Strange Staging

Apparently people who build and own massive skyscrapers still have to get tenants. Obviously, they’re not looking to rent a two bedroom to Bob and Nancy, they’re looking to rent several floors to Google, or Amazon, or I guess to Bob and Nancy if they can make rent. Which I’d imagine is a lot.

In order to make these giant, vacuous, unfinished open floors seem appealing, building owners call companies like ASH-NYC to come and stage the space like any piece of real estate. I didn’t know this, and the result is surreal.

Picture an elaborate living room, board room, office space or break room and then mentally knock out the walls and zoom out quite a bit so that these little setups are surrounded by nothing but empty space. This is what a recent shoot with the aforementioned ASH-NYC entailed. The trick for me was to make the spaces seem encapsulated and grounded, and not floating in the void that they actually were. It was a challenge, and quite a bit of fun.

A Little Personal Work - Peace of Art Gallery

I was at the bastion of American culture that is ‘The Mall’ with my fiancee a few weekends ago doing some shopping for a thing. As we’re cruising the plastic wasteland, something catches my eye, the very corner of my eye, just in passing…something not processed and plastic. Its…art. Actual fine art. It’s in fact a skateboard, done up in cool graffiti, hanging on the wall in a storefront among a few other skateboards. We go in and discover…more art. Actual hand made fine art. Much of it very good.

We are standing in Peace of Art Gallery at Stratford Square Mall, and its really quite nice. As are the owners. We get to chatting, and short story even shorter, the following weekend, I’m shooting their portraits. Always fun to get to meet cool people and shoot cool stuff however I feel I want to. Making more personal work is the resolution for this year, and so far I’m off to a good start! Here are some images from that shoot.

In Good Hands-Shooting for Allstate

Allstate Insurance just built out a cool new office in Chicago’s loop, and I got to shoot it for them. The whole time we were working, any time any question arose regarding the photography process, a little voice in my head said ‘Don’t worry, you’re in good hands’. Because I am a child.

Shooting a Little Passion

So…I shoot interiors, no secret. That said, in addition to modern design, I have a few other passions. Among them, fitness. Boxing specifically. I started training a little while ago and absolutely love it. I thought I’d give shooting it a try, and these are the results.

To any art directors or photo buyers who may be scrolling this blog, I want you all to know that I shot these in my building’s fitness room with a Craigslist model, my girlfriend assisting and a half hour shoot window before I had to pick my daughter up from school. I had no stylist, HMUA, or much of anything else and would be thrilled to get a chance to shoot similar work with a bigger production crew. Imagine the possibilities…

Just sayin’.

BuzziSpace for Neo Con 2018

I was asked to shoot the freshly redone showroom of super cool Belgian design group BuzziSpace for Chicago's big design jamboree Neo Con. Always love working with these guys, their products are fresh and fun and they give me free reign to shoot however I see fit. Here're some of my favorites from one of my favorite shoot days of the year. 

Keiser Fitness Van

I always enjoy shooting something a little different. This includes crawling around inside of a large conversion van filled with demo fitness equipment. This mobile gym belongs to Keiser Fitness, and if you can catch them on their nationwide road trip of promo stops, you too can try their cutting edge air pressure based resistance machines. 

Lighting in here was a bit of an issue because in most images, the entire interior of the van is in view. I set up giant reflectors outside the windshield and shot light in to mimic the sun. They also wanted some shots of the exterior of the van which gave me the ooportunity to play around with some new techniques. 

Empty Spaces

I was commissioned by Northwestern University in Evanston to complete a series of before and after images of some renovations they were doing on several of their residential property holdings. While the renovations are lovely, I was struck by the beauty and simplicity of the 'before' images. We always hear about the artistic use of negative space, and although I don't know that my compositions employ that principle all that much, the subject matter  does, by being empty. There's something kind of stark and lonely about these images, I won't hit you over the head with analogy's to age and transition and all of that (more than I just did) but the series has something going for it, by not having too much going on at all. 

A Departure From The Norm: Stonecutting For Polycor

So...I shoot architectural stuff a lot and interiors even more often. I generally don't get asked to shoot subjects outside of that realm overly often, but really enjoy when I do. It forces me to think differently about my approach to photography and makes me find new ways of doing things.

That was the case on this shoot for Polycor at their stonecutting facility in Chicago. I knew it'd be wet and gross on the floor, so lights on stands with wires and power packs hanging out in the soup seemed like a poor solution. No one wants to be electrocuted. I did want to freeze the motion of all the cool water drops and machine spray, so I went with a handheld flash (held by my assistant) and a reflector opposite it (held by a very cool facility employee). These photos are the result. I totally got what I wanted aesthetically, the client was happy, and I got to try something new. 

Ritz Carlton In The Early Morning

The Ritz Carlton in Chicago recently redid their lobby. It was an entire overhaul, a really beautiful, modern overhaul with a new restaurant, bar, common area etc. Naturally they needed it photographed, and I was lucky enough to be picked for the job. The shoot had a 4am call time to ensure that few, if any, guests would be meandering through the shot in search of coffee, so I was a little bleary myself, and admittedly apprehensive about lighting an enormous lobby early in the morning with no assistance from the sun.Occasionally, we get really, really lucky on shoots and giant spaces that would be tricky to light look just lovely without me adding a thing. This was the case here. As I was test shooting, something very similar to this popped up on my laptop and I was able to go and stop my assistant from assembling more lights. They would not be needed. We ran with the dark sky and went for a hip night life look, and I love it. Sometimes things fall into place and I'm super grateful when they do. Whether that be an out of the blue phone call based on a referral, or a pre-lit hotel lobby, they say its better to be lucky than good. I'd like to think that I've got a combination of the two but am certainly glad to be lucky.

