• 8.15.14   Marc Hom Finds Something New for Tatler

    When Marc Hom approaches a new subject, he tries to discover something new. When he shot Jessica Brown Findlay, the celebrated actress from Downton Abbey, for the cover of Tatler he wanted to help her break away from the character her fans have grown to love. “You don’t want to see her the way she’s been seen for a long, long time,” he says. “I want to portray the beautiful, sexy woman that she is.” And truly, this is a departure. Even though her character on the BBC smash hit was a rule breaker (she wore pants!), Jessica lives in a different time and has the freedom to express herself more acutely. “I’ve always been a fan of sensuality and women looking beautiful but keeping the elegance,” Marc says. That’s sort of Marc’s MO. He’s interested in pulling out what’s already inside the person, rather than trying to stencil something on top of them. That offers a different challenge to every subject. Even a well-versed TV star, like Jessica Brown Findlay, must get used to sitting in front of a photographer’s camera. “It’s a different animal being in front of a moving camera and being in front of a still camera,” Marc explains. “It takes work. It’s really about getting the person in front of you to relax.” As exposing and intimate a performance like Jessica’s can be, it comes from behind a costume, with lines well written. Posing for a still camera is a straight representation of the subject, captured in the vacuum of expectation. It can be tricky. It’s not only tricky to get an intimate look at a fresh face, Marc’s got to make himself happy with what he shoots. He’s a hard man to please. “You have to excite yourself, trying to evolve with them,” he says. “The biggest challenge is doing something you’re proud of yourself, but also that the person you’re photographing really loves. If you hit both those notes at once you cannot do much better.”  Since the industry has been moving to digital over the last decade, Marc has had to leave a lot of the black and white work behind. He loves shooting black and white, and that expertise has translated itself into his work with color. That’s why his images are so intense. Maintaining a warm skin tone, Marc loves rich blues and greens, and splashes them across his images, dancing off the deep contrasts. His blacks aren’t black, but rather the most intense version of color. It’s hyperrealism, like it’s been distilled and concentrated. That look is a through line over his entire work. And always has been. As of this week, Marc Hom is now being represented by Bernstein & Andriulli. His entire portfolio can be seen here.
  • 8.20.14   Douglas Friedman Finds New Americana with Tommy Hilfiger

    When you think of Tommy Hilfiger, you think classic Americana. Hilfiger’s brand has captured this nation for years at a time, defining “American Style." Hilfiger is a movement. It’s casual, conservative, and clean. So when you step into his living room, you’re not expecting it be designed off of a Basquiat painting. “It’s kind of incredible,” says Douglas Friedman who shot Tommy and Dee Hilfiger in their Miami home for the cover of Architectural Digest. “It’s truly unexpected on so many levels. Something that you wouldn’t think would be conjured up by Tommy Hilfiger. That’s what makes it so magical is that it’s such a surprise.” There are no horse powered lawn games or ready-to-eat clambakes. Instead there’s a blisteringly silver Mickey Mouse waving you into their blindingly white and smooth foyer. But don’t for a second think that Tommy Hilfiger has lost his patriotism. Koons and Warhol are as American as Grant Wood or James McNeill Whistler. “It’s a different type of Americana. It’s American Pop Art,” Douglas explains. “Tommy Hilfiger as a brand has always been one to straddle the unexpected. Maybe it makes complete sense that he’s embracing 60s, 70s pop culture.” And he definitely has embraced it. The house is completely full of art, from wall to wall and corner to corner. When it comes to shooting a house that’s so packed with so many beautiful pieces, it can be an extra challenge to capture the feeling of the room. The image has to be calculated delicately and not be overfull. Douglas says, “You have to find the focus of each room. It can be so full, so overwhelming, that you need to compose it.” That means exploring the pieces and finding the voices of the rooms. At one point early on, Douglas had a surprising experience with a security guard standing in front of a particularly impressive Keith Haring painting. “When I first got to the house I was walking around and I said ‘Hello’ to him. And he didn’t say ‘Hello’ back and I thought it was kind of rude,” he says. “And it wasn’t until later I realized ‘That’s a sculpture.’” It turns out the security guard was a piece by Marc Sijan. You might think that a couple like the Hilfigers, surrounded by so many beautiful things and so much success might strike a particular tone when bringing people into their home. If you think that tone would be one of charming grace, you’d be right. Douglas explains, “[The Hilfigers] are the warmest, kindest, most generous couple that had me laughing all day long.”
