My journey as a photographer has endured its share of bumps and bruises along the way. Though I had had a few images published and had my first paid gigs a few years before. I had very little knowledge of putting a cohesive portfolio together. I was a hobbyist and an enthusiast. One that had become passionate of the art, but had little grasp of how to get from A to B. Somewhere in my twenties, I picked up a second job working nights at an East Village record store. The owner, himself a published stock photographer became somewhat of a mentor, giving me the green light to build a portfolio from the continuous flow of interesting characters who came in the place. Good, bad or ugly, I was photographing and documenting much of my city life. Many, if not most of the people who took me up on my offer to use them as my instruments of creativity would meet me at a certain time and near place. I was more than happy to share prints with those who agreed to meet up. At the time, I was working with a very basic Nikon film SLR film camera that another boss gave me a few years before. While revisiting some old image files. I found a folder marked “slides”. I recall shooting almost exclusively with slide film at the time. While I don’t remember this particular woman’s name. I recall the session taking place within the lower east side’s Tompkins Square Park. In indulging myself in looking through old files. I’m surprised to find so many keepers.
Truth be told, I was never close with my Mom’s Mom. Though she lived just a few blocks away from us, a few steps from where some good friends of mine. Not a thought would occur as I walked past her residence almost daily. The only time I had been in her building or apartment was when I was 7 years old and a night long altercation between my Mom and my future Schlep Dad got loud and violent enough to summon the police. That morning would be the first and one of two times I ever stepped over that threshold. And though we would see one another on holidays (One of my favorite memories being her giving my Schlep Dad two cartons of cigarettes for Christmas. As if to say, “Here, this and the drugs your on, should speed up your death, you piece of shit.” There were attempts later in life to get closer, which included two trips to her new home in New Mexico. But, aside from that, nothing. Still, there was always something badass about her. She drank, smoked, cursed and played guitar. (pictured here.) Basically, she did whatever the fuck she wanted to. And for that, I admire her.
By all means, the day should have and was a very rewarding day. One that started with a good breakfast and the assurance that I would have enough toilet paper to carry me through my final days rewards here in Arlington. The inspection of our new condo furthered our day of rewards and promise that we were one step closer to fulfilling another dream of ours. It wasn’t until arriving home and chatting with my Mom, that the feel good day took a hit. “Your grandmother is dying.” While this came as no shock (She was in her mid nineties and had been in declining physical and mental health for years.) there’s always a sadness that comes with the passing of a family member. Again, there was no shock when, on the next day, my Mother informed me that she passed away in her sleep the night before.
While many portfolio sessions require weeks of planning and idea sharing. Others can be brokered with minimal planning and just a few key exchanges. Such was the case with Lauren. New images to show off a new look and style that adds an artsy edge to an already fetching body of work. During the two hours we worked together. My goal of recreating a look that was based on my love of black and white Hollywood Film Noir. By moving the main light around I was able to create the shadow and depth that once went missing in my studio work. With little to no instruction, I followed Lauren’s movement and changes to capture a number of looks and moods. In the end, the results had me recalling what drew me to my earliest experiemnts with photography and black & white film. Below are a very small sampling of what we captured.
If you took time to read my July 21st post “A New Beginning” Here . You’d know I’m taking steps towards what I hope to be a new chapter in my studio and promotional work. In reaching out to the many friends I’ve made over the years as a photographer and music blogger. I hope to bring bands and musicians out of the comfort zones or the clubs, stages and recording studios and into my world to capture edgy studio and location images. Having had both my live and studio images appear in magazines, music media sites, record covers and inlets. I hope to build on my reputation and continue to earn the trust I’ve worked so hard to earn. With the studio and post production skills I’ve both learned and applied. I feel I can offer artists the professional and creative edge that will best represent their art and distinct personalities without feeling posed, forced or inauthentic. So, whether you’re a musican, artist, band, record label or creative spirit looking for images that best represent you. Reach out, we’ll put our ideas together and create something special.
