Communication Arts 2018: 5 images shortlisted, 2 selected

This year, I was lucky enough to have five images shortlisted and two images chosen for publication in the Communication Arts Photography Annual.

First up, the two selected: a portrait of civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson, and a portrait of actress Anna Faris.

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My brother has since pointed out the similarity between DeRay's portrait and 1940s baseball cards, such as this one of Leroy "Satchel" Paige. I wish I could say I planned that. But it's a good reminder to always seek inspiration from other media. 

As for Anna, the microphone was inspired by her popular podcast "Unqualified," which she uses to give advice to callers around the world. Photographer Kenneth Cappello apparently beat me to the punch on this approach, but they are starkly different images that show different sides of Anna.

As for the three that were shortlisted, let's start with a second shot of DeRay. This tabletop shot was one of the more complicated sets I've built. I spray-painted it the morning of, and DeRay obliged when I explained my vision. The concept, "A Seat at the Table," shows DeRay using paint canisters as utensils and tagging the table with the names of black men and women who have been killed by the police.  

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The fourth image is a relatively straightforward portrait of Dan Rather on an olive background.

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This image was concepted during a test shoot I did with Elizabeth, a coworker of my fianceé Paula. The difference in contrast comes from the main light source: in the photo of Rather, the main light source is a big umbrella camera right, whereas with Elizabeth it is a beauty dish. 

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And finally, the fifth image shortlisted is this portrait of University of Washington history professor Laurie Marhoefer, who studies pre-war Germany. You can hear her talk about neo-Nazis, the alt-right and free speech on KCRW's "To The Point."

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Portrait shoot: Retired NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly for Columns Magazine

This week, I photographed NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, whose 340-day trip to the International Space Station was the longest space visit in American history. Kelly was promoting his new book, "Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery."

The photoshoot took place in the chapel of University Temple United Methodist Church in Seattle, where Kelly was speaking that night. I designed two setups, one on a white background and one on a black background. The first (white) would show the astronaut floating, isolated, with no sense of spatial anchoring. The second (black) would show him emerging from darkness.

I was given five minutes for the shoot, but finished in two or three. Thanks to photographer Daniel Berman for the assist.

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Setup #1

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Setup #2

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Read about Kelly's visit in Columns Magazine.

Portrait shoot: Actress and podcaster Anna Faris for Columns Magazine

If you're looking for a new podcast, Anna Faris has you covered. Her relationship advice show, "Unqualified," is super entertaining and at times pretty profound. 

You know Faris from a long string of IMDB credits, from "Scary Movie" to "The House Bunny" to "Keanu" (when she played herself in a hilarious cameo). I got to spend a few minutes photographing her on the Ave in U District, where she used to hang out as a college student at the University of Washington. 

Here's a look at my two setups. The first was a vintage radio host setup. I was returning something at Guitar Center in South Lake Union and saw this microphone in behind the glass.  I thought it would go great with her hair and a burgundy backdrop. So I asked about renting the mic — it only cost $25! — and then headed to Glazer's for the backdrop. As for the wood: It's a piece of plywood that I covered with a colonial maple stain from Home Depot. 

The second setup was a white backdrop with a throwback UW sweater, which Anna loved and wore to the event she was speaking at later in the night. Her new book, by the way, is called "Unqualified." Check it out!

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Setup #1

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Setup #2

Anna was also nice enough to pose with some very excited fans:

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Here's a look at a picture in print, for Columns Magazine of the University of Washington:

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In print

Columns Magazine, December 2017

Portrait shoot: Actress and activist Laverne Cox for ACLU

The glamorous Laverne Cox ("Orange Is the New Black," "The Mindy Project") spoke at the 2017 ACLU of Washington Bill of Rights Dinner, and I was there to photograph her before. Laverne is a dynamo who commands the attention of a room with both her radiance and her intellect. If you haven't heard her speak, go on YouTube and listen. 

First, #TransIsBeautiful. That should go without saying, but we need to keep saying it until all trans people receive the respect and equal rights they deserve. 

Here is a solo shot of Laverne, plus a shot of Laverne and writer Ijeoma Oluo, who hosted the Q&A. Oh, and the orange background? Total coincidence. Sure, it's the namesake color of the famous show she's on, but it's actually just the first color that popped into my head when I started concepting the shoot. It's bold, radiant, spontaneous, energetic.

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The setup

Orange backdrop, three lights

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Laverne and Ijeoma Oluo

Here's a bonus video of Ijeoma showing her Facebook followers the photo. She called it one of the best photos anyone has ever taken of her! Pretty cool, and humbling.