Emily + Guillermo
An almost unimaginable amount of things have happened this year. A sea change on every level. Maybe we have all been too complacent. Here are some of the faces, places, and relationships I've documented this year. From July through November I worked on three films and two music videos with the amazing Ashley Connor and a close knit team that's become a little family. I almost can't believe I had time to shoot anything since being scooped up and pushed forward as a DIT. I published an old essay in Broad! Magazine and have two new essays in DV8. Stay tuned for more links. Time is an arrow pointing forward.
I'm away right now but hopefully when I return it will really be spring in New York. Here are two of my favorites from last summer.
New Year's Eve is always stressful. Plans never work out. Parties aren't that fun. People flake. But still- the promise of an epic night on the town to ring in a new year remains a strong pull for most of us excitement-loving New Yorkers. I have to say though, I didn't hesitate in jumping at the chance to cover Sara + Jim's classically wonderful New Year's Eve nuptials. Alright everything was mostly at night, which is tricky for us photographers. I managed to fanangle a first look before the sun went down and I think we were much better for it. The Liberty Warehouse is a cool venue in desperate need of a more flattering lighting design - I had to use my flash for the whole ceremony! But luckily this night was all about the dancing and its dance floor was illuminated by dozens of magical edison bulbs- see below for the evidence.
Special thanks to the amazing Carey MacArthur for backing me up.
With the holiday season upon us, I thought revisiting a wintery session from earlier this year was in order. Nora and Gerard were married last Valentine's Day in the back room of the classic NoHo restaurant Lafayette. The day was snowy and strange: New York on a Saturday cloaked in a tranquil white blanket made of fat white snowflakes. These two braved the weather for a quick, romantic walk in the oncoming blizzard before the small ceremony with their 9 closest family members in attendance.
In a fit of inspiration and propelled by an impending deadline, I sent a few jpegs to the editors at New York Magazine to see if they'd consider it for their winter 2016 issue and despite all my doubts-- they ACCEPTED IT! Nora and Gerard's wedding is now featured among some of the sweetest events of the year in the album section of New York Weddings Winter 2016. It's never really anything personal- these kinds of achievements- I think Nora and Gerard had a sweet wedding, that was like a very swank New York affair in miniature. It's nice for everyone to see they have options besides a 100K blowout. These two met in Rwanda and circled the globe once or twice before they finally tied the knot- their families coming in from Cleveland and Ireland to celebrate somewhere in the middle. And I'm so glad they did!
There are so many things to be afraid of. It's so easy to sit still, in your rented room, in a new city and think: I'm close enough to the adventure, probably best to just stay put. It's especially easy to think this when you have a rad airbnb with an equally rad host and you're tired from traveling, shooting, eating way too much delicious food and walking. Merry Lake's Magic House was a haven in the Marigny district where I took naps, recharged (my phone, duh) and thumbed through books of incredible New Orleans interiors by Richard Sexton. There will be a proper post later, but for now, my favorite image:
New Orleans. I shot a wedding. Got lost in the bayou, encountered a wild boar, did not feed the gators, drank coffee, ate shrimp and grits, saw music, drank more coffee, ate beignets, stayed in a magic house, sought out a spiritual healer, bought some florida water and candles from her and had her tell me things I knew and did not know about myself. I drove myself to City Park and walked around with my mouth open at all these beautiful oaks:
But, more on all of this later. Back to the airport, to the freezing rain, to that crabby town I call home.
When I think about it, Bonnie, Dan and I really did have a regular engagement shoot. We walked around Manhattan, found our favorite corners, stood in front of some walls and got some hot chocolate. But we started in the Essex Street Market, one of those New York gems with everything you can imagine from all corners of the earth. And then we wandered through Chinatown, encountered a specialized durian chopper, stood outside of one of the famously graffitied former residence of a famous New Yorker. It was full of all the colors, textures and weird smells of the city. And, we got some really beautiful light. So it was a regular engagement shoot. But it was also magical.
As photographers, a lot of our lives are dictated by the weather. Any day, there are a zillion forces beyond our control that dictate whether or not our day will go...smoothly. Anthony and Sanna were married on one of those torrential-downpour kind of days where all you want to do is curl up under a blanket and read a cozy book made for that kind of weather. But you know what? Everything went fine. It was even fine that Sanna was a tad bit late and thought I was some kind of crazy paparazzi when she first got to the Marriage Bureau- look at that hurried starlet look we got! Amazing! And, despite the inclement weather, sharing an umbrella is always romantic.
It IS possible to have a fun and totally chic baby shower, as evidenced by the lovely mom-to-be Amanda (now proud momma) and her amazing event at Haven's Kitchen in Manhattan. Haven's Kitchen is one of those magical, all-in-one event spaces that has small, beautiful weddings, farm-to-table food, special events and cooking classes. For this event however, they kept it simple and clean- a ladies' brunch, complete with a DIY bellini bar, passed hors d'oeuvres of tiny pancakes, caviar and soup shots as well as a candy bar and cupcakes for guests to take home.
