Mary Higgins Clark For The Wall Street Journal

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I recently got to spend an afternoon overlooking Central Park in the pied-à-terre of iconic author Mary Higgins Clark. She had just published her 37th novel…which, as usual, entered at the Bestsellers List at #1…and Alexandra Wolfe was featuring her for the ‘Weekend Confidential’ column. Here’s how it went…

When I described the apartment as a pied-à-terre, I wasn’t kidding. Her main residence is an estate in New Jersey, but the Central Park apartment is just a small one-bedroom she uses in the city, but it was impeccably designed and offered us a few options. We started with a simple setup in front of a painting her children commissioned of their mother 30 years earlier. And for the lighting, it was equally simple…just a 7′ umbrella with a black Gobo to cut the light on the upper corner…

For a second portrait, we just turned the camera towards the windows facing the park and swung the light…

As nice as Kaz looked, Mary’s ensemble worked a little better…

And that proved to be what the Journal was looking for…

Director Ramin Bahrani For Variety

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Director Ramin Bahrani just remade the classic Ray Bradbury novel, Fahrenheit 451, for HBO…and I got the call from Jennifer Dorn at Variety to shoot him for this weeks issue. Kaz and I packed up the bus and headed downtown to HBO in midtown and here’s how things turned out…

First, we set up my favorite cement wall drop from Gravity Backdrops for kind of a raw look…

Pretty simple lighting setup…just an 8″ fresnel spot with a couple of 5′ umbrellas for a soft wall of fill…

…for a natural sunlight look…

But when Ramin arrived and we saw him dressed all in black, we decided to to crush the shadows and darken things for a more menacing overall appearance…

On the other side of the room we dropped a medium grey seamless…

Once again, a little more contrast and a bit less shadow detail helped a lot…

But the Black & White set the mood…

Here is the finished story in Variety

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.

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…

The 2017 Barron’s Roundtable

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When January rolls around, one constant for the past decade has been the crew from Damn Ugly Photography has gotten to load a couple of thousand pounds of gear into a small room at the Harvard Club to shoot the members of the annual Barron’s Round Table. The basic formula is always the same. We start shooting at 8:00AM as the folks arrive. We have to shoot them separately since we need to be able to move each person around into whatever situations we’ve cooked up…and we have to be completely finished by 10:00AM since that’s when their all-day meeting begins. In that time we have to come up with images that will run on three consecutive covers in January, plus the cover for the mid-year report in June, as well as inside feature photos for all issues. Easy, right?!!

Adrian DeLucca and I wanted this year’s theme centered on the year itself…2017…and we came up with the idea to place the Roundtable members into the year 2017. To do that, I had to come up with the perfect 2017. I always liked the numbers on the Damn Ugly World Headquarters building…

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So that seemed like a good place to start. I found similar numbers and went about shooting them…

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But the silver seemed too passive…red spray paint was definitely called for…

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Numbers…done. Now onto the moving parts. Our setup this year was actually much simpler than previously years. We only had two separate sets, one for the January issues and a second for the midyear.

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I had a couple of 2017 ‘cheats’ taped to the gobos on our main set to help me keep track of where to place people…

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Everything got dialed in pretty quickly (that ripped seamless in the background is a teaser for the midyear cover, so I can’t say any more about that for a while) and we were ready to get started.

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Makeup artist Margina Dennis, Kaz playing digital tech and Adrian looking happy…

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Kaz holding up Brian Rogers…

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Oscar Schafer shooting Jeff Gundlach…

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To get people into the correct positions, we used a few very simple props. Brian had to lean into the ‘1’…

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Mario was standing inside the ‘0’…

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Abby was holding up the ‘7’…

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And Oscar would be laying back into the ‘7’ for the Week 3 cover…

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After a few days at the computer, here’s how things turned out…

Week One Cover and Inside Opener…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Week Two Cover and Inside Opener…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Week Three Cover and Inside Opener…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

And finally, here are the printed pages…

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The Human Face of Big Data – The Book & the Film…

