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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I Got To Wear Gay Talese’s Hat…

Gay Talese

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Gay Talese. In the Hall of Fame of Great American writers, few are more iconic or more respected than Gay Talese. From his early work as a newspaper reporter to his time during the hey day of Esquire magazine and his long career writing some of the best nonfiction you’ll ever read, this man has seen and done it all…and with more style than you’ll ever have! Laura Baer recently had me shoot him for a feature in New Jersey Monthly…a shoot that ended with me wearing the great man’s hat!

Upon arriving at his townhouse, we immediately noticed the silk-covered settee framed by silk curtains in the front window…

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It didn’t really require much lighting…but I added a 6′ Chimera for an overall soft fill behind the camera, and positioned a gridded 3′ ProFoto RFI directly above the seat for our main light…

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We waited out the harsh sunlight coming through the windows, and when the outside light was just soft enough, things really got interesting…

Gay Talese

The color shift from direct sunlight to open shade…and the blue cast it caused on the drapes…gave us a wonderful, cool mood that played off the warm tones of the settee, curtains and his suit.

Next, we set up a little studio in his back yard for some tighter portraits…

Gay Talese

…which gave us this…

Gay Talese

Here’s how it looked in print…

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Say My Name

Bryan Cranston

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I’m gonna keep this behind-the-scenes look fairly short and sweet…kinda like my time with Bryan Cranston…because I think the portraits will sort of do all the heavy lifting. Ronnie Weil needed Mr. Cranston shot for Alexandra Wolfe’s ‘Weekend Confidential” feature in the Review section of the Wall Street Journal and I was happy enough to oblige. Here’s how we set up our pop-up studio at the London Hotel for what turned out to be a pretty great morning…

Unlike a lot of the hotel shoots I find myself in, the London gave us a pretty nice (and large) space to work with…nice enough that I was able to break out some of my really BIG guns…the 79″ Rime Lites…

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Here’s how things looked with Robert standing in…

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That set would allow me to do everything from full length to tight portraits, but I wanted to also have a more controlled lighting setup for another portrait, so we pulled out the beauty dish…

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Here’s Kaz posing as fast as he can…

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Alright…we’re ready to go. Mr. Cranston, you’re on!

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Bryan Cranston

Bryan Cranston

Bryan Cranston

Next, I broke out my favorite antique posing stool…

Bryan Cranston

Bryan Cranston

After a very quick 5 minutes…with his publicist doing the countdown mambo behind me…we moved over to the second set…

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…and played around with the shadow and light on his face, getting progressively darker and moodier as we went along…

Bryan Cranston

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Bryan Cranston

And here is the final story as it appeared in the Wall Street Journal…

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And for you Breaking Bad fans, here’s a little Badfinger to play us out…

BADFINGER: BABY BLUE

Life is good when you love what you do…..

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The Federation Of Black Cowboys

Arthur “JR” Fulmore - The Federation of Black Cowboys

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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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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Enya

Enya

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One of the best things about doing what I do is not knowing where I’m gonna be tomorrow, so when Dana Kien at the Wall Street Journal asked if I wanted to shoot Irish singer Enya, there was no hesitation when I said ‘Yes!”. She was going to be in New York to promote her new album and I could get an hour with her at her hotel between interviews and TV gigs. So Robert and I loaded up the van and drove downtown to the St. Regis Hotel…

I didn’t know what kind of suite we would have to work with, but I did know all of the rooms at the St. Regis face North, so we would probably have lots of soft window light to play with. And when we got there, the first thing I did was see how Robert looked with nothing but that available light…

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Well…that was easy…now what else can we do?!! The bedroom was pretty opulent complete with a nice, velvet wallpaper…

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…and I also brought a lavender seamless that I could drop for a variation…

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…that looked like this…

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I think we’re ready to go! And as cute as Robert was, I knew Enya would bring a bit more to the table…

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Enya

And by just pulling the seamless outta the way…and adding a pillow from the bed for her to lean on…this is how things looked…

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Now let’s move onto the windows…

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Enya

You’ll notice that I got rid of those windows across the street…it just makes everything look a lot cleaner and more elegant.

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Enya

And here’s the page from today’s Wall Street Journal

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Thanks to Dana for the great shoot…and thanks to Enya for letting me turn her suite into a studio for an hour!

Enya

Hamilton In ‘Da House!!!

Lin-Manuel Miranda

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OK…let’s get this outta the way right off the bat…

No, I did not get tickets to Hamilton!

Now…on with the show……

My string of extremely cool shoots for Arrive Magazine continued when Rob Smith offered up Lin-Manuel Miranda for a cover feature on the ‘Hamilton’ writer and star. The story was tied to the productions donation of 20,000 $10 tickets to High School students so they see private matinees of ‘Hamilton’ that also includes a Q&A with the cast afterwards. It’s all done with the hope that it will get students to enjoy learning history…and what better way to get teens to enjoy history than to have them rapping the incredibly infectious songs from the musical after they leave the theater?!! And for one of our main photos we would be shooting Lin-Manuel with a group of students!

There were of course the usual difficulties of a shoot like this…very limited shoot time…having to do a union call which besides being crazy expensive, meant we couldn’t even plug in a light or move as much as a clamp without having a Hamilton crew member do it for us…to not even knowing what kind of wardrobe Lin-Manuel would be wearing before he arrived. Then there was the fact that I had a wild chest cold that made me feel like death and took 90% of my voice away! But hammer on we must…

On the location scout we decided on a few locations…

A view from the stage for our shot with Lin-Manuel and the kids…

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The back wall of the stage for a portrait…

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And a corner up in the mezzanine that would work great for our cover…my editor Leigh Flayton was giving her acting chops a workout…

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The ‘Hamilton’ wine being served in the Mezzanine Bar…

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Since we are going to have very little time for our shots, we had to pre-light each shot in advance…that was a lotta light! We had three separate setups on the stage alone, as well as the cover we were doing up in the mezzanine…

Most of these lights were for the opening shot of Lin-Manuel with the kids…

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But you can see the setup against the ‘rope wall’ in the background…

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Rob and I checking out the opening shot…with some of the union crew approving in the back…

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Here’s our first shot with stand ins for the opener…

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…and how things got looking better when the ‘talent’ showed up…

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But once we got the lighting dialed in a bit more, the final shot for the opener dazzled…

Lin-Manuel Miranda

Next was our ‘rope wall’ shot. Since Matt and Lin-Manuel were about the same height, he got to be the stand in…

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Lin-Manuel Miranda

Then we dropped a seamless for a tight portrait. I wanted something a little darker and moodier, so we kept things pretty contrasty…and I tweaked the color way into the blue spectrum which made Matt’s baby-blues even dreamier than normal…

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For Lin-Manuel I backed off a bit cuz I liked the shadow we were getting on the background…

Lin-Manuel Miranda

Finally, we raced upstairs for the cover. It’s pretty hard to describe how tight this location was, and unfortunately we didn’t have the time to do any behind-the-scenes shots, but Lin-Manuel was stuck into the corner and I was no more than four feet away shooting between the railing of a very dark stairway with the widest lens I had!

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Once again, I chose to shift the color balance towards the blue end of things since I didn’t really like how the dead green/cyan of the wallpaper was looking. I also popped the saturation of the gold quite a bit in CaptureOne which really made those frames stand out…

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And here’s how it all turned out…

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And I wasn’t kidding earlier…I still haven’t seen ‘Hamilton’…..but these kids did!!!

Lin-Manuel Miranda