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

Tiny Room Portraits Of Mohamed El-Erian For InvestmentNews

So I got an email from Scott Valenzano, the Art Director at InvestmentNews

“Don’t care if you are booked, can you shoot this cover for me…..”

The gig was Mohamed El-Erianrabid New York Jets fan and the BIG brain behind PIMCO…the global investment management firm with about $2 Trillion bucks sewn up in the mattress. As is the case with most billionaires, we weren’t gonna have a lot of time…and we had to shoot him in the InvestmentNews offices, so no big open spaces, no high ceilings, no groovy locations. And Scott wanted a couple of setups…but we’ve done this lotsa times. Let’s roll…

Scott ushered us into a conference room…it was maybe 12′ x 15′ with a lovely 8′ ceiling and a huge table in the middle. It would be perfect…insert sarcasm…more than enough for a couple of setups! Scott mentioned that he wanted a really bright look for one of the shots and mentioned how he liked the orange drops I used in my portraits of Bill O’Reilly and Ricky Gervais…

Here’s how we squeezed ourselves into the room…

Normally I would use a 3′ Octa for a main light, but in that room we were seriously limited with what we could do. We managed to have just enough ceiling height to fly a 20″ Profoto Beauty Dish for a main light, filled with a Profoto Ringlight…

After some color and contrast adjustments, here is the how the final lighting looked…

Onto the second setup. We turned 45 degrees to the left and used a simliar lighting as the first, but since Mohamed would be sitting I had enough space for a 3′ Profoto RFI main light. In place of the ringlight, we used a 6′ Chimera bank placed directly behind me and the camera for fill. We dropped a half roll of Thunder Grey seamless behind him and covered the table with another piece and here’s how Kaz looked…

Partly because of the limited space, but mostly cuz I liked the wide angle perspective, we used a 50mm lens on the Hasselblad for both setups…

Here’s how everything turned out in the magazine…

You can read what Mohamed thinks about whether or not a recession is coming HERE

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…

Joe Duran In A Walnut-Paneled Room For InvestmentNews

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Joe Duran is the CEO of United Capital and we met up with him in a sumptuous, expensive looking, walnut-paneled room at the University Club in Midtown Manhattan for a cover shoot for InvestmentNews.

Here we go…..

Lotsa wood paneled walls…

But we had a specific look in mind, and that meant we were gonna drop some seamless…here’s Matt, looking pensive…

Lighting was pretty simple…a gridded 3′ Profoto RFI main light filled with a soft ring light.

When Joe arrived, he tried his best to emulate Matt’s serious look…

…but there was something about his smile that worked better…

On the opposite side of the room, we had dropped a grey seamless…

Obviously, I white-balanced my setup in Capture One rather cool…around 4350 Kelvin…to shift the grey tones from neutral to blue. I did that to better match Joe’s blue suit. The whole thing was lit by a single 47″ Rime Lite Grand Box with only a 7′ pop-up reflector on the right side for fill and I shot everything using a 50mm on the Hasselblad for a bit of wide angle distortion…

Here’s how it looks in this week’s InvestmentNews

Steve Madden Don’t Take Shit From Nobody

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Most people might think they know who Steve Madden is. After spending an afternoon with him for the Wall Street Journal, I can guarantee you have no idea who Steve Madden is! The Journal was doing a profile on him in conjunction with the release of ‘Maddman’…a documentary that tells his rags to riches story, from selling shoes out of the trunk of his car to becoming the mogul of a billion-dollar designer footwear empire to being sentenced to prison because of his entanglement with Jordan Belfort (the Wolf of Wall Street guy) and how he’s rebuilding his empire and his life following his release. He is a nonstop bundle of crazy, manic energy and I had to corral that energy into a few portraits for the story.

