Mike Piscitelli and Serena Williams Train for Flawless Performance
Serena Williams was in the middle of her season, about to hit the court at the US Open, but she had a shoot to do with Mike Piscitelli. They were putting together a spot for Beats by Dre, to show off the physical potential of Beats’ wireless headphones.
Mike had little time with Serena, so he had to make it count. Preparation was the name of the game, and he worked with Serena's trainer to preplan the whole shoot. To get the movement and visual accuracy, he had to know what he would be dealing with when Serena walked in the room, so her trainer was able to help him anticipate action, shapes, and energy. “It was all catered to what we thought would look good visually based off of what she would do naturally,” Mike explains. They even prelit the set to her skin tone and exact physical build so that no time would be wasted on the day. He says, “We knew what we were shooting the day before. We did everything because you have these athletes for such a limited amount of time.”
When Serena came in they started shooting immediately. They went through the work out portion three times and then ran the tennis drills, shooting the whole time. Since Mike had storyboarded the entire spot, he knew what he needed to get. And in those three run-throughs he was able to capture every shot he needed. “It’s very planned and then it’s very run and gun,” Mike says. “She is in the middle of a season, she’s in training mode. She was super nice, but she had to go train. She’s in competitor mode. She made it clear she had to keep moving.”
When asked if anything had happened that surprised him, Mike said No. There is no room for surprises when your subject is Serena Williams, arguably the most famous tennis player in the world. She is an athlete at the top of her game and it requires an unbelievable amount of work to maintain that level. Mike's shoot was to experience and document her athleticism, to show how seamlessly Beats Headphones could fit into a workout with an expert like Serena. It was a technical exercise. Like Serena's form during her weightlifting and drills, Mike had to ensure he got the most result from the least amount of time.
Serena went on to win the US Open a few weeks later.
Mike Piscitelli Visualizes Personal Flavor
There is a drink for every Starbucks customer. Tea or Coffee? Iced or Hot? Venti or Tall? The combinations are almost infinite. Every drink reflects the person ordering, their tastes and personalities distilled into a drink. But the customization doesn’t only come from in front of the counter. Behind the counter, each Starbucks employee engages with the orders they fulfill in their own personal way.
For the launch of Starbucks’ newest drinks, Teavana Shaken Iced Teas, photographer Mike Piscitelli shot real life Starbucks baristas who make these drinks every day. He got them in the process of shaking the same tea that they serve to their customers. The clearly visible excitement wasn’t hammed up for the photographs, though. Working with actual employees is a little different from using actors and models. Usually, “real life” people need to be coaxed out a little bit through performance. Not so with the Starbucks baristas. “They were really into being Starbucks employees,” Mike explains. It didn’t hurt that Mike had built a fun and retro playlist for everyone to listen and jam out to. (He called it “90s Summertime School Girls” and it featured singers like Jewel and Natalie Imbruglia.)
Not only did he get them in action, but he also got their signature shakes. In the ads, behind each of these drink makers is a light drawing of the way they handle their own shakers, bringing the same customization to the images as customers add to their drinks. “That’s them building it,” Mike explains the real time light paintings. “None of them were posed, that’s all movement.”
They achieved the look by attaching LED lights to the shakers and the hands of each barista, and shooting the shaking process in the pitch black. They tried a few different methods, but once they figured out the technical aspect, it was all about getting the authentic movements on camera.
It was a lot of fun, but there was also a lot of anticipation. “It’s a two and a half second exposure and it takes eight seconds for the camera and computer to process it,” Mike explains. “So you shoot it and then wait. In the dark.” Everyone huddled around those screens. Mike, his crew, 72andSunny (the agency that coordinated the project), and Starbucks, all waiting in that blacked out sound stage. Seconds ticked by in the dark and in the quiet, until the shot appeared on screen. “The patterns turned out insane.”
Mike says the shoot was one of the easiest he’s had to date. Not because the process was simple (it took two sound stages, multiple set ups, and an incredible amount of planning), but because everyone was so genuinely excited and happy to be there. That makes all the difference in the world.
Mike Piscitelli Keeps Ashley Smith looking Natural for RVCA
Having Mike Piscitelli shoot Ashley Smith for RVCA was a long time coming. When Ashley started modeling after being discovered at SXSW in Austin, Mike was one of the first photographers to ever shoot her in NYC. On the other side, Mike’s been aware of RVCA for years, “I’ve grown up skateboarding and surfing,” he says. “And RVCA’s always stood out because they do a lot of stuff with artists.”
