REST IN PEACE (AND IN PLACE)

Posted by – June 9, 2011

Beneath the streets of Paris lies an expansive network of catacombs riddling the dark netherworld throughout the vestiges of what originally were the city’s stone quarries.  I first learned of this vast underground ossuary while I was shooting on location in Paris for a medical-company client, and just had to see it for myself.

With a little “finagling” by a local supplier, I got special permission to visit this vast denizen-of-the-dead — population, about six million.  This multitude of deceased humanity was reinterred there in the interest of public health after being mass-exhumed from the city’s overflowing, perpetually re-used public cemeteries.  This change of address was prompted by the city’s expansion beyond the former edges of town where commoners traditionally were buried.  (Location, location, location.)  Later, the bones were more reverently arranged and the tunnels more-adorned as befitting a sepulcher.


DOO-DA, DOO-DA

Posted by – April 27, 2011

It was the first Saturday in May, 1973, and the sun was shining brightly when Secretariat made his glorious, record-breaking run for the roses. He broke last, made his move in the backstretch, then ran every successive quarter faster than the previous one. He was still “moving up” when he streaked across the wire, winning by 2 1/2 lengths.

Secretariat became the first Triple Crown Winner in 25 years, setting new race records in two of the three events in the series – the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes, records that still stand today. What an athlete!

On that great day in May I had unfettered access to not only Secretariat, but to Jimmy Stuart and, oh yeah The Queen of England, thanks to a press pass from the State of Kentucky (my summer employer) and my Hilton Hotel windbreaker that just happened to match the windbreakers worn by the CBS TV Crew.

It was a nice gig for a little ol’ country-boy who had just come to the big city and was trying to get by. Looking back 38 years, Pilgrim and The Great Horse are gone, but Her Royal Highness and I are still in the race.

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.

Rock Star

Posted by – March 7, 2011

We photographers often are lucky enough to get to take pictures of important, famous people and places, flashing our VIP passes to access the inner sanctums of celebrity, fame, elite business, science and technology, and cherished history.  I admit, it makes you feel special. But as photographers, we also have rewarding opportunities to get to know real people, people like Ronnie.  Ronnie works hard.  He’s doggedly tenacious.  He has dreams, and he busts his butt to make them come true for himself.  Ronnie is incredibly successful at our most-important job, being human.  He’s a rock star.

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.”

WORKING CLASS HERO

Posted by – November 16, 2010

As a group, I think we photographers are pretty lucky to be in our profession.  Most of the individuals we photograph for annual reports or magazine articles have accomplished something unique, and interacting with them is almost always very interesting.

For example, here’s a portrait of a man who works on barges that move commodities on the Intercoastal Waterway. He’s an integral cog in the vast industrial machinery that keeps America competitive in the global market. It’s challenging and dangerous work, but I found him to be warm and engaging, and my goal was to capture those qualities in this image.


RED SKY AT NIGHT

Posted by – November 2, 2010

My client wasn’t thinking about that old couplet when I took this shot at the bustling Port of New Orleans.  He was too busy talking about large shipments of American soybeans that had made their ways down the Mississippi from fields in Illinois, and now were headed for the Panama Canal, the South Pacific, and eventually China.

I don’t really understand the complexities of global commodities, and I’m pretty sure the guys who work these ships don’t read much poetry.  But I do know how to read the sky, and this one was a photographer’s delight.

How Not To Bid A Photo Shoot

Posted by – October 5, 2010

This shot redefined the term “big photo shoot” for me — 20 miles underground via a labyrinth of meandering tunnels in a century-old mine owned by Mississippi Lime.  Sight unseen — make that SITE unseen — I bid the job by referencing the client’s existing brochure, but they neglected to mention one itty-bitty detail: the ambient lighting depicted in the photos had been removed years ago.

So my team had to schlepp in truckloads of equipment: diesel generators, miles of power cable, and every cinamagraphic light I could get my hands on.  But it wasn’t until we were all ready and “good to go” that I was reminded there was no need to hurry, because there were a whole two hours before the daily detonation of two tons of dynamite.

Silent Storyteller

Posted by – September 21, 2010

Another day slips into history as the old Kirkwood Train Station sentinels the passing of time and the lives passing through it.  How many joyous welcomes has it witnessed?  How many tearful farewells?  How many adventures have been launched from the humble, foot-worn bricks that hug its earth at track level?  Yet it still stands, a monument to the perennial notions that life itself is an adventure, and the train waits for no one.