19
Aug

"How Could This Happen to Annie Leibovitz?"

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Celebrity

Portrait of Annie Leibovitz by John Keatley.  An honest look at the great celebrity photographer.

As you may already know, last November I had the privilege of photographing one of the photography greats, Annie Leibovitz.  (Here) is an earlier post about my experience photographing her.  Then just a few months ago, I found out my portrait of Annie was selected for AP25 (American Photography 25 silver-anniversary competition) which is a selection of the best photographs from 2008.  The selected photographs will be compiled in a book this coming November.  Having already written about this, I don’t want to be too repetitive, but Annie Leibovitz is in the news again.  This time, it was not because she offended someone, or got a celebrity to pose nude.  New York Magazine came out with an article this week about Annie, and the hard times that she has come into.  Not to make light of a difficult situation, but I am pleased that one of my portraits was licensed for this article.  Here is a link to “How Could This Happen to Annie Leibovitz? The $24 million question” written by Andrew Goldman for New York Magazine.  It is a fantastic story, and definitely worth reading.

With all of the news flying around about Annie, I decided to take a look at my portraits of her again.  This picture in particular has always pulled at me.  I have thought about showing it in the past, but there was something that always seemed to make me leave it alone.  Looking at it again now, in light of what is going on, it seemed to take on new life.  This was one of those moments that came and went in a split second.  I had shot several frames already, including the one I have been showing.  There was a moment where she didn’t know what to do with her hands, and maybe felt a bit self conscious about being photographed.  She quickly rubbed her eyes and pulled her hair back from her face and the moment was gone.  I can’t say I captured this image because of some magic of my own.  In all honesty, I’m sure it was an accident I caught this.  But in this portrait, I see so much honesty and vulnerability.  Something not easily captured, regardless of the subject.  A good lesson for me: a great portrait isn’t always created by controlling my subject, but rather capturing an organic moment in a controlled setting.

New York Magazine “How Could This Happen to Annie Leibovitz?” http://nymag.com/fashion/09/fall/58346/

*Side Note*  Thank you to everyone who has written me about the comments not showing up properly in Safari and Firefox.  It looks like the issue has been resolved, and I apologize if you felt that I was ignoring your questions.  I may have actually responded, but the comment just didn’t show up properly.  It turns out that white text on a white background can be hard to read.

29
Jun

Vince Mira Live in Seattle

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Celebrity, Tear Sheets

Vince Mira Portrait.  Tear Sheet from Seattle Metropolitan.  Photo by John Keatley.

Vince Mira Portrait at the Gum Wall in Post Alley.  Photo by John Keatley.

I have really been looking forward to posting these portraits and videos.  I had so much fun working on this assignment with Vince, and as an added bonus, the story is one of those rare page turners that doesn’t come around all that often in a magazine.  For me, it’s right up there with the Wired article on Dan Kaminsky which I worked on last year.  Here is the intro for Vince’s story, which is in the July 2009 issue of Seattle Metropolitan.  The link to the entire article is further down.

Billed as the Second Coming of Johnny Cash, a teenager from Federal Way wowed rock stars, morning news shows, Ellen DeGeneres, and the Cash estate.  There’s just one problem: Vince Mira is done parroting the Man in Black.

There was a moment in September 2007 at the Cash Cabin, the studio built by the late Johnny Cash outside Nashville, when everyone froze. In the room were musicians intimately tied to Cash and his music—his son John Carter Cash, his bass player Dave Roe, and Jamie Hartford, who played guitar in the Cash biopic Walk the Line. Vince Mira, the Federal Way teen flown in for the recording session, had just crooned the last line of his “Cold Hearted Woman,” a twangy harangue against a cruelly apathetic succubus (“…as far as you are isn’t far enough for me”), leaving his audience speechless.

Finally, Hartford, who’d been scribbling music dictation in a notebook, dropped his pen and paper and turned to the producer. “John. Carter. Cash. Does that freak you out?” John looked up, “Yeah, that freaks me out.”

John Carter had just heard a familiar voice pour from the mouth of the teenager. The producer had agreed to record an album with the talented teen—already making a name for himself with Cash covers—on the condition that “We don’t just record a bunch of my dad’s old songs.” Now, here was Mira performing an original, but his voice, a haunted baritone, was spot-on Johnny Cash.

