The Nutcracker is a serious holiday tradition here in Seattle. People seem to get pretty excited about it, and it’s a big deal. I went to see it with my family several years ago as a Christmas present I believe. I can’t remember how long ago exactly that was, but then again, I can’t remember much about the Nutcracker either. I fell asleep… I guess it was just not my cup of tea.
What’s that? The Burlesque Nutcracker? Now that might hold my attention. It may not be a show grandma and grandpa are going to take you to for Christmas, but at least now I’m intrigued.
City Arts has been doing some really great things in Seattle with the arts for the past few years, and I have enjoyed working with them recently. For this assignment, I was tasked with photographing classically trained ballet dancer turned burlesque artist, Lily Verlaine. She is co-producer and Artistic Director of Land Of The Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker.
I had the opportunity to meet with her the day before the shoot to go over wardrobe options, and while we had some great pieces to work with, I wasn’t seeing exactly what I was hoping for. I briefly described my idea of something that says Burlesque, classy, and Holiday’s at the same without coming off too costume’y, but no luck. The next day, Lily showed up to the shoot arm in arm with designer Danial Hellman and this beautiful piece that he custom made the night before. It was exactly what I had described the day before. Wow! That never happens. That’s what you get when you work with professionals.
I really enjoyed showing something a little more sassy and pretty in this shoot, and I think the cover turned out perfectly. It says Burlesque and Holidays at the same time without being too loud or flashy.
Big thanks to City Arts Art Director Dan Paulus, and Editor in Chief Leah Baltus of City Arts for working with us on this. Thanks as always to Gigantic Squid for the beautiful color grading and retouching. Beautiful.
For many people, Ferran Adria needs no introduction, but for those of you who are not familiar with Ferran, he is one of the most innovative chefs and people in recent history. He has been on Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people list multiple times. His restaurant El Bulli was the best restaurant in the world until he shut it down in 2011 at the peak of it’s success, with the idea of reinventing it. Not many people have the vision and willingness to take great risks the way Ferran does, and that is a big part of what this feature is about.
This assignment came up very quickly, and within 3 days of getting the call, I was off to Barcelona. Aside from creating some awesome images, my secondary goal was food. Get food. Just a piece of cheese or a scrap of bread would suffice. To be able to say I was handed food from Ferran Adria, that would be pretty cool.
Right off the bat, I want to thank and acknowledge the creative team at Wired UK. The Photo Editors, Dalia Nassimi and Steve Peck, Art Director Andrew Diprose, and Executive Editor Greg Williams. Greg and Andrew also traveled to Barcelona for this shoot, and we first met up with Ferran at El Bulli Workshop not far from our hotel in Barcelona. It was a busy morning between meetings, the interview and photo shoot, but we worked with Ferran in small chunks of time throughout the day. Ferran is one of the most meticulous and driven people I have ever met. As you can see from some of these images, his attention to detail and planning is second to none. Every room in his workshop as well as his kitchens are lined with whiteboards covered in notes, diagrams, and plans. His spice rack at El Bulli Workshop is so thought out, he probably knows how many grains of salt are in the salt jar. Perhaps most impressive was the play dough portion size and design templates for each meal he has created. Nothing is left to chance. His passion for his work and innovation also seem to be very contagious, because everyone he works with seems to completely buy in. I was able to learn some of this before the shoot through my research, but it is never as fun as the real deal. It was really amazing to pull some of the intensity and passion out of him, as you can see in these images.
Ferran now has a new tapas bar with his brother, Albert, in Barcelona called Tickets. From what we had gathered, it is quite an experience in it’s own right, with an impressive menu, including several famous dishes from El Bulli. It’s also next to impossible to get in to. Greg brought up the idea of getting a table during the photo shoot, but we were told it just wasn’t possible. While Ticket’s would have been the ultimate dining experience, we were in Barcelona after all, and Ferran recommended some of his favorite tapas bars and restaurants to us, which were all amazing. Later that evening, we caught up with Ferran at a local museum which has a wonderful exhibit on the history of El Bulli. They closed the museum down, and we got a private tour from Ferran.
We had 2 days of shooting scheduled with Ferran, and after a long and eventful day one, we got up early the next morning and drove a couple of hours outside Barcelona to El Bulli. It is still closed as a restaurant, but currently is filled with computer programmers and large white boards of plans and code. Big changes are coming to El Bulli before it re-opens in 2014. Going out there, we knew the kitchen was closed, so we were not expecting food, but we were also not expecting the surprise Ferran had instore for us. Ferran pulled Greg, Andrew, and myself over to a corner of the outdoor patio and brought us into a tight circle. He held out 3 fingers, looked at us in the eyes, and said, “9:00 tonight, Tickets for the 3 of you.” Kids at Christmas! We were through the roof. More on that below.
This issue has only been out about a week now, and we are already seeing this cover being recognized as one of the best covers of 2012. Pretty exciting to be a part of that, and an honor to work with AD Andrew Diprose, who is one of the best in the industry.
Ferran at El Bulli Workshop talking with two of his computer programmers, who are working on some exciting new developments for the El Bulli brand.