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I got an email this afternoon reminding me that ‘The Human Face of Big Data’Rick Smolan’s look at how the rapid emergence of digital devices is affecting our lives…will be airing tonight at 10:00PM Eastern on PBS (check local listings). And that reminded me that I actually did one of the shots that was featured in the book. Rick had me shoot Josh Koppel, the CEO of ScrollMotion…an App developer that has created mobile content for most of the world’s largest publishers. ScrollMotion basically ‘teaches’ Old Media how to use New Media. The funny thing is that when you enter their offices, it’s like going to a museum of Pre-Digital Technology! Every single inch of the wall space is filled with magazine cover, record albums, movie posters and newspaper clippings…

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…and especially Josh’s office…

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My mission was clear…show what the place was like and the rest would fall in place. We figured that couch with the wall full of Nostalgia behind it was the place to start. Since Josh lives on his iPad, I wanted to play that off the wall of old printed material. But I needed to make the iPad the hero. It kind of had to be the focal point of the photo. It had to shine…and I had just the right thing…my little battery powered Morris Mini Slave units…

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The Mini Slaves are small…really small…and if he held one in his hand at just the right angle it would appear that the iPad was lighting his face while also giving me a nice halo-glow. This is how we set it up…

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I did a lot of cross-filtering with CTO and CTB tells to add to the mood. The Ring Light and Mini Slave were both wrapped in blue, while the beauty dish had a full CTO to warm up his skin and the wall behind him. There was a huge wall of windows on the left side that also let a lot of cool, blue light in. My first test was kind of right on…

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Once we added Josh to the shot, all we had to do was get him to master holding the Mini Slave in the right place…

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Here’s the final image in the book…

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So anyway…you should check out the documentary tonight…watch the trailer here:

Josh Koppel - Chief Creative Officer, ScrollMotion

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…

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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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Mr. & Mrs. Hawkeye Pierce In The Bronx

Alan & Arlene Alda photographed at the New York Botanical Garden

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Alan Alda. Academy Award-nominated actor, director, screenwriter, author, board member of the World Science Festival and a visiting Professor at SUNY Stony Brook School of Journalism. Arlene Alda. Photographer, writer, Fulbright Scholar…and just a Kid from the Bronx. Which is how we ended up at the Bronx Botanical Garden on a 20 degree day in February. Arlene has just written Just Kids From The Bronx, an oral history on what it was like to grow up in the place that bred influencers in just about every field of endeavor today, with thoughts from Bronxites as varied as Neil deGrasse Tyson, Grandmaster Melle Mel, Al Pacino, Carl Reiner, Mary Higgins Clark, Colin Powell, and on and on and on. When Arlene and Alan began seeing each other, a lot of those dates took place in the Bronx, including taking long walks through the Botanical Gardens. And while it would have been great to shoot them walking the paths of the Gardens on a sunny day in May, her book was coming out now, so inside we went…here’s what we found…

While it was nice to walk among the greenery inside the Enid Haupt conservatory, it was still too early for the Orchid show and too soon for the Spring blooms…

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…but this indoor fountain area showed some promise…

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But I had also learned that the Alda’s had donated a bench on the grounds…and despite the freezing temperatures and the fact that it was buried in snow, I had to check it out…

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On the day of the shoot it was a brisk 22 degrees outside…but about 85 inside with Lousianna-like humidity. When Alan and Arlene arrived, while I waited for the sun to come out of the clouds, we did a few shots of them just walking through the galleries…

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And then Kaz and I set up our main shot at the fountain…

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…which seemed to please Alan and Arlene immensely…

Alan & Arlene Alda photographed at the New York Botanical Garden

Alan & Arlene Alda photographed at the New York Botanical Garden

Half-way through our shoot, Gregory Long…the President of the New York Botanical Garden…dropped in to get his copy of Arlene’s book autographed…

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Here’s how things look in The Journal..

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And then…because we were just getting too warm in there…Kaz and I decide that we just had to shoot that bench!

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Thanks Alan…thanks Arlene…and special thanks to the Botanical Gardens for warming us up on one very cold day!

