Got approached to do a cool shoot for my longtime client, Cityvision, last month, focusing on the innovative efforts of Everett to combat the issue of homelessness.
By opening new shelters and affordable housing, and stopping the revolving doors of the criminal justice system, Everett is finally doing something productive on the matter.
The magazine’s art director had coordinated access to do the shoot on top of the Wall Street Building in downtown Everett. In my naivety I thought, ok, we’ll get to the highest floor, pop out a roof hatch, and be shooting in no time.
photo by matt mills mcknight
But when we got to the 10th floor, the PR person let us know we went on foot from there. We emerged on a sub level of the roof, surrounded by a 6-foot-tall parapet. I couldn’t understand why we would do the shoot there — you couldn’t see anything. Then he pointed to the ladder. Did I mention I hate heights?
My assistant, Matt Mills McKnight, and I worked out a plan to get the lighting gear up to the actual roof. We packed two heads into the beauty dish case, which I put onto my back. Matt carried my camera bag. Then we held on for dear life. The most impressive part though is that all three of our subjects were game to participate and climb too. What troupers! If nothing else, this job makes for some very interesting bar stories. Many thanks to City of Everett Lead Prosecutor Hil Kaman, Deputy City Attorney David Hall, and Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson.
I worked on a fun piece for KUOW 94.9 about an all-girls jazz ensemble hoping to compete in the prestigious Essentially Ellington competition in New York. They asked me to write a little bit about the experience:
This was my second time working with reporter Marcie Sillman. We arrived about 30 minutes before the girls were set to begin their regular weekly night practice at Washington Middle School.
In the moonlit parking lot, I loaded a cadre of stands and lights onto a dolly cart and rolled toward the school, the sweet scent of the Franz Bread Factory next door cascading by. We passed the gymnasium and basketball scrimmage and headed into the band room, where I met briefly with the group’s director, Kelly Barr-Clingan. I took her suggestion to set up in the back practice spaces where I could be out of the way while they did their thing.
KUOW Digital Director Jenna Montgomery was inspired by the idea of Kelly at the center of a Brady Bunch-style portrait, and I went to work setting up a mini portrait studio complete with electric blue backdrop. Marcie wandered off to interview Kelly and record the practice.
It was warm in there and I could hear the performers tuning their instruments as I took practice shots on myself to quickly test the settings. I made some final adjustments to the lights and went to the boy’s locker room to wipe my face.
The girls walked over in small groups, and sat down one by one. I told them they could do whatever they wanted to start. Then I asked them to play their instrument a bit, or to sing me something they knew.
With only about an hour to photograph each of the girls in the group, time was limited. I wanted to see their personalities. I wanted to see the passion.
You have to build trust pretty quickly. I do that by keeping things light and fun, being friendly, and acknowledging the sometimes awkwardness of the process. You do this for long enough and you know what fears to assuage.
As I sat on a piano bench across from them and clicked away for a minute or two, I was impressed to hear these amazing acoustic and acapella performances. It was a moving and beautiful experience and I wish all of these talented musicians best of luck in this competition and the years ahead.
Back in March I got a surprising phone call. It was about 6 in the evening on a Monday and a producer at North6 was searching for a photographer to shoot for a Google project. Where? A remote Alaskan town. When? That weekend. I half expected a radio DJ to burst out laughing on the other end. But the assignment was to photograph an aerial tour guide in Talkeetna, a few hours north of Anchorage, as part of Google’s state-by-state Economic Impact Report highlighting how small businesses use Google services. I hoped for a chance to fly around Denali, but alas, that shoot became impossible due to scheduling. But I stayed in touch with the client and fortunately there were opportunities to take on assignments for the project in far more familiar places.
I photographed Portland Meat Collective Founder Camas Davis in Oregon, then Sip & Ship Owner Diana Naramore in Seattle, and flew to Boise, Idaho, to photograph Tsheets.com Founder Matt Rissell on a quick there-and-back trip April 1st.
