Shooting for a purpose bigger than oneself.

George Mark Children's House is a place that offers life-affirming care and comfort for children and families during the most difficult times in a family's life. I have been involved with them for many years helping them visually tell their story. Recently GMCH updated their website and wanted to have new portraits taken of many of its staff members. It was important to photograph these wonderful people in a manner that was honest and straight forward. The spirit of the house had to shine through that was devoid of contrivance.

Kathy Hull - Founder

Kathy Hull - Founder

What it takes for a family to survive.

Family food insecurity has become a more appropriate term than just saying hunger. Families can live in the heart of downtown Oakland yet still be in a food desert. With no fixed address and finding shelter in an abandoned store front, this Russian immigrant family needs to take advantage of any opportunity that comes their way. There is no electricity in the store front so they run an extension cord to a neighboring live hook up. With this limited supply of power there is no refrigeration. They have to make a choice to have either a single light source switched on or run the microwave oven. Most of the light comes in through the store front window that has a white sheet that is half way pulled down. For privacy reasons they do not expose themselves to the street traffic right out their front door. With no way to keep food in their home they need to eat meals that are prepared and served hot from the community dinning rooms. As for showers, they are able to take advantage of the community swimming pool program for their daughter. When she swims, the whole family will attend and take care of their personal hygiene.

Shooting with Black and White Film for Big Pharma

Offering the opportunity to shoot with black and white film for a major branding campaign launch and why I suggest an old school method.

Shooting with Black and White Film.

The comp was a black and white photograph of woman gazing into the camera. The attention was geared toward her face with her shoulders out of focus. The client wanted the truth to come thorough the subject’s eyes.  They wanted honest and authentic photos. I have been called upon many times to create such an image. During the whole process of estimating and creative calls I kept hearing the same mission statement. “The client was looking for that honest connection.” The supplied visual was that classic portrait with a large single light source. This was an important product launch for the brand. I asked myself, “What was going to be the little twist to make the viewer pause and take notice? What would make the viewer stop flipping through the pages of the magazine and take notice?”

Making a Commitment

It came down to the process of shooting. How to actually take the photo during the session. Everything was pointing to the obvious choice as to shoot with black and film and capturing everything in camera. In the current world of commercial photography digital capture is the only way to go. There are many great reasons to shoot digital during a commercial assignment with control being one of the most important. Another is for the client to review the session while on set. All the while there is the comfort of knowing that everything can be adjusted in post-production. Shooting with roll film changes that.  There are known reasons some why people shoot with film. They like the look and tonal quality of the finished print. In addition to that the main reason I wanted to shoot film is because I wanted shoot with my Mamiya RZ67. I wanted to slow down the process. I love the bellows focusing option the camera has to offer. It allows me to get up close and shoot with a narrow depth of field while still able to look through the viewfinder while shooting. The large 6 by 7 centimeter image area also promotes a shallower depth of field. It has taken years of experience to be able to follow focus on a subject while keeping a narrow depth of field. I always want my subject to feel relaxed during the session and not feel incumbent by the limitations of the camera. With ten exposures per roll to work with and a more fluid shooting relationship this camera combination has served me well through the years.

It came down to the process of shooting. How to actually take the photo during the session. Everything was pointing to the obvious choice as to shoot with black and film and capturing everything in camera. In the current world of commercial photography digital capture is the only way to go. There are many great reasons to shoot digital during a commercial assignment with control being one of the most important. Another is for the client to review the session while on set. All the while there is the comfort of knowing that everything can be adjusted in post-production.

Shooting with roll film changes that.  There are known reasons some why people shoot with film. They like the look and tonal quality of the finished print. In addition to that the main reason I wanted to shoot film is because I wanted shoot with my Mamiya RZ67. I wanted to slow down the process. I love the bellows focusing option the camera has to offer. It allows me to get up close and shoot with a narrow depth of field while still able to look through the viewfinder while shooting. The large 6 by 7 centimeter image area also promotes a shallower depth of field. It has taken years of experience to be able to follow focus on a subject while keeping a narrow depth of field. I always want my subject to feel relaxed during the session and not feel incumbent by the limitations of the camera. With ten exposures per roll to work with and a more fluid shooting relationship this camera combination has served me well through the years.