When my long time friend and favorite expatriate messaged me that she would be returning to New Jersey for a short, yet important visit. I knew the odds of me seeing her this time around, let alone catching up on her three years in Germany were about as good as the Cleveland Indians winning the World Series. Still, any chance to see such an old and dear friend was worth taking. Imagine my surprise when she was both available and looking forward to indulging me in one of my truest passions, studio photography. The hours we spent together were more of a gab session with me sneaking in a shot or two whenever I could.
Having met Mandy in the parking lot of a strip mall adjacent to my high school when I was sixteen. The likelihood of us ever becoming friends seemed improbable to say the very least. Yet, despite being polar opposites we became trusted, close friends before long. Supporting one another through sickness and health.Through the good times and bad. She’s been a huge supporter and influence on me as a photographer and as a volunteer to worthy causes. She’s one of the few people in my life who crosses the lines between friends and family. One’s that, no matter the distance or time. Remain, unspoken, an integral part of my life. And as my Mother put it “Damn, that woman does not age.” Looking at this picture. I think it highlights both her beauty and unwaning strength. I’m incredibly grateful for having the chance to catch up with her. One of Jersey’s best, no matter where she goes.
It’s been close to a week since my Mom’s first visit to our new home here in Jersey City. During her week here, I made it a priority to capture some intimate images of her stay. Being that we’ve lived so far from one another for over twenty years now. I don’t get to see her nearly as much as I’d like to. While her stay had it’s share of ups and downs. It reminded me of how much I love, respect and appreciate how much she’s shaped the person I am today. By far my favorite moments of her visit was seeing her interaction and the positive foot print she left on everyone she met. Her smile, positive outlook and ability to make complete strangers feel like family are inspiring. Looking back at her visit, I realized that the thing I enjoyed the most was hearing her speak in Spanish s0 often with anyone and everyone she new spoke the language. For me personally, it’s always been one of the many traits that made her so beautiful. Till this day, I still remember the first words she taught me as a baby “Dame Un Beso.” (Give me a kiss.) All these years later, I still tell people about my first words and about what an amazing woman my Mother has always been. Despite all our differences and endless similarities. We still love one another to the fullest. Thanks Mom.
On an almost daily basis. I take a few minutes to spend a little time visiting a past shoot to either tweak an overlooked image while sending any less than worthy ones to the trash. It’s a practice that has allowed me to purge thousands of images while giving me time to savor and care for the ones that really count. As I look back to my earliest home studio work. I see my leanings towards broad/flat lighting. A style that may have worked for me at the time. Clearly displays my fears of fucking things up and making mistakes. Perhaps revealing my rookie status. And while the image below might look good to some. I clearly remember feeling like that first day on the school bus. Luckily, that day helped me capture a number of images that would lead to future work and ultimately, more confidence.
On this latter image I had not only gained confidence, but I learned some essential lessons about successfully communicating ideas and concepts while gaining the confidence and trust of the model. On this particular shoot, I took a more creative approach with both the lighting and concept. I knew exactly what I was looking to accomplish as well as the message I was looking to convey. As I revisited this image for the first time in over a year. I decided to add a little shadow and highlights while adjusting the contrast to give it the dramatic and moody feel the shoot called for. As I grow and hopefully evolve as a photographer. I look forward to taking chances with light, make some mistakes I can learn from and shoot with a more ballsy, confident approach.
If there’s anything I missed in 2014. It would have to be portraits and studio photography. While the year presented many opportunities for travel, event and real estate photography. My studio work suffered greatly for many reasons. Moving to a new and spacious loft in nearby Jersey City offered new opportunities while allowing me to expand and grow. Unfortunately, I stalled in the process and temporarily lost my way. It seems I lost my ability to communicate in a way I’m used to, in a way I’m accustomed to. Then came the winter, the cold, the ice and the snow. During that time, I kept busy, worked on other aspects of my photography and waited. Suddenly an opportunity showed itself when our interior decorator, friend and neighbor stopped by to see the remaining pieces he ordered for our kitchen. A great communicator and story teller in every sense. I asked him to sit for me as I tested some lighting set ups. He happily obliged and within five minutes we had some great photos to go with the stories we had shared. It was a nice moment that reminded me about navigating the highs and lows of creativity. How when one aspect of your work loses steam, another might thrive. Like life itself, creativity is a balancing act. Thanks to my new friend for reminding me.
