Big Rubber Balls, Bright Blue Walls & Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots!

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A few weeks ago, Manuela Oprea, photo editor at BloombergMarkets, offered me a job that proved to be one of the more interesting business magazine gigs I’ve done in a long time…to shoot a cover story on Barry Silbert, the Founder and CEO of SecondMarket and some of the people that make up the largest secondary market exchange dedicated to creating liquidity for illiquid assets. Silbert came up with the idea for SecondMarket when he was an investment banker struggling to sell off pieces of the bankrupt Enron…he figured, “Wouldn’t it make sense if there was an organized marketplace, like eBay, where illiquid assets could be bought and sold?”. To me it all sounded ridiculously dry and boring. So much so that when I went up to scout the place I really wasn’t expecting any of the craziness that would follow…..

First off, the offices were painted in super-bright primary colors…

…people sat on big inflated rubber balls…

…they wrote all over the walls…

…and played ping pong and air hockey to relax and had toys and games everywhere! Including this inspiring throwback to my youth…the Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots!

This ain’t your father’s stock exchange! And we were gonna have some fun!

We decided to use the bright colored walls of the reception area for the cover shot of Barry. Here’s what things looked like before we set up the lights…

And here’s what 6 lights and 5 Profoto packs will do to reality…

Next we went to work on that lime-green wall…

Which resulted in the opening spread for the story…

With Barry’s part of the shoot done, we moved on to the Green Lantern T-shirt wearin’ Chief Strategy Officer, Jeremy Smith, paired with the Uber-Traditional, buttoned-down Managing Director, Kevin O’Connor, over a nice round of Robot Boxing!

And the last shot of the day would be of Adam Oliveri, their Managing Director of Private Company Markets…

But we weren’t done yet. A few days later, Manuela called and said that the story would now include a sidebar on the venture capitalist who got SecondMarket off the ground…Lawrence Lenihan, the CEO and Managing Director of FirstMark Capital. While I was looking around for places to shoot him, I kinda barged in on lunch…..

…but it resulted in this rather tasty portrait…

But I really wanted to come away with a second shot, and the reception area had a nice feel to it…

…so after a bit of furniture moving, we did this…

And finally, to bring this endless story to a close, here’s 7 seconds of cell-phone video Manuela caught of me shooting Barry for the cover…

Mega-Investor Bill Ackman For Barron’s

$10.3 Billion Dollars. That’s the value of the funds run by Bill Ackman, the founder and CEO of hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management. When you’re in charge of that kinda money, even I know you probably don’t wanna spend a lot of time posing for pictures. But I had to shoot a cover for Barron’s and little problems like this weren’t gonna get the job done….

I went up for a location scout, but as is the case with most of the investment companies I’m tasked to photograph, where I can shoot is often extremely controlled. Pershing Square’s offices are very striking…42 floors above Central Park, ultra-modern, with white glass walls and a view most people would kill to shoot…but I didn’t really wanna do a ‘view’ portrait, and besides, I knew that Art Streiber had already done that picture for Portfolio Magazine a couple years back…and a lot of the other areas of their office we strictly off-limits because of SEC rules, so my choices were whittled down to these two spots…..

A possible cover location…

…and a second spot, in their kitchen, that had an repeated Op-Art view of a vintage print of the original Pershing Square…

Of course the two locations were on opposite sides of the floor, and of course we would have maybe ten minutes with Bill to get both photographs done! That meant setting up both shots ahead of time (with the ‘normal’ six tons of lighting gear!) and work fast. We started with the doorway shot…

…which gave Barron’s this for the cover…

And then were off to the kitchen for something a bit more relaxed…

And since we finished both shots so quickly, he even gave us another minute to re-set and blast off a few ringlight portraits, one of which sits at the top of this post.