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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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Playing High-Stakes Chess With The Smartest Guys In The Room

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When January rolls around, one thing you can always count on is that I’ll be packing up 1000 pounds of gear and heading to The Harvard Club to shoot the Barron’s Roundtable. This year, Adrian Delucca and I worked up a few ideas based on the game of Chess. Here were Adrian’s chicken scratches that led to our cover shoot…

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This year we would be publishing three covers in January, and the usual mid-year cover in June, so we had to set up three different lighting setups in the very tight quarters of the Presidents Room at the Harvard Club…

The main setup for the Week One cover and opener…

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…the Chess Table set for the Week Two & Three covers…

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…and third area for the mid-year portraits…

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As usual, we would start shooting the ten Roundtable members separately as they began arriving at 8:00AM, and we had to be finished everything when the meeting began…at 10:00AM! That meant we had to shoot each person in enough different situations for three covers and three openers as well as individual portraits of each for the midyear issue…all in two hours. And we also had to convey exactly what we needed each person to do since they wouldn’t be posing with anyone but themselves and everything would be put together in post! They’re given no advance warning of what we’ve cooked up for them until they arrive.

That kinda thing is hard enough to pull off when you’re dealing with professional models, but when you’ve only got 5 or 6 minutes with a financial expert, getting him to instantly channel his inner actor is a wee bit harder…

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With our Roundtable members safely in the bag, now I got to spend the next three days locked in front of my computer. I had already spent a day shooting a Chess Board & Pieces for our base cover image…

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Now came adding the human chess pieces…

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And after a considerable amount of Photoshop work, the final cover image looked like this…

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Next up was the opening image…

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And the final image…

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Finally, I had to put together two different chess playing situations…from two different angles…for the Week Two and Week Three issues. This was our high-angle test shot (you can see the low angle tripod at the bottom of the frame)…

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What would be so easy if we could just shoot it as one photo becomes a very complicated puzzle when you hafta shoot everyone separately while trying to keep track of who you’ve already shot and in what position…

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These are the two final images…

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Now on to the low angle…

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Man…am I ever tired…….

And Now For Something Completely Different: John Cleese

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Even considering that I’ve had the good fortune to photograph some pretty impressive people over the years, when Ronnie Weil called from the Wall Street Journal and offered up John Cleese, it really knocked the wind outta me. People toss around the word ‘iconic’ a lot, but John Cleese is a true ICON. What he and the rest of the Pythons did to comedy in the early 70’s forever changed how people laughed. He is a manic genius who…to quote a famous Monty Python sketch…is a true master of sarcasm…dramatic irony, metaphor, pathos, puns, parody, litotes and satire!

And I was getting 15 minutes with him…

Mr. Fawlty was in New York as part of a tour to promote his new book, “So Anyway”, and we met him in a midtown hotel where we set up two situations in a room slightly smaller than an average walk-in closet…

For our first shot, I wanted to do a tight portrait…just his face…to capture a range of expressions…

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We started with just a gridded Profoto beauty dish on the grey seamless…

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…then added a 4′ x 6′ Chimera over my shoulder for fill and a small strip light on the background for separation…

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But something didn’t look right…the 80mm lens perspective was a bit uninteresting…so we swapped it for the 150mm…

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Much better…now just add one Python…

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…and let the rat-faced fun begin!

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I began calling out various characters of his and sketches he was known for and he immediately knew where to take it…

John Cleese - November 4th, 2014 New York City

John Cleese - November 4th, 2014 New York City

John Cleese - November 4th, 2014 New York City

John Cleese - November 4th, 2014 New York City

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And because we had a wealth of great expressions, I made the suggestion that we do a montage of them. Here is how it ran in the Journal…

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Then we turned 45 degrees to the left and played around with some 3/4 shots…

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It was like shooting fish in a barrel…

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John Cleese - November 4th, 2014 New York City

John Cleese - November 4th, 2014 New York City

John Cleese - November 4th, 2014 New York City

John Cleese - November 4th, 2014 New York City

Then he started doin’ this…

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John Cleese - November 4th, 2014 New York City

John Cleese - November 4th, 2014 New York City

…and like that, our 15 minutes were up. But I had a fantastic time with an honest-to-God ICONand checked off one more Bucket List item!

