations better. Generally I ask the client to provide headlines and text.  I try not to get bogged down too much in the literal aspect of the story and try to pull out key ideas or phrases to help form ideas.
Is there a certain time of day or situation when your best ideas surface?
 I like to let things digest and normally sit on it for a day or two as the the ideas will often come late at night or while driving to work, sometimes even in the shower (the best ones always do).  Either way I like to let things brew, I find when forcing myself to sit down and sketch I often don’t get anywhere.
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How long did it take to build the sets?
Most editorial budgets require us to condense time wherever possible and my team and I have become pretty darn efficient on set builds.  I keep several rolling wall flats in my studio, a variety of flooring and background props so that we can assemble these on short notice.  The challenge on this was really building the cotton rocket effect so the stylist began a day prior building a frame out of chicken wire. Otherwise the rest was assembled and shot the same day.
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Since a lot of your ideas are conceptual I’d imagine you have your team of prop stylist and set builders. What made you chose this prop person?
I’m fortunate to have built a tight knit crew out here in Portland and have a couple of go to people for different tasks.  The stylist on this particular shoot, Dominique Baynes has a similar background to myself as a NYC transplant out here in Portland.  So she understands the demands and limitations of an editorial project quite well.  This shoot required the building of the cloud effect which she’s very experienced in and has done for me before as well a building a jetpack on a tight budget and fortunately she has knack for making the impossible possible.  In general we have a similar aesthetic as well which helps in creating this kind of complex conceptual work efficiently.
I love the analogue nature of this work, what made you refrain from compositing layers of images?
I have a general philosophy with my work to do what ever I can in camera.  I’m an absolute fanatic of all things props, so if it can be made and we can afford to do it will go that route.  While I’m a big user of photoshop and am incorporating CGI more and more into some of my work I think things can often get a bit cheesy and over processed looking.  There’s definitely a certain charm to an image with a traditional analogue approach and I try to make sure which ever way I go it was a choice based on creating the best possible image for each particular assignment.
Did you choose cotton rather than fog juice or any other special effect because it would have been to hard to control and last.
Not really.  I’ve done a lot of stuff using fog effect and it can be manipulated pretty easily in photoshop, and much more forgiving if its not captured perfectly in camera.  It was purely an aesthetic choice on my part.  I think the image is much more successful because of how the rocket smoke was handled, its really integral to the overall analogue feel I was aiming for.
Any particular difficulties along the way?
Not so much that anything that was super difficult – there are always a couple surprises in this line of work.  Often when I do conceptual work its there is something we do for the first time, in this case we had to figure out how to chainsaw the cubicle wall.  Of course it wasn’t simple as just taking the chainsaw to it. there was quite a bit of precision sawing and dissecting as well as drywall thrown at the chainsaw while in action to give the effect of it actually cutting through.

The Daily Edit – Vanity Fair: Sam Jones

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Vanity Fair

Design Director: Chris Dixon
Photo Director: Susan White
Photo Editor: Ron Beinner
Photographer: Sam Jones
Set Design: Matt Davidson
Producer: Carol Cohen

I have to ask the obvious, is that a set?
Yes. We built that set for the shoot. We carefully measured the elephant’s width and height, then created the set just four inches bigger keeping in mind the proportions of the magazine spread, where the gutter fell; it was all calculated out ahead of time.

How was the elephant, was she easy to work with?
Tai was a 46 year old and very intelligent. She arrived with her wrangler and our adjustments were very subtle, like parallel parking a car, moving 3 inches here and there, she was responsive and so easy.  A situation like this can be fraught with peril as you can imagine, thankfully it was a great day on set.

How did the talent react when you talked about shooting him with the elephant?
I knew from working with Bradley on the Hangover posters that he loved animals, that put me at ease. Once we brought her in, they spent time connecting and getting comfortable around each other. Of course the wrangler was always there to watch over, that said Bradley was comfortable and trusted her enough let her wrap her trunk around him and lift him over her head.

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View the BTS about the shoot here

How did you explain the shoot to talent and the magazine?
I didn’t. This clearly goes against conventional wisdom not to tell talent you plan on shooting them with a six ton elephant but I thought telling someone about the picture ran the risk of this idea getting shut down.

We all see images in our mind when something is described, that’s uncontrollable.

Once a visual is stuck in someones mind whatever it may be, it’s difficult to have them see what you see or alter it. Our own visual catalogue comes into play, and everyone has a different reel.

Past experience has taught me to show people rather then try to explain. We went ahead and had the entire set built, rented the animal and then when talent walked in they saw exactly what was going on. If for some reason Bradley shut down the idea, the worst that could happen was VF rented an elephant for the day.  As I said earlier, I knew Bradley liked and connected with animals, I simply focused on that.

I’ve developed a strong relationship with the magazine.  Here I had this great opportunity to create a unique image, it’s not often those projects roll around, so when the resources and creative freedom present themselves, you make the most of it. The magazine trusts me, which is a great position to be in, what really underscored our relationship was me suggesting to them this is a black and white photo and they agreed.

When I shot Martin Short with the cats I remember how highly trained animals can be. For that shot the wrangler could signal the cat to pretend he was peeing. Knowing that, I asked the wrangler to direct her to curl her trunk and open her mouth as if she was going to trumpet, that detail takes the photo to another level with Bradley sitting there looking rather annoyed.

How much time did you have for this shoot?
We had a day of set building and a prelight day, the actual shoot day was about six hours in total; Bradley had a hard out at noon.  Originally we were going to shoot this in NYC,  we had a full day with talent shooting in Central Park, then the shoot switched to LA. That change of plan gave me time to come up with this new idea. I had a week to get the set built, fully comp up the idea and get creative approved with the magazine.

My team arrived on set at 4:00 am, Bradley came at 6:00 am, and we wrapped on time.  I was pleased to have such commitment on his end to come that early and dedicate himself to the shoot. It’s not often things align like this, it’s great when the opportunity arises.  It’s all about knowing when everything is there for you to make the best picture possible and there’s no excuses of why it didn’t turn out the way you wanted.

The Daily Edit – More Magazine: Emily Shur

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More Magazine

Creative Director: Debra Bishop

Senior Art Director: Jamie Prokell

Photo Director: Natasha Lunn

Associate Photo Editor: Stephanie Swanicke

Assistant Photo Editor: Gabreille Sirkin

Photographer: Emily Shur

Who did the graphic sign for the first shot did that come from the magazine?
Yes the lettering on the sign came from the magazine.  This shot was conceived ahead of time because the art director knew he was going to use this image as the opener.  The magazine asked me to photograph Nadia (our model) with and without the piece of cardboard she’s holding.

