Monthly Archives: May 2013

Making History … Portraits

Every few years I photograph the outgoing President of the Academy of Arts & Sciences. The picture ends up on a wall documenting presidents of the last 230 years, starting with an engraving of John Adams (1779). As most of what I do is published and chucked, it feels significant to me to have created something for the historical record. Some recent contributions to that wall have been Leo Beranek (Sorry Al, he knows who founded the internet) and Dr. Emilio Bizzi ( a distinguished neuroscientist).

I got a call a couple of years ago from a portrait painter and acquaintance of mine to collaborate on some work he had been commissioned to do. We eventually worked together on portraits for Alan Greenspan for the Fed (see bio), Gov. Tom Ridge, and Hon. Michael Chertoff, both for the Dept. of Homeland Security. I am always amazed and humbled by good painters. The plasticity of their process, the extraordinary melding of craft and opinion, and the granularity of decisions, makes taking a photograph seem like a walk in the park. My goal was to take some pictures that not only worked for the painting, but that worked for me as well. These photos, in a roundabout way, acquired a similar historical significance for me as those above. Somewhere in the paintings, hung forever in the corridors of government, will be my photographic DNA.

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See my Stories Portfolio

My first digital shoot was in 1998. It was portraits for Fidelity to be used in a completely illustrated environment. We’ve come a long way since then. I still shoot film for personal projects; never commercially. The digital environment has brought us immediacy, spontaneity, flexibility, and the ability to take risks with a buffer of certainty. It has also afforded us  the potential for a new level of authenticity and, paradoxically, the possibility of  infinite manipulation … strange bedfellows indeed. Where I used to need lots of gear, I can now go into an environment quietly and in the background to tell a story. This method takes me back to my roots as a photographer (think Tri-X  .. the iconic high speed black & white film). It is nice to be back. To fill the gaping maw of websites, I often go into an environment with a couple of cameras to observe and record. This is pure visual storytelling and an effective way to build an authentic library of images for an organization.

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