Sunday, December 20, 2009

Listen Up, 2010

I was on set last week, thinking about what I have to do in the coming year to grow my client list and - in a more general sense - expand my career opportunities. After lunch, I was handed a fortune cookie, with this (hopefully) prophetic message: "An exciting opportunity lies ahead of you."

You hear that, 2010? Make it happen.

Christmas Comes Early

I know the holiday season is supposed to be about giving to others, but I don't really see this beautiful new machine as a gift for me, per se. It's for my career, after all.

So here you go: Merry Christmas, Career. You're worth it!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Songwriter John Lefler

I know I've been indulging in way too many tear sheet postings, but hey - seeing your work make it to print is one of the more exciting aspects of a photographer's gig. This shoot with John Lefler was great. It was a Sunday afternoon, John was excited about the article and in no hurry to get it over with. John is a multi instrumentalist and songwriter who also plays with the band Dashboard Confessional - so he's no stranger to being in front of the camera. I can't tell you what a difference it makes shooting somebody who's comfortable on the other side of that lens.

We went about the shoot in a very relaxed manner - taking frequent long pauses for conversation about music, photography, business, mutual acquaintances and the like. I cannot emphasize enough what a luxury time is on an assignment like this. Frequently, you get between 10-30 minutes. John let me hang out with him for a couple of hours.

I've bumped into John a handful of times since our shoot, and he's always quick to shake my hand and thank me for my time. I can honestly always reply, "The pleasure was all mine."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My First British Editorial Spread

The new issue of Mumsense Magazine is out, featuring a story I shot called 'Silent Nights.' Mumsense is a brand new British magazine for parents who want tips on 'making sense of family life.' It is a beautifully designed publication, and I'm so thrilled to have contributed to it. Once again, I had the great pleasure of working with my good friend and extraordinarily talented stylist/set designer Valerie Mangum. They gave us three full bleed pages!

Thanks, Mumsense. I sincerely hope we can work together again very soon.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

New Business Cards

I should be receiving my new business cards, designed by my good friend Yen Tan, in four business days. I'll try and post an entry when they arrive so you can see how they turned out.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bleeding Arms or, Justin Meaders Makes Me Feel Lazy

When this assignment came in, I was immediately excited. There's something very compelling about shooting portraits of athletes; the opportunity to try and catch (or recreate) their bodies in motion, capturing the intensity in their eyes, as well as the intrinsic acceptability of making the lighting and angles punchier and more graphic than other types of portraiture.

The magazine wanted a clean portrait of Justin on white, and they wanted to feature his racing chair. Justin is paraplegic, resulting from a motorcycle racing accident. He now participates in all three events in numerous triathlons. When that season is over, he plays hockey. Not only is he the Wheelchair Racing Director for Dallas' White Rock Marathon, he has also won 3 events so far, and is an incredibly cool guy.

Below is the magazine's pick for their interview, which features one of the toughest pull quotes ever: "When I finish races, sometimes the inside of my arms will be bleeding."

My many thanks to Justin for being such a gracious and willing subject. I wish him all the best on his many athletic endeavors.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Perception Is Everything

I read this on and and was pleasantly surprised to hear it from someone on the other side. 

I'm posting it verbatim, but make sure you check out Rob's excellent blog for consistently insightful content.

"Perception Is Everything – For Photo Editors

One of the mistakes I made as a photo editor early on was copping a “can do” attitude when it came to finding photography or making assignments. I figured I would just work as hard as I could and the end result was what it was. The problem with this is nobody factors in the limitations of the job they handed you after you’re done. A Creative Director I worked for once said “we need to manage the expectations” which basically means we need to discuss the limitations before heading off to try and solve the problem. When making assignments this means knowing beforehand what the subject looks like; what the environment in which they will be shot looks like; how much time you will have to make a picture; will there be a budget for wardrobe, hair & makeup, props; is the subject even aware thry’re to be photographed. There is nothing worse than discovering upon arrival of the shoot in the office that what was pitched doesn’t not match what exists.

