Christmas Just in Time

A couple of weeks ago Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos showed off a prototype helicopter drone on CBS’s 60 Minutes. It was designed to deliver packages to Amazon's customers in under 30 minutes from the time they placed their orders. That news segment had the whole country buzzing about the possibility of our skies full of drones delivering Amazon’s parcels. It seemed like a silly publicity stunt to me as I am certain that the technical and safety obstacles would make its realization a long way off. Nevertheless, I was inspired to create this photograph. All I needed to do was borrow a helicopter drone, tie a box to it, and step out onto my terrace which, ironically, overlooks the Statue of Liberty and an area of New Jersey where Amazon plans to build an enormous distribution center, no doubt within drone range of Manhattan. (click the card to enlarge)

Steve Heller in The Cave

On a recent Saturday morning Steve Heller met me on the steps of his 16th Street studio in Manhattan. I was intent on photographing this icon of design amidst what proved to be the most intense personal collection of objects and books that I had ever seen.


Steve is the latest subject in my graphic designer portrait series. He was the noted art director of the New York Times Book Review for 33 years. He has authored and co-authored over 100 books on design and popular culture. He is a fascinating subject whose charm and accomplishments would be difficult to convey in a single photograph.


My biggest challenge was finding a place to put my camera and tripod. I wedged myself into a tiny space between teetering towers of rare books and objects, terrified that I could knock something over and start an avalanche. (Click on photo to enlarge)


Mannequins designed to sell women’s fashion and beauty products. The nurses’ uniforms caught my eye. (Click on photo to enlarge)


Steve has authored or co-authored all the books on these shelves. This man does not waste time. (Click on photo to enlarge)


Before there was there was Esky, the 1940’s Esquire Magazine Man (middle shelf, tiny figure just to the right of center). PLUS: Razor Blade displays, micro mannequins, one of many Uncle Sam’s in Steve's collection. (Click on photo to enlarge).

Overview: Steve is more curator than hoarder. Still, there’s potential here for a reality TV show. (Click on photo to enlarge)


Books not authored by Steve. He sometimes refers to his studio as “The Cave,” perhaps because of the  stacks of books growing up from the floor like stalagmites. (Click on photo to enlarge)

Possible inspiration for Lena Dunham’s Girls TV series. Long before Grey’s Anatomy, ad agencies knew that medicine was sexy. (Click on photo to enlarge)


Tiny businessman with tiny furniture sans electronic devices or social networking. The large black object on his desk was referred to as a "telephone." (Click on photo to enlarge)

Past presidents - another favorite theme. Ronald Reagan bust by Robert Grossman. W’s bust looks a little mean and simian.  (Click on photo to enlarge)

Was there anything that these commercial pencils couldn’t create? (Click on photo to enlarge)

Steve's desk surrounded by reference material and inspiration. The closet at the end of this room is full of Carousel slide trays. (Click on photo to enlarge)

To each according to Steve’s needs – more figures depicting Mao and the Chinese revolution. (Click on photo to enlarge)

Tokyo Shoot 2

Sake barrels at the Mejii Shrine

Last year I was photographing for a large retailing client in a few places around the world including Tokyo. I had a day off to explore and take some personal photographs. You can see a few of those photos in my blog post from last May below -scroll, scroll, scroll..  I intended to post more of my Tokyo photos and today, Alyson Kuhn, a good friend and ultra talented writer for Felt & Wire beat me to it with a marvelous blog piece about a unique Found Muji store that I stumbled upon in Tokyo. Her post reminded me of the fact that I had some other Tokyo photos I wanted to share...

They're all empty and non-recyclable.

The National Art Center

No matter the shape, windows in Tokyo office buildings are the cleanest in the world.

This reminded me of a giant hi-tech version of a New York storefront security gate.

Storefront display at Found MUJI

Mad Max inspired boots for the apocalypse

Poster: Why proper footwear is important to your pancreas

Bill Cunningham would love this city

New portrait of Phil Berg


Meet Phil Berg, whom I photographed as part of my documentary, MONTAUK. The film has been selected to premiere in the New York Surf Film Festival on September 20th. I shot it over two summers and interviewed twenty unique individuals; Phil is one of Montauk's most ebullient residents. Multi-talented, he is  a tree surgeon, a baseball coach, a bouncer and a writer—and he goes nowhere without his trusty companion, Umma.

This portrait was set up in the middle of a quiet road on the outskirts of town. We had a huge strobe lighting him, taking up an entire lane. Every few minutes, someone would slowly drive by this spectacle and stop to say hello to Phil. It seems that there wasn’t anyone in town who didn’t know him. The fifth or sixth friend to stop by was driving a monster truck with enormous tires. The driver began chatting with Phil for a few minutes until he was interrupted by his girlfriend, whose head popped up from somewhere below the steering wheel. She cheerfully introduced herself before disappearing again and we continued shooting till the sun went down.

