Archive for August, 2013
Nikon had big news last week, launching at long last an official Ambassador program, which includes a small field of long time Nikon pros. Very humbled to be included with this group of stalwarts. I could go through the list and make some guesses, but suffice it to say, there’s most likely about 400 years or so of experience behind the camera sprinkled amongst us.
Which is not say the group is a bunch of grizzled old salts. There are fresh, young, talented faces like Lucas Gilman, Andrew Hancock and Dixie Dixon mixed in with veterans such as Ron Magill, Bill Frakes, Cliff Mautner, Corey Rich, and Moose Peterson. In terms of skill set, you have the makings of a really good picture agency here, as the various members of this diverse crowd can pretty much cover the waterfront, photographically, from fashion to sports to news to wildlife to portraits and weddings.
Many thanks to Nikon for stepping forward in a good direction to partner a community of photogs who have shot their cameras through all sorts of subject matter–politics, war zones, Super Bowls, Fashion Weeks, Nat Geo ends-of-the-earth type locations, bridezillas–you name it. Further thanks go to my blood brother, Mike Corrado of Nikon, for whom shaping this program and pushing it to become reality was a long and steadfast labor. Good job all around.
Drew is leaving the studio. (His account below.) As I always say, Drew grew up as a drummer in a rock and roll band, but abandoned that unstable lifestyle to embrace the security of freelance photography. And we here at the studio are certainly glad he did. He stayed with us for five years, and was a mainstay as a first assistant, constantly troubleshooting, solving problems, handling the mysteries of post-production and generally being a great road companion, and we certainly saw a lot of road together. (When he joined the studio, he was just another Delta frequent flyer. As he leaves, he is Delta Diamond, having logged easily a half million air miles during his tenure here.) He was a great team player, a talented shooter, and he fit right in with the twisted humor and irreverent conduct of the studio. (FYI, we have no human resources department here.) We will miss him. I will miss him, as beyond all the stuff listed above, he became my good and true friend.
Today’s blog is about Joe. And me.
A real life bro-mance, dream job come true, happily ever-after, fly me to the moon kind of working relationship I’ve experienced over the past 5 years.
He’s one of the few people I know in the industry who’s stayed afloat for 35+ years, has maintained a huge level of respect within the industry and – through it all – has kept a good head on his shoulders. He’s truly one of the most decent human beings I know. Full of integrity, courage, wit and an ongoing quest for pasta and red wine, Joe has taught me much more than just ‘the ropes’.
(My first ever tear sheet, accompanying Joe’s Power Grid story in National Geographic)
We all know the life of a photographer isn’t a 9 to 5 gig, but working with Joe is one of the more all-encompassing workplace scenarios one could imagine. Joe and I have spent a lot of time together, and by that I mean an average of 70% of the year on the road, and sometimes a good deal more. That means not only working in the field, but traveling together, eating together and often seeing more of each other than our significant others and families.
(The Flash Bus crew)
Working with Joe has been a major turning point in my career. Prior to joining Joe I was a young photographer/musician living in a relatively small town and earning a living shooting mostly weddings and events. I didn’t have a whole lot of clarity of where to go from there. I started applying to graduate schools for photojournalism – and in the midst of all that – Joe’s former assistant (Brad Moore) was leaving and Joe offered me the position. My game plan was to work with Joe for two years. As time went on, more travel came upon us and I just couldn’t help but to sign on for more adventure and experience. I got to climb the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world; I had my own helicopter and pilot while on assignment for National Geographic; and was once lead by a heavily armed militia through traffic in Nigeria. That’s just a glimpse into the countless extraordinary, hilarious and sometimes dangerous tales I have from the past few years.
(Cali and I surrounded by drones, on-location for National Geographic. By the way, Cali’s a great guy, and an incredibly talented shooter. He’s done an amazing job transitioning into the first assistant position, and I can’t begin to say how excited I am to hear about his travels.)
But even at the highest points in my time with Joe, Lynn and the entire studio family, I couldn’t help but feel a bit of an inner struggle. As amazing as things have been, all I’ve wanted is to be a full-time photographer, and I’ve felt the itch to go out on my own more recently, especially in the last year. The thing is, I’ve had the absolute best apprenticeship I could have ever hoped for: Joe has been an amazing mentor, Lynn has balanced me with business smarts, and I’ve been immersed into the culture of the best and brightest photo talent in the World. I’ve also had the opportunity to travel around the Globe and back again. The thing is, if I didn’t want/need to be my own photographer, I could work with Joe happily for a very, very long time.
