The American Heart Association Goes To Bushwick

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December was a pretty busy month here at Damn Ugly. We had a number of very involved shoots booked, including a week-long gig that took us out of town. It was right in the middle of this swirl of work that Rena Wong called me. Rena is a Creative Director at CDM New York and my friend James Wigger told her about me. She wanted to know if I could shoot a Pro-Bono gig for the American Heart Association. I’ll make a long story short by saying I agreed before I even asked when they wanted to shoot…which turned out to be in a week! That would be right after I got back from my week-long road trip. That gave me very little time to assemble a lotta moving parts…stylists, hair and makeup, assistants, gear…and the most important thing…a location that would give us 6 separate locations for the ads.

I had a few days before I headed outta town, so we started with finding talent that would agree to chip in and work gratis. And it’s a big ask…this was going to be a very long, action packed shoot. I called my regulars, but everyone was either booked or heading outta town for the Xmas holidays. But through referrals and word of mouth, we locked down a fantastic crew. CDM was handling the model casting, which would include a broad spectrum of women…ranging in age from a teenager up to a senior citizen.

Now for that location…

The brief for the ‘Go Red For Women’ campaign called for all of the shots to have a cohesive hip, urban/grungey feel. If we were shooting any other time than the end of December, outdoor locations would certainly make sense, but doing this thing in 20 degree temps wasn’t a good idea. I knew of a number of studios that had the right kind of messed up appeal I could use, so I began shotgunning out emails to see if someone could offer us a space for nothing. But I immediatley had one place in particular in mind…The 1896 in Bushwick. It’s a collection of glorious, rough & tumble warehouse spaces where just pointing in any direction would give us our six shots and they would all have that connected look we wanted. I have tried to book The 1896 a number of times in the past, but it’s amazingly popular and was never able to book any of their spaces. But I got a reply almost immediately from Jen Durbin…the 1896’s founder. She told me if I could be flexible with my shoot date, she could offer the entire place…four individual studios…for no fee! Then she told me why. Her sister had died from heart disease. She wanted to do whatever she could to help us out. I gotta say, I am still quite overwhelmed by her story and her generosity.

So I took a drive out to Bushwick for a look around…

We were set.

With CDM casting our talent and my stylist, Stella Montoya, furiously pulling props and wardrobe, I headed out for my road trip shoot. We got back late Thursday night, less than a week before Christmas. That really only gave me Friday to tighten things up before the shoot. We arrived at The 1896 at 8:00AM on Sunday. Until the heat got cranked up, it was meat-locker brisk in there! Besides Rena, I would be working with Art Director Katie Zheng. The first thing Katie and I did…shortly after getting a cup of coffee…was to block out our six shots…

So with our Hair & Makeup team thing care of business…

…we got to work on the six setups!

Number one featured Leiti, an Asian-American Social Media influencer who was perfectly cast as a hip & happening girl on the go. Kaz worked fine as a stand-in…

Enter Leiti…

Next up was Danna, our Latina Hip-Hop dancer…

You can see in the shot above the basic lighting setup we used for all of the shots…our main light was a 47” Rime Light Octa…but what you don’t see are the many other filtered lights bouncing around to fill and/or brighten the backgrounds. The 1896 is a lotta things, but despite their skylights, a daylight studio it ain’t! We had multiple heads high up on 24’ high Mombo-Combo stands that did a great job of pumping up the contrast and highlighting the colors in the background.

These next two shots show my color grading from the RAW file to my final tweaked color…

RAW File…

Color Corrected Image…

We stuck Raphaella…our mixed-race (Chinese/Italian/Slovak) teen…in the corner next to the bathroom. Oh yeah…Raphaella’s also Rena’s daughter!

We used James for our stand-in for Donna…our retired 60+ woman…simply because his white beard matched her white hair perfectly…

Svetlanna’s back story was that of a graffiti artist, urban fashionista and Instagram influencer. This first photo of her on set shows why we really needed those background lights…

After adding one light…

…and a second…

And our final image…

It was late in the day by the time we got to our final setup with Dana…our athletic sports enthusiast…whatever available light there was outside was fading fast. That wasn’t great cuz our last shot had a wall of windows as our background. The one-light first shot was pretty dark, even at 1/8th of a second…

So we added in some background lights and dropped the shutter speed all the way to half a second…

…but that half a second exposure meant we would be shooting in the dark…

After we cleaned up the flare from the back lights, here’s the final image…

Now while all this was going on, we had set up a totally separate scenario in another studio where I photographed each person after they came off set…

Here’s how everybody looked…

And here are all of the final ads that are appearing right now around New York, in the NYC Subway and Bus Shelters around town…

If all this ain’t enough for you, here’s a behind the scenes video the folks at CDM put together from our day in Bushwick!

And finally…PHEW!!!…thanks to all of the wonderful people who helped us make this campaign a great success…

Denise Henry – Chief Strategy Officer CDM
Rena Wong – Creative Director/Producer CDM
Katie Zheng – Art Lead CDM
Kelly Kinder – Account Lead CDM
Dan Torres – Accounts CDM
Sam Dixon – Art Director CDM
Chris De Maria – Copy Lead CDM
Michael Davis – Copy CDM
Jen Durbin – The 1896 Studios
Models – Donna Tucci, Danna Crooke, Raphaella Bamonte, Svetlanna Farinha, Dana Candelino & Leiti Hsu
Makeup – Regina Harris
Hair – Kiyo Igarashi
Styling – Stella Montoya
Assistants – Kaz Sakuma & James Wigger

5 thoughts on “The American Heart Association Goes To Bushwick

  1. Great work, and I am convinced that this pro-bono stuff goes it right into the heart of anybody who sees it. Greetings to all the wonderful people out there in New York City.

  2. Love the clarity and the lighting and how you transformed indoor lightening to make it look like outside lighting coming in also the colours were spot on. Made for spectacular pics and really loved how you made it look beautifully. What a wonderful cause Brad. Bravo!!

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