You earned your acronym. You worked hard for it. You are to be congratulated, and celebrated, not for your title, but for your human qualities. You are a person. You may manage a team but you’re also a member of that team. Let that human side shine.
Look at me, look into the camera lens because those are the eyes of all the people you work with, and will work with. The difference between a portrait and a headshot is that in a portrait you are looking, not being looked at. You are listening, and open. The energy and attention comes from you, not to you.
I don’t do headshots. Not because I turn my nose up at them but because my style engages the subject in a way that turns the energy in the other direction. I draw out and absorb energy. Not that I have any special skill or powers. It’s just that that’s my style, developed organically over thousands of portraits.
The world needs more listening. The world needs more real people. The world needs more honest witnesses. That’s what I do, I rec...
We are so much more than eyes, and skin, and hair. We are more than ears and necks. We are packets of energy and light held within these fragile containers. Our faces are labels. We can discern some of the ingredients from a mere glance, but only some. In the right light, at the right angle, we can get a sense of character. But what is ‘right’? When the spirit glows. You know it when you see it. You feel it.
Sunlight is, I believe, is the most revelatory. It is also the most flattering. Sure, it can be approximated. Faked. But the serendipity of natural sunlight creates the most powerful portraits. It is what the painters of old used for their portraits. Rembrandt. I am after that Rembrandt drama. The drama of the face. That is a landscape worthy of depiction. In such a photograph the soul seeps through. And souls are what we bond with, not faces. Hearts and minds are won through feeling, not seeing.
The portrait is a success if you feel something. I’m not interested in lifeless cardbo...
Lines mean a lot to me. Lines and curves. They help create compelling narratives in which the person I’m photographing is the protagonist. They suggest movement which is not always physical movement but emotional/spiritual. It is pure synchronicity. Nothing is ever planned. We find an interesting location and the backgrounds suggest themselves.
These kinds of portraits reveal more than just reflections. This is about more than what you look like. This is not a typical business headshot. And though I do those, I enjoy these the most because it’s through them I discover the person I’m photographing the best. And it’s through them I discover myself.
If I could bring an entire team out to one of these types of locations (and I know many) I believe I could create one hell of an About Us page. The world around us characterizes us. It provides a context for who we are as people. Clients don’t often think about the background. Often they ask for something neutral or white. But we are not neutra...
Photographing teams, especially game studios, is a great honor. These are nascent juggernauts who build worlds based on dreams. I love world-builders and dreamers, whom I feel a special bond with because I used to be one of them.
Back in the 90's I co-founded two game studios, Drew Pictures and Jinx, and I remember well the feeling of dreaming big and pushing the envelope. There's a special esprit du corps within a small team that is just palpable. And it's infectious. Just being among a team like Ascendant (pictured above) made me feel like I was part of something exciting and important.
Capturing the unique personality of a team through photographs is something I do well. I try and mesh with them, become one of them, while I am with them, and I think I can understand their vibe. I'm not just a good photographer, I'm a good assimilator. I blend in and foster a feeling of e pluribus unum. That's really what a good team is all about. You have many different skills and personalities all se...
I can’t take everyone out to the Marin Headlands for portraits. I wish I could. The light is sublime. And the backgrounds are so interesting. Maybe one day I’ll do a series of team portraits there. It’s not easy to get to, but the results speak for themselves.
I choose to photograph in natural light because of the subtlety and nuance. I like the serendipity factor. You never know what you’re going to get. And there’s a freedom to this. Under the right conditions I can recreate a similar effect indoors, but still there’s something to roaming - randomly moving from place to place.
My favorite locations all have this in common - you can wander and always find great light and backgrounds. Perhaps someday I’ll do a portrait series in San Francisco’s Chinatown. That wo
uld be perfect for a local company.
If you’re looking for the standard headshot against a flat color, I’m really not your man. I can do that of course, but my strength is in synchronicity in natural light and locations. I’m lookin...
It was my first portrait booking outside of San Francisco. Never before had I been flown in for photos but New York City is my hometown and I was lucky enough to know the brother of the firm. I didn’t know the people, had never been to their offices. But they sent me some photos of their space and I could see right away they had good light.
I was nervous. I always am before a shoot, but this time there was a lot at stake. I had not done this many portraits in such a short amount of time, and I had no idea what the set-up would be like. But Dave, the CEO, has a great aesthetic and as soon as I walked in I saw these chairs. Mid-Century modern. Not quite quite wing-backs but broad across the tops and in wonderful colors. That’s when I remembered David Hockney.
I’m a fan of David Hockney. Especially his painted portraits of people (mostly men) seated in these beautiful chairs. I had long been inspired by him to simply sit people in an interesting chair, in good light, and engage them with th...
I think that maybe the trick to doing a (good) portrait is to see oneself in another person. That may seem obvious. That may seem facile. But I’ve got to look at you like I’m looking in a mirror, I mean really looking.
When I really look in the mirror I see myself in all my facets and all my phases. I see the child version of me, the young adult, and the me I am today. I morph between those versions and see the evolution like an animated GIF.
When I look at a person I am photographing I sometimes see the child in them. And I imagine them on some playground, running, swinging, laughing in the joy of their youth. If that happens (and it doesn’t always) I know I’m going to get great photos.
When I say “great photos” I mean photos that will stop me in my tracks. Photos that will feel timeless, and deep. That’s what I’m hoping for.
So, surrender to the moment and regress. Become that kid again. Show no fear. We’re just a couple of children meeting for the first time on the playground.
Every day I look through photos I have taken and write about one. This forces me to think about photography. This helps me to remember why I do what I do.
Writing is disciplined thinking. It’s thinking that’s thought through.
Photography is disciplined perception. It’s seeing well-managed.
When I look at a person during the course of a normal day I see but fleeting glimpses of them. I don’t stare and I don’t analyze. I see them, but I don’t really see them.
When I do a portrait, or what some people might call a headshot, I see much deeper. But I don’t just see, I feel. The camera provides an excuse for spending enough time with someone to achieve some level of intimacy. I get to say “Look at me.”, and the person looks.
Even when I’m doing dozens of portraits under time constraints (like the one of Sam above at Twitter) I strive for a moment like this when something human, something timeless, emerges. This is not a person you can sum up in a Tweet. Few of us are. Our resumes and our profiles...