13
Apr

Now For Something Completely Different

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Blog, Personal Work

Surprised to see something other than stylized portraits?  From the beginning, the goal with this ongoing personal series was to create something completely different from my portrait work.  Last fall, I decided I wanted to push myself to create something outside of my comfort zone.  I would prefer to let these images stand on their own without adding a story or context to them, but I also realize it is important to talk about one’s work.  If not the meaning, at least the process.  I have attempted to explain these to a few close friends, and the best explanation I have come up with so far is that this good idea evolved from several really bad ideas.  What this means is I began with an idea and talked about it for a little while and really wrestled with the concept and how it would read.  The first few concepts never really sat right with me, but thinking and talking about them with others eventually led to what you see here.  Even after I began shooting, the concept continued to evolve.  I worked with a great post production studio called Gigantic Squid, and collaborated with Ian Goode on the final look and feel of everything.  This really has been an experiment and exploration of a different type of photography.  As much as I pulled away from my portrait work in this process, I came to realize just how important the human element is to me in my work.  I learned how to respond to what I was shooting and adapted my approach as the images came to life.  That is not something I get to experience when working on an ad campaign which has to be planned out completely before shooting.  So far, this project has taken me across Washington and Northern California, and I am planning a couple more out of state trips in the months to come.  I have learned so much from this experience and I am excited to see how this continues to evolve and shape me as an artist.

10
Jun

On A Personal Note

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Personal Work

Isla Keatley.  Photo by John Keatley.

Just finished up a nice two weeks off work with my wife and our new baby girl, Isla.  She is our first child, and for those of you with kids, I think it goes without saying how incredible it is to be a part of new life.  We are having a lot of fun, and from what I hear, it only gets better.  Thought we would try to get her started early with costumes so she will be ready for her first annual Keatley Christmas picture this year.  It’s actually just a blue monster bath towel, but it’s a start.

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30
Aug

Dennis Haysbert

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Celebrity

Portrait of actor Dennis Haysbert.  Photo by John Keatley.

It has always been a dream of mine to photograph the President of The United States, and now I can cross that off my list of things to do.  David Palmer is the first African American president in US history.  Well, in TV history I should say.  Dennis Haysbert played President David Palmer on Fox’s 24, and he talked about playing the president at our shoot, “A lot of people considered me to be the first black president – which is ridiculous, but that’s the power of TV.”

Speaking of the influence of TV.  I am seriously considering switching my auto insurance to Allstate.

I photographed Dennis while he was in Seattle working on an upcoming movie called “The Details“.  Toby Maguire, Elizabeth Banks, and Laura Linney are also in the film.  It is being labeled as a dark comedy, and there are rumors that the plot revolves around a married couple dealing with a raccoon problem.  That might just be a rumor though.  Dennis said that you could get 30 different answers as to what the film is about depending on who you ask.  We will see…  (Here) is an interesting story about the home the movie is being filmed in.  Sounds like the project hit some rough spots, but they are back on track now.

Conan recently ran a pretty funny sketch on The Tonight Show called Twitter Tracker.  The sketch quoted several celebrity tweets in an attempt to convince viewers of the value of Twitter.  The grand finale was a tweet by Dennis Haysbert.  ”Just saw the new Star Trek movie. Wow, really good.”  I was hoping to go to his Twitter page after our shoot and read about how he just worked with the most amazing photographer.  It turns out the whole skit was made up, and Dennis doesn’t even use Twitter.  Can you believe that?  Conan, making stuff up?

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.