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14
Apr

Douglas Coupland

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Celebrity

Writer Douglas Coupland at his Vancouver studio.  Photo by photographer John Keatley.

Douglas Coupland decked out in his Canadian best.  I photographed Douglas in his Vancouver BC studio for The New York Times Magazine just before the 2010 Winter Olympics.  He was kind enough to give me a tour of his studio, and it, along with his art collection, is enough to make anyone jealous.  Really impressive.  New York Times Magazine Q&A with Douglas.

As I parted ways with Douglas, he said to give him a call if I ran into any trouble at the border.  A kind gesture, but probably not necessary.  For those of you who are not familiar with crossing the border between the US and Canada, it usually involves waiting in a short line and getting grilled with questions ranging from “Why are you visiting Canada (or the US)” to “When is the last time you got into a bar fight.”  On occasion the officer will ask a series of questions, and loop back around and ask the same questions again, which I always find interesting.  A good way to catch you if you are lying about something.

When I reached the border this time, I was greeted with a standard question, “What were you doing in Canada?”  ”Taking pictures,”  I responded.

It’s important to understand the questions you are asked at the border are rapid.  It is not a conversation, it’s question, answer, question, answer.

“What were you taking pictures of?”

“Douglas Coupland for New York Times Magazine.”

Up until this point it’s all pretty standard, but this next part threw me off.  The officer turned from his computer screen and looked at me as he said, “Ohhhh, Generation X”.  Douglas popularized the phrase “Generation X” with his best selling novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. I wasn’t sure how to respond at this point.  Was that a question, or was he simply stating a fact?  Now there was a pause.  This isn’t how it’s supposed to work.  He is supposed to ask the questions and I give the answers.  But it seemed he was waiting for some sort of response, so I said, “Oh, yeah, so you know who he is?”  His demeanor instantly changed, and he responded in a harsh tone, “I said Generation X, didn’t I!?”  I nodded my head in agreement, not wanting to get into it with him.

After another pause, the officer began to tell me about an article he had recently read by Douglas Coupland on how border officers are rude and difficult.  He went on for what seemed like several minutes.  His tone was a mix of amusement and disbelief.  To summarize his main points: What!?  Us, rude and difficult!?  How could anyone think that?

Oh, this is bad I thought.  I should have said I was photographing Céline Dion.

Once again, not knowing how to respond, I tried to be real.  ”To be honest, I have pulled up next to some gruff people working here and I can see how he would think that about some of the people who work here.  But you definitely seem to be one of the the nice ones.”

With that, he snapped back into Mr. Man In Charge, and exclaimed.  ”Well, if you think I’m nice, it would interest you to know I have made more arrests at this station than any other officer.”  He paused to let his accomplishments sink in before handed back my passport and I was on my way.  Until next time.

Equipment Used:
Hasselblad H3DII-31 Camera
Hasselblad Wide Angle H 50mm Lens
Profoto Giant 150 Silver Reflector
Profoto White Softlight “Beauty Dish” Reflector
Wescott 45” Umbrellas

Douglas Coupland and John Keatley

Self portrait with Douglas Coupland.

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24
Feb

Sounders FC Goalkeeper Kasey Keller

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Blog

Seattle Sounders FC Goalie Kasey Keller.  Photo by photographer John Keatley

It’s almost time for my two favorite professional sports.  Lawn darts, and baseball.  Just kidding!  Soccer and baseball.  Although we may be watching lawn darts if MLS and the union don’t come to an agreement soon.  Aside from that, it is pretty exciting to be a soccer fan in the Pacific Northwest right now with how the Sounders have taken the country by storm.  The first game of the 2010 season will be played here against Philadelphia, the newest expansion team to MLS.  And don’t even get me started about next year when the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Portland Timbers will join MLS.  Those rivalries will be amazing!

This is a picture I recently took of Kasey Keller.  Kasey is the goalkeeper and captain of the Seattle Sounders FC.  From my time with him, he seems like a laid back fun loving guy who doesn’t take life too seriously.  While we were talking on set, he said “I get to play a game and catch a ball for a living.”  It was fun to see that side of him, but going into the shoot, I wanted to capture some of his competitive spirit.  One of the Sounders games I was at last season I spent some time on the grass right behind the goal.  Qwest Field is known for being a loud stadium and the fans can carry on with the best of them.  But as loud as it was in the stadium, I could hear Kasey screaming instructions to his teammates over the crowd.  With that in mind, I asked Kasey if he would yell at me for a few pictures.  I half expected to be rejected, but he said sure and started yelling.  I won’t repeat what he yelled, but it was pretty funny.

Go Sounders!

(Here) is a post with video and pictures from the Sounders billboard I shot last season.

04
Dec

One Year Of Blogging With John Waters

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under News

John Keatley and John Waters

Can you believe it?  I sure can’t!  Today marks one year exactly since I posted my first blog entry on the John Keatley Blog.  I think I had 2 subscribers back then (thanks Mom and Dad) but I have been amazed and encouraged by the steady show of support during this last year.  If you are somewhat new here, don’t feel obligated to drop what you are doing and read my first post.  It is less than enthralling, and reads much like the screenplay for Gigli.  That being said, I guess this is as good a time as any to let you know that John Waters has actually been ghost writing my blog for about 9 months now.  Or since whenever it started becoming interesting.  Maybe that is why I felt inclined to leave him in the picture.