  • 8.13.14   Photographing Edward Snowden: Platon Finds the Lion Caged in the Lamb

    Edward Snowden was supposed to arrive sometime between Noon and 2pm. Platon and Scott Dadich, the Editor-in-Chief of Wired, along with Wired’s photo editor and Platon’s assistant, set up a makeshift studio overlooking Moscow’s Red Square earlier that morning. They were going to photograph the most wanted man in the world immediately adjacent to one of the most public places in the world. Snowden hadn’t sat for a proper photograph since leaking NSA documents he obtained as an NSA contractor in 2013 that outlined the espionage the US Government was perpetrating against the American people. Snowden left the US shortly before releasing the documents and was tracked by the US from Beijing to Russia. The President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, granted him temporary asylum after Snowden spent 39 days in the Moscow airport and unsuccessfully applied for asylum in 21 countries. He remains in Russia to this day. Despite the US Government’s assertion that Snowden made off with 1.7 million documents, Snowden claims it was far fewer and he doesn’t even have access to them anymore. The actual documents Snowden handed over went to outlets that can now be separated into three different groups: First Look Media, overseen by Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, The Guardian who eventually transferred physical custody to The New York Times, and Barton Gellman of The Washington Post. Snowden has largely become a symbol; besides the information in his head, he has no new evidence to offer. The US is now in a holding pattern waiting for the day that the unreleased documents find the light, exposing secrets that were supposed to die with the NSA. What the American People have discovered from the leaks is the intricate surveillance network lorded over by the NSA even though the documents that Snowden took contain uncountable other national secrets. What Americans learned is that the NSA tracks and records the metadata of American communications. Metadata includes information that is broader than recording specific calls. It sounds less invasive on its face than it is. Listening to individual calls only exposes the information discussed in the content of the call. If names aren’t used, or locations aren’t described, listening can be useless. Metadata, on the other hand, monitors call origin and destination, illustrating relationships and patterns that can illuminate more about the callers life than a handful of even lengthy conversations. Over time, metadata is far more invasive, and far more useful to third parties. Platon became enamored with Edward Snowden when he was first being paraded in front of Russian cameras after the initial stories broke. As the frenzy unfolded Platon noticed a woman in all the reports. “There was one person whispering into his ear, guiding him from place to place,” Platon explains. “And she seemed to be the one who was telling all the journalists where he’s going to be at what time.  I just saw her in the background. And I happened to know her. She’s a human rights defender. One of the bravest ladies I’ve ever met on the planet.” She was the key. Platon is internationally known for shooting everyone. He photographed Gaddahfi, Ahmedinijad, Aung San Suu Kyi, almost every movie star and every American politician. With unfettered access to every side of every conflict, he has never balked at great personal risk. When not shooting the cover of Hollywood magazines, Platon travels the world documenting human and civil right’s abuses for his non-profit, The People’s Portfolio. He chases down these violations wherever they are to document those who suffer and survive. He most recently spent time on the border of Mexico and the United States, getting a grasp on the immigration crisis and brought back stories never heard before. That is his job, to inform and enrich the discussion. To bring the grey back into a black and white argument. Platon doesn’t want to make judgments. He’s a provocateur without provoking. He presents people and information. A devil’s advocate. A complicator. To convince Snowden to sit for him, he and Dadich embarked on a journey of trust building and reference authentication. In order to keep the conversation going, but avoid undue attention, Platon decided to use a code name for Snowden: “Mango.” “Mango” is a safe word that Platon used while photographing on the border of Mexico in case he had a run in with the drug cartels. It was a code word that he could invoke if given enough time to