Tag Archives: photography

Rediscovering the Magic of Photography

[The group of us at John Coffer’s Farm studying Wet Plate Photography.  I’m on the left in the back…]

I’ve been a professional photographer for around 18 years now.  In that time, I dedicated 6 wonderful years in the U.S. Navy as a photographer.  This is truly where I fell in love with photography as a process and an art.  Back then, it was all film.  Black & white, color, darkrooms, chemicals..it was crusty and dirty, but it was fun!   🙂  The processes were harder to do, but really satisfying when it was done right.  When I was in the darkroom and I saw the image coming up from a print in the developer, it really was magical.

Well, time has marched on and things have gotten simpler and more accessible to the masses.  Digital has come of age and photography has become…truly…easy.  Now, I’m not saying anything about anyone’s talent, or eye, or anything related to their photography being good or bad, I’m just talking about the process.

We’ve come a long way, but there is something to be said for taking the long road, or the road less travelled.  Taking your time and doing things by hand.  I was in search of just such a thing when I visited the farm of John Coffer to learn from him the skills and techniques needed to shoot Wet Plate successfully.

Instagram has proven to society that what it wants is what we once had…what once was.  Borders on images, light leaks, scratches on film, different color temperatures, square formats, polaroids…all of it.  We, as a society, are eating it up.  What we are trying to get is what we once had, but easier, simpler, NOW.   We are living in the very spoiled age of instant gratification.  Anything we want is at our fingertips, to a point that if something takes too much time, it gets discarded and a faster, easier route is looked for.

I found out about wet plate photography and was completely enamored with it.

It’s name, Wet Plate Photography, comes from the fact that you have to put a wet chemical, collodion, on a surface(glass, tin, aluminum).  Then, you have around 10 minutes to shoot and develop that plate(time depends on the heat/environment) before it dries up.  After it dries up, you don’t get an image.  So it’s challenging in the field, but very do-able.  The final result is so unlike any other form of photography.  It’s beautiful.

Each glass negative, ambrotype, or Tintype made takes around 30 minutes or more to make from start to finish.  It slows you down and makes you think about what you’re shooting.

My trip to John Coffer’s farm in the woods was born out of a desire to get back some of the simple joy it is to see the image come up again in front of me, get my hands dirty, and create something from nothing.   I didn’t realize I missed it until I started buying polaroid and film again.  The analog nature of it was giving me something that digital just didn’t.  I didn’t want it, “simple”, anymore.  I wanted to put the magic back into photography.

So what this post covers is my journey to John’s farm and some of the experiences and photos taken during my time taking his class.  What I can say unequivocally  is that is was a profoundly eye opening experience and one that I would like to share.

This is just the first step, the first experience, in what will be an ongoing exploration of this early art of photography.

It all started with a long drive, just me and Delilah(My Zipcar)   😉

Definitely one of the things I miss living in the city…trees, mountains, fresh air, wide open expanses.

At the lodge now…loving the sky.

I‘m off to Coffer’s now.  You know you’re getting close when you hit the dirt roads.  He’s a little bit off the beaten path.

We have arrived.  This is also John’s only form of communication.  He doesn’t have a phone and he’s proud of it.  U.S. Mail all the way… 😉

So This is where it all happens.  The tent in the middle has a darkroom, a sink, and is filled with all kinds of historical cameras, lenses, and old tintypes.  This is where he did most of the teaching, although we shot all over the farm.

This is what John rode around in for 11 years pulled by Oxen at 2 miles an hour.  He was recreating the life of a 19th century photographer.  It’s got a full darkroom inside.  If this thing could talk…

The deep sink for washing and fixing the plates.

This is called a, “Dark Box” and is what you use in the field to develop your plates.  It’s basically a portable darkroom.  I need to build one that can fit in the back of an SUV so I can take this show on the road. 🙂

These are all the chemicals you need to do wet plate.  On the left, in the box is your Silver Nitrate bath.  The yellow liquid is your developer, then the little bottle is Collodion, and lastly, a jug of water to pour on your print to stop developement.

Here’s a few shots of John’s home and some shots of the farm…


This is John fixing the plate he shot of the class.

This is the first portrait I did of John.   It’s also my first plate.  We started out small as it’s easier to get a handle on how to put the collodion on the plate that way.  It’s a 4×5 tintype.  You can click any of the images in this post to see them bigger.

This is me fixing the second plate I did of John.  It was shot on Ruby Glass.

This is the image in the above video that I shot of John.  The Ruby Glass prior to me shooting it(below).

John, shot through the ruby glass filter…teaching away.

In general, the farm is awesome.  As I live in New York City, I need my nature fix to get me balanced.  He’s got many animals on the farm.  Horses, a donkey, cows, bulls, a cat or two…and lots of chickens.  I have come to appreciate how cool chickens are during my time at John’s.  They will just randomly follow you  around the farm.  They’ve just got one thing on their mind…food.