John Cleese - November 4th, 2014 New York City

John Cleese - November 4th, 2014 New York City

Joking Around With Seth Meyers

Seth Meyers

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I’ve had a pretty good run of celebrity shoots lately…Frankie Valli, Ricky Gervais, Tony Bennett, Spike Lee, Willem Dafoe…and I’m trying my best to catch up on the behind-the-scenes on most of them. This shoot with Seth Meyers was actually shot back in February, but it just published a few weeks ago in the latest issue of Amtrak’s ‘Arrive’ magazine. Rob Smith…Arrive’s Art director and one of my oldest friends…had a few thoughts on what he wanted to do with the shoot, and I had a couple of ideas as well, so we drove out to Queens where all the prop warehouses have moved to see if anything got us going…

Since Seth was the Head Writer at SNL, we both stopped when we came across these old desks and typewriters…

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Next, we brainstormed a few shots based on the idea that Seth was not only moving from Saturday Night Live to the Late Night program, but when the story was scheduled to run Seth was supposed to be taking the show on the road. Moving his stuff in a little red wagon just made sense…

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With the van full of dusty old props, we headed down to Bathhouse Studios…truly one of the nicest places you can shoot at in all Manhattan…and got to work…

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Unlike the low-key shoot with Willem Dafoe last week, this time the studio was filled with multiple stylists, make-up and hair people, and more NBC publicists than I’ve ever seen gathered in one place!

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And I know it might not look like much in these BTS photos…but dropping Seth into that precisely focussed spot of light against the cyc background created just the right amount of drama…it was all about Seth going out on his own…

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Here are some of the final selects…

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Seth Meyers

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Now where did we put that red wagon…

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By the way…for all you lighting geeks out there…I am seriously loving the Rime Lite deep octas…as long as you know a bit about lighting, they’ll give you everything you expect out of a Broncolor Para, but for less than one-tenth the price!

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Seth Meyers

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And since a lot of people figured that Seth taking on Late Night was a bit of a leap…

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…I thought having him stepping into the unknown kind of worked the metaphor nicely…

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Seth Meyers

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Next, we moved on to our cover setup…

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Seth Meyers

…which gave us both our cover and a pulled-back shot for the table of contents page…

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Seth Meyers

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Seth Meyers

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So thanks to the huge team it took to pull this off and make things come off so smoothly, but especially thanks to Seth for giving up his time and being such a good sport!

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Rick Masters + Jesus + Sgt. Elias = Willem Dafoe

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As a young photographer, I had this very dreamy, romanticized idea of what it must be like to shoot celebrities. One of my early photography idols was Bert Stern, and I just figured every shoot with a celebrity might end up like his famous session with Marilyn Monroe where they locked themselves in a suite at the Bel-Air Hotel for three days with a case of ’53 Dom Perignon, a couple of cameras and a few props, and emerged totally spent but with a collection of amazing photographs. But I moved to New York a couple of decades later…just about the time when shoots like that were becoming increasingly controlled by managers, publicists, agents and the studio P/R machine. Ideas had to be pre-approved and even then it didn’t mean you would get to do them. And three days? More like five minutes after your writer got to ask his five questions, thank you very much! But if you’re smart you learn how to work the angles, you keep a few tricks up your sleeve when you don’t have the cooperation you had hoped for, and occasionally, you get lucky…

Ronnie Weil called me at 5:00PM on a Thursday and asked if I would be available the next morning to shoot Willem Dafoe for the Wall Street Journal’s ‘Weekend Confidential’ section. His new film, “A Most Wanted Man”, was coming out in a week and they were given a last-minute opportunity interview him. Now I don’t know about you, but there are very few actors that I can remember from the first moment I saw them on screen, and Willem Dafoe is one of them. His performance as the slick criminal Rick Masters in “To Live and Die in L.A.” burned into my brain. I immediately knew this was a seriously great actor. So yes…of course…just tell me where and when and I’ll be there with a big grin on my face…

The Journal likes the portraits for the ‘Weekend Confidential’ section to be all about the personality, and not prop or location-driven, and so we typically keep things very simple…seamless backdrops or locations that don’t distract from the subject. And it’s not a fashion show, either. What you bring with you is what we shoot. Willem arrived…early, I might add…alone and ready to go. He was wearing black jeans, a black t-shirt and a wonderfully disarming smile. After a few minutes of me heaping gobs of fanboy praise on him and a little light grooming, we were ready to go…

