Activist Investors & Bank Presidents For American Banker

Richard Lashley

Mark A. Turner - CEO WSFS Bank & WSFS Financial Corp

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We just did back-to-back covers for American Banker…here’s how it went…

First, we headed to Morristown NJ to shoot Rich Lashley of PL Capital. Upon arrival, we found that PL Capital runs a pretty close-to-the-bone operation…which meant the entire place was two small offices and an equally small reception area. It was pouring that day, so shooting outside was outta the question, but we had to get creative fast. We cleared out as much of the reception area as possible and set up under a framed newspaper from the day of the Stock Market Crash of 1929…

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…which gave us this series…

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Richard Lashley

Richard Lashley

…for the feature opener…

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Then we dropped a seamless for a bit of color…

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Richard Lashley

Richard Lashley

But then I noticed Rich had a bright green baseball bat leaning against the wall…and besides the green looking great on that purple seamless, the metaphor of him being an ‘activist’ investor wielding a bat was just to good to pass up…

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Richard Lashley

The cover…

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A couple of weeks later we jumped on the Turnpike for a day trip to Wilmington Delaware to shoot Mark Turner, the President and CEO of WSFS Financial Corp. As soon as we got off the elevator we were greeted with a floor to ceiling bank of windows…

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That was kind of a no-brainer. They also had a lot of this kinda stuff all over the walls…

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But first we’d get a simple one-light seamless portrait out of the way…

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Mark A. Turner - CEO WSFS Bank & WSFS Financial Corp

Now to tackle those windows…

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I figured on only needing one light for this, but the hot reflection on the window frames bothered me, so we put a grid on the mini-octa to focus the light more on him and keep it off the window…

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With that reflection taken care of, we could get under way…

Mark A. Turner - CEO WSFS Bank & WSFS Financial Corp

Mark A. Turner - CEO WSFS Bank & WSFS Financial Corp

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Finally, we had to try to make that ‘Word Wall’ exciting…

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We succeeded…

Mark A. Turner - CEO WSFS Bank & WSFS Financial Corp

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The 2016 Barron’s Roundtable Extravaganza – Part One

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

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As anyone who has visited Damn Ugly Photography on a regular basis knows, the first week of January is when we decamp for the warm embrace of the Harvard Club to shoot the annual Barron’s Roundtable. This year was no different, and apart from there being a few familiar Roundtable members missing and replaced with a couple of new guys, the formula remains the same. We have two hours to shoot each of the nine Roundtable members…separately since they all arrive at staggered times…with the objective being that we need enough varied poses to fabricate four individual covers (three in January and one more for the mid-year report in June) as well as four feature photos to open the story with each week. We start at around 8:00AM and have to be totally done by the time the meeting begins at 10:00. If the thought of shooting nine people for four covers and four openers in two hours isn’t daunting enough, we also have to get each Roundtable member to wrap their head our concepts for the covers immediately…and remember…these aren’t models. They’re financial professionals. Trying to get them to understand the varied poses I need so that I can manufacture a cover where they all look like they’re relating to each other is harder than any of the technical tricks we work on!

So here is how the shoot for the first week’s cover went…

Our Week One cover and opener revolved around this image of a World Map…

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Using some old images of the Roundtable members from a previous shoot, I put together this comp…

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…so when people arrived, I could quickly show them a visual representation of what we were going to do…

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As usual, we have to set up multiple lighting sets for our different poses in a very small room…this time we had three individual sets…

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…everything is in the same place…hair & makeup, three sets and a very small area where people can hang out until we get them on set…

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For the cover, we wanted everyone to react to the people around them…people who weren’t there when we did the shoot…so Robert got to carry on imaginary conversations to get each persons attention aimed in the right direction…

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We did luck out once when Bill Priest and Brian Rogers overlapped, so we shot them together…

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…but for the most part, they had to wave their hands around like a weatherman in front of a green screen…

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So my raw materials from this part looked like this…

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Now I just had to pick the appropriate images where everyone looked like they were all together at the same time. Here’s how the cover got pieced together…

First, the base background image…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Next, the base image is flipped to make the floor, and I also de-focussed it so it looked more like a real reflection…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Now I could mess with the color & contrast for the combined background…

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…and add a few people…

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…and the rest follow…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

…and finally, I added shadows and more color & contrast tweaks…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

…which gave us our cover for Week One…

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Now I could move on to the inside feature image. I stated with the same base image layer, but I destaurated the blue cast a bit and lightened the upper area so that we could overlay type onto it easier…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The inside poses needed to be a bit more serious, due to the recent instability of the markets…

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The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The ‘assembled’ group…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

…the final image with shadows & color alterations…

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…and our opening feature image…

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So that was Week One. Tune in again next week to see how Adrian Delucca, Pam Budz and I put together Week Two & Week Three!