When we showed up at his showroom, we immediately were presented with a Warholian wall of ‘Maddman’ movie posters…

I know right off that would make for a fun portrait. I wanted it to be punchy and for the colors to really pop, so we went with a Profoto 3′ RFI main light with a ring light fill…

…and when Steve showed up, it almost looked like he walked right outta the posters…

As we were setting up the first shot, it occurred to me that the B&W graphic wall next to us had some potential as well…

We set up a similar lighting as the first shot, but with a gridded Beauty Dish in place of the RFI for the main light…

(Robert asking Steve to remove the giant wad of cash from his pocket before we begin)

Yeah…this works, too…

Now we already had two pretty strong portraits, but I wanted to get Steve as just Steve…alone on a seamless…so we dropped a roll of white in front of the shoe racks and went to work…

it looked good…

…but something told me shooting it B&W was the way to go…

Steve told me he never let anyone shoot him without his baseball cap…

…but I put him in a good mood…

Philipp Haemmerle For Die Zeit

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Philipp Haemmerle is perhaps the hottest, most in-demand set designer/art director/style maker for some of the biggest names in fashion and photography. Peter Lindbergh, Mario Sorrenti, Bruce Weber, Tom Munro, Paolo Roversi, Richard Burbridge…they all have Philipp on their sets for the biggest campaigns in fashion. Not bad for a guy who got his start as a performance artist on the streets of New York.

I got a call from Florian Fritzsche a few weeks ago…head out to Industry City where Philipp has his studio and come back with some cool shit…here’s how it went…

His studio is huge, has outrageous light pouring through walls of industrial windows…and under it’s other name, Sunset Studios, doubles as a rental photo space. I really didn’t wanna do a literal portrait of a guy building sets, but the first thing I saw when I entered was a gigantic sculptural piece of driftwood…

…but when Philipp arrived, we had to move quickly, cuz as nice as that light was, it was moving fast…

With a little shift to the left, plus some attitude from Philipp and this shoot was making itself…

Next, we simply did a 180 for a view in the other direction…

Finally, Philipp suggested we try to do something that showed off his great view…a view that went all the way from the Statue of Liberty to Lower Manhattan…

…his artistic intuition paid off…that’s the shot Die Zeit chose for the feature…

Thanks to Florian and photo director Jutta Schein for the opportunity.

Kurt Andersen For The Village Voice

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As the Village Voice ends it’s 62 year run as New York’s best alternative newspaper in a couple of weeks, I was given a last opportunity to contribute one more portrait session to the time capsule. Photo Editor Andrea Maurio asked me to meet author, editor, radio host and Bon Vivant Kurt Andersen in a park in Brooklyn…here’s how it went…

Setting up under the trees…

Kaz under ambient light, overcast…I sure hope that Sun pops out…

Add the 3′ Profoto RFI…

Insert subject, press the button…

Kurt was on a tight schedule, but for a quick second shot we just had to turn the camera 45 degrees South for this view under a row of trees…

Kale Friesen was also helping out that day…he got to be Macbeth Boy…

This was OK…

…but I told Kale to go grab one of the cafe chairs we saw on the other side of the park…

That did it.

Here’s how it looks in print…

And you can read the story online HERE

The Voice has two weeks to go in it’s print life. Go out and pick up a copy while you still can.

Silence = Death

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Last week, Andrea Maurio at the Village Voice asked me to photograph the five surviving members of the Silence = Death Collective for this years ‘Pride’ issue.

For the first time in years, the five guys who created a poster consisting of a pink triangle set against a black background with the words “Silence = Death” below it, would be together at the same time for a 30 year commemorative gathering at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art. Because of the event, we weren’t going to have a lot of time to shoot, but I still had to come away with a group shot and individual portraits of each guy. And because of all the people attending the event, shooting a group photo inside the gallery would be impossible. We decided to use the outside of the building…

The Silence = Death Collective: L-R, Avram Finkelstein, Charles Kreloff, Jorge Socarras, Brian Howard & Christopher Lione

After a very quick five minutes on the sidewalk, we moved back inside to a small office we commandeered as our portrait studio for the individual photos…

The Village Voice Pride Issue is out today and you can read the story How Six NYC Activists Changed History With “Silence = Death”

Special thanks to Avram, Charles, Jorge, Brian & Christopher for allowing me the opportunity to photograph them, and to Andrea Maurio and Ashley Smestad Velez for the great assignment.