- James Ross Gardner.  Read the entire article (here).

Before this assignment, I had heard stories over the past couple of years about Vince Mira, the young teenager who was discovered playing Johnny Cash songs on the street.  I had seen the YouTube videos from Ellen (here) Good Morning America and a few others, but I didn’t become a fan until I heard him perform live.  Wow.  This guy is talented.  He is the real deal.  There are a lot of people out there with a gimick, or who sound like someone famous.  But Vince has huge talent, and he can stand on his own.  His similarities to Johnny Cash provided him with a great start, but it’s exciting to see him head out on his own now and show people what he’s got.

The first video above is Vince Mira performing an original song, “I’m a Goin Back Home”.  The second video is a Johnny Cash song, “Folsom Prison Blues”.  Both were performed at the gum wall in Post Alley, Seattle.   I asked Vince to play one of his songs so I could film it, and it didn’t take long at all for a crowd to gather.  After he finished the first song, someone yelled out, “Play ‘Folsom Prison Blues’!”.  Even though he is trying to get away from that, he didn’t seem to mind.

Vince has an album out now, called “The Cash Cabin Sessions“.  It was recorded at the Cash Cabin Studio by John Carter Cash, Johnny Cash’s son.  It’s a great album.   You can also catch Vince every Tuesday night at the Can Can in the Pike Place Market in Seattle.  For now at least.  I don’t know how much longer he will be playing there, as he has already toured with Pearl Jam, and played on some pretty big stages.

Vince Mira – Folsom Prison Blues from John Keatley on Vimeo.
Vince Mira – I’m a Goin Back Home from John Keatley on Vimeo.

* If you are using a blog reader, you may need to visit my actual blog to see the videos show above.

19
May

American Photography 25

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Awards, Celebrity

ap25

An email went out this past April to the winners of the American Photography 25 silver-anniversary competition, and I am happy to say that I received one of those emails.  This was the first time that I submitted my work to AP.  It all became official last week as the selected photographs were released in an online slide show.  In all, 10,100 photographs were submitted, and the jury selected the 351 best images from 2008 to be published in the AP25 book.  The book will be distributed world-wide in hard cover this November.  My portrait of Annie Leibovitz is the picture that was selected from my submission.  Annie Leibovitz also has work in AP25, including her controversial portrait of Miley Cyrus which appeared in Vanity Fair.

It is a major thrill to have my work selected for this, but what really blows my mind is the fact that many of the photographers I have been inspired by since I first picked up a camera also have work in AP25.  Dan Winters, Peter Yang, Annie Leibovitz, Emily Shur (check out Emily’s blog if you haven’t already), and Martin Schoeller.  I am very thankful for this opportunity.

Steve Wiecking just put up a nice post about AP and me on his Seattle Met blog (here).

annie_leibovitz

22
Apr

Lisa Ling

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Celebrity

Lisa Ling portrait by John Keatley

This has been a difficult year for many people.  I personally have been pinching pennies, and admittedly, things have been pretty slow at Keatley Photo as well.  But looking for a bright side to all that is going on, the downturn has offered me a chance to slow down, and think about things in a new way.  Not that I want it to be this slow for too long…  Of the photo shoots I have had in the last few months, several of them have shared a theme of social justice and thinking outside of oneself.  For so long, our country has told us to take as much as we can, and live it up, ignoring many of the problems that exist right outside our comfortable homes.  Working with, and thinking about some of these themes and issues has made a big impact on me, and is slowly changing my heart.

Photographing Lisa Ling, was one of the experiences that has made a mark on me.  She is someone who is making a difference in the world, and because of her national platform, she is able to reach a wide audience and inform many people about issues that we can no longer ignore.  Animal rights and cruelty is a hot topic these days.  I am hopeful that because of people like Lisa, and the tools that many of us have on the Internet, we can make a difference and take steps to make changes to the way that animals are treated, both domestically and industrially.  Not everyone is able to adopt an animal, or even donate to a cause for animal rights.  But we can all at least be informed, and speak out against issues such as this.

The State of Washington has recently had several raids on puppy mills, which really opened my eyes to the cruel treatment of dogs.  Lisa Ling also made a short documentary about the cruel business of puppy mills which was aired on Oprah (watch here).