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Patti Smith

Patti Smith photographed in the Amtrak departure lounge at Penn Station, New York City, 8/27/2015

Patti Smith.

That’s all Rob Smith…the Art Director of Arrive Magazine…said when he called me a few months back.

Patti. Motherfucking. Smith.

I said “Yes!” before he even had time to get another word out. Are you kidding? Of course I wanna shoot Patti Smith! Besides adding to my current string of portraits of iconic women…Judy Collins, Gloria Steinem, Misty Copeland…Patti is someone I have always been fascinated by, and having the opportunity to shoot her would be a dream! The shoot would be tied in with the release of her new book, M Train. But then Rob had more to add…

No Hair and Makeup…

No Styling…

We’d get half an hour from the time she arrived at the studio…not a second more.

Fine..done…it would be a challenge, but I didn’t care…let’s get on with it!

I originally booked a studio in Long Island City because it had lots of character…but a week later Patti’s publicist nixed it saying Patti didn’t want to cross the river. She said Patti lived in the West Village and that she liked shooting at Industria. OK…less character, but if it makes Patti happy, we’ll book Industria. So more than a month goes by and it’s now about a week before the shoot date and I call the publicist and ask if we’re still on track to shoot and if we can confirm the studio…“Sure…we’re all set!”, she says…and I confirm Industria. But then a few days later…only three days before our shoot…she calls back to say that Patti now doesn’t want to shoot in a studio…she wants to do the shoot at Penn Station! She apparently had written a lot of her book while riding the Acela train and liked the metaphor of shooting at Penn Station since we were shooting for Amtrak’s magazine. But besides the fact that canceling Industria meant we would lose about $2 Grand…exactly how were we gonna shoot in the departure lounge of the busiest train station in America on three days notice?!! Without getting into detail, I’m just gonna fast-forward past the conference calls, begging and hand-wringing that ensued,  and say that somehow we were given permission. And so on an extremely hot August afternoon, myself and my crew took over Penn Station…

Patti wanted the Departure Board…she gets the Departure Board…

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…but even though I lost my studio aspect of the shoot, I figured we could still set up a smallish backdrop off to the side…

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The two areas were only a few feet apart, but the Penn Station folks were still kinda freaked out when they saw the size of our setup!

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But I didn’t care…I was shooting Patti Smith, dammit!

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Patti Smith photographed in the Amtrak departure lounge at Penn Station, New York City, 8/27/2015

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Now let’s move over to that backdrop…

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Patti Smith photographed in the Amtrak departure lounge at Penn Station, New York City, 8/27/2015

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And then…just as we were pretty much finished…something truly magical happened…

Patti Smith photographed in the Amtrak departure lounge at Penn Station, New York City, 8/27/2015

Those kids sticking their heads around the corner might be the best happy accident I’ve ever photographed.

For one final setup, I pulled back the curtain to show the overall set and exactly where our little popup studio was…

Patti Smith photographed in the Amtrak departure lounge at Penn Station, New York City, 8/27/2015

Here’s how everything looked in ‘Arrive’…

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So even though we were thrown more curveballs than I had seen in a year, everything worked out in the end…

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The APA Image Maker Lecture Series Is Gonna Be Damn Ugly

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Hey kids…this coming Monday, November 9th…Mr. Damn Ugly will be taking over the Apple Store in SoHo (103 Prince Street at Greene Street) as the next speaker in the APA Image Maker Lecture Series. I’ll be dropping plenty of bon mots about what actually happens on my shoots, complete with lots of behind-the-scenes juice and info on the post-processing that goes into making my final images.

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Check out the APA NY Facebook Events Page where you can sign up if you wanna go…and it’s 100% free! And as an added incentive, they tell me there’s gonna be a post-Image Makers Talk Networking Happy Hour hosted by the folks at APA NY.