I was hoping to take a celebratory 1st anniversary portrait of myself to mark this big milestone, but John Waters kept poking his head into the frame.  As you can tell, I am less than amused.  It was funny the first time, but seriously!

This last year has really been wonderful, and I am very thankful I start blogging when I did.  I fought the blog for a while, but since I decided to take the plunge I have come to enjoy writing and it is something I look forward to each week.  I should sign off before I become too sentimental, but thank you everyone for your support and for taking the time to read.  I am looking forward to the adventures ahead in the next year.

09
Oct

Sarah Palin Portrait – "Going Rogue"

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Celebrity, Commercial, Tear Sheets

Sarah Palin picture Going Rogue book cover.  Photo by John Keatley - www.keatleyphoto.com.

I am pleased to announce I was hired by Harper Collins to photograph Sarah Palin for the cover of her new book “Going Rogue“.  If you watched even just a few minutes of TV this week, or used the Internet, I am sure you have already seen the book cover.  ”Going Rogue” has not even been printed, and it is already the #1 best seller.  It still feels a little surreal to me that my portrait of Sarah Palin is on the cover of her book.  Just about every television network in the country has been airing the book cover and analyzing what it means.  Why the clouds, why the smile…  My favorite reference so far was on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, but only because he mentioned me… kind of.  He talked about the portrait of her on the book cover, and then quoted “the photographer”.  It was a fake quote of course, and he didn’t actually say my name, but that is pretty close to being on The Tonight Show…  (Here) is a link to the video.  It’s in the first 3 minutes of the episode.

The photo shoot only happened three weeks ago, so this is all still very new and exciting for me.  After much planning and scheduling, I put together a crew and flew up to Alaska for six days to photograph the former governor.  It was supposed to rain the entire week we were there, but we ended up getting blue skies and puffy white clouds the entire time.  After a few days of scouting and prepping, I shot for three days straight.  The last day we went to Hatcher Pass which holds a lot of meaning for Governor Palin.  I had already scouted the pass a few different times, and I knew exactly where we were going to shoot.  Every last detail was in place.  After shooting at the base of the pass near a river, we caravaned up to the top of the pass where we were planning to shoot the final location.  Half way up, I noticed the beautiful light that was sweeping across the valley, and the clouds that were developing on the horizon.  I told the driver to stop, we had to change our plans.  This last minute change ended up being the final setup we would do with her, and it also ended up being the cover image.

I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work on this project.  It is not very often that an assignment comes along to photograph one of the most polarizing figures in our country.  Let alone the chance to photograph that person for her book cover.  I would like to thank Harper Collins and Sarah Palin for working with me.  This was a really big opportunity for me professionally, and I enjoyed it immensely.  I am excited to see what happens next.

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02
Sep

Jake Locker

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Celebrity

Jake Locker, UW quarterback.  Photo by John Keatley.

Jake Locker Portrait, photo by John Keatley

Many people think the animal on the dock with Jake is a husky because that is the UW mascot, but it is not a husky.  It’s a coyote.

When Jake Locker first started playing football for UW, I heard a story that sounded too wild to be true.  It was the kind of story that someone makes up, and as time goes on it becomes wilder and wilder, yet more and more true to the people who tell it.  The story goes like this.  While Jake was a junior at Ferndale High, a crazed coyote wandered onto campus.  Some students thought it was a dog from the neighborhood and tried to pet it.  As they approached the animal they realized something was wrong, but it was too late.  The coyote attacked the students and began a rampage throughout campus.  The entire school was frantic and people were scrambling to hide in the nearest classroom.  There were 5 students who were not lucky enough to find shelter in a classroom.  They were walking through the quad and walked right into the coyote.  They were trapped, with nowhere to go.  Several teachers were watching through the office window, and all they could do was scream.  The students slowly backed up until they were against a wall.  The coyote inched closer and closer, snarling and showing its teeth.

This is where the story gets a little confusing because I have heard several versions of what happened next, but I will stick to the version I heard from Jake.  Jake was in the gym during the attack, but he heard the screams of the students who were trapped in the quad.  Without hesitating, he took off his football pads, and ran out of the gym toward the sounds of the screaming.  As he entered the quad he walked directly up to the coyote with his arm held out in front of him holding his palm up as if motioning to stop.  He said a single word, although no one remembers what he said, and instantly the coyote relaxed and allowed Jake to pick it up.  He tucked the animal under his arm and walked out of the quad.  Since that day, the coyote has never left Jake’s side.

I wasn’t quite sure if I believed this story when I first heard it, but I decided to bring it up on the phone with Jake before our shoot.  I asked him if the story was true, and if he would bring the coyote with him for a few pictures.  He said that wouldn’t be a problem, and I was able to shoot a few frames with Jake and his coyote.

College football starts this weekend.  Go Huskies!!!  And go Jake Locker!!!  I’m a big fan.

I also posted a number of outtakes from this shoot on my Facebook page if you would like to see more.

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?

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

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.