make one call on his phone. If he uttered the word “Mango” to the State Department or security personnel it would set off a chain reaction that would hopefully result in his safe extraction. Platon chose to reuse the name Mango because of all the tension and suspicion engaged in the 7-month odyssey of securing trust of Snowden’s lawyer. They wanted a word that described something sweet; the antithesis to the situation. After passing seven months of tests, they found themselves in Russia. Platon easily secured a visa for himself because Russian officials love him. Platon’s TIME Magazine cover of the Russian President is considered a marker of strength. They call Platon “Platonchik,” a term of endearment. After setting up the makeshift studio overlooking the Red Square, they started in meditation. Each of the four men in the room meditated in different ways. Platon paced. Dadich sat on his knees, face in hand. 90 minutes ticked by, and at exactly Noon Dadich’s phone tore through the silence. “This is Ed,” the voice on the other end said. “Please state your name.” “This is Scott Dadich.” “Verify your room number.” Scott did. “I’ll be there in 15 minutes.” Then they waited. The four men in that room had no idea what was coming. They had not been expecting a call. They were never given a phone number. Whoever was coming to the door could have been anyone. A year earlier David Miranda, Glenn Greenwald’s partner, had been detained for the crime of being married to a reporter who had helped Snowden with the leak. That was in London. Platon and Dadich were in Putin’s Russia, with the FSB (the inheritor to the KGB) and secret police, with a 7-month documented history of planning to photograph the most wanted man in the world. After exactly 15 minutes of silence, there was a quiet tap on the door. Scott leapt up and went to the door. There was a look around the room. He turned the knob, and with the door barely a few inches open, a diminutive pale man slipped in. He was dressed in worn out clothes, broken glasses, and a backpack. Platon remembers the moment he met Edward Snowden. “He’s got a very gentle voice. He shakes all our hands. He says, ‘Hi, I’m Ed, I’m Ed.’ He sits down on the sofa and then begins an hour and half monologue of his story.” Platon didn’t even have the time to properly introduce himself, or go over the plan for their meeting. Edward just started speaking. “It felt like this guy had been in prison for 20 years and suddenly he’s got people to talk to.” Ironically, Snowden now has asylum in a country that is currently engaged in a form of colonialism. Russia is engaged in a de facto war in Ukraine, having annexed Crimea after a thinly veiled invasion. The US and Europe continue to levy heavier and heavier sanctions against Russia, to slow effect. For their part, Russia is also levying sanctions against Europe and the US, but considering their imports outweigh their exports, their action isn’t expected to make a significant impact over the short term. But Putin has Snowden. Putin is painted as a thug by the American media and representatives. That’s why Platon’s TIME cover was so successful. To Americans he looked like a tyrant, to Putin, he looks strong. Platon calls the portrait truthful, not painting Putin any other way than how he presented himself to the photographer. Snowden is a marker of the overreaches of the US Government. He is a symbol of a poisoned Democracy. Everything that Snowden stands for is everything the US criticizes Putin for. He represents the black heart of official American paranoia, and Putin has put a roof over his head. Platon is careful not to make a judgment about Snowden, only to show his story. He sees his position as a tool for our culture. “My job is not to paint someone as a demon or a saint. I’m just interested in curing society’s amnesia,” he says. He forces us to remember our history. To face it. Platon’s vision, to detail icons and keep them at the forefront of our awareness, is documentation. He offers a quiet reckoning of our history and our process, our culture. Snowden did the same thing. Even though they do it in different arenas, for both of them it’s about holding a mirror up to who we are, where we come from, and where we are allowing ourselves to go with “These People” at the helm. It’s a dialogue that has been ranging since Plato’s Republic. “Who is the leader? Who are the people? Are the people being looked after properly by the leadership?,” are the central questions, as Platon explains. “Technology is pushing this and accelerating the process, but the core values stay the