Jewish in Seattle: Oscar Olivier

It was a privilege to photograph Oscar Olivier for Jewish in Seattle late last year.  He is a refugee from the Congo and an inspiring figure, and if you have a moment, you should really do his story justice by reading the excellent article by Emily Alhadeff.

We made this portrait in Des Moines, where he lives.  Neomi, the art director, wanted something that looked dramatic but we didn’t have a location and the weather wasn’t cooperating.  It was a mighty bright, happy day outside (albeit still chilly—note the very stylish cardigan).

So we hit the beach—can’t go wrong with water and a good sky as your background—and utilizing a little day-for-night camera and lighting trickery, we made it look a bit more moody.  I was really pleased with the result.  Below is my favorite image, along with the Neomi’s select as it appeared in the magazine.

Kenya Callback

This past week I shot the keynote speeches at Build 2017, Microsoft’s huge developer conference, which this year was held at the Washington State Convention Center here in Seattle.  On the giant screens in the cavernous event space, I noticed a favorite photo I shot in Kenya being used to inform attendees of Microsoft’s work to extend internet accessibility to far-flung corners of the globe.  It’s an amazing and transformative effort, and I’ll always consider myself fortunate for having the opportunity to witness it firsthand and help tell the story.  If you’d like to learn about Microsoft’s use of TV White Spaces to deliver the internet to rural areas of the world, check out one of the links below.  You can also head to my website and have a look at the Kenya page, which has a bunch more images and a bit of explanation as well.  Thanks for reading!

Microsoft News
BBC News
New Scientist

Kenya slide at Microsoft Build 2017

Wrapped in Detroit

Photo from the end of my work trip last week in Detroit, where I shot a couple days of environmental portraits and documentary-style images for Microsoft.  This is my tired but contented face.  It was a great trip, and I can’t wait to share the photos and the story once it runs.  Stay tuned!

Update, 06/01/17: The story is live—check it out here!


H&M plops real heads on CGI bodies.

This morning, BoingBoing posted this article about clothing retailer H&M’s decision to create several ads using real model’s heads on the same computer-generated body.  My first thought, besides of course lamenting this newest nail in photography’s coffin, was to wonder why they stopped there.  It’s easy to imagine that the next step will be to generate the heads as well, and that reality can’t be too far off.

It could be that this won’t bother many people, but I personally find it more than a little disturbing that these lines between reality and fantasy are not just blurred but increasingly erased.  Even beautiful people are commonly rendered unrecognizable as their former selves, and have been for quite some time—just check out this wildly popular Dove video from several years ago if you’d like to see the process.  Don’t you think any clear-headed person, at least anyone untainted by a marketing degree, would agree that the photo of the woman looks amazing without the Photoshop treatment?  I won’t get into it too much, but it’s my opinion we’d be a healthier society if marketers allowed for the use of “real” people in advertisements and presented a realistic body image to the public at large.  It’s a fruitless argument—that’s not where we are and we seem inexorably headed in the opposite direction—but I think it’s the right one.

I wonder if David LaChapelle’s work sounds like a Lady Gaga album.

Ever wonder what a photograph sounds like?  If so, you can feed it through Photosounder, a program that (among many other things) lets you create new sounds using photographs or fractals.  Kind of cool.  I wonder if Joel-Peter Witkin‘s photos sound like the fruitless screams, gnashing teeth, and searing flesh of a million tortured souls…

(For those who aren’t familiar, Witkin is kind of a controversial figure.  You probably won’t want to click his name up there if you’re at all disturbed by photographs of cadavers, disembodied human parts—including heads—and physically deformed people.  Personally, I really don’t care for his work, but feel free to see how you feel about it.  Ya been warned.)

Brand Aid

I just wanted to give a quick shout-out to my friend and colleague Michael Clinard, who has been working hard at retooling his brand and website this past year.  Check out the results at his new site and blog, and when you’re through there, have a look at some of the attention he’s been getting in the blogosphere of Chase Jarvis and Rob Haggart.  Kudos to you, Mike, and keep up the good work.

A blog?

Sure!  I mean, all the cool kids are doing it nowadays, and I’m wagering that with just a bit of hard thinking and deep digging two or three times a week, a veritable font of amazing and entertaining entries will be loosed.  Aw, this is gonna be great.  Stay tuned…