Big Rubber Balls, Bright Blue Walls & Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots!

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A few weeks ago, Manuela Oprea, photo editor at BloombergMarkets, offered me a job that proved to be one of the more interesting business magazine gigs I’ve done in a long time…to shoot a cover story on Barry Silbert, the Founder and CEO of SecondMarket and some of the people that make up the largest secondary market exchange dedicated to creating liquidity for illiquid assets. Silbert came up with the idea for SecondMarket when he was an investment banker struggling to sell off pieces of the bankrupt Enron…he figured, “Wouldn’t it make sense if there was an organized marketplace, like eBay, where illiquid assets could be bought and sold?”. To me it all sounded ridiculously dry and boring. So much so that when I went up to scout the place I really wasn’t expecting any of the craziness that would follow…..

First off, the offices were painted in super-bright primary colors…

…people sat on big inflated rubber balls…

…they wrote all over the walls…

…and played ping pong and air hockey to relax and had toys and games everywhere! Including this inspiring throwback to my youth…the Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots!

This ain’t your father’s stock exchange! And we were gonna have some fun!

We decided to use the bright colored walls of the reception area for the cover shot of Barry. Here’s what things looked like before we set up the lights…

And here’s what 6 lights and 5 Profoto packs will do to reality…

Next we went to work on that lime-green wall…

Which resulted in the opening spread for the story…

With Barry’s part of the shoot done, we moved on to the Green Lantern T-shirt wearin’ Chief Strategy Officer, Jeremy Smith, paired with the Uber-Traditional, buttoned-down Managing Director, Kevin O’Connor, over a nice round of Robot Boxing!

And the last shot of the day would be of Adam Oliveri, their Managing Director of Private Company Markets…

But we weren’t done yet. A few days later, Manuela called and said that the story would now include a sidebar on the venture capitalist who got SecondMarket off the ground…Lawrence Lenihan, the CEO and Managing Director of FirstMark Capital. While I was looking around for places to shoot him, I kinda barged in on lunch…..

…but it resulted in this rather tasty portrait…

But I really wanted to come away with a second shot, and the reception area had a nice feel to it…

…so after a bit of furniture moving, we did this…

And finally, to bring this endless story to a close, here’s 7 seconds of cell-phone video Manuela caught of me shooting Barry for the cover…

SEC Commissioner Mary Schapiro for Bloomberg Markets

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I’ve been shooting a lot lately for Eric Godwin at Bloomberg Markets, and a month ago he had us make a couple of trips down to D.C. to shoot Mary Schapiro, the head of the Securities & Exchange Commission, and her Chief Enforcement investigator, Robert Khuzami. Between the time they spend testifying in front of congress and chasing down the bankers who caused the current financial crisis, these two are so busy that I was warned I was going to be getting very little time to shoot. For Mary, I had to come away with at least two situations, one of them a cover try. After scouring a building filled with official looking seals and crests on the walls, we settled on the SEC hearing room for the cover….

Kaz and Ben knock off a few test frames…

Kaz and the MacBeth chart…

Try to look like you mean business…!!!

…and the final result…..

With the first shot in the bag (taking all of about 5 minutes!) we raced over to the slightly bizarre press conference area that was in the hallway outside. It had a wonderfully blank look about it, so we lit it with a very direct, blank light…

Lighting was just an open-faced Octalight for an overall fill and a bare head to throw a direct, hard shadow…

Total time with Mary…maybe 15 minutes…and then it was back to New York……but the very next day Eric called and said we had to go back! He just found out that they needed Robert Khuzami shot as well. OK…pack up the van and off we go again…..

Now I actually knew quite a bit about Khuzami before we got back down to D.C. He is probably best-known as the Federal Prosecutor in the trial of the “Blind Sheikh”, Omar Abdel-Rahman, and he’s equally respected for the convictions he’s gotten in numerous insider trading, fraud and organized crime cases. But I was immediately struck by was a nice, normal guy he was…and he had his kids art up on his office wall right next to his law enforcement mementoes and courtroom drawings of him in action. So that’s where we shot him, using the same kind of lighting we used on the second shot of Mary…

One final shot of me with the Commissioner…

Palm Beach + July = Very, Very Hot !!!

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Back in July, Eric Godwin, the Photo Director at Bloomberg Markets magazine, asked me to head down to Palm Beach to photograph Chris Cline, a billionaire Coal Baron and head of Foresight Energy, one of the country’s largest producers of coal. As you can imagine, Palm Beach in July is just about as hot as a coal furnace, but with added humidity! Add to that our location…Cline’s 164-foot yacht, ‘Mine Games’…and we were in for a hot time in Florida!

Kaz and I got in a day early and on our scout we immediately were made aware of the quirks of trying to photograph a portrait using a prop as big as a yacht…the boat was in a rather tight slip with very little room to maneuver for good angle and the boat itself…while certainly large and luxurious…offered few spots to do the kind of shots I had in mind. But a couple of locations did jump out…


…this spot…shot from inside a hedge and through a bunch of tall grass…would let me stack up the boat behind him.

…and I thought it could be almost regal having him descending this staircase…

And I guess the Art Director was thinking the same thing when he named the story, “New King Coal”…..

One thing became very apparent as soon as the sun rose in the sky…since the entire deck was gleaming, shiny white…even slathered up with an SPF-50 sunscreen, my white ass was gonna fry like a lizard on a rock in the desert! I spent a lotta time re-greasing myself during the day and did a good job of not turning into a human lobster, but there was one place I neglected to coat…the inside of my nostrils! All that sun bouncing up and into my nose gave me the most excruciating sunburn I can remember, so for any of you who may have seen me after I got back from that trip with a finger up my nose…furiously scratching away…now you know why!