When it comes to stock, a little investigation into whether there is good coverage of a subject matter is always a good strategy before a meeting. That way you can tell them “stock doesn’t exist so we need to shoot a picture and I’ve not turned up any photographers I like in the area so we need to fly someone in.”

The sooner you have these conversations in the editorial process the better it is for everyone. That way if the stock is crap and there’s no time/budget for a shoot making the decision to still run a story means they don’t care if the magazine looks horrible. At least they know they’re the one’s making that decision."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Glory At Sea

There are an infinite number of ways to bring attention to a tragedy: memorials, activism, legislation, riots, denial, apathy... the list goes on. 

My favorite - and (in my opinion) one of the most honorable reactions - is creativity.

Glory At Sea is many things, but at it's core it is a film about people who never give up hope, even when hope seems like a fantasy.... (It should also be said that this is a poetic narrative about those who lost love ones at the hands of Hurricane Katrina.)

This film made its festival run in '07, so I am extremely late in blogging about it. It is, however, an amazing film, and deserves as much attention as it can garner.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Boys Named Sue

I'm not going to lie to you... This was a tough one. The band had very little time before a three hour show, and I had a couple of versions I desperately wanted to try. It is worth noting, however, that the most challenging shoots are the ones that tend to produce the most unexpected (and often surprisingly good) results.

Boys Named Sue are a no-fuss, honky tonk/country-inspired band. I only include the hyphen because the genre they inhabit (rather tongue-in-cheekily) is a genre that I really respect. These Boys don't disrespect country, by any means, but they ain't exactly penitent for their version of it, either. But I digress...

After listening to some of their songs, I decided it might make a nice portrait to shoot these Boys at a poker table, drinking PBR and playing some bastardization of the game. Having wasted much precious time trying to unload the table and props, my assistant suggested I shoot the Boys hanging out while he prepped the set. Great advice... Funny how that works.

I'll post a version of the poker scenario out-take for good measure:

I like the poker shot. But I'm glad I broke away to shoot the Boys with their guard down. I can definitely see why the magazine picked one from that session instead. 

Here's to heeding good advice...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Have Fun

The great thing about working in a creative field is that, in one way or another, most of us are right brainers who are happy to have found ourselves on a team with others of our ilk. Don't get me wrong - You will occasionally find yourself on a set with someone (or several someones) who work better in under duress, and so that's the environment they nurture.

Our work can definitley get stressful - it is business, after all - but I think individuals in our field who create stress for themselves and those around them are:

1) shooting themselves in the foot, because the crew (and the client) will remember it...

2) forgetting that a crew is a team. Everyone wants the shoot to turn out well. Nurture the team, and the end product will always be better...

Here's the deal: Creative jobs are, in the end, fun. I don't envy lawyers and doctors: individuals for whom the result of their work could mean the difference between freedom and imprisonment, or life and death. We're just making good pictures. Pictures that tell stories. Sometimes, they're important stories that need to be told, and other times we're just helping advertise something or someone. Either way, we're damn lucky to be doing it.

So, when you can - and as often as you can - remember to have fun. The approach will reflect in your work, and - as an added bonus - you'll probably live longer.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Behind the scenes: A Typical Travel Job

I swore I'd take some behind-the-scenes shots or road trip pics from last week's travel shoot. Unfortunately, there was so much driving, setting up, tearing down and driving again that the only time I had to break out the camera for personal use was in the hotel room. So here you go: a behind the scenes look at the glamourous life of a travel job...

- watching my favorite hotel room show: Myth Busters -

- a few wind-down beverages -

- charging the 7b batteries for the next day -

- the flight home: a $6 beer and a fascinating read -

Monday, October 19, 2009

On The Road Again

My Pops was in the Navy, so I feel like I spent my whole childhood moving around. I'm sure at the time I resented it - but as I get older, I realize how lucky I was. I've lived in just about every part of the country. And it's funny: I think I've become somewhat addicted to traveling - It feels good to get out on the road, see new things. Meet new people. 