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(Groomer Amy Komorowski)

Willem Dafoe was made to be photographed. He has one of the most expressive faces in the business…whether he’s playing a silent film Vampire (Max Schreck in “Shadow of the Vampire”), a Viet Nam-era Marine (Sergeant Elias in “Platoon”), a cartoon character arch-villain (the Green Goblin in “Spider-Man”) or Jesus Christ himself (“The Last Temptation of Christ”)…and I wanted my portraits of him had to capture the depth he conveys through the characters he portrays. I had a few ideas I wanted to try…and we were told Willem would give us about an hour…so here is how it went…

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I started this first setup as a 3/4 body shot, but allowed myself to move in and out as his poses and mood changed…

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William Dafoe

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Then we sat down and came in for a tight series of darker, more intimate portraits…

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Now, I was already thrilled with what we had done and that Willem had given us so much time, but I kind of liked the white brick wall in the studio, so I asked him for a few more minutes to put up a fresnel spotlight and play around with the shadows…

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William Dafoe

William Dafoe

In the end, the Journal chose one of my favorites for the article…

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…and once again, I find myself surprised at how lucky I am to be able to do what I do…

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Going Ninja With The Impractical Jokers For The Cover Of Resource Magazine

Impractical Jokers

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I had the privilege to be asked by Alexandra Niki and Aurelie Jezequel…the team behind Resource Magazine…to photograph their very first ‘Celebrity’ cover, featuring Brian “Q” Quinn, James “Murr” Murray, Joseph “Joe” Gatto and Salvatore “Sal” Vulcano, better known as The Tenderloins, but who are also the stars of truTV’s The Impractical Jokers. The Jokers…in case you didn’t know…is a practical-joke reality show where the four guys coerce one another into doing public pranks while being filmed by hidden cameras. For the cover theme, Alex and Aurelie wanted to use Sun-tzu’s, “The Art Of War” for our inspiration, with the Jokers dressed as Ninja Warriors, and I was happy to pull it all together…

Aside from using a ridiculously expensive Broncolor Para 220 as a main light, the cover setup was pretty simple…

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Alex and Aurelie wanted a very high contrast, red & black look for the shot, and I had an idea for the cover that was centered around the original Charlie’s Angels logo…

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Not quite…

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Closer…

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Bingo!

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…and the final cover image…

Impractical Jokers

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Next, for the opener to the story, we wanted to do a ‘reveal’ where they tore off their Black Ninja Suits to show their Black Hipster Suits underneath…

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And after a bit of Photoshoppery…

Impractical Jokers

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Now came some ‘Hidden Camera’ goofs, with each of the guys hamming it up with a few not-so-hidden camera props…

“Q” the Ping Pong Pro…

Impractical Jokers - Joseph "Joe" Gatto

Murr and his Monkey…

Impractical Jokers - Joseph "Joe" Gatto

Joe the Big Gulp Cowboy…

Impractical Jokers - Joseph "Joe" Gatto

And Sal with a drippy ice cream cone and ‘Battle’, the GoPro-enabled Chihuahua…

Impractical Jokers - Joseph "Joe" Gatto

We finished things off with a few more hidden camera pranks, with the guys in their signature suits…

Impractical Jokers

Impractical Jokers

Impractical Jokers

Impractical Jokers

And finally, here’s a little behind-the-scenes video shot by Resource’s Adam Sherwin that wraps up the day nicely…

Oh yeah…Alex wanted to play Ninja, too!

