If you are familiar with downtown Iowa City, you will recognize the name Marc Moen. Marc is a developer in Iowa City. He has done such projects as The Plaza Towers, and Park@201. Marc has literally changed downtown Iowa City, and the surrounding area.
I met Marc through Bobby Jett. When I mentioned to him (Bobby) I was looking for other participants in the Create Iowa City project, his name was the first to come up. An email back and forth, and we had a time set up for some photos. He graciously invited me into his home, which has artwork from around the world. When we met, the first thing I mentioned was the giant African statue that was sitting prominently in the living room. "It's great isn't it?" he said with a smile.
I think that's the first thing you notice about Marc, he seems to always have a positive outlook and a smile. I saw that there was a fireplace next to the space he works. He asked if I would want it lit, and said of course. Fire will always make a photo stand out. Behind his chair is a wall sized blue and yellow art piece. Upon seeing that, I knew what angle the photos were going to be shot at. As I got my camera settings dialed in, we discussed what he is working on now, and peoples reactions to his projects. The most notable of those being the Chauncey Tower. "That's the one with the bowling alley right?" I said, staring at the back of my camera. Marc smiled and said, "Yea, it is. Do you like bowling?" I looked up and couldn't help but laugh. "Of course, how can you not like bowling? Its the one activity everybody can agree on, no matter how bad you are." He said that was true and that with all of his developments, he attempts to incorporate a friendly, welcoming atmosphere. Point made, what could be more welcoming than bowling?
It didn't take long to get the photo I wanted. Blue background, fire place and a distraction free work area? The photo made itself. I thanked Marc for his time, knowing he is busy with a lot more important things than a little blog like mine. He grinned, and said of course.
If you talk to nearly anybody in the Iowa City arts community, they probably know Bobby Jett. Bobby's connections to the Iowa City scene goes beyond the arts. Ask him anything about Iowa City history, and he either knows it, or can connect you directly with the person that does. Somebody with that sort of local influence and connection is perfect for the Create Iowa City project I am working on.
I got a hold of Bobby through Facebook. He seemed excited as soon as I described the project to him. He wasn't sure if his creativity would be suitable. I assured him that what he does is exactly what I want for the project. Bobbys' creativity lies in making pies. If you want one of the pies that you see on the cover of magazines, go to Bobby. He is a master of the craft. He has tried hundreds of recipes, and has gotten his process down perfectly. What makes them even more special, is that the proceeds from them are donated to the Johnson County Crisis Center-Food Bank.
For the photos, Bobby invited me into his home, and kitchen. I am a sucker for a good high end kitchen, and Bobby's is set up for cooking. By the time I had my gear ready, he had already had all his ingredients organized. Almost like they were on display. The kitchen is surrounded by glass walls, so there was an abundance of natural light, which is great. The problem lied in that it was raining outside, and there was no "umph" in the images. To overcome this, I set up a light on the side of the wall. I angled the light as if it was a light from a fridge door that had been left open.
As I wandered around trying to get the angle I wanted for the photos, we discussed his affinity for Iowa City, and where his love of history started. He hand mixed a pie crust for a pie he was making later. Never missing a beat, even with a light going off and talking with me the whole time. Bobby is for sure an artist of pies.
I have a feeling that deep down, everybody likes to make a difference with what they do in their lives. Be it a youth soccer coach teaching teamwork, or a singer that raises awareness for a cause they feel is special. This brings me to Adam Sullivan. While he is not a singer, he does want to bring awareness and change to people and their lives. I have been following Adam's work for years, primarily when he was writing for the Iowa City Press Citizen. When I was able to get a hold of him for the Create Iowa City project, I was excited. It always feels good to meet people who can make a change in the local community.
Adam has worked for several Iowa City newspapers, covering government and politics both locally and statewide. Currently he is helping nonprofit and community organizations with communication and outreach to help them gain awareness in the Iowa City area. When talking with Adam, he is a very active listener. While I was setting my gear up for our shoot, he checked out my website. He found an issue with the blog and some text that seemed out of place. I had explained I couldn't figure out how to change it, and had just left it. He asked what site builder I used, and knew instantly how to fix it. Being quick to process and come up with a solution to a problem seems to come to him naturally.