For the next four days, I'll be flying and driving all over the great state of Texas. It ain't much of a change, I admit, but I'll take it. I'll try and post some pictures along the way...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Damn Right

I've always been a huge fan of this campaign. In fact, I will embarrassingly admit that just last weekend I purchased a small bottle of Canadian Club as a direct result of my affection for these hilarious ads. Hey - honesty is the best policy, right? In any case, there is a fascinating interview with the Art Producer of the campaign over at the venerable blog A Photo Editor. I was very surprised to read that NONE of the images are actual vintage snapshots. That fact - plus many other insights into the business of producing such a work - are revealed here.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Shnit 09!

My good friend James M Johnston wrote and directed a short film called Receive Bacon that was selected to play at the Shnit International Film Festival in Switzerland. He was very surprised to discover that the festival's graphic design team chose to use my portrait of him as the inside cover of the festival program. Needless to say, I am surprised and pleased as well. I especially applaud the use of his beard for copy placement. Excellent.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dallas Center For The Performing Arts

This was a cool assignment.  Mark Nerenhausen is the CEO of the new Dallas Center For The Performing Arts. The only direction I was given was to photograph him somewhere on-site at the new Center. I was very surprised that the magazine picked the shot it did.

Don't get me wrong. I liked the shot above. If I didn't, the magazine would never have seen it. But that's what's so great about working with a talented photo editor. They have a different set of eyes, a different take on things, a more objective - and I'll admit it, sometimes better - vision for the work than I do. I think photographers are lucky to have that second opinion built into the process. It makes us better at our job.

Seeing it printed - I love it. I love it way more than I did when I was making my picks for the gallery. The out-takes below were, in my opinion, pretty strong contenders as well...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Stepping Up To The Plate

I'm launching my first e mail campaign tomorrow morning, and I have to admit: I'm nervous. You spend countless hours collecting contact info from magazines, websites, the stacks of business cards you've been handed over the years - hours typing in names, agencies, copying, pasting, double-checking that you've got the information right. You've spent years honing your skills, shooting, meeting people, editing your work into something you hope paints a picture of an artist with something to say and a unique way to say it. Then you just hope that a few of the recipients choose to open the e mail, and that a few of those few decide to follow the link to your website. Maybe one of those fewer few will even decide they'd like to work with you.

Whatever happens, it's a learning experience. And - as corny as it sounds, it's true - you can't hit a home run unless you step up to the plate.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Bored To Death

As a photographer and filmmaker, I sometimes stumble across a work that is so good, so thoroughly pitch-perfect that I get a little jealous I wasn't somehow part of it. It sounds silly - juvenile, even - but it's true.

Alright: confession time. I've only seen one episode of HBO's new series Bored To Death. Perhaps it's premature to be espousing the greatness of something upon a single viewing, but if the purpose of a blog isn't to indulge oneself, then what is the purpose? The quick rundown: Bored To Death is about a writer who, after having been dumped by his girlfriend for drinking too much white wine and smoking too much pot, posts an ad on Craig's List as an "unlicensed" private eye. Clients come knocking, the writer is thrown headlong into situations he is ill-equipped to handle, hijinx ensue. In the wrong hands, this could've been a terrible premise. Luckily for us, creator Jonathan Ames blends an amazing cast and hilarious writing into a show that I have not stopped thinking about and quoting since I saw it. Do yourself a favor and at least check out the trailer.

You're welcome.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dave Little for Modern Luxury

This shoot was one of those great experiences that confirms just how cool the gig of editorial photographer is. Dave is a great guy with many talents. He has released two albums of music, acts, and regularly performs as a stand up comedian. Dave was in no hurry (a rarity in my experience) and we spent a couple of hours together, comparing favorite comedians, sharing traveling stories and shooting. He truly could not have been a more gracious and willing subject. You can find out more about Dave and his various projects at his humbly URL'd website

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


This is a photo I shot of a "patient" of the practice of coining. I found the following explanation online

"Coining, or cao gio (pronounced phonetically gow yaw), is an alternative form of medicine most commonly practiced in Southeast Asia.  The practice of coining involves rubbing heated oil on the skin, most commonly the chest, back, or shoulders, and then vigorously rubbing a coin over the area in a linear fashion until a red mark is seen.Coining is believed to allow a path by which a 'bad wind' can be released from the body.  This 'wind' is believed to be the cause of the patient's illness.  Advocates use this method to treat a variety of minor ailments including fever, chills, headache, colds, and cough.."

