A Tiny Sofa and a Big Table for Barron’s…

My eclectic tour of the Nation’s boardrooms recently took me to the offices of Riverpark Capital, where I was to photograph Morty Schaja, Mitch Rubin and Conrad van Tienhoven for a Barron’s profile. Lest any of you think that the life of a photographer is all Supermodels and hangin’ with Diddy, I beg you to read on…

Riverpark’s midtown office would never be described using words such as ‘opulent’, ‘palatial’ or ‘ostentatious’. But they are hardly alone in this…most places I find myself having to shoot in are equally utilitarian…but it can rattle my bones when I keep seeing the same furniture, cubicles, lighting and paint used again and again and again. Still, after a quick tour of the space, I decided to begin in the reception area…

…sort of a mini-history of the financial markets as seen through the eyes of Time Magazine. I kinda thought it would be a good place to start, so we dropped Mitch and Morty onto the little couch and went to work…

But we also had to photograph a situation with Conrad, the third partner in the firm, and there was zero chance of him fitting on that couch. That part of the story brings us to this conference room…

The first thing you gotta do when faced with the dreaded White Board/Conference Table scenario is ignore how frightfully normal the situation is and try to envision it instead as a set piece that will only work because of the personality you can bring to it. That first means usually cleaning it up and add some tasty lighting…

Next, stir in the talent…

…but the whole serious/symmetrical thing wasn’t doin’ it for me, so I told the guys to just go about doing what they normally do…let loose and ignore me…and they did…

…and that kind of unguarded moment was exactly what Adrian wanted for the story…

Song of the Day



GABRIELLE AIMEE
I Know Better


DOWNLOAD: I Know Better

Maybe you’ve read about our album cover shoot, but now you can hear what all the fuss is about. Gabrielle Aimée has a new album coming out and stylistically it’s a huge departure from her earlier work. Some of that might have to do with teaming up with Leo Sidran who produced, arranged and played all the instruments, and Hector Coulon handling the recording and mixing, but from the first few chords on ‘I Know Better’, her vocals slide into a warm, comfortable place that instantly draw you into the song. Check out her new facebook Band Page, and make sure you listen to the bluesy ‘Have You Ever’, a song she penned with Song of the Day favorite Nadia Ackerman. And for you New Yorkers looking for something to do over the Thanksgiving weekend, Gabrielle will be playing at Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 1 on Saturday November 26 at 5:00PM

Keeping It Simple With Gabrielle Aimée

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When my friend Gabrielle Aimée asked me to shoot her new CD cover, she was very specific. She wanted to keep it very simple, but very direct. She wanted an intimate connection with the viewer, with minimal styling…maybe just a white t-shirt. Oh yeah…and we had to keep it dirt cheap, ‘cuz in case you forgot, my indie friends aren’t exactly rolling in GaGa Money to throw at their self promotion!

Now one of the things that always impresses people when they first arrive at Damn Ugly Photography is the giant 17 foot by 9 foot high South-facing window that greets them, and on the day Gibbles came up to my place to go over a few ideas, I had her stand up against the wall next to that window and popped off a few quick frames, just to see how she looked on camera with no styling and just a big wash of soft light…I was kinda blown away with the results…

So blown away, in fact, that I told her maybe we should just shoot here, and use the same big, soft lighting. I had an idea to include some rough hewn wood planks and maybe a painters canvas drop as backgrounds, but the real focus had to be her expressions. With that in mind, here’s a bit of what we did…

We started with a few seated poses on my new plank floor…

After a quick wardrobe change we did a few close-ups, but amped-up the window lighting to brighten things up a bit…

Then I turned our plank floor into a wall and we moved in this direction…

And even though we were diggin’ the window light, I figured I would fire up a couple of lights and do a few moodier variations…

And then, just when we thought we might be done, I messed her hair up, cranked up the ringlight, and things took on a totally different look…

Finally, Gibbles told me she wanted to do something fun for her boyfriend, Brendan Brown, the driving force behind the cult alt-rock group, Wheatus. That ‘something’ involved her brand new guitar…and not much else

Gabrielle is set to release ‘I Know Better’…the first single off the album…and all you have to do is go to today’s Song of the Day to download it.

Up On The Roof, Playing Soccer With A Billionaire

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Normally when you get the call to shoot a Billionaire industrialist, you can pretty much bet you’re gonna have five minutes in a stark boardroom and there won’t be a whole lotta fun involved. This was exactly what Jeff Beasley…the Picture Editor at FourFourTwo magazine…hoped wouldn’t happen when he asked me to shoot Bob Rich, the Chairman of Rich Products Corporation, for a feature on unlikely soccer club owners. Rich had recently gotten involved with the Bedlington Terriers F.C.…a small football club playing in the Northern League based in Bedlington, England…after tracing his family tree back to the area and after his wife purchased the title of Lord Bedlington for him as a gift. Jeff wanted a portrait that would show Rich’s Big City American roots…something that might mimic a photograph I did of Howard Sontag high above Madison Avenue…while still tying in the Soccer aspect of the story. It turned out the Buffalo-based billionaire was going to be in New York City for a couple of days, but his schedule was extremely tight. We had a tiny window of opportunity to shoot him at his hotel…the Peninsula New York…but while extremely nice, was not exactly a soccer pitch in midtown. I called the hotel and their P/R person told me they that since it was Mr. Rich, they would gladly make the roof bar area available to us and that it has a “lovely view” of Central Park. Feeling buoyed by that news, I headed uptown (in the rain) to scout it out. This was the “lovely view” of the Park…

It wasn’t exactly the pastoral oasis amongst the concrete I had envisioned, but panning the roof I figured I could make something with what I had to work with…