Styling and casting seem essential for this project. Who was the stylist and what made you choose this person
The stylist was Jessie Cohan, and she did an amazing job.  I was really hoping to work with a stylist on this shoot that could elevate the images.  I loved Jessie’s sensibility, and she had a great mix of shoots on her site from sculptural high fashion to more bohemian feeling stories that looked like they had a blend of vintage and current pieces.  Since this wasn’t technically a fashion story, we weren’t limited to certain brands or seasons.  So, I wanted to do what felt right for the different shots.  I also wanted to find the right styling balance where everything felt fresh and modern even though our girl in the story was supposed to be kind of a mess.

Tell me about the collaboration with the magazine, how did that unfold?
The magazine had a very clear vision of what they wanted the images to look like.  They used a past shoot of mine as reference for the light and color palette which was great.  It’s helpful for me to have direction when I start thinking about a shoot so I can visualize the images before I make them.  So, we had that as a starting point and then we worked together to collaborate on the five different shots and what our model should be doing in each one.  The story was already written so we had five specific branding-challenged “characters” we were going to be shooting.

What were you looking for in the casting? Long hair must have been essential for the looks, what else?
I actually didn’t think too much about the hair!  I sort of figured we could use wigs if needed, but having a model with red hair was a huge bonus in the end.  I was mainly looking for someone who was comedic and expressive.  Casting this was the most difficult part of the pre-production process for sure.  We saw lots of pictures of attractive women, but none of them really screamed COMEDY to me.  I ultimately needed a really great comedic actress who wasn’t solely concerned with looking pretty.  Nadia Quinn came to us sort of in the eleventh hour on a recommendation from a casting director in NY.  The magazine wound up flying her out to LA for the shoot, and she really was my dream girl. 

Did you have any reference to the looks you were going for?
We had all of the ideas pretty well nailed down before the shoot. For example, we knew one shot was going to be a drill sergeant, one was going to be so bland she blended into the background, one was going to be an over-zealous karaoke singer, etc.  I didn’t have many visual references for the characters, but I had enough conversations with the magazine to feel comfortable going in and just doing it.  And as I said before, I did have strong lighting and color references so I knew where I was going with that from the start.

What made you choose that color background?
The background is actually just a white cyc so the color comes from the color profile I used to process the images…and then of course some Photoshop love in post.  It’s a profile I made on an older shoot (that was used as reference by the magazine).

Have you ever directed a model this much before? Tell me about the shoot process, did you talk it over before you started shooting
This was definitely on the high side of the spectrum in terms of how much I directed Nadia.  We discussed every shot before we got going.  I would give her the general idea…some were meant to be more subtle and some were clearly more big.  While we were shooting I’d call out little tweaks for her to make and she took direction amazingly.  This type of shoot would’ve never been successful if that communication wasn’t there.

Was this a multi day shoot?
Nope – we got it all done in one day.

What was your biggest concern going into this shoot? 
My biggest concern was that one element wouldn’t be as strong as the others and bring the shoot down.  Luckily we had such a great team – wardrobe, hair, make-up, props, talent, etc. – and there was no weak link.  Everyone was dedicated to the story and worked so hard.

What surprised you the most?
I think what surprised me the most was how seamlessly everything came together on set.  There were many people on this shoot I hadn’t worked with before, and that can really go either way.  Not only was everyone so good at their jobs…everyone was nice and happy and we all had fun.  It was really the best case scenario.

The Daily Edit – Joao Canziani Dance Series and Fader Magazine

- - The Daily Edit



Emily Oldak, Queens. NY

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Drew Jacoby

Anne Yoon in Los Angeles

Anne Yoon

Anne Yoon

Anne Yoon

Dancer Bryan Arias in East Harlem and Queens

Bryan Arias
Bryan Arias
Bryan Arias

Dance Series: Personal Project

Photographer: Joao Canziani

Fader

Executive Editor:  Jessica Robertson
Style Editor at Large: Mobolaji Dawodu
Creative Directors: ETC (Everything Type Company) Geoff Halber and Kyle Blue

Photo Director: Geordie Wood
Photographer: Joao Canziani

Heidi: What inspired you to start this body of work?

Joao: I watched a documentary called Pina (directed by Wim Wenders) a couple of years ago, and I was blown away. How dance could be abstract and energetic and seemingly random and chaotic but still cathartic. It sent chills down my spine, particularly watching it in 3D (I don’t need 3D in movies, but for this one it was truly worth it). It planted a seed. So I talked to a friend of mine who is an amazing professional dancer to do a test shoot with her. At the time I was mostly interested in stillness and getting portraits of her. I liked the pictures very much, but the more I looked at them, the more I thought this could be a continuing series with different dancers.

How do you select your subjects?

I picked my dancer friend’s brain, and she gave me a long list of dancers that she knew. She introduced me to a few of them via Facebook or email. So I started getting in touch with them. I met with whoever was interested, and decided to talk to them extensively before the shoot. That was actually the most inspiring aspect of this process, to find out about their upbringing, their lives, why they got into dancing, what they wanted to accomplish in the future… It made me realize that this could be a very fruitful collaboration.

Are these multi day shoots?

Yeah, I shot each dancer in one day.

Describe a typical session, it’s there some structure or is it fluid? ( do have a set of criteria for each series? )

A little structure, and then the rest to chance. The shoot day starts early with scouting some locations around the area where the dancer lives. Usually that takes a couple hours or more. Then we pick him or her up from their home and head from one location to the other. Typically I’d like to have three or four locations per session. That’s the only structure, the locations. But I’ve realized they’re very important, because they contribute to the consistency of the whole series. We’ve gotten lucky with that! Whenever we shot in New York, we always managed to get into an empty racquetball court. It was like having a natural light studio with a beautiful wall for free. And the last dancer I shot, we were able to shoot inside a huge empty public pool. (It’s incredible what you can get away with in this city if you just push a little.)

But I digress. The fluid part is the most fun, obviously. Whereas — as I mentioned before — I was mostly interested in formal portraits of the dancers when I began this series, the shoots quickly became a mix of capturing movement and portraits. My only goal really was to freeze the action in a way that made them seem weightless and abstract and surreal. And particularly something I hadn’t seen before in dancing pictures. The rest was letting them do their thing as they knew best.

Are you doing these through out your travel assigns or do you travel for specific dancers?

Most of these I shot while I had some free time in NYC. One other one that I shot while I was on assignment in LA. I’m hoping that next year I can find other dancers in places other than the US, to have a variety of locations.

Is there any type of music when these shoots are happening, how does the talent get into form?

We shot most of these sessions without music, except for the last one, which was actually extremely helpful. I decided to shoot a little video for this one (which I’m still cutting and should be ready in a couple weeks), and as we were shooting on the racquetball court, my assistant put on a playlist on a little Jambox. This song called Reflektor by Arcade Fire came on, and Emily the dancer began to move so incredibly that we all really got in the groove. It was magical!

What are you goals with this, a show, a book?

Honestly, a book or a show has crossed my mind, but for the moment I’m just enjoying shooting something that is so collaborative and creative yet I can truly call my own. For either a show or a book to happen I have to keep on shooting more.

