Saturday, December 19, 2009

Acting headshots in Florida

This week winter hit in NYC, but thanks to the FSU/Asolo Conservatory Class of 2010 in Sarasota I got to miss most of it. They brought me down to shoot their headshots, individually and as a group. I've traveled all over to shoot acting headshots, but this experience was among my very favorites. The weather didn't hurt (Sarasota- 75 degrees/ NYC- 25 degrees), but the real joy came from working with the class. They were terrific hosts- warm, funny, enthusiastic and easy to drink with! They are a tight group, and refreshingly supportive of one another (a quality I wanted to capture in their group photos). Hopefully they had as much fun as I did.

My approach to class headshots is the same as my approach to my NYC clients- it's essential that I shoot each class member in a unique way. Given that all their headshots will be displayed side by side for their showcase, it will be glaringly obvious if I don't achieve this goal. Usually photographers will take a class job as a big payout, and try to shoot as many students as possible every day. Of course, they can't possibly make each shot unique, so they just set up a room with some lights and bang it out. Obviously this doesn't serve the actors, but it makes the photographer a lot of money with little effort. My approach is to shoot 4-6 actors per day, and concentrate on the variety- never repeat a location if possible, and feature each actor as an individual. If this means I have to take a little time to get to know them while sharing rounds of drinks, so be it! It's a small sacrifice for great headshots.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What is a comp card?

Earlier today I was discussing a modeling portfolio with a prospective client. She wants to get into modeling, and asked me about shooting a beginner's portfolio. She wasn't familiar with the concept of a comp card. Here's what I told her...

For a beginning model, a comp card is the essential first step. We shoot 3-4 different looks, and you use the comp card to find a print agent. Once you've met an agent, they will help develop your portfolio by sending you out to various photographers. Usually you pay these photographers, but sometimes the arrangement is "work for prints"- both the model and photographer are building their book, so nobody gets paid (stylist and makeup artists also work for prints). Usually everyone involved is inexperienced, so the results can vary wildly. Sometimes you can get a great shot, and often you leave with nothing usable. It's essential to have a professional comp card to begin with, otherwise the agents won't call you in. If you try to put together a comp card with free or inexpensive shoots, chances are the results won't be good enough to interest them. Once you get an agent, trust them to help build your book. Of course, the photos for your comp card will be in your portfolio as well, but shooting a full portfolio right off the bat doesn't make sense. A portfolio is built up over time with many different photographers. Stick with the comp card initially.

By the way, comp cards are not just for models- actors should have one as well. Anyone interested in pursuing print work should have a comp card. For actors, a portfolio is unnecessary- just a comp card and headshot is all you need. For fashion models, a portfolio is a great tool in addition to the comp card.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Broken Lizard Live Performance Photos

Last night the five-member filmmaking comedy group Broken Lizard (Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske) completed a 50 city improv comedy tour with a nearly sold-out performance at the Nokia Theatre in Times Square. The company invited me to photograph the event. Broken Lizard has released five movies- Puddle Cruiser, Super Troopers, Club Dread, Beerfest and their newest, Slammin' Salmon, which premiers next week. They showed a clip from Slammin' Salmon and it looked hysterical- definitely worth a trip to the theatre.

I was especially interested in Slammin' Salmon because it's a behind-the-scenes movie about waiters. Years ago, Steve Lemme and I waited tables together at City Crab on Park Avenue. Now he's got a movie inspired by those experiences, and I'm photographing his Times Square concert. Life moves forward, and is this case very positively. Since I haven't seen the movie, I'm not sure how much of everyone's hi-jinx made the final cut. Hopefully the parts where I'm naked with a stripper on my lap and Steve's drunk and pissing in the coat check room landed on the editing room floor.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

New addition to our family

Last night my wife and I had dinner to celebrate her birthday (photo above). To wrap up a perfect evening, I slammed the car door on her hand with such force that it almost certainly threw her into immediate labor (I had to take a drastic step- she was two weeks overdue!). Fifteen hours later, we were welcoming our new daughter Salish into the world with a beautiful home birth. She was born 19" and 8.3 pounds. If there was any question that a woman (my wife specifically) is mentally and physically tougher than a man, watching labor erased those doubts. Our son Hudson was very excited to meet his sister. If day 1 is any indication, there will be no sibling rivalry ever, not even for a second, not even when they're teenagers. There will only be birds chirping over their heads while they skip arm in arm around the house.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Actor headshots for Sebastian Arcelus

