DeRay Mckesson posed for this portrait in February 2017.Read More
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.
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.
The fourth image is a relatively straightforward portrait of Dan Rather on an olive background.
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.
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."