American Farmhouse Style, Christmas Edition!

So, I love seeing my stuff in print because I sometimes consider myself an artist, and artists have big egos. Anyway, I was lucky enough to get to shoot a Christmas feature for American Farmhouse Style magazine right around the holidays, and that issue of said magazine is out now. Check out the super cool spread below! Really happy with how these turned out, and mad props to Tanya Esberner for her retouching assistance. There's a fine line between 'rustic' and 'beat up' and some selective retouching highlights the former and downplays the latter. Thanks lady!

Food Photography?

Okay. I am not a food shooter and I don't pretend to be, but occasionally I'll have a client that wants me to shoot their food. I don't show it on my website because a) I don't have enough of it to make a portfolio and b) there are much stronger food shooters out there. That said, I've managed to snap a few food shots I'm proud enough of to make a blog post. I would never presume to market myself as a food photographer, but I'm happy to market myself as an interiors guy who can nail your restaurant shoot and supply a few decent shots of your charcuterie board along the way. Here's proof of that.

Gone Fishing

My girlfriend and I recently took a minor road trip in search of some peace, quiet, and decent fishing. We did find all three, as well as some fairly nice scenery. I almost always bring the camera when I travel, and this was no exception. Below are some snaps from Lake Erie and the Sandusky River. Enjoy!

Shooting Bathrooms

There're a few things I've learned about shooting bathrooms over the years. First and foremost, designers are often proud of them and want them shot. Bathrooms are also usually quite small, and its my job to make them feel much bigger. Bathrooms often are full of amazingly reflective surfaces, so hiding lights and my camera and glares and other unsightly things which get reflected and bounced all over everything is a challenge. For any photo nerds reading this, I use a circular polarizing lens filter to cut some of this, and then the rest is careful Photoshop work. Oh, and no one wants to see toilets in their images, so typically, shooting a bathroom involves me crammed into a corner somewhere that the toilet isn't visible, glancing at no less than seven different surfaces to make sure that nothing is reflecting, and then doing yoga to get out from behind the camera/tripod/my body sculpture I've created while lining up the shot. All of that said, a well executed bathroom shot can be very rewarding to make and inviting to look at. I'm a fan of this one as its probably the first time that I've been happy about something reflecting. 

Carbon Arc

This is the en suite restaurant and some shots of the theater proper of the recently rehabbed Davis Theater in Chicago. I got to shoot this for Kennedy Mann Architecture, a firm that works very much in my preferred style, modern, clean and fun. This particular project aimed to keep the 1920's 'golden era of Hollywood', feel alive with Deco trim and motif throughout the space, fitting as the space was originally built around the turn of the last century. The theater itself had had a drop ceiling installed which covered beautiful gilded architectural details which Kennedy Mann brought back into play, refurbishing them within an inch of their pristine heyday state.

Specific to the bar shot, I was able to try a new style that I've been seeing more and more of. Rather than augmenting existing light in the space, I created the key light and augmented that with additional external lighting. That's what gives it the crisp, dark look rather than my usual open, glowing white light feel. This is a welcome addition to my arsenal of lighting tactics, and I look forward to playing around with this technique more.

Elgin 1 - Elgin State Hospital

Elgin is a fascinating place. Geographically, it straddles the Fox River. Economically, it straddles the poverty line (with a pocket of entrenched old money on the North end of town), and culturally it straddles no clear demarcating line whatsoever. There's been a huge influx of Hispanic culture in the past twenty years, and many of the section 8 tenants previously living in Chicago's housing projects were relocated here when places like Cabrini Green and Ida B. Wells were shut down. Combine these residents with the old Republican vanguard that begins to crop up this far from Chicago proper, sprinkle in a riverboat casino and a mental health facility that intakes and then discharges patients from all over Illinois, and Elgin becomes one of the single most interesting places to explore in all of Illinois. 

I've decided to do a bit of a pictorial profile of this festering gem of the Fox River Valley, and the first installment is below. My girlfriend Tanya bought tickets to a haunted bus tour of Elgin for my birthday, and one of the stops was the 'abandoned cemetery' behind the state mental hospital. We went off in search of this incredibly creepy place to take some photos in proper daylight, and had a wonderful time in wonderful light searching for and eventually making images of the cemetery and surrounding wilderness. The best part is, this site is five minutes off one of the main thoroughfares in Elgin, and simultaneously, an entire world away from civilization one of many charming contradictions to be explored indefinitely as this series continues. Enjoy!

Salt water fishing, Hampton Roads, VA

So, I'm no travel photographer...and certainly no fisherman, but here are a few photographs of a fishing trip I took with my daughter and girlfriend while traveling. Pictured are some squid parts (bait) my daughter's reaction to the at sea toilet, and a fish she caught. My question is whether or not I can count the expense of the trip as tax deductible because I made photographs while on it? Also, big fear of losing the camera overboard or possibly getting squid goop on it. One of those things happened.