20110823_grace_tompkins_1821105736_2478-EditHere’s a previously unreleased photo I shot of Grace Helbig in NYC’s Tompkins Square Park. The bike matched her dress. She had no choice but to steal it.

 

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Here’s a throwback from the days when our ties matched our shirts EXACTLY. I’m pretty sure we were popping collars outside our lapels too.

I did a photo shoot years ago for my friend Tituss Burgess for his solo album “Here’s to You.” And (just as I expected) now he’s famous. He went from a regular on 30 Rock to co-star on The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Before that he was on Broadway in Jersey Boys and The Little Mermaid.

 

 

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This one is for my art director and graphic designer friends. I use a hard light layer with a grey background to get perfect edges in photoshop.

Email me with questions or comment below.

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Preet Bharara
I was recently commissioned by Worth Magazine and given a 30-minute window to photograph Preet Bharara in an office I had never visited.
He’s the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. He’s become well known for his office’s prosecutions of insider trading and other financial fraud on Wall Street. He’s a big deal and a busy man.
I was lead into a dim, windowless law library and my half-hour window began shrinking as meetings and phone calls started to run over.
Finally Mr. Bharara was free. He stepped into the lights, we loosened up with some of my patented irreverent and self-deprecating humor. When time was up I made a plea for a few more shots in his office. And that was that.

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I used to get so nervous and sweaty photographing high-level executives on their home turf. Now, I just get sweaty.

During a shoot the subject depends on me to make them look their best. In this situation, I’m the expert. Top-level CEO or not, they need me to call the shots. This, to me, means moving furniture, lightening the mood and taking the reigns.

Christina Alfonso in Manhattan for Worth Magazine.

 

“Remember,” photographer Arnold Newman famously said, “photography is 1% talent and 99% moving furniture.” I never did the math on that statement, but I certainly have moved a lot of furniture (hence the sweat). It’s part of creating a great image. I take books off of bookshelves, pull couches away from walls, reposition lamps, and clear off desks. This is usually happening right in front of my subject. I’m looking to remove distracting elements and frame the subject.

Lightening the mood typically starts with the furniture moving. I’ll say, “I’m going to take apart your office today,” or “I hope you remember where all this stuff goes.” I know this is a break from the norm for them, so I acknowledge the absurdity. I’ll probably make fun of myself for working up a sweat so soon. I’m usually having to dismiss claims of being un-photogenic with a smile. We’re going to get through this and you’re going to do great.

Real estate developer David von Spreckelsen in Brooklyn Heights for Worth Magazine. Real estate developer David von Spreckelsen in Brooklyn Heights for Worth Magazine.

 

Taking the reigns simply means that I’m giving this super-busy man or woman a mini-vacation from their day-to-day. It’s more for me than for them. I try to remember to take my time and do the work. The shoot is important and they’re not going to regret the few minutes they spent with me.

Rodrigo Niño photographed in the Prodigy Network's Wall Street office in Manhattan for Worth Magazine. Rodrigo Niño photographed in the Prodigy Network’s Wall Street office in Manhattan for Worth Magazine.

 

I mean no disrespect to Mr. Newman, but I would rework his ratios. His has an elegant simplicity. Mine is more complicated. Experience equals confidence in your craft. Your craft is the ability to control equipment, subject and location. “99% moving furniture,” is a nice thing to say to a subject. If you’ve done your job well, that’s all they will have noticed.

 

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Chiara de Blasio

 

I’ve just had a third Spring fashion photo spread published in AM New York.

In the first style reporter Julie Gordon and I got to work with really great models Lauren Schumann and Andrew Winburn, hair stylist Judy McGuinness and make up artist Cindy. We took some new clothes a bike and some flowers out into the chilly pre-spring Flatiron District. We put together six different looks that afternoon for the two-page spread.

The second shoot was an exclusive vintage store shop with New York City mayor’s daughter Chiara de Blasio at L Train Vintage in Park Slope. Chiara was in town on Spring break and took us to one of her favorite spots to shop for pre-owned fashion. Her current style, she said, is heavy-metal-hippie. I shot her in the clothes she was wearing and the outfit that she picked out while shopping.