I found out they like Doritos, donuts, pretty much anything that we consider food, they’re good with.

With that in mind, for one of my plates, I decided to dedicate one to, “The Chicken Whisperer”.  See below.  The chicken actually stood pretty still for this…lol.

This is the glass plate negative(clear glass) that I shot and the albumen print  made from that glass plate(below).

Below is the albumen print, “cooking” in the sun.  Very cool process to create your own photographic paper from egg whites(albumen) and silver nitrate.


Here’s the “Chicken Whisperer” getting fixed.  I had thought I was shooting vertically, but I had put the plexi holder in horizontally.  Fortunately, I had framed him up in the center and still got a good image…lol.

So after lots of instruction, we were off shooting what we wanted to on the farm.  I set up a few shots in the woods.  This is the first time I’m getting to use the camera I bought.  It’s an Anthony Climax Imperial Camera, 8×10 camera.  As I have not gotten a tripod for the camera, I used one of John’s wooden benches to get some lower angle shots.

Getting my Luke Skywalker in the swamp moment.

Another little solarization in the bottom right hand corner.   You can see the nice swirly bokeh in the top of the shot.  That comes from the Petzval lens design in the old brass lenses.  This lens is a Voightlander.   I love it as I plan on doing portraits with it and it has a very short depth of field when the bellows is extended.

So John was telling me, when I asked about putting the camera back into the bull’s pasture to be careful as they like to, “investigate” things as a bull had knocked his camera over once before.  Of course, I didn’t listen.  Now, I had to go get the bench, place it, then go back and get the camera.  This  is what I saw when I got back.  They were “investigating” the bench.  It’s a good thing I had not brought the camera out there yet. 😉

My last two plates I shot at the farm were of John and his girlfriend Ann.  I’m very excited by these as I’m looking to do more portraits via glass plate negatives and tintypes.

As we were in his house learning to do albumen prints, I saw him from the side and thought a profile photo would be nice.  You can see the head brace in the shot as well.  I think the exposure here was 4 seconds in open shade.

And one of Ann…

I love both of these.  Ann has such character.  The beauty is in the little details, and also in the  mistakes.  The top left hand corner of John’s did not get processed very well, so when I took it out of the dark box, the sun hit it, then I fixed it, solarizing the corner a little.  The blue line on the right is where the collodion was a little thick and did not quite develop.  So, technically, there are some issues, but that’s also part of the fun.  You never really know how it’s going to turn out until you develop and fix it.

Finally, we get to the Mammoth Plates.  John has a 20×24 camera that we each got to shoot.  It was much more difficult to prepare, shoot and develop.  I was wanting to go big, but I think I’ll be shooting 8×10 for a while.  There’s plenty of time for that later.

This is me pouring collodion onto the mammoth with John’s help.  Not so easy. 😉

Here’s my 20″ x 24″ Mammoth plate image.  So I was going for a little, “Cowboys and Aliens” here.  John was a good sport to put on the glasses, grab one of his vintage guns, and get into the act. 😉

At the end of the day, we all gathered around the fire and cooked up some brats, had a beer, and relaxed.  It’s a lot of work carrying around those cameras, tripod(or bench in my case), setting up the shot, getting the plates poured…going to shoot it…going back to develop it.  Finding out it’s not right, and doing it all over again. Then finally, Fixing it, washing it, drying it, and varnishing it.  It really is great fun and I’m already planning my future shoots.

Thanks for reading.  I hope you enjoyed this look into my first experience shooting Wet Plate Photography.

Now where’s that DSLR of mine…gotta go make some money to pay for all the chemistry and materials now!   😉

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Fashion Night Out

Ok, another post that’s taken me a while to get around to…four months or so, but who’s counting. 😉  Had a great shoot in and around the High Line and the Meat Packing District.  It’s one of the few areas in New York that still have the old cobblestone streets.  Only a few years ago, meat packing was a rough place and stank to high hell with all of the meat packing plants there.  Now, most of the plants are closed, and the district has become the next big shopping mecca, but it still has the look that I wanted…

So we started hair and makeup around 4pm at my studio…thinking we’d leave for the 1st look around 6:30pm.  Well, I think we got in the location van about 7:30…a little behind as I wanted to get more of the twilight, but you roll with the changes.  We got everyone in the location van and took off.  We started off on the High Line, which was surprisingly fine with a crew of people setting up shop and shooting.  I was concerned that the people working for the High Line would take issue with people shooting there.  As I thought, however, it goes back to the principle of, “If you aren’t preventing people from moving through an area and your crew is fluid and can move where it needs to, you’re ok”.  The rules of, can you shoot in New York with or without a permit, only really apply if you want to stop traffic or block a street from pedestrians from coming through your set.  If you’re fluid, you’re generally good.

We shot this while we had a guard coming over to us and saying, nicely, “10 minutes to closing”…which was nice of them.  They didn’t have any issue with us shooting there, they just wanted us out on time.