The next morning the rain had stopped and Kaz and I arrived at the (extremely humid) crack of dawn and went about moving the 50 or so tables out of the way to turn the Salon de Ning Rooftop Lounge into our studio for the day…

With the sun out, lighting was super simple…all we needed was the Mola Setti on a boom and the backlighting did the rest…

We even broke out the tried & true ‘Ball Juggling’ routine…

Bob approves…

…and FourFourTwo liked it, too…

Song of the Day


CAMERAS
June


DOWNLOAD: June

It’s been about 8 months since I gave you guys a taste of Cameras when I offered up ‘Polarise’ from their self-titled EP, but last week they finally released their first album, In Your Room, and I’ve had it locked on ‘repeat’ all day. I simply can’t get enough of Eleanor Dunlop’s beautiful, mystically dreamy voice and the way she can take the lyrics and swirl & spin them into her own shimmering, gossamer instrument. I dare you to decypher what she is singing on the first go-round, but once you figure it out you will melt…

I traded my heart
For a new one
I stole I stole I stole
Away away away…

If you know me at all, you know I’m a sucker for exactly this type of lush, layered, shoegazey Pop, but I’ve been jonesing for this record from the moment I first heard ‘Polarise’, and these guys really delivered! I strongly advise a trip to the iTunes Store to pick this one up and then head over to facebook and ‘Like’ Cameras.

And as a bonus, here’s the video for ‘June’

Optical Illusions & Ice Cream Cones

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For Part Two of my story featuring Anthony “Superman” Scaramucci, Bloomberg Markets magazine had me head back up to SkyBridge Capital to photograph Managing Partner Ray Nolte and Senior Portfolio Manager and Managing Director Troy Gayeski. Since I had already shot their boss shadow boxing in his office surrounded by cartoon characters, I kinda had to think of something equally offbeat for their portrait, but the rest of the SkyBridge office was decidedly not offbeat. It was, quite frankly…pretty utilitarian…office cubicles and a rather small trading area. But as Kaz and I were walking the halls we passed a tiny little kitchen area that caught my eye…

Now, I’ve been shooting guys in their offices my entire professional life, but this was the first box of ice cream cones I’ve ever come across. And even though the space was barely big enough to swing a cat, ice cream cones in a financial office had to be a sign to stop and take a photograph! So we did…

…and when Troy…who is actually at least an inch taller than Ray…jumped off the counter and stood next to him, we pulled off this almost Funhouse Mirror-style image…

Even though they were standing next to each other, the combination of the super wide-angle lens I was using and Troy leaning back slightly on the counter made him look freakishly small! But it certainly makes you stop and look.

Next, we decided to shoot them in the Sea of Cubicles that made up the trading area, but add a little bit of surreality by dropping a white seamless behind them…

…and the final image…

Song of the Day

BIRD CALL
The Ballad Of New York

A few weeks ago the crew at Damn Ugly Photography took the ‘L’ Train out to Williamsburg for an impromptu cover shoot with Chiara Angelicola…Bird Call to the rest of you. She needed a photo for her jazzy new single and I’ve been dying to shoot her for a while, so was certainly willing to help out. That single…The Ballad Of New York…came out this week and I’m giving you guys an exclusive first listen here. Her smokey & souful vocal, backed up by the cascading piano and the oh-so-sad wail of the saxophone give me goosebumps every time I play this song. She co-produced ‘Ballad’ with Noah Hoffeld, and it will be featured on the new album she’s recording now. Unlike most Songs of the Day, I’m only attaching the mp3 player and not the usual full-download link (you folks on iPads will likely have to fire up the old desktop computer to listen), ‘cuz after all, Chiara is 100% indie and needs to make a few bucks every once and a while…if I go giving everything away for free she’ll be stuck eating pork ‘n beans, so please, head on over to her website (where you can also pick up her two earlier EP’s, “The Animals Know” & “Other Creatures”) or iTunes and show her some love ($) by downloading there!

Then head over to her facebook page and Like It!

Anthony Scaramucci is Superman!!!

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Even with the highly charged, Occupy Wall Street attitude that is gripping the country, you hafta look at Anthony Scaramucci as a pretty interesting guy. Besides being the founder and managing partner of SkyBridge Capital, an asset management fund with about $8 billion in the bank, at 47 he’s already written his autobiography…‘Goodbye, Gordon Gekko: How to Find Your Fortune Without Losing Your Soul’…had a cameo in Oliver Stone’s ‘Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps’, volunteers on the board of The Lymphoma Foundation and The Brain Tumor Foundation, is a rabid Mets fan who also hangs out with New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan, got nicknamed “Gucci Scaramucci” by former President George W. Bush, and he has enough jam to draw investment superstars like Steven Cohen, Leon Cooperman and Kenneth Griffin and political heavies like Colin Powell and Gordon Brown, to the SkyBridge Alternatives Conference, his annual symposium for hedge-fund managers and investors. But when I was sent to photograph him for Bloomberg Markets magazine, the one thing that jumped out at me was his unabashed love for all things Superman! Every wall and surface in his office has Superman memorabilia…posters, painting, games, sculptures…it was like I got sent to a 12 year-old kid’s room, and not the office of a Master of the Universe. But I quickly understood how this street-smart Harvard Law School graduate who wants “…to be the Peter Lynch of the hedge-fund industry!” held the Good vs. Evil metaphors that are at the center of every Superman cartoon close to heart, so we ran with it…

For once, Bo was the perfect height to act as a stand-in…

Our Barrel-Chested Financial Man of Steel…

…and the completed opening spread, with new creative director Siung Tjia’s Superman cape graphic that wraps the headline…