To be completely honest, when I first saw the results of this 'treatment', my immediate gut response was that this poor woman... was dying. Seriously. I was horrified. 

I should have known better. The strange homeopathic treatments I've seen firsthand: raw garlic applied directly to abdominal stab wounds and incense smoke waffed into the eardrums of hard-hearing septagenarians - they all seem to work at least as well as conventional pharmaceudical medication. Sometimes better.

P.S.  - the homeopathic remedies described above are complete fabrications. I would urge anyone with an abdominal stab wound to avoid raw garlic. The incense ear thing is downright stupid. 

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Photo Booth

From time to time, my friends ask me to break out the camera and some lights to set up a 'photo booth' for a party. Usually, what this means is that instead of relaxing and enjoying myself at said party, I'm constantly on call to shoot pictures of drunken revellers. If it sounds as though I don't appreciate the role, I should clarify that I usually end up with a bunch of pictures that, if perhaps not portfolio-worthy, at very least serve as a treasured token of an evening I may have otherwise forgotten.

It's funny business, being a photographer. Every once in a while, you will be expected to shoot a picture at a wedding with a disposable camera and transcend the limitations of the equipment to make that snapshot look like something from your book. On the flipside, you will be asked to shoot frivolous party pics and end up with some images that, portfolio aside, you really love.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sick Of Your Life's Work VS. Your Next Shoot Is Your Best Shoot

I just went live with my new website, and boy - let me tell you - there's nary a more humbling effort than deciding which of your 'children' are your favorites. I think for now I'm going to keep the portfolio sections pretty slim in volume. A strange ritual is being born, wherein I keep telling myself that my next shoot will be my best shoot, and serve to fortify my current selections.

My goal now is to to turn that wish into a prophecy.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

VIBE Magazine Rises From The Ashes

When I saw this cover on newsstands as a kid - shot by the late, great Shawn Mortensen - I dreamed of one day shooting for the magazine myself. I loved (and still love) hip hop, and Tupac was one of my favorites. It blew my mind that someone's job could actually be photographing such an amazing artist - in a straight jacket, no less. The resulting image conveys a potent mix of beauty, danger and shock value. 

It goes without saying that (having yet to shoot for them) I was very upset to hear six weeks ago that VIBE was the latest in a long line of great magazines to go under. 

This morning, I was thrilled to read over on the venerable blog APE, that VIBE is to relaunch. The emphasis will be online at first, returning in printed form - as a quarterly - sometime in 2010. Read all about it here.

Maybe I'll get my shot at a VIBE assignment after all....

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

One For The Client, One For Yourself

You're not always going to get the kind of assignment that will immediately go into your book or onto your website. Often, the parameters of a shoot may not really jibe with the style or feel of the rest of your work. This is actually a good thing. It means someone out there has enough faith in your talent to assign you out of your comfort zone. 

My good friend and fellow photographer Van Ditthavong, in his book about photography, wrote this regarding the subject:

"...when the client is paying and they want something done
a particular way, you do it that way and you do it to the
best of your ability. However, before the day is done - 
always shoot one for yourself. It will make you happy."

Truer words have never been spoken. 

One of my favorite clients hired me to shoot a portrait of Ronnie Claire Edwards, head-to-toe, on a white backdrop. Ronnie is an accomplished actor and writer for both the stage and screen. She is best known as Corabeth Walton Godsey from the television show 'The Waltons.'

One for the client:

One for myself:

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Always Take Your Camera With You

I've been offered this particular nugget of wisdom from fellow journeymen (and women) of the photographic trade more than any other tip in the cliché toolbox... Just so happens, it's great advice.

