As a freelance photographer, I am constantly thinking of ways to reach out to new clients. This past year, I’ve partnered with two different agencies – Wonderful Machine and Evolve Images to become more visible. Wonderful Machine is a site for clients to find photographers in various cities all over the world. Evolve Images is a new photography stock agency that has a wide range of images from lots of photographers. Both have featured me this past month in emails blasts and blogs. Check them out!
I have just returned from an amazing week in Africa with President Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton. I was hired by the Clinton Foundation to document the President and a delegation as they visited Foundation and Clinton Global Initiative projects in South Africa, Mozambique, Rwanda and Uganda.
One of the highlights of the trip was visiting Nelson Mandela at his home in Qunu, South Africa, the rural village where he grew up. I was nervous about making this photograph because I wanted to respect Mandela’s privacy and not be too intrusive. I waited to be called into the room and thought I would only have a minute or two to photograph the meeting. However, the living room was full of family members and staff and nobody seemed to mind that I was there. I felt like I had my picture and was turning to leave when another photographer came bursting into the room. He was shooting for the Mandela family and he asked the two former presidents to shake hands (which I thought was a bit cheesy.) As they did, he patted Mandela on the shoulder and said “Madiba, smile!” A grin came across Mandela’s face and THAT was the photo, not so cheesy after all. The day we visited the former South African president was considered Mandela Day and the next day was his 94th birthday.
Another special moment of the trip was when President Bill Clinton met with Ugandan teenager Bill Clinton. I was part of a White House trip to Africa in 1998 when President Clinton met an infant who was named after him. The local Ugandan newspaper ran a story during our 2012 trip about the boy. Our staff was able to track him down and arranged a meeting at the airport. It was an emotional moment as the two embraced on the tarmac. Later that evening as we were flying to our next stop, some of the staff and myself were talking about the 1998 photo and thinking about how great it would be to see the two photos together. I am notorious for never throwing anything away (you never know when you might need something) and that means my computer is usually full of outdated files and folders. Luckily, a slide show of my White House images that I had prepared for a presentation two years ago, was still on my laptop and believe it or not, the 1998 photo of Bill Clinton holding Bill Clinton was there. I paired the two photos and we were able to send it to the Ugandan newspaper the next day and post it on the Clinton Foundation website.
My favorite photo from the trip was a candid moment between father and daughter. As we were on the tarmac in Kigali, heading for the airplane, I turned around and saw this wonderful moment in beautiful light. Thanks to Nikon for loaning me a 24mm f1.4 lens for the trip, which was just what I needed in this low light situation and was a perfect match for my new D800 camera.
The trip was full of wonderful moments and great photos – here are a few of my other images from the week. An entire gallery of photos can be viewed on the Clinton Foundation website along with blog posts from staff, Chelsea and members of the delegation including actor Jeffrey Wright.
Rivet & Sway, the eyeglass frame website that I have been shooting for, has launched! Most of my work is spattered throughout the site, including all of the product photography. A bit of a departure from the work I usually do – product photography is tricky, but I enjoyed the challenge. I shot 23 pairs of frames, each in three colors.
In addition to the product photography, I rented a studio for a day and photographed real people (meaning not professional models) wearing the frames. We shot each person from six or seven different angles so that when you move your mouse over each subject, you get a 180 degree look at the frames. Pretty cool!
Try this link for the 180 degree image:
Follow this link to my pictures of chef Zephyr Paquette.
You might have to register on the site to gain access since this is just a beta site right now. Once you sign up, you can start ordering frames. Rivet & Sway is anxious to start shipping to customers.
Thanks to Adam Crowley for the use of his studio and his assistance on the shoot, Glynne Davies for her expert hair and make-up skills and Ryan Adams for figuring out the post production on the frames. And finally, here is the Rivet & Sway staff with CEO John Lusk (seated) and vice-president of product, Sarah Bryar (to the right of John.)
Just back from a fun weekend in Las Vegas! I decided to leave the “real” cameras at home and just shoot with my iPhone. I took most of these images with an app called Camera Plus, using a post-production app called SnapSeed. We stayed at the Golden Nugget in the older part of Las Vegas and walked up and down Fremont Street. Lots of lights, characters and photo opportunities!
Last weekend the planets must have been aligned because I did a shoot where everything came together. I had a great subject, great clients, great light and what I think are good, okay…..maybe great photos. I am working with Rivet & Sway, a soon-to-be launched website selling prescription eyeglass frames. I have been doing products shots for the company, but last Saturday photographed chef Zephyr Paquette of Skelly and The Bean for a profile piece that will be featured on the site. Zephyr’s eyeglasses are an extension of her personality, so she was a perfect subject to try out many of the Rivet & Sway styles.