Impractical Jokers

The Jersey Boy – Frankie Valli

Frankie Valli

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Imagine you’re just sitting around, not doin’ anything besides playing with your cat, and you get a call asking if you wanna shoot Frankie Valli? Yeah…that happened. Kat Malott at the Wall Street Journal offered this chance to me and it once again reinforced that decision I made to be a photographer. We talked about crossing the river into New Jersey and shooting him in his old neighborhood in Newark, or on the street in New York, but the logistics were getting tough and the weather wasn’t cooperating, so we decided on the wonderful surroundings of Shoot Digital Studios. But no stylists, wardrobe or big production…Frankie was just gonna come down for an hour or so and we’d see what happened…

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For our first shot, Kaz and I picked up this great tabletop from Surface Studio and an antique microphone. The Journal has an affinity for grey backgrounds, and this classically lit portrait would fill that need…

Frankie Valli

Frankie Valli

For the next shot, we put the microphone onto a mic stand and fired up the spotlight…

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Finally, I really wanted to do something with this window…

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We were happy with what we had done, but then looking back at the first setup, I saw the chance for another shot, so I pressed Frankie for a few more minutes of his time, pulled out the tabletop and backed up a bit for these…

Frankie Valli

Frankie Valli

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So thank you Kat for the opportunity…and thanks Frankie for a day we won’t forget.

Frankie Valli

The BIG One: Behind The Scenes At The 2014 Barron’s Roundtable

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In an attempt to freshen things up around here, today I’m giving the blog a fresh coat of paint in the form of a new Theme. The old dark grey was getting a bit depressing, so I chose a brighter version complete with much larger photos…and larger text for those of you who might rely on reading glasses. I also slightly modified the title. After much deliberation, gone is any reference to the Song of the Day, since my increased work schedule has made dropping a regular stream of free tunes on you guys just about impossible. I’ll still post on music that catches my ear when I have the time, but I think going forward I’m gonna focus on why I’m here in the first place…Damn Ugly Photography. With that in mind, I have a lot of catching up to do, starting with today’s mega-post, long-winded as it is…

The posting frequency has been reduced to such a level that we completely blew off discussing this year’s Barron’s Roundtable from earlier this year, but fear not…today I’m gonna spew out the full behind-the-scenes for the three issues that ran back in January, as well as how we put together the mid-year cover story that hit the stands this past Monday. It’s hard to believe, but it’s been eight years since Adrian Delucca first called me to shoot the Roundtable Feature for Barron’s, and each year we have tried to one-up ourselves with new ways to shoot the ten Roundtable members for both the January and June issues, including multiple cover images, inside opening shots and individual portraits…and get it all done in the two hours before their meeting begins. And this year, for the first time, we would have to come away with four cover images instead of the usual two. We had our work cut out for us…

With the increased image count, we had to set up three separate shoot areas in the very tight confines of the President’s Room at the Harvard Club…

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Adrian and I cooked up a re-working of the old financial Bulls & Bears theme, and our Big Ticket prop items this year were a couple of mascot costumes we had made for the event. Photo assistants Rob MacInnis and Takeshi Koike got to spend the day sweating inside the furry suits.

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But I’m getting ahead of myself…we’ll talk about those costumes later…

The first January cover would involve shooting each Roundtable member on white in various poses to make them look like they were in Pamplona…running with the Bulls…

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…then in post, I would hafta do a bit of magic with a cobblestone street and a toy bull I shot earlier…

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…which eventually turned into this…

The 2013 Barron's Roundtable

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Now as complicated as that might seem, the inside opener for Week One was actually waaaay harder to pull off. I now had to convince these ten financial gurus to imagine running away from, jumping outta the way of, cheering for and riding…an imaginary bull. For this, I first went down to Wall Street and shot the famous Bull statue…

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…then I took some outside shots of the Federal Reserve Building…

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…and combined the two images with those cobblestones again…

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Now we had to get some reaction shots of the Roundtable members…

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Oscar Schafer and Mario Gabelli are probably hoping they won’t have to ride the sawhorse…

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…and finally, many, many Photoshop hours later…

The 2013 Barron's Roundtable

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With Week One outta the way, we now had to get workin’ on those furry suits for the Week Two & Three covers.

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And here are the final images…

The 2013 Barron's Roundtable

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The 2013 Barron's Roundtable

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Are you gettin’ tired yet?!!

Finally, for the Midyear Roundtable cover, Adrian and I wanted to assemble a group shot in the form of a jigsaw puzzle. Our initial idea was to do the puzzle effect in Photoshop, because I had heard there was actually a filter for that, but after a bunch of tests we decided it just looked too fakey and so…we had some real puzzles made by PortraitPuzzles.com!

