Category: Lifestyle

THE HOUSE ALWAYS WINS

Posted by – November 21, 2011

Danny Oceans would feel right at home under the ceiling of the Bellagio Hotel on the Vegas Strip, the subject of this image, inadvertently shot as a jpeg, with very little post-exposure tweaking.

“The house always wins,” Danny would say in the casino-caper film, Ocean’s Eleven.  Danny (first played by Frank Sinatra, then by George Clooney in a more-recent remake) insisted the only way to beat the house was to cheat the house, or more to the point, to steal from it.  And who could argue with Danny in a city of sin built by the Mafia and paid for by gambling?

Along with its legendary fountain, the Bellagio ceiling has served as a backdrop for numerous feature films looking for iconic Vegas opulence.  It’s famous for being adorned with intensely colored blown glass created by the renowned artist, Dale Chihuly, and valued at over $2 million.  Chihuly is a Fulbright Scholar and RISD graduate who honed his craft in Venice and has since become a wildly successful entrepreneur.  Those of you from the St. Louis area may remember the recent exhibit of his work at the Missouri Botanical Gardens or the instillation in the atrium of the St. Louis Art Museum.  One thing you can bet on: you can’t afford art like this by playing a losing hand, but the house can afford it, because “the house always wins.”

A LEGEND NEVER DIES

Posted by – August 16, 2011

When an automobile accident left Max Starkloff a quadriplegic at age 21, his family sent him to a rural nursing home where he quickly concluded, “This is no way to spend a life.”  He then began to conceptualize the idea that a disabled person could live independently.

This is my portrait of Max.  I worked with him when I had the opportunity to collaborate with a group of creatives to promote Paraquad, the organization Max founded.  Among its many successes, Paraquad helped push passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.

Max was a relentless crusader and tenacious watchdog for the disabled.  He met with three standing US presidents in an effort to promote barrier-free access to businesses and homes.  Max’s tireless efforts helped St. Louis become the first city in the country to install lifts on city buses.  Due in part to his efforts, St. Louis also built wheelchair-accessible sidewalks, improved general accessibility and provided parking for the disabled.  Max also helped promote assistive technologies and employment opportunities that help people with disabilities fully participate in society.

Max’s immortal soul left his broken body on December 27, 2010.  He was known for what he could do — not what he couldn’t do — but he never wanted to be considered a hero.  So I’ll just say he was an extraordinarily ordinary person whose accomplishments will live forever.

YOU’LL LOVE THE VIEW FROM HERE

Posted by – August 1, 2011

Motor from Miami down “Avenue A1A,” gateway to the Florida Keys, home to the famous and infamous, pirates and poets, and discover the beautiful bracelet of keys Ponce de Leon first stumbled upon, still dangling in the ocean, barely 90 miles from Cuba.

Proceed with due trepidation through Key Largo and continue south across Seven Mile Bridge (guess how long it is).  Take your time; soak in the scenery, but don’t dawdle too long; you’re traveling the haunts of such nefarious characters as Edward G. Robinson, Bogie and Bacall.  If you should see a bale of ganja washed up on the beach, don’t be tempted.  The original owner, his AK-47 and his twin pit bulls might not be far behind.  The Keys are always a series of contradictions.

Your destination is the same as it once was for literary giants like Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams — Key West, where drinking is compulsory, fighting and running-with-the-bulls-type acts of bravado are optional and “chilling out” is de rigueur.

When you finally run out of land, stand on the dock at Mallory Square at day’s end, wander among its daily cadre of performing characters such as jugglers, mimes, musicians and fire-eaters.  Reverently observe the sunset celebration as the ocean slowly swallows Ol’ Sol.  Catcalls, wolf whistles and thunderous applause are all proper sunset decorum in the Conch Republic.

Now stroll down DuVal Street in the cooling twilight to Sloppy Joe’s, Margaritaville, or about a hundred other bars and restaurants and enjoy a well-deserved beverage with your new best friends.  Say hi to Captain Tony.  You may even qualify as an honorary Parrot Head.  And when you finally have to leave, don’t worry; they’ll keep the fun going until you return.


DEFIANT WE STAND

Posted by – April 16, 2011

Early on the morning of September 11, 2001, nineteen hijackers took control of four commercial airliners, and the world was changed forever.  No American will ever forget what they were doing the moment they heard the news.

I was in the studio getting ready for a shoot. The subject was Ralph Archbold, a reenactor who has spent his entire career impersonating Benjamin Franklin.  He arrived about the time the plane hit the second tower.  After due deliberation, we decided to proceed with the shoot, and he was incredible.

The irony was lost on no one.  On that horrific day, photographing an actor who so closely resembled one of the Founding Fathers was an experience none of us will ever forget.  It was our attempt to find some solace by channeling a true visionary and pivotal player in American history; it was our defiant statement that America would continue to go about its business of creating and building the future.

In a small way, we felt a historical connection to the indomitable American Spirit.


PREFERRED SEATING

Posted by – April 1, 2011

Soon after moving to St. Louis, I discovered “The Muny.”  For the uninitiated, The Muny is also known as “The Municipal Theatre” in Forest Park, America’s oldest and largest outdoor musical theatre.

Toting a bottle of cheap wine, we’d arrive early so we could sit in the free seats. Summer after summer, The Muny entertained us with its perennial parade of classic musicals, and consequently, I unexpectedly became fond of show tunes.  (Don’t tell anyone.)

This photo, however, has little to do with that.  It was shot from very expensive box seats and later photo-composed to insert the actors in the foreground.  The show that night was “Singin’ in the Rain,” and yes, The Muny made it rain onstage.

It was part of a campaign to raise money for, of all things, new seats.

DON’T FENCE ME IN

Posted by – February 8, 2011

Cole Porter’s nostalgic lament refers to a bygone era: the time before the widespread use of barbed wire. Prior to that, the open range was the unrestricted province of the cowboy. Livestock competed freely for resources, and cattle drives crossed vast expanses uninhibited.

This advancement in technology dramatically changed the face of the Great Plains forever. Land that once was available to all was sectioned off, sparking fierce range wars. public land was overgrazed, and Native Americans were disenfranchised by “the devil’s rope.”

This photo (entirely executed ”in camera,” for you techno geeks) symbolizes the dichotomy of consequences often resulting from such ”progress.”

JUMPING OUT OF A PERFECTLY GOOD AIRPLANE

Posted by – August 26, 2010


I was jam-packed into a Piper Cub (“Thank you for flying Clown-Car Airlines…”) with an anxious group of other foolhardy first-timers just so I could climb out of the plane when it got to 1500 feet above the distant earth, put my left foot on a small step, hold on to the wing strut for dear life in the rushing wind, listen for the Jump Master to say “go,” and then, let go.

I never experienced such a visceral sensation of fear before then, and, thankfully, have never felt it since.  Five “static line” jumps and one “free fall” was enough skydiving for me.  They kept saying “you’ll get used to it,” but I never did.


Sisters

Posted by – May 2, 2010

I wanted to communicate the concept of sisterhood in this exploratory visual for STL Kids Magazine.  The idea was to capture an unguarded moment of sibling serenity in which the details did the talking.

For example, I like the way the older sister isn’t looking at the camera, but appears to be doting on her younger charge.  Notice the telltale gesture of a protective hand and the confident smile of the little girl who appears to feel safe in her sister’s arms.