I took these images the day before the Orlando shootings. And it wasn’t until I was processing them during the week that followed, that I found my purpose as a photographer. It is tempting to believe that our society is in a downward spiral, saturated with bigotry, spiritually-justified homicide, and hate, because those are the stories and images that bombard us all day, every day through every media outlet—regional, national, and social.
Admittedly, it takes effort to yank ourselves out of the violent stupor perpetrated by a handful of people in this big, bright, beautiful world who have learned how to steal news headlines with their vile promises and their heinous acts. But it’s essential that we try—that we collectively shift our attention away from those whose hateful actions are little more than desperate attempts to be noticed and loved, and focus more on the noble actions of those who are living, loving, and fighting for peace.
The world does not need yet another documentary photographer to capture our struggles, sorrows, and separation. While I recognize that this is truly important work to build awareness, increase empathy, and inspire action, I fear that the overwhelming coverage of the world’s atrocities is skewing our perception of our humanity a bit too much toward the shadows rather than the light. And the more we are witness to human destruction and divisiveness, the more we expect it and build up our tolerance for it. In effect, we are anesthetizing our natural human impulse toward peace, love, and togetherness—that is until these moments become more visually dominant than those.
This really is a beautiful world. And when we stop to really see each other, to include each other, to learn from each other, and to look out for each other—we co-create a world where peace is possible. These are the interactions and the moments I wish to document and share with the world. Because this is the evidence of our greater humanity.
These photos are from a Naturalization ceremony I attended the day before the Orlando shooting where not one, but two of my neighbors gave up their national identities and became Americans.
This is my America.
Ahhh, the portrait. It is the most intimate experience for both artist and subject. I always feel an enormous privilege and sense of responsibility when someone allows me to really look at them. To probe around for that inner fire and vulnerability that makes them remarkably human, and remarkably beautiful.
These portraits were taken in my studio with strobes, and are presented pretty much straight out of the camera. I limit photo retouching to fixing color cast and contrast, masking the unexpected blemish, or removing lint that didn't get picked up during the styling. My goal is to create beautiful light in the studio that illuminates a subject's best features and personality during the shoot, rather than spending hours retouching images in Lightroom or Photoshop afterwards. The more retouching, the less truthful the image.
Each of these images took about 45 minutes to capture. The first 15 minutes are about getting comfortable with the environment. The next 15 are about sampling a variety of moods and postures. The last 15 are about freedom and fun—going where the energy takes us. It is usually when things are beginning to wrap that subjects really let their guard down. This is also when we tend to get some of the best, most accessible images—because there's nothing left to lose.
These images are from a shoot I did as part of a larger narrative project for a new venture fund in Silicon Valley. In thinking about the needs of their prospective Limited Partners (LPs), the most important need was trust in the people who would determine how the fund's money would be invested. There's no better way to communicate the spirit of an individual than through candid portraiture.
The team invited me to the table as they debated some of their investment decisions so that I might capture the Truth that was unique to them. I love these images for their honesty in how they portray the essence of each of the partners—their thoughtfulness, their depth, their conviction.
To round out the LP narrative, we created a unifying set of individual portraits that brought to life the individual personality of each team member.
A non profit based in San Francisco for homeless youth.
In early 2015 I was fortunate to work with some of the smartest people in the world—the New Thinkers and Great Thinkers at MIT Sloan School of Management in Cambridge, MA. The online learning team was leading an ambitious effort to create a series of TED-inspired talks and "Charlie Rose" style interviews featuring their faculty. The talks were based on forward-thinking research produced by their tenure-track faculty, and the interviews engaged select tenured faculty whose decades-long passion, perspective, and inquiry led to breakthrough ideas that have reshaped — or are reshaping — the world.
Throughout the project of helping them distill their ideas into more broadly accessible narratives, whether delivering an 18-minute talk or interview, these brilliant minds also gave me the opportunity to photograph them in portraits and "behind-the-scenes" footage for use in their stories.
MIT Sloan has generously made their stories and interviews available to the public. Click here to enjoy them.
After two years of shooting with a bulky DSLR, a friend invited me to spend the day with his Leica M8. A single shot changed my life. I had been trying to capture the exact color of the sunrise on the brick building across Hudson Street in the West Village in NY and I could never get my camera to replicate it, even when shooting in manual mode. With the M8, I got it with one shot. By the end of the week I had packed up and traded in all my gear to start over with my first Leica, an M9.
I couldn't wait to travel with my new gear and chose Buenos Aires as my first seeing adventure—what better place to capture living color? Toward the end of my trip, I was walking back to my hotel when I passed a framing shop. I was entranced by all the straight lines, hard edges, and 90° angles, and amused at the sight of the framemaker in the middle of it all—he, too, was all lines and angles, from his limbs to his hair to his eyeglasses. I continued past the shop, but with every step I felt the growing weight of regret for missing this opportunity to photograph something that spoke to me. So I summoned up the courage to go back.
I was still new to the rangefinder and my Noctilux f/1.0 lens, and wound up shooting everything wide open, which means the edges are a bit soft. But I love the color and spirit of these images. The last photo is my favorite — it's of his hands. I had already left the shop and the idea popped into my head. I'm so glad I went back (again). This is the final shot of every session with an artist or artisan — a visual tribute to their genius, their tools.
Upon meeting and photographing the Framemaker, a new world opened up to me while I was staying in the Palermo district of Buenos Aires — the world of artists and artisans engaged in the conceptualization and fabrication of things. Objects of intrigue, reflection, and beauty that would one day find themselves in the daily lives and rituals of another.
When I was living in Manhattan, I decided to get up extra early one Spring morning and take the F-train to Coney Island so that I could capture the sleeping carnival rides at sunrise and do some experiments with off camera flash. It was all pretty boring since the rides were trapped behind padlocked gates and fences, until I came across this group of teens gearing up to play a casual game of volleyball on the beach.
I hate the feeling of invading others' space, but I couldn't resist the opportunity to photograph the pure, wholesome friendship and joy radiating from these kids. So I asked them if they might help me with some of my experiments, and they did—willingly and playfully. It was the morning after their prom night and here they were, building sand castles and playing on the jungle gym. What better metaphor for the space they were in, midway between the carefree innocence of childhood and the looming responsibilities of future life choices and adulthood.
Whenever I see these I images I am reminded that the truth of the world is not fully represented by the images that bombard us every day of jealousy, anger, entitlement, resentment, vengeance, despair, and sorrow. There is also quite a lot of beauty and joy and compassion and friendship and love and innocence — we just have to be willing to let down our guard to see it and seize it.
A mix of metal, man, animal, and machine. This blacksmith invited me into the stables while he worked. [a quotation about art, artisans, man, animal, machine]
Commerce restaurant. The West Village. NY, NY.