The Players Club is a sweet, historical venue right on Gramercy Park. It was founded by a 19th-century Shakespearean actor named Edwin Booth...also the younger brother of the guy who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. This place served as a clubhouse for society people and the great "players" of the time. They seem to have "lost" the key to the park over the years-- as tends to happen with valuable New York City property like a key to the secret garden of Manhattan-- but no matter. The sidewalk outside did just fine for these two. Veterans of the show biz industry- Jo and Dave appreciated the walls that were lined with painted portraits of famous actors- even making sure we got a portrait of the two of them under the great Martin Short. After a lighting-fast ceremony, we walked around on the mysteriously quiet sidewalks surrounding the park and, once they were warmed up aka forgot about me, got some great stuff. We did the rest of the portraits on the second floor of the Players Club in their grand library room-- see below for the warmth of shelves and shelves of old books, red leather couches and some charming chandeliers.
I didn't get to take many pictures in El Paso. We were too busy working. They had a freak cold snap and in all my efforts to get out of the lingering New York winter I ended up missing the mild heat wave we had in late April in order to experience some rare chilly weather on the Mexico-Texas border.
The landscape in El Paso is barren and flat. There is no vegetation to speak of, not even a cactus in sight as we drove our mini van packed with camera gear up and down the long flat highway that runs parallel to a twenty foot tall fence surrounded by little white patrol vehicles. There is no vegetation, there are no high buildings, and it's close enough to the equator that the sun reigns supreme and resulting in some of the most intense shadows I've ever seen. Everything is stark. Fat cats slept in tiny round shadows under cars on driveways. One of the cops we followed for the show asked me about rent in New York...I estimated that a one-bedroom could cost $2,000 a month. He was blown away by that, said that for $2,000 in El Paso you could rent a whole house, the nicest house in the county. I think about that now and realize I was underestimating by a lot. I think about that now and realize: but then you'd have to live in El Paso.
El Paso has tacos in vast supply, all-female mariachi bands, parks and even a few Vietnamese pho places. I spent most of my time driving a goofy mini-van full of camera equipment and coaching Paula, our PA, on how to ace an interview and who she should and should not date. But what do I know anyway? I was a PA that week too. It's hard work they have to do and I feel bad for them. I spent most of my time examining how the sun fell across buildings and reading Speedboat again and again in an empty van.
We were looking for Muir Woods. But at the fork where you choose to go, quite literally, UP the mountain or DOWN, Mr. Penson and I made the last minute decision to go UP. Up we went. The road curled up and around and up and around and I was for certain we were lost, or at least on the way to a very narrow peak, with a slim expensive observation tower, and a dozen families of tourists with screaming babies. Instead we found ourselves on top of a mountain, surrounded by steep, rolling hills and a fog so dense that I thought we were on the edge of the universe. I walked up the hill slowly, because it seemed there was nothing else around us. It was "I Who Have Arrived in Heaven" but the real-life edition-- not an endless reflecting pool of tiny, twinkling lights, but the inside of a cloud, as seen from the top of a gigantic, round and startlingly green mountain. "They filmed Teletubbies here," Filipp said, helpfully.
The other-worldliness of the West coast is itself a phenomenon. It has inspired every kind of artist. I went there because you cannot possibly feel so bad about things when you are standing on the edge of the universe, looking into the Pacific that goes on forever and ever, dreaming of all the exotic inhabitants that have once been in your place. I met a man who was locked outside his pretty pink house on Oak Street with his bag of groceries. At Golden Gate Park my friend Alan spotted a coyote from across a lake, and it stared at us while we watched its every move, and got closer to it until it disappeared like a ghost. I went to Tartine and ate the most delicious lemon tart for breakfast that gave me a tummy ache. Filipp and I got lost again in the mountains, my boots got brown and muddy.
I know we're well into fall by now, but that film hasn't been developed yet. And once upon a time we drove a couple hundred miles to the lighthouse at the very tip of Long Island, stopping in Amagansett to visit the famous Jack's coffee. I got a Teddy Boy, because the name reminded me of my dad, and also because it was both highly caffeinated and full of cream. It gave me a tummy ache but it was worth it. Then Mr. Penson and I found ourselves driving along this road at the end of the world, knowing full well the beach was just beyond it, seeing it for short stretches before the road dipped back down below the dunes. We couldn't find a parking lot, everything was private, and for a few minutes we felt utterly shut out of the paradise that we'd set out to find. We briefly considered parking illegally and throwing ourselves over a couple fences just to bask in that immaculate sunshine for a few short minutes. Finally, after rounding another curve, we saw a small, hand painted sign that said "Free Parking" with an arrow. We quickly found a spot and also found the Montauk Italian Ice truck, which is by far the best Italian ice on the island. I don't even like Italian ice. Filipp got two of them. Later, we drove out to the lighthouse and made little circles of snails on rocks in the water. When we got back to town, we were the last customer's at Pete's Lobster Shack, and slurped down lobster rolls and corn on the cob in the coming dark.