Tony Bennett

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Three years ago I got to hang out with Tony Bennett for an afternoon. Then a few weeks ago, lightening struck twice when Ronnie Weil asked me to shoot him again for Alexandra Wolfe’s Weekend Confidential column in the Wall Street Journal. Just as the first time, we would be meeting Tony at his art studio on Central Park South…

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…but Ronnie had asked men to not concentrate on the studio this time, but instead to go for a classic portrait. Keep it simple. Focus on his personality. So with that as my brief, off we went.

As you can see in the above photo of his studio, there is a lot of natural light to work with. The entire north side of the room is a wall of windows facing the Park, so I decided to use my brand new Canon 5Ds with my equally new Sigma Art lenses with all that light against a black pop-up backdrop. Here is my first test with Kaz…

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But when Tony sat in place, the entire mood changed…

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And as much as we liked the color, I also processed the entire series in black and white as well…and it was kinda awesome…

Tony Bennett

And the Journal agreed. Here’s the final page…

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But I wasn’t done yet. I had set up a couple of lights against a wall for a second portrait…

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Tony Bennett

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Thanks to Ronnie for the opportunity…and thanks to Tony for allowing me to hang out with him one more time!

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Yeah, Yeah…I’ve Been Busy!!!

September 7th

That was the last time I dropped a post on the old Blog. More than two months. That’s gotta be a record, even for me. You know, life gets in the way and things get back-burnered, but I’ve been busy. Well…if we’re being totally honest, as some of you know I have also been preoccupied …some might say abnormally preoccupied…with the National Nightmare that was the Election of 2016. And in those few moments where I could have been filling the pages of Damn Ugly Photography with my behind-the-scenes tales, I was probably watching my Twitter feed…and screaming at my monitor. But that’s over now and all we have show for it is this petulant, obnoxious, short-fingered vulgarian who’s primed to take over the country…

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But starting tomorrow, I’m gonna try my best to focus more on my own shit and less on the shit situation the country faces over the next four years. I’ve got a lotta stuff in the pipeline so keep your eyeballs on this space.

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!!!

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Bradley Tusk Hates Bill De Blasio

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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…

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

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

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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…

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Bradley Tusk

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

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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…

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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…

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Here’s how things looked with Robert standing in…

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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…

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Here’s Kaz posing as fast as he can…

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

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Bryan Cranston

Bryan Cranston

Bryan Cranston

Next, I broke out my favorite antique posing stool…

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Bryan Cranston

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

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

Bryan Cranston

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Bryan Cranston

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

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

BADFINGER: BABY BLUE

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

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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…

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

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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!!!

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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…

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

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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…

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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…

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And here’s how things turned out…

Arthur “J.R.” Fulmore…

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Arthur “JR” Fulmore - The Federation of Black Cowboys

“Mama” Kesha Morse…

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Sheryl “Kesha” Morse - The Federation of Black Cowboys

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“Mountain Man” Ellis Harris…

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

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

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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…

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

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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…

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