We met Zephyr in the morning at the University District’s farmer’s market and followed her around as she selected fresh produce, cheese and other items for that evening’s menu. Then off to her North Capitol Hill restaurant for portraits, cooking shots and a chance for Zephyr to try on lots of frames. Sarah Bryar, vice president of product for Rivet & Sway, and writer Ritzy Ryciak were along for the shoots. We all chatted, laughed, tasted a yummy side dish that Zephyr created, drank a little wine (okay, just me and Zephyr drank wine,) tried on frames and even managed to get some work done. As I was packing up my gear, Zephyr asked, “do you just love your job?” And you know, on days like this – yea, I do!
And just a quick note…….my friend John Lusk, CEO and Founder of Rivet & Sway, says the beta launch date of www.rivetandsway.com is June 18th. Be sure to go to the website now to sign up for sneak peak previews of the frames. They are hoping to have 1000 sign-ups before launch time.
I shot production stills for “Eden,” a movie about sex trafficking in the United States, based on the true story of Chong Kim. The film, directed by Megan Griffiths and starring Jamie Chung, Matt O’Leary and Beau Bridges, premiered this week at SXSW in Austin, TX. “Eden” is getting great reviews at the festival, as well as a couple of awards. Megan received the Feature Film Audience Award for “Best Director of a Narrative Feature” and Jamie received the “Special Jury Recognition for Performance” award. One of my images was used for the movie poster! Congrats to the cast and crew of “Eden.”
I recently photographed former NFL kicker and punter Chuck Nelson for the cover of the Washington Athletic Club magazine. Chuck, who was also a star football player at the University of Washington, was recently named President and CEO at the WAC. I photographed Chuck, with and without his wife Nanette on the UW campus. We then went to the WAC, where I shot him having lunch in the dining room, talking to trainers in the gym and on the roof overlooking the Seattle skyline. I felt pretty good about the photos, felt there had to be a cover in their somewhere! I had packed up my gear when Chuck offered to take me and editor Barbara Schmitt on a tour of some of the quieter, less traveled rooms at the WAC, which is a beautiful historical landmark-designated building in downtown Seattle. He took us to a small room that had dark, wood-paneled walls and was filled with sports memorabilia. It’s a space where WAC members can meet for drinks, watch a game on television or just have a quiet moment to read the newspaper. There was this soft, beautiful light filtering in through the windows and I noticed these old sports plaques hanging on the wall – the light and texture I was seeing was just amazing. My gear was all packed up, Chuck had been so gracious to spend quite a bit of time with me, posing for photos without complaining about the time. I hesitated and then asked “do you mind posing for one more picture, quickly.” Boom………..cover of the WAC magazine.
I recently received an inquiry from someone wishing to purchase a signed print of a photo I took almost 20 years ago in Washington DC. This is the The Statue of Freedom, which sits on top of the U.S. Capitol. I found the original transparency, scanned it and made versions in color, B&W and sepia.
The statue, by sculptor Thomas Crawford, had been in place for 130 years. It was removed by helicopter (which I didn’t photograph but must have been a sight!) and placed in the parking lot of the Capitol. A good friend and artist, Mary Beth Ramsey, convinced me to tag along with her to the Capitol to take pictures of the statue before it was covered up. Mary Beth had planned on doing a piece of her own artwork based on the statue and needed a photograph that would show the lines and shadows. The Statue of Freedom was only visible for an afternoon I believe, before scaffolding was put around it for the restoration process. Great timing on our part!
It’s a wrap for 2011 (I say “wrap” because of new career in movies…more on that later) and I wanted to take a look back at some of my favorite photos and experiences from the past year.
The year started off with a 3-week trip to Africa with two different groups, the Eastern Congo Initiative and the Nike Foundation. I had the pleasure of traveling to the Congo for a second time with ECI and it’s founder Ben Affleck, along with a delegation that included my new favorite Republican, Cindy McCain. While in Congo, we visited sites including the Mungunga III refugee camp, HEAL Africa, Children’s Voice and YOLE! Africa. For the Nike Foundation, we traveled to Kenya, Ethiopia, back to the Congo and Rwanda.
While traveling in Africa, I had the opportunity to go an a gorilla safari in the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. It was one of the most fascinating and incredible experiences to be so close to these magnificent creatures. It was a long hike to get to the gorillas, so next time, perhaps only one camera rather than the three I was carrying with me.
One of the biggest honors this past year was to be chosen as one of 20 photographers in ASMP’s (American Society of Media Professionals) Best of 2011 portfolios. My work on Alzheimer’s for The Shriver Report was featured along with an interview.