How do you approach the individual and the collective edit for this?

 I learn a little bit about them and their aspirations by meeting them beforehand. I do tell them though that I’m not interested in shooting the typical images you see out there of dancers — particularly ballet dancers — that can end up being so clichéd and cheesy. Once we’re shooting I let them do their thing, every so often telling them to repeat a movement that looked great, or to try something similar. If I end up capturing something a bit off-kilter, or jarring, or abstract, that also evokes a bit of narrative, then I’m happy. If it makes you ask, “what’s happening here?” then I’m happy.

As for the overall edit, I try as best as I can to have some variety in each session between locations. But also make sure that from one image to the next there is a bit of dynamic range. Some wider shots paired with some more close up, and so forth.

1_JC_MINAJ_COVER_V4_1129 2_F93_pg72_Nicki-R2-1_2048 Niki Minaj Niki Minaj Niki Minaj Niki Minaj Niki Minaj

Let’s talk a little about your Fader cover: How long did you have with the subject?

Four hours or so total: hair and make-up, plus change of wardrobe. So at the end it felt more like an hour and a half or less of just shooting.

What led to this particular body position?

I don’t recall exactly, but Nicki certainly knew what she was doing. The magazine’s style director put on some music that Nicki liked and she moved and danced away. I was particularly interested in those in-between moments of stillness, or where it felt more of a portrait. This was one of those moments that probably lasted a click or two and then it was gone.

Was your dance inspired by this project or vice versa?

It’s funny how for me every recent project informs the newest ones, often subconsciously. I find myself looking back to find inspiration or ideas, sometimes ideas that I didn’t use before or that weren’t as successful that I want to try again. In this case, the dancers happened first, so it was funny how I ended up getting this assignment shooting Nicki Minaj that employed a similar method of capturing her still while she moved to the music.

What type of creative direction did you get from the magazine?

We talked a lot about creative direction before the shoot happened. They had some ideas but also asked for my input and also for a mood board, which I was very excited about. The challenge was that all the previous cover stories shot for The Fader had been shot on location over two days, so they could fill 10-plus pages with a good variety of pictures. This was the first time, I think, that they had to shoot a subject that could only give them one day, in a studio, and four hours at that. So they called me! (Haha.) Since there was going to be a few wardrobe changes, what about using different colored backdrops to complement the different wardrobe, but then also using textiles as backdrops too — a bit inspired by the portraits of Seydou Keita —  to have greater variety. They really liked this idea, but this meant having some extra help with set design if we were to pull it off in four hours. I ended up hiring a producer (also because shooting someone the caliber of Nicki Minaj meant she came with quite a hefty rider, and I had no time or resources to deal with that myself), and he found an amazing set designer that was willing to collaborate with me. I flew to LA, and as soon as I landed, I found out that due to some miscommunication, Nicki was unable to shoot the day that had been scheduled. Oh well… I decided to meet with Lauren, the set designer, anyway, and sort out all the set logistics, including picking the textiles for the backdrops in downtown LA. For a moment there I thought this shoot was never going to happen, but thankfully, it got rescheduled.

The Daily Edit – Maren Caruso: GFF Magazine

- - The Daily Edit

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GFF

Creative Director: Maren Caruso
Editor-in-Chief: Erika Lenkert
Designer: Catherine Jacobes

What prompted you to start your own magazine?
I’ve been shooting food for magazines and cookbooks over 15 years. The subject of food photography casts a wide net of photo opportunities that include not only plated food shots but a portrait of the chef, the ingredients growing in the earth, interiors of restaurant, detail shots of place, documenting chefs cooking and people coming together to celebrate and eat. Most of my commercial work requires me to shoot a plated recipe or food product. GFF Magazine is the perfect outlet for me to shoot all aspects of food. I was approached by Erika Lenkert; a friend and writer, to help make a gluten-free magazine come to life. It was just the kind of project I needed and more. It has led me to creative directing, shooting a range of stories and collaborating with smart ambitious individuals.

How many people are currently on staff?
Two, myself and Erika Lenkert.

Are you planning a print version?
GFF Magazine was designed to be a print Magazine. We spent a lot of time selecting paper stock, paper weight and a premier printer to create the smooth vibrant experience when flipping through the pages. We have our fall issue on newsstands now and available in many Whole Foods across the country as well as select retail stores. You can get or gift a subscription at gffmag.com

Why a gluten free magazine?
There is room for a playful, upbeat gluten-free magazine with creative amazing food that doesn’t remind you of what you are living without. Gluten-free recipes are in high demand and it can be overwhelming to weed through all of the recipes that are online. GFF is a great place to find tightly curated recipes that won’t disappoint.

What sets your project apart from other food magazines?
What makes GFF Magazine stand out from other food magazines is that it’s playful and inspires you to get down and cook. It takes food seriously in that the recipes are seriously amazing but the stories and imagery are upbeat and fun.
GFF Magazine features inspirational cooking including stories about real people making really great food that just happens to be gluten-free.

What’s been the steepest learning curve for this process? 
Asking people for help and guidance has been a huge learning curve. I quickly learned that sitting back and hoping that everyone will find out about our new venture was not an option. We had to shout out from the top of every mountain and tell people why they should believe in us and what we were doing. It’s amazing how many people did. We raised close to $95,000 on Kickstarter which confirmed the importance of reaching out and asking for support. It also proved to us that there is a real interest in a new indie food magazine focusing on gluten-free fare. We continue to ask for support and help from fellow magazine founders and contributers and business minded friends. It takes a village and tapping into our contacts and resources continues to make our magazine a reality.

How much creative freedom does this project offer you?
I have a lot of creative freedom within the parameters of the photographs that visually support the text with delicious looking food.  For now, GFF Magazine is fulfilling my desire to shoot food in all of its forms and tell stories through my photos.

Did you shoot all of these spreads?
Yes, I shot everything in the magazine.

You had exceeded your goal for kickstarter, did you do any fund raising events?
No fundraising events; just asked everyone we knew to help.
Where do you see the magazine in a 2 years?
In 2 years we hope that we will have enough subscribers so that we can afford to pay people to help us out. We also plan in have a hefty online store by then.

How do we subscribe?
You can subscribe to GFF Magazine online at gffmag.com – it’s a great holiday gift!

How can photographers, writers reach out to you?
Email us at erika@gffmag.com

The Daily Edit – Modern Farmer

- - The Daily Edit

Art Director: Sarah Gephart, MGMT. design

Photography Directors: Luise Stauss and Ayanna Quint, Stauss & Quint

Photographers: Richard BaileyHenk WildschutGrant CornettDaniel SheaLauren FleishmanTom SchierlitzRush JagoeAlexi HobbsCedric Angeles

 

How long has your studio been in business; aside from Modern Farmer, who are some of your other clients? 
LS&AQ: We started our studio Stauss & Quint at the beginning of this year and work with design firms, book publishers, online magazines and custom publications. Some of our clients include Pentagram, Ten Speed Press and Medium. We really enjoyed working together on Modern Farmer and decided that as a team we could offer clients a great network of photographers as well as years of experience in photo art direction and shoot production. Our goal is to bring our editorial eye to a wide range of clients.