As I was traveling around the past month, I made a concerted effort to adhere to this idea. Not necessarily to capture something for my book, mind you, but for a more elementary purpose: to record the moments, people and situations you happen upon which - sad as it is - you might otherwise forget. 

Here are three portraits I shot along the way that, for one reason or another, stand out for me:

This dapper gent's name is Easter. I shit you not. He's a parking lot attendant in Hollywood (amongst other things, I'm sure) and looks the way I wish I could in my 50's. Seriously.

Crystal lives in San Francisco. She is an incredibly gracious host and made her town one of the most memorable stops of the trip with a mix of roller skating, shooting foam arrows at strangers, site-seeing in The Mission, and good beer. I shot the flower trimmings in LA, but thought that they juxtaposed well with her portrait.

This is Curtis. He's an amazing musician, storyteller, and - well - person, really. This is a shot of him studying while he's on vacation. His mind never rests. That's an admirable trait, to be sure.

I realize that I should take my camera with me everywhere when I'm at home, too, but I rarely do. Perhaps this post is a good reason to start.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

LA part II, or: Seeing Two Of My Heroes In One Place

I wasn't going to make the flight. It was full and I was flying 'non rev,' which is fancy airline employee-speak for 'stand-by.' I had gotten up at 3:30 am, sped to the airport, gone through security, missed my first flight, and after all that - I wasn't going to get on. I headed back to my chair, to my magazine, to my iPod and most likely to sleep. Then something weird happened. As it turned out, the woman who was to occupy the last seat on the plane was late. Not absent, mind you, but rather - stuck in security. She was in a wheelchair, after all, and the plane wouldn't wait. I was offered her spot. Moments later, as I stuffed my camera bag under the seat in front of me, I tried my hardest not to fixate on the bad karma that was undoubtedly in the mail. 

I land at LAX, excited not only for the four days I will spend in La-La Land, but for the journey to SF, Portland, all the way up to Seattle and back down to Reno in the week that will follow. With my head still buzzing from the strangeness of making it there, who should I spy across the walkway from my gate? None other than fellow Texan and all around editorial photo giant - Dan Winters. Mr. Winters is one of my favorites in the field, responsible for a career full of enviable imagery:
He had, I supposed, been on my flight from Austin. He was in line at the Starbucks with his assistant and I - unable to think of anything more intelligent than "I'm a really big fan" - passed on the opportunity to meet the guy. But hey - I'd been in LA for, what? Five minutes? And already, I'd seen someone whose work I really admire. Probably the highlight of the trip.


My buddy David Lowery had introduced me to a tiny little tiki bar where ordering a concoction called the 'Uga Booga' leads to a fairly entertaining show, the substance of which I cannot betray. As is the custom, I paid it forward by taking some of my friends there. Across the street, I spied the unmistakable tell-tale signs of a location photo shoot: grip truck, mountain of sandbags, an apple cinema display atop a mag liner, a couple of assistants setting up an elinchrom octabank. My focus narrows on a tall guy with a shaved head and a beard...
Couldn't be. Right? 

I make the block to take a closer, yet hopefully unobtrusive look-see. I know Dan Winters usually gets the kind of assignments most shooters only dream of, and I'm curious who the subject is. All I can see at first is the guy's back. He's cutting up with some people on the crew, and as he turns to address one of them, I recognize him right away: Spike Jonze. 

Spike has been a visual hero of mine for a long time. He was shooting skate videos around the time I was first discovering photography. I was an avid - albeit, terrible - skateboarder and I watched a lot of his early works. As he moved on to direct clever, visually stunning videos for musicians I absolutely loved, my admiration grew for him in kind. Then he did 'Being John Malkovich.' Just incredible. 

And now this:
Where The Wild Things Are was a huge inspiration and a shocking jolt to my imagination when I was a kid. I didn't think a live action version of the book would be or even could be possible. But Spike's taken me to amazing and strange and impossible places before. I can hardly wait. 