I had wanted to photograph Adam with a nice sky behind him, but as luck would have it, there was an ice storm the morning of the shoot. Thanks Iowa winter. With getting a decent sky out of the question, we set up at his dining table in his home. Being a journalist, Adam was used to all the camera equipment, and was patient while I was fumbling with trying to get my new softbox set up. Once that was in place, the rest went smoothly. Adam knew where to look, and we chatted about some of the organizations he is helping currently. The whole thing probably took 10 minutes. I like it when stuff goes smoothly.
Adam was inspiring. He knows who to talk to in Iowa City if you feel like something should be addressed. Local outreach is important. Without it, we are just all fumbling along. Thanks go to Adam and all that he does, and being involved in the Create Iowa City project.
If you want more information on Adam, check out his webite: HERE
For more info on the Create Iowa City project, go HERE.
More to come...
Joseph Dobrian is a writer in Iowa City, Iowa. He contacted me to be a part of my Create Iowa City project. We set up a time to shoot in his home office a few days after he contacted me. When I got to his home, I knocked on the door and waited a few minutes. Knock again, wait. No answer. Pull out the phone and double check the date and time. Everything was correct, so I called him. "Hey Joseph. I'm outside your door, are you home?" I asked being cautious that I might have had the wrong time or day.
"Oh hi, I didn't hear you knock. I was listening to some Brazilian music a little loud." he responded. That's the way I like to start photo shoots, good loud music. When he got to the door, he apologized and welcomed me in. We go to his small office. Surrounded by art and books, it was a nice setting for a writer that obviously researches their writing. I had never met Joseph before, and we got to talking about what he writes and what peaks his interests. He told me he is a somewhat controversial figure in Iowa City, because he is politically to the right, but involved in the arts and theater crowd. I could see how that would make somebody stand out here.
For the images, I really wanted to capture his surroundings, especially the George Washington portrait that hangs behind him. Dressed in a vest and tie, Joseph was sophisticated and had a very noir feel. This was amplified by his well worn leather chair and classic wooden desk. Now we can make some pictures. I used my octagonal softbox, which gave a good coverage of light, but let me light him in a way where he stood out against the background.
As I got set up and started to make some images, we talked about his translation of a French true crime novel, The Butcher of Paris, by Jean-François Dominique. I am really into true crime, and a pretty big history buff. Joseph has a way of speaking that makes you want to listen. Detailed and informed, he knows his stuff, and makes you want to learn more about whatever topic you are discussing.
The shoot went quick. I knew the look I wanted and I got it easily. Joseph was a good model and photographed naturally. I knew the shoot was over when one of his cats jumped up and demanded attention. Can't let the humans have all the fun.
You can get more of Joseph on the Create Iowa City blog: HERE
If you want to buy a book, or see his works, you can go to his website: HERE
Thanks to Joseph for giving his time for this.
More to come...
As I had said in a previous post, I am going to be doing blog posts on the people involved in the Create Iowa City project that I am working on. This post is for writer Andy Douglas, a writer in Iowa City. I reached out to Andy after hearing he wrote a memoir about his travels and time in Asia as a traveling monk, I knew I had to meet up with him and hear his story.
Andy works in a small room that doubles as a yoga/meditation space. With a large window, it felt calming being in there. He does most of his writing at a wooden desk facing the window, as you can see above. He offered me a cup of tea, which was welcomed given that it was below zero outside and had just snowed.
There was not a lot of space for a light modifier in the room, so I used a smaller umbrella and closed it down over the flash head. If I had left the umbrella open, aside from hitting the ceiling, it would have filled the whole room with an unflattering, washed out light. The look I was going for can be seen above. One that lit his face well, and had a nice fall off. After reviewing the photos on a larger screen, I wish I had a little reflector to put on his right side, to give that side a little pop in light. Darn.
Once I was getting the lighting I wanted, Andy and I discussed my interest in TM (transcendental meditation). He gave me a few pointers and resources to check out. The conversation drifted into an upcoming book that he is working on, and what his goals for that were. By then, I had finished getting the pictures I wanted and was packing up. Once I had packed, I sat on some very comfortable meditation pillows and we chatted a little more about life and what we were planning and looking forward to. It was really easy to talk with him about pretty much anything.