So we headed out on the street, I believe this is Gansevoort St…with the Gansevoort Hotel in the background.  I’m a huge fan of mixing strobe and ambient light, be it outside in full daylight or, as in this shot, using the city lights at night as the ambient.  Time exposure, around 1-2 seconds + Beauty dish strobe.

Here we are taking a break at our location van/changing station…

Onto the next shot…

This one was difficult.  I was walking back with the model, still at about 1 sec exposure, and had my assistant James walking back as well with the strobe, trying to keep the distance the same so the exposure is good.  We did this eight or nine times and I ended up liking two images.  So this is two of the individual images put together in post.  Other than that, there’s not much done to them.  All of the blurring and colors were done in camera.

Loved the storefront from Christian Louboutin and the colors it gave off on the model.

I liked the way the red dress and stockings were set off from the blue/silver background.  Also another image put together in post from two single vertical shots.  This wasn’t an easy thing to do.  La Boutique Creative Retouching did a great job making it look seamless.

Now onto our last and most traumatic look.   It was 2am and we were all tired.  Maria’s ponytail was so tight it was becoming painful.  We were all happy that David and Moani had packed up the car and moved it down the street to the end of 27th and the west side highway.  We were ready to go once the look was done.  They then came to join us while we finished up the last look.  The look itself was easy and done in 20 minutes.

We were maybe a 5 minute walk from the location van.   We finished up and started walking back.  We got back to where we had parked the location van….

and it was gone…

So there we were, staring at each other…mildly freaking out.  We were only gone 15 minutes, which means someone was watching and waiting for us to leave.  The only question is…stolen, or towed??  I looked at a sign on the wall and it looks like we were in a tow-zone at night.  Moani, the clear headed thinker that she is, knew about the Tow Yard around 30th and the West Side Highway.  We took off in a cab to the tow yard…

So while I’m in line checking to see if the tow yard had it, Moani took a little video to capture the moment…did they have it or was it stolen???

So, yes, they had it and it took another hour and a half, plus tickets and fees to get our lives back…clothes, camera equipment, etc…which was about 3:30am.  It ended well, but not without a dramatic flair. 🙂  Thanks again to my wonderful crew who put up with a late start and even LATER finish…

THE Crew:

Photography by James Weber, www.jamesweberstudio.com
Styled by David Widjaja, www.introartists.com
Makeup by Moani Lee, www.moanilee.com
Hair by Nelson Vercher, www.utopianyc.com
Model:  Maria Beljanina, www.majormodel.com
Photographic Assistance:  James Sullivan, www.1prophoto.com
Retouching:  La Boutique Creative Retouching, www.laboutiqueny.com



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The Kanji Cosmetics Project – Skin’s Signs

Late last year, I had a wonderful collaboration with two amazing artists on a very interesting, conceptual still life project.  We started the project with seven kanji signs: Love, Life, Harmony, Dream, Happiness, Flower, and Strength.  The idea was to create these signs using cosmetics in an interesting, visual way.  The thing I liked most about this project was the complete creative freedom that was given to us by Hea7en Magazine, where it was run.

I almost didn’t take this on as the actual doing, writing, creating of the kanji symbols in cosmetics to me was very daunting.  In comes my savior, Moani Lee.  Aside from being an amazing makeup artist, Moani also brought to the table the ability to write/create the kanji symbols.  As this is a beauty cosmetics story, I would need someone that really knew the cosmetics and how they interacted with each other.  A story board might also be nice…Problem solved.  Moani came through on all fronts.  She story boarded the project, which was genius….and we got started.

Moani and I got together and went shopping for the accessories that we needed down the street in the Flower District of New York.  I love having that street so near to me as it provides so many great props for shooting different genres.  So we walked out of the store with about $50 in props, that on another day, wouldn’t have caught your gaze, but I knew they would be perfect for our shoot.  So while Moani worked on creating the cosmetic art for me to shoot, I worked on lighting the scene so that each one would have it’s own look and feel.

The last piece of the puzzle was the graphic design work.  We wanted something on the opposite page that reflected what the kanji symbol looked like, but we didn’t know where to go or how to do it.  Enter, David H…

David is an incredible graphic artist.  He took to the project head on and created seven beautiful kanji masterpieces for us to use opposite the photography.

MAC Shirelle Nail Laquer

It’s a tough call, but I think “Love” was my favorite.  It just pops off the page visually.  This isn’t a digital creation.  Moani created the base symbol out of glue, let it dry, then “wrote” on top of it with the nail laquer so that it would be raised higher.  The higher it was, the better for me to light it and get the three dimensional look I was going for.

MAC Studio Sculpt SPF 15 Foundation.

Here’s, “Life”, aka “Sexual Chocolate”.  If this wasn’t foundation, I’d think it was pudding that I should dive into and love. 🙂

Mac Gloss Lipmix

I Ioved,  “Harmony”, but it was a hell of a lighting challenge.  How do you light something that’s clear and put directly on a mirror?  Very carefully…I probably took the most time shooting this one as it wasn’t an easy light.  In the end, though, I loved the outcome.