Nick Murphy AKA Chet Faker

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I recently got to spend a day with Australian singer/songwriter Nick Murphy, better known by his stage name, Chet Faker. The Sydney Morning Herald was doing a cover story for their Sunday magazine that talked about his new album and how he was going to use his real name after five years as Faker. Tegan Sadlier, the photo editor at the Herald, and I tossed around a bunch of ideas before deciding on “Will The Real Nick Murphy Please Stand Up?” as our cover headline. More on that later, but here’s how the shoot went…

I have long had Ruby Bird Studios in Greenpoint on my radar, but haven’t had the right subject to take advantage of the wonderful grunge they have to offer…Nick was that subject! The old warehouse on the Brooklyn waterfront was made for a day of rock star portraits…

While studio 520 can hardly be described as a daylight space, it does have a cool casement window…

…that with minimal lighting (one big umbrella directly over Nick’s head) made for a nice, moody start…

Just to the left of the window was a beat up old sliding metal door that I liked for some tight portraits…

To the right of the window was an even more interesting door, but this one was recessed in a brick wall that would make for a frame around Nick…

…and that furry green coat…perfect!!!

Finally, for our cover concept…I convinced Tegan I could do a multiple image photo of Nick in different positions, wearing different outfits, to illustrate the ‘Will The Real Nick Murphy Please Stand Up?’ idea…

This wall was our base…

Next, we had to place our ‘Nicks’ in different spots in the frame…

And when that was done, all that was left was for me to spend a day at the computer making a group shot…with the ‘real’ Nick standing up!

…and here’s our final cover…

Bo Dietl Wants Your Vote For Mayor Of New York City!!!

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Bo Dietl wants to be Mayor of New York City, and Ashley Smestad Vélez from the Village Voice sent me up to his office for a look around. Here’s what we found…

Here’s how it looks in today’s Village Voice

Joseph Altuzarra For the Wall Street Journal

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I haven’t done a real how-to blog post in a while, but the shoot we did last week of Hot fashion designer of the moment, Joseph Altuzarra, for the Wall Street Journal ‘Weekend Confidential’ feature sort of lent itself to that sort of thing. Both portraits we did look ridiculously simple, but it’s the little details that go into shoots like this where I get asked the most amount of questions. Questions about my lighting choices, color balance and post processing. I kinda take all this stuff for granted, but I’ll pull back the curtain and try to break them down for you…

The inspiration for our first portrait sort of hit me right away when I checked out Joseph’s showroom and saw these two mannequins…

I was immediately struck by both the starkness of their design and the beautiful way the soft light from a wall of windows in the studio wrapped around the faces against the white walls. But as beautiful as Joseph’s designs were, I sort of want to simplify things even more…and that meant getting rid of the clothes…

We positioned the mannequins in the largest open space in the showroom…

…and to mimic that soft wall of light from the windows, I decided to light the set with two 65″ white umbrellas plugged into 2000 w/s Elinchrom packs, set up 90 degrees to the camera (and almost 20 feet from the subject) for a split-light effect…

This was our first test shot (with Robert standing in for Joseph) just using the two umbrellas…

Honestly, for a first test it was very nice. It fit the ‘Weekend Confidential’ requirements of being graphic and powerful, while also immediately telling the story. This was exactly how I wanted to portray Joseph. But technically it just a little too soft, flat and monochromatic for my liking. Those two umbrellas essentially made one big, even light source, but although Joseph and the mannequins would be exposed properly, the brightness of white mannequins was too much. I needed to bring up the light on the subject without affecting the mannequin’s light. So I added a 20″ Profoto Beauty Dish on a Profoto Acute 1200 pack, with a 30 degree grid, for just a little more light at the center of the scene…