Unfortunately, I couldn't stay and talk with Andy all day, and eventually had to head out. I thanked him for his time and wished him well on his future book. He in turn, was appreciative of the time, and looked forward to the photos.
If you want more info on Andy or to buy a book, check out Andy's website: HERE.
If you want a quick bio of Andy, head over to my Create Iowa City project: HERE
At the suggestion of Larry Baker, I reached out to Rip as part of my Create Iowa City project. He is an Iowa City based performer, who has acted in several Iowa City theater productions, including Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird”, and Juror #8 in “12 Angry Men”.
For these photos, I did a simple umbrella setup. Light off to the side, closed down just a little over the flash. There was a ceiling fan that made getting the light where I wanted it a little difficult. I tried to use a grid spot, but I had too much harsh light spilling on the background, giving the photos a harsher look than what I was needing. Lighting challenges aside, Rip was easy going. We talked about his performances and how his parrots, Dickens and Harry, like to make a racket once in a wile.
If you want more info about Rip as part of the Create Iowa City project, click HERE
Thank you Rip, and I look forward to seeing a production come summer.
If you recall my last blog post (here) you would know that I am working on a personal project covering local creatives in the Iowa City, Iowa area. Since that post, several more people have stepped up and had portraits done. While I will do a post on each one of them in the very near future, I wanted to get the website that I created for this project out there. I did determine a title for the series. Create Iowa City. You can visit the website by clicking HERE.
Aside from Larry being the willing guinea pig for the first post; so far comedian Nathan Timmel, writers AJ Mahler, and Andy Douglas, and theater performer Rip Russell have all volunteered their time for this. I am very appreciative of each one of them for being involved. You will see more people and information regarding this in the coming weeks. Thanks for staying tuned.
Till next time....
Hi everybody. I have been mulling a personal photo project around in my head for a while. I wanted to capture creative people in the Iowa City, Iowa. I really want to try and get them in "their space". Something like getting a writer at their desk, or a painter in their studio. When we see the finished product of a creative piece, you hardly ever see much of the behind the scenes that went into it. I think that it’s an inherent creative thing. We don't want people to see what we are working on till it's finished. That is the foundation for what I want to get in this project. To see where creatives work, what gets them inspired, and to somewhat promote art in Iowa City.
The first person to sit with me is Larry Baker. He is a writer in Iowa City who has written several books including "The Education of Nancy Adams" and "Flamingo Rising". The later having been turned into a TV movie for Hallmark Hall of Fame. What I enjoy most about his books is the character development. Larry has a way of really bringing the characters into the world that very few writers can do. He is also active politically, having been on the City Council of Iowa City, and most recently sitting on the Board of Adjusters in town.
My lighting setup for this series is going to be simple. Mainly sticking with one light to keep some mood in the photos, and not have everything washed in light. With Larry, we worked in his home office. I used an umbrella and Mag Mod grid spot. His office was perfect to get the right amount of light where I wanted it, even with a large window and full sun outside.
I am going to call this project "Creative Iowa City" for the time being. The name might stick, it might not. These blog posts will be shorter. I want to give a little excerpt about the creative, talk a little about the lighting, and let the photos convey the rest.
This is where you, my valued readers, come in. I am looking for creatives. Painters, writers, glass blowers, wood workers, architects, musicians, producers, you name it. If you are in the Iowa City area, and know of any creative people that would be interested in this project, drop a comment below, or contact me by email. Thanks for reading and thank you to Larry Baker for helping to kick this off.
Till next time...
I have known comedian Tom Garland for several years. When I first got back into photography, I would shoot open mic nights at a local place called The Yacht Club. Tom asked me to do some promo photos which he has used for a few of his comedy albums.
Fast forward a few years and Tom has gone onto do some cool stuff in comedy. From touring with the guys from Jackass to headlining in Las Vegas. I have admired his ability to work the crowd, and how he can incorporate details from them into his set. When he reached out again to do some updated portraits and marketing material, I was all for it.
"I can't book you in Vegas with these pictures.
It doesn't look like you."