MAC Iridescent Powder  / Loose in Golden Bronze mixed with MAC Matte (Creme Matifiante)

MAC Baby’s on Fire (Dazzle) Lipstick.

Photographically, this is the one that I had the most fun with.  The base that it’s sitting on is this silver dish shaped like a leaf.  Obviously it reflected everything, so I thought to put a red gel over the top of me so that it would warm up the entire photo.  You can actually still see my hand near the top left third of the photo.  Distorted, yes, but still there..

MAC Electric Eel Eyeshadow / MAC Vibrant Grape Eyeshadow / MAC Mascara in Black / MAC Golden Lemon Pigment / MAC Neo Orange Pigment / MAC Fuchsia Pigment.

Flower was a real challenge for Moani as it had to be built upon and you can’t really clean it up if you make a mistake.  She did a wonderful job adding in all of the different colors and making this symbol.
MAC Mineralize All-Over Lotion

Here’s Moani working on “Life”, or as we nicknamed it, “Sexual Chocolate”. 🙂

Me downloading the images manually as the tether decided not to work that day…I dunno, would you trust this guy?   😉

On the right, in the foreground you can see a little bit of, “dream” and a nice closeup of the coffee that fueled us…

It turned out to be a fun, creative day.  I’d love to give props to my two partners in crime here, Moani Lee and David H for making this a wonderful story.

Special thanks to Joe Lombardo for bringing this story to Moani and I to shoot.  He was the catalyst that brought all of us together and got the creative spark going.  He’s also the photographer for the wonderful behind the scenes images you see here.

THE Team:
Photography: James Weber
Makeup/Styling/Story Boarding:  Moani Lee, www.moanilee.com
Graphic Artistry/Layout/Design: David H,

Retouching:  La Boutique Creative Retouching, http://www.laboutiqueny.com These guys did an amazing job,  I’d highly recommend them.  They’re a very professional organization.

Hea7en Magazine Issue 4
:  There are many other wonderful artists here in this issue.  I was kind a blown away when I first saw it.  It’s art and photography rolled into one..

Thanks and see you again next time…

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Portillo Wine Ad Campaign

I’ve teamed up again with Creative Director, Henry Alvarez on the new campaign for Portillo Wines.  It’s always good to know the agency point of view, so I asked him, “From a branding point of view, what did you want to accomplish for Portillo with this ad?  What was the Client looking for?”

Henry: “We wanted an image with strong appetite appeal as well as create a mood and atmosphere that would bring an elegance to the dining experience.  Our assignment was to connect Portillo Malbec with steak. We played back and forth with a strong tagline. We finally arrived at “A Cut Above the Rest”.  Once done we ended up with a strong consumer Point of Sale campaign that elevated the brand.” 

The shots we needed were broken down into three individual images, which would then be combined to make the different creatives needed.

1. Shoot the wine bottle alone and the wine glass alone.  That would go towards the first creative.
2.  Shoot the food + wine glass, then add in the wine bottle shot in #1, which would go towards the second creative. The shots would all be used in a mix of website use and advertising formats.

So here is the first creative, made up of the bottle and wine glass separately and put together in post.  There would be no way to light both of them together and achieve this same result, thus the decision to shoot each of them separately.

So here was the set for the bottle shot.  The main light is coming from 2 strobes with reflectors shooting through the 4’x8′ plexi on the left hand side.  This softens up the light so that the rich detail in the label doesn’t get blown out.  The reflection on the right is created by the silver card on the right, sitting on the table.  The two reflections running up and down both sides of the bottle are created by the soft boxes in the back facing in.  Lastly, I’ve got one more light on the floor with a beauty dish + grid hitting the backdrop so that there is some separation from the background.  Below is the shot.

The individual wine glass shot I don’t actually have a behind the scenes photo of.  I had to create a totally black room out of black v-flats.  The only area for light the was possible was from the back side where I had the 4’x6′ feathered off.  It was a one softbox shot.  Getting the angle right was the hardest on this one so that there was a nice reflection on both sides of the glass and the wine showed up just enough.  I fired the camera remotely so that I wouldn’t be in the reflection.  It was much more to setup than to actually shoot.  We did have to do a little post on the glass as even as much as we tried to clean it, there was still a little dust here and there.

Here is the version with the Argentinian Steak.  Although I don’t have a behind the scenes for this one, I used Dedo Lights to do the job on this one instead of strobe. They allowed me to spotlight what I needed and provide a low depth of field.

A little about the wine and the region…click the image to see it larger.

