Way back last spring I photographed Mod Pizza CEO Scott Svenson and his wife Ally Svenson at one of their Seattle locations of the wildly successful Mod Pizza chain. The shoot was just published (my first of the year!) on the latest cover of Franchise Times. Beth Ewen’s great piece details how Mod Pizza is willing to take a chance and provide meaningful employment to people from difficult backgrounds, encouraging loyalty and fostering a healthy workplace. I had a short amount of time to make multiple portrait options for a potential cover, inside opener, and a planned set of pages inside. Fortunately, Scott and Ally were super nice and easy to work with. So were their ace employees, who helped showcase this important story!
Way back in August I had the great pleasure of photographing a section for the Seattle Weekly Voracious Food Guide profiling three different brewery owners known for their hard work and excellent craft beers. I photographed Tommy Ortega at his Ravenna Brewing, Manny Chao at Georgetown Brewing Company and Adam Robbings at Reuben’s Brews (blocks from my house!) It was so cool to step into these guys’ world and hear how they got their start – I had a personal interest as a beer lover and fellow small business owner. Compared to most of my assignments, these were wonderfully slow shoots. Me and the owners and a couple beverages, trying out ideas, hanging out and making pictures.
It’s been a busy month! I photographed Brighton Jones CEO Jon Jones for the cover of Financial Advisor magazine! I had not worked for them in probably two years (and under a different editor) so it was great to get this call in early August to shoot the September cover. They also ran a photo in table of contents and a doubletruck two-page opener! Jon told me about how emotional intelligence drives the policies and actions of the company, it was enlightening and moving. They are very good at their work! It is always cool when you can actually connect on an assignment. His positive attitude and easy demeanor made the shoot a total breeze. Many thanks to the creative team for their support and commission and @Iancbates for help on-site!
Robotics Researcher Sergey Levine for MIT Technology Review 35 under 35 | Seattle editorial photographer
Robots! Labs! Robotic hand labs! Had an awesome shoot back in July that just ran this month in MIT Technology Review. I was commissioned by the art team to photograph and film University of Washington CSE Professor Sergey Levine for #TR35, the magazine’s 35 under 35 feature. Levine has helped pioneer some incredible scientific research on how robotic limbs can be taught to touch and manipulate objects, learning independently through trial and error. I visited the sophisticated lab and was struck by how this robotic hand could be an asset for the future of everything from assembly lines to people requiring fully functioning prosthetic limbs. It was a joy to meet Levine and his co-lead on the ADROIT project, Vikash Kumar. They were gracious with their time and allowed me and my team all the access to do the shoot and get exactly what I envisioned for this story.
It was great to work with Cultured Magazine to illustrate a story profiling Winston-Wachter Fine Art Owner Stacey Winston-Levitan for their Summer 2016 issue. The photoshoot was originally for a cool new client, Discover South Lake Union, which sent me out to photograph a range of business owners and cool people working in the area. My thanks to Stacey for being so cool and welcoming as I took over her beautiful gallery space for an hour back in April. Check out the fun story by Maxwell Williams
This Summer has been filled with lots of interesting yet-to-be-released projects, so please stay tuned!
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.
One of my last and favorite shoots of 2015 was to photograph Korea’s first female astronaut, Soyeon Yi, for Cosmopolitan.com. Yi made headlines in 2008 as she conducted research for 10 days at the International Space Station. Today she volunteers at The Museum of Flight here in Seattle. Big thanks to Soyeon for her time, my assistant Kyu Han for wheeling lights around, and The Museum of Flight for their gracious accommodation!