Animal cruelty is obviously one of many issues that need to be addressed, but I hope that as a country, we might start to be more open and aware of the needs around us.  Lisa spoke to a group of students before I photographed her, and it was exciting to hear some of the students talking to each other as they were leaving the event.  Many of them seemed moved and challenged by her talk, and I hope that many of them will strive to make positive changes in their communities, and in the world.

Below are links to several videos and articles about puppy mills if you want to find out more.

Main Line Animal Rescue
Seattle PI video report about a puppy mill raid earlier this year (here).
PETA undercover video about puppy mills (here).
Seattle Times articles about puppy mill raids this year (here) and (here).

28
Jan

Make It Work, Tim Gunn Style

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Celebrity

Tim Gunn Portrait by John Keatley

Tim Gunn.  The man is like a saint.  Everyone loves him.  And I have to say, he is one of the nicest people I have ever photographed or met.  He was kind, easy to work with, and the only person who has ever said to me, “Are you sure you don’t want more time?” at the end of a shoot.  What most people don’t know about this picture is that I actually made his suit out of an old soft box, and the lining from one of my camera bags.  ”Find a way to mitigate that center seam” he repeatedly instructed as I tirelessly worked, rushing to finish the garment.  ”Make it work!”

Talk about pressure.  Thankfully he thought the suit was stunning, and the shoot went great too.  While I was packing up, I noticed Tim in the corner of the room tearing up a piece of berber carpet.  I gave him a questioning look, and he said, “For our next challenge, you will be designing an outfit for a garden party.  You have fifteen minutes to caucus.”

Season 6 of Project Runway, hosted by Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum will be starting soon.  To hold you over, (here) is one of my favorite Tim Gunn video clips.

07
Jan

Portrait of Annie Leibovitz

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Celebrity

Annie Leibovitz Portrait by John Keatley

In the course of a conversation this past summer, it was mentioned that Annie Leibovitz was going to be in Seattle that November.  As soon as I heard this, I was gone.  Blank stare.  Absent from the conversation. I was thinking, “What would it be like to photograph Annie Leibovitz?  Would she let someone else take her portrait?  I don’t think so.  She is one of the greatest photographers ever.  The only pictures I have ever seen of her were self portraits.  How nervous would I be if I got to take her portrait?”  A couple of months later, I received an email from a photo editor at Seattle Metropolitan; “Do you want to photograph Annie Leibovitz?”

I thought a lot about how I would photograph her.  But after dreaming about some grand and sizable production ideas, I decided not to try to do too much.  I would just do what I do best, and keep it simple. We were scheduled to shoot in a private meeting room in a downtown Seattle hotel, with no chance of moving to a different location.  Because of her full schedule that day, I knew she would be tired.  An interview with Steve Scher on NPR (listen here) right before the shoot, and speaking at Benaroya Hall for ‘Seattle Arts & Lectures‘ right after.  I had a small window of time to work with her.

When Annie came into the room, she looked around at the lighting setup, and said,  “Wow, this looks scary.”  My thoughts exactly, but it wasn’t the lights I was thinking about.  We talked a few minutes about photography and cameras before she sat down.  Then I told her about my idea for the portrait, and asked if she would mind taking off her glasses. She said that was fine, and I started to shoot.  It was a balancing act trying to find the line between being in control to get what I wanted, and not being pushy.  I could tell that she was not comfortable being photographed.  She moved around a lot while I shot, and I decided to be flexible rather than push too much to hold a certain pose.  Things don’t always go exactly to plan, and sometimes this can be a pleasant surprise.  It felt like the shoot ended up being a collaboration in making the pictures.  It’s not often that I work with someone who is so willing to be expressive and experiment as she was.  Shortly after we started, the shoot came to an end, and I knew that I had the shot.  I thanked her for her time, and she said, “You did good.”  I’ll take it!  What a compliment.

The article that was published in Seattle Metropolitan, and written by Steve Wieking can be read here.

*Update* – My portrait of Annie Leibovitz was selected in the American Photography 25 Competition (AP25) and will be published in November 2009.  This is a huge honor for me!  The link will take you to a post with more about the award.