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.
Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Blog, Personal Work
Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Blog, Press & Interviews
Here is my new video interview on Adorama TV, hosted by Mark Wallace. I was really impressed with Mark’s questions, and I think the video turned out great. Some of the questions include the gear I use, what it was like photographing Annie Leibovitz, how I approach photographing celebrities who are aligned with hot issues, and much more. I am going to keep this pretty short because of the video, and there isn’t really anything I need to add. Thanks for taking a look, I hope you enjoy it.
Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Blog
That’s my neighbor Mark Miller, reporter for ABC affiliate KOMO in Seattle, getting water thrown in his face. No, I am not waterboarding him. That wouldn’t be very neighborly at all. I am simply teaching him a lesson. Ok, I’m kidding. Mark sees some pretty interesting stuff at his job, but I would guess this is the last thing he expected he would be doing when he woke up today. ”Hey neighbor, would you be up for getting water thrown in your face while I take a few pictures?” He did mention he expects nothing less when I call, though. Fair enough. Why did we throw 121 bowls of water in his face? I just finished shooting an ad campaign and it is in post production this week. Today we realized we needed a few more assets to really make this thing shine, so with Mark’s help, we made it happen. Mark won’t be in the final image, but I needed to capture water splashing on skin. It’s going to look great when it’s finished.
Thanks Mark! You are a true professional and a good friend.
Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Blog
While in Liberia last month, I met a wonderful man named Prince Kondoh. He goes by Pastor Kondoh, and he has dedicated his life to serving those who can not help themselves, and teaching the children in his community. During the recent civil war in Liberia, he was basically a prisoner in his own home for 14 years. Not able to go outside without risking his life. Now that peace has returned to Liberia, he works harder than anyone I have ever met with the hope he might be able to make up for lost time. No minute is wasted, and no challenge is too great. He has started multiple schools in Buchanan, one of which is called Chariot Daycare and Elementary School. We were asked to visit the school one morning before we headed out to one of the villages where the wells were being built. Because of the economic situation, there are many children who’s families are not able to pay for school, and I was asked if I would take a few pictures of the students needing sponsorship.
I was thinking I would take a few snapshots and it would be a quick thing. But then I realized I didn’t pack all of these lights half way around the world to take snapshots, even if this wasn’t in the plan. So all of the gear was taken out of the truck and we set up the lights. As I was finessing the lights into place, something caused me to slow down and look around. I wasn’t thrilled with how the portrait was turning out, and then I had a realization. The natural light was near perfect. I struggled with this idea for a few minutes, trying to convince myself it wasn’t possible. Natural light never does exactly what I am looking for, especially in the middle of the day. The picture won’t turn out. But finally after a few tests, I decided to shoot this one with just my Hasselblad and nothing else. It was very freeing to say the least. For some reason, I had it in my head that it wasn’t possible to shoot a picture in my style with only natural light. Natural light never seems to have the pop to it I am looking for, or if it does, the light isn’t at the right angle etc. Most of the time natural light isn’t what I am looking for, but this instance proved to be an exception. It wasn’t until we were back at our house that night, and I loaded the images on my laptop, that I was hit in the face with the detail and clarity of this portrait and the others I shot that day. It was a great lesson for me to be aware of what is going on and to be open to improvising or even deviating from a plan.
But enough about lighting for now. If you can’t tell already, this is one of my favorite pictures from the trip. His name is Zachariah and he is a student at Chariot. I could stare at this image for hours and continue to find new things I like about it. Zachariah is one of the students in need of sponsorship, and I figured the very least I could do was provide a link to sponsor him or any of the other children who need support. The cost is $15 a month and that covers clothing and food, as well as education. If you decide you would like to sponsor Zachariah, please write me after you have done so, and I will send you a free print.
The Child Sponsorship Program is run by the Well Done Organization which is the organization building the wells in Liberia that my client MiiR Bottles partnered with. I can personally vouch for the people working for WDO, as well as the organization itself. Some really great things are happening in Liberia with the support of WDO.
Here are the links one more time. I know not everyone is able to help in this way, but hopefully this might plant the seed in just one person who has the means and desire to help.
Info About The Child Sponsorship Program
Children Still In Need Of Sponsorship
It feels good to start posting images from this trip, and as promised there will be more in the days and weeks to come. My developer just showed me round one of the revisions to my website tonight, and once it is finished I will have a new portfolio section with pictures from Liberia.
Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Tear Sheets
Imagine rows and rows of boxes piled up to the ceiling at your local Costco. The boxes are matte black with bold white writing and a robot looking face on the front with beady red eyes. Maybe something like the Terminator, but more kid friendly. Suburban moms in California and Arizona are lining up to be the first on the block to own a personal laser mosquito zapper. Jacqueline from Rancho Cucamonga places her new mosquito zapper in the over-sized orange cart, next to her new cooler with a built in iPod dock, and the ten pound bag of chicken strips. She can already imagine the warm summer nights by the pool, free of mosquitoes. I envisioned the situation for these early adopters to unfold much like the Cornballer as seen on Arrested Development. Kids running around the yard with laser burn marks all over their bodies, hair on fire. You worried about your kids running with scissors? Forget about it. You’ve got a military robot with lasers in your back yard.