Drinking A Few Beers With DW Gibson

DW Gibson

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DW Gibson is a writer and journalist whose work appears in publications like the Washington Post, the New York Times, New York Magazine, the Village Voice & The Daily Beast and is also a contributor to NPR’s All Things Considered. And over the past few years, he’s written extensively about New Yorkers who’ve been affected by gentrification. Here’s a little behind the scenes of my shoot for WirtschaftsWoche…one of my European clients…when they asked if I could shoot him in his own rapidly gentrifying neighborhood in Brooklyn…

Kaz and I started with a pretty simple setup in between DW’s house and his next door neighbors. I liked the way the design of the houses showed the type of architecture the neighborhood was comprised of, and it also allowed me to do one of my ‘Artificial Portraits’, since my editor at WiWo had specifically asked me to do at least one setup that showed my lighting kit…

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DW Gibson

Did I mention it was about 100 degrees the day we were shooting? DW was very gracious and offered beer to keep us cool…

DW Gibson

Next, we crossed the street for a couple of portraits against a brick wall…

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DW Gibson

DW Gibson

…and finally finished off with some views of his street…

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DW Gibson

…which opened our story…

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Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland

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I’m not sure at this point if there’s anyone out there who hasn’t heard of Misty Copeland. Besides making history as the only African American soloist dancing with the American Ballet Theatre, her best-selling autobiography, ‘Life In Motion’, dancing onstage with Prince, appearing in ads for Under Armour, Dr. Pepper, Coach, The Corcoran Group and T-Mobile, and her numerous features in magazines like The New Yorker, Vogue, Elle and New York Magazine, the 32 year-old ballerina is possibly the most visible face in the dance World since Baryshnikov. And my buddy Rob Smith asked me to put her on the cover of Arrive. Here’s the behind-the-scenes from our day at Bathhouse Studios…

Since we knew we would have relatively limited time with Misty, Rob and I had worked up our ideas for the shoot early on. The story was about mentors, and we would be photographing Misty with Raven Wilkinson, the first black woman to dance full-time in a major ballet company, including Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, the Dutch National Ballet, and the New York City Opera Ballet. We had to get enough for our cover, a few opening shots, a portrait of Misty and Raven together and anything else we could fit in! But shooting at the Bathhouse meant we would have lotsa space to set up everything beforehand cuz the studio is so beautifully huge!

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Our setup on the cyc…and that marvelously high ceiling…

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Kaz and I setting up the two-shot of Misty and Raven…

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Robert and Julien sitting in for our cover…

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Julien taking flight…

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My stylist Karen Sherwood laying out the wardrobe…

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Misty arrived just as we were about finished with our setup and went into hair & makeup right away…

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…but shortly afterwards, our little dancers from the ABT School showed up…

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and they quickly put on a little show for Misty…

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Julien grabbed Misty to test the lighting on our first setup…

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…and so started our shooting day…

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Here is the final portrait of Raven and Misty…

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Next, we moved onto the cyc for our opening photo of Misty with the Dance School students…

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Misty approves…

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…and the resulting photograph…

Misty Copeland

Now I wanted to do a series of solo shots of Misty in different positions. The idea was that I would assemble these solo images into one unified ‘group’ photograph…

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And the final ‘group’ shot…

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Before I took Misty off the cyc, I pulled out my vintage stools for one more idea…

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Best shot of those two stools I’ve ever taken…

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Oh yeah…I nearly forgot…CBS sent over Anthony Mason and a film crew to document our little shoot for CBS Sunday Morning…

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Now where was I…oh yeah…the final shot would be of Misty and Raven together for our cover. We re-purposed that ballet barre from the shot with the kids, and set up a very simple situation with a big, soft Octalite…Misty in her costume as her mentor looked on…

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Our cover image…

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Here’s how everything looked in ‘Arrive’…

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Suite Judy Blue Eyes

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Judy Collins…!!!

When Ronnie Weil called and offered me this one, all I could say was, “Wow!”. For five decades…my entire life…she’s been making music…beautiful music. Now Judy is recording a new CD that is tentatively titled “Duets with Guys”, an album that will feature her signing with Jeff Bridges, Jimmy Buffett, Don McLean and Kris Kristofferson, and Alexandra Wolfe was writing a profile on her for the Wall Street Journal. Here is how our day went…

Kaz sitting in for our first shot…

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Ms. Collins in the makeup chair…

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And our shooting day begins…

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We also had a Journal video crew following us around…

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Here are a couple of final images…

Judy Collins

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For the next setup, I wanted to do something dark & dramatic, and more etherial. And while it doesn’t look like much with Kaz in place…

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…once Judy stepped on set, things got dialed in pretty fast…

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Judy Collins

…and our final image…

Judy Collins

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As a little bonus, follow the link below for Ali Wolfe’s interview with Judy…

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…as well as some more behind-the-scenes from our shoot:

Judy Collins Interview & Behind-the-Scenes footage

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