It has been a while since I have blogged by the look of things. No, I am not getting lazy, or losing my edge. It is just that I am coming off of a 2 month long video project working 18 hour days, 7 days a week. Holy smokes! Somehow I was also able to sneak in a few quick photo assignments where time permitted. One of my most recent shoots was for the Wall Street Journal who called me to photograph Bill Gates with his favorite business book, “Business Adventures” by John Brooks. Needless to say, thanks to Bill, this relatively unknown book is now a New York Times Bestseller. It’s a really interesting read, and you can read the Wall Street Journal article here as well as watch a video about Business Adventures and John Brooks.
The copy of “Business Adventures” Bill is holding in this picture is the actual book Warren Buffet sent him 23 years ago. You can see from the wear on the dust jacket, it has seen some use over the years. Pretty fun assignment. Thanks Ronnie!
I’m back in Seattle after some busy, yet fun trips to Portland and LA. Lot’s to catch up on, but I thought I would share a few of my recent iPhone portraits. The project continues to move ahead, and as always you can see more of them in my project section as well as on my Instagram profile. This is something I have been working on for the past 9 months or so. I have photographed over 200 people to date so far. All with an iPhone, and some natural light. Nothing fancy. Just getting caught up in a moment, enjoying no frills photography and meeting new people.
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.
I shot these images on a sweltering hot day this past summer in beautiful Coeur d’Alene, Idaho for Inc. Big thanks to Photography Director Travis Ruse for the call on this one. One of the things I love about editorial photography is the opportunity to talk with a wide range of successful and interesting people. Some of you may not know this, but I actually majored in Business Administration in college, so dissecting and understanding how different companies work is really fascinating to me. Alligator Performance Co-founders Chad and Jayme Hall did not disappoint. Their story was one of the most fascinating success stories I have ever heard, and I left the shoot feeling like I got to see something really special. I highly recommend reading this article on Alligator in Inc.
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.
Stephanie Peirolo / Director of Strategic Partnerships
Christine Wise / Director of Planning and Strategy
Ian Cohen / Co-Founder and CCO
Todd Grant / CCD
One word sums up the experience of working with the team at the Seattle based ad agency, Wexley School for Girls: AWESOME. The long and short of it, is that these guys and gals are a riot, and life is never dull when working or hanging out with Wexley. They never so much as bat an eyelash when John shows up asking them to take their shirts off, dress up in chicken costumes, sprawl across the baby grand, or any other fantastically strange idea John has thrown at them over the years. Well, actually, not everyone was on board with this concept off the bat, but everyone came around eventually after a good pep talk.
Most business executives need headshots for speaking, press, articles, etc., and the leaders at Wexley are no different. These portraits are of the Wexley senior leadership team. As you can see, not only are they all pretty much topless, but they have Sara Coates and I smashing and manipulating their faces with our hands. At least the men do. The women got a couple of male interns to stand in, and it just so happened to be their first day on the job. It was awesome, and one of those shoots where we were laughing so hard we cried a little. Some people may have cried from awkwardness too, but it can be hard to tell the difference sometimes. Thanks Wexley for being great sports, and for working with us to create such awesome photography. I like to think this kind of work is the stuff that stands the test of time.
These pictures have already received some of the greatest comments on Facebook. It’s almost like a social experiment the way some people are so confused by these portraits. “They aren’t really going to use those for press are they?” Yes, yes they are.
Here is a quick behind the scenes video of the shoot. Can’t wait to see what happens next time.
Thanks team Wexley, and thanks as always to Gigantic Squid for retouching!
As some of you may know, last year I began a little portrait project with my iPhone and Instagram. It began almost as an accident, but quickly became a project very close to my heart. I have met some amazing people and heard some incredible stories along the way. Like Jordan’s story for example. Within just a few months, I got a call from KING 5 about going on New Day NW (watch video) as well as several other interviews. One of those interviews just came out this month in Professional Photographer Magazine as a full feature. As a photographer, it’s exciting to shoot for a feature, but a feature about my work is a whole new level of excitement. Thank you so much to Jade Price and everyone at Professional Photographer for your support and interest in my work. I feel like I am just getting started with my iPhone Portrait project, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me next.
Some might find it ironic and nostalgic (our favorite hipster description as of late around here), others might simply call it a way of life — call it what you like, the artisan food movement is BIG, and if you don’t keep on your toes, you might fall behind. One week mushroom foraging is the trendiest of trendy, the next week it’s goat farming and cheesemaking. We got a real kick out of this lately when John shot the Seattle Weekly cover story highlighting (and kind of poking fun) at the whole phenomenon.
Apparently my ‘hipster-esque’ kitchen fit the bill location-wise, and the next thing you know we were all jammed in there dumping large cans of Safeway peaches into Mason jars prepping for the shoot – slightly ironic, slightly nostalgic, and downright hilarious. The photos of this began as outtakes, and actually turned out being what they ran with. The model in her kitsch Anthropology apron, can in hand, and the rest of us just out of the frame in stitches. Don’t get me wrong, I think the whole slow and local food movement is awesome, and to prove it, here is the pickle recipe I can’t wait to take a stab at (courtesy of a childhood friend who has recently made some great waves in the food world with her super legit food blog). Thanks Anna, and especially thanks to Seattle Weekly Art Director Jane Sherman and all of the great folks over at Seattle Weekly! We can’t wait to do it again soon. As always, gigantic thanks to Gigantic Squid for retouching.
Safe to say Don Mattrick has one of the more exciting jobs at Microsoft. Sitting around, playing Xbox all day. Must be nice. But sometimes, when he’s not playing Xbox, Don get’s his picture taken for Forbes, and that’s where I come in. And speaking of exciting jobs, I can’t even begin to explain how much furniture was moved around for this shoot. I think the PR people thought I was a little crazy, but if you ask me, it was totally worth it. In fact, I think it turned out so good, Microsoft may even decide to re-arrange the whole room. That’s called value added. Don’t worry, no charge. That’s how we do it.
Don Mattrick is the President of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment business. i.e. Xbox… It’s a big weapon for Microsoft right now. David Ewalt wrote the story for Forbes that this was shot for, which you can read here. Photo Editor Gail Toivanen, and retouching by Gigantic Squid.
P.S. People always ask me about backstory, so I know what your next question is going to be. “John, what was he saying when you took this picture?” He was saying, “John, how are you so friggin funny!? You crack me up.” Thanks Don. That’s really nice of you to say.