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…

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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.