(Rolling Stone tear sheet, from the March, 2013 issue)
But the time has come for me and I’m now officially off on my own: with more clarity than I had five years ago, lots of contacts in the industry, tons of technical know-how and hands-on experience from working with one of the best guys out there. If there was ever to be a good time to make that move, it feels like this is it, and I’m incredibly excited to create a body of work that’s all my own. Even with all that, i’m just as scared as I am excited to embark on this journey into the world of freelance photography. Yes, I’m absolutely going to figure it out, like all things I do. I am more passionate about photography than anything else. I know it’s going to take some time to gain traction and that my future may hold nights of Ramen noodles and Hot Pockets. But I’m ok with it.
(John Butler of John Butler Trio)
I became interested in photography at a young age through a love of live music. Back then I just wanted to capture live moments from my favorite bands. Over time my work has improved and a true passion towards music, photography and their marriage remains to this day. Most recently I’ve been trying to evolve my work away from live music and into a fresh perspective. I’m not changing the world and I’m not reinventing the wheel, but every now and again I feel like I’m onto something really good. It’s in those moments I feel as though I’ve moving a step closer towards crafting a unique aesthetic that’s my own.
(Tyler Glenn of The Neon Trees)
Choosing to work for Joe was the best career decision I had made up until that point, and I’m certain that i’ll be able to look back upon this transition in a few years, and say the same thing.
(My incredibly patient girlfriend, Jessica)
Joe, Lynn, Cali, Lynda, Annie: You’ve all been the best friends, colleagues and family one could ever ask for, and I’m grateful for the time and memories we’ve shared.
It’s been a blast to meet and get to know lots of you out on the road, and I invite you all to keep in touch.
You can find me at any of these places:
I grew up in an era, photographically, when we just didn’t know any better. We routinely carried 30-40 pound Domke bags around with us on one shoulder, turning spines into S curves, and what might have once been a normal gait into a disconnected shamble. Hell, I even used Anvil cases for a while there. Mishandle one of those getting it out of the trunk and it can snap a shin like dead twig.
These appendages have been operated on three times, had four casts, numerous tears, a couple of breaks, and a couple hundred stitches. I’ve been bitten by dogs three times, once really viciously. And, of course, I’ve put both my knees through the shredder known as thirty-five years of photography. You’re looking at the support structure for a condemned building.
All these damaging shenanigans means that, for quite a while, I’ve ambled about (that’s a generous description) like Walter Brennan. Last year, we finished a long, hard wedding and about 3am I sort of belayed my way down the block towards the studio truck, where Drew and Cali were waiting. Drew remarked, “You look like an old, sad, tired, injured rodeo clown.”
And these are the guys on my staff, who are actually paid to tolerate me. Can you imagine some reactions clients might have had when I did my scrape-thud, scrape-thud into their office? They hire me, thinking they’re getting this versatile, venerable lensman, and Igor shows up. “Walk this way!” All I’m missing is the hump, and I’m working on that.
One of these days, perhaps the knife, though not for now. No real guarantees that afterwards I can resume my side job as an Olympic pole-vaulter. Annie got me a Fitbit bracelet I’ve been wearing lately, which detects your daily travel, and during my last Kelby seminar day I walked over seven miles. And, coming soon, is news of another tough climb. So, I’m still in the game. I opted for the more temporary stay of execution of injections of a synthetic type of WD-40 for my knees, mixed with cortisone. A happy hour cocktail for my joints!
So yesterday they injected this slippery stuff into the structure of both my knees with a large bore needle that looks like they might have swiped it from the turret of a Sherman tank. (Hence the bandaids in the above pic.) Then the doc hit the plunger and the stuff sloshes in there. I keep thinking it might be like that adherent black goo from Spiderman III, the evil slime that overtook the already dark heart of the Peter Parker’s photo staffer replacement, Eddie Brock, the one who dummied up fake pictures of Spidey slinging bad juju all over town, and got turned into the creepy character, Venom. I wonder if I’ll wake up and my knees will have fangs.
The doc did a great job with the injections, though, admitting as he worked that he really, really hates needles, and can’t stand getting injected himself. I asked him if he’s ever sought counseling about this elephant sized irony sitting in the middle of his life, and he merrily replied no. He did say that his fear of needles makes him an excellent injection specialist, though, ‘cause he’s very sympathetic about what the patient has to endure. Makes sense, actually.
We’ll see if this works, and helps forestall the inevitable consequences of a life trundling around cases of filled with the scrap iron of photo gear. I’ve still got more buildings to climb, and pictures to make, and I’m sure many of them are miles away, but worth walking after. More tk….