I haven't been able to look at the images I shot in Newtown, CT since leaving the place. I had been yanked away from a quiet and contemplative artist residency in upstate New York when the shootings went down. After the week or so of shooting (for Stern and Maclean's) I raced back from Newtown as fast as possible to lick my wounds. A heart-wrenching experience, to say the least. And if it was that hard for me I can't comprehend the pain of the families of the victims and the town as a whole. Lifting the camera became a physically exhausting experience with the emotional weight becoming a very palpable feeling. It took a couple months to be convinced the insane media attention was worthwhile, although at the time seeing all the news crews made me sick. The government seems to have recognized we need gun control as a result, so let's hope some legislation passes and we move toward a more evolved society. (Update: 4-18 - Senate minority has blocked the background check bill. Contact your representative and senator and tell them you won't abide). Hard news photography isn't my passion, but I'm grateful to have contributed to a collective response to this terrible tragedy.
Looking back now at the images, I start feeling like I did in the moment...Utterly depressed about the loss of beautiful innocent children, angry at the shooter and the culture that made him a possibility, spiteful of the TV crews with their bloated budgets and sensationalized storytelling, and intoxicated by the adrenaline coursing through my veins. Yet there were moments of elation and peace in the spaces between noise. These children were miracles, the community's support was a miracle, the country's desire to improve is a miracle, and the fact I was able to witness and possibly help in some small way feels like a miracle.
Karrin Anderson, a contributor to Bag News Notes had a whole lot to say about an image I shot for The NYTimes recently for a story on new mothers and maternity leave.
We’ve all heard of a pregnant pause, but for some women, childbearing no longer means pausing one’s professional life. After tech rock star and incoming Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced her pregnancy (and her intention to work through a truncated maternity leave), discussion ensued about the practicality and advisability of her choice. The New York Times, for example, profiled women like Maria Seidman (pictured above) whose professions and financial circumstances either require or enable the comingling of their maternal and professional responsibilities immediately after their babies are born.
The modern portrait of “supernewmomhood” seen here both replicates and challenges the dominant narrative about the uber successful CEO supermom—the woman made possible by the second generation of feminism but privileged enough to “have it all” in ways that her feminist foremothers could not. Ann Marie Slaughter’s much debated piece in The Atlantic sought to debunk the notion that even women who exist in the stratosphere of economic privilege can realistically “have it all,” and Rebecca Traister rightly pointed out that the “have it all” standard was unproductive—for women and for feminism. Nonetheless, the arguments in that debate are reflected visually in this photo......
If you know anything about Amanda Palmer, you know she's a badass rock star. I got to shoot a couple of pretty spontaneous videos (with Nights in Ultraviolet creator Matt Cook) of her and the band for Gothamist at the South Street Seaport Museum. In other words, front row seats with only about 5 people in the audience! Check 'em out!
An ongoing discussion about anti-Semitism on the Rutgers college campus has drawn national attention. Aaron Marcus, a senior, has been at the center of the controversy. Since transferring from Yeshiva University three years ago he says he has encountered several incidents that crossed the line from anti-Israel to anti-Semitism. Last year he appealed to the Zionist Organization of America, which filed a complaint with the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights accusing Rutgers of violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by failing to afford Jewish students the same protections against discrimination it would afford members of other minority groups. Dr. Charles Haberl, director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers was responsible for the investigation into anti-Semitism allegations against one of his department's staff members. Read more here (original link requires subscription).
Potentially the most powerful gay couple in the world, Chris Hughes and Sean Eldridge are getting married at their Garrison, NY estate in June. Hughes is a co-founder of Facebook and organized Obama's 2008 online campaign and is now editor-in-chief of The New Republic. Eldridge is an investor and political director of the Freedom to Marry organization. Quite the combination. Read the story here.
If I hadn't met the Mob Wives cast in person I wouldn't believe they were real. These ladies are intense and larger than life (in more ways than one, wink). I had to shoot two groups at separate locations because any little comment could set them off into a battle. And the producers of the reality show want to be there when the shit hits the fan.
For this assignment I was asked to make a "variety" of portraits of a hot shot entrepreneur at a crowded Manhattan bookstore one weekday evening. Mr. Brule was noticeably impatient, the reporter was hovering, the PR handler kept reminding me they had no time, and the location was cramped and visually limited, and to top it off my flash tube died out...A perfect storm. Instead of freaking out I channeled my inner yogi and kept cool (also I've been playing Batman Arkham City lately and have been inspired to handle intense situations like a badass). The muscles in my face relaxed and I spoke in soothing tones. I requested that the manager shut off a couple of lights above the magazine section, flipped on the modeling light, shuffled some magazines around and made some small talk with the subject. Suddenly the nightmare turned into a little puzzle I was piecing together. After a few frames I stuck a strobe on my camera with a wide lens and made a different image in the same spot (variety = done). Come this Thursday I was pleased to see a huge run of Tyler Brule's portrait. Bada-bing, bada-boom.
From the article in Businessweek: For Michael Reiner, being let go by Société Générale was his second job loss in four years. He worked at Bear Stearns for 14 years until the firm collapsed in March 2008 and was taken over in a fire sale by JPMorgan Chase. When he began looking for work after that, he says he “wanted to find a place for the next 14 years.” It’s harder to talk about losing a job the second time, he says: “There are a lot of people I haven’t told.” Now he spends his time going to his daughter’s field hockey games and managing his investments. He plans to pursue his hobby of making maple syrup from the trees in the backyard of his home.
My editor, Jamie Goldenberg, wanted me to make an image of Mike that conveyed the job loss without going overboard on the sadness factor. Fortunately he was a gracious host and gave me plenty of time to roam around with him on his property. I found him to be a sympathetic character with a certain innocence in his eyes that I tried to emphasize in the images. Wall Street workers are so often portrayed as aggressive and heartless but Mike clearly did not fall under that stereotype. He and his wife seemed down-to-earth, and their home in Briarcliff Manor reflected their accessible style. Here is the chosen image as well as some others I liked from he shoot.
Times reporter Bob Morris sums it up pretty well. "Surrounded by fast cars, guitars and celebrity: the portrait painter Richard Phillips has much to envy."
Richard was a pleasure to work with. I was struck by how composed and patient he was, whereas many subjects of stature seem to be either nervous or in a hurry. His paintings are typically exploding with flashy colors but when I entered his studio there were only patches of color amid large unfinished paintings of Lindsay Lohan, his most recent interest. There was also a large blue work-in-progress, a private commission, of a nude bombshell of a woman in the desert holding a Desert Eagle. He told me about his experience traveling to Utah to meet this subject and how they brought along a case filled with automatic weapons. Apparently the huge handgun was her favorite. As we decided on a couple of different spaces to photograph in his studio he regaled me with stories about his career- what a pleasure Lindsay is to work with, his meticulous painting process, how he has no clue how to use a camera yet recently had a multiple-page fashion spread in Elle. I felt at ease moving him around the room, trying different ideas and chatting like old pals. But not too at ease. This guy is a force to be reckoned with.
A variety of assignments shot for the New York Times
Fashion Week afterparty - Slideshow