President Barack Obama for BusinessWeek

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There are assignments…and then there are assignments. Last Friday afternoon I had just finished a location scout and was heading up to my place in Connecticut when I got a phone call from BusinessWeek…..Director of Photography Ronnie Weil, Art Director Andrew Horton and Photo Editor Sarah Morse were on the speaker phone and they obviously had something big to tell me. All at once, they practically screamed, “We’ve got ten minutes with the President on Monday…do you wanna do the shoot?!!”. I think I paused for a fraction of a second and thought I was getting punked…then I said “OF COURSE!!!”.

The next few hours took us all on a bit of a roller coaster ride…..first we went from half the editorial staff of the magazine wanting to come along, while I would bring two assistants and a few tons of gear for the intense, overly complex formal cover situation. Then, as we learned more details of what kind of access the White House would allow, it appeared that I might have to go in paparazzi style…just me and a single camera bag going into the Oval Office to document the Q & A, with no time to do an extra set up. But in the end I was able to get Bo to assist me and Ronnie was coming to produce, run defense and feed me Klonopin to calm my nerves. Steve Adler, the Editor in Chief and Washington Bureau Chief Jane Sasseen would be asking the questions and it was up to me to come up with not only a killer cover image, but additional portraits of the President to illustrate the story. We had hopes to still get that second cover shot, but the main focus had to be to photograph the interview in such a way that we could walk away with exceptional cover art.

Bo and Ronnie waiting it out in the White House Pressroom
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Even though this would be my fourth time in the White House, you can never foresee how things will come together on the day of a shoot like this. In fact, the same day we were shooting, one of my old assistants, Charlie Samuels, was supposed to get his own session with the President a few hours before us…but his shoot was cancelled at the last minute. As if I didn’t have enough on my mind, when he texted me that his shoot was nuked all I could think was, “Please God, let things work out for us!”.

So with a couple of hours to go before our ten minutes, we got to horse around in the Pressroom…..

Your New White House Press Director!
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And we even got to sit in on a press briefing (click on image for full-size)…..
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Ronnie looking extremely professional…..
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But eventually we were ushered into the West Wing through the rabbit warren-like maze that surrounds the Oval Office. After a brief introduction, Steve and Jane immediately began the interview and I got started by shoving Bo right in the middle of things for a white-balance test shot…..

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And then a funny thing happened…our ‘ten minutes’ somehow got stretched to more than half an hour! I still didn’t get a chance to do a set-up portrait, but the extra time really allowed me to focus on getting some truly amazing and expressive shots while the interview went on.

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…and here are a few pages from today’s BusinessWeek…..

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But of course, the fun had to end. The press handlers gave the President the high sign and our big adventure came to an end…but not before we got our grip & grin photos with the Most Powerful Man in the Free World!!!

First, he grabbed Ronnie and pulled her close…
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…while I got the more traditional smile and a handshake…..
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Don’t let anyone tell ya photographing the President ain’t all it’s cracked up to be!

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Song of the Day

HALLELUJAH THE HILLS
Blank Passports


DOWNLOAD: Blank Passports

OK…enough of the quiet stuff…let’s head into the weekend with a lovely bit of melodic noise from Boston’s Hallelujah The Hills. Underneath the wall of instrumental goop crammed into this song, there is some damned smart writing in there delivered with Ryan Walsh’s angry vocal. ‘Blank Passports’ is off of their forthcoming album, Colonial Drones, due out in September and you can hear more over on MySpace

hth

Song of the Day

BLITZEN TRAPPER
Furr


DOWNLOAD: Furr

As I sit here getting radiation burns from the glow of my computer monitors, a little fried after retouching the 500 or so images from my shoots this week, I’m being lulled into a soft & fuzzy place by the warm harmonies of Blitzen Trapper’s latest album, Furr, an amazing recording they modestly call ‘fine homemade music’, but what is actually some of the most beautifully crafted ballads and wonderfully meandering alt-country stuff I’ve heard in a long time. OK…I suppose the ‘homemade’ thing is accurate since in true indie form it was put together by guitarist-vocalist Eric Earley in the band’s telegraph-building-turned-studio in their home town of Portland, Oregon, but the result is a cohesive collection of imaginative, heartfelt and revealing storytelling. Head over to their MySpace page and give ’em a look.

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Song of the Day

JOE HENRY
Death To The Storm


DOWNLOAD: Death To The Storm

It’s been a couple of years since Madonna’s brother-in-law (yes…that Madonna), Joe Henry, was on The List, but he’s got a new album set to drop next month and for anyone who loves his atmospheric, bluesy/jazzy, warmly narcoleptic tales told in an ever so slightly Tom Waits-y fashion, I think Blood From Stars should make you happy. While he’s probably still better known as a producer of underappreciated R&B veterans like Solomon Burke and Bettye LaVette, or for his work with bigger names like Aimee Mann and Ani DiFranco, Henry’s growling barroom croon and his opulently layered, warm sound instantly draws you into his dark sonic world, populated by lounge lizards, drunks, thieves and whores. Check him out on MySpace or at Joe Henry Loves You Madly

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Song of the Day

WHEELS ON FIRE
I’m Turning Into You


DOWNLOAD: I’m Turning Into You

I’m feeling something wonderfully retro in an Iggy/MC-5/Lou Reed-y kinda way with this song by this Athens, Ohio quartet…the off-key, screamy vocals, the 60’s gurgling keyboards, the fuzzy guitar riffs…it’s just a perfect bit of unadorned, lo-fi, straight-up Rock & Roll for this sweltering summer day! ‘I’m Turning Into You’ is off of their new album, Get Famous, and if it gets you going the way it’s been doin’ it to me, you can check the kidz out further on their MySpace page

WheelsonFire

Song of the Day

HOPE SANDOVAL
Blanchard


DOWNLOAD: Blanchard

Being a huge Mazzy Star fan, it was like Christmas in July today when I found out that after more than 8 years, Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions are set to release a new album this fall. I probably played ‘Among My Swan’ so much back in the day, my friends might have thought I was suicidal, but it was just that I have always been moved by her darkly-themed songwriting and opiate-induced, sadly sexual vocal style. The Warm Inventions is her partnership with My Bloody Valentine drummer Colm Ó Cíosóig and while the resulting songs are eerily reminiscent of both of their previous bands, the styling he’s brought from My Bloody Valentine is more lush, more meticulously arranged…almost over-ripe…but ambiguous enough as not to overpower her wistful, husky voice which mines new depths of melancholy that only a double-dose of Lexapro can cure. ‘Through the Devil Softly’ is set to drop September 15th, but in the meantime you can check out Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions on her website.

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Song of the Day

DARKER MY LOVE
Talking Words


DOWNLOAD: Talking Words

It’s late, but while I sit here waiting for this hard drive to finish backing up the final bits of some 350 gigabytes of data after I’ve spent the last two days of my life dealing with repeated Apple crashes, kernel panics, multiple angry calls to SOS APPLE and just what ya might call generally shitty times, I figured I’d spit out what I’m listening to. This ain’t exactly new…it’s off of Darker My Love’s second album, ‘2’, that was released last summer…but I was over on the NME site earlier today and saw the album is only now getting a UK release, so in honor of that and the fact that I’ve been playing ‘2’ all afternoon, here ya go! If ya wanna listen to even more Darker My Love, check out their MySpace page.

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