So that’s it for now…stay tuned for more…

Thanks to the Team:

Photography: James Weber, www.jamesweberstudio.com
Creative Director, Henry Alvarez
Food Styling: Ed Gabriels, www.halleyresources.com
First Assistant:  James Sullivan

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Evolution – Shannon

I had another wonderful Evolution shoot today with one of my favorite models, Shannon. We shot a few years ago and I’ve been trying ever since to get her to pose for the project.  It’s taken me a few years to break her down, but she finally agreed…so here’s to tenacity… 🙂

Even in a studio that I had prepped to be nice and warm, the moment you put the mud mixture on, it gets a little chilly. It’s kind of like jumping into water that you know is a little cold, you just have to get in and get it over with. She dove right into the mud treatment.  So she was a real trooper.

I shot these with the Hasselblad H3DII, 80mm lens, with the HTS 1.5 Tilt shift Adapter.  I like using the HTS as it gives you some of the controls of a 4×5, but in the Hasselblad system.  It changes the plane of focus, which can be a nice change of pace from the norm.

I used a few different lighting setups.  A few direct light, but most of it was bounced light through a beauty dish with grid or P-50 reflector with grid.  That leaves the background a nice gray and the light soft.

Here are a few of the images from the shoot…

This was one of the first shots in the shoot…it’s nice to start off with one you like right away.



On this one I did a little slow shutter and liked the effect…



I’m not sure between these last two which one I like more.  I’m leaning towards the last one…care to vote?

So there’s a few more for the Book and Show later on this year.  I’ve probably got three or four more and then I’ll close up the project for the moment and concentrate on editing and getting the book/show ready.  Until next time…and thanks again, Shannon for giving the project a second look. 🙂  These will be a fantastic addition…

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Rooftop Fashion Shoot

A while back I shot these images as part of a hair editorial that sadly did not get published.  Timing is everything, and in this case, we were a little late getting it out to the editors.  I was going over some of the images recently and I realized I never put them out there.  I really liked the lighting and what the team and I did that day.  I got to mix a little strobe with daylight, which I love.  It always gives you a somewhat otherworldly look that I enjoy.  It’s like taking reality and giving it a visual focus on what you want.  In this case, I used a two light setup.  In shot one you can see the bare head strobe that I kept in a few of the shots.  It creates an in-camera natural starburst(not photoshop).   In the last set of images, you see the Redwing boom that is over the head of the orange/red haired(wig) asian model.  That was set to a fairly high power setting so that it would overpower the daylight and give it a somewhat darker look like dusk, even though I shot them in full daylight.



Sometimes it’s nice to leave the lights/equipment in the for atmosphere.  I thought leaving in the boom in this shot made it a little more dynamic and gave it some scale.

The trick to getting these images right was adding in a table to get the models a few feet off of the roof top itself.  This allowed me to get underneath them and shoot up, giving me more of the city above, and less of the regular looking rooftop below.   It’s a more cinematic viewpoint.  The clouds added a wonderful background.  I think if this day was just a normal sunny day, they wouldn’t have the visual impact that they have.   Hair, Makeup, and Styling by the Tearsheet Artistic Team.

Here’s a couple behind the scenes shots.  I added some mylar to the table that we were using to elevate the models to give it a stronger fill from the bottom.  I also had to reinforce the table with some wood pieces too to make it safer…

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Black & White Beauty

Beauty…

Most of us ascribe current beauty images with beautiful full color images.  Let’s be honest, though…most of these images are ridiculously retouched for most of the major ads.  In terms of what “sells” in the beauty world, it’s all color.   I’ve personally been told that black and white beauty images don’t sell.   What’s the point in creating or showing work that shouldn’t sell??  Well, maybe because I like it and who the #$%@ cares.  At some point in your life you have to create images for yourself regardless of  what other people tell you is right or appropriate.   I like the feel of a beautifully crafted black and white image.  I breaks it down to just the essence of the photograph.  Light, Shape, and Form.  In any case, I’ve been shooting some images recently and have been compiling a series of them that I think really take shape in the black and white environment.  Here are a few of them…













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Night at the Museum

Recently, I got an opportunity to do a shoot in the King
Tut Exhibit in New York City. It was for Dr. Zahi Hawass’s new men’s line. As well
as being a leading Egyptologist, he is also the star of the
television show ‘Chasing Mummies’ on the History Channel.

cover/back cover
images courtesy of Zahi Hawass.

It was really
unprecedented that we got access to shoot at the museum. Usually,
there are no cameras permitted inside the museum space. Obviously,
we had to do the shoot when the museum was closed as we couldn’t
interrupt the daily business of the Exhibit. That being said, the
call time was 9:30pm for crew and models. Unfortunately, there is
only one freight elevator and that closed at 4pm. So, my assistant,
James Sullivan, and I trekked over with the stuff earlier in the
day to beat the freight closing. The hardest part about doing a
location job like this is that if you don’t have what you need with
you…you just don’t have it. Period. The doors opened for us once
at 9:30, and then were closed and locked behind us. So, we brought
ALL the gear, and then the kitchen sink. We would be shooting in
the museum from 9:30pm to 7am. It was a looong night. After the
freight drop off, I got some sleep, but it’s hard to try and train
your body to stay up and focused for such a long time after you’re
normally in bed. So there was lots of coffee and red bull for us as
the night wore on. As I was working out
the lighting of the space, I wanted it to be dramatic and as much
as we could manage, have it not look like we were in a museum. I
wanted the lighting to feel like we were in a tomb with the work
lights on in the background lighting up the space. I also wanted
the lights to be shot directly into the camera lens, which creates
the sunburst/rainbow effect above. That would give the space some
life that it otherwise wouldn’t have. Using the hot lights also
adds a warmth to the photos.

