Independent filmmakers are by nature creative, tenacious and passionate. They embody all of the elements of craft, hard work and dedication that have inspired me to photograph and explore workers from all walks of life. I present here a selection of the passionate independent filmmakers featured at the 2017 San Diego International Film Festival.
I’ve been a member of the SDX Board of Director for several years now. I was recently tasked by the Communications Committee to create portraits of my fellow Directors for use on the SDX website. The board has grown in recent years to 30+ members. It's a strong group of passionate individuals from the San Diego advertising, marketing and media fields. Given the large group of creative individuals I wanted to present the individual portraits as a complete, stand alone portfolio. I presented a mood board with candid black and white portraits. My approach was a theme that is popular with my corporate clients right now. I call it the "Moment between the Moments". It is that split second when the subject has let their guard down and is no longer "posing". Many of my corporate clients are looking for something a little different for their executive and staff portraits. The standard headshot is out. The environmental office portrait is waning. This candid approach has proven quite popular. I was pleased the Communications Committee approved the creative direction. All of my subjects bought into the concept as well. Everyone arrive inspired and ready for anything. In addition to the website, SDX created a series of ads featuring select portraits to run locally. The above ad features fellow Director Miguel Fenton, VP of Sales Local at Entravision. Below are the other portraits.
You’d think the group shot is a pretty straight forward endeavor. And it is, with the right amount of pre-production, an attention to detail, and an enthusiastic group.
“Just grab a shot of the class….”
I was recently tasked (okay, self tasked as part of a school fund raiser) to do a group photo of my son’s 7th grade class. Thirty eight 12 and 13 year-olds - piece of cake. But the last thing I wanted to do was line them up and shoot them “straight”. It had to have a certain flair. I work toward an unbalanced compositional randomness in my group portraits. Much easier said than done. I've always admired the group portrait work of Annie Leibovitz and Mark Seliger for Vanity Fair. And for this project I drew particular inspiration from Irving Penn. All 3 have created beautiful, seemingly effortless, compositions in their group portraits. Little do we know how much thought and pre-production go into those images.
However, looking at their work for inspiration, I was hard pressed to find any groups over 20, let alone 38. The size of the group would be a compositional challenge. So my approach was to break up the large group into 5-6 smaller more manageable groups and then get those groups to work together. It worked great as each group tended to mingle together and give me some much needed space within the composition.
Lighting had to be beautiful, the location had to be very open and support the space needed for the kids. I scouted the location ahead of time and found that the school stage was perfect. It was large and the lighting system had just been upgraded. I could use those lights to highlight my lighting scheme and give me the theatrical look I was envisioning.
For wardrobe I was leery to have the kids show up in their “Sunday Best” It would be too formal and wouldn’t have the fun factor I was looking for. My wife came up with the idea of All-Stars, the theme of the fundraiser. The kids were told to show up for the shoot as though they were going to the Academy Awards. That was completely open to interpretation. Whatever that meant to them. Some showed up dressed to the nines, others a little short of that, but every one of them put some thought and effort into it and showed up in what they thought looked cool and fancy.
For propping I brought in a couple of ladders and apple boxes. We also had a floor stage and the upper stage to work with. And just in case, I brought in some of my old fedora and pork pie hats which the kids jumped on right away.
I had about an hour with the kids, but I knew they would never last that long. Realistically I figured I had 30-40 minutes of their attention, maximum! Most of the time was spent selecting and composing the small groups and then arranging those groups to work with each other. We moved kids around a lot to get the best chemistry and composition. We wanted it to stay loose and fun, both compositionally and stylistically.
The actual shooting time was about 10 minutes.
I was thrilled with the initial results, but it still took a great deal of post production to create the final image. One girl was absent on the day we shot so she had to come into the studio and be shot by herself and dropped into the composition. The final image is a composite of 4 different images - 2 main images for the kids, our absentee shot separately and one image to reconstruct a dress. All in all it was wildly successful. The final image turned out great as a result of the pre-production, everyone’s attention to detail (Composition, Lighting, Wardrobe and Styling), and the post production.
And we raised a bunch of money for the Parents Association.
Time Lapse of the shoot with the Warren Walker Middle School 7th Grade All-Stars.
At the east end of the Waipio Valley, along a mile long stretch of black sand beach, at the base of a 1500 foot cliff, with waterfalls spilling into the ocean, in the late afternoon, the light is just so... it's the perfect time and space for a Rogo family portrait.
Big Max Waldo
Here's a recent portrait I did for the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons of a very courageous woman with an incredible story. Here's an excerpt:
One evening in San Diego, February 2011, a throng of guests walked out of a nightclub and into the balmy night. The next moment, screaming and carnage - as a taxi inexplicably veered off the street and onto the sidewalk, raking through the disbelieving crowd.
One young mother - Dominique Gambale - sustained the most serious injury. This is her story, and how an orthopaedic surgeon who had served in Iraq called on his wartime experience to make sure Dominique's leg would get another chance.
You can read the rest of Dominique's story in her own words here:
Waiting for the plane to arrive and pull into the gate for our shot we decided to do some individual portraits of the workers that had gathered. Here are the faces of some of the folks that you may or may not see that make your travels easier and run smoothly.
Airport Traffic Officer
I've been in many kitchens over the years. Big ones, small places, 5 star establishments and greasy spoon joints. First as a server and now as a photographer. For me, there's nothing like the energy of a kitchen abuzz with activity. There's something magical about a team with a common goal. Working together to produce something that we all crave, yet many of us take for granted. Food and eating. I've posted previously about Azucar. I focused on the process and the ingredients they use to produce these wonderful desserts. But there is a special core of people, women actually, that bring these sweets to life. Azucar is a small kitchen, to say the least. It also has the greatest vibe I've been around in quite some time. And it is because of the women that work there. The energy would be totally different if there was a male in the mix. We tend to alter the balance of things. The 3 women that work in these tight quarters are Elodie, Jolene, and owner / chef Vivian. They love what they do and that feeling radiates from the kitchen. Not only in their laughter and banter but in the incredible confections they create. Below are a couple of portraits of the women of Azucar...
Jolene - who has since moved on to open here own place. I can't wait to see what see has in store for us...!
Vivian - Owner | Chef