Josh Silverman of ETSY for the London Sunday Times

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Andrew Mitchell, my editor at the London Sunday Times, sent us out to Brooklyn to the headquarters of Etsy…the online site where all the cool kids go to buy and sell hand-crafted and vintage stuff…to shoot their CEO, Josh Silverman. In less than three years, Silverman has taken a company that had slowing sales growth, climbing expenses and a stock price that had slumped 65 percent from it’s IPO, into a true Juggernaut in the space. Etsy’s investors love the guy and what his ideas have done for the formerly foundering company. It was sorta my job to illustrate those big ideas in a portrait…

Walking around Etsy’s two huge buildings in DUMBO, we passed by this kitchen space…

Now I’m not the kinda guy who lets a good metaphor go unnoticed, and those hanging light bulbs just screamed BIG IDEA…so we quickly threw up some lights and I had Robert jump up on that table…

The lighting was pretty simple…we let the windows bleed in a ton of ambient light to blow out the details from outside, and I added a couple of very bright rim lights on either side, then just dropped in some front fill from a gridded Profoto RFI boomed high above him…

After tweeking the color balance and contrast, this is how things were looking…

It was getting there, but it still needed some more drama…a bit more theatrical lighting oomph…so I added a mask (I was shooting tethered to Capture One Pro) and by using some reverse-clarity and really increasing the contrast, it gave the lightbulbs a wonderful glowing halo effect…

My ‘Light Bulb Over The Head’ metaphor was complete…

Just down the a hallway from our lightbulb shot was the Etsy Lab…sort of a ‘Test Kitchen’ that Esty suppliers can come and play in. It sorta has the feel of the ultimate Elementary School art class, with all the buttons, bows, paints, beads and glue sticks you would ever need to do whatever you might wanna do!

Sarah Marx, our liaison from Etsy, sat in for a quick iPhone test shot…

…and after a good dose of styling and lighting, we turned it into this…

And Josh dug it…

Here is the final page as it appeared in The Times…

Big Dogs On Staten Island

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I’ve been working with Uber-Designer Patrick Mitchell and Nicole Dyer from NYU Langone Medical Center for quite a while and when I get the call to photograph one of their patients, I can usually be sure the day will be something we haven’t had to tackle before. This was the case when Nicole asked me to shoot Artie Zuckerman, a retired NYC Cop who was treated for prostate cancer at the Perlmutter Cancer Center. So Kaz and I loaded up the van and headed over the Verrazzano Bridge to Staten Island…..

I immediately fell in love with the suburban image of Artie’s front porch…let’s get to work!

But what really got me excited about the steps was I knew I wanted to shoot Artie with his puppies…his three really, really big puppies!

Now if you think wrangling three rambunctious Great Danes is easy, lemme burst your bubble and assure you it is not. After more than half an hour of trying for one frame where everything came together, I’m happy to report that we got just ONE…

With the pooch portrait in the bag, we needed to get another setup for the story. At 68, Artie has a 31-inch waist, a 46-inch chest, and can knock out 20 chin-ups…so we wanted to show how fit he was after his successful treatment. He suggested going to the beach where he does his daily run with the dogs…

You can read Artie’s story here on the NYU Langone site.

Sam Edelman – The Shoe King

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Sam Edelman began his career in shoes when Ralph Lauren had him produce a line of equestrian-inspired footwear, but then he went on to co-found Kenneth Cole Productions, and launched the shoe division at Esprit. Sam Edelman was the Shoe King. Jessica Fitzgerald, the Art Director at Footwear News, asked me to shoot a “Legends’ cover for the magazine…the first time I’d ever done an assignment for them!

Our shot list was long…and we’d only have a couple of hours…so Kaz and I loaded up the van and headed to the Sam Edelman Showroom in midtown for our audience with The King…

The first thing we saw when we arrived was the large showroom area…

Jessie liked my series of ‘Artificial Portraits’ and thought this would make for a nice warts-and-all, behind-the-scenes cover setup…

Enter The King…

Jessie nailed it with her cover layout…

For our second shot, I noticed a corner of the showroom was papered in a stylized ‘E’ pattern…

And there was also a similarly colored display case…

We used the display case as a table and positioned it in front of the wall…

Lighting was a single 20″ Profoto beauty dish (softened & gridded) with a 7′ Impact umbrella directly behind me and the camera…

Jessie liked the idea of Sam in his corner office…

…so the styling crew went to work…

…but Kaz and I had to add a bit more light, drop the color temperature to accentuate the blue, and open up to a 1/4 second shutter speed to blow out the window exposure. We dropped a couple of bare heads in the corners aimed back at Sam’s chair…with no other front light or fill…to mimic a hot Sun light…

This became the opener for the story…

Now after three pretty involved setups, Sam was about done…but Jessie and I pressed for one more very quick portrait. We went back to out first setup on white. I could have just used the existing light and come in close for a tight portrait, but instead I dropped in a white flat for a table and started with just the small Strip Light that we were using for a skim light…

Then we swung the 3′ Profoto RFI around high and to the left side…

Playing around with the Kelvin slider, we decided cooler was better…

…but Sam’s icy stare made the photo…

You can read about Sam Edelman’s Wild Ride here…and thanks Jessie, for what I hope is the beginning of a long working relationship!

