Engagement: Allie and Vilas

Vilas noted that yes, he waited 363 days since they were engaged to get around to taking the photos, but I think he made a wise choice, since it would be impossible to pick better weather for a jaunt around lower Manhattan than Saturday. We started and ended at the Corner Bistro, where they met and where, that day, I also met the new love of my life — Corner Bistro hamburgers. Unbelievable.

We had a great time strolling past packed crowds, at least two celebrities — Ira Glass of This American Life and some nameless Page Six celeb surrounded by paparazzi — as well as a High Line pulsing with people blinking in their first sunlight of the year. You’ll see them again soon, with a May wedding at the Tribeca Rooftop, and they only hope the weather is as nice!


Chewed Up By Fine Dining

“My hands are really messed up,” she said, though she used stronger language. “I want you to take pictures of them.”

“Heck yeah!”

Maybe I should back up a bit. When I met my friend Rochelle, she was a promising young writer who was in love with (and often troubled by) food. A Food Network devotee, and rabid consumer of the best food writing around. She was also not just attractive, but self-consciously sexy, the kind of girl who would wear make-up and high heels to a college class instead of the more traditional sweatpants and hair scrunchy.

But she wanted more, and unlike so many, she was willing to suffer for it. She moved to New York, a place entirely devoted to testing yourself in face of misery. She dealt with the crazy landlords and ludicrous NYC prices, but nothing really compared to the challenge of learning to cook in world-class kitchens. She enrolled at the French Culinary Institute, and later started working at Aldea, currently one of the hottest hot spots in the world of NYC cuisine.

And it tested her, every day. Gone were the Manolo Blahniks, replaced by sensible shoes that would grip slippery kitchen floors. Gone was the make-up, which would just melt down her face after 16 hours standing in a steaming kitchen. She got screamed at by some of the best people in the business, constantly beaten-down so that she could be better. She tells these stories much better than I could on her blog.

And it showed, above all, in her hands. Once perfectly kept, they are currently bruised and grimy, scabbed and burned, with fingernails worn down and ragged. Hands of a worker, tempered by a thousand hot pans. These were battle scars, a mark of respect and transition.

So we took photos of them. I was even more excited because it was such an interesting challenge — how do you photograph someone’s messed-up hands and tell an evocative story? One that’s not about abuse, but self-abuse in cause of ambition (something I know a bit about, as my physical trainer will tell you)? I chose to play a lot with shadows and light, and it really helped me to approach a fresh project in new ways, something that I want to do a lot this year as I reach out and experiment.

To me, being a photojournalist merely means you tell stories through photography. I am usually blessed to tell the stories of people’s happiest days, and I love that. But to keep my photography fresh and evolving I need to also be driven in my personal work, and there are lots of other stories to tell. No matter whether I succeeded in making these photos evocative, though, they are photos of injuries, so I’ll keep the more explicit ones behind an HTML cut. (If you came here from a direct link, you won’t be blocked by the cut, so consider this your warning!) But first, let’s show her backstory with photos that I, for some reason, haven’t posted!


I think this one tells the story of where she came from succinctly. Note the cheeky smile and the dude checking her out.

Here’s one from the hands shoot that doesn’t show any of the burns much. If you’re not squeamish, click through to the link beyond.

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Mmmmm … albums …

The wedding albums for Kristy and Mike’s gorgeous wedding at the Belhurst Castle came in this week, and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to show it off. These are from Kiss Wedding Books, one of the three main companies I work with and one that is very popular with my clients, because they do one thing and do it very well. If you like stylish, minimalist leather books with some great accessories, you like them, and I certainly like their great customer service.

I’ve been relaxing a bit to gather myself for the coming season, but I’m really aching to get out, shoot and shoot and shoot and try some new things. So here I asked myself “How have I NOT seen a lot of product photography done?” Well, I haven’t seen a lot of products shot at 1/8000th of a second to take advantage of high-speed sync flash. So I had a bit of fun:


Portraits: Stephanie in Pasadena

Here is are some more from my session with Stephanie. We wanted to just have a little fun in the warmer weather and get some new looks, including some fitness looks for her book. And of course I had to get a palm tree in there. We don’t see much of those in New York.

And really, who knew all this time she could kick so high?

