Category Archives: Portraits

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Mom … in context of Dad

On the same note as the previous post (Past and Present) but in the extreme, photographing family in any other than a candid context has  always been a challenge for me. I call it the “photographing your mother syndrome”.  I tackled the problem  a few years ago with some success, but without the clarity of purpose I know to bring to it now. More recently, my wife Marni requested portraits of our two youngest for her birthday. I will always go for a candid, authentic feel; but I wanted a more formal result,  so I grabbed them off the beach, took them into the studio and shot with window light. They were amazing subjects, took direction beautifully, and seemed to enjoy the attention … which all came as a surprise to me … having expected a good deal of late afternoon pushback. My son Harry, age 11, mentioned that I was talking to them in an unfamiliar way … and I realized my professional self had taken over, I had gone into “the zone”. It is not a persona I want to bring to these relationships with any frequency … but it was interesting, to me anyway,  how clear the distinction had become.

Harry & Margaret

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Big Pharma

America’s Favorite Ophthalmologist

I have always thought that my accountant should drive a mercedes, my dentist should have perfect teeth, and my mechanic should drive a 15 year old buick (if you can keep that running you can fix anything). All was right with the world then photographing Dr. Alison Tendler, ophthalmologist and spokesperson for Restasis Eye Drops. As Jack Kerouac said (OK different context) “You got eyes”. She could drift into simple beauty very quickly. I had to keep pulling her back to “doctor” … highly disciplined professional that I am.

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Keeping it Simple … Getting it Right

I am always happier when the idea quotient is higher than the production quotient. Production, to me. is a way to get back to simple. Simple is being in the  right place,  in the right light, with the right crew. Photographing author Bill Landay for Random House was just such an occasion. There wasn’t any art direction, but I gleaned from conversations with the creative director in NY and the author, that we needed  a spectrum of shots, from gritty crime writer (sexy, worldly) , ex lawyer (subject cred), and granular context (this book, these characters). I scouted some with the author, and scoped out  a couple of places I knew might work on my own. We then set up a schedule around the light. All places would have worked under any conditions, but sunny was best. Two great assistants (driver and grip) kept the guerilla nature of the event going smoothly; and we cruised through the whole adventure in 4 hours. Three wardrobe changes, 4 locations;  finishing just when the sun dropped behind the trees. Happy author …  Happy client (there sure are a lot of shots!) … Happy photographer …  Fun.



William Landay Author

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The Eyes have it … Opthalmology

I have spent almost two months photographing the myriad of doctors and researchers at the Harvard Medical School Department of Ophthalmolgy. It is rare to be engaged in a project for this long and it has been a challenge to create distinctive photographs in a world of labs, conference rooms, and clinical exam rooms. In a word; ya seen one … . The upside is observing this army of very big brains addressing the problem of congenital and therapeutic ophthalmic defects.

Watching and photographing while a surgeon makes an incision on an eyeball strikes very close to home.

Fritz Klaetke (Visual Dialogue) and I decided to maximize the authenticity of the photos, and my process has been quick,simple, and available light(with a lightweight, over the shoulder portable strobe backup system for emergencies). Emphasizing the idea of in focus/out of focus seemed appropriate for the venue. so I am doing mostly long lense and tight; yet another challenge in these low light environments.

Occasionally I will go my own way with the work; just to keep things interesting.

To be in such close proximity to science and medicine for so long, on the one hand, creates a great argument for the potential of the human mind (a perspective that often escapes me these days) and the wonder of the human body: on the other, serves as a stark and humble reminder of how little we really know.

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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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Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence, MA

Kids

Everytime I visit this place I come away amazed … amazed at the irrepressible spirit of children … amazed at how seemingly intractable social problems can be mitigated with such simple solutions. I am sure it’s not perfect, but this place is all about respect, compassion. and understanding in the service of hope and possibilities. I always come away renewed.

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Nice Lawyers … Really

One fascinating aspect of my job is to experience the cultures of different organizations. Sometimes the vibe I get is palpable. Sensitivity to this  culture is  critical in order to work well. My interaction is often broad and deep, and I need to play by their rules or my clients and their contacts can pay a steep price.  An organization with a good vibe is a pleasure to work in. The law firm, Goulston & Storrs, is just that (at least for me). This is a place where people seem to like and respect each other, find a place to do well and do good in the world, and they get my jokes. I just finished shooting some ads for their litigation department. It was a good day.

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Lots of Docs

Simple concept, nice design, and a production level these folks were not really used to (what do you mean makeup?) I tried to keep things loose and the space open.

 

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In Memory of Robert B. Parker

I first met Robert Parker in 1992. I remember driving up to his house in Cambridge, assigned by his long time publisher Putnam to produce an author portrait and publicity photos. I found him sitting on the front steps. I pulled up, rolled down the window and introduced myself. His response was to inform me that he had two expressions and then showed me a maniacal grin and a terrifying grimace. It was the beginning of long and productive relationship.

About every other year I would come back for a new set of photos (the last time was June 09), and I would like to think he cultivated a grudging respect for the work, implicit in the return engagements (that, or Joan liked me). I have photographed a lot of authors over the years and he was my favorite. He seemed to soften a touch with time, or maybe he was just waiting for me to grow up. Whatever the case, that gruff exterior belied a warm and generous heart. I will miss the grin and the grimace.

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Tall Ships … What Goes Around

Tall Ships … a dream … at last

I got a call from a producer in Los Angeles to shoot print ads concurrent with the TV spots for a bank in Russia (VTb24). The subject, in this case, was the captain of the Kreuzenstern, a 3 masted barque, used for maritime training, and the second largest tall ship in the world. A week later I was on deck off Cape Cod, under a full moon and full sail. A long time ago I blew a chance to get up close and personal with tall ships. Different time, different John. I called my son and his comment was “Dad, you finally got your tall ship”. Yep.

More Shots

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