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.
Photographed @snoopdogg for @nwleaf back in April and it was one of the craziest shoots of my career. Asked for 1 minute and got 39 seconds – did two setups and managed 23 photos. Arrived two hours early and up until I had Snoop in front of my camera wasn’t entirely sure it would actually happen🙂 Big thanks to Will and Ryan for making that possible! Snoop was friendly but quiet, and flashed a bunch of poses at me without talking. I asked him to look up toward my light in one – and then his manager said alright lets go. Such a quick encounter as these tend to be.
Afterward, Snoop was posing for photos and signing autographs for fans at @haveaheartrec_ – I had a kind of crazy idea to light Snoop while he was posing with other people and got the go ahead to keep shooting. I convinced my assistant @taylorfeistphoto to jump in and hold up a piece of black seamless behind Snoop for a couple of seconds at a time. Taylor convinced his security guards. It was working! But just as soon, the legend had to take off. One of those shoots you prepare hours for and its over in a puff of smoke.
Thanks for looking!
On May 5th, the Donald Trump campaign announced they would be visiting the Northwest for two stops on May 7th: one all the way in Eastern Washington, and the other all the way in Lynden. I decided to head up to Lynden at the crack of dawn for the two-hour drive and make portraits of attendees and supporters as a personal project. When I arrived six hours before the rally, there were at least 200 people already in line, stretching down the street outside the Northwest Washington Fairgrounds. Pushing around a beauty dish on a rolling lightstand, I stopped to ask people to make their picture, while others would flag me down and ask what I was up to. I got lots of questions about who I was working for, where I lived, and what did I personally believe? Still, everyone was very accommodating and it was exciting to see the energy in the area even as supporters endured long lines and hours in the sun (fyi, I’m still sunburnt). It was a fun and historic day to document – the little town of Lynden will probably never entertain another presidential candidate, as many supporters noted.
Since I did not have press credentials, I was unable to bring my lighting or large digital SLR into the rally – and believe me, I tried🙂 Ahead of time, I obtained a free ticket into the event. I packed up my gear and retrieved the small Samsung NX500 point and shoot that I keep in my glovebox. I was able to bring that in fortunately and document the actual rally. As people waited and took selfies with friends, organizers played a handful of songs over and over. “Can’t always get what you want” by the Rolling Stones certainly seemed like an odd choice.
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!
One of my final assignments of 2015 was to photograph BioViva CEO Liz Parrish for OZY.com, which just published a five-part story on the biggest ideas of the future coming out of Silicon Valley. Parrish, 44, who heads a Seattle-based gene therapy research company, recently traveled to the country of Colombia to receive experimental stem cell transplants designed to reverse signs of aging — it was a controversial operation rebuked by some as unethical human experimentation. A colleague gave her only days to live several months ago, she said. Parrish said she believes that the issue of aging is too important for science to ignore.
I have only photographed a few people more than once for a portrait so the chance to point my camera toward the CEO of Amazon again for a few minutes made for a pretty surreal morning earlier this month. Jeff Bezos convincingly pretended to remember me as we worked through a few setups and I asked him if Donald Trump ever replied to his tweet offering a rocket ship ride (he hasn’t) and he let out of one of his trademark chuckles. He takes direction well and laughed at my dumb jokes. Perfect subject. Before I knew it, an assistant was calling time and he thanked me and walked out. One of those mornings that are way too early and over way too quickly. Photographed for Welt am Sonntag, a German newspaper http://welt.de Big thanks to my assistant @jovellephoto too for her help. This is one of my last tear sheets of the year and it was an awesome time.
I had an awesome two-day assignment from The Verge last month to photograph Microsoft Game Studio’s Kudo Tsunoda and Shannon Loftis for a story about the XBOX One and new directions for Microsoft. Editor Michael Zelenko asked me to also capture the feeling of working at Microsoft’s Studio C, located on the company’s sprawling Redmond, WA campus. On both days the weather was pretty bad, as it tends to be in November around these parts, but I actually thought it signaled a kind of classic Washington vibe in the exterior shots. The story is a great read so make sure to check it out. Happy Holidays!