Today I photographed Sebastian Arcelus for the third time. We first met in 2003, when he was performing in Rent. Since we last worked together in 2005, he has had a great run. Currently he is in Jersey Boys- before that Wicked, the Wicked National Tour, Good Vibrations and Happiness at Lincoln Center. Today he was on vocal rest- absolutely no talking. He communicated with his wife (actress Stephanie J. Block) with clicks and whistles (I actually heard a whistled phone conversation). Before the shoot, I told my makeup artist Pamela, "Just how you like them- good looking with nothing to say." We all had a great time, and I got to jabber non-stop, which is right in my comfort zone. Funny story- after we shot in 2005, Sebastian was so happy with the experience that he immediately bought me season 1 of Lost, which he insisted I watch in its entirety. "Amazing show," he said. "You have to see this- it's my thank you gift!" The only problem is, I HAVEN'T GOTTEN IT YET! Apparently the DVD has been with him, unopened, to every state he visited on tour. So today I was finally going to get the DVD (I've already seen the entire season, by the way). He opened his bag and... had forgotten to bring it with him. So apparently he's getting me a West Wing DVD instead, which I may be getting sometime in 2013 :)

If you're interested in seeing more actor headshots on my website, click here.

I'm writing on December 4th to post an official follow-up. Yesterday I received a package in the mail which contained DVDs for three seasons of Arrested Development, and two seasons of West Wing. Thank you Sebastian!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mercedes Matter review in the Wall Street Journal

Below is a review of my grandmother's retrospective by the Wall Street Journal. I wish she was alive to see it, but I'm certain she'd be dissatisfied- Matters share a perfectionist streak. The show is in NYC until early December. I may be biased, but I think it's well worth seeing. I grew up looking at these paintings leaning against walls in her studio (see photos above, taken shortly before her death)- I was amazed to discover how beautiful they are when displayed properly. Last night I attended a panel discussion on her at the New York Studio School, and learned things about her I never knew. I'm very proud- too bad I can't tell her that.

A New York School Standout


New York

"Mercedes Matter: A Retrospective Exhibition"

Sidney Mishkin Gallery

Baruch College

135 E. 22nd St.

Through Dec. 14

One of the best New York painting exhibitions is not in a museum but in a gallery, and off the beaten path. The traveling Mercedes Matter retrospective of 33 well-chosen works spanning her entire career, though it should be much larger and headlining a museum, gives us, in a nutshell, the monumental achievement of a monumental, but sadly overlooked, artist.

New Art Exhibits

Sidney Mishkin Gallery, Baruch College

Mercedes Matter, 'Tabletop Still Life' (c.1936).

A central figure of the New York School, Matter (1913-2001) studied with Fernand L├ęger and Hans Hofmann; but important also were her father the painter Arthur B. Carles (a student of Matisse), her friends Giacometti and de Kooning and her husband the photographer and graphic designer Herbert Matter. Included in this show are extremely accomplished early works from her teens; Fauvist-inspired nudes, still lifes and landscapes, as well as pure abstractions, all from her 20s; and the masterly drawings and paintings—the crowded, jostling, mountainous still lifes, in quicksilver-charcoal line and bold, racing color—of her mature period. Some of these late works rank among the finest the New York School has to offer.

Matter's own legacy lives on not just through her artwork but also through her teaching at the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture, which she co-founded in 1964. Unfortunately, the organizers of the lavish monograph that accompanies the show don't seem to trust entirely in the strength of Matter's art: A seminude portrait photograph of Matter (taken by her husband) graces the book's cover, and throughout the catalog undue emphasis is placed on Matter's more-famous male peers. Her powerful paintings and drawings, however, are the strongest form of rebuttal.

The exhibition will travel on to Pepperdine University's Weisman Museum of Art in Malibu, Calif.; Guild Hall in East Hampton, N.Y.; and Knox College's Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Promoting Uncovered on the Tyra Banks Show

This photo was taken by my wife after my interview on the Tyra Banks Show. I was invited on the show to discuss my photography bookUncovered, which is a book of portraits and personal statements from over 80 brave women, who posed bare-breasted for the project in public locations across New York City.
I was joined on the show by several of the models in the book- Kim, Betsy, Geneva and Stephanie. We had a lot of fun- it was pretty interesting to see the behind-the-scenes machinations as well. I don't have an air date yet, but will post one as soon as I know. And you can always check my website,, for details.