Some friends of mine have been writing this story for the last 5 or so years. It’s called “The Morbid Sisters” and I would describe it as a dark comedy/sci-fi/chick-flick. They asked me to be the director of photography on it and I just had to. I’ve never worked on anything action of effects driven before. We’re filming something of a “Pilot” and So I wanted to share with you the first two episodes:
Please share these videos, “Like” and Subscribe to the channel – there’s more to come, we’re looking to get some funding to make a whole series!
Recently I got to shoot some lifestyle images for an agency that wanted to showcase modern technology being integrated into different lifestyles. The tagline was “Staying connected” and I had some time to think about what this meant. Being someone that’s grown up in the midwest with it’s green forests, cold winters and open spaces I wanted to take an approach to the subject matter that said “staying connected” in 2 ways. The first being a reference to technology, smart phones, tablets etc and the second one referring to staying connected with our roots in nature. We shot right here in San Francisco believe it or not and within a few hours we walked away with some awesome images.
What does “Staying connected” mean to you?
Last week I took a drive to Half Moon Bay with an assistant and a trunk full of lighting gear to check out the Western Circle Sword Fighters’ annual “Best of the Best” tournament.This organization is focused on the martial art of sword fighting of all styles, fighters build their own wooden or steel swords and craft their own leather and steel armor and compete
in full contact one on one fights.
It was interesting to work with because everything was so shiny and metallic and all the fighters were wearing black leather. I wanted to them to have a very dramatic “lit” look, so we
set up a black background with a strip box on either side for a rim light, we used a 5 degree grid to highlight the face and an on-camera speedlight for fill.
We did half body shots of the fighters with their armor and swords, and then tight head shots. The photos were typically taken between fights so everyone was still pumped up on
adrenaline and sweaty. We got to watch a bit of the competition and I can tell you, these guys do not mess around.
Overall I was very satisfied with what we got and I will definitely be working with them again. Don’t miss the BTS video at the end!
About 2 weeks ago I was asked by Iron Clad Productions out of New York if I would shoot some portraits of the cast and crew of indie film “Petunia” at it’s Debut at the Castro Theater in San Francisco. I happily accepted and upon arriving at the scene, it was packed with reporters. The green room was very small and intimate, with nothing more than a small couch and a coffee table. The director of the film was seated next to Thora Birch (of “American Beauty” and “Ghost World” fame) and was being interviewed by an independent reporter.
When the interview concluded I introduced myself and told them what I was there for, but they of course were very busy talking with other reporters, producers etc. When I had been informed that the theater doors had been opened I was told that I would have one minute with person. That’s it. I had never been in the Castro Theater green room before, was not allowed to bring supplementary lighting and there people and fluorescent lights everywhere. I found a window and plopped everyone down. The director was up first, Ash Christian:
Everyone was very nice, obviously in a hurry but they were sincerely grateful that I had been able to do this for them at such short notice. Thora was cast in her star roles very well – her personality is very similar to her characters, only she seems much nicer.
The whole shoot took less than 10 minutes and the cast was thrilled with their portraits, as was the production company. This just goes to show that you must know your lighting – I was working on very little information and very little time but I still pulled off a successful shoot and the client was very happy. Of course, it’s best to plan as much as possible but sometimes improvisation is the only way to go. So you’ve got to practice improvising, learn what works, know what you like.
Wow, it’s been wayyy too long since I updated last, hopefully there won’t be anymore of that for a while I’ve been terribly busy this past month.
To kick off this blog post, here’s a commercial shoot I did for the San Francisco local non-profit GLIDE promoting their annual fund raiser Springlicious:
This is my 2nd year in a row working with GLIDE and it’s always a lot of fun. The models are all drag queens/kings and the shoots are always a blast. An extra bonus is I always get a couple VIP tickets to the fundraiser which includes free food and drinks as well as a drag show. Waaaaayyyyy too much fun for a Saturday night.
Here’s a little BTS video that they used to promote the event:
In other news, the “Portraits of the 99%” project is still going strong and recently received a 500.00 grant to help out with the mounting of images. I’ve got a dozen or so ready to show and I’m in talks with a few galleries and collectors about doing a show soon including the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in the financial district. Also, this guy won me an Outsanding Documentary photography award. Very exciting!