Salman Rushdie for WSJ

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The phone rang…and we got to spend the morning with Salman Rushdie”. The celebrated author just released his fourteenth novel…Quichotte, which was just added to the shortlist for this year’s Booker Prize…and Elizabeth Winkler was interviewing him for the Weekend Confidential column.

Here’s a look at our time with Salman…

The first setup couldn’t be simpler…a single 5-foot parabolic umbrella flying high on a boom, a couple of layered backdrops (courtesy of Gravity Backdrops) and an old, beat up farm table…

Very classic and very contrasty…

For the second portrait, we went with a boomed, gridded, diffused 20″ Profoto Beauty Dish high and directly overhead, filled with another five-footer behind the camera…

Here’s how it looked…

Finally, I moved in tighter…

That was the one…..

Photographing The Maestro…Jaap Van Zweden

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Oscar Schafer called me up to see if I had an interest in photographing Jaap Van Zweden, the new conductor of the New York Philharmonic. I’ve know Oscar for over a decade…having photographed him ever year for the Barron’s Round Table…but Oscar is also the Chairman of NYPHIL and he trusted me to get images of Jaap that they could use to introduce him to New York! What with rehearsals and performances, his time was pretty tight, but if I could set up a studio at Lincoln Center, we’d be given the opportunity…..so off we went!

They had requested a white background option, but since I knew Jaap would be wearing his all-black attire, for our first setup I added a black flat to split the scene in half to play off the black/white aspect. And we kept the lighting fairly strong on the dark side to let him stand out…

Thank God my assistants usually wear all-black…it makes it easier when I use them as stand-ins!

Jaap immediately understood the attitude we were looking for…

And then for the all-white option, we just pulled the flat out of the way and put our main light on a boom directly above Japan…

For a literal 180 degree twist, we had an all-black set ready to go at the other side of the room…a 5-foot umbrella and 20 feet of black velvet…

With the lighting dialed in, now it was Jaap’s turn…

Here’s how it looked on the Philharmonic’s Playbill…

Now the folks at the Philharmonic were happy with what we already shot, but I convinced them to give me a few minutes more to try something inside David Geffen concert hall. Since it was a last minute thing, we didn’t have time to pop off any behind-the-scenes stuff, but my idea was to shoot Jaap from the stage sitting in the seats. Like this…

But how about trying it Black & White?

Or wider??

Or how about we add a few musicians?!!

All in all, everybody had a pretty fun day…including Oscar who stole Jaap’s baton…

John Lithgow For The Wall Street Journal

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As time goes by, when it comes to my portrait work, a lot of how I judge success or failure relates to how I can connect with a subject…usually in an extremely limited time frame. Oh sure, I gotta come away with a beautiful portrait or two, but I really want to also learn a little of the people who spend time in front of my lens. So when The Wall Street Journal called and said we were gonna get ‘some time’ to shoot John Lithgow for Weekend Confidential and would I be interested, I knew that meant very little time, but I still immediately screamed “YES!!!”…cuz getting to pick his brain…and take a few photos…was gonna be fun!

Lithgow is epic. He’s an actor’s actor. I’d pay gold to watch him open an envelope! He was doing promotion for his new play, “Hillary And Clinton”, and we would be given a slot on a day that included a matinee performance followed by his appearing on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” followed by the evening performance, so I knew things had to be nailed down. On with the show…

For our first setup, I got to use a couple of new canvasses I recently got from Gravity Backdrops. They’re essentially the same…both a very low texture dark grey…and I layered the smaller of the two on top of the larger to create a bit of depth & shadow. For lighting, it’s pretty simple…just a 5′ parabolic umbrella on a boom jacked up as high as I could get it…

Gotta love one light…

I showed him a few lighting test shots of Richard and he said he understood the direction I was going towards…serious, thoughtful and introspective.

Mr. Lithgow, enter Stage Left…

In between shots, we talked about his new play, his career, his time as a student at Harvard, and a whole lot more. Then we moved on to our feature portrait, where we used two more Gravity drops and a sawhorse tabletop…lit with a 20″ gridded Profoto Beauty dish and filled by another 5-footer…

With just a bit of finesse…mostly just adding a flag camera right to throw a little shadow on the background and the side of John’s face…it looked like this…

It was the exact mood I was aiming at…

Finally, before he left, John insisted on photographing…me!

He grabbed the Hasselblad and immortalized me thusly…

All in all, it was a typically quick session…but extremely satisfying.

You can check out the final results over at The Wall Street Journal

Armie Hammer…Is Very Tall!!!

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Armie Hammer. The Social Network…The Lone Ranger…Nocturnal Animals…Call Me by Your Name…that guy! And since his new film…On the Basis of Sex…was opening Christmas Day, Ronnie Weil had me photograph all Six-Foot Five of him for a feature profile for Weekend Confidential in the Wall Street Journal…and we had a blast!

Robert was doing the heavy lifting on this shoot and we started with a simple white cyc setup…

So I just let Armie be Armie…

With a few intense closeups…

And with all of those in the bag, it allowed me to assemble a fun multi-image…

Next, we dropped a black velvet off to the side…

…that one big, soft top light gave us a nice skylight effect…

…and it allowed me to quickly move around and try a few different angles…

Here’s how it looks in this weeks ‘Weekend Confidential’

Call me by your name, Armie…