Third was street fashion as we found it. Julie and I stopped New Yorkers in Williamsburg and in the Meatpacking District who seemed to be basing their wardrobes on the warmer temperatures.

It was nice to be able to use different creative muscles for each of these shoots. The model shoot required some quick location scouting and lighting solutions. The shoot with Chiara was a bit rushed so I had to incorporate environmental portraits with reportage. The street shoot made me constantly aware of the best way to frame our unsuspecting subjects in the best available light.

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“I think I want to do a shoot where I’m in a superhero costume,” she said.

Elizabeth McGann - Superhero scan

“That sounds cool,” I replied.

“And maybe my dog has a sidekick costume?” she continued.

“We’re doing that.” My smile almost visible through the phone.

Elizabeth McGann is the founder of Love Your Recovery. She offers an online community and coaching for members in addiction recovery. For many it can seem to take superhuman strength to do the simplest things. And that’s why we shot McGann in a custom-built supersuit, emblazoned with the word “LOVE,” doing things like walking her dog, shopping for organic veggies, and riding the subway. Rather than trivialize small accomplishments, McGann applauds the strength and courage it takes to make small steps in the right direction.

For this shoot, the suit was the key. I got to work with Donald Sanders who’s Broadway credits include running the Tony-award-winning studio of William Ivey Long. He designed the suit in her brand colors and styled during the shoot. I think he he might have been most excited about Ruby the dog’s sidekick costume, though.

Lynsey Buckelew did incredible work with hair and makeup. She let me focus on moments and expression rather than touch-ups.

Gear-wise I went very light. The available light in the city that day was gorgeous. I mostly used small lights and reflectors for fill.

Watch the video of our shoot below to see final images and some adorable dog tongue wagging.

 

 

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I can’t do it. Just sit and watch football on my day off? Not when my mom has a really cool underwater camera. Somehow I convinced my family to stage underwater football action shots in the pool.

After that, I’ll admit, I was tired enough to relax on the couch.

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Every Summer The Hell Gate Social, a bar in Astoria, NY, hosts the Great Astoria Gut-Off. It’s a weight loss competition for guys looking to get rid of their beer bellies. This year I was asked to shoot some “before” photos of the contestants.

They’re about half-way to the Labor Day weekend final weigh-in, and it’s still anybody’s game.

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Ok. It’s a web series, but I did reference 70’s style collage movie posters when working on the promo photo for Buddy Cops.

The series is (not surprisingly) in the  buddy cop genre. Dialogue scenes are filmed in a street, Law and Order style. It’s funny in a subtle, not too over-the-top way.

Where the filmmakers had a ton of fun was in the action sequences. They decided not to choose between expensive special effects and boring, but realistic quasi-action. Instead, they made the action humorously low-fi. They use firecrackers and photos of a house for a building explosion. Car chases are done with Matchbox Cars on fishing line.

It’s clever and quite funny, which is why I was excited to be chosen to shoot the promo photos. I wanted to keep in line with the tongue-in-cheek high action with low-fi effects. I shot actors Lindy Rogers and Evan Bass as I would for any dramatic photo. We did some leaps and dives with (replica) firearms in the studio. I shot a flying Matchbox Car and some army men painted to look like bad guys in business suits.

The cityscape photos were made possible by the Queens Museum of Art. They have a permanent exhibit called the Panorama. It’s a scale model of New York City. ALL FIVE BOROUGHS. It’s amazing. They allowed me to don some hospital booties and shoot from ground level. I was sprawled out in the Hudson River trying my best not to crush a miniature cruise ship while snapping away with a long macro lens.

Buddy Cops episode 1 “Explosive Lunch”  has just been released on ebassentertainment.com

 

car_chase Screen grab from one of the low-fi car chases.

 

panorama Queens Museum of Art employee cleaning the Panorama.

 

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