About a week ago I had a friend come over for some initial tests in the new spot. I had moved just a week before and was looking to start booking as soon as I possibly could. Considering Audrey has always been such a fun and patient subject to work with, she was my first and only choice. Considering Audrey has always been such a fun and patient subject to work with, she was my first and only choice. Though we spent a fair amount of time in the studio fiddling around with different lighting and the lofts natural light. I felt most comfortable exploring what the building itself offered. As we moved from space to space, I realized how much I really preferred the natural light the halls, lobby and nearby gallery offered. To say I’m excited by the endless possibilities my new settings have offered, would be a tremendous understatement. I look forward to both the opportunities and challenges it all brings.
Over the Summer I began to really kick up my game when it came to better marketing myself. I worked on my resume, checked listings daily and regularly updated my website with new images. Within a matter of weeks my work began to pay off as freelance opportunities and contract work began to come my way. I was doing the kind of work I hadn’t done in years, while engaging in new opportunities. During that time a few offers came my way that would provide steady work and income in the future. One particular opportunity was working as a freelance photographer at a nearby studio two to three days a week.
As the week before the interview progressed we kept in touch via emails and phone calls. I did my share of research on the company and felt pretty good about the opportunity that was being presented. When I was asked to bring a portfolio and my camera. I realized the only printed work I had available was my Boudoir Portfolio. When I asked about it, the woman on the phone seemed to stumble over her words. “Um, I don’t know.” “That’s not what we do here.” “I have to….. ask… the director.” I informed her that I had a website that would perfectly highlight that side of my work or I could quickly whip up a digital port worth presenting. Still, she stumbled. For some stupid reason I felt bad. That my recent work was being deemed dirty by someone I had never met might seem silly now. Yet, at the time, I felt as if I was being looked at as some deviant smut peddler who hides his portfolio behind some oversized rain coat. A couple of days past and I got the call that the interview was set and they were looking forward to meeting me. I was relieved. I was ready.
Though the studio I’d be working out of was about forty five minutes from me in nearby East Brunswick. The interview was set up at the companies main office in Connecticut. So in the days prior to my appointment, my wife and I planned our day around the interview. As I entered the building I was impressed with the stone walls and lofty ceilings. As I sat there waiting to be called I eyed the modeling pictures on the wall. The lighting, the style, the models. All standard, but nothing all that inspiring. Then I began to notice the clientele coming in and out of the offices and studio. It immediately reminded me of all the scams you see where some company promises the world and all it’s riches to a naive family who’s convinced their child could be the next… insert child star name here _____________________. I decided to stay, listen, ask questions and make an informed decision after everything was done.
As I was ushered in by the attractive secretary and introduced to the my interviewer, the douche chills immediately began to build. Dressed in black from head to toe with slicked back, black hair with enough product in it to supply an entire city block. He spoke quickly in a thick Russian accent about the shooting process. “It’s not how many shoots you do in a day.” “It’s about the looks” “You need to shoot five looks.” “See, look, look, look, look, look.” “Five looks.” Never once asking me questions like someone interviewing you for a position. Finally he says “You brought portfolio?” I placed it on the counter and he quickly flipped through without much eye contact. “Good, good, good.” “I like.” Before he asked me any questions he wanted me to shoot a client waiting in one of the studio rooms. I’m already planning my escape plan. I’ve always prided myself on trusting my instincts and listening intently to what my gut tells me. At the time, my gut was telling me “Scam, bam, no thank you, man.”
Finally, I excused myself from his sales pitch long enough to ask a few questions of my own. Questions about the general age of the clients, the companies they work with and other general curiosities. He became even more elusive and led me towards the studio where the shooting would take place. Knowing full well that the pictures I would be taking were going to be used by the company without them ever paying me. “Thanks, but no thanks.” I replied and walked out. When I met up with my wife a few minutes later I told her what had transpired. Being the amazing woman she is. She told me not to worry. “Always listen to what your heart tells you.” Hopefully, the lessons I learned from this brief exchange will not soon be forgotten. 1.Trust your gut. 2. Never let anyone make you feel uncomfortable about the kind of work you do and love. 3. Never do anything you don’t feel right about doing. Until the next debacle.