Damn Ugly Is Best Of Show

Patti Smith photographed in the Amtrak departure lounge at Penn Station, New York City, 8/27/2015

The 2016 APA Awards Show winners were just announced, and Mr. Damn Ugly snuck out the back door with the ‘Best of Show’ honors with my portrait of Patti Smith at Penn Station! I am truly humbled and honored with this award, especially after seeing what the competition offered up. You can view the Award Gallery here:

2016 APA Awards Show Winners Gallery

Besides giving my ego a totally unnecessary boost, the Best of Show goody bag includes the following…

• Canon EOS 5Ds Camera
• ThinkTank Airport Roller Derby Case
• Adobe – One Year Creative Cloud Subscription
• Capture One Pro 9 Software
• X–Rite ColorMunki Display
• Cradoc fotosoftware – fotoBiz X program which includes fotoQuote Pro 6

• Agency Access – One Year Agency Access w/12,000 Email Credits
• Found – Basic Portfolio membership for 12 months
• Dripbook – A Premium Account for LIFE including Blog and Social Media feature

• DriveSavers Data Recovery, Inc. – $300 gift certificate
• ImageRights – One year of ImageRights Premier service

 • LiveBooks – Pro Website for Five Years

 • PhotoShelter – Five Year Pro Subscription
• Production Paradise – One Year Directory Listing
• Resource Magazine – One Year Print Subscription
• A & I – Cover & opening two–page spread in 2016 APA Awards book
• Lürzer’s Archive – A 2–page spread for Best of Show & First Place Winners
• Showcased on APA Awards Gallery
• Exclusive: APA Glass Trophy
• 2016 APA Awards Best Of Show Award Banner for website & email signature

My heartfelt thanks go out to Staff & Board of APA for putting together this competition, the judges who thought so highly of my work and the sponsors who donated all that stuff!!!


Bradley Tusk Hates Bill De Blasio


Click on any image to Enlarge

Bradley Tusk is a lot of things. He was the Deputy Governor of Illinois, the Communications Director for Senator Chuck Schumer, he’s the driving force behind Uber’s dominance in New York, he’s working to keep online sports betting sites like FanDuel up & running and he was Mike Bloomberg’s campaign manager. But right now, his primary focus is to make sure that current New York Mayor Bill De Blasio never gets a second term. He is aggressively searching for anyone who can defeat De Blasio in the next Democratic primary. And Mr. Horton needed me to capture that bulldog attitude for a feature on Tusk in the Village Voice. Here’s how it went…

Tusk Strategies had just moved into new offices and there wasn’t a whole lot of window dressing to work with…


…but this looked promising and showed the lean, mean layout of the place…


…but Kaz and I dropped a seamless for some portraits as well…


The lighting for the office space shot was super simple…a couple of bare skim lights aimed directly at Tusk with nothing more but whatever ambient light there was floating around. We did white balance the shot extremely cool to keep the mood a little chilly…


Bradley Tusk

The seamless allowed us a distraction-free setup where I could really focus on Bradley’s expressions…






Bradley Tusk

Bradley Tusk

Bradley Tusk

Here is how it looked in the Voice…and I can’t thank Ashley Smestad Vélez enough for her amazing layout…great design helps OK photography every time…


Say My Name

Bryan Cranston

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I’m gonna keep this behind-the-scenes look fairly short and sweet…kinda like my time with Bryan Cranston…because I think the portraits will sort of do all the heavy lifting. Ronnie Weil needed Mr. Cranston shot for Alexandra Wolfe’s ‘Weekend Confidential” feature in the Review section of the Wall Street Journal and I was happy enough to oblige. Here’s how we set up our pop-up studio at the London Hotel for what turned out to be a pretty great morning…

Unlike a lot of the hotel shoots I find myself in, the London gave us a pretty nice (and large) space to work with…nice enough that I was able to break out some of my really BIG guns…the 79″ Rime Lites…




Here’s how things looked with Robert standing in…


That set would allow me to do everything from full length to tight portraits, but I wanted to also have a more controlled lighting setup for another portrait, so we pulled out the beauty dish…


Here’s Kaz posing as fast as he can…


Alright…we’re ready to go. Mr. Cranston, you’re on!


Bryan Cranston

Bryan Cranston

Bryan Cranston

Next, I broke out my favorite antique posing stool…

Bryan Cranston

Bryan Cranston

After a very quick 5 minutes…with his publicist doing the countdown mambo behind me…we moved over to the second set…

Bryan Cranston

…and played around with the shadow and light on his face, getting progressively darker and moodier as we went along…

Bryan Cranston


Bryan Cranston

And here is the final story as it appeared in the Wall Street Journal…


And for you Breaking Bad fans, here’s a little Badfinger to play us out…


Life is good when you love what you do…..


Broad Sword Battles…In Harlem


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A couple of weeks ago Mr. Horton sent Kaz and I up to the New York Historical Fencing Association in East Harlem to shoot some women who like to get their ‘Game Of Thrones’ on by bashing each other in duels using broad swords!