Working with Ferran on the how best to hold the E, and balancing it with the proper way to hold a knife and cut. Pictured with Ferran’s interpreter, Andrew Diprose and myself.
El Bulli kitchen during the remodel / reinvention of El Bulli.
Portion sizes and shapes of all ingredients served at El Bulli made out of Play-dough.
Two dishes served at El Bulli made from Play-dough, next to a photograph of the actual dish.
Below are pictures I took of our meal at Tickets. In all of the excitement and euphoria, there were several dishes I forgot to photograph. That being said, here are quite a few images of many of the amazing things I got to eat that night. Our server’s name was Claudia, and she added so much to the experience. We didn’t feel qualified to order, so we told her to bring whatever she wanted to serve us. She talked to us quite a bit throughout the night, and brought the dishes in an order that flowed and paired flavors. Ferran even came in to say hi and introduce us to his brother Albert. It was by far the most amazing food experience I have ever had. We asked the concierge at our hotel for walking directions to Tickets before we left, and he told us he could make several other restaurant recommendations because we would not be able to get in. Greg tried to explain that we had reservations, but he just laughed at us. Silly tourists.
Confit potatoes with pork rib jus and boiled iberian ham
Liquid ravioli of Payoyo cheese
Warm lava cake of “turron de Jijona” with raspberry sorbet. We ordered 2 of these.
This short video about Tickets gives you an awesome behind the scenes look at the food they create and what the dining experience is like. Eating at one of Ferran’s restaurants really is about the whole experience and using all of your senses.
Wired UK AD Andrew Diprose, Ferran Adria, John Keatley, and Wired UK Executive Editor Greg Williams
I would encourage you to pick up a copy of the October issue of Wired UK which is currently on stands. You can also see a great documentary on Netflix called El Bulli: Cooking In Progres. There are also hundreds of fascinating videos online of Ferran and El Bulli. I can tell you I have already invested countless hours watching many of them.
I would like to thank everyone who worked with me on this assignment. Dalia, Andrew, Greg, and Steve at Wired UK. Awesome people. Thanks to my rep Julia at Redux Pictures for all her support and hard work on the backend to make this all happen. Thanks to Gigantic Squid for the awesome retouching. Thanks for stopping by and enjoying my work.
For those of you who are fellow Seattlites, you may have noticed City Arts has been gaining great momentum as the go-to arts publication around town. They have been doing a great job covering culture, art, and music, and are not afraid of going out on a creative limb so-to-speak, to bring their audience something fresh and original. I got to shoot the Seattle based hip hop group Don’t Talk To The Cops for the cover of the March issue. This was a really fun shoot, and I was excited to get to throw in a slight nod to those amazing laser portrait backgrounds we all coveted back in the 80’s. I think the hardest part was picking out the right turtleneck and NFL game day jacket. After that was decided, it was smooth sailing and a lot of laughing. I can’t say I’ve made it through the article exposing bubble tea, but the cover image is certainly reason enough for picking it up (not to mention it’s free).
Big thanks to Art director Dan Paulus, editor in chief Leah Baltus, and Don’t Talk To The Cops. This shoot was a fun collaboration of talking through ideas and inspirations with Dan and Leah, and I love how it turned out. I met Dan and Leah for the first time, when I was photographed as part of the City Arts Future List late last year. Retouching by Gigantic Squid.
I hinted at a fun assignment I was working on last month on Twitter, and now I am excited to to be able to share the images with you. I had a lot of catching up to do when I first got the assignment to photograph Murray Stenson from Art Director Jane Sherman at Seattle Weekly, but it didn’t take long for me to find out that Murray is widely regarded as the best bartender in the country. Don’t believe me?Just ask Esquire, Playboy and Tales of the Cocktail. It felt like when you get a new car, and all of a sudden you realize that just about everyone else on the road has the same car as you. As soon as I got this assignment, it seemed like everyone I knew was going out to get a drink from Murray. Apparently I was the last person to know. I was quite excited to not only photograph Murray, but to also have a drink from him.
I did the shoot at Canon, which is a new bar in Seattle where Murray works, along with an all-star group of bartenders led by Jamie Boudreau who is also the owner. There is a bit of a wait to get in, but I can tell you the wait is well worth it. I filmed a short video of Murray mixing and explaining how to make an Absinthe Julep, which you can see below. And yes, I did get to drink it after we were done filming. Someone had to, and I didn’t want it to go to waste. We did have to do 2 takes, but thankfully my assistant handled the second one since we were dealing with 124 proof. For what it’s worth, I made sure the video was the last thing we did so my pictures wouldn’t be out of focus.
Although Murray has been written up in many other magazines, this article is the first time he has told his story. It was written by Mike Seely, and is a really fascinating read. Here is the link to the article if you are interested. Along with the video, I also included a few behind the scenes pictures at the bottom.
Thanks to Jane Sherman for working with me on this, and thanks to Murray and Jamie for being such gracious hosts and subjects. Photo retouching by the fine folks at Gigantic Squid.