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Overall, what is the photographic direction for the magazine?
LS & AQ: Farming and agriculture are diverse subjects, encompassing many different global issues which are so rich photographically. We cover everything from food production to climate change to politics. What’s been exciting for us has been the international focus of the stories, what has given us the opportunity to work with photographers on every continent. We are drawn to photographers who are passionate about their work and curious about the world around them. Many of their personal projects and editorial work display a sensitivity and humanity without being sentimental. For example, we ran a photo essay by Cedric Angeles that was a personal project he had been working on about shepherds worldwide for the past 20 years. While working on assignments for more glamorous stories, he carved out time to document the life of local herders. He isn’t afraid show how difficult the farming life is while still creating beautiful and arresting images.

 

Tell us about the genesis of this magazine and who are your subscribers?
LS & AQ: Modern Farmer in the brainchild of Ann Marie Gardner. Luise worked very closely with her and Art Director Sarah Gephart of MGMT. design studio to develop the look and feel for the prototype; Ayanna came on board for the first issue and as the issue came together we refined that further. Modern Farmer is for anyone who cares about where their food comes from and the demographics of the subscribers represent that. It runs the gamut from 3rd and 4th generation farmers to those who can only grow basil in their kitchen window. The goal is to provide in-depth reporting that is entirely approachable no matter your agriculture background.

 

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Can you share the cover direction? It is always an animal portrait to set the magazine apart from others?
LS & AQ: As the first issue was coming together, we were defining the aesthetic of the magazine and looking for an image that was striking and would set us apart on the newsstand. It was an organic process, working with the art director, Sarah Gephart, and the editors to refine that vision. Richard Bailey’s rooster was one of many options we tried for the cover, but we knew the minute we saw it that it worked. He really is a handsome rooster! The great thing about having an animal on the cover of each issue is that it allows for many different audiences to identify with the magazine. Richard has shot every cover since then and these animal portraits have really come to define the visual identity of Modern Farmer.


Are there handlers for these animals and are they hired, or actual farm animals; about how long is a cover session?
LS: All the covers shoots take place in the UK, where Richard is based. A session usually takes from a couple of hours to half a day at most. There are no professional handlers but because we shoot at active farms, the farm hands help keep things under control. The animals are in constant motion and have to be walked and maneuvered back and forth in front of the back drop so it requires patience. When a 500 pound pig or a Mammoth Jack donkey or a British Blonde Bull doesn’t want to be somewhere, no-one is going to stop it.

 

What are the typical discussions with the photographers for the covers?
We shoot a variety of breeds for the inside and for the cover we look for the animal where the strongest character and personality come through. This makes for some funny cover discussions when you are talking about a pig. Each breed has a society, like the British Goat Society which connects breeders with farmers and it is through them that we find our subjects. Richard then travels all over the UK for the shoots. For the goat feature he found the only small farmer in the UK who breeds Nigerian Dwarf goats on a smallholding in Lincolnshire next to a Royal Air Force base. As he arrived, there were maneuvers going on in the air, as WW2 Lancaster bombers and spitfires flew low overhead in preparation for a show the following weekend and there were maneuvers going on in the farm. Richard was ushered straight in to the barn to see twins being born to one of the does. The farmer immediately named them after Richard and his assistant.

How do you use instagram as a photo source?
AQ: I’ve never hired someone based solely on their Instagram photos, but I do use it to see what photographers I like are up to, whether I’ve had the chance to work with them or not. I also use it to keep track of where people are and if they are traveling. We recently assigned a big photo essay to Bryan Schutmaat for another client because I saw that he was working out West and, I should add, posting some amazing images.

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Do you meet with many of your photographers prior to shooting with them?
LS: We  meet with photographers as often as we can. We were looking at Rush Jagoe’s book this Fall and he mentioned a farming collective in New Orleans of out-of-work fishermen, who built a Growers Initiative in reaction to the natural disasters they lived through. Luckily, the lineup was just coming together for the upcoming issue and we were able to include his pitch in the issue.
 
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Do you scan the news and see who is shooting farming related content?
LS: We always keep an eye on gallery shows, photo blogs, books and festivals, and make note of good photography around food production and agriculture. I saw Henk Wildschut’s book ‘Food’ at Paris Photo last year and was impressed by the depth of his research. Starting in 1975 the Rijksmuseum’s department History of the Netherlands has given an annual assignment to a photographer, including an exhibition, titled Document the Netherlands, with the idea to register a current aspect of Dutch society in a series of photographs. Henk had shot large scale Food production in Holland over the course of 2 years creating perceptive and emotive images, making it a perfect marriage of photographer and story for this Modern Farmer piece.
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Tell me about the direction for the food waste project. What was the creative brief to Grant?
LS: The brief was to create images for a 10 page package on how, why and where edible food gets thrown out, amounting to half of the total food supply in the US, which is wasted in every step of the food chain: from farm to retail to consumers. Grant’s work had caught my eye while working on the food pages of the New York Times Magazine and I was looking for an opportunity to work with him. His graphic studies of food as objects as in his Beautiful Decay series made him a great match for this project. Grant often works with the food Stylist Maggie Ruggiero and the set designer Theo Vamvounakis, both huge talents. Their collaboration on Gather Magazine is really impressive. I was lucky to get them together for this assignment. 
I worked closely with the editor Reyhan Harmanci on the waste statistics to give to the team. One of the challenges on reporting that was the lack of great numbers, which underlined how much we need to improve on not wasting food–no one was counting! We ended using two main sources: FAO, a UN group that has done a lot of work on food security and infrastructure and a University of Arizona researcher who treated garbage as archaeological remains. He literally dug in America’s trash to catalog what we ate and what we tossed. That research allowed us to then recreate the average American food waste in the main photos.
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What made you choose Daniel Shea for the GMO project?
AQ: I’d worked with Daniel before at The Atlantic and am a huge fan of him and his work. His portraits are wonderful of course and he’s done some personal projects (Blisner, IL and Coal Work)  that have a real engagement with the landscape and the environment so I thought he’d be a good fit. There’s a real poetry to the way his subjects interact with the world around them but he’s able to translate that well for an editorial shoot so the images remain grounded in the story.  I had been looking for a chance to work with him from the first issue and was glad it came together so quickly. It took 7 issues before we were able to work with Alexi Hobbs, who has a great story in the issue that’s coming out next month. There are so many great photographers out there, and so few assignments!
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I see that you’ve hired Lauren Fleishman, did you follow her blog, Rise and Shine with Me? Had you worked with her before?
AQ: I follow Lauren on Instagram and had kept track of her for over a decade but hadn’t had the chance to assign her anything. She’s now based in Paris and I thought her work was a good fit for the magazine. When I contacted her, she mentioned that she’d always wanted to shoot at a farm but hadn’t had the opportunity yet. She really made the most of the shoot and captured so many aspects of this beautiful farm. The outtake that we used on the TOC is so lush and earthy, you can almost smell the soil. The shoot happened to fall on her birthday. Perrine somehow found out and gave her a huge bag of vegetables as a gift to take back to the city with her.

