Saturday, December 31, 2011

The End of a Year

Thank God 2011 is coming to a close.  I'm chalking it up to a lost year.  Something tells me that the years are just going to start moving faster.

Photography suffered in favor of writing and job searching.  I landed a job with some people I think are amazing, and I got some major interest in The Void Dance, so all productive.  But I did manage some shots.  I'm finding that I'm attracted to the less planned shots these days.  I'm liking the surprises, the less traditionally perfect.  I like trying to find the beauty in the imperfections.

I don't really believe too much in New Year's Resolutions, but I'm thinking that I'm ready for a big year.  I've kind of earned it.  I'm just going to keep following my creative impulses and moving forward.  Can any of us do any better?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Doing More With Less

A number of years ago I worked for a consulting firm.  In a lot of ways it was a great gig, but the thing that drove me absolutely ape-shit nuts was that it seemed to be driven by buzzwords and cliches.  At the time I could not go into a meeting without someone tossing out the phrase "value added" at least once.  It made me insane.

To me, if you're in a relationship of any kind, but especially one in which money is changing hands, it should be a given that the person receiving the cash would instinctively, reflexively want to add value to the transaction.  Even the guy at the register taking your five spot for that whipped cafe blah-blah-blah is responsible for adding value to the transaction by being courteous, efficient, and not fucking up the order.  And the more dollars that are going into that person's hands, the greater his responsibility to find ways of adding value to the transaction.  So, to be sitting in a room full of people who earned salaries far greater than the coffee guy on the corner all having revelatory orgasms over the value added concept was more than I could stand.  I made a year and a few weeks, but then I was done.

I'm reading a book for my new job, "Delivering Happiness."  It's the story of Zappos, the Internet sensation that built a business from nothing to a billion dollar empire in the matter of a few short years.  It's an easy read, and I'm enjoying it.

I just finished the section on Zappos's core values.  For the uninitiated, "core values" is a term usually tossed between a company's marketing and HR departments that indicates someone thought of a list of ethical priorities and wrote them down.  "This is what we stand for!"  The list is printed on the web site, some recruiting materials, and flashed in front of some potential investors, and promptly forgotten the minute someone changes the subject to sales, the bottom line, or lunch.

Zappos, however is unique in that it apparently practices what it preaches, and aligns its business practices, including hiring, with its core values.  In providing examples of this, an employee wrote a story of how she did more with less.    She had begun working with Zappos as a temporary employee shortly before the holiday season.  It was her first Christmas away from home and family, and she had no money.  Her Christmas feast consisted of two yams that she somehow managed to bake and flavor with freeze-dried marshmallows she picked out of a package of instant cocoa mix.  She describes the instance has one of her happiest memories.

Over the years I've worked in various companies and theatre groups who have talked about doing more with less.  For me it always translated in working harder for the same results you would achieve with greater resources.  Today, however, I finally got the meaning of that phrase.  It's not about stretching every dollar beyond it's elasticity.  Doing more with less means infusing the resources you have with greater significance.  It means taking care with your resources, not necessarily being miserly, but being respectful and creative with those resources.  It means that the resources you have don't necessarily have to stretch further or last longer.  It means that they have to mean more.  The utilization of those resources have to be more deliberate, and that we must have a greater appreciation an respect for the results achieved.

Doing more with less is something I think everyone should consider.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


I admit that I have a problem.  I'm not satisfied unless things are complicated.  And starting with my photography, the fussier the better for me.  It took me a couple of years to realize that more isn't necessarily better.

Last week I did several shoots, and started with a classic beauty shoot.  Laura, the model needed an editorial make-up shoot for her portfolio and I was happy to help her out.  The make-up was all about vivid colors, but we needed a pop.  I have miles of swatches, so we wrapped her in these an shot against a black background and white background.

There is a fair amount of post in this shot, but I'm very happy with it because unless I told you, you would never know.