This is the cover of the current Seattle Weekly featuring my portrait of John McKay. We had some difficulties scheduling this one, and it went right down to the wire. Thankfully we were able to get some time with John the night before the issue went to press. I really like this picture. It is a simple portrait, but there is so much about it that makes it fun to look at. His eyes are bright and focused, as if he is looking right at you. One eyebrow is slightly raised giving him a a strong sense of confidence, and maybe even a bit of mischeviousness. The subtle tilt of his head, and parted lips seem like he is either about to say something profound, or even start laughing. I never get tired of photographing people, and I love that I learn something new about expression, emotion, trust, interaction, light, and timing every time I take a picture. As much as I always feel the need to try something different, I don’t think I will ever get tired of photographing faces, because there is always something new to see and learn.
You can read the corresponding story on the Seattle Weekly website here.
I photographed Ryan Henry Ward for the cover of the current Seattle Weekly. It looks really beautiful in print if you are in Seattle and are able to track down a copy. There is something about the rough matte newsprint, muted colors, and heavy contrast that really makes this image stand out. As the copy indicates, if you live in Seattle, or even visited recently, you have probably come across at least one of Henry’s colorful murals which are spread across the city. He just finished his 120th mural in the last 3 years. He has also sold over 2,000 canvases, which is impressive, but even more so when you hear he has only been painting full time since 2008.
Henry signs all of his murals with a big “Henry” in black on a white circle. It’s hard to miss, and most likely a big part of his success and brand recognition. Since his work is mostly cartoon-like animals, I thought it would be fun to photograph him in costume as if he were one of his creatures. My art director, Boo Davis, came up huge in finding this narwhal costume, and big thanks to Henry for being willing to go along with this idea. It took some warming up to the idea on his part, but I think it turned out fantastic. The horn was a little problematic, and made the shoot take about twice as long as it needed to, but he was really patient and made it work. You can read the article about Henry on the Seattle Weekly website.
This has been a big year for Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks. There has been a new company logo, the 40th anniversary of Starbucks, and Howard’s new #1 bestseller book Onward, which I shot the author portrait for as well as some pictures inside the book. I have been keeping pretty busy photographing Howard over the past few months with everything that is going on. Some of the images have not been released yet, but one of my favorite assignments which I can show was for The Sunday Times Magazine. I got some great shots from this one, including this 2-page spread, and the headshot outtake. You can click on the spread to get a closer look if you are interested. To get the expression, I sang several songs from The Tales of Hoffmann by Offenbach which I think everyone enjoyed quite a bit. It seemed to be going well at first, but then I got distracted somewhere around Act 2 while trying to adjust my camera focus and my pitch went slightly off. I will admit it was not my finest moment, and clearly some in the room were not impressed. Nonetheless, my off key falsetto created a nice expression which went along perfectly with what the magazine was looking for. Despite the successful outcome, that will most likely be the last time I ever sing at a photo shoot.
Whoop whoop! Here are 3 of the 6 new ads I just photographed for Snoqualmie Casino with ad agency Green Rubino. I’m really proud of how these images came together. Lot’s of firsts on this project. I had my first 3:00am call time, first time shooting models jumping on a trampoline in high heels, and first time winning $100 on slots while working.
There are a ton of casino’s fighting for business these days, and most of the ads I have seen all pretty much look the same. A dude eating a big hamburger, a pretty lady rolling dice, and a group of friends out to dinner. Not to mention the photography is usually pretty bad. It’s easy, and what I am sure people have come to expect from casino ads. That is why it was so refreshing to work with Green Rubino on this campaign because it was a well put together concept with high production value. Snoqualmie Casino is going to stand completely apart from the competition. At least until the competition has time to scramble and try to copy this.
As always, a very big thank you to the wonderful people at Green Rubino and Snoqualmie Casino for working with us on this ad campaign. Dennis Budel, Jason Vargas, Joe Quatrone, Peggy, and Michelle Hendrickson, congrats and well done! Time to celebrate.
Agency: Green Rubino
Creative Director: Joe Quatrone
Associate Creative Director: Dennis Budell
Photographer: John Keatley
Producer: Taylor Reed
Hair & Makeup: Cara Aeschliman
Wardrobe: Morgan Dillon
1st Assistant: Gregg White
2nd Assistant: Oliver Ludlow
Retouching: Gigantic Squid
CGI: Vitamin-E Studio
Talent Agency: All About You, Bell Agency
That’s my portrait of John Keister on the cover of the current Seattle Weekly. John is best known as the “former host of Almost Live, widely regarded as one of the most successful locally produced sketch-comedy shows—or local shows of any kind, perhaps—in the history of modern American television.” – Mike Seely, Seattle Weekly
The show ran for 15 years, and the cast, along with John included Joel McHale, and Bill Nye the Science Guy. The sketches on Almost Live were pretty hilarious as well as short and to the point. Unlike sketch comedy shows these days. Although SNL does seem to be getting a little better again. You can find a bunch of the videos on YouTube if you are interested.
It was a thrill to photograph John, and I am really happy with how the cover image turned out.