But it wasn’t just that Mike has history with both Ashley and RVCA (pronounced ROO-ka), it’s a natural aesthetic fit. Having spent his life between the San Fernando Valley, New York, and Venice Beach, the natural, relaxed feeling of RVCA is the same energy that permeates his work. It always has. “I’m not some fashion guy that’s trying to come into the RVCA world,” Mike explains. “I come from that world and I’ve expanded outside of it. But at my core I bring authenticity and a level of work to the table” When Mike says he’s expanded outside of it, he’s not kidding. He’s shot campaigns for KSwiss, Converse, and Expedia.com. His work has broad relatability, but his authentic naturalism is always the touchstone.
The images that Mike shot with Ashley speak to her similar style. Observing her over-the-shoulder grin, and the wink of her icy blue eyes while enjoying a popsicle, you’d be forgiven if you pigeonholed her as skating model. But she’s walked runways for Chanel and Balenciaga, and spends her time shuttling between NYC and Paris. She and Mike have worked together a bunch before, and since they both have such a relaxed nature to them, they let that inform their shooting style. “We treated it like a vacation. We just cruised,” Mike says. That’s how Mike kept the shoot so natural, but blurring the lines between what was on the clock and what wasn’t. Living between the shots.
“We were shooting outside and went into the supermarket to get something to eat and we ended up shooting in there,” Mike says about the shot of Ashley with the popsicle. “None of the supermarket stuff was planned. We were taking a break and I just had my camera, and so we shot photos when we were getting soda.” That popsicle wasn’t chosen from a hundred popsicles, and the bags of chips weren’t styled just right by a team. That’s how they were placed in the supermarket, so that’s how Mike shot them. The best way to manufacture a natural feel in an image is to let it be natural.
So, how did Mike get images of Ashley looking like she had fun? “Me and Ashley just have so much fun shooting together.” It’s that simple.
Mike Piscitelli Shoots Musician Christina Perri for Minkpink
Minkpink tapped Mike Piscitelli to photograph its spring advertisements featuring singer-songwriter and musician Christina Perri. "When they came to me, I was so excited because I was such a fan and already a customer," Perri said in a Nylon interview, continuing, "I loved all of their images and all the models that they've used because they seemed like really cool girls rather than your standard supermodel thing."
Piscitelli noted: "It's always a bit weird to shoot a musician or artist as a model, and it wasn't one frame – we had to shoot an entire campaign and look book, and it's hard to pose over and over again. But Christina was great ... and she has a great voice!" The team rented out a recording studio in Burbank and Piscitelli kept in mind Minkpink's direction – be lively and genuine while highlighting Perri's personality. The only challenge, according to the photographer, "was having as much energy before lunch as after ... we had dance-offs. The funny thing is I never dance except on set – I don't go out dancing and I don't dance at home – but I dance on the sets of [nearly] all of my jobs. I think people are more at ease when I'm making an ass of myself."
Minkpink x Christina Perri marks Minkpink and Piscitelli's second collaboration (his Chloe Norgaard campaign was the first). "The photos turn out well and they're excellent at marketing their stuff online," he remarked. "Minkpink's an Australian brand, but it's huge here now."
Recent Work by Mike Piscitelli: Tweeds, Eastpak, and Pampero
Mike Piscitelli's recent campaigns run the gamut from men's underwear to Venezuelan rum, each showcasing his propensity for capturing the right – and oftentimes unexpected – moment. For Tweeds, a men's underwear brand co-founded by young pro-surfer Kolohe Andino, Piscitelli captured the athlete at "his mom and dad's house with a girl in a bikini [which] is always going to end up fun," he said.
Shot rain or shine in Los Angeles, Piscitelli's Eastpak ads illustrate the durability of the "Built to Resist" bags. Plus, the photographer did double duty for the global relaunch of Pampero rum – making pictures and directing commercials. Playing off of the company's start-up story of two friends passionate about rum-making who eventually distilled the South American favorite, Piscitelli created a series of inspiring action-packed frames.
Ed Ruscha's Monster Children Cover by Mike Piscitelli
Mike Piscitelli photographed artist Ed Ruscha in L.A.'s Gagosian Gallery for the latest issue of Monster Children. "In a way, it was the most intimidating shoot I've ever done," admitted Piscitelli. "He was extremely nice and laid back, but he has a painting hanging in the White House — to me, that's more intimidating than being in the presence of whom others would call a celebrity."