This could easily turn out to be one of my favorite shots of the summer.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

$50 Headshot Special

August 8 - 12
Special Headshot sessions.  Natural light set up, black background, and white background.
Package includes one finished high-resolution file, ready for printing.  Additional files available for $25 each.
Limited availability, and calendar filling.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Where It All Began

Let we forget how all this madness started, I thought it appropriate to post my latest headshot, just to demonstrate, 1) I'm still plugging along at the photography, 2) I might actually be getting kind of good at this, if I do say so myself.

It's been five years ago now that I was sitting in a cafe and trying to imagine what the next step on my life might be.  At that time I was working on my masters degree in writing and working in a sports marketing firm that was struggling.  No one at the firm was happy, and it was clear that the clock was ticking.  As luck would have it, the firm lasted for another long, painful year.  More than once I got angry at myself because I had taken a job for the money, and one that did not allow me to pursue my passions.  So, knowing that at some point the end would come, I sat down with a list of dream jobs, one of which was photographer.  I also had playwright, neurosurgeon, and astronaut on the list.  Playwright was a given, but I just felt like I couldn't let life pass me by without also taking a stab at photography.

When the end of the marketing firm finally did come, I was fortunate enough to receive a nice little severance package.  So I went to the Barnes and Noble in Evanston, sat down in their photography section and picked out the most comprehensive book on photography I could find.  Pennies were precious, and the book I found cost fifty dollars, but I decided that it was a crucial investment.  I told myself that if, when I had finished the book, I was still interested in photography, I would then allow myself to purchase a decent (but affordable!) digital camera.  Before I'd finished the end of the book, I knew this was not a waste of my time and within a week I had purchased my first Olympus.

Teaching myself about photography and lighting kept me sane while I was unemployed.  While I actually enjoy looking for a job (I know, I'm strange), the steady stream of rejection can really take its toll.  Seeing the incremental improvement in my work, was all the validation I needed to tell me that even though there were people who couldn't see what a fantastic employee I might be, I could see that I was smart and talented.  (You have to tell yourself these things to keep from taking a sniper rifle to the top of the nearest tower.)

At any rate, I'm quite proud of these achievements.  It's all self taught, which makes it all the sweeter.

And an attractive model doesn't hurt.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Looking for a full-time job is a full-time job.  And there are some good ones out there.  There are also some frightening ones.  To date, by far, my favorite is the job interview I had two weeks ago.

I was called by an up-and-coming company that is expanding and needs an assistant for the CEO.  I spent about fifteen minutes on the phone with their HR person and agreed to come in for an interview.  When I arrived, I was asked to wait in the reception area, which is located right outside their main conference room.  Their conference room has the thinnest walls known to man, so for twenty minutes I sat and listened to another interview.  They were interviewing another candidate for the job I was to be interviewed for.  In the conversation I actually heard things like, "All of our employees are about thirty years old, and we're looking for someone who will fit in with that group," and "Sometimes I need to wear a tie and sometimes I don't."

It was clear that this was a job that was probably a little beneath my skill level, but since I was there there was no reason not to go through with the interview.  That is until I heard them offer the candidate the job.  Since she didn't immediately accept, but asked to have a couple days to think about it, I'm assuming the HR person decided that she should go through with my interview.

My interview lasted about ten minutes.  Ten of the longest minutes of my life.  But I was fine.  And when I got home I sent a little thank you note.

And then I sat down and blogged about it, for all the world to read.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Saturday Safari

The past several months have been all about computer work.  Refining retouching techniques, writing, designing marketing materials.  And more so the last two weeks with the news that my job will be coming to an end soon.  Resumes and cover letters do not write themselves.  I am pleased to report, on that front at least, this past week has been a very good week.  I don't want to jinx anything, but let's just say that I'm happy with my progress.

So much so that has been virtually no time to send out resumes.  I have a list of twenty five that I need to get out this weekend.  But it also felt like I haven't seen the light of day in ages, so I decided to let the resumes wait and to take the old camera out for a spin.

My favorite place in the city is Michigan Avenue.  I find it both invigorating and relaxing.  It just feels like life with an exclamation point.  So, I went to sit at the pumping station and snap shots of whatever happened past. I love this shot for the color.

Note to self:  there is more to life than work.  Especially when there are red hats to take pictures of!