Now to help promote something for both of these extremely talented artists - just in case you haven't already bought/seen/heard of them already: 

Dan Winters has a new book, 'Periodical Photographs', which you can (and should, dear readers) pick up here. Spike Jonze has a blog which strives to bring attention to some of the artists that inspire him. It's called, aptly enough, We Love You So. It's an amazing blog, and hours of fun to read. Check it here.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Los Angeles, or: how I missed Dark Night of the Soul

I have no illusions about being the first to blog about Dark Night Of The Soul, the collaboration between filmmaker/visual artist David Lynch and musicians Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse, however....

In case you haven't heard, 'Dark Night' is a gallery show predicated upon exploring the ways in which music and visual art converge: sometimes in compliment to each other, other times exposing tension between the two. It's also a round-table experiment in artists influencing one another. The Press release puts it thusly: "The artists worked together and were inspired by each other— Lynch making photographs influenced by the original songs that Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse were creating. "

The Michael Kohn Gallery in LA is (as far as I can tell) the only gallery that will host the installation. Lynch's photographs are displayed on the walls as the music Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse wrote play over the gallery's speakers. I walked past the gallery my first night in LA.

So what's the problem? Well, much my chagrin, the exhibition ended on July 11, four days prior to my arrival. According to the website, the limited edition book and CD are sold out.

Just my luck...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Westward The Wagons

As a kid with Navy parents, moving every couple of years was inevitable. I whined about the inconvenience of having to constantly make new friends and re-establish my footing in a new school, but I truly think the endless travel prepared me perfectly for a career in photography:

Meeting new people? Check.
Packing, unpacking, repacking? Check.
Long flights and long drives? Check.
Ability to adapt in almost any scenario? Check.

That the desire to travel hits me more often than I am able to indulge in it is undeniable. Perhaps soon my career will take me on the road more often. For now, I'll have to make do with personal trips, camera in tow. This week, I'm traveling up and down the West Coast indulging in another of my favorite art forms. I'll be taking pictures along the way, and will try to post something from each city.

I figure it's about time I made this blog a little more 'play' and a little less 'work.'

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Daydreamers for Small Magazine

Twice a year, I have the privilege of shooting for Small Magazine. Conceived by co-editors Christine Visneau and Olivia Pintos-Lopez, Small is an online quarterly for parents who foster creativity and imagination in their children. The supremely talented stylist Valerie Mangum designed and built the sets (each of which features at least one handmade paper-cut prop) and worked tirelessly to cast and clothe the kids. She also made the paper-cut border that ties the story together. You can take a peek into her creative endeavors by following her blog Only On A Windy Day.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Dr. Orsak for D Magazine

The shoot with Dr. Orsak was replete with false starts, scheduling complications and bizarre parking rules. As an editorial shooter, you get used to these kinds of hurdles. I have to say, however, that once I was set up and had Dr. Orsak on set - he was one of the most cooperative subjects I've ever shot. 

PS - I shot his portrait in a conference room on the SMU campus, and students were lining up to watch the process. He handled the scenario like a  champ.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Marc Solomon for Modern Luxury

For somebody who loves music as deeply as I do - deeply enough to modestly dabble in the form - it was great to finally get an assignment shooting a musician. Marc started a "School of Rock" for kids long before the Jack Black vehicle bearing that name ever existed. I think people like Marc who encourage kids to drop (or at least supplement) the plastic toggles and buttons of Guitar Hero in favor of actual wound steel and frets are doing future generations an enormous favor.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention that Marc was a gracious, patient and willing subject. 

That Painful First Post

Well, crap... Even as I begin, I do so knowing full well that the world needs another photographer's blog like I need a brick to the back of the head. There - I admit it. 

There are, however, a handful of blogs I visit on a regular basis that - for lack of a better expression - shed some light. Sometimes, it's just for a bit of industry news. Sometimes it's to see something new or personal from a photographer, painter, or designer that gives me a kick in the ol' keister. Sometimes it's just nice to read that artists the world over are going through the same thing I am. 

I'm starting to write this with the hope that somebody might find it's contents useful, interesting, comforting, or at very least - good for a laugh.