In March, I was invited to be part of a panel of former White House Photographers at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics. David Valdez, David Hume Kennerly, Eric Draper and I discussed our experiences working at the White House. The entire discussion was recorded by C-Span and can be seen here. Thanks to my good friend and former co-worker at the White House, Kara Minar.
I still manage to stay connected with the Clinton family, photographing three different Clinton Global Initiative meetings this year. In April, I was at CGI University in San Diego, then at CGI America in Chicago in June and finally, the CGI Annual meeting in September in New York City. The highlight of the New York meeting was watching Chelsea Clinton interview her mother, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
In May, I had an exhibit of my Hillary 2008 campaign photos and selects from my White House years, at the Art Institute of Seattle. Some of the same campaign photos are currently on exhibit in the Stauffer-Flint Hall building on the campus of my alma mater, University of Kansas in Lawrence. They will on display at KU until June.
The summer brought a couple of different challenges for me. I decided to take a 4×5 large format class at Photo Center Northwest. I have always loved portraits shot with a 4 x 5, so was determined to learn the camera. It was difficult to focus (the image in the viewfinder is backwards and upside down) but produces sharp, big negatives. I was back in the darkroom, processing sheets of film and making huge 16 x 20 black & white prints. One of my first portraits was of my daughter Mavis. The toughest part was trying to get a 7-year-old to sit still while I focused this beast of a camera. I finally offered to pay her $5 if she would just not move for a minute – her first paid modeling job. My friend Olivia Taguinod was my other model, working for free. A special thanks to my instructor Jahnavi Lisa Barnes, for being so patient with me.
Also, this summer, my movie career…..I have always wanted to work on a movie set shooting production stills, but have never had the opportunity. I finally got my chance when Seattle-based film director Megan Griffiths called me to work on her new film “Eden.” Megan’s last film “The Off Hours” was shown at Sundance last year and is getting all sorts of recognition this year. I can’t say a lot about her new film “Eden,” because it is still in post production, so stay tuned for more details. What I can say, is that I had an amazing experience and I was relieved to find out that I do indeed love working on movies. As an editorial photographer, my goal is to capture the decisive moment in time with my camera. On the movie set, if I missed that decisive moment, they do re-take after re-take after re-take, so I eventually am able to get the shot! Of course, there were many other challenges – I had to use a sound blimp around my camera, which muffles the noise of the camera, but is heavy and cumbersome. Also, the still photographer on set is usually always in the way of everything, all of the time. Our big star politely asked me to move out of his sight line, way out of his sight line…..on the very first day, in front of the whole cast and crew. I wanted to crawl into a hole, but instead, had a conversation with him after the scene. He put a hand on my shoulder and gave me a few tips on shooting while he was acting. Certain actors don’t like distractions (distraction meaning – the still photographer) during their scenes. So, lesson learned. It was a great experience and I can’t wait to see “Eden” on the big screen.
I had a fun assignment for the September issue of the Washington Athletic Club’s monthly magazine. I shot four of their members who excel in various sports including basketball, swimming, running and biking. My photo of Stoney Stone made the cover!
In October, I was in Los Angeles to shoot the William J. Clinton Foundation’s Decade of Difference concert at the Hollywood Bowl. The event, a fundraiser for the foundation, was to honor President Clinton’s 65th birthday and featured Usher, Bono and the Edge, Kenny Chesney, K’naan and Lady Gaga, among others.
It seems like I was on the wedding circuit in the fall, shooting weddings in Seattle, Washington D.C., Manhattan, KS and Austin, TX. Check out some of my earlier blog postings for photos from some of those events. My photographs of Jennifer Sullivan and Jerry Riener’s wedding were recently featured in Seattle Metropolitan’s special Winter/Spring 2012 Bride & Groom issue. The online version is here.
The year ended with a wedding shoot on New Year’s Eve, so I took it as a good sign that I was working on the very last day of 2011. I hope that 2012 has as much (or more!) work, new challenges and great adventures. I look forward to seeing and working with all of you who have taken the time to read this blog! I will leave you with this image……….yea, my job is pretty great sometimes.
Sarah Thomssen and Shawn Brixey were married on New Year’s Eve at the Shafer Baillie Mansion located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. The event was an intimate gathering of family and friends in a beautifully restored mansion that is now a bed & breakfast. Sarah and I had worked together in 2009 at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. During a morning coffee break one day, we discovered we were both alumni of the University of Kansas (Rock Chalk Jayhawk!) She now runs her own health & wellness business called LiveLong Wellness. Shawn is currently an associate professor of Digital Arts and Experimental Media at the University of Washington, with a resume too long to include in this blog. He is really an extraordinary person and it was a pleasure to photograph their wedding. What a nice event to bring 2011 to a close – Happy New Year!