Friday, May 27, 2011


So I am sending out resumes like a mad man.

A week ago it was announced that my company will be relocating the corporate headquarters to California.  They offered to take me along, but I'm a Midwestern boy at heart.  I'm just not done in Chicago.

So I'm sending out resumes.

I have always enjoyed looking for a new job.  I love getting that first phone call.  It's validation.  I love hearing about how someone sees my skills benefiting their organizations.  Because I have never been about building a career and more about collecting experiences, I have a very interesting resume.  There aren't many like it.  In essence, I've done everything.

But with a job search there is also an element of anticipation that can be exhausting.  With the ability to do a lot of different things comes the blessing/curse that my resume almost fits a lot of jobs, but doesn't exactly fit many.  It takes a smart, creative hiring manager to look at my resume and see the benefits.  Sadly, there aren't a lot of smart hiring managers out there.  That's OK.  I've worked for not-smart managers before.  It's not fun.

Still, the anticipation can be brutal.  But now, at least there is something of a gauge that gives me an indication of how my resumes might be received.  Something more than the ringing of the phone.

Several weeks ago I launched my new website, with a brand new URL.  The only way someone is going to find it is if I've told them about it, or if they do a search for my entire name.  When I launched it, I also attached some analytics tags to it.  Now I can see how much activity my site is receiving and where it's coming from.  Watching the increase in activity is telling me that my resume is being actively reviewed.  And the amount of time spent on the site gives me an indication as to how much interest a single visitor might have.

But I already knew that my resume was being positively received.  In a week, I received five calls.  That feels really good.  It means that I have the luxury to be selective.  I like that.  But I also like knowing that even if someone isn't calling, they were interested enough to take a look at the website.  Even more excited if they've stopped by the blog!

If you're a potential employer reading this:  Pick up the phone!  I'd love to talk to you.

Monday, May 16, 2011


I find that the more I know how to do, the more I want to do.

This shot is the first of the series.  The idea was to mock up a Calvin Klein campaign, making $200 look like $30,000.  Or how ever much is spent on a Calvin Klein campaign.  In the imagining of this project, I was thinking that Calvin Klein was desperately tired of the black and white, model in a pair of briefs against a gray background and begged me (in my fantasy there are tears) to come up with something fresh.

It was cold at the lake.  And the t-shirts would not cooperate and kept falling over the waistbands.  This is an image that would definitely have to rely on text.  Still, the color of the waistbands pop and draw the focus in the image.

The trick was getting a decent shot of the two models in the same frame.  Ultimately this shot is pieced together from four different frames:  the base, an addition on the left side of the frame, a change in the blond model's head position, and a recreation of the blue waistband.

Then there are a few other editing tricks that I'll leave to you to find.  I can't give everything away.

A couple of years ago, when I did a shoot at the same location, I wouldn't have been able to do any of the things that I did in this shot.  I had no clue and could barely press the button on the camera.  Now, I know what I need, what I can afford, and where I can compensate with computer skills.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


How many models does it take to have a successful photo shoot?  Three.  That's why you book five and thank God when two show up.

For the last few months all of my professional development has been focused on the digital side -- especially editing.  That means things like the actual taking of pictures -- not to mention writing -- have all fallen by the wayside.  As a result, a few weeks ago I felt like my portfolio was woefully outdated and in need of fresh material.  Plus, in January I'd purchased a new strobe and hadn't even used it.

So, I trotted over to Model Mayhem and posted a notice.  Developing a photo portfolio on a budget is a challenge.  Trying to make two hundred dollars look like a thirty thousand dollar campaign isn't easy, and I won't pretend that I come even close.  That said, for this project I felt like I needed to devote the budget to the talent and not the equipment.

I received about a dozen responses, but nothing that I was looking for.  Great guys, I'm sure, but not underwear model material.  Why male underwear models?  Inexpensive wardrobe, no hair or make-up.  So I sent out personal invitations.  I was surprised at the number of models who actually responded and were interested.  That was a good sign.