Making a Connection

There is another thing that happens while shooting with film. The connection between the photographer and subject is much more private. There is no tethered monitor off to the side with a gathering of people reviewing every exposure. That private connection between the photographer and subject builds a unique trust. A collaborative relationship can now build between the two. That energy stays on the set with only the camera being witness. The photographer has to know in his heart when he has the shot. The clients have to trust the process.   This process worked very well until the advent of the digital village. All of a sudden everyone has a say in the final image. That is because the captured images are now there for everyone to view on the monitor. The energy has been displaced to another area. For this shoot it was important to reel in that energy between the subject and photographer. It was elemental in getting that connection with the eyes in the photograph.

There is another thing that happens while shooting with film. The connection between the photographer and subject is much more private. There is no tethered monitor off to the side with a gathering of people reviewing every exposure. That private connection between the photographer and subject builds a unique trust. A collaborative relationship can now build between the two. That energy stays on the set with only the camera being witness. The photographer has to know in his heart when he has the shot. The clients have to trust the process.

 

This process worked very well until the advent of the digital village. All of a sudden everyone has a say in the final image. That is because the captured images are now there for everyone to view on the monitor. The energy has been displaced to another area. For this shoot it was important to reel in that energy between the subject and photographer. It was elemental in getting that connection with the eyes in the photograph.

During this shoot the senior creative director sat right beside me during the portrait sessions. I could hear his expressions of confirmation simultaneously as I thought the same during a winsome capture. There was behind the scene video that captures the two of us almost connected by an invisible force, as we both would respond at the same moment to a winning expression. We both knew we had it and that’s all that mattered.

During this shoot the senior creative director sat right beside me during the portrait sessions. I could hear his expressions of confirmation simultaneously as I thought the same during a winsome capture. There was behind the scene video that captures the two of us almost connected by an invisible force, as we both would respond at the same moment to a winning expression. We both knew we had it and that’s all that mattered.

Working within known Boundaries

Another interesting occurrence while shooting with roll film is the limitation of ten exposures per roll of film. When you came to the end of a roll you had to pause and change film backs. This little break in the action was the silence in the shoot. This silence gave everyone a chance to reflect and think or discover. When shooting digitally a photographer can shoot nonstop. It creates a different type of energy on a shoot. For this shoot, those pauses and silence were perfect. It kept the pace at a more personal and somewhat reflective tempo.

Another interesting occurrence while shooting with roll film is the limitation of ten exposures per roll of film. When you came to the end of a roll you had to pause and change film backs. This little break in the action was the silence in the shoot. This silence gave everyone a chance to reflect and think or discover. When shooting digitally a photographer can shoot nonstop. It creates a different type of energy on a shoot. For this shoot, those pauses and silence were perfect. It kept the pace at a more personal and somewhat reflective tempo.

Shooting high importance branding campaigns is nothing new for me. I have done this with film and digital. With experience in both realms of capture I was able to blend the best of both worlds. The client services and ease of production that digital has to offer and the touchstone of humanistic cravings with film. There was a muscle memory of shooting film that came back to me and crew members as we revisited old film logs and quad checks. That old “best practices” of assuring we got the shot fell right into place. It was like doing your old favorite dance again. We still had our moves.

Shooting high importance branding campaigns is nothing new for me. I have done this with film and digital. With experience in both realms of capture I was able to blend the best of both worlds. The client services and ease of production that digital has to offer and the touchstone of humanistic cravings with film. There was a muscle memory of shooting film that came back to me and crew members as we revisited old film logs and quad checks. That old “best practices” of assuring we got the shot fell right into place. It was like doing your old favorite dance again. We still had our moves.

Flexing Old Muscle Memories with Lab Work.