As you see in the lighting diagram, by positioning the Beauty Dish in front of the umbrellas and feathering it so that it hits my subject but stays off the mannequins, it brings up the light on the subject just enough to separate him from the rest of the set. But I also wanted to shift the overall color palate because ‘normal’ just wasn’t cutting it! Since I always shoot tethered to Capture One Pro with the Hasselblad/Leaf back, I have a lot of options when it comes to selecting ICC input profiles. Leaf has always had the best designed input profiles that allow me to do what I did next. I switched from the basic ‘LF3 Portrait 5’ profile (very neutral, very normal) to my favorite profile…’LF3 Portrait Warm 5′. Warm 5 heightens the contrast and saturates colors, and because of that, our next test looked like this…

The new input profile allowed me to lower my white balance from 5100K down to 4150K which gave me a cool, blue overall look, but the skin tones remained pleasant without me having to add a warming gel to the Beauty Dish. Next, using the Capture One ‘Color Editor’ control panel, I was able to further adjust the blue and cyan channels to make them even more saturated, and also was able to improve on the skin tone in the red and yellow channels. Now it’s certainly possible to do this kind of thing in post using Photoshop, but with the Leaf input profiles and adjustment panels, I’m not only able to see the effect as I’m shooting, but it cuts down on my post processing a ton! You can also see how the addition of the Beauty Dish brings up the light on my subject so that he stands out better.

With my prelight & Capture One setup nailed, I think we’re ready to get Joseph on set…

Before we finished, I switched from the 80mm to the 150mm lens that compressed the perspective further and lowered the output on the umbrellas by about half a stop that slightly darkened the mannequins and allowed Joseph to stand out even more…

Next, we had set up a thunder grey backdrop for some seamless portraits…

It doesn’t get any simpler than this…one big, soft light source (a 47″ Rime Lite Grand Box) placed on a boom stand about 2.5 feet above his head. No fill, no tricks. Here’s how it looked on Robert…

Again, that first test shot looks pretty good, but we can still improve on it with a few easy adjustments. All we had to do was lower the white balance from 4650K down to 4150K, tweak the Levels and Curves a bit, add a little shadow detail and pull in a bit of vignetting on the corners and we were ready to go…

Finally, here is the story as it appeared in last weekend’s Wall Street Journal ‘Review’ Section

Tony Bennett

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Click on Any Image for Full-Size
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Three years ago I got to hang out with Tony Bennett for an afternoon. Then a few weeks ago, lightening struck twice when Ronnie Weil asked me to shoot him again for Alexandra Wolfe’s Weekend Confidential column in the Wall Street Journal. Just as the first time, we would be meeting Tony at his art studio on Central Park South…

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…but Ronnie had asked men to not concentrate on the studio this time, but instead to go for a classic portrait. Keep it simple. Focus on his personality. So with that as my brief, off we went.

As you can see in the above photo of his studio, there is a lot of natural light to work with. The entire north side of the room is a wall of windows facing the Park, so I decided to use my brand new Canon 5Ds with my equally new Sigma Art lenses with all that light against a black pop-up backdrop. Here is my first test with Kaz…

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But when Tony sat in place, the entire mood changed…

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And as much as we liked the color, I also processed the entire series in black and white as well…and it was kinda awesome…

Tony Bennett

And the Journal agreed. Here’s the final page…

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But I wasn’t done yet. I had set up a couple of lights against a wall for a second portrait…

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Tony Bennett

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Thanks to Ronnie for the opportunity…and thanks to Tony for allowing me to hang out with him one more time!

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Yeah, Yeah…I’ve Been Busy!!!

September 7th

That was the last time I dropped a post on the old Blog. More than two months. That’s gotta be a record, even for me. You know, life gets in the way and things get back-burnered, but I’ve been busy. Well…if we’re being totally honest, as some of you know I have also been preoccupied …some might say abnormally preoccupied…with the National Nightmare that was the Election of 2016. And in those few moments where I could have been filling the pages of Damn Ugly Photography with my behind-the-scenes tales, I was probably watching my Twitter feed…and screaming at my monitor. But that’s over now and all we have show for it is this petulant, obnoxious, short-fingered vulgarian who’s primed to take over the country…

Donald Trump

But starting tomorrow, I’m gonna try my best to focus more on my own shit and less on the shit situation the country faces over the next four years. I’ve got a lotta stuff in the pipeline so keep your eyeballs on this space.