The Village Voice, Over & Out…

After 62 wonderful years, the final print edition of The Village Voice got dropped into the familiar red boxes on the streets of New York this morning.

Besides looking back at six decades of Voice history, the issue features a photo essay by Celeste Sloman of some the people who have worked for the paper over the years. She shot everyone at a final party that was held a week ago at the Downtown Community Television Center in TriBeCa. Portraits of Robert Christgau, Sylvia Plachy, Michael Musto, Lucian Truscott IV, Peter Noel, Robert Newman, Amy Taubin, Jerry Saltz, Joe Conason, Joe Levy, Guy Trebay, James Hamiltom, Susan Brownmiller, original publisher Ed Fancher and many, many, many more graced 50 pages of the issue. It payed respect to these people in a way never before seen at the end of a publications lifespan. It was gorgeous.

I’ve only been contributing to the collective history of the paper for the past couple of years. My pal Andrew Horton got me in shortly after he became Design Director. It wasn’t a lot, but it was honestly some of the best work I’ve ever done.

I am going to miss The Voice. Terribly…

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Bradley Tusk Hates Bill De Blasio

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Bradley Tusk is a lot of things. He was the Deputy Governor of Illinois, the Communications Director for Senator Chuck Schumer, he’s the driving force behind Uber’s dominance in New York, he’s working to keep online sports betting sites like FanDuel up & running and he was Mike Bloomberg’s campaign manager. But right now, his primary focus is to make sure that current New York Mayor Bill De Blasio never gets a second term. He is aggressively searching for anyone who can defeat De Blasio in the next Democratic primary. And Mr. Horton needed me to capture that bulldog attitude for a feature on Tusk in the Village Voice. Here’s how it went…

Tusk Strategies had just moved into new offices and there wasn’t a whole lot of window dressing to work with…

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…but this looked promising and showed the lean, mean layout of the place…

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…but Kaz and I dropped a seamless for some portraits as well…

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The lighting for the office space shot was super simple…a couple of bare skim lights aimed directly at Tusk with nothing more but whatever ambient light there was floating around. We did white balance the shot extremely cool to keep the mood a little chilly…

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The seamless allowed us a distraction-free setup where I could really focus on Bradley’s expressions…

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Here is how it looked in the Voice…and I can’t thank Ashley Smestad Vélez enough for her amazing layout…great design helps OK photography every time…

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The Federation Of Black Cowboys

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This was one of those situations that shows you never know where the flow of your career is gonna take you. Andrew Horton…the Creative Director at The Village Voice…asked if I wanted to shoot some Black Cowboys…in Queens. The Federation of Black Cowboys is a group of urban cowpokes whose goal is to promote knowledge of the “Black West”. Their Ponderosa for the past two decades is a ramshackle stable just off Conduit Boulevard in Howard Beach, but recently their membership has dwindled to around 20 die-hards and now they face losing the license agreement for the stables. Andrew and I wanted my portraits to capture a gritty, iconic essence of what it is to be a Cowboy…and we also agreed that our touchstone style should be an homage to Richard Avedon’s In The American West. So off to Queens we went…

Unlike Avedon, I wasn’t going to drag out the 8×10 and set up a North-Light studio in the shadow of a barn…

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Instead, we decided to make a huge wall of soft light by putting up the biggest lights I own…

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The only problem is, when you fly a 79″ parabolic light in 25mph wind as we had that day, the shit hits the fan awfully fast. Even with over 100lbs of sandbags on each 50lb Matthews Stand, it was like trying to hold down a racing sailboat in a Regatta! But I didn’t care…Kaz had to deal with it…

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But our basic setup was pretty similar to Avedon’s…a simple white seamless set up on the North side of one of the stables…

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And here’s how things turned out…

Arthur “J.R.” Fulmore…

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Arthur “JR” Fulmore - The Federation of Black Cowboys

“Mama” Kesha Morse…

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Sheryl “Kesha” Morse - The Federation of Black Cowboys