Do you use your still life opportunities to off set or surprise the readers?
LS: It is great to be able to create a polished and poppy product shoot for a farming magazine where it’s so unexpected. It’s also an opportunity to work with talented set designers such as Angharad Bailey. Together with the great Tom Schierlitz she conceived a crisp and graphic story that brought a strong sense of design in sharp contrast to the environmental images running throughout the rest of the magazine.

The Daily Edit – Gabriela Herman : Rodeo Queens/Cosmopolitan

- - The Daily Edit

Rodeo Queens - August 2014

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Promo

Photographer: Gabriela Herman
Text and reporting: Kelly Williams Brown
Design: Tyson Evans

Cosmopolitan

Art Director: Mariana Tuma ( freelance )
Photo Director:
Alix Campbell
Photo Editor: Allie Kircher

Heidi: Did Cosmopolitan commission this project or did you bring this idea forward?

Gabriela: This was a commissioned assignment for Cosmo and my first assignment for them. They contacted me in the summer of last year after seeing a story I had shot for Martha Stewart Living on the Kutztown Folk Festival. The first part of the rodeo shoot had a sort of similar, small-town fair vibe, which I think was a parallel. I was very fortunate to be teamed up with a writer, Kelly Williams Brown, who pitched the story to Cosmo and who became a good friend throughout the process.

How many days/weeks did it take to shoot this?

The shoot was split into three trips out West over five months. For the first trip, we went to Corvallis, OR, to the home of Nicole Schrock, who was Miss Rodeo Oregon and the main character of the story. We followed her around at home, on her family’s farm and the local county fair. The second trip started in Portland, OR, where Nicole was joined by five other state queens and we toured around Oregon for a week before arriving at the Pendleton Rodeo, one of the largest and most historic in the country. (Fun fact: At Pendleton, press is required to be in ‘rodeo wear’ meaning cowboy boots, a cowboy hat and appropriate western shirt, so I actually got a budget from Cosmo to purchase these items!) This was probably my favorite trip as it felt like I was just tagging along on a vacation with a group of awesome girls, plus I loved the reactions from walking around town with a gaggle of rodeo queens in tow. Lastly, we travelled to Las Vegas where the Miss Rodeo American competition takes place during the National Rodeo Finals, which is a huge event, cowboys everywhere!

What specifically does “expanded from an assignment” mean?

The story ran in the July issue this summer.  Due to editorial constraints Kelly’s article was condensed into an intro for the photo essay and they published only a tiny portion the material that I had shot. Cosmo’s edit, understandably, was also very different than what I would show. Kelly and I talked a few weeks after it published and realized that we both had so much good material that we didn’t want it to go to waste and discussed how we could expand it. I knew I wanted to make a physical piece as a promo and I wanted for Kelly to share her full story in the way that she originally intended. The result was twofold: this promo book that highlights the photos with Kelly’s reporting interspersed throughout and a post on Medium with her full article and my photos. This was my first time working with Medium and while its geared toward text over imagery, it feels like it was the perfect place for our story to live. It was promoted by Medium, along with our outreach, and has been viewed over 21,000 times.

Was this promo a difficult edit? How many images were considered? 

Yes! Isn’t every project difficult to edit? I shot over 4,000 images and there were probably around 250 that I handed into Cosmo and about 70 I was considering for the promo. One of the tricky things for me was choosing an image on the strength of the image versus the strength of the story. Unfortunately the last trip in Vegas, which was the grand culmination of everything — especially all the amazing sequined outfits — took place entirely under the fluorescent lights of the MGM Grand conference rooms. I had the least access to the girls, who were under constant chaperoned supervision. I knew it was important to show this in the story, but I didn’t feel they were the strongest images, so I only included two at the end to round out the story with the final shot of the newly crowned Miss Rodeo America. It’s not my favorite, but I felt like I needed that conclusion. There were also a few days on the second Oregon trip where the girls weren’t on queening duty and were just dressed in regular jeans and t-shirts. We shot guns, visited a saw mill and a cheese factory, went on a boat ride, and frolicked on Haystack Beach. A lot of the material I shot on those days just didn’t fit into the narrative, despite being some of my favorite shots.

The body of work has a great narrative arc, I loved the quote vs. captions. What made you decide to publish quotes?

I knew absolutely nothing about rodeo queens going into this story. I didn’t even know there was such an honor! The booklet was certainly to showcase the images and I knew it wasn’t the place where people would read a full article. But, I felt it would really enhance the experience by including a bit of context to the images that explains what its like being a rodeo queen for those who, like me, might not even understand the culture. I think this is a story that really benefits from hearing from the girls themselves.

Why the booklet, and not a foldout, magazine or cards…?

I’ve done post cards many times and recently did a promo poster this spring, but had never done a booklet. This might be the first body of work I have that falls nicely into such a linear narrative that making a book seemed logical. I have zero design background though and the idea of tackling a book project seemed very daunting.  Luckily my husband is a designer and was immensely helpful in putting this together and it was an added bonus to be able to collaborate with him on this project. It was also a chance to try on-demand printing. We tried MagCloud and ultimately went with Smartpress, as they had better paper options. Both were great because I could order exact quantities, and can always order more.

Before you approach a multi day project, do you have an idea of it’s development or is it more organic ?  

After the first trip out to Oregon, I came home so excited about the images. Nicole, the lead subject, was just wonderful to work with, as was her family who supported her all the way to Vegas. We had no idea if she was going to win the competition or not but she was perfect to be our main character in that she seemed to get along with everyone, certainly was considered a top contender and photographically was great in front of the lens. We actually got lucky in picking Nicole — the decision was mostly driven by Kelly, who lived in Oregon — because she ended up in third place out of twenty-seven girls in the competition . Projects definitely form more organically for me. I rarely set out with specific images I want to make. With so much material after only that first trip, I had a feeling I would end up with a body of work that I could develop beyond the assignment.

Are you constantly referring to images you’ve already shot and then looking for what needs to be added?

Not really. I usually just shoot and shoot and shoot and then pull out from there. I do wish I had been able to gain more access to the girls during the competition to round out the final stages of the story better, but I think I got enough. Were I to continue pursuing this project, of course I have in mind certain elements that I’d want to add. For example, there were talks at one point of shooting a seamstresses working on the gowns. With any project you could shoot forever and ever, but I think I’m done with this project for now. It was a wonderful opportunity to have all the access I received, and I feel like I told the story I want to tell.