same. There’s nothing new in this. I’m just part of the latest round of the discussion. That’s all. It’s just round 250,000,” he says with a healthy laugh. Back in Moscow, as Snowden sat on that couch, Platon soaked up as much as he could. No one in the room could take notes, instead they just listened. “His glasses, actually, are broken,” Platon tells it. “And one of the pads on the sides of his nose is broken off so he hasn’t either had the money or the time to replace his glasses. And that was a detail sort of reflecting his state of mind and also his state of life. So his glasses kept sliding to one side, and he kept adjusting it while he’s talking.” He gave a crash course in CIA espionage, regaled his privacy manifesto, and spoke of his daily life. He talked himself into exhaustion before finding a moment to pause. He removed his glasses. Rubbed his eyes, looked around the room and said: “I’ve lost my way. What are we doing?” “You’re here to make history,” Platon told him. “We’re going to do a photo shoot.” “Okay, I’m in your hands.” Platon is used to the unpredictability that comes with the biggest personalities in the world. “There’s no guarantee. You know it’s happening when he’s in front of you, and even then you don’t know if you’re going to get out okay,” he says. “You are really rolling the dice. Some I win, some I lose.” After seeing a slight man in front of him unloading his personal history, Platon had experienced a type of confusion. “Where does he get his balls of steel?,” he wondered. “Where does this guy’s courage come from?” But as soon as Snowden stepped in front of the camera, he got his answer: “His inner strength is unbelievable. He becomes not a person who is weak or on the run, or in exile. He becomes this powerful, empowered figure. And he has swagger, passion, and a commitment that I don’t think I’ve seen in anyone I’ve photographed. And I’ve met some pretty committed people.” In the middle of the shoot, Platon poked and prodded Snowden to eke out as much of Snowden’s center as he could, to get in all in frame. As they shot the cover, Platon hit him with the central question, “Are you a patriot or are you a traitor?” Snowden didn’t miss a beat. In front of Platon’s lens, filled with swagger and confidence, he pointed at Platon and chided him. “Don’t get bogged down with labels. Don’t get bogged down with picking sides, picking teams,” he said to Platon. “Because it’s not about Us versus Them, or Red versus Blue, it’s actually about us working together to solve common goals.” Snowden has spent the better part of a year alone in his Russian apartment, awake at night to connect with his half dead life in the US, and sleeping during the day. He eats the same meal daily, Beef Stroganoff, and hasn’t had the time or money to repair his broken glasses. He’s isolated, stranded, and spends hours forming his thoughts, values, and actions into emails to friends. His life is self study, a philosophical meditation of the longest form. The words he spoke to Platon in that studio may not have been rehearsed, but the philosophy has been bouncing around his head for a year. An echo chamber of idealism. He’s papered his world with his beliefs. He’s now in a situation, that is at least partially elective, where he has placed himself on an island, alone, with nothing but the time and thoughts to reconcile and put himself in the right place. To make himself the hero.  But, he has no more moves. He’s a chess piece that Putin can play. All that’s left is to hold onto his ideals and the history of his actions and hope that time will play out in his favor. He sounds like a fully formed civil rights leader, at the age of 31. There’s no way to know if what Edward Snowden did was out of a fully acknowledged courage or a risky move with unintended consequences. And we can never know, as human intentions and actions are blurred and reshaped by retrospection. Human history, and American history, is peppered by actors who have under taken valiant efforts above their stations and have found themselves destroyed. Like Edward Snowden in Platon’s makeshift studio overlooking Moscow’s Red Square, the actions of the heroes and villains of time have carved them away from the rest of us, who they claim to protect or revile. When everyone else has turned their backs, or placed them in a glass cage, the only voices left are the other inmates. The voices of history that Snowden hears are the voices of those who came before him, regardless of their intent. Those voices will never pass through to be heard over the cacophony on the other side of the glass.
