Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Finally, time for an update

Attorney John P. Galligan will represent Major Nidal Malik Hasan for his murderous rampage that left 13 dead and injured 30 at Fort Hood in November:

A few weeks ago the Dallas Morning News called about photographing Colonel Galligan, the attorney famous for representing soldiers on trial. After a few attempts to schedule a day and time we met at his office in Belton on a dreary Tuesday afternoon. He was very friendly, welcoming and accomodating as I explained what I was trying to accomplish in photographing him. He kept repeating himself saying with his native Texan accent something along the lines of "wow, what is all this stuff? I thought you were just gonna walk in here and snap, snap and be on your way... You're a real professional, I can tell, not like those other photographers."

It was a compliment I genuinely appreciated as I worked very hard to set up multiple sets and positions to give my editors options. Going into the assignment I knew I wanted try and shoot him on seamless to make a well lit, tight clean headshot. I set up the paper renegade style, measure the light and went to work with Galligan. It was a lot of fun working in this way and caused for a positive interaction between he and I as we warmed up the shoot. I set up another lighting set up near a waterway and walking path to do some full length portraits. I wanted to show him for who he is, just being himself. But also given the context of the story I wanted to highlight his own characteristics; adjusting the tie, diverse facial expressions, optimistic personality.

In the end the story ran on Sunday's A1 and jumped to the top diptych on A20. I was impressed that it ran as I envisioned. Read the story here.

Austin runner Jeff Lahr's wife, Erin, died last year during the Whiterock Marathon in Dallas as she collapsed at mile 23:

A few days later, I had the privilege to meet Jeff Lahr and photograph him for the Dallas Morning News. He was an incredibly accomodating person as I photographed him Thursday evening after he got off work and before he went back to work for an emergency. He gave me time and patience to do multiple lighting and location set ups throughout his condo. We talked a lot about his wife's unexpected death and I was impressed at his ability to be strong through such a tragedy. Photos of Erin hang throughout the condo and Jeff ran the race this past Saturday in a relay format with 20 plus friends and supporters. Its always impressive for a group of people, many strangers in this case, rally behind some one going through something challenging. The top photo ran as the lead on Saturday's A1 cover. Read the story here.

Disabled rowers training for the 2012 Paralympics:

Back a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet a diverse group of disabled people, learning to row and trying out for the 2012 paralympic rowing team. It was impressive to say the least. I was again working with Austin American Statesman writer Pam LeBlanc for her column and looking forward to making some powerful photos. It took 2 days to cover this story because the first day it was 50 degrees and pouring rain.

We went out on a boat with one of the staff at the Austin Rowing Center and I would make a few pictures of the group on the water then quickly hide my camera in my gortex jacket to keep it from getting soaked. It was challenging and wish I had brought my camera's raincover. As the athletes came in from morning practice I was able to interact and make some photos of them bringing in the boat or reattaching their prosthetics.

The second day I came back because I thought these people impressed me with their ability to overcome life changing experiences and channel their energy to a sport. I set up my lights on the row center's dock and made portraits before they started practice. My goal was to show each person and their injury or disability. They were all great sports about participating in the photo project and I was excited to have the opportunity like this.

A friend described the way I photograph as "taking genuine interest people that I photograph, committing myself to them with undivided attention and an almost (childlike) wonderment."
I found his analysis interesting and complimentary to me, my outlook on life and approach to photography. Similar to the commitment of the disabled athletes overcoming their own personal obstacles to pursue rowing. They a 2 page color spread on the cover of Monday's Life/Arts section, but you can still see some of the photos and read Pam's story here.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Zulu at 100 books on sale in New Orleans

To coincide with PhotoNola week in New Orleans my Zulu at 100 books are on sale at 2 galleries in New Orleans; Coup d'Oeil Art Consortium on Magazine in the Lower Garden district and The Darkoom on Sophie Wright Pl. just down the street.

Big thanks to Ken and Charles for making this happen!