Reminds me of a story. One time, when I was much younger, slightly more foolish, and constantly practicing karate, I said to myself: “I wonder *exactly* how high I can kick…”

WHAM! Right in my own face. Bloody nose. Luckily Stephanie has orders of magnitude more sense than a younger me.


Photo of the Day: Stephanie, West Coast Girl

If one of my favorite subjects — actress and friend Stephanie Danielson — had to move to California, at least she did it a week before I headed out there, so we could finally shoot in warm(ish) weather. I love bringing out the color of the crazy lighting you can find at night. I love the natural feel of it, how good scouting can replace or ease the insane amount of work you’d need to deliberately recreate this, and how it feel like we’re exploiting new possibilities. In ye olden days, I might have needed to shoot this with T64 tungsten film — which would have required a full second exposure. Which would have required replacing Stephanie with a mannequin.

More to come soon.

Photo of the Day: Multitasking

There will come a day when only the professional photographers know how to put the camera down and enjoy themselves unrecorded.

Photo of the Day: Depth of Feeling

Photos like these are why I am a “moment junkie.” This is a cheerful hug between the bride, her father, and her grandfather, right after Viviana and her grandfather had a featured dance. Is it envelope-pushing art? No. Is it a picture that will have meaning for Viviana for the rest of her life? I’d imagine so. Let’s not forget that weddings are about moments like these more than centerpieces.

But here’s a bone for the photo-geeks as well: This photo was taken on the D3s at ISO 10,000, with no noise reduction. The mixture of such a high ISO with flash is why the picture is sharp but still lets in all that colorful background ambient light. What a crazy camera.

Wedding: Viviana and Henry at Fordham University

The wedding was at Fordham. The groom went to Fordham. I went to Fordham. My assistant went to Fordham. I shoot for Fordham.

(Sorry, Viv. Penn State is a good college, too.)

I knew Henry a bit when we were in school together, and I’d been looking forward to this one for a while. We’re talking about a couple who met in salsa dancing class — if that isn’t the recipe for an awesome reception, I don’t know what is.

And it didn’t disappoint. From a ceremony at the gorgeous Fordham chapel to a colorful and energetic reception, it was a blast the entire day. And that’s not to mention the groomsmen’s hilarious stop at White Castle on the way to the reception, or Henry bringing in a singer to re-enact a classic moment from one of Viv’s favorite movies: Coming to America.


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Photo of the Day: Shoes and Stripes

I shoot detail. I don’t really show a lot of it, especially on the blog, because … I don’t know, it just seems so easy, at least the way wedding photographers do it. Awesome things are presented before us, and we make them look the way they are. Not the hardest part of the job, but wedding publications eat it up. Too much of this seems unbalanced to me, like centerpieces are more important than love and friends and family.

Still, details are important, and shooting them is fun when you can be creative. And it was rarely more fun than with the geeky and stylish do-it-yourself details of Karen and Kamil’s wedding in Malibu yesterday. More to come.

PS: Since my hobby is making life difficult for myself, I made this not-easy by using an extremely touchy manual-focus lens and having to hold the camera upside down to get the flash where I wanted it.

Engagement: Karen and Kamil

Here is another case of “We just did the engagement shoot, and I’d better get the images out because the wedding is tomorrow!” It does have a certain efficiency to it.

Karen and Kamil have flown me out to California to document their Malibu wedding, and if I thought I was excited before, I’ve reached Ludicrous Excitement after how much fun our engagement shoot was at their alma mater, Harvey Mudd College.

Have you ever seen Real Genius? If not, go rent it. It’s one of the best movies of all time. If you have, though, you remember a scene with a dorm literally bursting with anarchic, geeky energy in every corner. A place like this could only exist in the movies, right?

Wrong. West Dorm, where both Karen and Kamil spent all four years, surpasses every stereotype of every college movie I’ve ever seen. There are pirate flags, and bonfires, and motorcycles, and shopping carts with Pabst Blue Ribbon cup holders. It is college at its most primal, both revelled in and enjoyed ironically.

For the first time, I actually can’t show some of my favorite images from the shoot, because so much of the West decor is Not Safe for Work.

So when I tell couples to find places that have meaning for them, and not just the prettiest possible place, I mean it.