  • 8.18.14   Tom Corbett Crowns the Princess of War for Cosmo for Latinas

    At the top of Cosmo for Latinas' feature on Ana de la Reguera they call her “Princesa Guerrera,” or “Princess of War.” Owing to her Mexican heritage, she’s dressed in Aztec prints with natural embellishments and bold metallic accessories. To bring it all together, Tom Corbett shot Ana in the desert surrounded by stones, dust, and Joshua trees. The images evoke a history left behind, of the proud Aztec empire that dominated what is now the south of Mexico. Their culture was one of the most diverse and complex of the 14th-16th Centuries and as time goes on we learn more and more about how much was lost through the systematic integration of that culture. What we see in Ana’s eyes is the continuation of the tradition, still alive, invoked by her energy. Although she’s operating on a much larger scare, Ana’s professional story is the same as anyone traveling to the US. She was already a successful actress in Mexico, having starred in Telenovelas and Film to great acclaim. But, she wanted more. “I love to challenge myself,” she says. “I had to start from scratch when I came to the US.” She continues to build her career step by step. The look that Tom and Cosmo put together is reminiscent of the voyage across the gully that separates the old from the new. Ana’s dress and environment speak of her heritage, but her accessories are modern, her gaze is forward. She’s looking to the future. Tom is known for his style that is flirty and energetic, but for this shoot with Ana and Cosmo for Latinas, they employed a more refined direction. The energy is still there: the movement in Ana’s steps, the strength in her poses. But it’s a quiet fire, appropriate for a Princess of War. The golden light stretches across the landscape, a secret flashlight, pushing her on, wrapped in the tradition of her people, but forging her own path. 
  • 8.19.14   Found's Immersive Viral Experience for Foot Locker

    When it comes to advertising your brand, what you want to build is affinity. It’s not enough for customers to be interested in what you’re doing, you need them to love what you’re doing. Then they’ll love you. You don’t want to give them something to watch, you need to give them something to care about, to interest them, to activate them. You need to involve them. To highlight Foot Locker’s “Triple Black” Collection, a curated series of black sneakers from multiple brands, the retail chain wanted to bring an extra level of intrigue and excitement to their launch. They wanted to synthesize product and production into one story that could involve their customers. So they tapped Found, the experiential experts, to bring their customers into a three dimensional emotional and immersive experience. To highlight what makes these shoes special, mainly that they’re all black, Found conceived a constructed live experience that would play on darkness. They created a space for participants that could be explored in the pitch black, with nothing but tactile and auditory senses. The participants would find a pair of sneakers in the pitch black, and if they made it through in time they would get a pair to keep. Using the two pathways of auditory and tactile communication, Found designed a sort of maze with the idea of bringing the participant off balance into a challenging space. They played off the fear and anxiety inspired by darkness to lift the participant up into the courageous brave person they could be when presented with the challenge. When describing what the most exciting part of the project was, Sarah O’Connell of Found explains it’s “the opportunity to be able to do something for the fans first and foremost. In terms of their experience and interaction with the brand,” she says. “And then the opportunity to put it out into the world.” The video that’s resulted from their immersive maze has amassed nearly 700k views after finding a click-through residence on FootLocker EU’s website. Their #BacktoBlack campaign is one of those rare occasions where the client asked for a “Viral Campaign,” and the artist was able to deliver. Not only were they able to construct a piece that was predictive of mass appeal, Found ended up going from concept to execution in less than half the time they had originally asked for. “Everyone that was working on it was quite up for it and excited to do something spectacular,” Sarah explains the energy surrounding the project. “The whole crew that worked on it were really brilliant and put so much time and energy and passion into it.” It was all hands on deck to execute the impossible, and Found did it in record time.