If you happen to be in New Orleans please check them out. They are handmade, limited edition series of 137, archivally printed from silver gelatin scans and each one has been individually typed on a Corona typewriter. Email me at Ben@BenSklar.com for more info. They make great gifts.

Photos of the books at Coup d'Oeil provided by Ken Capone! Thanks!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Grant W Anderson

During Thanksgiving week I got to hang out with my friend who was in town from New York. After the dissolving of The Lords, for which Grant was the drummer, he is spreading his wings creatively and i gave him a few starting lessons about photography. We philosophized about visual communication versus music. I think he found it rewarding to see instantaneous results on the screen of a digital camera from an image he created. He really understood aperture, balancing light and shutter speed pretty quickly. Maybe he'll get a camera and start shooting?

The top photos is between Casa 808 and my 1950s Traveleze trailer. The bottom photos are the leaves growing on the vines on the side of Casa 808, pretty amazing sight. Thanks to Rachel for making stellar hot chocolate and holding a reflector!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Weeks away, working... MJ is back!

I've been so busy and backlogged with work that it's been over two weeks since I've posted... As I mentioned I was with the Harris family who now lives in New Mexico for nearly two weeks until they had their third child. It was the most amazing thing I've ever seen. Often I'm photographing intense moments of sadness or grief, but this was the most intense moment of joy. I'm still working on an edit of the photos, but am happy I was able to shoot and participate in the birth.

I immediately after I got back from NM I produced the Slideluck Potshow multimedia event with Lance Rosenfeld and Kelly Lynn James. Thanks to Brandon Wilde of Austin Multimedia Group for helping us so much and letting us invade his space for days leading up to SLPS Austin II. The show was stacked with talent and an outstanding night overall; 500 people came out and we had a in/out line at the door. I even sold one of my Zulu books!

On Friday and Saturday I got to hang out in the rain with Statesman writer Pam Leblanc and photograph disabled rowers participating in a paralympic mini camp. Many of them were Veterans or associated with the military and others were born disabled. It will be an amazing story when i comes out. I was so excited about these folks I went back Saturday morning to shoot portraits of them all... the story hasn't run yet, so I'll have to wait to update the photos.

You may noticed some changes here, thanks to Drew Tieken for working hard to bring a fresh look to the website and adding new batches of work. I also worked my email to be Ben@BenSklar.com, so email me.

Thanksgiving was outstanding. My sister came in from LA and mom from BR. I made pumpkin pie from scratch with basic ideas i had from the Harris. No sugar! My mom called in Pumpkin Mousse, thanks Aimee and Jeff...

Back to work, on Thanksgiving I got a very considerate email from a NYT sports editor asking about my availability on Monday (this week). I said I was free and turns out I was going to meet and shoot Marion Jones. No details, just shoot Marion Jones. So I thought I was shooting a portrait until I arrived to a very nice community church gym in northeast San Antonio. Turned out she was getting back to her roots and going try and make a comeback as a WNBA basketball player. I was there with Bill Rhoden, NYT sports writer, to bring the news to the world. I was privileged to be a part of this story. She was super nice and a good person. Hard to imagine the things she did in her Olympic days, steroids and accomplishments. After photographing her in working out then shooting hoops for 4 hours or so, I finally got a few minutes to do a portrait next to a window. I told her representative that I wanted to shoot her outside on the street with some nice lighting set up. He thought it was a good idea. As she wrapped up her interviews with an ESPN crew and said good byes to Kevin Blackistone, who was writing for AOL, and Bill, I set up my lights one block away on a neighborhood street with a clean back ground. She came over with Rich, her rep., and I shot for probably a minute and a half. She was soaked from head to toe and exhausted from her workout. Not to mention she had to drive back to Austin to pick up her kids from school and daycare. Despite the 40 degree weather, she stepped up and let me make some portraits. Thanks Marion, good luck with hoops.

The story ran on the front of Tuesday sports with two photos, if you didn't see it you can read Bill's story here.