Sometimes You Just Gotta Have Fun…

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Scott Milleisen is not only the head of the sports banking group at J.P. Morgan Chase, he’s also a Managing Director at the bank, so getting him to do anything outta his comfort zone for a photograph wasn’t the easiest thing I’ve done lately, especially with somebody from J.P. Morgan Corporate Communications over my shoulder the whole time. But even though were were led up to the top floor of the J.P. Morgan World Headquarters on Park Avenue…

…the floor with more modern art on it’s walls than you’ll find at MOMA, but not one that exactly screams ‘SPORTS’ at you…I still wanted to tie in the sports angle to his business. And given that he regularly puts together gazzilion dollar deals funding sports teams, the idea of shooting him in front of the twin Warhol Marilyns (Steve Cohen picked up one Marilyn from Larry Gagosian for $80 million a while back!) just seemed right. All that was left to do was hand him a baseball bat and get him to take a few cuts at the ball I hung from a boom stand.

Next we went around the corner and did a simpler shot of him hamming it up with a football against a brushed steel wall…

…and of course he had to strike the Heisman pose!

Photo Editor Sarah Morse sent me on this one for Institutional Investor and it’s on the stands now.

President Barack Obama for BusinessWeek

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There are assignments…and then there are assignments. Last Friday afternoon I had just finished a location scout and was heading up to my place in Connecticut when I got a phone call from BusinessWeek…..Director of Photography Ronnie Weil, Art Director Andrew Horton and Photo Editor Sarah Morse were on the speaker phone and they obviously had something big to tell me. All at once, they practically screamed, “We’ve got ten minutes with the President on Monday…do you wanna do the shoot?!!”. I think I paused for a fraction of a second and thought I was getting punked…then I said “OF COURSE!!!”.

The next few hours took us all on a bit of a roller coaster ride…..first we went from half the editorial staff of the magazine wanting to come along, while I would bring two assistants and a few tons of gear for the intense, overly complex formal cover situation. Then, as we learned more details of what kind of access the White House would allow, it appeared that I might have to go in paparazzi style…just me and a single camera bag going into the Oval Office to document the Q & A, with no time to do an extra set up. But in the end I was able to get Bo to assist me and Ronnie was coming to produce, run defense and feed me Klonopin to calm my nerves. Steve Adler, the Editor in Chief and Washington Bureau Chief Jane Sasseen would be asking the questions and it was up to me to come up with not only a killer cover image, but additional portraits of the President to illustrate the story. We had hopes to still get that second cover shot, but the main focus had to be to photograph the interview in such a way that we could walk away with exceptional cover art.

Bo and Ronnie waiting it out in the White House Pressroom
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Even though this would be my fourth time in the White House, you can never foresee how things will come together on the day of a shoot like this. In fact, the same day we were shooting, one of my old assistants, Charlie Samuels, was supposed to get his own session with the President a few hours before us…but his shoot was cancelled at the last minute. As if I didn’t have enough on my mind, when he texted me that his shoot was nuked all I could think was, “Please God, let things work out for us!”.

So with a couple of hours to go before our ten minutes, we got to horse around in the Pressroom…..

Your New White House Press Director!
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And we even got to sit in on a press briefing (click on image for full-size)…..
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Ronnie looking extremely professional…..
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But eventually we were ushered into the West Wing through the rabbit warren-like maze that surrounds the Oval Office. After a brief introduction, Steve and Jane immediately began the interview and I got started by shoving Bo right in the middle of things for a white-balance test shot…..

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And then a funny thing happened…our ‘ten minutes’ somehow got stretched to more than half an hour! I still didn’t get a chance to do a set-up portrait, but the extra time really allowed me to focus on getting some truly amazing and expressive shots while the interview went on.

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…and here are a few pages from today’s BusinessWeek…..

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But of course, the fun had to end. The press handlers gave the President the high sign and our big adventure came to an end…but not before we got our grip & grin photos with the Most Powerful Man in the Free World!!!

First, he grabbed Ronnie and pulled her close…
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…while I got the more traditional smile and a handshake…..
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Don’t let anyone tell ya photographing the President ain’t all it’s cracked up to be!

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You Wanna Shoot Where?!!

Note: Click on any image to blow it up REAL big!

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Often, getting a corporate mind to put aside the literal and think like I do isn’t always that hard…sometimes you just have to ask…..

In today’s BusinessWeek is the story on David Johnson and Conmed that I went up to Utica to shoot a couple of weeks back. It was one of those jobs where BW photo editor Sarah Morse and I talked about what might make a cool shot, but neither of us had any real idea what was possible or if there were any eye-grabbing visuals strong enough to anchor the story. Conmed manufactures medical and surgical equipment and the story was about in order to streamline production, they went from long assembly lines that cranked out warehouses of product to compact U-shaped workstations that filled orders as-needed. We knew that showing the workstations was a must, but production lines are rarely as groovy as they appear in the movies…still, after getting the tour, Bo and I slapped on our hairnets & bunnysuits and went to work on this…

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Now, the workstations were OK and they got us this shot…

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…and Dave loved it ‘cuz it showed off their new production facilities and how they used new ideas to solve a manufacturing problem, but for me it was more of a ‘point picture’ and I knew there was more we could do to sell the idea of individual, hand-assembled production. I suggested to Dave that we look at a couple of other locations I had briefly seen on my walk-through that didn’t involve the production facility. I convinced him that we could use one of the production teams showing the final product in a more graphic location and still convey the idea of the story. One location was a bank of ‘windows’ just off the reception area in their plant…

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…and that was nice, but still a bit too sterile and corporate. The real winner was down a hallway that linked two parts of the building…an circular elevator bank that was covered is shimmering white tiles surrounded by acid-green walls!

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And here is the final spread…..

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The combination of the sterile white tiles and scorching green walls just screams medical and the nice balance of the workers blue smocks and Dave’s blue shirt made for a perfect image.

And as usual, to finish things off, I gotta get into the fun!

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