I met up with Tom at his place. He wanted a few corporate type headshots for promotional materials. Tom told me he has been using the same photos that we took almost 6 years ago.
"My agent in Vegas has been after me for a year to get this done. He won't even show my picture since I hardly look like that now." Tom said as I set up some basic lighting. I told him that 6 years is a good run for headshots, but we can make some better ones that will keep Vegas happy. We did a few corporate pics. Nothing too fancy, but good enough to get booked in Las Vegas apparently.
Tom needed to grab some stuff from Wal Mart before we started doing some on site photos, so we headed that way. We chatted in the car about his upcoming tour, and what he has been doing since the last time we saw each other. I must say, Tom has come a long way from hosting open mic nights once a week.
We got to our destination and headed inside. He told me that with as much as he tours, its almost cheaper to buy a $3 shirt and $2 pack of underwear than to try and find a laundrymat. Traversing the asiles, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a row of adult size onsies. We looked through quick and then it appeared from the heavens. The pink bunny suit from the move "A Christmas Story."
I grabbed it. "This is it. We will make this work." "Shit yea." Was Tom's reply. Luckily it looked like it would fit him perfectly. We were going for a grungier, dirty look for this shoot, so Tom suggested getting some cheap beer and dirtying up the bunny suit to fit the look we were going for.
"She just had to make eye contact."
Tom grabbed a few other things he needed before he headed out for a month long tour with wrestler Rob Van Dam.
"Let's hit the self check out. I don't need to be judged buying this rabbit outfit at Wal Mart." Tom said looking around for toothpaste.
We headed to the check out area and got in the shortest line. "You can use this kiosk, it is open.", an employee blurted out, waiving us over to a free scanner. She proceded to start the transaction for us, when she saw the outfit. To be fair, it was probably pretty hard to not see an adult sized pink onsie.
The employee mentioned it as soon as she saw it. "Oh, I love this. I got my boyfriend one last week." Tom was doing everything he could to not burst out laughing. I had to stifle a chuckle as well.
We grabbed our bags, said thank you, and made a b-line to the door. We both lost it as we got out of the store. "I was doing fine till she looked at me. She just had to make eye contact to really drive the point home." he stamered through fits of laughter.
We joked about it even more once we got in the car. I said it was a good way to start a tour. He agreed. Tom pulled into a liquor store and asked what beer we should get. I thought the cheapest beer possible. Not like it was going to be ingested. As luck would have it, the cheapest beer had a big logo on the side, and would work great for the photos. You would be able to read it and let viewers judge Tom even more.
Tom told me there was a construction site close to his house with a dirt pile that would work to throw the outfit around in, and we wouldn't get in trouble for opening a beer or two. Got there and took a quick scan of the area. He wanted to do a few portraits with the construction equipment as a backdrop before we started slinging mud around. Knocked those out and then the fun started.
I grabbed the suit from his car and Tom grabbed the beer. Our thinking was that getting the suit wet then rubbing dirt on it would make it the right amount of grungy. I cut one of the ears to really make it look like hell. Smearing beer and wet dirt on a bunny suit in near freezing temps makes for cold hands, and an even colder suit. Tom jumped into the suit. (Pun not really intended.) "It's a little wet and cold." he said as he zipped it up.
"Is that a "thats what she said" joke?" I asked. Tom laughed and thought that it very well could be. I grabbed my camera and flash and told Tom to just relax and make it look like he just got off work and is having a beer.
I took a few test shots and took it from there. I used my MagMod grid spot since it was pretty windy out, and an umbrella would have sailed to China if I had used one. Doing this gave more of a harsh light look, which helped the mood we were going for in the photos.
The sun started to set as we wrapped up the photos. I showed Tom what we had gotten and he told me which ones he liked. This would help me in editing so I knew which ones to focus on for delivery of the images. We chatted a little bit more about his tour and what he has planned after that. I consider Tom a good friend, and it was really nice to catch up.
When he isn't touring with any number of the guys from Jackass, or famous wrestlers, you can find Tom in the Cedar Rapids, Iowa area. Currently he is on the west coast leg of his tour with comedian and wrestler Rob Van Dam. If you want more info on Tom, check out his website at:
Thanks for the laughs and fun shoot Tom.