Montauk is a place I love and I hope you can come to see Phil and and the other fascinating citizens of Montauk when my film premieres in The New York Surf Film Festival, next Thursday September 20th at 7:30 pm.

Flag Day

This past winter one of my clients commissioned me to photograph a commemorative flag salvaged from the ruins of The World Trade Center. Following September 11, this enormous flag was restored using pieces of other historically significant flags from around the country. For the tenth anniversary of 9/11, the client asked me to find a unique way to photograph it along with some of their employees. I made a 45 second time lapse video of the ten hour production, which involved 3 assistants, one art director, one client, one hair and make-up artist, and 50 flag bearers. Try to watch it with the sound on.

Tokyo Shoot

One of my clients recently sent me to Tokyo, London, and Mexico City on assignment.  Between those shoots I had a just little time off to explore all three cities with my camera. 

Having photographed in Japan on several occasions over the years I have to say that it's one of my favorite cities in the world. Its the most futuristic, civilized place there is, and its populated by extremely considerate, tidy, and polite people. 

Tokyo is very quiet for such a teeming metropolis. People don’t honk their horns, yell, or talk loudly on their cell phones. Sirens from police, firetrucks and ambulances seem to be almost non-existent. An ambulance driver transporting a dying patient calmly encourage other cars to move out of the way using a relatively quiet and, of course, hi-fidelity speaker atop the ambulance. You don’t have to scream when you know how to manufacture some of the best speakers in the world.

You’ve probably seen those videos of Japanese commuters being shoved into rush hour subway cars by professional sardine packers. My assistant and I avoided the subway at that time of day and, instead found many serene and beautiful environments. See below..

Steve-O animated book cover

Hyperion books recently commissioned me to photograph Stephen Glover (AKA Steve-O of “Jackass” fame) for the cover portrait of his new memoir. Conscientious photographer that I am, I decided to do my homework by buying two tickets to see Jackass 3D. That weekend I was visiting my 86 year old father, who, sadly, is suffering from early stages of Alzheimer’s. I wanted to get him out of the house for a memorable experience and decided that Jackass  3D might do the trick. In his earlier years, this is not the kind of movie to which I would have considered taking him. Now he seemed to find the antics of Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O and friends to be interesting enough, viewed through the first 3D glasses he’d ever worn. Fortunately, I think he’s forgotten the experience and inadvertently forgiven me.

I photographed Steve-O on a studio cyclorama with nothing more than a loaded staple gun and a piece of paper for props. The graphics on the paper were added later in post to give us some flexibility.  A dedicated performer, Steve-O actually shot about a dozen large staples into his chest for our shoot.  Over the course of our two hour shoot we tried a lot of pretty crazy poses. He’s fit, extremely flexible and a great physical comedian. As a result we got far more hilarious photos than we could possibly use and editing it down to one cover image was not easy.

Fortunately, we found a way to use a few more of those photos in the animated version of Steve-O’s book cover intended for use on the iPad. . My very talented video editor, Aaron Wolfe, created some unique action combined with music to bring my still photos to life.

Click here to see and hear a 13 second version of a groundbreaking experiment in electronic publishing. You’ll can also see a very short clip of Steve-O talking about this shoot while he removes those staples.

Here are the images used for our animation:


A Holiday to Remember

When you think about Christmas in New York City a lot of beautiful holiday imagery comes to mind - the giant dead tree at Rockefeller Center, ice skating on the Don's Trump Rink in Central Park, tourists choking the sidewalks in huge lines outside of Juicy Couture on Fifth Avenue. This year, I wanted to share with you a very special sort of New York way to celebrate the holidays.  The guys who park my car throughout 2011 are perfectly nice and they are that much nicer each day closer to Christmas. As a photographer I really appreciate this sentimental card that was left on the passenger seat of my car last week. These portraits of my friends, Diego, Luis, and Omar really capture their dedication and personalities. The Disney Corporation's contribution to this charming exercise in institutionalized gift giving makes it that much more special. Its as if my garage attendants were just three more lovable animated Disney characters holding out their white gloved hands.

In the spirit of Christmas, I can't really blame these guys for wanting a good New York Christmas sized tip. Even though my monthly garage fee is higher than rent for a studio apartment in Austin, the attendants are probably underpaid. Never mind that they occasionally leave white paint marks from the garage's support columns on my car. During the holidays I can usually get them to clean that off for me - all with a smile and that special gleam in their eyes.

Happy Holidays!