What was your overall creative direction for this ( in your own body of work ) and from the magazine?

For the kind of stories I shoot, the type of direction I usually get is very broad and has me shooting a bit of everything. I love that kind of direction, or non-direction if you will, in that it leads me to shoot what I find most interesting. I rarely receive the type of assignment where there’s a shot already mapped out in someone’s mind and I’m there to execute it. This was no different. Of course there’s the schedule of events to follow but, outside of that, I was free to shoot anything and everything that caught my eye.

Are all the images in the promo unpublished?

There’s only one image (detail shot of Nicole’s Miss Rodeo Oregon chaps) from the promo booklet that was also used by Cosmo.

What was the most surprising element of this project?

Perhaps the fact that I was opened up to this whole new world that I didn’t even know existed. Did you know ‘queening,’ is used as a verb? And that hair curlers are an essential item to being a rodeo queen? This was a total cultural immersions for me from seeing parts of the country I’d never been, to attending my first rodeo, to shooting guns and bonding with girls outside of my social circle.

I am forever grateful to Cosmo and the photo department team who not only took a chance on me but really gave me the opportunity to dive deep into a subject matter, over a long period of time, and develop meaningful relationships.

How did this body of work force you to grow as a photographer?

One of the most important lessons from the this project was the power of collaboration and reporting. In this case I feel like having the quotes and the captions and being able to read Kelly’s full text really enhances the viewing experience of the images and adds another layer of understanding. I’m not a writer, nor do I feel I’m any good at it, yet from this experience I feel like I either need to push myself on the writing front or partner with other writers like Kelly who would be willing to dive deep into a project together.

The Daily Edit – Michael Rodriguez: Los Angeles Magazine

- - The Daily Edit

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Los Angeles Magazine

Design Director: Steven Banks
Photo Director: Amy Feitelberg
Photographer: Michael Rodriguez

 

Heidi: Best of covers/thematic are always a great challenge to keep things fresh. How did this smart concept develop?
Michael: Steve Banks, the design director at LA Mag, came to me with the concept.  Just like the previous cover I did for them, he came to me with a clear idea.  My job is to realize it, make it dynamic.

What sort of editorial direction did you get to develop the the tools?
Steve knew most of the tools he wanted on the knife, but we continued to throw around more ideas for tools specifically, how the form of each tool would parody the likeness of the referenced item.  There were specific topics in the issue that needed to be represented.  Then, we looked at existing tools that get crammed into these pocket knives and picked the best fit.  The palm tree bottle opener took the most time to make a quick read.  It started off much more detailed and had a more organic silhouette.  It took quite a few drafts to make it simple enough to read.

How many knives to did you research/buy or did you simply know the swiss army knife being such an iconic classic was the right choice?
I had a couple on hand to study.  We did a bit of online research but, that was mostly for mechanics and tool details.  The overall shape of these knives haven’t changed all that much over the years.  Most of the research on the casing was for texture and material it would be made from.  We had many options but, we ended with classic red plastic.

Did you do your own post?
Yup, I do all of my post and CG.

 

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What was the biggest technical challenge for this project?
Figuring out how much detail to put into it without it looking messy.  At one point, the tool looked pretty grimy and used.  I like to put in more detail rather than not enough.  Then, you can work back some of the details to a place that everybody is happy with.

How did you get so adept at post/CGI? Did it come naturally for you?
I learned the basics of retouching from my old business partner back in the day.  When I took over the retouching duties, it started off with simple compositing.  Over the years, it just developed in complexity as ideas grew and greater challenges came.  At some point, I felt like I hit a wall with that general direction and started to learn how to create things in a CG environment.  It started with small accents to my photography and gradually, I felt more confident in my ability.  I started making environments that there either wasn’t the budget to have them made or was simply impossible to shoot.  Then, my approach flipped and CG was the majority of image creation and photography became the accent.  Now, things are balancing between the two along with the inclusion of video and animation.

Tell me about your entire process; do you think about the image first and then go into an execution thought process?
If it’s for a job, I consider the best approach for the idea.  Will it be served better in a more illustrative approach or all photographed along with compositing?  (nobody asks me to do anything all in camera, which I like).  The general approach to CG is, if you can capture what you want, the way you want it in camera, that’s the way to go.  If not, you identify the reason and find a solution using other avenues.  Then, that becomes part of the process for that image.  I think it’s important to be adaptable, especially when you’re working under tight schedules.  The image is planned out in advance.  Then, I capture and/or create the elements, lit properly to create a seamless composite.  There’s usually some deviation and improvising along the way but, the general approach is discussed and agreed upon prior to any major work being done.

How do you feel these skills make you a better photographer?
Sometimes, there are things that are totally out of your control that just ruin a shot.  There was this job I had where between the location being scouted and approved by the client and us arriving on shoot day, the  location had been drastically changed.  All of the elements of the location that led us to choose it for the image were gone.  There wasn’t any time fix for a fix.  I proposed that I create a new background where I could match the angle and lighting while improving on the look of the location that we had originally been expecting.  It was an awful situation, but everyone walked away happy.  Since then, I’ve been able to roll with most every problem thrown at me.  That’s not a “fix it in post” mentality necessarily; that’s an unfortunate perspective to have towards image making.  These skills help the photography overcome whatever challenges may arise throughout the job.

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The Daily Edit – Joshua Schaedel: Everywhere Between You & I

- - The Daily Edit

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Everywhere Between You & I

Photographer: Joshua Schaedel
Designer: Rebecca King

Heidi: How did the show develop?
Josh: The show came together in a very unusual way and pretty much grew out of my friendship with Lisa Thackaberry. She was looking for a few different spaces for projects she was working on. We had talked about collaborating together on a project with my photo collective Sorry Danny but the time wasn’t really right for the group. So after Lisa and I met Adam Stamp at the Downtown Photo Room we new that we had to move forward. So the show happened pretty organically. We weren’t out looking for a gallery or a space to do a solo show it just sort of happened. Which I guess is why the show had the feel that it did. So I guess the show came from a really natural place, which couldn’t have been better for such heavy subject matter as depression, guilt, suicide and personal growth.

Was your intent to have a show or was this body of work a way for you to deal with this difficult topic?
Ever since I was a kid I have been searching for a way to connect with my father Jim Schaedel. In the beginning the work about my Dad and his depression, and how that effects or relationship, was really a last ditch effort to reach him. What I found in that processes was that I really needed to work on myself. With each project about my father I tried to let some residual part of my baggage go and with each new discovery I feel a bit better.

I always thought it would be nice to share the work but honestly never thought I would have the opportunity to because the subject matter is so heavy. When Lisa and I first met I was really in a dark place and was trying really hard to be a good son and was really trying to get to a place of understanding with the work. So I really let Lisa into something very personal and she really gave me the strength and the confidence to see it through. So the show really just became as an extension of that. Which is why I am so proud of it and so glad that she pushed me to go forward with it.