I still had that old  unsettlednessin my bones until I hear the owner of Gamma Black and White labs call and say. “You got an image can I process the other half?” A personal and somewhat selfish desire I had was to personally visit the lab to pick up the film. I wanted to see my old friends and take in the smell of fixer and hypo clear. It’s perfume to me and I wanted another hit. There were a number of nice options to choose from. I always want to give the client many options as to finesse the final outcome. The campaign has been launched and some wonderful news has gotten back to me about how people are responding to the photography. How the images have connected with people on a personal level. The campaign just won Gold at the advertising Davey awards for photography.  So something must have struck a cord with this shoot. Maybe it was allowing ourselves to step back a little and re-approach a photo shoot with a different way of capturing the moment.

I still had that old  unsettlednessin my bones until I hear the owner of Gamma Black and White labs call and say. “You got an image can I process the other half?” A personal and somewhat selfish desire I had was to personally visit the lab to pick up the film. I wanted to see my old friends and take in the smell of fixer and hypo clear. It’s perfume to me and I wanted another hit. There were a number of nice options to choose from. I always want to give the client many options as to finesse the final outcome. The campaign has been launched and some wonderful news has gotten back to me about how people are responding to the photography. How the images have connected with people on a personal level. The campaign just won Gold at the advertising Davey awards for photography.  So something must have struck a cord with this shoot. Maybe it was allowing ourselves to step back a little and re-approach a photo shoot with a different way of capturing the moment.

2016 APA Something Personal Winning Entry

The story behind the photo. - George Mark Children’s House offers Life-affirming care and comfort for children and their families. It’s where the hospital meets home. One of the nice community events they do is hold a Prom where these families can come and participate. This photo is part of an ongoing series of portraits of children with severe disabilities being able to participate in traditional events that most other people are able to do.

“To the uninitiated may not understand the full meaning of these photographs, but the parents and children themselves understand that they live in a different world – a world with limits and physical boundaries, but not a world without love and compassion.” Here are just a few of the shots I captured that evening. I feel there is a nice collection of photos that should serve as a poignant reminder of the grace and beauty that is possessed in everybody.”

My book is ready on Blurb

My book "The Artists of Becoming Independent" has been published on Blurb. It would make a wonderful addition to anyone's collection of inspiration and art.

Click on image to be connected to Blurb page.

Click on image to be connected to Blurb page.

Photographing Artists for Becoming Independent.

My friend Meredith Nevard is an extraordinary person. She is one of the best connectors that I know. She has this gift of matching up people to create a new synergy with that pairing. Earlier this year she invited me to take a tour of Becoming Independent and it’s arts program.

"Becoming Independent is a community based service organization established over 40 years ago to help people with disabilities live meaningful and productive lives in Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties. “

Christian photographing Gabby.

Christian photographing Gabby.

These are mostly cognitive disabilities also known as intellectual disabilities. Meredith is such a strong advocate for this arts program. She was hoping that something would spark inside my head when introducing Becoming Independent Arts to me. Once a year I’ll shoot a personal project that has a purpose. Using my creative skills as a photographer to help give back. BI Art became this year’s project.

It was very interesting on the day of the shoot that I shot everyone first plus have them sign their autograph in my journal. Then afterwards I did all the copy work on the artwork. I did not know whose art was who’s when shooting the artwork. It was only until afterwards during the editing process that I matched up the art, signatures and portraits that I discovered a running thread throughout the three elements. I would notice similar poses, expressions, unique brush stokes  in the art work that match the artist’s personality. Sometimes their signature would be a very strong element to the final piece acting as a ribbon tying it all together.

BI Art will be using this photography project to help promote the artists and program. Hopefully this will help shine a light on some very talented and deserving people.

Meredith asking Fred to sign in the book.

Meredith asking Fred to sign in the book.

Enjoying a moment with Sandra.

Enjoying a moment with Sandra.

Alabama Hills

Some recent work that is on display at the SFMOMA Artist Gallery.