What fun!!!

Here we go…



















Andrew did me proud with a wonderful layout in this week’s Village Voice



Thanks to Andrew and the Voice for another great opportunity and special thanks to the Women Warriors at the NYHFA…Rebecca Glass, Laura McBride, Tanya Smith and Deena Sadek…who made it look so damned mean!!!


The Federation Of Black Cowboys

Arthur “JR” Fulmore - The Federation of Black Cowboys

This was one of those situations that shows you never know where the flow of your career is gonna take you. Andrew Horton…the Creative Director at The Village Voice…asked if I wanted to shoot some Black Cowboys…in Queens. The Federation of Black Cowboys is a group of urban cowpokes whose goal is to promote knowledge of the “Black West”. Their Ponderosa for the past two decades is a ramshackle stable just off Conduit Boulevard in Howard Beach, but recently their membership has dwindled to around 20 die-hards and now they face losing the license agreement for the stables. Andrew and I wanted my portraits to capture a gritty, iconic essence of what it is to be a Cowboy…and we also agreed that our touchstone style should be an homage to Richard Avedon’s In The American West. So off to Queens we went…

Unlike Avedon, I wasn’t going to drag out the 8×10 and set up a North-Light studio in the shadow of a barn…


Instead, we decided to make a huge wall of soft light by putting up the biggest lights I own…


The only problem is, when you fly a 79″ parabolic light in 25mph wind as we had that day, the shit hits the fan awfully fast. Even with over 100lbs of sandbags on each 50lb Matthews Stand, it was like trying to hold down a racing sailboat in a Regatta! But I didn’t care…Kaz had to deal with it…


But our basic setup was pretty similar to Avedon’s…a simple white seamless set up on the North side of one of the stables…




And here’s how things turned out…

Arthur “J.R.” Fulmore…


Arthur “JR” Fulmore - The Federation of Black Cowboys

“Mama” Kesha Morse…


Sheryl “Kesha” Morse - The Federation of Black Cowboys


“Mountain Man” Ellis Harris…

Ellis “Mountain Man” Harris - The Federation of Black Cowboy

Ellis “Mountain Man” Harris - The Federation of Black Cowboy


Even though we had always conceived the shoot as a high-contrast Black & White series, we still wanted to see how things looked in color…




…but in the end, the B&W was just too strong, and here’s how it looks in this week’s Village Voice




Thanks to Andrew for giving me the opportunity to hang with some real cool cats…and special thanks to J.R., Kesha and Mountain Man for opening up the stables to a Dude from the City…


Conference Room 101

“Here is the Conference Room we booked for the shoot…Mr. [enter name here] will be with you shortly…..”


The above mentioned phrase is what I hear about 90% of the time when I arrive at a business for a corporate portrait…and about 99% of the time I bail on the Conference Room simply because they are usually the last place I want to do a portrait. But there are those times when you have no choice…either the offices are too small or too busy or too boring…so sometimes you gotta dig deep to come away with a decent shot in a beige room that is overpowered by a massive immovable table. Here’s how we shot Ross Margolies of Stelliam Investment Management for Barron’s last week…

Like I said…beige


For the first shot, I liked the banquette seating that ran along the windows…the leading lines of the seating and verticals of the windows & back wall added a nice graphic element…but our first test showed off it’s more normal aspects, like all those uninteresting warm tones. The ‘normal’ white balance of around 5100K was just awful. Some creative white-balancing was called for…


By simply opening up the shutter from 1/125th to 1/10th to let in more of that daylight in we immediately cooled things off. I also added a grid to the 3′ mini-octa main light that focused the light onto the subject and off the back wall. But then I dropped the white balance to 4000K and put a half CTO gel on the main light to keep the subject in a warm spot of light, but allowed the surroundings to keep the blue hue. Time for Ross to sit in…

Ross Margolies - Stelliam Investment Management LP

I did pull in a bit on the vignette in CaptureOne to further darken the edges of the frame to keep the attention on the subject. Then we moved around for a few other angles…

Ross Margolies - Stelliam Investment Management LP

…then we trimmed the power on both the fill and main lights for these slightly more dramatic views…



But before we packed it it for the day, we still had time for a second quick shot. The other side of the Conference Room had the requisite Wall-Of-Frosted-Glass…a favorite of corporate photographers the World over…so we aimed a couple of blue-filtered lights directly into the wall (you can see them in the photo at the top of the post), cranked the power all the way up to blow out most of the details, and used another 3′ mini-octa for our main light…



Here’s how things looked in Barron’s…


American Photography AP32 Winners


The American Photography AP32 Winners Slide Show will be announced tomorrow. I got two photographs accepted…

The portrait of Judy Collins I did for the Wall Street Journal…

Judy Collins

And my shot of Patti Smith in the Amtrak departure area at Penn Station…

Patti Smith photographed in the Amtrak departure lounge at Penn Station, New York City, 8/27/2015

You can see these…and all the rest of the winners…over at the AP32 Winners Gallery here:

AP32 Winners Gallery