Why did you choose to photograph yourself over the course of 12 hours?
The “Selfie” project is very a simple concept, take a half-day and sit and think about your life. My hope was that I could make a piece that I could come back to over and over again to continue to learn about myself so that I wouldn’t follow my grandfather’s (who committed suicide when I was 12) and my father’s path. I wanted to spend the day with myself to see all my flaws, all my shortcomings and all my mistakes. The twelve hours just felt like enough time to reflect and to learn.

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What was the most challenging part from a personal and technical point?
Technically it was hard to work out all the little details and to make all these different projects and concepts live into one room that left viewer with an idea of what depression might feel like. But definitely the most challenging part of the show was personal. I realized when Lisa wanted to show these particular projects that I was going to have to go through a lot emotionally to do an honest job reflecting what my father and I have been dealing with for so many years. I was more then just nude I was transparent and it was scary and amazingly peaceful at the same time. It is without a doubt the best thing I could have done for myself and I have to thank Lisa Thackabeery for believing in me and for giving me the opportunity to set this part of me free.

There’s a beautiful series of screens on your site. How did this integrate with the show?
The broken TVs or “The Last Christmas” came from the original project on my father called “My Father’s Name.” The piece found its way into the show when Lisa and I were discussing the project that gave the show its title “Everywhere Between You & I”. She wanted to know how that project came to be and I told the story behind “The Last Christmas”. Which happened when my father and I were supposed to spend Christmas together and watch a football game. Well, he was very depressed and didn’t want any company that day. I was really upset but I thought that if I at least watched the game I could at least share the game with him even though we were not going to be in the same room. I went to my uncle’s house to watch the game; as luck would have it, the TV broke. I was very distraught and the rest of the family left the room to do other things. As I was sitting there a tire commercial came on that described a cross-country road trip with a father and son. This was something that my father and I had talked about since I was a kid. Even though I couldn’t spend Christmas with him or watch the football game together I at least had hope that one day we might take this trip together. The “The Last Christmas” is really a shift in thinking for me and is piece that tied the show together.

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How has this body of work transformed you, if at all?
The show has affected me in many ways. I think the best part for me was when my childhood best friend made it out to the show. About a month prior to the show his brother who had battle depression for many years committed suicide and once he read “The Update” (the piece that describes my father and I talking about his desire to kill himself) he started weeping and we consoled each other. He shared very openly what him and his family were going through on a level that was very special and I think most people are not comfortable with sharing. That has since happened several times with other people and in those very intimate and open conversations I have learned more then I ever expected. I feel like I have the ability to share more openly with people and I think other people who know my story are more open with me. I think on a deeper level I am a lot less angry and a lot more calm. I hope as I continue to show this work that might get closer to a place of peace.

How will this transcend into your editorial work?
Since I draw most of my inspiration from a personal place and when I am working with subject I feel its best to share my story. Recently I did a documentary job where I had to photograph a young man and he shared a similar story about his father and I shared with him mine. By the end of the conversation he thanked me because I was the first person who he had felt comfortable to talk about what he was going through and I got a really nice picture out of it. So I guess for me the more I learn about myself, the more open I am to share, the more people are willing to share with me. I think once I let down my guard down they do too and that makes for great pictures. But to be honest that is why I don’t do a lot of editorial work because it really affects me and takes a long time to digest. I am currently working on a few editorial concepts that I will hopefully pitch very soon.

You chose to do a newsprint/newspaper promo, why did that seem appropriate to you?
Well I come from a zine background with my collective Sorry Danny so it just seemed natural to me to do it for the show. I believe that art should be accessible to everyone and I think the newspaper is one of the most approachable ways to do that. Everyone remembers there father reading the newspaper in the mornings and so do I, so the broadside newspaper/zine felt like a place where my father ended and I began. I am firm believer in books and zines as the best way, besides the gallery space, to communicate a message and its something I want to continue to do for each show that I have.

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What sort of art direction did you give the designer for this?
My designer Rebecca King and I had luckily worked on a branding strategy before the show. So we just continued that conversation into the concept about my father. Our idea when we designed my branding was that it had the ability to move to beat of the concept at hand. So I just told her what I was trying to say with the show and she delivered a brilliant design around me and my father’s relationship. So each and every subtlety communicates some aspect of that relationship in an elegant way. She is one of those brilliant designers who work from a concept outward to a beautiful object and not the other way around. So the paper happened very naturally just like the show.

 

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The Daily Edit: Steven Simko – Hollywood Stars Promo

- - The Daily Edit

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Steve Simko

What prompted to you start the body of work?
Much of the inspiration for the Hollywood project was derived from Richard Avedon’s “In the American West.” I wanted to capture that intimacy and authenticity that Avedon had in his subjects for that series. I was also late in the game to switch from film to digital (2008) and was curious to see if digital would provide me with the same B&W-type quality images I used to process in my darkroom. I was lucky enough to meet “Tex” at a Hollywood dive bar one night, and after two years of calls (he didn’t use email) he finally agreed to be the first subject in my series. Once I photographed him, I was able to use that image in persuading the other subjects in and around Hollywood to participate in the project.

How did you select the subjects?
Whether it’s a shirt pocket protector that I would see Sal wear without fail every time he visited my neighbor or Tex’s six plus-foot frame with a fiery red beard and a cowboy hat on Hollywood blvd – something about them stands out and is compelling to me, and I knew their unique aesthetic in real life would translate to a unique portrait. I wanted others to see how I saw them.

What are you interactions with them like?
Throughout the shoot, I’m asking tons of questions trying to find out the What, When, and Why that lead them to Hollywood. Every person has their own story, and I usually find that the subjects are more than happy to share them.

How do you convince them to “come to my studio”, isn’t that a bit creepy esp for the women?
Yes, convincing takes time and patience…lots of patience ! This is such a departure from my editorial work for Vogue, but I think the fact that I shoot for them provides some “legitimacy” and trust the subjects are looking for.

Do you personally know them, how long is the session?
Only a few, but I know some of them pretty well now. No more than 30 mins in the parking lot of my studio… all daylight.

Have you had people turn you down? 
Yes, many, but I just keep asking and asking. I still have about six on my list that I would love to photograph.

The copy is a nice touch, did you write it? Are you interviewing them on the spot?
I worked with a copy person at Agency Access, and the details are from the conversations I’ve had with my subjects during our shoots… I keep notes.

How many have you shot so far and do you have some that don’t make the final stage?
I’ve shot over fifty and the final cut was twenty nine.

The Daily Edit – Time Magazine: Spencer Lowell

- - The Daily Edit

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TIME

Creative Director: D.W. Pine

Director of Photography and Visual Enterprise: Kira Pollack

Deputy Director of Photography and Visual Enterprise: Paul Moakley

Photographer: Spencer Lowell

Heidi: How did the cover concept develop, and why did the initial story become minimized?
Paul Moakley from Time called me at home in LA on the morning of August 7th and asked if I was interested in going to Atlanta that night and shooting a story on Ebola. At that time, the first two American patients had just been transported from West Africa to an infectious disease isolation unit at Emory Hospital in Atlanta.