And speaking of which, you all should know that IndieGoGo has been integral in getting this project funded and they recently asked me if I would be an ambassador for them! Of course I humbly accepted so if you go to an IndieGoGo meetup in San Francisco expect to see me there as a speaker. And as an added bonus, they want to furnish their office with a few of my Occupy Portraits.
I’m working on a number of things over the next few months so stay tuned, I promise to update more often.
Last week I was talking on the phone with my mother and she mentioned that the most recent photo she had of me is over 6 years old. As photographers we never think much about going in front of the camera. It’s not that I don’t like getting my picture taken or have some kind of phobia about it… I’ve helped out a lot of friends with shoots and have been a model in some cases. So I asked a few close friends if they would be willing to set aside a small amount of time to take a portrait of me. I offered a trade of services, a portrait for a portrait but I understood that they were working professionals and may not be able to make the time. So to keep my options open, I decided to place an ad on Craigslist to see what the local area had to offer. I knew I would have to pay for quality and I said that I would pay “Market rates.”
What happened next sincerely horrified me.
I promptly received 30+ emails from people claiming to be “Professional Photographers” and offering me their services for as low as $55.00 for a 2 hour session with 5 poses and all images on a CD. NO career can be sustained on one off 55.00 jobs and that doesn’t even begin to cover your operating expenses let alone pay you a living wage. Not only that, the people that are offering such rock-bottom rates are hurting the local market by lowering people’s expectations and standards of photography.
Not all of the photographers were bad or anything, some of them were pretty good but were charging far too little. Turning the tables like that has opened my eyes on what it’s like to be one of my own clients. Not all but most of the websites were terrible, a flickr page or completely unusable. The emails were extremely unprofessional and poorly written. Some of them didn’t even contain links to portfolios, they just had attached photos. Photography is a service industry – first impressions, even via email are EXTREMELY important.
If you are unsure what to charge for your photography services PLEASE go here and figure out your operating expenses and then ask around about what other photographers charge in your area. You are doing no favors to anyone by being “The cheapest” and you certainly don’t want that to be your reputation. You get what you pay for and this venn diagram sums it up nicely:
For the last several weeks I’ve been involved in a film project. Having just returned in January from traveling the country shooting the Occupy Wallstreet protestors for nearly 4 months my one-off assignments and small personal projects just hadn’t been giving me the fulfillment that the Portraits of the 99% project did. I really wanted to make movies when I was kid and now that photography and video is overlapping I decided I wanted to work on a film project. I called up several friends in the film industry and some who are still in film school and told them I had no idea what I wanted to make – but I wanted to make something awesome. So we meet once a week for several weeks in a row and discussed concepts, wrote stories and worked out characters. We decided we wanted to make a web series based in the desert with a theme of isolation. The webisodes would be short, 3-5 minutes each and jump back and fourth between several characters.
On Monday, April 9th all six of us piled into a van full of food, scripts and equipment and drove out to the Salton Sea where we had 1 scout day, 1 shoot day and 2 driving days. We recruited local actors and despite some setbacks we got some amazing footage. Once it’s completed we plan to enter it competitions and just get it seen in general. Then we pitch it for crowdsource or other funding and shoot an entire series. We want to surpass the typical quality you see on youtube or web series, taking a dramatic approach rather than comedy which there seems to be a lot of out there. I can’t talk too much about the project, we haven’t even started post-production yet. What I can do however, is share some of the behind the scenes production stills of the shoot. Enjoy!
For the last month or so I’ve been talking to various art galleries and collectors about having an exhibition of the “Portraits of the 99%” series. The images are 12×18 and are mounted on 7/8″ thick wood with a white vinyl siding and they are absolutely beautiful. However, it’s very impractical to carry around all 354 of them to show to people, so I’ve put together an exhibition catalog that features all of the images up until now along with some behind the scenes photos, a forward by myself and a few color versions of the portraits. It’s a 26 page perfect bound catalog a book practically, and I’m really excited about it. You can get your hands on one for $20.00 from Magcloud, as well as a digital download for 5.00. The entire catalog is online for preview as well, so you can also just check it out and let me know what you think.