We’re shooting here
against what I think was the best artifact in the museum. It’s the
“Gilded Coffin of Tjuya”. (Text from the museum): It was
made during the reign of Amenhotep III. During his reign, Amenhotep
authorized a burial in the Valley of the kings for his non-royal
in-laws. The tomb included this elaborately decorated coffin for
Tjuya. It’s spells and divine imagery ensured her successful
transition to the afterlife.

I took the photo below of this
beautiful artifact. Click to see it larger. The detail is really
exquisite.

There were certainly
restrictions and some difficulties to shooting there. The first of
course is the lock down we were in. The head of security was with
us the whole time. Basically, no one could leave until 7am when the
doors would be opened again. Also, the glass cases that these
artifacts were in had seismometers in them that would set off an
alarm and call the police/fire department if someone bumped into
them too hard. They were also temperature controlled, so that if
the temperature exceeeded 70 degrees inside the glass case, the
same thing would happen. So…I’m using hot lights… 😉 Yes, we
had to monitor the reading in the glass case a few times and
couldn’t put the lights too close to the case so it wouldn’t heat
up and set off the alarm.

One thing that no one counted
on was the music. It was the kinda creepy instrumental music that
the museum plays all day…well it played ALLLLL night as well. We
couldn’t turn it off. At about 5am we all started getting a little
loopy and the music wasn’t helping at all…lol. Art Zulu, who also
did the book design, did some wonderful compositing of some of the
images with or against images of hieroglyphics and other antiquity
artwork(all with permission). Lora Flaugh of Art
Zulu, the branding and design firm that designed and is selling the
line, has this to say about the new clothing line: “The Zahi Hawass
collection features natural dyes, vegetable dyes, and organic
cottons with environmentally friendly fabrics that deliver a bold
new look for men. The rich khakis, deep blues and soft, weathered
leathers tie together the rich tapestry of ancient Egyptian
artifacts in his new collection”.
Thanks go out to my
wonderful team:

Men’s Grooming:
Daryon Haylock First Assistant: James Sullivan

A big
thanks to everyone at Art Zulu, www.artzulu.com, for
making it a fun, “Night at the Museum”. 🙂

Edited to add some additional information, Interviewer Danny Ramadan of: http://damascusian.wordpress.com/

1.  Danny Ramadan:  Can you provide me with date, place and more information about the photoshoot. When and where did it take place? I can use quotes from your blog about the details of the photoshoot, but I want more information about specific dates and place.

James Weber:  The Shoot was on October 7th, 2010 from 9:30pm to 6:30am.  It was shot in New York at the King Tut Exhibit, 226 WEST 44TH STREET (between Broadway & 8th avenues)

2.  Danny Ramadan:  You blogged about the photoshoot on November 23rd. The revolution in Egypt took place in January 25th. Can you tell me more about the reaction to the blogpost between November and January and that after the revolution.

James Weber:  Since the blog was written on Nov. 23rd, I have not had any negative reaction to it until 4/14/2010, well after the revolution. I imagine this is when information from my post was published somewhere in a blog or newspaper in Egypt or an Egyptian blog.  The comments have been mostly negative, lambasting Dr. Hawass for doing the shoot with country resources for personal gain.  A lot of them seeking to sue him or oust him from the ministry post he now holds again.  Some of the time, the posts lambasted me as well for being a part of it, but most of their energy has been focused on Dr. Hawass.

3. Danny Ramadan:  Tell me more about the original pieces used in the photoshoot as a background and the replicas used in the photoshoots as well. In one of the photos, the model is placing his foot on one of the artifacts; is it real one or a replica?

James Weber:  The only original artifacts used in the shoots were as backgrounds.  None were ever touched.  The chair and the bench that we used are replicas.  We never would have sat a model down in a 3,000 year old artifact.  We would have also never had the chance.  All of the artifacts, such as the chairs you speak of are protected under glass.  There was also some photoshop involved in some of the images.  The one photo where his foot is up in what looks like a Hieroglyphics wall, that’s a photograph of the Hieroglyphics wall, mixed with a photo I took of the model.

4.  Danny Ramadan: Tell me more about the safety measures you and your team took to protect the artifacts; were they ordered by Zahi Hawass himself or by the New York museum? Who was there to make sure that these measures are being respected?