Earlier this month I had a great assignment to photograph marijuana edibles for The New York Times, which wanted to showcase some of the more unusual and interesting pot products on the market. I collaborated with my regular food stylist, Malina Lopez, to capture the character of these special almonds, cookies, teas and coffee pods. The treats are available to purchase at many Washington state recreational marijuana stores. But you got to be 21.
Products photographed: Marijuana-infused Legal pomegranate tonic by Mirth Provisions, Sativa Brownie Bites by Spot, Chili-lime Almonds by Winterlife Cannabis, 4.20 Bar by Evergreen Herbal, Coffee pods by Fairwinds Manufacturing, Platy’s Premium Peanut Butter Cookie by Winterlife Cannabis, Original Caramel by Cannamel’s, Vegan-friendly Mocha Truffle by Verdelux, Chai High Tea by Evergreen Herbal, and Lemongrass Zootdrops by Zoots. Photo by Daniel Berman for The New York Times. Styling by Malina Lopez.
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Northwest Justice Project Attorney David Tarshes for Duke Law Magazine | Seattle editorial photographer
I had a great assignment from Seattle Weekly earlier this month to photograph Cary Moon, an activist and urban designer who opposes continued development of the Bertha tunnel project. For those not living in Seattle, the waterfront highway a.k.a the Highway 99 Viaduct, is being torn down and replaced with a tunnel. The project has been plagued with problems and delays, some technical, some bureaucratic — all expensive. Check out the story for a much more thorough peek into why this divisive issue matters so much. We battled the wind on top of Pier 86 in downtown for a view of the skyline and then moved to under the viaduct for another view of the city.
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It’s not every day that you get to see and hear a piece of history. Make that pieces. I got an assignment last week from KUOW to photograph Charles Corey, the 30-year-old caretaker of the Harry Partch instruments collection at the University of Washington School of Music. In a fun story by Marcie Sillman you can actually hear the renowned, intricate instruments. Partch created the instruments between the 1940s and 1970s, and they are based on the Just Intonation scale, not anything like what we are used to hearing from traditional instruments. You can find some really intense theatrical productions of Partch’s arrangements on Youtube too that help put his life’s work in context. He wasn’t just a composer and musician, he was also a playwright and auteur.
My first assignment for Seattle Weekly was this cover shoot for a sensitive story about Alison Holcomb and Gregg Holcomb’s unique histories. Alison was the writer and public face of Initiative 502, which legalized recreational marijuana in 2012 here in Washington. Her husband Gregg is the owner of the Capitol Hill bar Witness. Her story as a drug law reformer and activist for criminal sentencing reform intertwine with her husband’s tragic reality. His father was murdered. He is alone among his siblings in calling for rehabilitation for the murderer, and not a life sentence. There is so much more to this powerful story by Nina Shapiro, please give it a read.
I had a great opportunity earlier this Fall to shoot a story on Seattle’s coffee and chocolate culture for a Dutch travel/coffee/chocolate magazine called Koffietcacao. Over two long days, I had a blast exploring some of the city’s favorite shops, while also gathering images that spoke to the lifestyle in our city and captured a few scenic sights along the way. My mind raced after each day, it was impossible not to sample coffee at nearly every place I went. Have you ever had six cups of coffee in a day? I did it for….journalism. All in all, the publication ran my photos across six pages and even gave me a doubletruck opener! What more can a photographer ask for than a great assignment and great play?
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You know those color wheels, the ones with samples of every conceivable hue from Pantone? I got the chance last month to photograph Pantone Executive Director Leatrice Eiseman. She’s a color expert. American Way Magazine is the in-flight publication from American Airlines and they interviewed Lee for their monthly In-Brief column. My assistant and I hopped on a ferry over to Bainbridge Island to meet Lee at her beautiful home nestled in the woods. Her walls are covered with art and past interviews in prestigious magazines and books. We set up a white seamless and lights in her upstairs office, trying to not disturb the two designers working a few feet away at their iMacs. For the published shot, I asked her to hold a copy of Pantone’s new book about the role of color in fashion over the years. It’s not every day that I get to photograph people whose work has such an influence in my own personal field!
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