All proceeds from the sales of these catalogs go into the mounting and framing process in preparation for exhibition. You can get it HERE.
After nearly 4 months of traveling the country working on my Occupy Wallstreet project, “Portraits of the 99%” I have finally taken a bit of a break to recharge and get the body of work seen by the world. Upon doing some non-occupy wallstreet work, I’ve noticed something has happened: I’ve become REALLY good at making portraits.
Now, I’ve always considered myself a portrait photographer so of course I MUST be good at making portraits, right? Since working on the “Portraits of the 99%” series I’ve become much more observant of the nuances of the human condition within the confines of my frame. Gesture, facial expressions, body language. When I was on the road I had to work really fast because more often than not I was working on limited time and with people who were on the move so I became very sensitive to all of those things. Now that I’ve got the time to slow down and work with my subject things are much different. It’s hard for me to call my 4 month long and counting occupy project “practice” but I think photographers are always practicing while on the job or off. It’s really worth the effort and has made me much more aware of what I am photographing.
Quick post today, I wanted to share the interview that KTVU Channel 2 in Oakland did with me on the project last night. (I can’t post the video but you can click the thumbnail and watch it on their page)
I’m very excited at the opportunities that could come of this, some of you know that I have been shopping around for a gallery to hang these images in and this has already gotten me a few phone calls.
The other thing I wanted to share was the jump into color:
I’ve been working on a new promo to send to magazines showing that I am a portrait photographer. I thought what better way to do this then use some of my most well known work but something felt a bit off to me. So now I’ve been playing with really tight crops and color images from the “Portraits of the 99%” series. Let me know how you like it!
Some of you may know that I grew up in a small town named Abrams in Wisconsin, just a few miles north of Green Bay. Recently I visited my home town again with the intention of documenting the places I would go to regularly when I lived here. The economy has not been very nice to these cities, with a lot of buildings abandoned or something else entirely now. Things change, and while change can sometimes be sad it can also be beautiful.
Over the holidays I made my way out to the Midwest to visit some friends and family and also made contact with some of the Occupy Camps in Wisconsin. I ended up combing their photos because there was a disproportionate amount of people at both camps, but I also managed to catch the “Solidarity Sing-along,” which is a group of about 30 to 50 people who every day come to the State Capitol in Madison and sing anti Governor Walker songs. They all consider themselves to be supporters of the 99%.
I’ve also started working with Marcel Kuemmet of Wisconsin Confidential. We’re working on a video piece about myself and the project for promotional purposes as well as documentary purposes. He’s been filming the shoots and travels as well as assisting me.
Soon the images will be for sale at Portraitsofthe99.com printed by me on Archival Matte paper to the highest professional quality. If you buy a print all proceeds go back into the project for travel and furthering the project. You can also buy a poster, a book will be out soon and you can just donate a few bucks. Every little bit helps.
I’m taking a break from my Occupy wallstreet posts this week, there will be more of those images for sure because I’m going to LA tomorrow. I wanted to show some images I shot last week, more for myself than anything;
Nic is a 20 year old concept artist who lives in San Diego, CA.
His father, a digital consultant, was the primary bread-winner in the family. His mother worked as an administrator at a low income school. Last year, his father passed away and due to the loss of a larger income Nic was forced to drop out of school and move back in with his mother. There wasn’t enough money however, and their nice SoCal home was forclosed on. After a few months Nic’s mother got a job at a private school that came with a large paycheck and a nice pension. After some negotiation with the banks, they got the house back. The house was empty however, because they had sold off all of their furniture and electronics. The yard had grown weedy, their pool had been drained and their deck is all rotted out. Nic’s mother had a several hour commute each day so he was given the responsibility to take care of the property, quite the load for one young, 20 year old.
The tragedies and stress in his life has forced him to go to therapy but he seems to be managing. He hopes to go back to school in San Francisco because San Diego “Just doesn’t suit me,” he says.
I wish I had more time with Nic, the home he was caring for is beautiful on two acres complete with an orchard and a little creek. I’ve found that some of the best imagery comes from the hardest times, despite the discomfort that may come from holding a camera to your eye in the situation.