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“Mountain Man” Ellis Harris…

Ellis “Mountain Man” Harris - The Federation of Black Cowboy

Ellis “Mountain Man” Harris - The Federation of Black Cowboy

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Even though we had always conceived the shoot as a high-contrast Black & White series, we still wanted to see how things looked in color…

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…but in the end, the B&W was just too strong, and here’s how it looks in this week’s Village Voice

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Thanks to Andrew for giving me the opportunity to hang with some real cool cats…and special thanks to J.R., Kesha and Mountain Man for opening up the stables to a Dude from the City…

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President Barack Obama for BusinessWeek

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There are assignments…and then there are assignments. Last Friday afternoon I had just finished a location scout and was heading up to my place in Connecticut when I got a phone call from BusinessWeek…..Director of Photography Ronnie Weil, Art Director Andrew Horton and Photo Editor Sarah Morse were on the speaker phone and they obviously had something big to tell me. All at once, they practically screamed, “We’ve got ten minutes with the President on Monday…do you wanna do the shoot?!!”. I think I paused for a fraction of a second and thought I was getting punked…then I said “OF COURSE!!!”.

The next few hours took us all on a bit of a roller coaster ride…..first we went from half the editorial staff of the magazine wanting to come along, while I would bring two assistants and a few tons of gear for the intense, overly complex formal cover situation. Then, as we learned more details of what kind of access the White House would allow, it appeared that I might have to go in paparazzi style…just me and a single camera bag going into the Oval Office to document the Q & A, with no time to do an extra set up. But in the end I was able to get Bo to assist me and Ronnie was coming to produce, run defense and feed me Klonopin to calm my nerves. Steve Adler, the Editor in Chief and Washington Bureau Chief Jane Sasseen would be asking the questions and it was up to me to come up with not only a killer cover image, but additional portraits of the President to illustrate the story. We had hopes to still get that second cover shot, but the main focus had to be to photograph the interview in such a way that we could walk away with exceptional cover art.

Bo and Ronnie waiting it out in the White House Pressroom
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Even though this would be my fourth time in the White House, you can never foresee how things will come together on the day of a shoot like this. In fact, the same day we were shooting, one of my old assistants, Charlie Samuels, was supposed to get his own session with the President a few hours before us…but his shoot was cancelled at the last minute. As if I didn’t have enough on my mind, when he texted me that his shoot was nuked all I could think was, “Please God, let things work out for us!”.

So with a couple of hours to go before our ten minutes, we got to horse around in the Pressroom…..

Your New White House Press Director!
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And we even got to sit in on a press briefing (click on image for full-size)…..
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Ronnie looking extremely professional…..
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But eventually we were ushered into the West Wing through the rabbit warren-like maze that surrounds the Oval Office. After a brief introduction, Steve and Jane immediately began the interview and I got started by shoving Bo right in the middle of things for a white-balance test shot…..

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And then a funny thing happened…our ‘ten minutes’ somehow got stretched to more than half an hour! I still didn’t get a chance to do a set-up portrait, but the extra time really allowed me to focus on getting some truly amazing and expressive shots while the interview went on.

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…and here are a few pages from today’s BusinessWeek…..

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But of course, the fun had to end. The press handlers gave the President the high sign and our big adventure came to an end…but not before we got our grip & grin photos with the Most Powerful Man in the Free World!!!

First, he grabbed Ronnie and pulled her close…
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…while I got the more traditional smile and a handshake…..
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Don’t let anyone tell ya photographing the President ain’t all it’s cracked up to be!

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Dr. Daniel Vasella for BusinessWeek

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*Click on any image for full-size*

I have quite a few stories in the magazine pipeline, but in this weeks edition of BusinessWeek are the portraits I did of Dr. Daniel Vasella, the CEO of pharmaceutical giant, Novartis…..

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And major props must go to Andrew Horton, BusinessWeek’s Design Director, for his elegant layout.

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