But, male models tend to be less reliable.  I wanted three models.  In my experience when booking multiple models, about half show up.  It doesn't seem to matter whether there is pay involved or not.  Last year I did a shoot and I wanted six models.  I booked fifteen.  Five showed up on time and the sixth arrived an hour late.  Since I was paying these guys with copies of the photos, I incorporated the sixth into the mix.  I was happy with the shoot.

This time around I was paying.  Not a lot, but I was organized and knew that I could knock the photos out quickly.  I figured my budget could handle five models if all showed up, but planned on three.

I got two on time.  And fortunately they were the two with the strongest portfolios.  We knocked the shots out and I'm very pleased with their work.

Now to be fair, the third did show up.  An hour late.  Since all of the group shots were done, I sent him away. Number four sent me an e-mail at midnight the night before the shoot saying he didn't realize how far he'd have to travel and wouldn't make it.

Number five?  Nothing.

So, in the grand scheme of things, it actually worked out pretty well.  Although I got fewer than half, at least four responded in some way.  Usually half just disappear.  Progress.

Fortunately it seems that professionalism and talent go hand in hand.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

One Flea Spare

Have you seen One Flea Spare yet?  It's a must see at The Greenhouse.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


So, we're evolving away from the Archetype Images theme.  As my interests and skills grow, I think it's important that I follow the industry standard and use my name as a brand.  I'm not thrilled about it, but it does seem to be the only way to establish myself as an artistic entity.  So, I've retitled the blog.  Now I just have to figure out how to link the blog to the new website.

I still have a lot of faith in the archetype concept.  I think that ultimately that's what every visual artist is working toward -- capturing an archetype image.  Still, such toney conceptual thinking isn't putting much coin into my pocket.  Time to step up my game.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


I'm finding that working with constraints can be liberating. Certain decisions are simply out of the question, requiring more patience and creativity. Some of the best art is the product of constraints.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I Am Not An Artist

The past few weeks have been dedicated to expanding my Photoshop knowledge. To that end I've been studying several different books to beef up my abilities. Much, much to learn. Above is an assignment out of one of those books that took me about a week to complete. A real artist probably could have done it in an hour. Still, I got a lot out of the exercise. I am now on the third text that exceeds five hundred pages. I'm on page forty to be precise. And the clock is ticking loudly on the second play that I promised to have drafted by Memorial Day.

What's a camera?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor

I've never been one to publicly mourn the passing of a celebrity. That said, Elizabeth Taylor died yesterday and attention must be paid.

I can't say that I held her in much regard as an actress. She was all right, but no Davis or Hepburn, or even Monroe. With the exception of Virginia Woolf I always found her performances a little too self aware. My favorite performance is as Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Without a doubt a flawed performance, but still strong and she more than holds her own with Newman and Ives.

Her beauty is remarkable, but there have been others and will be more. Noting a woman because of her looks is demeaning. Elizabeth Taylor was so much more.

Elizabeth Taylor embodies power and strength. The Elizabeth Taylor story is one of incredible success. A product of the Hollywood studio system, she managed to bridge the gap from glamorous indentured servant to media tycoon. In a way that Marilyn Monroe never did, Elizabeth Taylor harnessed the energy of the public's desire for her and turned it into immeasurable power. She did it at a time that was less permissive in general and downright oppressive for women. Several times during her life she tried to sublimate her power in favor of conforming to societal norms for women, and always with disastrous results. But in her fifties she embraced, harnessed, and used her power, first by exploding her corporate presence and then directing her energies into philanthropy. And she did it as a lady. Without her there could be no Madonna or Hillary Rodham Clinton. Or Sarah Palin.

Elizabeth Taylor's strength is best told in the story of AIDS. In the 1980's, when no one -- no one -- was addressing the issue, Elizabeth Taylor stood up and dared to speak its name. She went before Congress and demanded funds for research, and when she found the official world response lacking she forged ahead and raised the funds for research herself. Long before there were red ribbons and walkathons and bikeathons, there was Elizabeth Taylor.