San Diego was an interesting location to photograph. There were no tents, as they were considered illegal to be pitched in the Civic Theater, so there were many people who protest all day, go home for the night and then come back the next day. It is my understanding that San Diego CA has the 6th highest arrest rate for the Occupy movement, which is crazy because it’s so small. Everyone was very friendly and enthusiastic about the project and they were eager to contribute and get in front of my camera. (Images will be posted on Portraitsofthe99.com shortly)
The IndieGoGo fund has been going great, and we’re almost out of time. With the launch of Portraitsofthe99.com you can donate at either or, and it will go to the project if you wish to support it, it’s greatly appreciated.
After all of the hard work I’ve put into my “Portraits of the 99%” project (With still a lot more hard work to come in the future) I’m proud to announce the launch of www.Portraitsofthe99.com, a site dedicated solely to the project. The IndieGoGo page is what initially got this project off the ground, but it’s going to expire soon – so I wanted a more permanent place that people could go to donate, buy prints and posters or just look at all of the photos. The site not only showcases all of the portraits but it also has a schedule of my travel and a press section to show when and where the images have been published.
If you’re interested in purchasing a specific print go and check it out. The portraits are sorted by city so if our photo is on my site or your friend’s photo or you’re a collector choosing a favorite this is the place to do that. All of the money goes back into the project (After shipping/printing costs etc) and will contribute to me traveling the country and documenting this massive upheaval of people across the world.
Thank you once again for all of your support. It really has been amazing and while it’s a little late it’s looking to the be one of the main things I am thankful for this year.
After a few back and fourth phone calls and some meetings, on Saturday November 19th the SF Chronicle dedicated not one, but 2 whole pages to the “Portraits of the 99%” (even though they didn’t use that title) and a story about me and the project. The datebook is the Chronicle’s most popular section where it features gallery openings, movie reviews of course, the comics. The Chronicle has a circulation of 1/4 million and is distributed all over California. After it was published I received a slew of emails, phone calls and donations to the IndieGoGo fund. The feedback on this project has been so wonderful and now with the fund raiser in full swing I can do this project right. I’m going to San Diego on November 29th, LA in December and New York in January. I’ll be setting up meetings with various big name publications in New York and LA and I’m talking with galleries about doing a show.
I’m so thankful that this opportunity has come to me and that I’ve been able to do just the things I have done already. But now, I get to take it that next extra step. Thank you, everyone who has donated, everyone who has been spreading the word and everyone who reads this blog. These photos are about you guys, not me. Thank you.
The little portrait of me on the upper left corner of the 2nd page/image was shot by my friend Bonnie Rae Mills. My favorite part of the article was the mention of how cool I think Dinosaurs are and that I wanted to be Indiana Jones.
Occupy Berkeley was definitely the smallest occupy protest I have shot thus far. But like a small, midwestern town the people were absolutely wonderful. Only got about 20 portraits total, but I’m happy with the quality of the individuals we’ve captured today.
Don’t forget you can donate and help make this project happen by donating at the Indie GoGo page. Donations go towards travel expenses and you’ll get some cool free stuff out of it like signed prints, posters or even a book!
Some left overs from my edits of the OccupySF portraits. I was much pickier before about what I was posting, but now I’ve decided that all of the portraits need to be seen.
Don’t forget that you can help me continue this series by donating a few bucks to my Indie GoGo page!
As you can see, I’ve been busy. I decided to put together a video to actually show me working in the field on this project. Not many people were willing to talk to the camera, but we were able to snag an interview with one of my contacts in Santa Rosa about the project. Please help out with this massive and wonderful project, you can donate at the link below. Thank you for all of your support.
Oakland was by far the most difficult city to shoot in. People were much more weary of me, especially since no one had responded to my emails or calls. So I showed up and introduced myself to the people there, told them what i was doing and showed them some pictures. I was also working with a writer so that seemed to intimidate some people. As the day went on, people warmed up to us, and we got enough photos to be satisfied.
If you want to donate to this project, mostly to get me flying around CA click HERE.