On set with star University of Washington running back Myles Gaskin

In the fall of 2018, our staff at Columns Magazine decided to do a feature story on Myles Gaskin, the senior running back for the University of Washington Huskies. Gaskin was on pace to break practically every school record for rushing—yards, touchdowns, 100-yard games—as well as enter the pantheon of the Pac-12’s best players.

By the end of the season, Gaskin became the second player in NCAA history to rush for 1,200 yards in four consecutive seasons. Nobody else in Pac-12 history had even done that with 1,000 yards, and only nine others had done it with 1,000 in NCAA history.

(I had my brother draw 8-bit illustrations of Myles, and then I animated them. I will sprinkle some of those throughout this post.)

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Here’s a look at where Myles ended up on the list of all-time rushing leaders, from Wiki:

Myles Gaskin during the 2018 Apple Cup against Washington State University, courtesy of UW Athletics

Myles Gaskin during the 2018 Apple Cup against Washington State University, courtesy of UW Athletics

I probably could’ve made some nice portraits of Myles in his uniform, but I never even considered it. My first thought was to style him in nice clothes—everything from elevated streetwear to a suit—in order to show him in a different light. After all, Myles was about to become Husky royalty.

This was logical and comfortable for me, since I tend to only shoot people in regular clothes looking like regular people. But my main inspiration for this project was Peter Yang’s ESPN coverage of Ed Oliver, the defensive tackle for the Houston Cougars (photos here: 1, 2). Peter dressed Ed in a suit and street clothes and had a lot of fun, and I wanted to emulate that approach. (I did a workshop with Peter in the summer and now I constantly steal from him.)

I reached out to Rosin Saez, the style editor the Seattle Met, for advice on someone to hire for the clothes. She put me in touch with Curtis Bright, a stylist in Seattle. We hired Curtis and spent a few weeks exchanging mood boards and ideas, and then checking out Scotch & Soda in Capitol Hill.

Curtis knows how to rock a leather jacket, so we immediately wanted to put Myles in one. Another inspiration: Since my fianceé makes me watch “World of Dance,” I was exposed to Ne-Yo’s hats a lot, and I thought that would work well on Myles.

Myles had recently put his hair into rows, but before the shoot, we hired local barber Colter Thomas to give him a nice lineup. With a nice view of the field.

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Look 1: Camo

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Look 2: Black patterned suit

Suit from Zara

Suit from Zara

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To represent how many yards Myles has run, art director Ken Shafer and I decided to incorporate yardsticks into a shot. Set designer and photographer Lela Wulsin put together an amazing wall of yardsticks for us.

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Look 3: Leather jacket

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Look 4: Red suit

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This setup was inspired by Beyonce in Vogue a few years ago, and built by set designer John Lavin.

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Look 5: Coat with yellow sweater

We headed to the stairs, for a shot that directly echoed what Peter did on his shoot (for the record, I showed Peter my shot and told him that I took it from him!).

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In print and online

The whole concept came together with the cover line “Going Out In Style” / headline “Going out in Myles Style.” Design by Ken Shafer.

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An animation that shows Myles breaking the rushing record

An animation that shows Myles breaking the rushing record

Myles in his high school uniform, for O’Dea

Myles in his high school uniform, for O’Dea

Here it is on our magazine’s website, followed by a screenshot of the homepage of the University of Washington.

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Finally, as always, I couldn’t have done it without awesome assistants. Photographers Olli Tumelius and Daniel Berman helped out on this one. Brett Thomson constructed the sets. Most of the photos were retouched by Wet Noodle Inc. or Jordan Hartley Retouch. I did a few, too.

Me with Myles’ helmet, Myles, Curtis Bright, art director Ken Shafer

Me with Myles’ helmet, Myles, Curtis Bright, art director Ken Shafer

Here’s a cool part of the story: My mom is a reporter for The Everett Herald, and I connected her with Myles’ parents. She wrote a great story about his parents that came out the morning of the Rose Bowl.

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Source: quinnrussbrown.com

DeRay portrait named semifinalist for National Portrait Gallery exhibit

I’m not sure how I lucked into this, but one of my portraits has been named a semifinalist for a 10-month exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. The exhibit is called “The Outwin 2019: American Portraiture Today.” It will open at the NPG in October 2019 and remain on view until August 2020. Then it goes on tour(!) through January 2022.

There are 80 semifinalists out of 2,675 submissions. Historically, they choose about 50 finalists. Our work will be taken to D.C. in February and judged in the spring. More information about the jury and process here.

The portrait is of Civil Rights activist DeRay Mckesson. It was taken in February 2018 for this article in Columns Magazine. DeRay was visiting the University of Washington campus and we had five minutes with him. I’ve chosen to print the piece at 40 x 28 inches.

 
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The backstory: I was not able to secure a studio space on campus (as usual, for a variety of reasons), so I took this picture in a hallway with two Canon flashes and a yellow backdrop. Yellow and black are the colors of Black Lives Matter. The second setup was a bit more complex: The morning of the shoot, I built a little set that I felt represented DeRay’s work, and he agreed to be photographed sitting at it.

It helps that I had an awesome photographer assisting and setting up lights, that I had the help of my fianceé and that her coworker Elizabeth stood in for light tests, and that there is a great staff at the Ethnic Cultural Center.

Some more context: This is a nationwide portrait competition that happens every three years. The last person who won it, in 2016, was Amy Sherald, who famously went on to paint Michelle Obama. The first place winner will be “commissioned to portray a remarkable living American for the National Portrait Gallery’s collection.” Wow. Unbelievable.

Here is Sherald’s piece that won the contest in 2016. (You may have seen it, and if not, you’ll recognize the style since you’ve seen her Obama portrait.) It’s fascinating, intense, delicate, strange—a little bit of everything. I can only aspire to one day have as much vision and voice as someone like Sherald.

 
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For years, I’ve studied (and stolen from) paintings and photographs in the NPG’s collection. I finally had the chance to visit the museum for the first time this summer. For a photographer, especially one who focuses on portraits, it’s an indescribable place. But in particular I was really impressed by the diversity of the gallery’s subject matter. Beyond the famous paintings of Barack and Michelle, it seemed like the African American experience made strong appearances in nearly every room, and there was also a full exhibit dedicated to it.

Here are some cell phone pictures of my favorite examples of black identity at the NPG. I would be honored beyond words (and pictures!) if my piece joined their ranks for a while.

A couple shots of Chuck Klosterman

I photographed pop culture critic Chuck Klosterman in Seattle this summer. Klosterman is a frequent podcast guest who has authored 10 books about sports, music and media, and been a columnist for The New York Times Magazine, Esquire and ESPN. We had a nice Q&A that you can read here. The photos were retouched by David Neilands.

 
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And here's the one that lead the story online:

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