James Weber:  Safety of the artifacts was a primary concern for us.  The entire time that we were there, the Exhibit’s head of security was with us.  He was there to safeguard the artifacts themselves and also informed me about the safety features that the items behind glass had in them.  When I spoke of a seismometer in my blog post, that was relating to the glass itself, not the artifact inside.  If the protective glass was jarred, bumped, moved, in any way, it would trigger an alarm and the police and fire department would be called.  As for temperature control, the items inside the glass were not to exceed 70 degrees.  If the air inside the glass reached 71 degrees, it would trigger an alarm and the police and fire department would be called.  So these controls are inherent in all of the artifacts behind glass.  The, “Gilded Coffin of Tjuya”, is one example.  The entire King Tut Exhibit is temperature controlled for the safety of the artifacts.  That being said, the artifacts were never in any danger of damage from heat or being touched.  These safety measures were in place at the King Tut Exhibit prior to and after our shoot.  It’s just a part of how the New York Exhibit protects these artifacts.

5.  Danny Ramadan:  Was Zahi Hawass present at any moment during the photoshoot? Did he show you any documentation to prove he had any permission from anyone to use the artifacts to promote himself?

James Weber:  I’ve never met Dr. Hawass.  He was not at the shoot at any time.  He did authorize the shoot and make arrangements for the Head of Security we had with us, who was there to safeguard the artifacts.

The documentation question you ask was an irrelevant one at the time.  He was the Minister of Antiquities.  From that post, he was in charge of the very artifacts that we were shooting.  Prior to the Revolution, there wasn’t any question about his role in the country.

6.  Danny Ramadan:  In your opinion; was it Hawass’ right to take advantage of the artifacts for promoting himself?

James Weber:  Now whether he had the moral right or justification to do this shoot is another question entirely and it’s not my place to answer.  I believe the Egyptian people will be answering this question in due course.  In this way, I’m very happy that the Egyptian people have the right to speak up so forcefully now, so that this kind of dialogue can happen.

7.  Danny Ramadan:  Would you work with Hawass again? can you explain your answer?

James Weber:  Especially since this has been brought to such a negative light, I don’t believe I’ll be working with Dr. Hawass again.  In one respect, Dr. Hawass has done some great things for Egypt and Egyptian Antiquities over the years.  I only heard good things about him prior to the shoot.  Chasing Mummies was an exciting look behind the scenes at things most of us will never get to experience first hand.

Now, after the revolution, there are other questions that arose about things like this shoot…using country resources for personal gain.  I understand why the Egyptian people are outraged at what he and other governmental ministers were doing.  I’m sure everything will come out in due course as the Egyptian people demand answers.  This is only the beginning, and I think discourse like this is very healthy and necessary in any society.

I hope the answers to your questions have been helpful in shedding light on this shoot.  I can say with all sincerity that I love Egypt and her history and never wanted to do anything to tarnish her or her artifacts.  Thanks again for giving me the chance to respond.

Regards,
James

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Agave Love

“Para todo mal, Mezcal y para todo bien también”  For everything bad, Mezcal, and for everything good, too…or so the saying goes in Oaxaca, Mexico where Mezcal is made.

I thought I’d share some of the work I’ve done  for Los Amantes Mezcal this year.  Most recently, I shot some images for a recipe book they’re working on at Casa Mezcal, a wonderful bar on Orchard St.

This is the first ad that I did for Los Amantes Mezcal, earlier in the year.   We were going for a very traditional look.  I ended up doing a long exposure to get the candles and ambient light in the shot.  I also did a little painted light using a flashlight on the bottle itself to lighten it up.  This was all set up in my studio.  All the post production and creative direction was done by Henry Alvarez.


Los Amantes did a label redesign, and thus needed the bottle shot for their new ad.  This has to be one of the hardest still life projects I’ve taken on recently.  The bottle itself has a lot of details that had to be lit, but it couldn’t be “too lit”.  If I lit it from underneath, the bottom of the bottle wouldn’t have the three dimensionality that it has and it would have lost a lot of it’s character.  The color of the liquid had to be just right as well.  So…this was probably a 4-5 hour session for this single shot.  Glass reflects everything so it just takes time and care to work through all the little details of it.  I like the moody feel that Henry and I ended up with.  I feel it gives the bottle some nice character.

Ahh, but what can you do with this wonderful liquid??

I’m here to help out. 🙂  I recently shot the images below for a Los Amantes recipe book.  So I fully expect you all to try at least one of these…
They were all shot at about 2 seconds each on tripod to get the ambient light and added some hot lights for an accent light.  So you can try to make these yourself, or if that’s too much trouble, you can go to the bar where these were shot at:

Casa Mezcal
86 Orchard St
NYC, NY 10002

“The Mezcal Margarita (or Mezcalita)”
2 oz of Los Amantes Joven
1.5 oz of Orange Cognac Liqueur (such as Bauchant)
1.5 oz of Fresh Lime Juice
1 oz of Agave (or simple syrup)
Salted rim optional
Combine all ingredients over rocks, shake and serve in a coup glass, preferably frosted.