In lieu of giving direction, Piscitelli chatted with Ruscha throughout the session, likely to put both men at ease. "Ed has done and seen a lot, and though I had two hours scheduled with him, I only shot for fifteen minutes," he noted. "[Ruscha] was open and giving as a subject. I think with age and men, especially, their personality emerges quickly. I enjoy taking images of people who have lived more of life than I have." Piscitelli used some of his remaining time to look through the Gagosian's archives. "It's an art-world institution," he remarked. "That was one of those days I kept thinking, 'Huh, my job is awesome.' "
The black-and-white portrait marks his second cover in as many months for Monster Children – and a stark contrast to his Jessica Hart images. "Every shoot is different," he said. "It's not about trying to one-up the last set of images. I just make photos that I like."
Jessica Hart's Monster Children Cover by Mike Piscitelli
Monster Children enlisted longtime collaborator Mike Piscitelli to photograph a cover for its 40th issue. "It's a surf, skate, art, fashion, and music mag," Piscitelli said. "Monster Children isn't any one thing; it changes page-by-page and I think that's why everyone likes to shoot for them."
His contribution to the edition was a series featuring Jessica Hart that resembles the type of posters found in a not-a-boy, not-yet-a-man's bedroom. "It's tongue-in-cheek in a way," he explained. "We intentionally went over the top – it's totally try-hard sexy – and at the same time, we wanted to make iconic images that would change a 14-year-old guy's life." Piscitelli thinks the results fit the magazine perfectly, though "it's different than what I usually do," he remarked. "Most of my photos are rooted in reality, whereas these were extremely calculated."
Piscitelli also has a spread and double-page interview in the recently released 10 Years of Monster Children book.
Mike Piscitelli's Film for The Elder Statesman
Mike Piscitelli and designer Greg Chait of The Elder Statesman partnered on a short film to announce the clothing brand's forthcoming children's line. Called "Tomate," it shows the disintegration a French girl's relationship with her lover. One minute, she's reading Walter Isaacson's Benjamin Franklin biography to him from their bathtub; seconds later, she wakes up to a note that reads, "Au revoir, mon amour – T." T stands for Tomate and (spoiler alert!) he happens to be an adorable stuffed bear.
"[Greg] didn't want to feature the children's clothes [yet], so the teddy bear represents the new kids' collection," Piscitelli explained. "It was a fun project because I was creating a loose narrative that fits in with the fashion-film genre and convincing the viewer that the girl was looking dreamily at a male model" He worked with the actress beforehand to ensure she could sell the emotional connection to an inanimate object. "I took on the bear's role off-camera ... there was a lot of, 'Why don't you love me anymore?' and, 'Look at the camera as though you've never been touched that way.' "
Watch "Tomate" at right and read more about The Elder Statesman for kids at Style.com.
Creative director: Greg Chait
Director: Mike Piscitelli
Producer: Ben Bonnet for Westy Productions
Director of photography: Starr Whitesides
Starring: Heather Kemesky and Tomate the Bear
Music: Mike Einziger and Annmarie Simpson
Editor: Mandy Brown
Stylist: Sally Lyndley
Hair stylist: Charles McNair
Makeup artist: Sandra Ganzer
La La Land With Chloe Norgaard for Minkpink
As photographer Mike Piscitelli tells it, Chloe Norgaard and Minkpink were a match made in Venice Beach. For its La La Land campaign, the Australian clothing brand enlisted Norgaard – "You know, she was dyeing her hair rainbow before it became the thing to do," Piscitelli explained. "It was clear she had an energy that was conditioned to what Minkpink is stylistically."
Piscitelli, Norgaard, and three of her friends (including "Big Love" actress Daveigh Chase) spent the day Norgaarding – giving each other piggy-back rides, tossing up peace signs, and hiding behind police cars. "She would say, 'Oh, an ice cream,' and I said, 'Okay, let's shoot it.' Then, there were Hare Krishnas, so we kind of jumped on it," Piscitelli remembered.
Norgaard called it her favorite shoot.
Stylist: Mark Vassallo
Mike Piscitelli Wins at Cannes
This week Mike Piscitelli picked up a Bronze award at the Cannes Lions Festival for Y&R's Land Rover campaign, “Roam Free”. Mike created a series of outdoor ads featuring four Parkour / free running professionals, each representing a wheel of a Land Rover, who dashed and flipped their way through the varied terrain of Los Angeles. Their movements were used to symbolize Land Rover’s legacy and commitment to creating all-terrain 4-wheel drive vehicles. This proved to be an interesting concept for a car advertisement with no vehicle. The campaign was a success that earned Mike the official seal of approval from the global creativity community.