The story was about America’s readiness to deal with an infectious disease as vicious as Ebola. I was assigned to photograph the facilities and staff at Emory Hospital and at the CDC. The subjects included the doctors and nurses treating the infected patients, as well as the Director of the CDC, Dr Tom Frieden. In addition, I photographed the CDC Emergency Operations Center and a staff member in the protective suiting needed to treat Ebola infected patients at hospitals.

After 3 days of shooting, the story was slated as the cover. Then on August 11th, two days before the issue was to go to print, Robin Williams died and his story took the cover and most of the issue, rightfully so.

Fast forward to September 30th, I get a notification on my phone that the first case of Ebola had been diagnosed in the US. I immediately emailed Paul Moakley a link to the article. We had worked closely together on the initial story so I thought of sharing the news with him first even though I was fairly certain he’d already seen it. He responded quickly saying that they were just talking about me and asked if I had any cover ideas that could be executed by the next day at 1:00 pm EST when they were to go to print(10:00 am PST for me).

Tell us about the time line.
That  email I mentioned was received at 2:38 pm PST so that gave me 19 hours and 22 minutes to conceptualize, pre-produce, shoot, edit and retouch. The following timeline (PST) is how things unfolded:

2:38 pm: Started researching.

2:59 pm: Emailed Paul my first idea, which was a super tight portrait of a cowboy wearing an antiviral face mask. The concept was that the cowboy symbolizes America and strength, which I thought would make for a strong contrast with the face mask, which symbolizes caution and vulnerability.

3:57 pm: Emailed Paul two more ideas – 1. overhead shot of an empty hospital bed with a quarantine enclosure and 2. an image of someone in a hazmat suit.

3:58 pm: Started looking on casting sites for a cowboy and calling prop shops and costume houses to see about getting a hospital bed and/or a hazmat suit.

5:09 pm: Kira Pollack, Director of Photography at Time emails me saying that they are definitely going with an Ebola cover and they think my ideas are great. She wants to know if I think I can pull this off over night. I wasn’t sure but I told her I was definitely willing to try.

5:30 pm: Found a costume house with an authentic Hazmat suit from the movie Contagion but they closed in 30 minutes and they were 40 minutes away. They said they’d stay open later for a fee so I emailed Kira asking if I should pull the trigger.

5:41 pm: Kira called and we spoke about which shot would be the most realistic to execute in the next 14 hours and 19 minutes. We ruled out the hospital bed because it would be impossible to source the props. Kira wasn’t entirely sold on the cowboy so we decided to go for the hazmat suit.

5:50 pm: The costume shop withdrew their offer of staying late saying that there was no one there able to stay past 6:00. At that point I called a friend of a friend who is motion picture costumer and asked if there was any way I could find a hazmat suit that night. She said absolutely not. At that point I started looking at other options. I thought back to the protective suiting I shot at the CDC and started researching the personal protective equipment (PPE) being used by healthcare workers in West Africa. I found a page on the WHO website that listed PPE requirements specifically for treating patients with Ebola. After a few phone calls, I found out that all the articles I needed could be purchased at a local army surplus store opened until 9:00 pm, a hardware store opened until 10:00 pm and drug store opened 24 hours.

6:30 pm: Called Kira back to let her know the change of plans. I told her I was able to find a yellow Tyvek suite and a white one. We talked about background options and agreed that yellow on yellow could make for a powerful image with an undertone of caution/hazard and we agreed white on white would make for a good secondary option. After we got off the phone, I set out to to purchase all the parts of the costume from around town.

10:00 pm: Met my assistant at my house to load up lights and seamlesses (luckily I had a yellow one from a previous shoot).

11:00 pm: Got to my office to unload and set up.

12:06 am: Started shooting.

3:34 am: Finished shooting. For options, we shot yellow suit on yellow background, yellow suit on midnight blue background, white suit on midnight blue background and white suit on white background.

4:33 am: Sent my edit of the shoot to Kira, Paul and DW Pine, the Creative Director of Time.

6:34 am: DW emailed me his two cover selects to be retouched – the first yellow on yellow and the other white on white.

7:28 am: DW updated me that they were definitely going with the yellow and asked me to focus my retouching on that shot. He had also comped yellow patches over the edges of my seamless to use for a mock up which he and his team thought looked like walls so he asked if I could composite yellow walls into the final image, which I did.

8:32 am: Final retouched image delivered.

What prompted you to reach out to the magazine about the ebola case?
On the day of the first US Ebola diagnosis, I received a news alert on my phone. Because I had worked so closely with Paul Moakley on the original Ebola story, he was the first person I thought about when I read the news.

Where you surprised when they offered you the assignment?
More than anything, I was surprised that they were willing to let me try to pull the assignment off in such a short period of time. I didn’t think it was impossible but I wasn’t sure it was possible. The fact that they wanted me to try gave me the confidence to push myself. It’s amazes me that not only are they constantly operating at that level of production, but that they maintain such a high level of aesthetic aspirations in the process. It’s really a privilege to get to work with such wonderful people.

What was running through your mind when you fully understood the short timeline?
I didn’t have time to fully understand the short timeline. In pressurized situations, I thrive off of not being able to overthink things and making decisions as they arise. The lack of time really acts as a filter and helps prioritize.

With such little time where did you source the props, and I’d image accuracy was essential.
I referred to the personal protective equipment for Ebola treatment section on the WHO website for accuracy. I also referred to the images I had taken at the CDC of the staff member wearing the PPE for Ebola treatment. From there, I purchased the Tyvek suits, rubber boots and plastic apron from an army surplus store; face shield from a hardware store; and gloves and antiviral face mask from a drugstore.

Who was the model in the image, seeing that the shoot started at 11:30 pm?
The model in the image is my friend/assistant, Pat Martin. I’m grateful that he was willing to drive across town last minute, help me set everything up, and pose in the very warm and uncomfortable suits all night. Now he can say he’s been on the cover of Time Magazine.

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( Some outtakes )

Did you sleep at all?
I didn’t sleep at all. In fact, I told my wife who is also a photographer, that I’d be on set with her for a shoot she had for the Hollywood Reporter starting two hours after I delivered the final image. So, I woke up at 6 am on September 30th and didn’t go to sleep until 9 pm on October 1st. Definitely one of the longer days I’ve had.

What was the most rewarding part of this shoot?
Usually I’ll have a few days to think about an assignment before I start shooting and then a few days to live with the images afterwards. In that time there is a lot of static between my ears while trying to figure out the best decisions to make. The most rewarding part of this shoot was compressing my process to the essentials and becoming very aware of that static which I can definitely live without.

This was also my first cover for Time, which has been a goal as long as I can remember so that in and of itself is rewarding.

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