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I put my still-life photographer cap on and shot the assembled puzzles…

The 2013 Barron's Roundtable

The 2013 Barron's Roundtable

The 2013 Barron's Roundtable

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And with that, one more year of the Barron’s Roundtable is done!!!

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Ricky Gervais & Kermit’s Evil Twin for the London Sunday Times Magazine

Ricky Gervais & Constantine the Muppet

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Ricky Gervais. In New York. For the London Sunday Times Magazine. And it was one of the most fun shoots of my entire career.

Adam Hearn is the photo editor of the London Sunday Times Culture Magazine and some of the other folks I work for at the Times recommended he give me a call next time he had a shoot on this side of the Atlantic. I am so happy he did, cuz not only am I a BIG fan of Ricky, but I had just lost out on a shoot with him for another client only a week before Adam called. The story was tied to his new film, “Muppets Most Wanted”, and would feature the other star of the movie, Constantine the Frog, the world’s “Number One” criminal and a doppelgänger of Kermit the Frog. Adam kept it fairly open-ended as to what we could do…he just needed fun interaction between Ricky and Constantine for the cover and left the rest up to me. With that in mind, I went on a mad tear of propping…

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…dragged my crew down to Industria on a Saturday morning and let Mr. Gervais and Mr. Frog do all the heavy lifting. Here’s how it went…

Ricky and I talk to Matt Vogel…the Muppeteer behind Constantine…about a few ideas…

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…and even before we start, the fun begins…

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Here are some behind-the-scenes shots of how you photograph a Man and his Muppet…

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One of the best things about the whole day was having Ricky’s input as we went along. He came up with so many great ideas of what would look good, that I just had to keep my finger on the shutter and wait for things to happen!

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Ricky Gervais & Constantine the Muppet

Ricky Gervais & Constantine the Muppet

Ricky Gervais & Constantine the Muppet

Ricky Gervais & Constantine the Muppet

Then Ricky suggested they each pose with sunglasses…

Ricky Gervais & Constantine the Muppet

…and our cover was in the bag!

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After a quick background & wardrobe change, the two A-Listers were suddenly at each others throats…

Ricky Gervais & Constantine the Muppet

…but a left-cross from the Frog ended that argument…

Ricky Gervais & Constantine the Muppet

…and gave us the opener to the story!

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I also wanted to to shoot Ricky, sans Frog, but had picked up a few Froggy bits and pieces to stick with the theme, including a t-shirt with strategically-placed eyeballs…

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…and a very special pair of Kermit Adidas that Ricky put to good use…

Ricky Gervais & Constantine the Muppet

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Finally, I wanted to cool things down a bit, so I had Ricky get into his trademark black…and accessorized him with some very blingy fuzzy Frog Slippers…

Ricky Gervais & Constantine the Muppet

Ricky Gervais

Then we both kicked back and enjoyed a Green Drink…

Ricky Gervais & Constantine the Muppet

And yes…that is a Karl Pilkington t-shirt. I told you I was a big fan!

Ladies & Gentlemen…Mr. Tony Bennett

Tony Bennett

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Tony Bennett

Yes…Tony Bennett…!!!

I have a very short, unspoken list of people that I would never presume I would have the opportunity to meet, let alone get to photograph. That list has included Jacques Cousteau, Steven Spielberg, Christopher Reeve, and a few Presidents. But a couple of weeks ago, Kat Malott at the Wall Street Journal gave me the call. Tony Bennett. Tony sketches or paints every day, and Kat…the Photo Editor for the ‘Mansions’ section…wanted me to shoot Tony the Artist, at home with his paintings. The idea was to show him in his studio and keep things as ‘real’ as possible. Given that it was a painting studio, I kinda hoped the available light would make things easy in that respect. I wasn’t disappointed. Here is how things looked…

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The big wall of windows next to the easel face North onto Central Park and the east-facing windows would act as a nice fill, but I would still have to pull out my DIY Ghetto-Flo’s to to act as a main light, while still keeping the natural look of the scene. I didn’t need too much front light…two of the Ghetto’s should do it…