  • 8.14.14   Script & Seal Flexes Their Muscles for NikeFuel

    The wildly popular NikeFuel program allows users to track their fitness through “Fuel Points,” propriety units that measure movement for all kinds of activities. Nike tracks all Fuel Points earned through social media so that friends can connect, compare, and compete. That means a lot of data on a lot of active users. Far too much for the layman to understand. Nike needed a way to express this data to their consumers, so the trends could inspire greater participation. They launched a campaign, “Summer of NikeFuel,” to give users the mental tools to succeed by showing the success of others. How were they going to put all this info into a consumable format that’s a pleasure to see? Infographics. Ten years ago, the word was unknown, but as we’ve become more reliant on consuming information visually, infographics have become more and more prevalent. The goal is communication. Some information is dense, and spreading it out into an image makes it easier to understand. Not all information is easy to illustrate visually, and squeezing it into the wrong shape can impede understanding, rather than enhancing it. “Infographics are storytelling devices, that can be used to distill a ton of information down into a single, extremely digestible form,” say Liz and Gavin of Script & Seal, the illustrator team behind the campaign. “So we see it as a way to take a large amount of seemingly boring data and create a really interesting or exciting visual story.” By telling the story visually, the information becomes much more digestible, much more fun. For the past two months, Nike has been releasing Script & Seals infographics once a week. They’re focused on how to maximize Fuel Point earnings. That is to say, the infographics illustrate how athletes have been successful in the past, so that users can adjust and try them out to maximize their own potential. Script & Seal has been doing this for 10 years. But it’s not old hat for them, because every time is like the first time. They need to keep it fresh. “The idea of never repeating ourselves is really important,” says Liz and Gavin. “So it's a constant challenge but really helps keep us on our game. We never want to disappoint ourselves, and that pushes us forward with every project.” The trick is how to fit all of the data into elegant images. “You can't manipulate the data to fit the style you want to create, so you have to allow the data to dictate the form,” they say. “Mostly it's just the process of experimenting and handing off the image to each other. It helps to get a fresh pair of eyes on the project every few hours so that the design never gets stale.” The timeline they worked on for this project is accelerated to a pace much faster than usual. They typically get 2-3 weeks to put together infographics like these, but Nike needed them once a week. “By shortening the timeline, we're in constant data-mode,” they say. “And forcing ourselves to come up with really interesting and new ideas really quickly. We see it as a really good exercise - flexing our design muscles.” Script & Seal has been flexing their muscles since the beginning of the season, and will continue to roll out weekly infographics for the rest of the season. You'll find them on NikeFuel's Twitter upon release.
  • 8.14.14   Sara Cooper Puts Designer Apparel in a New Context for Hunger TV

    Runway shows are just that: shows. The clothes are real, the girls are real, but everything else is a construction of an idea that is intentionally unrealistic. For Stylist Sara Cooper, that’s great, but it’s not the way the clothes should be presented when the show is over. “I think showing head to toe runway looks, like $5000 dresses, the way they’re shown on the runway isn’t that interesting,” she says. She loves clothes like that, but she likes to put them in a different context. Her latest work for Hunger TV with Nick Thompson follows that point of view. For their story, The Wanderer, Sara used pieces from Peter Pilotto, Peter Som, and 3.1 Phillip Lim. To the average reader, a feathered dress paired with adidas Stan Smith sneakers is a bold, aggressive style choice. But to Sara, it’s just the way she sees things. She doesn’t have a bone to pick, it comes about naturally. “It just sort of happens,” she says. “I try to really feel it out and respond to the girl, and the background, obviously the hair and make up, but the girl a lot.” Responding to the clothes, the model, and the surroundings she’s able to create looks that are fresh for her, and certainly for us. “I try to bring high fashion stuff down to earth,” she explains. The photographer Nick Thompson is from London and was really into using New York City as the background. But this isn’t the nighttime shot on Fifth Avenue with steam billowing from a manhole and the Empire State Building in the background. This is the New York inside parking garages, in front of electric regulators, in a cab riding past vast apartment buildings. This is the New York known only to New Yorkers. Sara and Nick were going for something that the inducted would recognize because they wanted it to be realistic. “A model off duty type of vibe,” she says. What Sara has brought to this is a new way to look at designer apparel in a way that is uniquely her take. "I’m not really drawn to anything too serious," she says. But the way she's allowed us to rethink what designer clothes are is pretty serious.

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