Alabama Hills #1

Alabama Hills #1

Alabama Hills #4

Alabama Hills #4

Alabama Hills Panorama

Alabama Hills Panorama

Alabama Hills #3

Alabama Hills #3

The Spy Game with Forbes Magazine

Forbes magazine asked me and two other photographers to photograph ex-NSA & Unit 8200 employees who have jumped to the private sector. Incorporating a Hollywood espionage style to tell the story I was able to transform “civilians” into iconic spy movie characters. The Man from Tel Aviv, The Operative, The Lifer at Langley, The Ivy League Influencer, The Cleaner and The Puppet Master.

Here I had to recreate this image in post production as so I can display only my subjects. Luckily I had in my files a current background plate that matched the mood and setting of a black bag drop. Fortunately “The Ivy League Influencer” came along with the deal. As with any spy game you don’t always know who is telling the truth.

The Man from Tel Aviv, The Operative, The Lifer at Langley, The Ivy League Influencer, The Cleaner and The Puppet Master.

The Man from Tel Aviv, The Operative, The Lifer at Langley, The Ivy League Influencer, The Cleaner and The Puppet Master.

Dr. Larry Rand - A True Mensch

Dr. Rand is the director of Perinatal Services at UCSF Medical Center. His passion and busy schedule are evident when you meet him. Yet he understands the importance of advocacy and research. He let me follow him around for a day allowing me access to his world. He is the truest sense of the word Mensch. "A person of integrity and honor." That is why the Jweekly.com ran a story on him, using some of my photographs.

To learn more about this remarkable person please read the Jweekly.com link.

http://www.jweekly.com/article/full/71999/labor-of-love-ucsfs-billboard-doctor-leads-study-on-infant-mortality/

Dr. Larry Rand in NICU at UCSF Medical Center

Dr. Larry Rand in NICU at UCSF Medical Center

He specializes in twin to twin prenatal surgery.

He specializes in twin to twin prenatal surgery.

and....he loves babies.

and....he loves babies.


Del Harvey of Twitter

I was asked by Forbes magazine to photograph Del Harvey of Twitter. She is in charged of protecting it's users from the predators that are out there. There are 500,000,000 tweets a day. She needs to watch over these tweets for any speciousness activity. She say's just the vast numbers can be over whelming. To deal with odds such as  1 in a 1,000,000 is not good enough. That's still 500 potential abuses a day. We are lucky to have her as our mother bear looking out for us.

Kevin Systrom of Instagram

My first assignment for Forbes magazine was a cover shoot of Kevin Systrom. They asked me to make sure he looked powerful and in control, plus I got to play around with Instagram. Kevin is a photography enthusiast so we both had a very creative day shooting with multiple cameras and applying different filters. I would shoot some photos of him, then he would app the image. It's not often that a photographer gives the subject that much creative control over the image, but what the heck, he invented the darn thing.

An Instagram image of Kevin

An Instagram image of Kevin

Kevin showing off our collaborative efforts on my iPad.

Kevin showing off our collaborative efforts on my iPad.

A day at the Instagram office.

A day at the Instagram office.

Kidney Dialysis Veterans

I was introduced to Gregory while shooting for DaVita. He has been on dialysis for ten years. Imagine having treatment every third day for that long of a time. It’s a routine that becomes his life. Yet he still carries on with an uplifting spirit. All of the patients I met have come to terms with their treatment. Most of them are waiting for a proper match from a kidney donor. To have such patience while in treatment takes a personal fortitude that must be admired.

Sun in his face, looking into the future.

Sun in his face, looking into the future.

Sun on his back, looking into his past. More dialysis veterans.

Sun on his back, looking into his past.

More dialysis veterans.

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Real Woman with Great Hair

Golnaz Shahmirzadi, Margo Moritz and Silvia Bagnacani are all close friends. Real woman, who are career minded and have great dark hair. I always see one of them with at least another near by or other close friends with them. Friendship like this will last a lifetime. I asked my friend Sarah Hyde to do hair and makeup on these three women and to let their natural beauty shine through. They all complement each other yet still stand on their own. We all had a wonderful time, performing the ritual of a fun photo shoot. The best part is to have wonderful photographs to remember the day. Three separate images yet still connected in spirit and style.