 

“The Pianissimo”
1 oz Los Amantes Joven
1 oz Aperol
1 oz Pineapple Juice
¼ oz Agave (or simple syrup)
¼ oz Fresh Lemon Juice
5 Cucumber slices
Muddle 4 Cucumber slices with agave and fresh lemon juice, add all other
ingredients and ice, shake, strain and serve on the rocks in a tumbler with a
cucumber garnish.

 

“Pedroʼs Basilica”
1 ½ oz of Los Amantes Joven
¾ oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
¾ oz of Fresh Lime Juice
½ oz of Fresh Pineapple Juice
¼ oz of Agave Nectar
Several leaves of Basil (including one small one for garnish)
Several slices of half a Fresh Yellow Bell Pepper
Muddle the basil and pepper slices with Agave and Lime Juice, add ice and other
ingredients, shake, strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the small basil leaf
after slapping it between your hands to release the essential oils in a cocktail
glass.

 

“The Bloody Mez”
2 oz of Los Amantes Joven
5 oz of Fresh Sangrita, recipe to follow (or substitute fresh Bloody Mary mix)
Lime Wedge or Jalapeno slice for rim garnish
For the Sangrita:
3 oz tomato juice
2 oz fresh orange juice
Squeeze of lime juice
Dash of Mexican hot sauce (or Tobasco)
Dash of Worchester sauce
Pinch of celery salt
Pinch of regular salt
Several slices of a piquillo pepper (or Anaheim chile, or jalapeno),
muddled
Mix all ingredients together and shake well before combining with mezcal
Pour all ingredients together over rocks and serve in a pint glass or highball.

 

“Relax on the Rocks or Sip it Straight”
These two are unmixed drinks
1 simple glass of Los Amantes Joven neat with a lime slice garnish
1 simple glass of Los Amantes Reposato on the rocks (preferably one big rock, like they do at
Scotch bars) rimmed with gusano (ground, roasted worm salt)

 

“The Palomez”
2 oz Los Amantes Joven
1 oz Fresh Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice
½ oz Fresh Lime Juice
½ oz Agave Nectar (or simple syrup)
Splash of Soda Water
Optional salt rim
Combine all ingredients over ice, stir, add splash of soda and serve with lime
wedge garnish in a highball.

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Real People Rock.

I shot these for a pharmaceutical company recently.  It was a full day, shooting non-stop, but some great stuff came out of it.  Some of the personalities here just cracked me up.  I had a blast putting this together.  The kids were a lot of fun to work with.  I had to shoot everyone normal, then act like they had sinus pain, then act like they were “healed”…all better.    It made for some fun groupings.  Some of their expressions were just priceless.   To see them all you can go to my site here:  http://jamesweberstudio.com/#/Portfolios/Real%20People/1.

Click on the images to see them larger.This kid was my favorite in his, United Colors of Benetton shirt.  He’s a GAP ad waiting to happen.

This one was quite the little actress.  She’s going to do well.

I loved how this one went from zero to anguish in 2 seconds…lol.

Loved the devilish look in the middle and the mind meld thing happening on the right. 🙂

What more can you say, we’ve all felt like this before. lol.

Ok, he was giving me, “I’ve got to pee”…not quite what I was looking for, but he still gets the cutest kid award.

I think he just wanted to go home, but you know what.  That’s ok.

Just awesome.

Future CEO of something…just you wait.

Justin Bieber Lookalike 1

Justin Bieber Lookalike 2.  Total ball of energy…I’m sure Mom knows all about that…lol.

Mark Zuckerberg Lookalike

Loved this one’s energy.  I think he was shot and done in under 2 minutes.

He was too funny.  He walks up to me, shakes my hand, and says, “I’m Jaden.  Like Jaden Smith.  I’ve been in a movie too!”…and proceeds to be professionally cute on camera.  Awesomeness.

She was great.  She had that hair in her face and didn’t even try to move it out of the way.  She knew it made her look more miserable.   You know she’s pulled this routine on her parents before getting out of school.  Very believable. 🙂

Ok, not great in the anguish department, but very cute.

This one rocked the house.  Pain, anguish…Genius.  One of my favorites.

Not to be outdone, the competition arrives! 😉

He was a pro…great stuff.

Great smile.

Probably the best actor there.  Great stuff.  Can you believe he’s 18?  Thought he was shooting for our younger category.

I was actually a little worried here.  Thought he was choking for a second there.  He was pretty good.

Beautifully miserable…

He should try out for “The Office”.  He’d be a shoe-in.

Not sure what he’s giving me here, but I kinda dig it.

I’m seeing a Miley Cirus Love interest part in his future.

She was great.  Smile to anguish in seconds. 🙂

A lot of shooting, but all in all, a great day.  Loved all of the varied people and pulling these expressions out of them.  You can see more of them on my site at: http://jamesweberstudio.com/#/Portfolios/Real%20People/1

 

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