Agency: Y&R, New York, USA
Photographer: Mike PiscitelliâÂÂ€¨
Chief Creative Officer: Jim Elliott
Group Creative Directors: Marc Sobier, Andrew McKechnie
Art Director: Eduardo QuadraâÂÂ€¨Copywriter: Paul WoodâÂÂ€¨
Content Producer: Veronica Reo
Mike Piscitelli's New Cinnamon Girl
Mike Piscitelli takes a page out of Neil Young's songbook with 'Cinnamon Girl", a fashion story that appears in the April/May issue of Malibu Magazine.
The title "Cinnamon Girl" is fitting because Mike shot the story on location in Topanga Canyon, a place where Neil Young used to call home. Model Mathilda Bernmark is effortlessly gorgeous in clothes of neutral shades of white, black and beige. A mixture of color and black & white photographs create a classic yet modern feel throughout the story.
Mike has also recently launched a new website featuring this story, a Land Rover campaign, and his first rap music video for J. Cole feat. Miguel's "Power Trip". Check it out here!>
Publication: Malibu Magazine
Photographer: Mike Piscitelli
Model: Mathilda Bernmark
Stylist: Jeff K. Kim
Makeup: Erin Moffett
Hair: Ryan Richman
Mike Piscitelli Shoots J. Cole's Music Video for "Power Trip"Mike Piscitelli directs the official video for J. Cole feat. Miguel's "Power Trip" that explores a love obsession turned deadly.
Besides providing crooning vocals to the chorus of the track, Miguel is also the victim in the music video. "This is the only way he could fit in the video," Cole said in an interview with MTV News. Mike shot the majority of the video in Cole's hometown of Fayetteville, North Carolina and to date it has over 3 million views.
Note: no R&B singers were harmed during the filming of this video.
Mike Piscitelli Photographs Rose Byrne for Lifestyle Mirror
Everything's coming up roses for Rose Byrne, who plays Bradley Cooper's wife in the new film The Place Beyond the Pines. Mike Piscitelli recently photographed the actress for up-and-coming fashion editorial/e-commerce website Lifestyle Mirror.
Mike snaps up these gorgeous photos of the down to earth Australian actress at the Standard Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. In this cover story for LM's April issue, Rose shares her experiences working on the movie Bridesmaids and the show Damages.
Publication: Lifestyle Mirror
Photographer: Mike Piscitelli
Stylist: Penny Lovell
Makeup: Mai Quynh
Back in Black with Mike Piscitelli and Lee Jeans
Mike Piscitelli takes us into the dark and faded rooms of LA's iconic live music venue The Mint, where the smell of last night's party always seems to linger. There Mike photographs models Cole Mohr and Cora Keegan and captures the spirit of rock 'n roll rebellion for Lee Jeans Australia.
Lee Jeans' "Back in Black" AW 2013 campaign pays homage to the underground grungy music culture of the 90s where wearing black was the unofficial official cool currency. Mike's photographs make us thoroughly nostalgic for late nights out dancing and remind us of what falling in with the music feels like.
Mike Piscitelli's Waiting For Tomorrow To Wake Up
Mike Piscitelli created a short film titled "Waiting For Tomorrow To Wake Up" for Australian magazine Monster Children. Shot in Los Angeles, "Waiting For Tomorrow To Wake Up" follows a group of teenagers over the course of an evening as they hop around town from spot to spot. The film documents reckless youth, loving and living without a care in the world. "We wanted to capture the feeling you have around 17, 18," Mike said in a recent interview with Karmaloop. "You cant get into bars, only one of your friends has a car, no one works so there's no reason to sleep and you want to be in love with something."
The film premiered last week at Los Angeles' Wild Honey Studios and is featured in the latest issue of Monster Children. "Waiting For Tomorrow To Wake Up" was also recently selected as one of Vimeo's Staff Picks.
Kingston, Jamaica with Mike Piscitelli and Van SheMike Piscitelli is no stranger to film or music. In 2006, he won Pitchfork's "Video of the Year" and has made a full-length documentary on heavy metal icon and sometimes reality TV star, Ozzy Osbourne. Mike's projects have taken him all over the world, from Los Angeles to Sydney to Kingston, Jamaica. It was Mike's photography work on location in Kingston for Insight clothing that caught Van She's eye.