My last visit with mom.

My mother had moved to southern California to an assisted living facility and be nearer my sister. I remember having a gut feeling that I should go down and visit her. There were no apparent health concerns that prompted my visit, just a deep gut feeling that I should spend some time with her.

Her room was adorned with my photography. From personal family photos to my fine art prints. These photographs have always made up the fabric of a Peacock family household. My mother was suffering from dementia. She was in good spirit and disposition but her memory was rapidly fading away. During my visit we had a lovely time together, but she was having difficulty remembering which son I was, but in her heart she knew I was someone who meant very much to her. Her mind may not recall but she can feel, for it’s in her heart and that muscle of love and acceptance that still beats and works.

During my visit I pulled out my camera and started taking some photos of my mother. There were no words exchanged, just that special communication between mother and son - artist and subject. She then spoke up and mentioned how she loved all the pretty photos on the wall. How they gave her pleasure.

I said “Thank you and it has been my pleasure to take them and share them with you.”

Then my mom replied. “Oh? Did you take these photos?

I was stunned. It was at this moment that I realize how far lost she had come with her dementia. She could not remember that I was her son who she witnessed take his first photo when he was five years old or watch his life unfold with photography being the only constant through his years. After I got over the shock of realizing my mother’s advanced condition, I discovered I did what I was meant to do. I gave her joy and happiness though my photography. It didn’t matter that she remembers who I was. All that matter is that she had a warm feeling of love and appreciation.

This photo of her was the last time I saw her conscious. Her health declined rapidly after my visit. She was happy, content and very appreciative of the chocolate brownie I brought along at the insistence of my sister.

Marylou Peacock - Birthday is April 12th.

Marylou Peacock with a few of her paintings behind her.

Marylou Peacock with a few of her paintings behind her.

Recent UCSF Campaign

 

The current UCSF Medical Center ad campaign is up and running all around the Bay Area. Again I was called upon by The Hive Advertising agency to capture the pioneering spirit of its top doctors and patients who have benefited from their care. I always feel very honored to participate in these types of projects where I get to meet so many fascinating people.

Oakland_Billboard.jpg
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Back stage photos from a fun shoot.

I don't post to many behind the scene photos, but this project produced some fun opportunities.

Everyone lends a hand when fitting talent in storm trooper body armor

Everyone lends a hand when fitting talent in storm trooper body armor

I like that Danny O'Neill is demonstrating Kimono wrapping.

I like that Danny O'Neill is demonstrating Kimono wrapping.

Producer Connie Conway holding her own while Drew Sherman snaps all the back stage photos.

Producer Connie Conway holding her own while Drew Sherman snaps all the back stage photos.

Veronica Sjoen comforts the talent as the snooty photographer peers on.

Veronica Sjoen comforts the talent as the snooty photographer peers on.

APA SF Something Personal included photograph

Last year I was in New York City during Hurricane Sandy. I braved the storm and took some shots below 39th Street on Madison and Park Avenue South. All the power was out except for those that had generators. I was almost knocked over a couple of times during the big gusts of wind. The sound it made as it whipped around the empty streets was harrowing. This image was selected by the judges for this year's APA SF Something Personal exhibition. I'm glad to see some of my personal experiences be shared with others.

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National Geographic did a nice job with my photos

I was directed today to National Geographic's website that sells folk art from around the world. Last year they asked if they could use my photography to help set up a page to help sell Ehadji Koumama's Tuareg silver jewelry. I liked how they took the words and images from my video to incorporate it into a simple three page slide show. Please on the link and see the nice job they did.

http://blog.store.nationalgeographic.com/tuareg-silver/

Elhadji with calfskin bellows heating up the fire in his portable brazier.

Elhadji with calfskin bellows heating up the fire in his portable brazier.

Using a screw driver Elhadji etches the marks into the pendent. 

Using a screw driver Elhadji etches the marks into the pendent.