But on an even subtler level Elizabeth Taylor blazed the way for the general public to accepting the LGBT community. When Rock Hudson announced that he had AIDS, the real shock to American culture wasn't that he was sick and dying. It was that he was gay. Elizabeth Taylor didn't publicly embrace her friend in a demonstration of acceptance of his sexuality. By embracing her friend in response to his ailment, she helped the world set aside its petty labelizing and showed the world what was truly important. Love.

Elizabeth Taylor led by example in so many, many ways. We didn't just lose a celebrity, or an icon. We lost a great American.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


So the past month has been all about studying Photoshop. Exhausting. But much, much progress. And a new light! My first strobe, with a second on the way. The one I want is oh-so expensive, but is the workhorse that I read I need. Or I could go with a less expensive model and scrape by. Nope! I'm buying the good piece of equipment. Even if I have to wait a few more weeks to make it happen. Major investment, but in the end so worth it.

And this weekend, regardless of the weather, I will be making my first photo safari of the year. It's time to get my butt in gear and expand that portfolio. It seems like for every photo I put in, I pull out two. The eye is developing faster than the output.

And my play is languishing! But it's in there, just waiting for me to sit down and get to work.

Why are there only twenty-four hours in a day?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Growth and Evolution

I'm not a writer. I'm not a photographer. I'm a portfolio updater.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


My play received its first rejection. In a way that was kind of comforting. Rejection is part of the process, and it might mean the end of the road for this project at this location, in the overall scheme of things it means that I'm still participating. I got a standard electronic rejection instead of silence! Although it was from a super-major theatre in New York where I had less than a one percent chance of even being read, let alone produced, there was still a bit of a sting to the form e-mail telling me that they were not interested. It may have even been automatically generated without anyone so much as opening my submission.

Still, it's tangible proof that I'm participating -- and that feels good.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


I am cyclical. By that I mean that I immerse myself in something until I have absorbed as much as I can possibly hold...and then I'm done for a while. It's true with just about everything in my life, from writing to photography to pizza. Can't get enough...and then I'm done.
The photo above was taken in a period when I should have stopped. What you see is not what came out of the camera. I was uninspired. The lighting was uninspired. The model was uninspired. It was snowing outside and the only thing I really wanted to do was curl up on the couch and watch endless episodes of "Law & Order." Still, I felt like I needed to get some work done, so I hired a model and came up with an idea that simply did not pan out.
Still, I didn't destroy the files. I new that there was something there, and that in time I'd figure it out. Never say never is my motto.
And in the past year I've been studying magazines. In particular Vogue and Vanity Fair. I'm on a five-year mission to shoot the cover of Vanity Fair, and I have about three years and nine months left. That clock ticks louder every day. And it was in response to that clock that I hired a model and hung a backdrop. And then buried myself in other photographers' work for about a year.
I can't remember the layout, but it was in Vogue, and the image was similar to the above. Suddenly it became clear to me that photography did not need to be crisp and clean all the time. That sometimes, focus can and should be manipulated.
And I've decided that is a great philosophy to apply to life. Some things need examination and reflection. And some do not. And sometimes you just need to put things in a drawer and let them mature.
The more I look at this photo, the more I love it. It represents more to me than a model in a bad white jacket. It demonstrates much, much more to me than that.
It's all about focus. And timing. And patience.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Return of the AWOL Photographer

Oh, gentle reader, how you must feel neglected. And rightfully so. But do not think that just because I've been neglectful of you that I've been ignoring my crafts. Not true! Much has been going on!

Above, you see a headshot for Lars. Lars, along with a group of actors from Norway, came to study theatre in Chicago. The long and the short of their visit is that they each fell in love with Chicago and the theatre scene. And before they returned to Norway for the holidays and then to Berlin for more study, they contacted me to do their headshots. These were my kind of actors.

Of course the industry is quite a bit different in Norway than it is in the United States. Still these brash young actors weren't afraid to try something different in the way of headshots. Because we were in Chicago, we did the classic natural light mugshot that is required, but we also were able to do something that was representative of who each actor is an artist. Lars wanted something that was suitable for his music career as well.

A bit extreme? Perhaps. But for those actors who are wanting to work for experimental storefront theatre in Chicago, which headshot is going to get the director to flip it over and give the resume a look? This, or the natural light mugshot?