The Australian electropop four-piece contacted Mike about shooting the video for their single "Jamaica" in, you guessed it, Jamaica. Since Mike had traveled to the small Caribbean island before, he had access to a Jamaica most of us haven't seen. For three days, Mike took the band around Kingston, the island's capital. Driving around in a retro golden sheen car, Mike and Van She explore dirt roads, local shops and bars, and of course, the beach. The video ends with a wide pan shot of the band standing side by side in the sand, watching the Jamaican sunset.
Mike Piscitelli for Monster Children
Mike Piscitelli photographs a wild spread for the latest issue of Monster Children. The magazine recently started publishing in the United States and features stories and photography on skate, surf, culture, art, and music. Piscitelli collaborated with the magazine's staff on the elaborate editorial shot in downtown Los Angeles.
Piscitelli booked the shoot a mere five days before the magazine went to print. He came up with the idea for what he calls "dog piles," as they would "look really cool with the magazine's landscape format." The magazine loved the idea and within two days they had cast the models, found a studio, and shot the spread. Male and female models dressed in minimal clothes pile on top of each other, laughing and having a good time.
See more of Mike Piscitelli's photography here.
Publication: Monster Children
Photography: Mike Piscitelli
Styling: Djuna Bell
Make Up: Sandy Ganzer
Hair: Jenny Kim >
Mike Piscitelli Photographs Shailene Woodley
Mike Piscitelli captures actress Shailene Woodley for the latest cover of Malibu Magazine. The 20 year-old star's career is on the rise now with her astonishing and critically lauded performance as George Clooney's elder daughter in The Descendents. Woodley was nominated for a Golden Globe for the performance and recently won an Independent Spirit Award for it. She is also the star of ABC Family's hit show The Secret Life of the American Teenager, which returns to television next month. Woodley spoke to the magazine about working on the film, her organic lifestyle, and her dream role.
Piscitelli shot Woodley on location in Los Angeles, California. The warm lighting highlights the actress's ethereal beauty and the simple styling reflects her natural and easygoing lifestyle.
The latest issue of Malibu Magazine is out now.
See more of Mike Piscitelli's photography here.
Publication: Malibu Magazine
Issue: February/March 2012
Story: "The Imminent Rise of Shailene Woodley"
Photographer: Mike Piscitelli
Wardrobe Styling: Hayley Atkin
Hair: Campbell F. McAuley
Makeup: Gloria Noto >
Mike Piscitelli Captures Emmy Rossum for Malibu
Mike Piscitelli photographs Emmy Rossum for a spread in the winter issue of Malibu Magazine. The actress and singer spoke to the magazine after completing work on the second season of her hit show Shameless. The Showtime series is a remake of a British show of the same name and Rossum stars as the eldest child in a family of six living in poverty with their alcoholic father in Chicago.
The shoot took place at 5th and Sunset Studios in Santa Monica, California. Rossum's character on Shameless is gritty and tough and Piscitelli wanted to capture that while also highlighting her glamour. He says working with Rossum made him a fan of both her and her show.
The winter issue of Malibu Magazine is on newsstands now.
See more of Mike Piscitelli's photography here.
Publication: Malibu Magazine
Creative Director: Jason Rouse
Co-Creative Director: Jordan Tappis
Art Director: Julian Chavez
Photographer: Mike Piscitelli >
Recent Photography from Mike Piscitelli
Mike Piscitelli has been busy recently with editorial and advertising photography. He captured the new campaign for the Converse for Target collection for Wieden +Kennedy in New York. The campaign features models in clothing and footwear from the collection. The shoot took place over two days in Brooklyn and Manhattan. He also recently photographed actress Aubrey Plaza for Oyster Magazine's 95th issue. Piscitelli shot Plaza in black and white for an article on her work in television and film.
Bernstein & Andriulli welcomes Mike Piscitelli. A photographer and a filmmaker, Piscitelli currently splits his time between Los Angeles, New York, and Sydney. He has shot editorials for Dazed & Confused, Esquire, Details, Nylon, and Harper's Bazaar. Piscitelli has directed music videos for Iggy Pop, John Frusciante, Linkin Park, and The Walkmen, among others. His advertising clients include Adidas, Converse, Expedia, Nike, MTV, Red Bull, Vans, and Hurley. He recently finished his first feature length documentary God Bless Ozzy Osborne.
See Mike Piscitelli's full portfolio here.