That was the scenario that popped into my head after hearing the words laser mosquito zapper, but as I found out more about the assignment, I discovered it was not the next ridiculous consumer item at your local big box store. 3ric Johanson and a team of really bright minds actually came up with this idea and made it into a reality with the goal of wiping out malaria. With a mandate from Bill Gates to think differently about finding a solution to prevent malaria from spreading, the Photonic Fence was born. The technical description of how it works is a little above my pay grade, but by recognizing the size, speed, sound, and speed and insect beats its wings, the Photonic Fence can differentiate between bees, flies, and even male or female mosquitoes. Only female mosquitoes bite and carry the parasite causing malaria, so only the females need to be terminated.
3ric works at Intellectual Ventures, which is a research lab in Bellevue, Washington. In addition to the Photonic Fence, they are working on some pretty amazing projects including a super-thermos to transport vaccines, and a system to weaken hurricanes. While taking a tour of the lab with 3ric, he explained the reason Intellectual Ventures is so different from other labs is they are encouraged to experiment and push the boundaries of what is currently being done. Failure is not something they are afraid of, and they have the luxury of pushing the boundaries because they have investors behind them. Because this type of work is so expensive, however, other labs often don’t have investors willing to take on this kind of risk.
Make is a really cool magazine, and if you get excited about DIY projects, I would recommend subscribing. You can also find out more about the Photonic Fence and Intellectual Ventures at this page. I was really encouraged to see some of the top minds working on projects with the single goal of making the world a better place for people who don’t share many of the luxuries we so often take for granted.
I’ll leave you with a super slow-motion video of mosquitoes getting blasted by a laser. Enjoy.
New Tech Toy I am most excited about right now.
Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Press & Interviews, Videos
I hope you enjoyed the first video of my photography talk. As promised, here is the second video, and number three will be rolling out very soon also. The third one will be the Q&A session. I cover a lot of ground in this video including working with celebrities, but the main points are focusing on what you are trying to show in your work, and taking control to make it happen. Some of you have asked which camera these videos were shot on and although I have recently started to shoot video on the Canon 5D Mark II, I actually used this bad boy to film my talk.
Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Press & Interviews, Videos
A couple of months ago I hosted a Q&A and spoke about my photography to a group of about 100 people in Seattle. Many people who were not able to attend sent in questions, and expressed interest in watching a recording of the talk. Well, the wait is over. This is the first 15 minutes of the talk and I am going to do my best to have the rest up by the end of the week. So check back often. Enjoy, and thank you everyone who came out to hear me, and to everyone else who is reading this for your interest in my work.
Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Blog
Economy got you down? Looking for a new career? Well, this man can help. David Boushey is one of the top stuntmen in the industry and the founder of the International Stunt School in Seattle. If you dream of a life in the movies and have no fear, David can teach you how to jump off buildings, set yourself on fire, punch someone in the face and all kinds of crazy stuff the well-known actors won’t do. In fact, the International Stunt School is thriving these days thanks to the bad economy. Lots of people are looking for a career change, and the film industry thrives when times are tough because everyone is looking for an escape. Enrollment is up this year, and David is in talks to create a reality show about the stunt school.
On set, David asked me, “What’s my motivation for this shot?”
I told him, “Once a week for just half an hour you have a regularly scheduled time for yourself. You always go to the same cafe, and you get the same drink and read the paper in your regular seat. You don’t talk to anyone, and you certainly don’t like people talking to you. While you are reading, you hear someone yelling. You try to ignore them, but they get louder and more frantic. It seems like they are yelling at you. You try to ignore them for as long as possible while your frustration and anger grows. Finally, you turn in the direction of the person screaming and snap off, “What the hell do you want!?”
I have started experimenting with video on some of my shoots for editorial clients recently, and this is a short I put together on how to throw a “picture punch”. So far I have really enjoyed working with video, and I hope to do more in the coming months. If you are reading this in a blog reader you may need to go to the John Keatley Blog to see the video. This was not my first lesson on how to throw a punch from one of my photo subjects, although my first lesson was about punching for real.
I have another short video in the video section of my website of David telling a story about almost getting chopped to bits while filming a movie at sea.
Here are some links to the camera equipment I used for this shot.
Hasselblad H3DII-31 w/ 80mm lens
Elinchrom Ranger Battery Pack and Head x2
Profoto Acute 2 2400 kit
Profoto White Softlight “Beauty Dish” Reflector
Wescott 45” Umbrellas
Elinchrom 7” grid reflector
20 degree grid
Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Celebrity
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.