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…

Party Time With Marcus Samuelsson

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Marcus SamuelssonAquavitRed RoosterStreet BirdThe Food NetworkNo Passport Required…..that guy! I just love that guy!!! I had photographed him once before…years ago…where I set up a little food fight between him and chefs Tyler Florence and Melissa Kelly…

…so when Laura Baer asked me to shoot him at Marcus B&P…his new restaurant in Newark…for the New Jersey Monthly ‘Where To Eat Now’ cover, I was happy to hang with the Chef for some more fun times. Art Director Andy Ogilvie and I headed down to Newark to check out Marcus B&P…

The first thing that struck us was the bar that filled the entire front of the restaurant…

Yeah…that’ll work. And right next to the bar were these cover-ready booths…

So a few days later, Kaz and I loaded up the van, crossed the Hudson to do what we do…

But it is a restaurant…so let’s see some food…

OK…let’s move on to our cover shot…

Marcus had no reservations about dancing on a rather precarious tabletop…

And it looked good, but I still had to fire up Photoshop and to clean up the wall and get rid of that green stuff on the right side of the shot to make it truly cover-ready…

Now it was ready!

With two shots in the bag, we had just a little bit of time left before the place opened for dinner service and I spotted one more shot I wanted to do…at the Pass looking into the kitchen area…

It was a great place for a portrait of Marcus with chef James Bowen…

Everything is out right now in the August issue of New Jersey Monthly…

Huge thanks to Marcus and James…we had a blast!

Ethan Hawke For The London Sunday Times

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Ethan Hawke has a new movie out…‘First Reformed’…and Adam Hearn from the Times of London offered me the opportunity to hang with him for a bit and hopefully come away with a few portraits for the cover of the Sunday Culture Magazine. Kaz and I headed out to Ruby Bird Studios in Brooklyn and here’s how things went…

I wanted to shoot at Ruby Bird cuz it’s dripping with character…point in just about any direction and you can’t help but have a great background. And besides a cool location, we had Michael Fisher as our stylist for the day. And he killed it with all the amazing clothes he brought!

I decided to start pretty simple…in a corner…..

Ethan worked the Hell outta that corner…

For a second look, we set up against one of the rusty sliding doors…

…and Michael had the perfect retro outfit for the mood…

Michael had a rack full of extremely nice suits just begging to be used, so for our final shots, we went with a simple, dark seamless…

…and I let Ethan just play around…

Here’s the cover that came out yesterday…

Thanks to Adam, Michael, the folks at Ruby Bird..and most of all Ethan…it was a cool hang!

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…

Berlin International Film Festival – Homage To Willem Dafoe

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The 68th edition of the Berlin International Film Festival is running right now, and the organizers are dedicating this year’s Homage Award to film and theatre actor Willem Dafoe and presenting him with the Honorary Golden Bear in recognition of his life’s work. The special program for tonight’s award presentation features my portraits of Willem, originally shot for the Wall Street Journal…